Young Chronicles XVII: Winnipeg, to Saskatoon

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the Toronto-Newfoundland leg, I continue west from Manitoba to Saskatchewan.

July 8-10, 1983 Stayed at hostel and attended Winnipeg Folk Festival. Queen Ida and her Zydeco Band was the highlight of the event.

July 11, 1983 Mileage 356 miles

Ride One: Downtown Winnipeg to outskirts of Winnipeg. Old blue Volvo. Guy who had been to St. John’s. Had a hard time of it and has vowed to help others.

Ride Two: Highway 16 to Brandon, Manitoba. Red pickup truck. Group of Native Americans going to The Gathering. Woman gave me six cookies.

Ride Three: Brandon to Regina, Saskatchewan. Chevette with Illinois plates. Jeff Gibbs headed to Alaska. Had been stationed in Germany as a computer programmer on Pershing missiles. Went to jail for drunk driving with 1.5% blood alcohol.

Jeff Gibbs shows his Reaper drawing in Saskatchewan

July 13 Middle-aged couple. Woman said that I reminded her of the dawn. She had just won the lottery and was frying a salmon in the park. I was invited to join. Man became abusive when he was drunk and accused me of sponging. Returned to hostel, locked out.

July 15, 1983 Mileage 164 miles

Ride One: Regina to Wattrous, Saskatchewan. Old pickup truck. Wild looking man in a dirty green shirt. “No matter what you have, it always has value somewhere.”

Ride Two: Wattrous to outskirts of Saskatoon. Blue station wagon. Middle-aged woman with two kids. Drive past me but her kids insisted that she go back. “You’ve been nice company.”

Farm equipment outside Wattrous, Saskatchewan

Ride Three: Outskirts to Saskatoon hostel. Early ’70s car. Long-haired smoker. “You do your thing, and I’ll do mine.”

Young Chronicles XVI: Ahmic Harbour, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the Toronto-Newfoundland leg, I continue west through Ontario into Manitoba.

July 3, 1983 Mileage 335 miles

Ride One: Ahmic Harbour to Parry Sound. Buick Electra (with dad and Sue). Listened to Bach and Vangelis. Pleasantries.

Ride Two: Parry Sound to Sudbury Turnoff. Rabbit. Twerp of a driver who irritated another hitchhiker in the car from El Salvador and stayed quiet throughout.

Hitchhiker from El Salvador walking ahead between Parry Sound and Sault Saint Marie

Ride Three: Sudbury Turnoff to Sault Saint Marie. Sal driving from a wedding in Toronto, despondent about splitting up with wife. Picked up his brother Paul at a marina. Listened to Stravinsky’s The Right of Spring.

July 4 Mileage: 435 miles

Ride One: Thunder Bay to Wawa. Blue Custom Chevy Van. Married guy with mustache and fancy track pants. Loves Canada and understands the power of the weather.

Long wait by Wawa sign. Graffiti underneath sign included: Wawa sucks! Fuck Wawa! Jerky Fuckwell, I slept here. Truck pulled over and then took off when I approached

Ride Two: Wawa to Thunder Bay. Silver Rabbit. Alison and Jane. Very nice and happy people. “I am so happy to be alive!” Strong belief in Socialism. Big collection of pillows in the back seat with me. Stayed at same hostel in Thunder Bay.

Alison and Jane on the road to Thunder Bay

July 6 Mileage: 29 miles

Ride One: Thunder Bay to four miles up the road. Pickup truck. Kirk Douglas lookalike.

Ride Two: Six miles up the road. VW Bug. Blonde guy going to Lakehead University.

Ride Three: Three miles up the road. Brown Rabbit. Jesus lookalike. “You have to like sitting on the side of the road.”

Ride Four: Ten miles up the road to Sunshine. Old car with California plates. Mike. “You can stay the night, if you need to.” (I did.)

July 7 Mileage: 385 miles

Ride One: Sunshine to Winnipeg. Blue Colt junker. Dave and his nephew Sean. Dealer in native art. Enjoys silence and forest fire trivia. Obsessed with sex. “You never know. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”

Dave and Sean on the Blue Colt in their Winnipeg backyard

Took me to his house for dinner (chicken, salad, baked potatoes and beer) with his wife and sister-in-law. “Now you can tell people you had dinner with Indians and they didn’t eat you!”

Writing Process: My Precious Photos

I have been on a sentimental journey of late, going through old images – photographs, slides and negatives – to give visual support for the Young Chronicles section of this blog.

A early selfie with Tim Paquette at his home, the end of my first day hitchhiking.

While some shots work, like the one above, I now realize that most do not because I was trying too hard to be arty with landscapes and the like.

It’s a lot of emptiness, which does reflect my feelings of much of that summer, but comes across today as repetitive and unengaging.

The process of searching through my images and notes is the journey now; and the aim is to make it so for others.

The route out from Toronto to Nova Scotia and then back across Quebec and Ontario.

Young Chronicles XXIII: Sydney to Kouchibouguac National Park

The Young Chronicles detail my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the initial eastward bound leg, I now head west from Newfoundland through the Maritime provinces.

June 19, 1983 Mileage 292 miles

Ride One: Sydney to Kelley’s Mountain, Nova Scotia. Red pick up. Drivers works for CN Marines, dives on wrecks and has seen many sharks, whales and trout.

Ride Two: To Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Green car. Red cap, beard, knives. (Wait: 3 1/2 hours.)

Ride Three: To Truro Turnoff. Car n/a. Boring history teacher, sweaty chin and shorts.

Ride Four: To Moncton, New Brunswick. Car n/a. Beers and quarter pound of cheese. Former Mountie, works as a bartender now. Has driven Sydney to Edmonton straight.

Overnight in Moncton. No hostel. YMCA closed. Only have $15. Walked around, followed by a silver Mazda camper pickup truck. Went to the A&W and left my bags there and ran after the camper as it sped away.

No one at the A&W was willing to put me up for the night. Went to the police station to report the stalker but didn’t have the license plate. Policeman: “I don’t know what to tell you.” Asked to sleep in a jail. He called The Sunset Inn and guaranteed that I would pay the next day. Front desk clerk told me of a guy who left a gold chain as collateral and then skipped.

June 20, 1983 Mileage 61 miles

Waited outside of Moncton for a long time, looking at their signs of community pride: Moncton, You’re Okay! Hey, Moncton, Picture This! 4H Thinks Greater Moncton Is Great! Welcome One And All From Moncton With Love.

A truck side-swiped a car just past me. The sideview mirror skittered twenty feet ahead. A bystander picked up for the driver. “Sir, are you all right?”

Ride One: Moncton to Shediac. Family car. Shared Moosehead beer and cigarettes. A painter by trade.

Ride Two: To Kouchibouguac National Park. Silver Honda sports car. Comical laugh. Loved Bach’s Variations. Anti-Wagner. Teaches education at University of Maine.

Camped on the ocean side.

Young Chronicles XXII: Fortune to Port-Aux-Basque, Newfoundland

The Young Chronicles detail my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the initial Toronto to St. John’s, Newfoundland leg of the journey, this section covers the return trip back across Newfoundland.

June 16, 1983 Mileage 35 miles

Ride One: Fortune to Grand Bank, Newfoundland. Old turquoise pickup truck. 23-year-old man with toothy grin. Wants to get out of Fortune.

Ride Two: Grand Bank to four miles down road. Old pickup truck. Toolbox. Nice man.

Ride Three: To Marystown. Pickup truck. Young guy, moose hunter, works on the oil platforms, six months on, six months off. Off to fish in Gander, Labrador soon.

Stayed in Mariner’s Lodge run by an old guy. “Been everywhere and know everything.”

June 17, 1983 Mileage 418 miles

Ride One: Marystown to Clarenville. Old car. Squeaky 200-pound moose hunter.

Ride Two: Clarenville to Trans Canada Turnoff. Blue pickup truck. Middle-aged guy with no right hand index finger. Electrician moose hunter. Loves screech and special mild cigarettes.

Ride Three: TCH Turnoff too Gander. Old Blue car. Old lady who told story of mongoloid children from a little red bible. “God bless you.”

Ride Four: Gander to Corner Brook. Old Buick. Young guy who took pictures and hunted moose. Quiet except about moose.

Stayed in Bridgeway Motel with two beds. Upcoming Red Rider concert advertised heavily on radio. Ate a hamburger at an old diner. Still cold. High of 24.

June 18, 1983 Mileage 137 miles PLUS ferry trip back to mainland

Ride One: To “a better exit”. Small car with a guy and girl. “I’ll show you a better exit.”

Ride Two: Corner Brook to Stephenville. Canadian army truck. Guy looked a cartoon character with lips jutting out. Moose hunter

Ride Three: Stephenville to roadside bar 25 north of Port-Aux-Basques. Three guys on a multi-day bender. Doug (groom-to-be, bearded, driver, calm, scar on cheek), Pat (married two years, former speed user), Brian (married three years drinker, mustache) and Tefel (fellow hitchhiker, insecure, loves high speed driving).

Doug, Pat, Brian and Tefel holding the spare tires that acted as back seats.

These guys are all moose poachers and have been jailed four times each. No back seat in the car. Spare tires instead. Shared bottles of beer. I had four. They took us to dump to look for bears and threw empties into the garbage pile. Left them at the bar.

Ride Four: Roadside bar to Port-Aux-Basques Ferry Terminal. Light brown sedan. Mustache and overweight. “Keep all your lanes open in music.”

Overnight ferry to Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Young Chronicles XI: St. John’s to Fortune, Newfoundland

Young Chronicles is my record of a 1983 Cross-Canada hitchhiking trip. This section details my first few days in Newfoundland.

June 11-13, 1983 St. John’s

Stayed at Will and Helen’s house. (Will was my ride into St. John’s.) They insisted that I sleep in their son’s room who moved into the living room. Sat in the kitchen as Helen rolled cigarettes with a small machine and Will did the crossword. Incredibly friendly people who left me on my own during the day and had dinner with me every night. Treated me to fish and chips on my final night.

Went to Signal Hill where I photographed an iceberg and mused: The massive shiny white behemoth silently watches the land as its turquoise blood seeps ever so slowly into the sea. It knows its time is limited yet continues its silent vigil with its very own evaporation. Its powers is incredible, its size immense, yet it is unable to combat the pleasant rays of the sun. The beast sinks to its mother. A gull glides past and defecates upon its melting brow. The mortal evaporative wisdom of an iceberg, never understood, yet always cursed. The giant melts, and I do not. Does the shining beast acknowledge my presence? I say nay. (Yes, indeed, I really did write all of that.)

June 14 St. John’s to Marystown

Ride One: To Trans Canada Highway. Mother and young girl

Ride Two: To Kelce Goose Turnoff. Brown Rabbit. Old guy. Hair all over back seat.

Ride Three: To Argentia Turnoff. Military man from Maine. No talk by his request.

Ride Four: To Marystown Turnoff. Red LTD. Cool Scottish guy with wife and kid. “Watch yourself down there. It’s backwood-sy.”

Ride Five: To Swift Current. Three guys. Quiet times.

Ride Six: To Marystown. Avis Rental. Money-minded Oil jerk.

Ride Seven: 45 Kilometers short of Fortune. Silver car. “If you don’t get a ride, drop out.”

Ride Eight: 30 kilometers short of Fortune. Chrome pickup. Local who loved Red Rider.

Ride Nine: 10 kilometers short of Fortune. Red car. Man named Schneider; hates Toronto.

Ride Ten: Fortune. Young couple from Toronto.

Stayed in Seaview Lounge and Motel. A dump. Cheap curtains, chipped walls, ugly lamps, semi-intact luggage rack and rude inhospitable staff. Went to see the capelin run where many were out with buckets to catch them on the beach. “Hey, kids, out of the water. Let ’em come in!” A number of teenaged boys approached me. One thought I was an undercover cop. He was a bootlegger who dealt acid. Another boy, Corry, was formal. “When you address him, do it politely.”

The ferry to St. Pierre/Miquelon, France was cancelled. I tried to get a ride with a fishing boat but they left without me. Cold and foggy. I went to camp in the bog the second night but was too cold and freaked out by all the bog noises. Went back to Seaview Lounge and Motel and watched Butterflies are Free with Goldie Hawn.

Young Chronicles VIII: “Hey You!”

Cross Canada Hitchhiking Trip, Day Two: Montreal to Halifax (Mileage 344-1116)

Ride One: West to East end of Montreal; Brown bakery van. “You’ll get murdered.”

Ride Two: Across St. Lawrence River; early 70’s car. Spoke only French.

Ride Three: To Boucherville; 2-door escort. Man with crumbs on sides of mouth.

Ride Four: To Victoriaville; forgot make of car (too tired). Belgian chef who loves Canada.

Ride Five: To Quebec City turnoff; VW Rabbit. Saw a moose.

EXIF_HDL_ID_1

Ride Six: To St. Jean Port Joli; large old car. The driver was a woman in her late 20s with her mother and grandmother, also another hitchhiker names Clairmont. No one spoke English, but all very loving and Catholic.

Ride Seven: To Riviere Du Loup; blue Chevy van. Told stories of his hitchhiking days including “being fucked by horny broads” and the tale of hitchers on bad acid in Wyoming who ate their ride.

Ride Eight: To Hwy 17; Camper van. WWII veteran who once drove border to border across Ontario in one day.

Ride Nine: To Truro, Nova Scotia; red Mack truck. All-night drive with non-unionized driver named Ed Haggerty. Married for 39 years to woman from England who “never said boo to anyone.”

Ed Haggerty

Harassed waitress at diner because she was new. Intentionally mumbled, pretended not to understand, changed his order, complained about the service and then gave her a 25-cent tip. I saw signposts turn into cyclists. I stayed in the sleeper of the truck. Ed prepared a full breakfast and then drove me into Halifax. I wandered around and then stayed at the hostel.

Canada’s Soul: To Kouchibouguac Park, NB

A week into my cross-Canada hitchhiking trip, I was back from Newfoundland and crossing Nova Scotia again:

June 19, Ride One: Port Sydney to Kelly’s Mountain, Nova Scotia (Red heap) Driver was a wreck diver and told stories of sharks, whales and trout.

Ride Two: Kelly’s Mountain to Baddeck, NS (Green car) Beard driver with a red cap and sweaty chin.

Ride Three: Baddeck to Truro (Car) History high school teacher, who was boring.

Ride Four: Truro to Moncton, New Brunswick (Sports car) Driver was a former Mountie, now a bartender. Gave me beers and a quarter pound of cheese.

I walked into Moncton and watched a truck crash into a wall from above. Heavy rain, followed by sweltering heat. A Silver Mazda pick-up followed me around until I went into an A&W, dropped off my backpack and chased after him, but I couldn’t catch him or read the license plate. I went to the cop shop and was told, “I simply don’t know what to tell you.” I stayed at the Canadiana Motel and give my backpack as collateral.

June 20, Ride One: Moncton to Shediac (Family car) Driver, a painter by trade, gave me his last smoke and a Moosehead beer.

Ride Two: Shediac to Kouchibouguac National Park (Silver Honda) Driver had a comical laugh, and was anti-Wagner. “Bach’s Variations above all.”

My Parents Send Their Response

April 25/83

McPhedran;

We have been mulling over your proposal that you hitchhike across Canada this summer and, as you can imagine, we were quite taken aback by the idea. We have considered your project very seriously and reluctantly would permit you to go.

I think it would be unreasonable for you to expect your father to contribute to the financing of not only your projected trip and also to pay the entire cost of your second year at university. You should not overlook the fact that working in the summer with people you might not otherwise encounter is a very good way of learning about “life” – I am not at all convinced that hitchhiking is a better way.

It is also dangerous though perhaps I shouldn’t exaggerate that aspect since you are big and strong and reasonably capable of coping with undesirable people you are bound to run into. You will have to steel yourself to the idea that a job in the summer of 1984 is an absolute must.

Mom

Letter From My Embarrassing Youth

April 14/83

Dear Mom and Dad;

Hi, it’s me. I guess you’re wondering why I’m writing, and I guess you’re wondering what I plan to do this summer. Well, I’m going to answer both of those questions. I’d like to hitchhike across Canada.

Now I’m sure your first reaction to this will be that I should work an (sic) make money and pay my way through university next year, but I don’t feel that way. You see, I have the energy, the spirit and the enthusiasm to try this venture right now. The problem with getting a job is that I feel it would stifle me and my artistic (that is in my writing, etc.) talents.

What I plan for this journey is intended to release my mind and make it easier for me to write creatively. The trip wouldn’t just be me running all over the country, doing nothing but looking for a good time. The whole journey is planned for two reasons: one to give me more to write about by giving me more attitudes and angles on different issues – in essence to broaden be (sic) horizon to help me write more knowledgeably. The second reason is that I, ideally, would like to write a book about the search for the Canadian identity (if there is one). The book, of course, would take a couple of years to compile and edit, but I’d like to try it. Of course if it fails, I’ve still learned a lot, haven’t I? A lot more than I might learn working at some job.

Now I’d need about $1,000 for this trip. As well, I’d again need your full financial support for university. (I guess this whole scheme sounds like I’m just as impossible as ever, but I’d like to challenge that.) All the courses I’ve taken and plan to take at university all deal with the opening of my mind – philosophically; so to get better grasp of it and my understanding and development of these ideas I think this cross-country venture would be very helpful. If I get a job, instead I work at a set amount of hours at some specified (or despecified (sic), depending on how you look at it) job. I feel this would be very stifling and, in fact, harmful to my potential as a writer, film-maker or whatever in that general field.

There is some danger in this idea, but danger is part of life and it makes life more exhilarating, does it now? What I’m trying to do is give myself more to work with creatively – I want to be as artistic and fluent in literature (film) as possible and feel this to (sic) an excellent route to such.

Thanx.