[First Pass Edit 09/13/15] Everything I say, that is all I write, is for the record – I have to get it all out for the record. What else can I say but that nothing, and I stress NOTHING, Is EVER pre-planned travel or otherwise (except that I’m going generally somewhere and for incidentals). As I write this in the present, about the past, I find myself having to call forth my mid 1990’s mindset. Where I see all these travelers booking flights and trains and hotels, and I say to myself how and why the fuck would you want to do that. I never know when I will arrive at any particular destination. On the other hand I get it, I really do, often hotels and trains are already full when one arrives to try to get to their desired destination (I also have had to do it myself when in “On Tour Mode”)…but I’m not designed that way. No rooms, go somewhere else, nowhere else, I pitch a fucking tent. No room on the train, wait for the next one or share a ride from a hostel, bulletin board, or stick out my thumb. I always get to my destination – at some point. I learned early on from my life coach, that is in utilising guerrilla travel techniques, that the safest place to stay for the night (in a pinch) is inside an airport terminal (even if I had to purchase and get a refund for a plane ticket). If in a vehicle, the place to be is at the local hospital parking lot.
Now that the above is out of the way…we have to begin to set the stage with music. Music is necessary for everything…well except for maybe sleeping, but even then there was a time when I slept all the time with music playing. Quickly pivoting to another paradigm, the best thing about music has always been when it’s not perfect. When the live band has a few moments out of synch, a missed note on the guitar, a song played differently every time, vocals without autotune…really singing…yes, it was a thing, really singing live. That sentiment, the reality of it all, was at the heart of what made rock n’ roll dangerous. Picture this Guns N’ Roses – “Paradise City” blasting in the backround…”Take me down to the paradise city, where the…”, chugging along like a distorted and dysfunctional shaky fucking choo choo train, racing wrecklessly down the tracks. Same with Aerosmith’s – “Walk this way”…”The Next door neighbor, when the daughter had a favor…”, Led Zep’s – Whole Lotta Love (Hear the swagger from the opening riff in comparison to Plant’s Vocals) , and Nirvana’s In Bloom. Just like Dave Grohl said at the induction of Nirvana, ‘That swing…during “In Bloom”… , that was all Chad (Channing)’…the drummer Grohl replaced. Now that’s balls of steel and full of crazy amounts of respect!
All right, all right…now that we have the music let me set a vision. I remember at the time their was a media blitz in the US for Molson Golden Beer from Canada. I think their XXX brew was just having it’s re-debut and the commercials were endless with the catch phrase “Mölson Gölden, Eh!”. How stereotypical (heh), but driving all the way across Canada, I would find myself on dirt roads in the nether-regions of the country with my head hanging out the window (fresh air bashing me in face, and my hands on the wheel…screaming at the top of my lungs, “MOLSON GOLDEN, EH!!!. I did it over and over as I drove across the plains of all the major territory’s. Especially in the middle of nowhere, I would come to a sign that said something to the effect of; Make Sure To Fill Your Gasoline Tank Full At Next Gas Station: NO SERVICES for 700 Kilometers (434.96 miles). At that I would scream, “MOLSON GOLDEN, EH!!! I did not have one of the early model flip phones (No Smartphones Yet), and usually the sign would appear just before, the Trans Canada Highway West Route 17 (before Winnipeg) or Route 1 (After Winnipeg) respectively, the road would turn from asphalt to Dirt. YES… the major highway system at the time had hundreds of kilometers of dirt and rocky roads clear across Canada and this was in the mid 1990’s. I remember my car bouncing around, rocks shooting out from under my tires, and a dust storm flying every which direction…both in front and behind. I remember thinking, “I’m going to blow a tire…how could a major highway in a modern country have dirt roads…WTF!” Again I would scream lovingly at the natural beauty and the barren landscape, “MOLSON GOLDEN, EH!!!
So with all that chaos going on around me…I just thought, just calm down…and go slow, as I bounced all over the road with no painted lines. I was on the wrong side of the road half the time avoiding ditches filled with water…so as not to damage my suspension in my little red Honda CRX. One thing I loved though, once I got the hang of it, using my manual transmission to power around like I was off-roading. I can’t believe that I just recently read an article in the US that said they were phasing out manual stick transmissions for automatics because no one was buying them. They go further sticking me with the knife deeper saying, ‘automatic transmissions are more reliable than they used to be.’ Lazy fuckers…I love them even in stop and go traffic…In and out of first gear over and over…but I rule the road. Excuse me while I digress, in Iceland, manual stick shifts are still the name of the game…talk about doing doughnuts on the black ice in a few inches of fresh snow! There is no substitute!
Anyway I began my journey in Montreal, I could start in the US where the trip really began but nothing of note happened on my few hours journey through Vermont and across the border into Canada. I went straight to McGill University where a few friends of mine were attending and stayed in their huge party house just off campus in the city. They all thought I would be into hitting up the infamous strip clubs on and around Rue Ste. Catherine… sorry dingbats It’s not my thing…they were perplexed, but whatever. I never got the whole pay for some bodacious “woman of my dreams” to rub oil all over over my ass to get a set of blue balls. I never got the memo for fake breasts, monstrous booties, and chiseled faces with botox inflated lips. I’ll say it now, so many women felt the need to get implants and perfect chiclet shaped teeth and shit to impress men…don’t do it, you’re wrecking your natural given beauty! This was huge in the US in the 1990’s (in reality even more today), as i said I never got it…not like you need my advice, but women…you are beautiful the way you are…Natural. There, I said it.
Don’t buy into the Hollywood hype. Natural women are trending and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. All women are beautiful and different in wonderful ways, I just hope they feel the same way about men (Touché’). Yes, they have a brain, some men…I wonder (J/K). The only way I was going to enter a strip club was is if Motley Crue or Metallica circa 1985 on Sunset in LA were going to force me to go and have fun. That’s it right (one would think)…I know life is not so simple, there are nuances…I would find myself at one point on this adventure Staying in a Boot Ballet Hostel/Hotel/Brothel in Whistler, British Columbia because the HI – Hostel was full. That is a whole other story for Part 2 of this crazy story. As a matter of fact there will be a lot in this piece that will just be a setup for the bang in Part 2 of this story (It’s the money shot, and ladies I’m sorry to inform you that you’ve been pwnd, tricky this internet thing…”Hot Mess” means something completely different than you’ve been led to believe. Blame Reddit & 4C) Please keep that in mind if I just touch on something and move on.
So couch surfing at McGill in Montreal was always a great time. I was on no set time schedule but I did know I was going west as far as I could go (Vancouver Island Ferry) by car and then take another ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State…going through customs there, to get back in the US. I wasn’t in the best of shape to be traveling, but at the time I did not know any better. I was on a steady diet of laudanum, absinthe, and speed and I must have looked like I walked off the set of The Walking Dead. I had cocaine eyes and a drop gun at my side…I was not messing around, I’ll guarantee you that. Coach was able to legally secure an unlimited supply of USP tincture of opium, so that was waiting on call whenever necessary.
Oddly enough I had a tough time keeping stocked up on REAL Absinthe…Coach had it sent to wherever we were and would patiently wait for its expedited arrival. Coach had a special source and would get it three day air from a clandestine small batch private distiller in the Swiss/French Jura mountainous region of the Western Alps. Extremely high Thujone content from only the best naturally harvested Grand Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium). Natural Distillation is the only way to drink real Absinthe…if you or the person that gives it to you does not know the difference between real and fake absinth…then it is most likely fake. All of all the absinth sold in US stores is NOT real absinthe, containing NO or only traces of Thujone. There are a couple of private distilleries in the US that sell real absinthe distillate online but the Thujone content is regulated at below 10mg/L, with either Southern, Oregon, or some other strain of Wormwood that are not as psychoactive as the Grand. If the person giving you Absinth anywhere in the world does not know that “Maceration” or “Oil/Terpene” mixture Absinths are NOT REAL Absinths, then what they are giving you is most likely fake as well.
I will explain why most people have never had REAL absinthe. The Absinthe that Coach would get from French Switzerland (Swiss/High German), was and is not regulated and technically illegal, having an extremely high thujone content of between 100 to 120mg/L. For our pleasure Coach had to pay 200$ US for a bottle and he would buy it in cases of 9 (It also took him seven years to get off the waiting list…yup, people had to die of old age for him to get on the sauce). In Canada, that same case that Coach would get delivered to his door in the US for 1,700$ US total, would top out at 2,500$ US with added Canadian Customs fees. Coach knew this about Canada (Customs fees are outrageous), but we wanted to keep it legal and did not want to take the chance of having the case confiscated at the Canadian border going north from Vermont. Yep we’re crazy, Absinthe over decent hotel rooms…, priorities! This stuff could kill you if you drank too much even without mixing other drugs with it as well. …But as you know this is how I lived my life, up and down. As a budding pharmacology/neuroscience student I knew what I was doing as a human guinea pig…all in the name of science (You heard it here first).
REAL Absinthe does not make one hallucinate as is touted…it’s basically the alcohol version of a speedball. The alcohol in the Absinthe (all alcohol really) is what is referred to as a GABA agonist which stimulates the release of the chemical (amino acid) neuro-transimitter (GABA) in the brain that induces relaxation by closing off the GABA neurotransmitter receptors at the end of their GABA specific transmission terminals. On the other end of the speed ball quotient is Thujone, levels from which can only be distilled from natural Grande Wormwood, only grown in certain areas of the world. Thujone is a chemical that is referred to as a GABA antagonist which works in the neurotransmitter terminals to produce the exact opposite actions of the calming and sedating effects of alcohol, which is to stimulate the GABA receptors and keep them open. So if you are still with me, REAL Absinthe with Naturally Distilled HIGH Quality/ High Levels of Grand Wormwood sourced Thujone, causes chaos in the neurotransmitter junctions in the brain…the receptors opening and closing in a simultaneous excitation/calming storm creating the “Speedball” or “Green Fairy” like effect. This is why the real stuff is rare and lends to the creation of all the misinformation and confusion, and further is exactly why the good stuff is illegal. You get very drunk and don’t feel drunk from the speed like effect.
So I was talking to one of my friends at McGill, saying that I wish I had someone to share the driving with me across Canada, and I was told that there was a bulletin board on campus which had people posting (yes with paper) all kinds of things but one was for rides and it might be worth a look. So we went there to see if anyone was looking to ride share. There was one message from a guy named Jason who was looking to go to the West Coast US, but the message had a date two months old. Anyhow I figured it was worth a try, and rang up the number. A woman answered ( I came to find out later it was his mother) and I asked for Jason, fortunate for me he was home. I told him about my journey and he immediately said yes, he could go in two days. He figured that he would go as far west as he could with me, and then find a ride south from Vancouver. I was going to be spending an unknown length of time in Port Townshend, Washington at Coaches House on The Olympic Peninsula across the Puget Sound from Seattle. Then when I got the travel bug I would head over to Aberdeen then south to Olympia for a bit….Seattle…and then finally head down the West Coast Highway south (which I will cover in a future article) to Oregon and California . I really lucked out because he was not even a student at McGill University…he had posted the message and pretty much decided to go another time because he got no calls.
My life was all about living it to the fullest while very high…full stop. I was looking to master the art of better living through chemistry without getting myself killed. As someone who goes to holistic aisle of any expensive whole foods store, I was doing the same as if I was running wild behind the pharmacy counter. My main objective was to find the perfect molecular combination of psychoactive substances, that when combined could get get me out of my mind efficiently, with long duration, and with the lowest risk for physical and psychological dependence and harm. I became a master of withdrawal, even while using some of the most addictive substances known to man. Chemical rules, as I have said before, were the name of the game.
I had to learn these chemical rules through trial and error over many years. First using the individual substances on their own to master the effects profile. Then when confident combining them, starting at low doses and then titrating upwards or downwards depending on my direct experiences with the substances. I always self administered low dosages first, then raising in small increments. The first rule of Chemical Rules is to never mainline or inject any addictive substance. Once you do the brain is so overloaded with dopamine that you can never reach that height again (chasing the dragon). Ingesting or administering the drug through the skin causes a slow rise in intoxication…allowing one to reach similar results over and over. There are tolerance issues to contend with but no massive withdrawals daily (just discomfort). Heroin is out because of the small safety to toxicity window as is Crystal Methamphetamine unless insulflated. Heroin is not affective when ingested orally and Methamphetamine (UNLESS Pharmaceutical USP) will rot your gut quick from foreign heavy metals left over in it’s clandestine production. Smoking either of the two is out as well…same brain overload, horrific addiction, and leads to eventual mainlining of the drugs. Don’t ever do it, you have been lovingly warned!
Everyone knows that opioids are extremely dangerous because of the small window between efficacy, reaching the highest state of euphoria, and death. Add into that any alcohol, any opiate addict knows that it is a VERY DANGEROUS idea from the start. The combination of the two can easily cause one’s system to shut down and overdose, halting respiration. What I came to find that if I mixed low doses of high strength Laudanum with 2-3 moderately small sipped (louched) Absinthes as the only type of alcohol, adding in a few small bumps of cocaine or ingested amphetamine. I could stay extremely high with little to no nodding out for about six hours. Because I was administering (orally) the extremely bitter Laudanum 15 minutes before the first absinthe, the opioid had a low dependence profile. So that was the trifecta and as long as I did not stray from that…I was golden. No desperate drug seeking behavior or overdose. DON’T try this at home, as the levels administered were congruent to my weight, sex, and age…chemistry at it’s best, but what was right for me, the same dose could kill you.
So this was what we did in Montreal while waiting to move on to journey west. It was great because everyone is not all passed out like at a junkie hotel. We would play pool and go out on the town to check out the wild characters of Montreal. What an amazing city, we are very lucky to have so close to the US…a place where everyone speaks French. My french is shit but I can get by on the little I do know (everyone speaks English anyway). There are so many amazing restaurants, clubs, and shows every night. The drinking age is 18 so many in the US travel here for that. It’s a metropolitan city with so much culture and history. As you walk the streets public art is everywhere from murals to graffiti to sculpture. The city is seamless although containing areas of particular interest to different people, from Old Town to The Village to The Underground city. You can’t go wrong in this city wherever you go as long as you have street smarts.
Rue Ste. Catherine’s will allow for walking and getting to the main parks, numerous places downtown, as well as the underbelly of the city. North and south of downtown take Rue McGill to get to the two subsequent areas I will recommend next. I love to venture up the heavenly public stairs which traverse the large uphill overseers near McGill University and lead to an overlook in the clouds of the whole city. Another favorite is to venture down further past Old Town to the St. Laurent River and just kick it on the granite cobblestones and benches. The main Montreal Airport (Pierre Elliot Trudeau International) is easy to get to from downtown and is somewhat centrally located as well if you are flying to Montreal.
I cannot say enough of this city…Montreal is on par with the best metropolitan cities anywhere. Sometimes the people can be a bit brash but nothing more than you would encounter in say NYC. The difference, a few proprietors may not be English friendly but I always find they come around especially if you say a few words in French like “Bon Jour”, “S’il vous plaît” and “Merci” and you’re in! That’s what makes traveling fun…you don’t have to speak a lot of any language to communicate. Greetings, Salutations, and Parting words will take you anywhere around the world. As they say in blogs ad nauseum, “Live a little!”
So the two days I spent at McGill waiting around was no burden as we just got drunk and high…I even got some good sleep the night before leaving which was great. We could start off right and drive pretty much straight for two days to get through the second half of the province of Quebec and half way through Ontario to Thunder Bay ( just above the Great Lakes Of The US). Jason was real cool…and he had an even head as he pretty much just smoked a little weed and drank alcohol. He was a raver actually, so on occasion he did ecstasy and even better he liked to drive sober. I found out quick that he was an energetic kid and a really good driver.
So I met him at his house near Parc Maisonneuve in Montreal over near the Parc Olympique. I even met his mom and she was real nice as well…she had no idea what her son was getting into on this trip. Better for her to stay in the dark…I could tell he was real responsible right away, which I liked because going with someone I was unfamiliar with was always taking a chance. I could sense his positive attributes might even get us out of a jam if necessary at some point. So after he put his shit in the car off we went on The Trans Canada Highway 40 and then took the 417 to Ottawa. There was really nothing much in Ottawa and it was raining quite hard…I remember passing a coliseum in Ottawa which had digital bulletin board flashing coming acts to the venue. So we continued a ways on the 417 until we got to the 17 which would take us half way across the country to Winnipeg.
I remember driving along and all there was pretty much was farms with large acreage of flat grasslands and lots of cows, horses, and grain silos. It reminded me a lot like the few times I travelled across the US (which I will also cover in another future article) where there was not much excitement in terms of stunning land formations from the Northeast Coast till I reached Colorado. So it was the same in Canada until reaching North West Ontario. Not that there were not attractions of which to speak of off the beaten path, but it was pretty much farms and expansive grasslands most of the way.
I pretty much stayed sober since leaving Montreal, and after driving through Ontario which was at least a 36 hours (or more) drive. Jason and I got to know each other better and it was nice we got on well. So we would switch off driving for the first day and a half until we reached Sault Saint Marie. We were pretty spent at this time, not stopping to sleep much, in SSM which is right on the border of Northern Michigan. It was nice to stop there and go grocery shopping at a proper market. We broke out the barbecue in a park there, and ate some steaks and grilled vegetables for lunch. It passed our minds to cross back into the US for a little bit and see what it was like in the area, but that thought quickly faded with the thought of having trouble at the border crossing.
Up in this part of the country above Lake Huron, driving along the shore at times. There was some exciting rock formations and plenty of winding “S” shaped roads with rises and falls in sea level. At times we would find our hearts in our throats…the only downside was that there were a lot of large tucks, busses, and winnebego’s on holiday at the same time as us. So there was lots of traffic in an otherwise beautiful landscape. The great lakes were stunning this time of year and it was very warm, with lots of sun. Although we were lacking sleep, our bellies were full, and with great excitement we traveled on. Our goal was to make it to Thunder Bay before nightfall at a Hostel to get some much needed sleep.
There was one town that we stopped at off the highway to gas up and it was really strange because it had a very foul smell. Extremely foul and none of the nature there looked very healthy. The waterways there smelled even worse…the trees were all dying, it was really strange. We were wondering why this small town on the US/Canada border was in a word dead. At the gas station we asked the attendant why this was so and he said that a toxic waste dump had been breached in the area of the lake of the town and the whole town was toxic. The strange thing is that he was rather cavalier about the whole thing, it’s safe to say that after gassing up we got out of there quick. We couldn’t help but feel concerned for the people of the town…it seemed that everyone was going about their lives as normal…their had to be health ramifications in really what I viewed as anytown US/Canada. Many people cannot just give up their lives and homes to go somewhere else. It was kind of sad…again we got out of their quick.
Our attempt to make it to Thunder Bay before stopping was futile, we were just too tired, and that meant either pulling off to the side of the road and just falling asleep (hard) for a few hours or get a hotel for the night. We made the decision to stay at a Home Hostel in Orillia, Ontario that was affiliated with HI – Hostelling International Hostels, it was fortunate because we realized that we were only about fifteen minutes drive from it’s location. It was pitch black with no street lights anywhere but after a short time of driving back and forth we finally found the place. It was not too late, around 9pm, and as we pulled up to the house and parked in the large grassy area with other vehicles the owners came out of the hostel. We asked “Is this the Orillia home hostel?” They replied “Yes, welcome…you can park right where you are.”
So we got out of the car and introduced ourselves and they (A guy and his wife) welcomed us very kindly. We grabbed some things to bring in and they showed us into their home and further to the room we would be sleeping in. It was a small room but quaint with one set of bunk beds…we were quite tired but just making it to the destination gave us a little wind to sit in the kitchen with them and chat for a while. They were very nice, they offered us some food but we declined…we were exhausted, too tired to eat. They had a large fish tank and some couches that you would find in grandma’s house, a television, and a lot of small pillows with sayings stitched or knitted on them.
They turned on the TV, and I love watching television channels that are local and located in any particular area of any country. I remember rabbit ears, no cable…not a problem, again I just love to check out the local channels. CBC was a great classic TV network at the time, I know now that people have said it has gone downhill in recent years. I almost orgasmed when I got to the French CBC channel. I love even more watching foreign language channels, wherever I go, just making out the few words I do know. I don’t know why this is a turn on for me…but it is…not in a pervy way silly rabbit, I just love it even if I have no idea what’s going on. I just pretend that I do…this would probably drive some people nuts, but that’s just me. Besides I had no brain power anyway and we were in some engaging conversations with our hosts. It all worked out great, and soon after, I went to hit the sack. Instant Zzzzzzzs. Lights Out!
When we got up in the morning stone cold sober but well rested, there was a great breakfast spread of eggs, Canadian Bacon, muffins, home fries, milk, juice, & lots of ice cold beer. Molson Golden XXX to be particular — just kidding, no beer. I know some people will be destroyed as their visions of Canadians drinking Molson Golden for breakfast (at any hour of the day) will now be shattered, heheh! As we filled our bellies a girl came into the kitchen, she saluted with a big “Good Morning”, yawn and stretch. They said she arrived in the night later than us. She was Canadian, going the opposite direction than we, to Quebec. Québécois sunshine! She was a real cool chick, piercings, tattoos, tough, cute as a dumpling. She knew her shit and was on the level obviously…their was a lot of great conversation, because not only was she worldly but our hosts were as well. That’s what I love about travelers, most of them (if they’re not thieves) are really laid back and down for just about anything fun at a moments notice. It’s great conversation feeling each other out for their unique viewpoints on the world and any particular personal sentiments. Joie de vivre, “Weltanschauung…Robert’s Dictionnaire says joie is sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience, that is, involves one’s whole being (I copped this from wikipedia).”
After breakfast we went out into the Canadian Country Morning Sunshine! It was a beautiful day…I think we got on so well with our hosts that the guy who owned the place mentioned that he was a vorascious writer. Just past the grass parking area he led us into a trailer that he had separate from the house, used for an office. I don’t know how we got talking about it but he gave me some great stuff he had written (ironically enough) one piece on the modern day
twelve *step** program and it’s origins…how A**A had a bad case of revisionist history. It was not knocking the group per se, but it was an essay which claimed an alternative and interesting origin for the group based on a set of several core principles that had nothing to do with religion. It was even further interesting that these core principles were pointed out as originated from centuries old concepts, by a Unitarian Universalist’s minister’s testimony in the early 1930’s, again (secular) not having anything anything to do with religion. If you can wrap your head around that. The early A**A groups had adopted these principles and expounded upon them in 1939 to include their religious leanings (as it had helped them). I have no agenda against the group I know many people who have been helped by them and have turned their lives around. I’m just relating what I read and how the concepts came to be and the written history of the groups do not seem to include this version of history. Oh well, who the fuck knows…If it works for you, and if you believe in that sort of thing…Bless!
Anyway after our educational sunrise, we went into the mid day sun, and it was luscious. Good ol’ Guenther Grotsch (Hostel Owner) saw how my car was covered in mud from all our off roading and told us we could use the hose to wash the car. He even offered a bucket and some auto soap. What a gem he was, I had not thought about it till he brought it up, that the mud barely allowed us to even see out the windows…hahah…epicness. There was cleanliness everywhere after a hot shower, we decided to take off…even at the generous suggestion of our host to stay around. It was very kind of him and his amazing wife Rita, but we were itching to get to the massive beauty of the Canadian Rockies. This need could not be delayed…it was time to go.
After setting off in a shiny vehicle, another half day of driving we arrived in the Thunder Bay area (On the shores of Lake Superior) and it was late in the day but the sun was at painter’s light. Nature was tempting us to move on…we did not need to stay at the Thunder Bay Hostel because we were re-energized. I began to notice that there were more lakes, more trees…even the smell of campfires waifed through the air. We passed a bunch of campgrounds which was our queue, as if to pique our interest and recognize this was true back country.
We were officially in the woods, but again as before there were more amazing rock formations with the sectioned colors of purple and orange and white and blue as one would encounter in Arizona or New Mexico in the US. Tremendous spires of soapstone and red rocks towered projecting toward the bathing clouds. These puffy drifting clouds from the gentle winds blew smoke signals careening around the edges of the massive cliffs, visible only if to reveal small flat peaks of land, the size of which only a few people could fit on in the dusty sky. As the sun began to set we pulled off the road at one of the several sanctioned lookouts, which lent to us the awesome deceptive and most confusing illusion of not knowing whether we were on the ground or in the sky. Winding and spacious Lakes all around for as far as the eye could see, century old white pines hugging their shores, which at a distance looked as if they were placed there in perfect harmony with the land, although only the size of a fingernail. There would be cities before we arrived at an unknown destination…but they would be fleeting, and little did we know that what we were seeing was nothing of what was to come.
As light moved to dark over the unspoiled splendour in Northern Ontario on the rugged coast of Lake Superior’s Northern Shore (the world’s largest freshwater lake), we began to see road signs indicating we were just above Minnesota. No time to stop their now, we were excited beyond belief to finally make it to the border of the great Canadian Province of Manitoba (Ontario I will never forget you!), as we passed through a new lakes region in Kenora, ON. It was not that there was anything special about Manitoba that we knew of yet, and the light of day was getting on anyway, but if you look on a map of Canada and North America our next stop was Winnipeg (150 miles/240km) which is located dead center, exactly half way across North America (Canada/US). I’ll tell you it felt like forever getting across Ontario (not a bad thing), just an observation, but we were finally making some meaningful progress.
There was one big problem we were really low on cash, we had cards and travellers checks (Yes, travelers checks were good to use back then…not anymore) but we had misjudged our raw cash flow and it was a Sunday, so we could not get one exchanged for cash anywhere. This was the first time this had ever happened to me, and the Hostel in Winnapeg only accepted cash. So we were driving in circles around the city limits trying to decide what to do. All that were around at that time of night was drug dealers and hookers, so being the adventurers that we were (heh), we decided to drive twenty or thirty minutes north through the flat grass and farmlands near Lake Winnipeg. Little did we know that this would become a horror show…presenting The Maskwa Project!
So we had enough cash to stay at a hostel near Lake Winnipeg but just short of the amount needed to stay at the downtown hostel. Another problem was that we only had one quarter tank of gas so driving that extra mileage up north would be taking a chance. In my head I was doing the mileage by the gallon (liters) thing, into how much we had in our tank. It was a little close but I was sure we could make it…you might ask why not fill up using cards? Well the answer was that we could not find any gas station open twenty four hours. This was not ancient times…there were 24 hour gas stations all over the US back then but not here in Canada. So boiling it all down we were not destitute, we just had to get through that night because tomorrow all the banks and gas stations would be open. It was just a lapse in judgement on our part, after not getting much sleep since setting off across the country.
Before I get into the hell that was to come, I must say in the interest of fairness the Hostel (Which was at the time an approved HI – Hostel, now it is not/ not a bad thing) today…two decades later in Manitoba (Pine Falls: Powerview / Maskwa Project) has seemingly got it’s shit together, has good reviews, and is run well (conjecture). I do not know if it is the same person that owned it then so I cannot attribute the horrible experience to them. There were no handheld portable mobile internet devices then so everything had to be done by intuition or planning, and you know my stance on planning. They now have a Facebook page and a lot of comments and people who love the place. Also I had two different hostel books…one indicates that reservations are essential, the second book has no such information (I had never had a problem before, but we also overlooked this). So I thought it only fair to let people know all this. It is still VERY rustic…all the photos look exactly the same as the day we made our attempt to stay there, still spooky as hell. On a bright sunny day in the middle of summer I can imagine it being a magical retreat, whatever, enough anal disclosure.
Here’s what happened. With one eye on the gas tank and another on the road we are heading north directly toward southern Lake Winnipeg…it takes about a half hour or more to get there in the spitting rain, overcast voluminous sky, and on the edge of darkness. We have a hard time finding the road it was on because of the weather conditions as well as its being out in the middle of nowhere. We knew going into this that it was going to be a budget hostel but we thought we were up for it. So we find Maskwa Road and it is NOT paved, and a muddy mess…Not having a four wheel drive we pondered if we should attempt it. At first it was just a little bit of slippery brownish-red mud, but just as a rock climber or adrenaline junkie knows that you have to go with you’re gut as to whether to take the next step…once you commit there is often no going back. In our case just taking the turn onto Maskwa Road was committing and there was no turning back because the road itself was not wide enough, with all the mud, to turn around. So as we are going deeper into the woods and the unknown, we realize that the mud is now getting quite deep…I knew that as long as we went slow and did not come to a complete stop we could make it
Next thing we know there is a bend in the road to the right, and right where this bend begins it winds a bit downhill…not good but no turning back now! So as we fishtail and take on the small downhill, all of a sudden we come to a grinding scraping metal halt. We had landed directly on top of a huge rock, which was hidden in the mud right in the middle of the road. So we get out of the car to assess the situation. No AAA out here for sure..hahahh! We found ourselves standing in one to two feet of fluid mud…So I decide to go behind the car and push as Jason hits the throttle slowly. Surprisingly after just a few minutes we were able to shimmy the car off the rock and even more wonderful the road became more stable with less mud and more grip. I remember thinking how the fuck are we going to drive out of there but one thing at a time right. So we hop in the car and as we continue on, we see a clearing ahead in the woods and what we would come to find out was the Maskwa river and a large grass yard next to the hostel.
We were excited, we made it… I could see a Hostelling International sticker in the front window so we knew we were at the right place. Nothing was out of the ordinary until we stepped out of the car…all of a sudden, and I mean instantly we were met with hundreds of biting mosquitoes the size of small birds. I had dealt with mozzy’s my whole life, but this early in the season in any other place I had ever been, mosquitoes would usually fly around and then land on my skin and I could smack them away with ease, not these killers. They were vicious (I expect if the current owners of the hostel read this, they’ll have a laugh, I don’t blame them, it’s fucking nature.), so viscous that hundreds of them instantly landed on my arms, legs, face, and neck and bit down hard instantly…no warning. It was like they were drunk on the blood of a thousand other victims but still had the accuracy of a GPS. So what do we do, get back in the car…it was that bad, we did not make it to the house.
So in the car again, after killing all the mozzy’s that made it in the car because we had opened the doors, we could make a plan of attack. The mozzy’s that I had smashed on the inside of the windshield of the car, exploded into a big blood coagulational mess. There was blood everywhere. I can still laugh about it…it was gross but what can you do, at least we did not get any diseases or illness…just the expected itchy hives randomly dotted on our skin. So I put on some sweatpants over my shorts and a North Face Jacket that zipped up to my nose and had a tight hood. We decided that I would make it to the house and check in…there were no lights on in the house but I could see reflecting off the windows a waving fire from somewhere in the house and smoke coming out a chimney.
It was time to make the jump…so i quickly got out of the car with a one…two…three count, go! I got out closed the door and ran up to the main side door of the hostel. I noticed that there was campfire smoke leaking out the door, which cut down on the mozzy’s but I thought how could someone live in a house full of smoke without carbon monoxide poisoning…hmmm. I shouted at half volume, “Hello…hello, anyone here!”, I got no answer. I then noticed that the door was loose and was just held closed by a latch. I lifted it to open the door and it swung open about a foot and huge clouds of smoke baffled out all around me. For a moment I thought, was the owner of the place dead from all the smoke…I guess it’s extreme mosquito control. Natural yes…no chemicals from sprays, still very odd, at least to me. Maybe the hostel owner had gone mad from mozzy bites Elmer Fudd style, and was hunting mosquitoes like wabbits with smoke signals and a shotgun. I went to open the door which was pretty massive and heavy, and as I opened it, I could see a large log tied to a rope swing up toward the ceiling, The door was being held closed by a wood weight…never seen that before. Physics lesson, yup!
Anyway the inside was almost completely dark except for a fire on the opposite end of the house, and it was full of smoke as I have already said. As I called out again for anyone I noticed someone’s shadow as if they were hiding around a corner and not acknowleging me. It was just then that all the horror movies and acid trips came full circle and hit me hard in the medulla oblongotta, this was very very very abnormal and creepy, wtf! I stood there a couple of minutes stunned and then said to myself…that’s it, I’m getting the fuck out of here, See ya! So I trudged back to the car and explained what I saw to Jason…at the moment we were the cast in a horror movie. We caved, let’s go back to Winnipeg, we agreed to that pretty quick. Fortunate to us the ride out was pretty straightforward, we were able to slide our way out of there avoiding that rock this time. The mud was fine as long as we kept at a consistent speed…this is where I reiterate at my love for standard stick shifts in cars, if we were in an automatic we would have never even made it down the road in the first place. we would have been stranded with no phone. We were lucky, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Yep…so looking at the photos on this link to their Facebook page, someone mentions something about respect for subsequent owners of “The Maskwa Project” Hostel. So it does seem there is a pulse up their after all. Our experience, as foreboding as it was I would not trade it for the world. It is what it is. As I write this I can’t help but think of “Blair Witch Project” as a similar name…not in substance. If anyone needs a set for a horror movie go to Maskwa on a Cloudy/Foggy day and see what I mean. You will not be disappointed, Eli Roth! It’s Deliverance (The Sequel).
Check it out…Maskwa Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/Maskwa.Project
So there we were on the main highway headed back to the city (Winnipeg), again with one eye on the gas gauge…we were getting low but had enough to get us back downtown where we had started a few hours before. A little rattled but nevertheless happy that we we were going back to where we felt safe with the hookers and drug dealers. At some point it started pouring rain…which in one respect would clean all the mud off the car. We shot like a bullet back to the lights of the city..hoping against all odds to not hydroplane, obsessively staring at the painted lines to stay on the road. There was fog and we could only see ten feet in front of us. We were in a time machine transporting back to safety. Hellions screaming to Iron Maiden blasting on the stereo…we were unstoppable, unyielding as well, we were strengthened through our adversity. It was now time to have some good luck, we could taste it…the world was in our hands.
So as we entered the outskirts of Winnipeg proper, we found ourselves in an industrial part of the city and we were encouraged because the fog had lifted and it was not raining anymore…damn! So after passing some billboards, we found an empty lit parking lot which had entrances and exits on both sides of the throughway. We figured we could catch out breath and get our bearings as to what we were going to do. Sitting on the hood of the car we could smell fumes from the cars and lorries that passed us in the night…for a moment all we had to do was get through till the morning.
It was then that I noticed a guy walking down the road and somehow I could tell he was not from Winnipeg either. I asked him over to see if he knew where the hostel was. When he started talking I could immediately tell from his heavy brogue that he was from Ireland and he confirmed this…from Northern Ireland. I lit up, thinking this guy had to know where the hostel was. He said he did not, but said he had another place to stay, and after hearing our story he said we might be able to stay there too. All he needed was a ride! yahoo! So we got in the car and followed his directions to the place he was staying…there was a parking lot adjacent to the residence and we pulled into a space. He said that he would go inside and get the house manager to see if they could put us up for the night. After about twenty minutes he came out and said to grab our things, that we could stay. Jackpot!
The best way to describe what was going on here, I mean we got the lucky touch somehow, really I don’t believe in luck but you know what i mean when I use it as a form of expression (in terms of how people use it). So we go inside and there are people milling around everywhere. Playing music, strumming on a guitar, eating food, watching TV in a common area…it was just a chill atmosphere right off the bat. So the Irish dude, introduces us to one of the senior people staying there. He was a guy from India…very hospitable, we told our story of woe and he was sympathetic to our cause. He let us know that this building was a housing unit used by the Canadian Government to house refugees and immigrants in exile from their home countries. Meaning that the people housed here were seeking asylum from their home countries, which if they had to go back to, there was a good likelihood they would be killed. Whoa…heavy shit! He showed us to a large dorm room with several bunk beds, and said to make ourselves at home. Even better we were the only two people in the room, we had it to ourselves. The senior told us that it would cost us some cash per night but we did not need to pay until we got our money the next day when the house official arrived to check on upkeep.
The place was very clean…with excellent facilities, showers, and three meals a day (included)…the only rules were if anyone had to smoke do it outside and to respect others. The place was open 24 hours a day and everyone was so thankful that no dared to break the rules. We were the only North Americans, everyone else besides the guy from Northern Ireland, were from countries like Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, China, and North Korea. The guy asked us if we needed to see a Doctor for any physical or psychiatric ailments…as well if we needed any emergency medications. This place was a sanctuary…an oasis in the desert, damn!!! We just wanted to get some sleep and a shower and we did just that then went to bed.
We ended up staying for about five days hanging out with these cool people from around the world who were hoping to get Canadian Citizenship. The worldwide phenomenon FIFA was going on that week and all the people there were glued to the TV watching matches and having a wild time. I learned more in that one week about their respective countries than I could in a whole year of classes and even then I don’t think that could give me the same experience. It was life changing…they were mostly muslim but I never saw anyone pray the whole time we were there. They all spoke great english. Their religion seemed to be futbol(soccer) and everyone was united by the sport, no matter what their cultural differences. It was quite a spectacle.
The next evening the government official came to the house and came to see us. He was very nice…saying it was 5$ Canadian per night and he wanted to know how long we would be staying. As I said we, paid him for five nights and he gave us a reciept. He said if there was any problem after the five days and we needed to stay longer we were welcome and could pay him when we made our decision. We were stunned…in what world does this happen, CANADA!!!
/End Of Part One/
Photos and Subsequent Edits: will be added throughout the week…so check back whenever you want. Cheers.
Part 2 ~ will chronicle what we did during our wild stay in wonderful Winnipeg…and the rest of the journey across the second half of Canada. I can guarantee you it gets pretty crazy. heheh!
Thanks For Reading & All Your Endless Support. My Readers Are Awesome!
Cheers and Bless!
Please do not reproduce this article either all or in part without the expressed written permission of the author who can be reached via the “Contact” section in the header menu. You may link to the article if you wish, all that we ask is that you give credit to the respective author…”Christmachine” wherever you post a link. Thank you.
Copyright © 2015 Christmachine. All Rights Reserved.
©2014 – 2020 Christmachine ☕