Adventures on the Road
Well, I made it to British Columbia. More specifically, to Vancouver Islandoff the coast of British Columbia. It was an epic journey with many and sundry incidents. For example the first night on the train I woke up and there was an empty bottle rattling around at my feet. I’m thinking, “WTF, people are throwing trash at me while I sleep?” Moments later the conductor comes up and says “You’re going to throw that trash away, aren’t you?” I’m like “But, but, that’s not not my trash!” She immediately says “That’s what they all say!” She was joking, but it was an inauspicious start to the journey.
And a journey it was. I took a train from Buffalo, NY, to Seattle, Washington. Once there, the helpful people in the Amtrak and Greyhound Stations were able to direct me on my way, and I proceeded to Nanaimowith no problem. I wish. No, the people manning the “information” booths in both places couldn’t find Canada on a map, let alone direct me there. “Canada, that’s up north aways, isn’t it?” Yeesh. Now I know what Al Capone meant when he said “Canada? I don’t even know what street it’s on.”
It started at Amtrak. They didn’t have a clue, but directed me to the Greyhound station, telling me it was too far to walk. Fortunately I looked at the map they gave me before insulting a cab driver, the Greyhound Station was less than a mile away. Don’t people walk anywhere anymore? After three days on a train a twenty minute walk was refreshing. Of course the Greyhound guy was equally helpless. “Ferries? That’s a boat, right?” He lives in the goddamn Pacific Northwest but doesn’t have a clue that there are ferries running everywhere? At this point I was starting to suffer from lack of caffeine and greasy microwaved food. Then while in the bathroom at the bus station, a guy comes into the room screaming how he is going to murder some guy who threw a piece of pizza in his face. I just raised my feet and sat on the toilet quietly until he went away, but this didn’t help my disposition any.
So anyhow, the bus guy could sell me a ticket on an express bus to the city of Vancouver. I figured someone up there would know how to get to the ferry, the island of Vancouver being visible off the coast. And in fact while waiting in line for the bus, a nice Canadian gal not only knew how to get there, she said she would take me to the appropriate bus stop when we got to Vancouver, and told me what ferry to catch. This proved to be a double godsend, as will become clear later.
Speaking of godsends, a nice old Canadian we were chatting with in the line suddenly morphed into a Jehovah’s witness and started to lecture us on corruption, immorality, and false religion. Oh dear God, while I try to be tolerant of other people’s religious views, if this guy is typical of Jehovah’s witnesses…my opinion of same has dropped considerably. He was, to put it succinctly, a stupid bigot. He spent the bus trip lecturing another nice lady on how to run her multi-million dollar construction company and raise her brain-damaged daughter, that women deserves a Nobel prize for grace under fire. In fact he knew everything about everything, had travelled the world, and had shallow racist supercilious opinions about every country he visited and the ignorant Godless heathens he was trying to save. Now I know why so many missionaries have ended up in cooking pots, it’s a wonder this guy made it back to Canada in one piece.
So we get to the border, and it gets worse. My head is pounding, I’m groggy, dishevelled, and unshaven. Not the best of states to get past Customs. And I didn’t have a passport, and I hadn’t filled out the customs declaration that the helpful guy that sold me my bus ticket was supposed to have given me. So the Custom’s officer is pretty suspicious, and he’s not happy with my answers to his questions either. Telling Customs you are “self-employed’ doesn’t help when they already suspect you are a bum trying to sneak into their country. It was looking grim when he asked how I was going to get to visit my mom on the Island. Well, thanks to my Canadian gal friend, I knew the answer to that. With my best smile I said “Oh, I’m hoping to catch the 7:00 ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo.” Well, that did the trick, just as surely as “I’ll figure it out when I get to Vancouver” would have landed me in a holding cell, and off to Vancouver we went.
And true to her word, when we got there Cheri escorted me through the Byzantine public transit system in Vancouver, and practically pushed me onto the appropriate bus. At this point I was too groggy to even think clearly, let alone thank her properly. So Cheri, if you’re reading this (I did manage to mutter the name of my blog as she trotted off,) I can’t possibly thank you enough, you’re a credit to the human race and if you’re ever in the San Francisco Bay Area I will happily return the favour in spades.
(The above clickable image of the Queen of Coquitlam is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, it is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. For fun ferry stories, see this link. And aside from the aforementioned navigational issues, I would like to add that every employee of Amtrak and Greyhound was professional, courteous, and helpful; I recommend their services to anyone, the above stories were exaggerated for dramatic effect. Mostly.)