We left a flurry of love and friendship behind in Ottawa, and we were tottering down Highway 401 in our little stick of butter, Clementine. She’s a 1981 VW Westfalia and has been the barometer of our trip, indicating the best and worst times along the way. Up to now there have been bumps in the road, several thousands of dollars in repairs, and multiple calls to CAA, yet Kasey and I have had an absolute blasty-blast. (Check out our last blog post here!)
It was December 27th, and we had just enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with the Taits/Caves and Bunges, but it was time to continue pacing the white highway lines and be on our way. Our original plan had us in the tropics over Christmas, so we were far behind. Our stop in Ottawa had been extended so Kasey could get to know my family before we took off again, and also to restock our finances… It’s pretty difficult to live off busking funds in November & December in Ottawa, so we each picked up seasonal jobs.
But that was behind us now, and we were tottering down highway 401 with tractor-trailers blasting by us on either side, spraying salted water all over Clementine. Each passing truck shook Clementine, so I was constantly correcting and compensating with the steering wheel. Driving a Westy takes patience – a LOT of patience. Even when running on all four cylinders, (More on THAT debacle here) Westfalias aren’t traditionally vehicles meant for fast travel. They dawdle and totter about, and when the wind gusts they have been known to occasionally careen. They aren’t traditionally a winter vehicle either – there’s a reason why there are so many Westy’s in California. The heat isn’t great, and they’re prone to gas lines freezing. Clementine is particularly tempermental in the cold weather, but we noticed quickly after leaving the -27 degree weather in Ottawa that Clementine was determined to get to warmer weather. So was Kasey.
We rolled into London to see our friend Dominique – a trip saver for Kasey I think. Kasey was getting pretty homesick, and she could only hang out with the guys and I for so long before she went stir-crazy and needed some girl talk. …Or something along those lines. We went out for a couple of drinks with Dom and stayed with her Mom in downtown London. We tasted Burrito Boys AMAZING burritos and wandered about town, and caught up with life back home in Kelowna. It was good for Kasey - a big recharge for her batteries. It was grounding – really good to see Dom, and in an odd way, it was freeing.
One of the things we heard most in talking to friends back home was that “Nothing has changed, things are the same…” That’s just what we needed to hear – especially when the trip was in dire straits and we had both considered going home. But going home would moot this trip – it would be a failed attempt to free our selves of the same old hum-drum lifestyle. The whole purpose of this trip was to go Beyond Park, to push our limits and explore, and release ourselves from a conventional lifestyle, and above all, to persevere. And besides, we had hardly been benefited with the opportunity to busk and further supplement our trip funds. We needed to get South and complete this trip, and thanks to Dom, we realized that.
The next day we toured up to Niagara Falls and took a look. Kasey had never seen the falls before, so we wandered about. I pointed out Rainbow Falls and the shipwreck, the massive hydro dams, and talked about the gorge, but my mind was somewhere else.
It was a cold day, and the mist from the falls made the cold air bite into our skin. It was romantic and frightening all at the same time – we were balancing on the precipice of the rest of this trip. The falls were a metaphor for what the rest of this trip meant for us… We could look down, scout it out, and eventually dive off into the great unknown, taking this chance that we may not have again… Or we could turn back with tails between our legs, shying away from that great unknown, creeping back into a conventional lifestyle of comfort. It was truly a magnificent feeling, to be standing by the falls with a beautiful woman who was feeling the exact same as I, wondering what came next. Up until now we had deadlines for every stop, but once we crossed the border into the USA, there were no more deadlines or time constraints. There were no more friends along the way, no gigs we had to show up to play at. In fact, we only knew a few things we wanted to see in the USA, and that we wanted to get warm A.S.A.P. We had no idea what to expect, and only our love to navigate for us. We hoped that would be enough… That’s not too crazy, is it?
So the three of us – Clementine, Kasey and I crossed the border into Buffalo, NY at about 9:30pm that evening.