Sunday, January 18, 2009
This is the view from the Malahat, a mountain pass in British Columbia. Highway 1 runs through it, and if you are driving from Victoria to almost anywhere on the island, you have to go over this pass. It's over eleven hundred feet above sea level. While it has beautiful views, the weather is very iffy, that high and that close to the water. At any time except high summer, the road can get like...
...this, at the drop of a hat.
I wonder if my cousin John remembers this story.
In my senior year of high school, he came from England to visit us. I guess it was sort of an "Adventure in the Colonies" for him. He stayed at our house for a few months, and then got a job and a room in the town of Duncan, about halfway between Saltair (where we lived) and Victoria. He bought a Honda 90 (a very little motorbike), because Duncan wasn't big enough to have public transportation. There were very few Japanese vehicles in Canada at that time, and the thing spent quite a bit of time in the shop...down the road in Victoria.
After one such episode, John was going to take the bus down to pick it up, and then ride it back to Duncan. I thought this smacked of High Adventure, and persuaded him to take me. Mom and Dad said no, but we didn't need to pay attention to them, right?
It was a lovely day when we started out, and the bus ride was fun. However, it was getting on in the afternoon by the time we picked up the bike, so there was no time for adventuring in Victoria, and we immediately got on the highway, headed for home. The ride was about sixty miles, which was the farthest I had ever travelled with him on the bike.
In British Columbia, I was NEVER warm after the sun went down, much less on the back of a motorbike, going over a mountain pass at eleven hundred feet.
As we rose higher and higher toward the pass, the clouds got thicker, the sun set, and we were enveloped in an icy fog. We were freezing! He, more so than I--he was in front. We stopped for a little rest as the Honda 90 laboured up the mountain, burdened as it was with over two hundred pounds of people.
Suddenly, the fog had chunks, and became sleet. It started to stick to the road. The wind picked up. By the time we got to the top, we were in a raging blizzard. To paraphrase Shakespeare, we were so far steeped in snow, to return were as tedious as go o'er. So we soldiered on.
My face was numb, with frozen tears all down it, and icicles hanging out of my nose. There was no feeling at all in my legs, and my hands had stiffened in the claw position, where I had clung to my cousin. My ears were causing me agony, even before they started to thaw.
By the time we got to John's lodgings in Duncan, I had to be lifted off the bike, and the thawing-out was painful, only somewhat alleviated by the bracing hot tea provided by John's landlady.
My cousin had to call my parents, who were frantic. It was about nine o'clock at night by then, and we had been gone since early afternoon. The trip would take a little over an hour each way in a car.
Of course, we caught holy hell from my folks, especially John, who was responsible on several counts--he was older, he was a boy, and he was the driver.
My dad's wrath was fairly impressive.
I'm sorry, John...the whole thing was my scathingly brilliant idea in the first place.