Breaking Down and Freeing Up

Slocan Valley, British Columbia – May 2019

We had six good months with our Adventure Ranger before it kicked the bucket in early spring. The repair bill for its leaky head gasket was worth far more than the truck, so we cut our losses and sold it for parts. 

At the time, we were living in the Slocan Valley in a remote, rustic cabin on the side of a mountain. Equipped with electricity, cold running water and an outhouse with a spectacular view, we were an hours walk to the nearest convenience store and fifty kilometres from the city of Nelson.

Lucky for us, public transit passed by our place every handful of hours, six out of seven days each week. For two-twenty-five, we could take bus trips to town for groceries, laundry and to keep from going full recluse in the woods. 

We’d each bring two big bags, one stuffed with dirty clothes and manky towels and the other to fill with delicious food, salty snacks and a jar of freshly roasted coffee beans. Our town trips became ritual, something we looked forward to every week. 

They were little escapes from the solace of our forested space to the bustling energy of Nelson, a small but potent hive. We would come to learn the names of each driver and passenger who frequented our route.

But, like everything in life, our days on the bus were numbered. 

We had summer plans to head to New Brunswick and visit Mat’s family before bike travelling the Maritimes on a proper East Coast adventure. With the no-truck twist, we were busy scheming up a new way to accomplish our goal. We weighed our options. 

Buy a new vehicle? Naw. Spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets? Nope. Abort on our mission altogether? Hell no! What would be the funnest, cheapest, most adventurous way to get across Canada, we wondered? 

The answer would come to us through experience.

It was a brilliantly sunny day in Slocan City and I found myself feeling particularly adventurous. The rebirth of spring was in my step and with summer just around the bend, we were busy hatching a plan to get ourselves out to the East Coast.

Too impatient to wait for the bus to arrive, I suggested to Mat that we should hitchhike from the highway back our cabin in the woods. Walking through town, we passed by a beautiful cream-colored Volkswagen van, kitted out for the end of the world. 

Forever unable to contain myself when I see a rad adventure rig, I yelled out to the rolled-down driver’s side window. “That van looks like fun!” A middle aged man lifted his head from the paper map and gave us the thumbs up of certainty.

As we intersected the highway, we heard a faint sputtering gaining on us from behind. I turned around to stick out my thumb. Low and behold, it was our new friend, Survivor Man. He pulled over and motioned for us to get in.

As we slid open the side door to his home on wheels, it was like climbing into a trapper’s cabin. Fully decked out with wilderness essentials, cooking and camping gear, photographs of his kids, memorabilia from his adventures and of course, a bear skin rug. 

For fifteen short kilometers, as we shared the road with this stranger-turned-friend, our enthusiasm for one another’s alternative lifestyle was palpable. He was navigating a mid-life transition his kids didn’t understand and we were navigating an early-life transition our parents didn’t understand. 

We shared so much depth in such little time that we parted ways like kindred souls. With the closing of the door, he puttered off down the highway and we were forever changed. 

Riding the high of our recent connection, we joyfully trekked up the road to our house, high fiving and smiling all the way home, not entirely realizing that a new seed had been planted. 

What if we hitchhiked across Canada?

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