My Journey Begins


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August 17th 2009
Published: August 17th 2009
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I've been on the road for three weeks now, I guess it is about time I posted a blog. Up until I left Canada last Thursday, the trip didn't seem worthy of a blog entry - I was in very familiar territory and didn't really have much to say. Perhaps I will start off with a recap of what got me to this point.

The idea for this trip had its origins some time in the fall of 2006. My wife Joan had been diagnosed with a recurrence of her ovarian cancer in August, and it wasn't looking good. The doctors danced around the reality of the situation: that the first round of chemo was basically ineffective. Nobody said it was just a matter of time, but the way they talked - words like “secondary treatment”, “salvage”, and “prolong”, it became evident that things didn't look good for Joan. It wasn't supposed to be this way - but here it was. I was 51 years old, a few years from retirement - the big payoff where we would spend the rest of our lives together free of work, and suddenly I was faced with an alternate reality.

I retired in August 2006 to enjoy what time Joan and I had left together. I was glad that, over the next year, we got a lot of living in. It wasn't without it's problem periods, and especially during those periods - many hours spent waiting in hospitals, my mind would wander around what would I do when Joan had left me. I sensed that I needed to keep myself occupied to let the healing properties of time do their thing without dragging. I thought a lot about travel. Strange places. Foreign languages and cultures.

In the past couple of years, I have done a lot of travel: two winters in Ecuador. Motorcycle trips to the Yukon and Alaska, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, car trips to Alexis Lake, Winnipeg. I discovered that if I learned Spanish, I could travel the entire length of North and South America and understand and be understood - so I did. Now I have no excuse not to do the travel part.

John Lennon wrote something in a song that hits so close to home for me in many ways: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”. As much as you make plans in life, circumstances can change and hand you something completely unexpected.

Last summer in June while on a motorcycle trip to Alaska, I met Mariette. It wasn't in my plans but there she was, and it was good.

I left home in Barrhead with Mariette about three weeks ago now. This is all part of the plan - which was do a hot springs tour on out way to attend a motorcycle rally in Maple Ridge. We stopped and swam at Halcyon Hot Springs, Nakusp, Ainsworth, and Harrison. In Harrison, we forgot about the hot springs part as the weather was hot as hell (40) that day, so we just jumped into the lake instead.

Mariette got to meet my parents, and my sister Jan and her husband Roger. We visited the Vancouver Aquarium, and we enjoyed the company of many people who attended the rally.

After the rally, Mariette and I had to say goodbye to each other for a considerable time. She will come down to visit me, probably in Santiago, Chile, in late February.

I went to Vancouver Island for a week and visited friends and family: my friends Dave and Loretta Puckrin in Lake Cowichan, and my brother Ben and sister Sue and their spouses. I then returned to Vancouver for a couple of nights with my parents before crossing the border at Sumas, heading south.

In most respects, this is a trip into the unknown, but there are some vaguely familiar aspects to it. As a child, my parents took us on picnics to Washington. I remember Chuckanut Drive and Whitby Island. The roads are beautiful as they wind around the coastline, and a treat to ride on a motorcycle. I stopped in at Laramie Park and looked around, a place still famous for family picnics and for my dad backing over one of my mom's favorite pots. Fifty years later, he still gets reminded about it.

I pushed on to take the ferry to Port Townsend to avoid the congestion around Seattle and to explore the Olympic peninsula. The weather improved to show the sun as I found my way west past Port Angeles, then south towards Aberdeen where I spent my first night in the USA on this trip. The productivity of the rain forest was evident by signs that pointed out that some of the forest areas were heading towards their “fourth cut” meaning that the forest had been cut and reseeded three times to date. I thought about Alberta where I believe there has not even been a second cut in a replanted forest to date.

Heading down to southern Washington State along the coast, I visited Long Beach and Cape Disappointment just north of where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific. It was interesting to read about all of the shipwrecks - over 300 - that have taken place in that area. The constantly changing sandbars from the massive amounts of silt being washed to sea makes coastal navigation very challenging in that area. But hey, it made for some fantastic beaches!

I crossed the Astoria Bridge into Oregon, and continued my exploration down the coast. The roads are scenic and twisty as they work their way down the coast. Lots of vacation areas, tourist towns. Very slow going in comparison to freeways, but really just what I was expecting. Motorcycle travel is more about the trip than the destination, and I was enjoying the trip. I began to wonder if my plans to follow the coast all the way to San Diego are realistic. I have scheduled four days from Portland to get there, so we will see how the time goes. If things start to slow down too much, we can always jump over to the I5 and make time up.

I stopped in at Hillsborough Oregon for three nights to visit my friends Sandy and Jeff. They live on a lovely acreage up in the hills with a sweeping view of a valley and the hills beyond, and some pretty remarkable sunsets. The only thing I had on my agenda for the Portland area was to visit the “Spruce Goose”, the huge aircraft, flying boat actually, that was built and flown only once by Howard Hughes. The museum (Greenwood Aviation and Space Museum) is located outside of Portland in McMinnville, beside the Greenwood “International” Airport. The Spruce Goose is also known as “Jesus Christ”, which is apparently what most people say when they see it for the first time.

Being an aircraft nut and a long-time pilot, anything to do with airplanes is worth a side trip, and this museum did not disappoint. My photo log on Flickr proves the point as I have more pictures of the museum than anything else so far...

My friend Bruce joins me tonight, and we will ride together starting tomorrow, down through California, Mexico, and Central America.

For all my pictures, see my Flickr page


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19th August 2009

Good So Far
Finally got a chance to visit your blog. Looks like the road has been kind to you so far. I remember some of the west coast from a trip my Brother and I took back when I was just a young lad and it was great. All the best to you John, may your road be smooth.

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