Monday, January 2, 2017

The wandering I.

When proposing a book on nomadism, British travel writer Bruce Chatwin set out to answer the question, "why do men wander?" And I'm not talking philandering.

Restlessness is my nature. It is the carry-on cross I bear. Never am I more content then when I have an adventure on the horizon – 'adventure' loosely defined. A domestic airline ticket. A weekend in Annapolis Royal. A schlep to Machu Picchu. Like Bruce Chatwin, it isn't so much the destination, as the thrill of movement.

I suffer from motion wellness. No barf bag required.

My restlessness is genetic. My dad loved nothing more than pouring Sambuca in his coffee and hitting the road. Destination: who cares. Fitting then, when my stepmom called to see if the Little Bastard would be interested in my father's old 1994 Jeep, I thought, "To hell with him. I want it."

My stepmother inherited everything when my Dad clutched his scotch-soaked banker's heart and hit the pavement. She claimed our father knew 'she'd always look after us", but that turned out to be bullshit.

So, this wasn't just a vehicle. It was my legacy.

So off I went on an adventure, clocking 4796 kilometres in 8 days. I could have easily flown up, or had the Jeep shipped to the Little Bastard's hockey team in Quebec – but where's the fun in that? I renewed my CAA membership, tossed the dogs in the truck, and hit the road.

I'd like to say this was a road trip worthy of a sequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ... but I am too fearful of an LSD/ menopause mix for that. I do have to agree with Hunter S. Thompson when he said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

This trip put the whirl in whirlwind. Making nice with my family before dumping my rental car and finally being handed the gauntlet – the keys to my dad's Jeep.

In 1994, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited was the cat's meow. Puffy leather seats. Cruise control. Full time, 4-wheel drive. Gold striping. Today, the V-8 engine screams environmentally-unfriendly gas guzzler. The Jeep's interior sang like a motel bedspread and the carpet was wall-to-wall cigarette ash. My Dad babied his vehicles. Wax on. Wax off.  He would have been horrified at the state of things, but I couldn't have been happier.

48-hours later, I set out before dawn, tears streaming down my face – the spirit of my dad riding shotgun. He was the plastic Jesus on my dash – cracking cold ones with the seat belt, throwing caution and cigarette butts to the wind. The last time I had been in the Jeep, my Dad and I were cruising along St. Margaret's Bay, and he –  a New Yorker – was marvelling at how beautiful Nova Scotia was. It was the last time I saw him.

I had trepidations about this next leg of the journey. An 18-year old car. Winter road conditions. No warranty. Fuck it. I could get towed if the Jeep sputtered and died somewhere between Cornhole, Ontario and Riviere du Loup. I like Quebec beer and cheap hotel rooms.

But there would be no sputtering. I shoved a trashy James Patterson audio book in the CD player – and 7 uneventful hours and 120 bucks in gas later, I was in snowy Sherbooke. Mission accomplished.

Needless to say, just shy of his 17th birthday, the Little Bastard was thrilled to have his first car. His grandfather's car, passed down with love, (or to get it the hell out of my stepmother's driveway). With mixed emotions, I handed him the keys to the Jeep, and he handed me the keys to my truck.

"You know, you could keep the truck, and I can take the Jeep home." I said, with a heavy heart.

"No way!" he said, face aglow from the antique dashboard digital readout. "I love it!"

"I love it too." I said. To myself. Head tilted back, looking at the heavens, my tears catching wandering snowflakes.

Or ashes.