I love how once you hit Lillooet the Vancouver dank disappears into thin, dry air somewhere halfway around a corner into the past in your rearview mirror, and all of a sudden the smell of sage and tinder dry desert tells your nostrils you have officially left the city and cannot be reached by cellular telephone.
I love the muted sand and burnt bark brown of the ponderosa pines and the eye etching cerulean shine of a sky boasting a sun that will burn the mercury into the 30s later in the day, but right now it’s dawn and the dew still shines cold and silver in shiny beads on the hood of my brand new Ford Ranger Supercab pickup truck with suicide doors and Sirius satellite radio.
The only thing that could make this day any sweeter would be a little 16-foot travel trailer to tow behind, all full of mismatched ’70s dishes and the smell of bacon cooking, which I also bought last week.
I immediately mounted two sparkling new propane tanks like fresh dentures on the front hitch, put on a pair of brand new biased ply tires and hit the road Monday afternoon, 16 hours after I had wrapped up my last gig for a month and mere minutes after the mechanic on the corner finished repacking the wheel bearings on my trailer with fresh, clean road grease and my laundry was close enough to being dry.
This has been a dream of mine since I was 11 and my Great Uncle Jack, my Dad’s mom’s favourite of her three brothers, took me and BuckBuck, my husky, camping at the warm springs outside of Atlin, BC for a week.
Those seven days smack in the sunburned stretch of late summer in 1980 are etched epic into my childhood mythology: for once I was the only kid, which felt light years away from my usual reality, where I was the oldest of over 20 cousins and the chronic babysitter and default fall guy.
I was always the one who should have known better and/or been setting a proper example whenever one of my many charges came back to the house bleeding or busted for shoplifting Jelly Tots or Lick-Em Stix from the corner store.
My Uncle Jack’s birthday was Aug 23, and mine was the 11th. We cooked pork chops and Minute Rice and canned cream corn every night, plus bacon and eggs, of course, for breakfast, and either Lipton Chicken Noodle soup in a box or Zoodles and white bread toast for lunch, depending on what we felt like, since it was our birthday month and who would be any the wiser since it was just the two of us.
We never made broccoli or cauliflower or anything like that since my mom wasn’t around to tell me to eat something green and his mom, my great grandma Monica who was never a big fan of vegetables herself, died three years ago at the ripe old age of 100 and who knows, maybe that’s where we both got our cauliflower aversion from, but it didn’t seem to have done Great Grandma Monica any harm so what the hell.
Besides, skipping the greenery just leaves room in your stomach for another pork chop, anyways that was our logic.
I slept in my very own pup tent and at night wild horses grazed in the meadow all around my tent and I was scared for sure but never enough that I had to wimp out and go sleep in the trailer like my little sister Carrie would have, if she wasn’t back home in Whitehorse going to Boys and Girls Club all week long to play badminton and make lame stuff out of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners because my mom couldn’t take her to the office anymore since her promotion and unlike myself Carrie tended to get bored hanging around my dad’s shop and was always under his feet whenever he turned around whining that there was nothing to do.
I spent all week catch-and-releasing frogs and tadpoles, reading Hardy Boys novels from the nickel bin at the Sally Ann, and perfecting the finishing work on my tree fort, which was cleverly camouflaged in the willows on the other side of the warm springs so I wouldn’t have to share it with any of the American tourists’ kids who came and went every couple of nights or so.
But what I remember most about that camping trip was that Uncle Jack let me go shirtless all day every day, stating that there was no difference between my chest and that of a little boy’s, at least for another couple of years or so, not to mention it was hot and since when had they passed the stupid law up that said little girls had to wear shirts while swimming in the back country anyways?
So I slipped through a week of summer bare-chested, sunburned, blessed-out and feeling blessed, and I have wanted a truck and trailer of my very own ever since.
Mine is a ’71 Skylark, tan and white with a brown and orange interior and harvest gold appliances. For some reason, it reminds me of growing up in the ’70s. Something about the smell, I think, or maybe it’s the beanbag ashtray.
It feels like freedom, like I can go anywhere and still be at home. Like I own the roof over my head, it’s not rented from someone else, and best of all, it moves.
If my neighbours aren’t friendly, I can pull out and go find a friendlier place to pooch free wireless from. I can eat pork chops every night for a week, if I feel like it, that is. I can go topless.
I can smoke in my sleeping bag and burn candles almost too close to the curtains and leave the dishes if I want and listen to Led Zeppelin II over and over again and no one will complain or change it to The Cowboy Junkies.
I can go for days without wasting valuable stomach space digesting anything green.
Hey, Uncle Jack lived like this for years, and it didn’t hurt him any. Besides, I always wanted to be just like him when I got old enough to not have to ever grow up.