Friday, October 28, 2011

2010 Alaska Sunk - Part 8 of 15

2010 Alaska Sunk

Part 8 of 15

Riding the Rockies
Coffee Cravings
The Reunion

Riding The Rockies

I looked forward to a great day for riding the Rockies. The sky was clear; the sun was getting stronger and my clothes were beginning to feel a little less damp than yesterday. As I was getting ready to leave the Bow River campground I realized that I had made a mistake parking my Harley. It was the kind of mistake made only by idiots and inexperienced riders. I felt so stupid. I had parked my Harley facing downhill on a crushed stone surface. The way out going forward was inaccessible. It was completely blocked. The only possible way for me to leave was by backing-up using my feet and my front brake to gain a couple of feet at a time in the up-hill direction. The upward gradient, however, was too steep. I couldn't do it so I rested for a while to figure out what I could do. About 500 yards away a young couple were sleeping in a small tent. Under normal circumstances I would have never thought of disturbing them. I'm just too nice a guy. But,...after my experience in Hanlon my character had mutated from thoughtful and kind ….to hard and uncaring, so I thought I'd wake them up. Before I got there, however, the young man came out of his tent to light a fire so he gladly came over to give me a push backwards.

I was over the moon! It was the best day since I left Ottawa. The highways were clear and the Harley seemed to have extra “bounce and vitality” from the sunshine. The mountains and lakes; the hairpin bends; the abundance of gas stations; and the beautiful sights of Banff, Golden, and Revelstoke were out of this world. I treated myself to a delicious Italian dinner at a restaurant in Revelstoke. Upon leaving, my Harley became unresponsive and sluggish. After pulling over to inspect it I saw that my rear brake was not releasing fully from my back wheel so I stopped at a corner garage to ask the mechanic to take a look at it. The cheerie guy welcomed me to Revelstoke; he gave the break-pivot a couple of squirts of oil and wished me a great journey. I thought, “My God! What a change from Hanlon, AB”.

Coffee Cravings

After a drop-dead gorgeous ride through the Rockies to Vancouver via the Kamloops route I arrived at my son's apartment. I needed a coffee. There was tea but no coffee. There was lots of tea. The was Orange Pekoe tea; Earl Grey tea; China tea; Zen tea, loose black tea leaves and decaffeinated tea in tea-bags ....but not one measly drop of coffee could be found. You might think that being a Brit I would be happy to drink tea but I happen to be a Brit that drinks coffee, not tea. I went to a corner store to buy a jar of instant coffee but they didn't have any. I asked my son where could I get some instant coffee but he said not here. I was staying on Commercial Drive, the Coffee Culture Capital of the World. They have their own coffee drinking clubs on Commercial Drive and residents pay big bucks to drink all varieties of foreign coffees on outdoor patios all day long. Its all they do here. Buying a jar of instant coffee here would be tantamount to committing a felony. I finally settled for a can of Coors Light knowing that getting a coffee would be my absolute priority first thing in the morning. I cannot function without my coffee.

My son led me through a string of highly specialized coffee shoppes offering coffee from Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Africa, Chile and even the Gold Coast. Since I was desperate enough to drink any coffee from anywhere I asked the clerk for a pound of anything. He snootily informed me that they sell coffee in kilograms and not pounds and that the minimum purchase was 1.5 kilograms. I resisted the temptation to tell him where to stuff it but I out-snooted him by saying that it wouldn't be pleasing to my palate at the price he was asking- and I left.

The day went by fast and towards the end of the day I was still without coffee. Desperate cravings required desperate measures so I decided to undertake a special “Get Coffee” mission, solo. I explored the back streets of Commercial Drive at night. I stealthily crept along the narrow streets and back alleys for signs of somewhere seedy and not quite so reputable – and I saw exactly what I was looking for. It was a small, dirty, dingy, little shop that sold newspapers, cigarillos, novelties, lewd magazines, lotto tickets and 50 gram jars of Nestle's instant coffee. I bought the coffee; shoved it in my inside jacket pocket as if it were forbidden merchandise and took it back to the apartment. Nothing ever tasted so good!

The Reunion

While I was in Vancouver I wanted to look-up a former friend and neighbor of mine whom I hadn't seen for thirty-five years. In fact, I only learned that he had relocated to Victoria only a few weeks before I began this trip so I had obtained his address and phone number in case I got the chance to give him a call. His name was Jim. I contacted him and he was delighted to hear from me after all these years. I told him that I would like to meet-up with him again and suggested that I come to Victoria by Pacific Coach Lines (PCL) which offers Vancouver to Tsawwassen Ferry terminal to Schwartz Bay Ferry Terminal to downtown Victoria. We agreed to meet at the Bus station at noon the next day. Simple eh? ...Well – not quite so simple!

We arrived at the PCL bus station at Victoria dead on time. All the passengers on our bus disembarked. Other passengers were in the terminal waiting for their buses to depart so, as you can see, the place was quite crowded. At first glance I didn't see him but he had told me that he would be walking to the bus station because he live fairly close-by. Perhaps he was a few minutes late. I scanned all the people in the bus station but he wasn't there. There was a mix of people – young and old, male and female, students and visitors, travelers of all kinds and so on. I still could not see him and the bus station began to thin out after twenty minutes or so. I concentrated on the older guys because he would be about my age. No luck again so I waited patiently. Eventually, I saw an older guy looking my way and it wasn't the first instance that I had seen him - but it wasn't him. His facial structure was not what I remembered – it couldn't be him. Then, strangely, this man and I were the only persons remaining in the bus station. Everyone else had left. We kept looking at each other like two idiots. As a last resort I thought I'd walk over to him and say, “You're not Jim are you?” When I faced him, however, I had the presence of mind to rephrase my question in the positive rather than the negative. So I asked, “Are you Jim?” “Nice to see you again John!” he responded. That was our reunion.

On our walk back to his home by the harbour I saw a reunion of a very different kind. It was far more profound than ours. It was an emotional reunion and one that touched me deeply. The impact it had on me was striking. I shall never forget it. It was an artist's creation of a Canadian Sailor being reunited with his young daughter following a tour of duty at sea. The inscription on the base of the display was “The Homecoming”. (Shown in photo)

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