Young Chronicles VII: Der Schinken Isn’t Chicken

Young Chronicles I-IV details a 1972 school trip to Northern Ontario, while Young Chronicles V-VI offers a brief account of a family car trip to Prince Edward Island in 1974. This section of Young Chronicles jumps ahead nine years to my hitchhiking trip across Canada. The adventure took 71 days, covering over 10,000 miles in 110 different cars along with two extensive bus rides. I made copious notes, much of which is embarrassingly trite, but that’s the point of this, right? Anyway, I aim to share the most interesting and amusing bits and see where that takes me.

I had just finished my first year at university and I thought I knew everything there was to know and decided to set out to discover “The Canadian Soul”. Yes, I wrote that phrase down. My aim was to ask everyone what they thought about Canada, what it meant to them, where the country was going. I think I asked a total of five people in the end. That said, I did document every ride and many of the things I saw and thought (ad nauseum) along the way.

Day One (June 3, 1983) Mileage 0-344

Ride One: Toronto to Ajax in Rally STX van (blue) with John Hulme, who told me that picking up hitchhikers was “against company policy”.

Ride Two: Ajx to Hwy 115 Turnoff in VW Rabbit (beige) with Buecklie, originally from West Germany. He gave me a Medallion cigarette and told a long anecdote about ordering what he thought was a chicken sandwich because the word “Der Schinken” sounded so much like chicken. It turned out to be ham. He and the waiter thought this was very funny and later became friends.

Ride Three: Hwy 115 Turnoff to Ottawa Turnoff in 1977 MGB with a large red-bearded man. His daughter did Pepsi commercials but hated the stuff.

Ride Four: Ottawa Turnoff to Cornwall in a 1979 Thunderbird with Eugene Bugala who was a Catholic priest. He liked Canada because it was free and nice with a European flavor. He also considered the maple leaf a satisfactory symbol for the country.

Ride Five: Ottawa Turnoff to Montreal 1977 Dart (brown) with Tim Paquette. He lit a joint, played Peter Gabriel’s San Jacinto on his car stereo and then explained his video concept for the song which involved blue spotlights and children running through the jungle. He took me around the neighborhood as he delivered pizzas and then picked up his girlfriend Cathy before heading out to The Maples Tavern. It was a low-key place that was later busted by the Quebec police who were arrogant, their thumbs in their pockets and hats tilted back. I stayed the night at Tim’s house.

Canada’s Soul: Whitehorse to Vancouver

I took a bus up to Whitehorse, Yukon. (I didn’t hitchhike because I was scared of being left in the middle of nowhere and getting eaten by a bear.)

July 20: A 24-hour delay seems possible due to the massive bridge washouts – sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Throughout the journey, women – making up the majority of the population – sleep, smoke and drink without complaint. So I’ll smoke my way to sleep.

The silhouettes of the great mountains dominate the scenery. A dark black storm cloud approaches; hell is bound to break loose. The trees await in silence as the silver bus rushes on.July 22: I hiked alone up Grey Mountain, on the outskirts of Whitehorse, and wrote at the top: Humanity – a definition. Impossible. It is so assorted. There are some with no legs, some with no eyes – mentally and physically – and some with no heart. Some cloud their eyes with darkened glasses and some wear not what they need but what others say. (It goes on.)

July 24: I took a 26-hour bus ride down to Vancouver. Graffiti on Pink Mountain Inn: #1: Why did God give seagulls wings? So that they’d be able to beat the Indians to the dump. #2 Toking is like working here. The harder you suck, the higher you get.

Arrived in Vancouver where I stayed at the hostel for five days and saw Peter Gabriel and David Bowie and the newly-opened BC Place Stadium.