My Annual Love Letter To Canada

Posted: September 12, 2011 in The Roper Files
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(click photos to enlarge)

August nineteenth I got on a jet at about 7am and left the hundred-in-the-shade Hades-like climate of Texas and a few hours later stepped out into direct sunlight in Vancouver and a temperature plunge of no less than forty or fifty degrees.


After three straight months of 100+ temperatures I had forgotten what actual green vegetation and water that wasn’t evaporating right in front of your eyes both looked like. Trees, plants and animals that weren’t dying from dehydration as you watched; these things still existed? Blue skies, blue water and green grass and trees?


For two weeks I ate from a combination of four-star restaurants and as well as out of a picnic basket, we stayed in three different bed-and-breakfast lodges / resorts and gave the horrible other fifty weeks of my life the slip in a major way. I flew thousands of miles from home with no cellphone or laptop,armed with just $200 in American cash, $400 in Canadian currency, one credit card and an ATM card.


I traveled by jet, train, bus, a ferry (and other assorted boats) and automobile. Went to places on The Island with “K” we had never gone before with names like Comox and Telegraph Cove and explored rain forests, beaches, waterfalls and rocky cliffs. We saw bald eagles, deer, orcas and hump-backed whales, sea lions, river otters and even a black bear. Woke up more than once to the sounds of seagulls or geese and one morning in particular at 4am, a tsunami warning because of a 7.1 earthquake off the west coast of Alaska.


Did some of the scariest highway driving I’ve ever done in my life this time around. Drove  through a dense fog on unlit narrow two-lane  roads  and on another night was driving  more unlit, and pretty much unmarked winding curving two lane roads carved into steep cliffs. People were rocketing around me on blind curves like I had a flat tire because I was driving the speed limit. I just KNEW I was going to see someone being taken out. But I have no regrets about those two weeks other than I wish they lasted longer.

I ate poutines ( fried potatoes with cheese and gravy), my first ever bison burger and hand fulls of wild blackberries straight off of vines growing right off the side of the road. Drank gallons of Tim Horton’s coffee, Tazo tea and an occasional Coke (we kept a case of bottled water in the trunk of the car).

I witnessed Canada’s medical system in action first hand as “K” developed an itchy red left eye that got progressively worse and I drove her to an “after hours” clinic that was open from 4pm to 9pm. We had to wait a couple of hours but a doctor did examine her and prescription eye drops were waiting for her in about 15 minutes at a local pharmacy. An eye specialist showed up the next day at a hospital (on a Saturday morning mind you) just to examine her eye again.


We walked through rain forests where ancients trees lay fallen and new trees were growing right through them. The vegetation would be so thick it was like shutting off a light switch; the sunlight would be cut off almost instantly as we walked deeper into the forest. Like I child I would climb across huge boulders to take a photo of a waterfall or a flowing stream. Climb down a rocky cliff and then scratch my head how to get back up to where I climbed down from.


We walked down the main streets of small towns that were as hip, trendy, cool and as weird as Austin wishes it was. Dread-locked young men rode by us on mountain bikes and skateboards, heavily tattooed and pierced girls with cellphones walked by us while we ate at a Cafe next door to a movie theater that had been closed since 1957 and every building on the street looked like it dated from the 1930s.


The sunrises and the sunsets both equally warranted fishing out my Canon, sometimes I would take a new shot every few minutes as the sky changed colors. Blue sky. Pink sky. Purple sky. Red sky…


We would find something to wonder at every time we went for a a walk. “Wonder what’s over here?” could lead to an all-afternoon hike down a path through the woods or down a rocky beach next to a flowing river. Ever been to a Chinese/Japanese cemetery? Neither had I until we drove past a sign for one; we stopped and marveled at the intricate tombstones.

For two weeks each and every day held a new surprise for us. Some things cost money, others were free…but as long as those two weeks took to arrive, they passed quickly. A little too quickly. Before either of us wanted to admit it, it was soon time to re-pack the suitcase and say Goodbye.


Getting on the ferry and turning my back on “K” and Canada wasn’t any easier this time around. The morning I left on the ferry was a beautiful morning with a majestic sunrise. The flags were all flying half mast for the recent passing of Jack Layton. The entire country was mourning the death of the man who led their Democratic Party and stood up for the working man. I got on the ferry and left Canada and its beauty behind me.

My flight included a layover at the Los Angeles LAX airport. The news on the airport monitors was Texas On Fire and Governor Rick Perry traipsing around the country running for President; not one word about Jack Layton, however. One week before the ten year anniversary of 9/11 America’s flags were flying tall from the top of the poles.

My gate at the airport was within not one but two Starbucks and not anything as edible as an InAndOut in sight. I walked into the Hudson News and saw a whole wall of books by Guy Fieri and Paula Dean; I was starving to death and they were NOT what I needed to see. Looking out the terminal windows bored, I snapped a few photos of the LA sunset and some colorful clouds.

Was sitting and reading when the two uniformed LAPD cops approached me; it was about 30 minutes before my flight started boarding. “Would you mind stepping this way, please?” I gathered my two carry-ons and we walked away from the other passengers. No room with the someone strapping on an elbow-length glove, but they walked me over to a wall. Had to answer numerous personal questions for a full 25 minutes and let them search me and my bags simply because I quite legally took a few photos in the terminal. Let them go through the pics I took and offered to delete any photos they were uncomfortable with. As my flight started to board they finally seemed convinced I wasn’t a terrorist, thanked me for my “co-operation” (as if I had a real choice) and allowed me to board as the other passengers eyed me suspiciously.

Welcome back to America” I thought as I slumped down into my seat and wondered to myself exactly why I bothered to come back. Looked out the window just in time to see the airliner flying right through a completely circular rainbow.

After what I had just been through I wanted to think this was an omen of better things to come….


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