Appropriately, it is raining in Nanaimo when I'm taking my Ontario plates off of Bebe, the little white Sunfire convertible that has been my whip for the past year. This is good, because I don't want the tow truck driver to see me crying about a car. "Just a car." Bebe is not just a car; she's the Portable Pontiac Pocket Party, the only convertible to have ever driven down Thunder Road (I mean, probably, the stats don't exist for that, I'm just assuming), my safe haven from the madness of the world. Bebe has driven all around Manitoulin Island, to and from Montreal multiple times, up to Hearst and all around Mattice, Sudbury, Timmins, and then across the country for cherries, where she almost met her untimely demise on a shitty gravel road and my own close call with bailing on the nomad life and going home. She made it all the way to yet another island, with new tires (god bless uncle Andy), the driver's side mirror precariously tied back on and the rearview mirror reattached with a DIY adhesive kit from Crappy Tire.
One night off in Hearst this most recent season, I leave Jude in the car with his food and water while we go to the Companion. He's pleased with this arrangement, the car is home and he's happy in there for stretches of 10-12 hours, and the HoJo is really cracking down on the presence of dogs after last year's PoPo the Party Dog and Jude Jude the Party Dude debacle. Absolutely soaked to the bone after yet another year of hiking to the Esso for cigarettes and catching up with my friend who works in the other camp, I crawl gratefully into the backseat and pass out, plastered to the white leather. The next day D & M borrow the car to run errands around town, and I find them later, fully reclined, feet out the windows, napping in front of the HoJo. We once cram six people and the dog into the car with the top down to go and spend an afternoon at Johnson Beach. The cigarette lighter car charger and the stereo are my saving grace on hangover days in town, when I can retreat from the rain or heat, charge my phone and sit scrolling absently through the internet I've been deprived of in the bush.
Bebe crosses Canada with ease. I've brought her out into the bush on Thunder Road, gaining a whole new appreciation for a freshly graded road. Camp is only twenty minutes from town and this way I can go on cigarette runs or drop off departing staff at the bus station. I have an idea that shit's going to go down, soon, as well, and the car is the escape vehicle if the coup d'etat unfolds. It eventually does, and after breakfast one day, I hustle my friends into the car. We ruthlessly dispose of extra baggage and then three of us and all of our gear are somehow Tetrised in, departing the Hearst Forest with a mix of sorrow and elation. Northern Ontario, home of my heart, seems to go on for days- it takes us two days to get out of Ontario, spending a night in comfort in a Thunder Bay hotel and then booting it all the way to Regina the next day. We park behind the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and roll out our sleeping bags in the blackness of the manicured lawn, taking refuge for the night behind a hedge. We make it all the way into the Rockies the next day. My car companions haven't seen the mountains before, and as we roll out of Calgary and the striking hulk of rock becomes apparent, suddenly, I say, "Look!" They wake up, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, to stare. We sleep another night in Golden (behind the visitor center, this time) and we're so bone weary that the light and mosquitoes and brief rain shower don't interrupt our sleep.
Pocket Party survives a season in Vernon and takes a ferry ride over to Vancouver Island. Our relationship starts and ends on an island, which seems oddly appropriate. In a Walmart parking lot in Nanaimo, I spend hours pulling my life out of the car and transferring it into the as yet unnamed van. The transition into van life is nearly seamless, although I blew the fuse of the cigarette lighter with my car charger and haven't figured out how to fix it yet, and I'm not quite used to having to start an engine with a manual choke, and I have to fill my water and charge my phone whenever I have a chance. Van life means never passing up the opportunity to use a public washroom, libraries are mana from heaven, and Husky showers rein supreme. I'm better at parking the long, boxy van than I am at parking the tiny car- it doesn't make sense. I can parallel park the van and back it neatly into a parking space. My two seasons of driving shitty Blunderhouse buses and being responsible for the kitchen bus has instilled me with a completely unwarranted sense of confidence.
A ridiculous amount of things have happened over the past few days and I've covered a lot of ground and distance. I'm currently parked in Victoria, enjoying the ocean views and generally bumming around. For a few days I've been filled with an overwhelming sense of "Being alive is god damn glorious," which is something I haven't been able to find in a while. I've got a long laundry list of things I have to do to the van to winterize it and make it more comfortable and livable, and a list of things to do to the van to make it pretty, and a list of things to do to the van mechanically. I've got a list of practical shit to do in my real life, including updating my license to a B.C license, beginning legal proceedings against a former employer who owes me money, start looking for a job and continue to tweak the new site for optimal performance and visibility. But until Monday it's me, the van and the ocean, maybe a good book or two, and all the tacos I can eat (tacos seem to be a thing in Victoria, and I miss Taco/Tequila Tuesday.)
From the seaside with love
Seaside views almost make up for the loss of the Pocket Party.