The old tune “Bobby McGee” floated into the cabin of the SUV early this morning and with it memories of the first time I heard the gutsy bluesy voice of Janis Joplin singing this song. Sure, I heard the old version many times, but this one was a sticker in my nimble mind, perhaps because it was mindful of the fact that we all have our ups and downs, twists and turns and the occasional flat (not to mention complete breakdowns) in life. The song brought back travelling times, life on the road, a car as a friend and befriending the gas station attendants as conversation stumbled into where I was going, and how far is the next gas station.
Midnight ramblers, hundreds of truckers and loggers rumble past from the north, heralding an exodus of firs, not unlike the last business we did as a nation, the now-heavily subsidized fur trade. Now we have a vastly evolved enterprise of endless convoys going in both directions on the James Bay Highway, carrying out the resources we learned to cherish over millennia.
As someone who doesn’t blink an eye to get off the couch to leave and travel a thousand kilometres to get to the nearest Wal-Mart (and somehow I believe that I am saving money), I can verify that the travel industry is growing in the north by leaps and bounds. On my last trip on the road, we counted a total of 80 heavy trucks in the space of four hours heading back south. My mate and I pondered their contents. Could they be full of knock-off handicrafts, ready to peddle on the streets of Milan, or could they actually be empty (applying only to the transport trucks), reflecting just how much in goods we consume?
Recounting stories to pass time by, my buddy entertained
me by telling gruesome accident stories and near-fatal encounters with all kinds of machines and vehicles. I looked closely at his face to see if there were any scars to back up his claims and could only make out the wear and tear of hockey tournaments without safety equipment. Perhaps he could be telling the truth. After all, he did say he survived all incidents or else he wouldn’t have been there to tell me, eh?
I bantered back with a few accident stories, one involving my truck which wasn’t even moving and the accident was only dreamt of by everyone on board at the same time (including myself, who was fast asleep at the wheel), thereby increasing the validity of our collective dream threefold, leaving all of us in a hysterical state of half-awareness and nightmare-comedy, all at the same time. After a half hour of rolling around in the snow on the highway, our gut muscles finally relaxed enough to breathe normally and to finish our travels with our lives forever changed.
This bringing out a few laughs to burn a few kilometres, we recounted our own business travel. Three thousand kilometres, two flats, eight litres of washer fluids, one set of wipers, 400 litres of gas, eight hotel nights, 16 washroom stops, 20 big macs, no hitch hikers, 70 hours of music, countless jokes and innuendos, and thankful for the fact that the “doughnut” (spare tire) functions longer than an hour in bad winter weather. As for the hobos that Bobby McGee laments about, we just inserted our names into the song and loudly lip synced (for a lack of a better expression) our way past another transport truck laden with the fruits of the forest, feeding the hungry south.