The short version is: after my van breaking down in Idaho, selling most of my possessions except one bike and my computer, dumping the rest in the ditch along the way, losing hope, losing money; and after a long ride on a train I finally made it back home to Minnesota.
The long version involves tales that I wouldn’t want preserved in writing.*
Recap of trip before disaster:
Disappointing. I rolled into town at night and couldn’t find a place to park the van or sleep except for a cheap motel (cheap on quality not price).
The room came complete with a dirty tub that wouldn’t stop leaking hot water, which you could still hear through the wall with the TV volume on medium-high, and a toilet that needed to be flushed. I also lost the key to my room and didn’t tell management about it. I didn’t want to pay to replace it, plus regarding the ghetto-ness of the spread, I didn’t care.
I don’t blame Portland for my shitty room but with only a few hours in the city the next day I wasn’t having fun yet. I drove the van downtown and parked in an underground ramp–because I was paranoid about it getting broke into–where I probably shouldn’t have parked in regarding the size restrictions of the van and my novice cargo van parking skills.
However, I went to Powell’s Books and bought some contemporary fiction and maps of Vancouver (the maps are now lost–ironic?). Bought coffee and a donut at Voodoo Doughnuts–“The Magic is in the Hole!!!” I didn’t realize it was St. Patrick’s Day until I noticed people were getting drunk in the street at 11:30 AM, so I went to the Rogue Brewery Pub and had a beer with lunch. Then I quickly left Portland to avoid the ensuing mayhem that is this national holiday.
I had a hostel booked in downtown Vancouver for two days so I drove all day to get there, including an hour stop at the border where they searched the van; I showed up around mid-night, tried to buy some pop with my (silly) American currency, which was thrown back at me and shortly after went to bed.
Border Patrol didn’t like the fact that I had a BB gun and more so that I didn’t know the velocity/second of it, PLUS I was carrying mace which is illegal in Canada evidently. (I bought paper targets for the BB gun in Albuquerque thinking I would go out in the desert and practice my shot but it never happened.)
First day in Vancouver I took out the road bike and found a good route to UBC going over the Burrard Bridge I had heard so much about from Momentum Magazine (click to read article “Biking in a Rainforest City: Vancouver BC” 1/1/10)
The Burrard Street Bridge bike lane trial, in particular, has been a defining moment in Vancouver’s cycling history. After a disastrous first attempt in 1996, the separated bike lane trial that launched on July 13, 2009 has been praised as a success story for the city.
I went by random totem poles and Japanese gardens in this cosmopolitan enclave.
There were daffodils (in March!), torches, and kids throwing starfish at each other and jumping off the pier in the freezing water off the Burrard Inlet.
As I was wandering around town later that night looking for a show to go to, I passed by the New Amsterdam Cafe and decided to see what all the fuss was about. There I met a Vancouverite transplant from Saudi Arabia, a foreign-exchange student from Mexico, and three classy guys from Venezuela (who said they were living in the city temporarily because a family member was getting worked on at the Mayo Clinic and they wanted to stay close to the hospital–so I guess Vancouver was the closest option?)
After two nights at the hostel I had to leave Vancouver quick! It was expensive and I wasn’t sure if I had enough money to get almost 2,000 miles back to Minnesota with a van that sputtered on 14 miles/gallon (do the math).
Heading back over the border into the U.S. was a nightmare! After waiting my turn for almost an hour to reach a border agent, I showed him my passport and he immediately told me to pull off without more than a grunt and a finger pointing in the direction of all the other suspicious vehicles waiting to be searched.
In the border patrol station there was a very dense line of people waiting in the tiny office. Standing in line for over 3 hours (!), I spoke to an agent who asked me all the same questions I was asked upon arrival into Canada. Why were you there? Did you know anyone? What did I buy? Where’d I get the van? I had to suppress a snicker when he had trouble pecking journalism into the computer, trying to sound it out, (the program I’d soon be starting at UBC) and asked why anyone cares about journalism when it’s just creative writing. For the record, I didn’t dignify that question with a response.
You can imagine the excitement of leaving the border crossing and heading straight into Seattle rush hour traffic (the only aggravating traffic the whole trip). I only made it as far as Coeur d’Alene, Idaho before staying in the best Motel 6 ever “$29.99”.
I was buying beer at the gas station and asked a kid what was going on that night. He said to check out the gay bar downtown (pop. ~35,000). I drove around, couldn’t find it, so went back to the motel. Spent some more time in town the next day taking in a junior-high spelling bee (I really enjoy spelling bees) and watching a college-level girls’ fast-pitch softball game.
I decided that I was done with the trip after this point and prepared to drive day and night to reach Minneapolis ASAP, until…
I would like to tell you some amazing story of intrigue and despair but it was just me in the van, driving straight through to Minnesota from Western Montana. About 18 hours with only a radio and no option for cruise control. I did manage to take a few pictures.
Driving all night and then watching the sun come up and break the monotony was a beautiful thrilling joy. By this point I had made it to South Dakota, disappointed to see there was still snow on the ground in the midwest.
Well, dear readers the trip was finally at an end and it was time to beg for my job back and return to the safety of my home and friends and dream to be on the open road again. Thanks for riding along.
*Details may be extremely exaggerated and manipulated for entertainment purposes.