I was up before the roosters on my last day of performance on this long, eventful, instructive tour. I packed my bags, accepted a cup of coffee kindly made for me by my paramedic host, took a shower and got the car started (ten minutes later than I’d hoped, actually). As I scrambled to get things together and get to the first school building of the day, my host scraped at the iced-over windshield of the Versa. I had no time to wait for the car to thaw out at all. I threw the car into reverse, then drive, and got on the country road back to the highway.
Taking care to avoid the free-roaming cattle, I made my way back to Highway 20, then left into town. By the time I was at the city limit my windows were finally fully defrosted.
At the school I met the coordinating teacher, who brought me a cordless mic and a lot of warmth. He came to me as I parked my car and directed me inside to the gym. The students filed in and it was time for performance number ten of eleven on the tour.
The kids were pretty into it. This was the junior school of a two-campus creation presided over by a principal who spoke to me just before I started performing. He said to me “just have fun,” and I did. The daughter of the Mexican couple was in the audience cheering me on as I went through my set list. Lots of great questions and a lot of pictures followed. Before I left the school, I visited with the coordinating teacher’s science class. They peppered me with more questions. I was convinced it was more to avoid getting into the science lesson, but their eagerness for a group shot before I left made me think twice about their motivations.
I retreated to Tim Hortons to kill time between shows, then made my way over to the senior campus. The audience there was much smaller, and much less energized. I felt like doing more of my light and fun performances, and even dropped a music-backed track at the end of my set. I felt this might have been the most disappointing show from my perspective. There was little energy for me to use to amp up the show, and I felt I was flat and not at my best. It was an unfortunate way to end the tour, but everyone has performances like that once in a while.
After a few quick goodbyes I left the building, got in the Versa, and found my way out of Williams Lake for the last time this time around. The open highway stretched ahead of me. Next stop, Vancouver.
I decided to drive back along the Trans-Canada Highway in the Fraser canyon rather than taking the Sea to Sky. I think that turned out to be a good choice. The drive was spectacular, not too twisty, and showed me a different part of the province that I hadn’t yet seen. It was a long drive, however, and I settled back into familiar routines – I listened to CBC Radio until I lost the signal, then went into contemplation mode until the radio station came back. Bizarrely, at one juncture I picked up a feed from VOAN radio, which is a station in Newfoundland. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how I was getting a station from The Rock on my radio when I was deep in rural BC.
After an absence of about three and a half hours, I got back my telephone signal at Hope. I took that as a sign that perhaps at the point of hope in my own life I will get back the signal I need to be in touch with what truly motivates my art and my heart. This kind of thinking carried me the final stretch into the city and to East Vancouver.
Originally I was supposed to go back to my friend’s place on the downtown east side, but a miscommunication led to her not being available. So instead I went to find my friend Jess at the Foxy House – an address of note in the Canadian spoken word community.
Upon arrival I walked in (because that’s what you do) and found Jess in the living room, playing a tune on her computer and working on some kind of project. She told me she was creating clothing. I was impressed, because I could never do it. She may have found it a bit perplexing, however:
She offered me some beer and a couch for the few hours of sleep I would get before heading to YVR. I gladly accepted the beer and we proceeded to select songs we really wanted to hear – throwbacks to a time when we were younger (and obviously not quite as cool). I took to the DJ job with relish, throwing on tracks like “Hey Mr. DJ” by Zhané, “Buffalo Stance” by Neneh Cherry, “Rumpshaker” by Wreckx-N-Effect, “I Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by TLC, “Keep On Movin'” by Soul II Soul, and so many others. The two of us laughed and danced with anyone who came in the door (a few people did), and went next door for a refresh of the jug of home brew more than once (I didn’t drink that much – remember when I said I don’t handle liquor so well?).
After the hoodie had been completed and the hour-long old school reggae had been set to play us to sleep, Jess retired to her bed in the Nook (a small area at the front of the house that was once a sitting area of the living room) and I collapsed on the couch. A few hours later the alarm went off on my cellphone. The screen screamed 5:30am at me. It was time to get to YVR for my 8am flight home to Pearson.
I threw my bags in the trunk and made the final drive in the Versa. When I had checked the car out I’d bought a tank of gas, so I was looking to bring it back on fumes. I succeeded. The tank I got in Williams Lake was just enough to get me to YVR. The gas indicator was flashing an impending apocalypse at me when I pulled into the car rental area of the airport parking structure.
So after driving from YVR to White Rock to Maple Ridge to White Rock to Vancouver to Squamish to Courtenay to Whistler to Williams Lake to Bella Coola to Williams Lake to Vancouver, here’s the grand total on the odometer:
After just shy of 2800km on the roads of BC, what am I taking away from this adventure?
I have the new friendships I made along the way, the breathtaking scenery I saw, the students I met, my first-ever flight on a bush plane, performing for kindergarteners and having them dance to my poetry, explorations of the history of this country, a few new lessons about First Nations, a ton of time to think and to contemplate my next steps, and the opportunity to get in closer touch with who I am as a person and who I truly wish to be.
So as I finish this final entry in the chronicle of this trip, I hope that you have taken something away from the scribblings of a poet on a roadtrip, searching not just for stages but also for a new stage in life.
It’s just about time to board the plane. Take flight, y’all.