On a Sunday in late July, I set off for the trip of a lifetime with my boyfriend, Shane, and his friend, Patrick, from Germany. We were going to be on the road for about a month, making our way through destinations in the U.S. and Canada. The route was roughly planned, and we were going to be joined by Patrick’s friend, Helena, partway through, but the rest of it was a serendipitous adventure. We had no idea who we might meet or what oddities we would come across, but we were prepped and ready for life on the road.
The first leg of the trip was to travel north from our starting point in Pennsylvania up to Niagara Falls, Canada. We reached the place no problem, spent the day gallivanting around the city, and at night returned to the falls to see them lit up beneath a show of fireworks. With rumbles of thunder and rain fast approaching, we thought for sure that the show would be cancelled—but just as the lightning began to strike and the rain began to fall, the first of the fireworks shot into the air with a bang. We had the rare occasion of witnessing a lightning and fireworks show collide above us by the nighttime falls, lit with changing colors. Shane pulled out his camera and tripod to photograph the event while Patrick laughed heartily in his poncho, holding it out over Shane to help the camera from getting drenched.
By the end of it, ponchos didn’t matter. We were soaked through. As much as we could, we dried out inside the car. We had already set up tent at a campground oddly placed in the city, so we returned to camp and hunkered down in our sleeping bags. By morning the rain had mostly stopped, but we woke up in puddles, drenched even more than the night before. You would think such a crummy first night would be a bad omen for the trip to come, but we didn’t care. Shaking out the tents and wringing out sopping clothes, we agreed we would travel on to Toronto and dry out our things in a hotel room.
In these first few days, we knew Patrick was going to be the designated child in the back seat. After hours of hearing him go on about how we needed to get “baubles,” I only understood what he was talking about when he came out of a dollar store with a tube of bubbles. He had also purchased a pencil and notepad to write up a “must to-do” list for our trip across America. On the way to Toronto, Patrick blew his bubbles, dried his clothes flapping outside the rear window, and began his “must to-do” list which so far consisted of “riding horses in the west, surfing in California, and taking pictures on Route 66.”
When we finally reached Toronto, we checked into a Hyatt and laid out our damp, musty clothes, taking turns to dry them out with the closet iron setup. In the meantime Patrick blew bubbles, the bathroom flooded, and we ate the messy dinner of sloppy joe BBQ we had packed in the cooler. We spent a lot of the day exploring the city, but the real gem of the day was when we found out that Queen and Adam Lambert would be putting on the last performance of their North American tour at the Air Canada Center. We had nosebleed standing area in the back of the stadium, but that didn’t matter. It was unexpected and amazing, and we all had a great time, even Patrick who had never heard of Queen (though Helena would give him grief for it later).
The next day was another long one of exploring the city, seeing places I did not really care to see. Cities have their own kind of feel, fast-paced, busy, fun, and sociable—all good, and all things that contribute to memorable experiences—but I was ready for some wilderness. I could not wait to set up camp in the woods and under the stars.
We were headed for the Great Lakes region next and nearly died when the GPS sounded that we had over 100 miles to travel on the first major highway. But we turned it into a game. Instead of “100 bottles of beer on the wall,” we all sang to a tune of “100 miles to go on this road. 100 miles to go. Take one down, pass it around, 99 miles to go on this road…”
And so we went—Patrick adding to his “must to-do” list, Shane keeping his patience with the long drive ahead, and me in the passenger’s seat doodling and writing in my sketch journal as the thick woods of Canadian pine passed by.
July 30th 2014
Today the clouds lay staggered like stepping stones to the sky—thicker at the bottom of the horizon, smaller bits break away from the smooth mass and rise to the sun—separated by a trickle of blue that permeates each stone of cloud. The sky is a deeper blue at the pole, straight up, than fades down to a paler blue at the edges of horizon. It is a stream and the clouds are pebbles, stones, boulders. A few lumber close to the tips of Canadian pine, heavy, so close to the fingertips of earth yet forever floating in the sea of sky. In the west they billow, great and white and full, like the sails of a ship that billow with the wind. And yet, from the east they stretch, long and smooth, like waves of ocean upon the shore at low tide.
-Somewhere in Canada