A Canadian Love Affair: British Columbia and Alberta Mountains (draft)(prairies soon)

Spider Man

“I’ll be chasing the cedar god.”

Shawn is a salvage logger, finding cedar left behind by logging operations, collecting it in ricks to be flown out by helicopter. He works three weeks in the woods, and is out for one, and he’s done it for three years. He’s probably under 25, and says it gets lonely sometimes, but he loves the woods. He tows his fifth-wheel trailer to where the work is, on Vancouver Island. Once he saved up money and went to the city for the winter and, “spent all my money on things I shouldn’t have.” He shrugged a smile; a logger through and through. I asked if he might save up some money and travel Canada instead. He said he’d thought of that. I said he might find better work. That’s when he looked up at the trees and said he’d always be chasing the cedar god. Has his life all planned, and quite happy with it. Shawn the spider. Happy spider. The next few times I smell the fresh sweet scent of sawn cedar, I’ll think of Shawn.

Between Port McNeill and Port Hardy, we saw a casually, but well dressed woman picking up cans along the roadside. Mystery. One of the little questions that entertain us as the pedaling hours unfold. Soon we saw a late-model RV by the roadside. Ahah. Hers? Another kilometer and we saw an equally well dressed man, plastic grocery sack in hand, picking cans. Mystery solved. “She’s doing fine,” I yelled to him as we passed. “We saw her.” He smiled. They must combine some daily walking with can picking. At five cents per can return value, their two sacks represent a quarter tank of gas.

We unloaded most of our stuff at the ferry terminal and rode the ten kilometers back into Port Hardy for food; nice town with a good grocery. On the way back, a chip truck driver, inconvenienced by our presence yelled, “Get off the damn road!”

I answered, “Have a good day sir!” Practicing self-restraint, my middle finger twitching.

On reflection I always feel sorry for folks who hassle bicyclists on the road. They are always under some kind of time pressure. He probably works by the load, a common but unsafe practice for cars as well as bicycles, and is up to his ass in debt for his truck and a consumer lifestyle. He’s probably been sucked in by our (American style) consumer based economy that convinces folks the necessities of life include: a 27(56?) inch color television and satellite dish, a $40,000 four wheel drive pickup and matching $30,000 fishing boat, shopping trips to Vancouver for his wife and almost anything Disney or Mattel, his kids think they have to have. Consequently he needs $75,000 to live and has to work six days a week from dawn to dusk, which is 18 hours here in summer. Unfortunately, he’s too much American; I wonder if he thinks of it that way. I can see why he resents two happy looking cyclists with time to actually enjoy life. The other side of this coin is that we own stock in some of those companies who advertise to make him a super consumer; his consuming, his hard work and stress facilitates our lifestyle.

We pitched our tent on fresh cut grass in a picnic area next to a boat launching ramp. At sunset a fledgling bald eagle flew into roost very near us. Her parents screeched and circled overhead. We got into the bag late because of the light, but slept soundly until awakened at five in the morning by a cacophony of squeaks and squeals, and a descending chit, chit, chittering, followed by a most unusual guttural sound. We unzipped the tent and had a look. An adult eagle was regurgitating food into the fledgling’s eager beak. Puke feeding. What a way to wake up. Good thing we were planning to wait breakfast for the ferry.