The Road From Hope To Clinton
In the two days I spent in Hope, BC, over two hundred forest fires sprung up in the surrounding areas and at least 10,000 people had been evacuated, with 14,000 more put on evacuation alert. The Visitor Center warned me about road closures and gave me alternate routes to my destination — Clinton, BC — but soon after my departure those routes were closed as well and I was turned back after a little over a hundred miles. I tried two more routes with the same results, so I decided to stop at the Charles Hotel Restaurant located in the town of Boston Bar, BC. The restaurant has free wifi — a rarity around these parts — and serves breakfast all day, so it was the perfect place to refuel and search Google Maps for an alternate route. I ordered a cup of coffee to get things going and in the same breath asked for the wifi password. The coffee was no problem, but I was told that the wifi password had to be entered by Mrs. Wong, the lady sitting behind the counter. I assume she was the owner. For an uncomfortable minute I watched as Mrs. Wong slowly negotiated her way around a table. I’m not sure what sort of condition she suffers from, but her movements were deliberate and extremely slow. Trying to be helpful I offered to bring my tablet to her but she yelled, “Hold a your horse! I’m coming,” as she slowly moved each foot no more than 4-6 inches at a time. I was in a hurry to review Google Maps to find a way around the fires, but watching her made me realize that my problems were petty in comparison. When it registered that I had been watching her the entire time, I immediately became self conscious and forced myself to look straight ahead, and that’s when I noticed Juha sitting a few booths away, looking at me with a smirk on his face. “Yeah,” he said, “this is happening.” I couldn’t help but laugh when I noticed he had his tablet open and was also waiting for the wifi password. We got to talking and after a couple of minutes he told me that he was getting tired of yelling from across the room. “It’ll be another 20 minutes,” he said, “might as well come sit here… it’ll be faster.” Mrs. Wong had made it halfway across the room by now.
Juha, I learned, is of Finish decent, a musician, overall computer guy, home builder, truck driver, and lounger — his words. He claims to be 58 years old but seems no older than forty five and acts twenty. His look is a mix between Sting and Billy Idol. Juha lives in Vancouver and bought a house in Boston Bar for his retirement — a fixer upper that he’s slowly rebuilding. “Look up Boston Bar ghost town on Google,” he said, “and my house is the first picture you’ll see. I told him I would as soon as I got the wifi password. We both looked at Mrs. Wong and noticed that she had been distracted and was now making her way to the register. “Anyway,” Juha said, “I’m totally rebuilding the thing, but it’ll take me a couple of years.” That’s because he is doing all of the work on weekends, so progress is slow. He’s also an accomplished musician with several hundred tracks to his name. Our waitress brought our food and refilled our coffees. “Look up Juha Koivu on SoundCloud and you’ll hear my music,” he said. His secret: don’t practice and lay down each track quickly. “People spend so much time trying to get a track just right. I say, ‘Look, the track is going to be crap anyway, so don’t waste anyone’s time and just get it done.’ So that’s what I do.” This seemed like reasonable advice. We talked about his job as a truck driver, his band reunion, and the computer work he’s doing on the side. Mrs. Wong was just now walking away from the register and Juha took this as his cue, because he balled up his napkin and threw it on his clean plate. “Come on down to Koivu Manor so you can see my handy work,” he said as he got up from the table and started for the register. “At the corner make a left, then past the railroad tracks another left. You can't miss it.” Mrs. Wong saw him approach and turned back to the register, and I gave up on the Google Maps research. I hurried to the register to pay my bill as well and followed Juha to his place. His house was worse than I had imagined and his work much better than I anticipated. It seems Juha is not only handy, but actually a professional when it comes to construction work. While chatting with Juha I received a message from Wayne, my host in Clinton. He knew of a way around the fires, but it’d require taking some service roads, which was fine with me as long as I could keep on schedule. So with that I bid farewell to Juha and got back on the road.
It was a rough ride and for a long while I wasn’t sure whether I had missed my turn, but eventually I did make it to Clinton. When I arrived at Wayne’s ranch, he had two additional house guests — two friends who were displaced by the fires. Linda and Jade are both Shushwap First Nation’s people, and were happy to share with me some of their people’s history. Linda is advocating for the recognition of her people’s language as an official language for legal proceedings in Canada.
The following morning Wayne and I headed to Clinton to pick up a lady named Charlotte. She’s a First Nation’s elder and was headed to an elder’s meeting in Vancouver, so Wayne had offered to drive her to the Pavilion Reserve. To reciprocate the gesture Charlotte had prepared Bannock — an indigenous bread — for the road. She asked whether I had ever had Bannock and I said that I hadn’t, so she offered me one. I took one bite and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Bannock tastes exactly like a Honduran fry bread I used to eat as a kid. I find it interesting that native people vastly geographically apart share the same fry bread recipe.
Later in the afternoon Wayne took me to meet Rob, an aspiring rancher from Vancouver. Five minutes chatting with Rob and he struck me as smart and tenacious. While he and his wife live and work in Vancouver, Rob’s dream is to eventually relocate to his ranch full time and tend to his cattle. Rob is also extremely resourceful; he built their house in Clinton with his own two hands, and is currently working on building their barn. I got a walking tour of the place and it looks magnificent. Rob is particularly proud of his Scottish Highlander cows, but tending to this herd is something he’s still learning about. He bought them a steel feeder and, not long after, one of his cows was trapped in it. The cow’s back and rear legs were severely injured to the point that the cow couldn’t even move. The normal course of action in this case would have been to sacrifice the cow, but Rob is still learning, so he decided to wait. During the first week Rob left the cow where it lay and brought her the food and water she needed. On the second week Rob decided to drag the cow out of the sun and with the help of a tractor he got her into the barn, where she languished for another week, still unable to move. After three weeks of this, Rob knew it was time to give up, but decided to give it yet another week. If the cow showed no signs of improvement, Rob would do what needed to be done. Throughout all of this Rob had been sitting with the cow, helping her eat and drink, and trying to make her comfortable. He was saddened by the thought of having to sacrifice her, but he had quality of life for the animal to think about, so he petted her gently and held her face close to his, apologizing without saying a word. That’s when the cow got up and stood in front of him for a few moments before laying back down. Rob was ecstatic and yelled in excitement. There was still work to be done, but he knew then that she was going to be OK. She had just told him so. After he told me the story, he pointed toward the field and said, “There she is!” The cow looked in perfect health and I might even say happy.
The following day Wayne and I gathered three large bags of donations containing blankets, sheets, pillowcases, and towels, and delivered them to a nearby First Nation reserve. Wayne impressed me as an extremely caring individual, not only by how well he treated me, but also by how concerned he is with the well being of others. On many occasions during my stay I saw Wayne offer help without a moment’s hesitation. If there were more people like Wayne in the world, we would live in a much better place.
After delivering the donations and saying hello to a few of his friends, we set out into the mountains to find a natural hot spring that’s rumored to be in the area, but that Wayne had failed to find during two previous attempts. After a couple of hours of being lost, Wayne decided to stop and walk around to get his bearings on the place. I didn’t feel like feeding the mosquitos, so I stayed behind, well protected in the truck. A few moments later I spotted another truck driving by, so I waved them down and asked them about the hot springs. “That’s where we’re coming from!” They said, and gave me the directions. Turns out we were almost on top of the springs, but you’d have to know they’re there or you’d never think to turn in that direction. Keep in mind that there are no roads in this area — you simply drive on the mountain, wherever there’s enough clearance for the vehicle, so it’s hard to keep up with where things are. The hot springs were actually more like lukewarm springs, so I decided to stay dry while Wayne did a cannon ball into the pond. During our drive home that evening we ran into a herd of wild horses grazing along the road.
The following day Wayne took me to meet a local restauranteur known to the people of Clinton as Mexican Mike. He thought it’d be nice to give me an opportunity to speak my native language with another Hispanic, but try as I might I couldn’t communicate with Mexican Mike in Spanish. Everyone swore, including him, that he spoke Spanish, and I couldn’t get it through to them that adding an o to the end of each word doesn’t make it Spanish. Also stringing the words, chile, burrito, mucho, and señorita together does not constitute speaking Spanish. In the end everyone was convinced that while Mexican Mike and I were unable to communicate in Spanish, it didn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t speak Spanish. It’s just that I must speak some obscure dialect. It seems Mexican Mike lives up to his role model, Donald Trump, whose life size photo he prominently displays at the entrance of his restaurant, and can talk the people of Clinton into believing anything.
There was no wifi or cell phone reception at the ranch. No Facebook feed, no twitter, and no Trump news. Instead we fed and groomed the horses, played with the dogs, swam in the lake, worked on the motorcycle, hiked into the mountains, and regularly visited with neighbors to have real conversations. You know, the in person kind. Before I knew it, four days had flown by and it was time to hit the road again. I reluctantly put down my cowboy hat and donned my helmet.