Day 53 Oh Canada

Seattle, WA – Vancouver, BC

That’s right! The Great American Motorcycle Trip has now gone international (thereby technically making it no longer an “American” motorcycle trip, but no matter…). As I made my way around Seattle, I heard from the novelist Audrey Brashich, one of my oldest friends from high school, who now lives in Vancouver who insisted I make the journey across the border to check out how cool Canada is. Bodily harm was threatened if I didn’t comply. Audrey might be built like a lingerie model, but she could pull a headlock like The Rock. Vancouver, here I come!

Boy, am I glad I did! However I must say that crossing the border felt more like a hostage negotiation than traversing the world’s friendliest border. It sort of went like this.

Border Guard: Where are you headed?

Me: Vancouver.

Border Guard: Uh-huh. What weapons do you have with you?

Me: Weapons? I…I’m not carrying any weapons.

Border Guard: Uh-huh. Where are you staying?

Me: At a friend’s house.

Border Guard: Where?

Me: Vancouver.

Border Guard: Where?

Me: Ummm…I have the exact address somewhere on my iPhone. It’s just that it’s buried right now underneath my….

Border Guard: What do you do?

Me: I’m a writer.

Border Guard: What do you write?

Me: Science fiction mostly.

Border Guard: [leaning out of little guard hut to check out my bike] Must be doing pretty well.

Me: Not necessarily.

Border Guard: Tell me about the drugs you’re bringing in?

Me: Wha….nothing. I mean, no drugs!

Border Guard: Fine. Tell me be about your weapons.

Me: I told you I don’t have any weapons!

Border Guard: [sigh] Ok…come on in.

Whew! I was relieved that my Guantanamo interrogation had concluded on a positive note. But as I continued towards Vancouver, a very strange thing happened. Something which I was entirely unaccustomed to.

It rained.

By some sweet stroke of luck, I have not had a drop of rain hit my helmet since I pulled out of New York in May. I definitely felt a lot more conscious about my braking, and a few times my boots slipped on the wet asphalt. But my Shoei MultiTec helmet performed well and provided excellent ventilation keeping my face shield from getting fogged.

The greatest surprise I felt driving through Canada was how decidedly European it felt. Everywhere I looked, there was this delicious differentness in that many of the stores were unfamiliar chains, street signs were printed in unfamiliar fonts, subtle differences in the car models and the shapes of windows in houses. It was wonderful.

Soon, I pulled into Audrey’s beautiful Victorian home that I had been wanting to see for years. Her two boys, Oliver and Felix, ran out to meet me with bear hugs and to check out the bike. After getting me settled in, Audrey whisked me off to downtown Vancouver and gave me a tour of the various districts and a good flavor for the city. This was obviously my first time in Vancouver and it was cool to see how the former warehouse district and Olympic Villages were being reutilized in hip urban ways. After cocktails at The Diamond in Gastown, we met up with Audrey’s husband Chris and some other friends to have dinner at The Boathouse on Kitsilano Beach. Beautiful view and some of the the best salmon I’ve had in long time.

Sadly, I could only stay one day before leaving the the furthest point on my trip. I woke up in the morning and enjoyed a quick breakfast with Audrey and the boys at Benny’s Bagels before saddling up to write northeast into the Canadian Rockies. I’m so glad I decided to come up to the Great White North.

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY:

Canada really is a foreign country and not just a suburb of the US. This sounds ignorant (it is), but seeing road signs posted in English and Native American language drives home the point that Queen Elizabeth is on their money, and they have an unique culture totally separate from America. I’m really looking forward to my next few days driving through the mountains with no sense of what to expect. Also, there’s a small chance I didn’t bring enough warm clothes. We’ll see…

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