Last night, after our camp was made, a dark blue truck appeared, chugging slowly towards our campsite. Oh shit, I thought, as I felt my stomach drop. It didn't matter that I have a wealth of positive free-camping experiences under my belt, I was suddenly afraid of Getting in Trouble. I wasn't even sure what exactly I was nervous about—maybe getting told off by an angry farmer?
Unworried as ever, Tyler sauntered over to say hello. Meanwhile, I dove quickly behind the tent in hopes of instantly becoming invisible. After a split second of deciding that was ridiculous, I hurried over to join Tyler. I'm so glad I did. My unfounded fears melted away when we met Bill, a hearty, friendly Sascachewan farmer with a firm handshake and a broad smile.
From the cab of his truck, Bill asked us loads of questions about ourselves, complimented us on our camp spot (the trees would shelter us from the wind!), and assured us it would be okay to spend the night on his land. He even reminisced about when he and his wife were younger and would frequently camp for free, just like us. "I didn't think people did that any more!", he chuckled in approval.
As night fell, and pewter skies turned to ebony, the wind picked up even more, bringing with it a biting chill. Bill took his leave so we could retreat to the warmth of our down sleeping bag, and then we went to bed smiling and happy, satisfied with the reminder that that people are good, welcoming, and caring.
The spattering and spitting of rain bouncing off the rain-fly this morning fills me with an instinctive urge to burrow deeper into our sleeping bag. Try as I might, further rest eludes me. I'm fully awake now, and the rain isn't letting up. Snaking an arm out of our cozy sleeping-bag, I grab my laptop and get down to journalling. Tyler is still asleep, glued to my side, legs and arms flopped around me like a giant, loving squid.
We don't really get moving until I hear the rumble of a vehicle, headed our way. It must be Bill coming to see us again! In a hurry, I rush to get up. I've barely extricated myself from Tyler and our sleeping bag, when I hear a cheery, deep voice exclaiming, Good morning! Gosh it's rainy, eh? I poke my head out of our tent, shove my feet into my sandals, and stumble clumsily outside to say hello.
And there's Bill, in rain-splotched red-orange sweatsuit, sitting atop his four-wheeler. His face beams with a massive smile that curves upwards towards round, rosy cheeks. With one hand, he gives mine a firm shake, saying, "Thought you could use a hand this morning, what with the weather and all". With the other hand, he holds out a pot of hot coffee. Mugs are produced from the 4-wheeler and presented to me proudly.
Tyler soon stumbles out of the tent barefooted, adorably bleary-eyed and crinkled up, sporting a look we've dubbed "mole-face." Sipping coffee, the three of us discuss the demise of small farms in Canada and America, while Bill shows us pictures of his charolais cows on his iPhone.
After a nice morning chat, our new friend takes to his 4-wheeler once more, leaving us with a smile, a wave and a farewell of, "Well, have a nice life!" Feeling happy and grateful and a bit damp, we hurry to pack up our things during a brief lull in the rain. It doesn't last.
It's really coming down now, and my fingers are freezing as they try to stuff our wet groundsheet into its bag. With rain streaming down his face, Tyler smiles and comments about how much he enjoys these brief interludes we have with people on our adventures. Somehow, in spite of the general superficiality of the conversations, there is something deep and connecting about them.
When the last bit of camp is loaded up, we hop in the car and crank up the heat. While I wipe off the rain that landed on the inside of our doors while we packed, the windows fog up. Eventually, when we've regained a bit of warmth and the windshield is transparent again, I pull us out of Bill's field and onto the dirt road. A few kilometers more, and I turn onto the highway. Time to head west.
It's a fairly typical day on the road (in a car, anyway). For starters, Tyler works, lost in programming land. Meanwhile, I drive, stopping often to get out and take photos. Occasionally, I grab some food (I prepare loads of homemade snacks ahead of time), and hand it over to Tyler. He often forgets to eat. When he's not working, we plot and scheme, talking about our various goals and dreams and projects.
As always, we listen to music. Rainy days deserve their own melancholy tunes, and today I'm playing our favorites: Elsiane, Zoë Keating, Matt Elliot, and Tracy Chapman. In addition to the ideal soundscape, we have some great adventuring company: a laminated cologne ad featuring Ewan McGreggor sitting next to a motorcycle, looking serious and dashing. He's so goofy in Long Way Round, we like to imagine that he's laughing inside at the ridiculousness of when he is being paid to do.
I found this cologne ad in a hotel lobby in Novosibirsk, and we had to bring it along, seeing as how Ewan's motorcycle documentaries were the inspiration for us to go on our first huge adventure. Back in Russia, we perched him behind the sun visor of our LRC, and he followed us across the steppe. Today, he is coming with us into Alberta, Canada.
This next province greets us with flat, amber-colored fields of shorn grain. The rain stops, the sun peeks out a bit, and eventually, the road begins to undulate into proper rolling hills. Pine trees make their first appearance, and then, with the same gasp of delight I emit whenever I haven't seen mountains in awhile, I shriek and point out to Tyler: there are snow-capped peaks in the distance! We're almost to Jasper National Park!