Interactions during a road trip like this one take place outside of structured social contexts. The people I meet en route know nothing about my political views (which I don’t advertise on bumper stickers, t-shirts or baseball caps), my economic status (la bestia‘s appearance arguably signals neither wealth nor poverty) nor my relative position in macro-hierarchies — I don’t look like a college professor, and since I do not own any Jack Wolfskin gear and my accent is neither thick nor obviously German, I have yet to be classified accordingly.
The resulting ‘rawness’ of human encounters creates a much wider spectrum of possibilities. For instance, after losing her temper because I had not checked out by 11AM (I was still waiting for my–paid—laundry to be finished), the owner of a campground near Prince George, BC where we stayed a few days ago called my a “stupid American” and “son of a bitch [who] should go back to where [I] came from” because I allegedly thought that “Canada is there to serve the US.” That I am neither American nor of the view that anyone should serve anyone else were not among the options considered.
Likewise, the guy I’d like to call “Ron”–we met on a nearby campground after I had been thrown out by the aforementioned lady, with my laundry still wet–had no way of knowing that I had a hard time relating to his claim that global warming was, in fact, not due to emissions but rather a result of “them.” Curious to learn more, I asked him to explain who “they” were. He took a step back, then slowly leaned forward and whispered, “you know, rich liberals.” I wondered what exactly his causal proposition was and prompted him for an example. “I can’t leave Canada because I was in jail when I was younger. I did bad things, you know,” Ron replied. “But ‘they’ can’t take away what I know.” I sensed that this was as far as I wanted to push the issue, so I just nodded. “Man, you’re going to Argentina!,” he suddenly exclaimed. “That’s so fucking awesome. I am so happy for you. But be careful… ‘they’ are everywhere.” He put his hand on my shoulder, gave me a toothless smile and wandered off.
After spending CAD35 for parking la bestia on a lot serving as an overflow area for the privately managed Porteau Cove Provincial Campground north of metropolitan Vancouver, we hopped on one of the BC Ferries to Nainamo (Vancouver Island) on September 3.
We were rewarded with impressive views of Vancouver proper which, true to form, was covered by heavy clouds. In Nainamo I had a platter of Lebanese food and, with the rain having returned with a vengeance, decided to drive south and then west to Juan de Fuca Provincial Camground. La bestia‘s check engine light was still lighting up like a Christmas tree, so I was thrilled to spot a Toyota dealership along the way. Although the technicians were on their way out for the day, Sean took a look. To my relief, he gave a green light to continue but recommended checking whether, only a few kilometers down the road, “Phil” was still in his repair shop.
He was — and his shop turned out to be Toyota Land Cruiser heaven. About a dozen were parked either inside or in front of his garage, including this custom-built import camper from Australia (which reminded me of a term I had come across in an Internet forum for off-road enthusiasts: “Cruiser porn”).
Even though it was already past his closing time, Phil gave la bestia‘s cooling system a thorough check-up. Thanks to his expertise, I finally know what exactly needs to be fixed; the parts for it are easily available. Meanwhile, Harry befriended Phil’s female German Shepherd (Harry got to pee first since he’s older). After almost an hour of dedicated work, Phil refused to be paid. We started talking and eventually decided to continue over beers and dinner in a nearby brewhouse. Phil, too, has been pondering a longer road trip and was curious to learn more about ours. This led to broader topics, such as the power of routines, past relationships, and how to attain happiness. Not only is Phil right up there with Rudy at Iron Mike’s in Bethesda when it comes to automotive knowledge, he’s also someone who has inspired me far beyond engine diagnostics and cooling sensors…
P.S. We are now listed on Joachim’s awesome Panamericana Info!