A turn in the weather whistled a bolt of cold over my body, goose-fleshing as we journeyed towards Jasper and Banff in Canada’s Alberta province. Cold inquires at first investigated the tips of my fingers, chin and nose, feeling their sharp little claws sink in when my gums were no longer warm. What did I expect from alpine towns—amid the snow-capped Canadian Rockies—revelling in their own microclimates.
An icy rush of air continued to charge up my legs, a freezing slipstream on exposed skin. Then the downpour fell in sheets, hammering down on us. The shrill, cold needles of rain smacked our visors, arms, the tops of our thighs, and the backs of our necks. There’d been countless times on the trip when we’d have given up our teeth for a good rain, and now we gnashed them in frustration over the deluge.
In my glaciated mind, I tried to laugh myself warm. Incredibly, that proved fruitful for about three minutes: listening to Jase emulate the noises of a ground squirrel. Imagine a yappy type dog yelping and then speed it up and shorten it down to squirrel-size. But 200 miles at 1C into a bossy wind on top, a bone deep chill crept in for the long haul, one that I thought must be like the cold of death itself.
What’s more, the wind was getting teeth, lashing my braid, our bodies and the bikes, tilting us both to one side. I knew I’d never again take being “warm-blooded” for granted having now felt the alternative—my blood sloshing back and forth inside me like mercury. The cold was invasive, mindless. Stupefied by the rain motioned us every 30 odd miles to dive and take cover, praying for shelter with an open fire.
Upon reaching Canmore, to a well known snuggery that goes by the name “Stowasis,” every molecule in my body trembled. My hands had become so numb, they didn’t seem my own. Shivering miserably, Nevil and Michelle Stow invited us into the warmth. Snapped out of it, lips slowly regaining normal colour, I ditched the sodden riding gear and opened my eyes to the home of “garagaritas” (courtesy of the tequila: crammed, I was informed by Nevil, with vitamin “T”) and a random but radiant set of “Stowaways”.
Without question, these guys must boast one of Canada’s best man-caves of all time. Moto madness is a weak term for doing it any justice. Doesn’t matter what you ride, who you are, it’s a very special place, an institution even. Magnetizing moto-travellers by the garageload.
Up next and coinciding neatly with our stay in the southern portion of Canada: Horizons Unlimited CanWest 2016 in Nakusp, located in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. It’s one of the world’s renowned traveller’s meetings, drawing all and sundry in from North America, often around the world for that matter. Not just by moto, but any means; overlanding adventure is the mainstay. For us, it was a chance to hang out with a brilliant bunch, make fast friends with myriad folks and fondly pick up the thread with a few others.
Throngs took to the event: arms linked, hopping in unison, springs in their feet, engrossed in conversation and grog as they passed. Crowds spilled in all directions: around camp, outside the main building, every corner charged with a lively energy—heading toward those with something to say. The place was abuzz. Having signed up to deliver our first presentation, it was time to keep my head, to screw my courage to the sticking place. A sea of eyes peered up in the auditorium at Jason and me, I could feel the heat of everyone’s attention. Grow a backbone, Lisa or be swallowed whole.
After an unexpected feel good factor kicking in, frayed nerves cut loose and mostly scarpered. Showing a glimpse of our two wheeled jaunt seemed to be well received based on some positive feedback flourished upon us. Whether it qualified as a memorable offering from us or not, I know it was a worthwhile personal endeavour; to experience a significant audience wanting to hear what we had to impart. And if nothing else, to give a bit back.
Sublimely, rewards come in all shapes and forms. A breathtaking rainbow on our way back to Canmore shimmered to life, spanning the landscape in a vivid arc, a double arc in fact. The bands of colour were so clear they seemed crafted of the purest jewels. And bands of green and violet shone in a way I’d never seen before. Attention almost undivided—as much as assuming 70mph on a busy highway permits—I looked up and felt every atom in me come to a point. It was truly something else.
Most mornings in Canmore, I woke up to mist cloaking the landscape, which had a body and weight as if it were a third element after earth and sky, where it’d later vanish when the sun was high. The huge mountains encircling the house stood serene, framed against bluebird if not dramatic skies. For sure, I’d stay fond of such halcyon starts to my days, shiny like a new coin, glinting in the sunlight. I felt at ease in this land, let my guard come down and the muscles in my belly and neck relax.
Nevil and Michelle, our hosts are purposely displaced people, just like us, and they understood these kind of unions all too well, the moments when a piece of your old house comes floating by in the river. At the heart of something, warm, fuzzy and nostalgically British going on, it provoked a twinge of homesickness. Into the bargain, we also met and befriended a handful of their exponentially growing circle of friends. Some plain wonderful, some plain crazy—you know who you are—all exquisitely beautiful in their own special way.
Like the special souls they are, the Stows didn’t want us to go until our minds and bodies were back to baseline. And deep heartfelt thanks from us to the both of them: we’ve been bestowed with multiple private parties, outings and tours. What did we want to see? Surprise us, and they did. The couple took us off the cow path. Frequently places where there isn’t any day trippers or waiting in line. For sure, it’d often take a few seconds for my eyes to relay the sight to my brain, and longer still for my brain to believe.
The balsam poplar trees for one (relative of the aspen), turned colours I’d never seen in Canada until now. It was radically different, like a new colour in the rainbow. And when temperatures stayed pleasant where the wildlife was abundant, the panoramic forests became blessed with a golden yellow. Collectively, they stood like wild men with their bodies aglow in robe of gold. A warm palette beyond the imagination of any painter. I often just stood there like a statue, grateful for being able to see.
Upon saying our See you laters to the Stows, I caught myself unawares, unable to speak—I was overcome for a moment. Michelle and Jessica smiling, Nevil’s eyes glittered like diamonds, so I swooped in for a hug that’d have to last me for a while. Without realising, they exude such an unconditional loving energy, it’s palpable.
Off to see family in Florida for a fortnight, I addressed my extended family—all the beings I carried with me in the flesh and in spirit. Thank you for letting me be alive, letting me be in this world and connect with these souls. I felt a great peace, a sense that coming to this spot had completed a circuit, and now a blocked current would flow and I could rest. If “ecstasy” means the delicious intrusion of the wonderful into the ordinary, then it had just happened to me.