Education Through Travel

I’ve really been grappling with how to write this next entry.  It’s taken me until Monday morning, 4 days later, to sit down and figure out what I want to write and how to write it.  I wasn’t sure why until Terry and I sat down and talked last night.  You see, we spent some quality time with an awesomely cool motorcycle travel family on Vancouver Island.  They have 2 wonderful pre-teen sons (Tanner and Quinton) who spent a lot of time with Jack.  Terry and I spent many, many hours talking about life and the world with Henry and Renee, dad and mom respectively.  They’ve travelled deep into Mexico as well as to the Arctic, all on motorcycles, all with the boys on the back of the bikes.  They’ve seen and encountered situations that the news networks are too frightened to air or publish.  I’m afraid the stories might be too ‘real’, the situations too honest where someone may have to actually pay attention and DO something about them.  And I think I figured out why it’s been so difficult for me to write about it.  Our time with them was special, too special to give away all the details.  You know those times that are so true and pure that you’re not sure how to put them into words?  Maybe if feels like betrayal to the group if you give away all the in-depth conversations and experiences?  That’s where I’m at now.  So today, kids, will be a slightly watered down version of our time on Vancouver Island.  Those of you who know me know that this is unlike my personality.  Those of you who REALLY know me will shrug your shoulders and think, “She gets it.”  On with the show…

When we pulled in their driveway, little did we all know that it was the meeting of two families who felt stuck between two worlds – the have to and the want to.  For us, we’re stuck in the suburbia swirl of work/school/rinse/repeat.  There has been a surge in divorces and cheating scandals in our hood like you wouldn’t believe!  So much pretending as one would not want to appear less than perfect. Henry and Renee are stuck with a huge lawsuit from a barn/stable gone wrong.  They’re grappling with lawyers, insurance companies and contractors that refuse to refund their money.  And they literally built their house themselves – they milled the wood, stacked the logs with homemade cement, they did it ALL.  And all 4 of us have this fire that won’t extinguish.  It’s this fire that keeps all of us going to work and tending to the daily chores for we know that it’s not always going to be like this.

Renee’s a kick, man!  She puts on no airs, apologizes for nothing.  She is honest, open and willing to say it like it is.  I like that.  I can appreciate that.  We’re both leery of others in showing the side of ourselves that can be judged or hurt, having been stung far too many times.  She digs into life without asking for permission.  Henry’s a sly comedian, sitting back to think about his next move with careful consideration.  You can imagine the late night conversations we had over bottles of honey beer and fortune cookies.  Don’t ask.  On their farm also lived three dogs, one donkey, many cats and four horses.  In their cover of goodies sat an array of motocross bikes, including a 100cc bike for Jack.  Never having used a clutch before, Jack was ready to take on the challenge.  This was the perfect setting for him as he had 2 young men at the ready to help coach him.  Terry was in awe of the setting – many acres of farming land, animals, a beautiful hand-built log home…and a motocross bike just his size.  I found my own Eden in the horses.  I remember as a kid looking out my bedroom window every morning to see if SOMEONE had left a horse in my backyard.  So you can imagine my personal glee.

On that first night, we ate a fabulous meal of cedar plank salmon, halibut and potatoes all cooked on a wood fire outside their home, next to the swimming pond and fire truck.  Yes, fire truck.  This was yet another part of Jack’s perfect day.  After dinner, Jack was given instructions by all on the workings of a clutch and gears.  With determination in his eyes and a stoic look for an expression, he set forth and conquered the gears, careful not to stall or run into any of the animals.  That was so cool to watch!  Around the acres he went, feeling so very proud of himself and his accomplishment.  This was now my new glee.  Terry and I crashed for the night in the trailer while Jack took the maritime approach and bunked with Tanner on the boat.  Before you ask, there is a sailboat on the pond.  How tired was Jack after such a full day?  The next day, he didn’t grace us with his presence until after 9AM.  He had completely drained himself from the previous days fun o’rama.

The next day, Terry and I found ourselves on a motocross mud ride in the Vancouver Island mountains with Tanner and Quinton.  Renee was kind enough to stay back with Jack as he was not ready to tackle the 100cc on a steep climb.  Good choice, little man.  It was steep!  It was all we could do to lean over the handlebars to keep from wheeling up the mountain on only the back knobby.  The sights at the top were exceptional as we watched the rainstorms pass over the valley.  Storms?  Time to head back.  And thanks boys for the tour.  These kids were amazing.  For them to take two adults out and show them the sights was pretty cool.  Dinner that night consisted of us hopping on our respective moto’s and two-wheeling it to the docks for grub.  We must’ve been a sight rolling down the road!  Hey, it’s not often you see 4 GS’s worth of families heading out for dinner.  We got a few looks during the ride.  Funny.

Our final morning on the farm and I couldn’t get in or out of the trailer.  Seems one of the horses had planted himself in front of the door and I was not willing to step behind such a massive beast.  I also awoke to Renee yelling out the window at Abraham, the donkey.   He was quite fond of my sidecases and was using them to scratch that spot on his bum he just couldn’t reach.  I swear I’m not making this stuff up!  All the family, human and equine, gathered to watch us as we packed our gear for the next stop on the journey.  Sad faces all around.  We didn’t want to leave and they weren’t ready for their new friends to venture out.  They wanted nothing more than to pack it up and head north with us.  We asked them to join us, but knew that daily life was going to interfere once again.  It was tricky packing the kitchen as Trouble, the massive male horse, kept trying to stick his head in the case to snag my potatoes.   It was all I could do to keep his giant noggin out of my food, mustard included.  I’m going to miss this horse.  Jack was hiding in the fire truck refusing to get ready to leave.  Can’t blame the kid.  When we finally did find ourselves back on the road, Henry and Renee led us to the grocery store for last minute road snacks then to the Dollar Store.  Renee was hell bent on getting Jack some fishing line and hooks for him to use during the rest of our journey.  He just giggled and grinned as she shoved the tools in his riding jacket, complete with a tube of glow sticks because, well, just because.  Cool.  It was hard to say goodbye to our new friends, but we knew this would not be the last of our meetings.  All of us had extended our ‘circle of trust’, a growing list of friends that would continue to expand as our adventure continued.  It’s hard to find people like Henry and Renee but when you do, you take them in and hold on for the ride cause it’s gonna be a good one.

With one more ferry ride to mainland Canada, we landed north of Vancouver and wound our way along Highway 99.  I truly can’t find the proper words to describe the scene that continued to unfold.  Maybe ‘majestic’ will work but even then I feel like I’m not doing it justice.  We had our sights set on Whistler, BC.  It was going to be touristy but the views would be our trade-off.  We settled into the Listel Hotel and found that our bodies were beginning to shut down from the constant push of days previous.  Sheer travel exhaustion had once again overcome our beings.  To have us on the roads the next day would be dangerous and we again punted, staying another day in Whistler.  This wasn’t a bad thing, really.  We were smack in the middle of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games square but were surrounded by throngs of spoiled teenagers and “all about me” individuals.  Ick.  Focus on the positive.  Focus on the positive.  We did find most of the locals were quite pleasant but the local prices definitely veered toward the tourist sect.  We’re going to need to get back to camping soon if only the weather would cooperate.   Terry and I did manage to sneak our bikes onto the square for a picture in front of the Olympic rings.  We had given each other the “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” look the day previous when we spotted the massive structure and immediately began working on our strategy.  Knowing that in the morning most of the visitors would be either hung or hanging with the kiddos, we rolled the bikes down the sidewalk at 7AM, past the shops and smack dab in front of the rings.  Not a nark in sight.  Perfect.  We did have one curious visitor, but I doubt an 80-year-old gentleman was going to be much of a threat.  With the photo session done, we gingerly rolled the bikes back out, fired up the motors and sped back to the hotel.  Time to pack for the next dot on the map.  We were going to roll to Kamploops via Highway 99.  Terry had read so many ride reports that insisted all visitors to Canada travel the 99.  Coming from Northern California, I have high expectations.  But if it’s anything like the previous 100 miles, I doubt I will be disappointed.

Our many conversations with Henry and Renee included travel and world issues, education and the future, religion and politics.  Yep, we jumped into the deep end of the pool with no floaties!  And in our conversations, we found ourselves learning as well as educating each other on various topics.  I never knew that Terry and I had something to teach, especially to a family that has taken on more adventurous travel than we.  Huh…you just never know.  And we learned so much as well.  I can’t really explain to you what we learned.  Just know that we are becoming wiser as the journey continues.  And how many people do you know would let you take their bike and ride the mud trails of the Vancouver hillside?  And how many people do you know that would trust you with their home, family and all they hold sacred?  That’s the difference between those who’ve spent time outside of their comfort zone and those who continue to stay where it is deemed safe.  Not all are willing or able to move beyond their walls.  And that, my friends, is the challenge of the day.  I DARE YOU to take even just one step outside your zone.  It’s tricky.  It’s scary.  Trust me, I know!  Maybe take the ‘act as if’ approach.  If you act as if you’re enjoying your time outside the box, you may just find yourself yearning for more.  And a little more.  Maybe a little more.  Or you may not and that’s okay!  But you have to try, right?  You can’t live a vanilla life only to regret it when it’s too late to act.  Remember our ‘some day’ discussion earlier?  These two things go hand in hand.  I hate to sound so cliche, but sometimes it’s the oldies that work the best.

The little man is finally awake, Terry’s loading up the bikes and I’m still sitting on the hotel floor trying to finish this latest entry in time to load up free coffee in the lobby.  Be well, my friends, and enjoy today.  You never know what you may learn.  Cheers.