1600 magazines to distribute
The morning before our departure, Jean-Daniel & Julien took possession of what was going to become our palace on wheels for the next 30 days; a 21-foot RV. Upon their arrival at the lot, they were greeted with open arms by Raymonde, a friendly & highly prepared employee. At this time of year, they were probably her only customers, so she seemed to appreciate their presence. Her enthusiasm was beyond charming. And it would be an understatement to say that Raymonde has become a true legend, given that the VR now bears her name.
Day 1: The Start of It All
Downtown Montreal 9 AM: Fully loaded with over 1,500 magazines, we take off. Rimouski, here we come. Bic National Park is our first destination and luckily we get there just before sunset; a perfect time for photo ops with the river and valleys in the backdrop. As a bonus, we receive a visit from a family of deer, a great welcoming gift before we hit the road again to reach Sainte-Flavie, where I grew up, about 25 minutes from Rimouski. To avoid being confronted to the harsh realities of on-the-road living too quickly, my parents, Rejean & Nicole, ease our transition by treating us to a home-cooked meal. Nothing less than a fresh fish caught a few hundred feet away in the river. Great conversations (and wine) ensue and hearing Rejean tell us about how he and his 15 siblings slept on straw in his village of Cap-Des-Rosiers really put things into perspective; we’d be just fine in our RV!
Day 2: JC Lemay
Beyond his passion for surfing and marine biology, you can feel that what really drives J-C is a deep respect for his surroundings.
I met Jean-Christophe a few years ago when I found out that he was surfing in Sainte-Flavie. I spent my childhood steps away from that body of water and this is something I had never heard of. You can surf in Sainte-Flavie?
Beyond his passion for surfing and marine biology, you can feel that what really drives J-C is a deep respect for his surroundings
J-C is an Ontario-born biologist and underwater photographer. He moved to the area to study marine biology and the river soon became his second home. He might not have realized it at the time, but what he was doing was a first. Through his surfing & underwater exploring, J-C was shining a massive light on the region’s ecology. This was more than enough to convince us that we had to meet him.
Sainte-Flavie, 10 AM. The waves are crashing into shore and it’s extremely windy, but any good surfer knows that you need the right wind to catch the right waves. In this case, if the wind isn’t North-East, you won’t get anything decent and we are fresh out of luck. We still check out J-C’s favourite spots as he tells us how big of a departure surfing here was compared to anywhere on the American East Coast. At low tide, we can see that the seabed is full of rocks, we ask J-C:
— You have to be a little bit crazy to surf in these conditions?
— There are a lot of rocks, but you work your way around them. Surfing here before work or during lunch time, alone, allows me to leave the world behind for a bit. Except, of course, when an ambulance shows up on shore because neighbours didn’t understand why someone in their right mind would be out in the water.
We ask J-C if we can see him in his element, in the water that is. With no hesitation he slides into his wetsuit—which is slashed and perforated in more than one place—and walks into the frigid water, camera in hand. Out of solidarity, J-D goes in with him. I realize that the cold is something you get used to, as we stand shivering on the riverbank while J-C, drenched in salt water, tells us about biodiversity and environmental issues.
Beyond his passion for surfing and marine biology, you can feel that what really drives J-C is a deep respect for his surroundings. We leave him invigorated by the cold breeze and our rich conversations.
Pop-Up at Alternative Sports
Before setting up our first BESIDE pop-up shop outside of Alternative Sports, we deliver a batch of magazines aboard good ol’ Raymonde between the Rimouski University Co-Op, Mont-Lebel Chasse & Pêche and l’Alphabet book store.
At this point, the wind really picks up. Forget surfing, it is even hard to walk! Nonetheless, a few courageous souls make their way to our RV to share a couple of beers and chat about our journey. Our new friends leave with a copy of the magazine, we leave with a feeling of accomplishment. BESIDE has sparked conversation and brought people together, we were off to a good start!
We leave Rimouski ready to conquer the great region of Gaspésie where we will meet J-P Tessier, a fishing guide, and Christine Bérubé-Martin, a Micmac from New-Richmond who practices splitboard & trail running.
Upwards & Onwards, here we go!
After being rocked to sleep one last night by the winds of Sainte-Flavie, we hit the road towards the “Rockies of the East”. Driving along the 132, which borders the river, we notice that the waves would have been good to surf today. We smirk, JC Lemay whom we met the day before (Journey #1), would have been keen on getting in the water this morning.
Day 3: In the mountains with Christine Bérubé-Martin
There is no doubt we’ve entered the Réserve faunique des Chics-Chocs when we encounter the Appalachians’ imposing landscape. Not only are the mountains breathtaking, but we are greeted with an unexpected feet of snow! Christine wasn’t lying when she told us we’d be able to ride the Madeleine mines. With a drop that varies between 150m and 500m, and a 35° to 55° incline, the mines are a sure bet when it comes to skiing & snowboarding.
11AM – We meet Christine, who is all smiles, and her dog Laska, a Husky with icy blue eyes, at the base of the mountain. The mines have been closed for a while and with the recent snowfall, the road isn’t suitable for our charming Raymonde. We decide to leave the RV behind and squeeze into Christine’s car, a great way to break the ice. On our way up, we cross paths with a few of her friends who just surfed in Forillon. You have to love Gaspésie for that reason, it’s a place where you can have your surfboard and your splitboard on the roof of your car and use both in the same day.
Christine puts her skins onto her splitboard. We can tell that she doesn’t really need an excuse to go play outside, but today will serve as a warm up for the upcoming season which is just around the corner. She sets the tempo as we take off. It isn’t long before we’re out of breath, even if we’re not the ones doing the talking! As she glides on the snow, Christine tells us a little about her life story in her charming Gaspesian accent. She’s half Micmac, on her mother’s side. Having left the reserve when she was 6, she’s been reconnecting with that part of her heritage in the past years.
I’ve thought a lot about who I am. Being both Native and Quebecoise, it hasn’t been easy to define myself. Practicing outdoor sports has definitely played a part in feeling good in my own skin; I’m a modern-day Pocahontas. —Christine
Laska trails, never too far from her owner. You can sense the dog’s admiration and after spending a bit of time with Christine, it’s easy to understand why. She’s full of positive energy and she channels it in just the right way. Her active lifestyle and her quest to reconnect with her roots really speak to each one of us in different ways. Nature is a thing of mind and body.
Once we reach a high enough point, Christine assembles her splitboard. Before taking off, she asks:
— What’s your next destination?
— Cascapédia Saint-Jules, we’re meeting J-P Tessier, a fishing guide.
— Ha! No way! I know him. My good friend Nick Samson is with him right now, they just came back from the woods.
Although Gaspésie is a vast territory amidst its forests, rivers and mountains, everyone seems connected. Those who share the privilege of calling this place their backyard undeniably end up meeting.
As we load our camper and prepare to take off, Julien & JD decide to capture a few aerial shots of the region with our drone. They come back a few minutes later, and we know by their pouty faces that something is up. Turns out the drone has given its final breath. RIP Phantom 2. Mind you, this was only our third day!
Meeting J-P Tessier and Nicolas Samson
Cascapédia-St-Jules, 5 PM—It’s already pitch black. We make out two silhouettes in the backyard between a couple of canoes. We find our way to them and introduce ourselves. We can’t quite see their faces, but we can tell by their firm handshakes and infectious laugh that we’ll be in good hands.
J-P invites us inside for a drink where we meet his son Leo (3), his daughter Lily (6) and his wife Chiyuki, a Japanese ex-pro-snowboarder he met in BC. They’ve been married for 14 years and lived in rural Japan for 6 of them. They are now settled in Quebec where J-P can support his family with his dream job; he is a fishing guide on the Bonaventure River.
My connection to this river is similar to my relationship with women. You start by wanting to know them all, but once you meet the right one, you only have eyes for her. —J-P
J-P is a fisher and a hunter. He practises both sports with an utmost respect for nature. To him, it’s a means to get food on the table for his kids because they deserve nothing but the freshest produce. Proof of that can be found right outside, in his garage, where he shows us a deer he recently skinned. He treats us to a snack, Tessier family style: deer sashimi with traditional Japanese sauce. Even Elise, the vegetarian, doesn’t resist the offer.
Day 4: On the Bonaventure River
6 AM— We wake just in time for sunrise. Lily, curious to see our living quarters, timidly tours the RV. Julien has already whipped out his camera to capture the vibrant pink sky. Nicolas and J-P are getting the canoes ready. An early morning just the way we like them.
Once at the Bonaventure River, the two men set the boats out onto the crisp water. As visitors, we’re laying our eyes on it for the first time, but everyone’s amazement is palpable. For J-P and Nicolas, this place clearly never gets old. The water is limpid, J-P invites us to have a swig. We should be able to detect a light maple flavour, so he says.
As soon as we push off shore, we’re overtaken by the river’s zen vibe. We’re silent as we observe Nick & J-P navigate, standing upright at the very end of their canoes, a huge pole in hand to push us along the calm waters.
Once we’ve gotten (somewhat) over our initial emotions, we ask J-P a few questions. We want to know more about his love for this river and all the adventures that have taken place in this very spot.
It’s easy to lose track of time when you let yourself drift on the river, so much so we forgot to stop for lunch. We pull up on a small island and quickly make a fire where we gather to eat sandwiches and drink coffee. As we warm up around the flames, we chat about our respective lifestyles and connection to nature. Nicolas, a war veteran, tells us how the outdoors eased his transition between his past and present life. There’s no doubt that the two men have a very strong bond to nature and an insatiable thirst for freedom.
Upon our return at the house, we learn that Chiyuki has prepared sushi. Lucky us! This is probably the only place in Gaspésie where you get an authentic Japanese meal. We’re sad to say goodbye, just a few hours later, but we have no choice, Nova Scotia awaits!
We are still at the start of our trip, but our 4 days feel more like 30. It’s as though finding ourselves in nature with people that love it as much as us accelerates the bonding process. We leave Gaspésie with a feeling of having met important figures of our journey.
Domo arigato gozaimasu! (Thank you in Japanese)
Written by: Catherine Bernier
Photos by: Catherine Bernier, Eliane Cadieux
Aboard: Jean-Daniel Petit (founder), Eliane Cadieux (art director & graphic designer), Julien Robert (director), Catherine Bernier (writer, photographer) and Elise Legault (producer).
BESIDE – the road #3 : Nova Scotia
After a pretty outstanding passage through Gaspésie, in the mountains with Christine and on a river with J-P & Nicolas (Journey#2), we add a few more kilometres under our belt to make our way to New Brunswick where we retire for the night in an unknown park.
Day 5: The Hitchhiker & the Century’s Biggest Supermoon
We wake to the sound of Julien’s alarm, a traditional Indian melody that gets us out of bed instantly. The contrast of the music with the New Brunswick setting is striking, but it sets the mood; vibes are good. Elise cooks a big batch of oatmeal with apples and cinnamon. The warmth & comfort is appreciated considering mornings are quite chilly in the RV. Before taking off, we take a breath of fresh air. With five humans enclosed in a tight space, these moments are not only appreciated, they are necessary!
Anyone who’s done long hours on the road knows how important a good playlist is. Today, our repertoire focuses on 90’s franco hits, notably Richard Séguin’s “Journée d’Amérique” and “Aux portes du matin’. Real bangers from back in the day. Elise & JD take turns at the wheel while Eliane, Julien and I work at the kitchen table. In addition to being our ‘desk,’ the surface also becomes a bed. To say this is a multi-use space is an understatement. We cook, eat, sleep, write, edit and design on this table, often times while the car is in motion! It’s part of the challenge we embrace.
On the side of the highway, we see a smiling-peace-sign-making hitchhiker. Up for the thrill, we make a U-turn, but by the time we’re back, he’s already hopped in another ride. Moments later, we see another hitchhiker, we pull-over and invite him inside. Alex struggles to climb Raymonde’s stairs. He’s carrying a huge plastic bag of what seems to be his laundry:
— You’re carrying a lot of stuff. How are you doing?
— I’m OK considering I just had my gallbladder removed.
Alex lifts his shirt to reveal the scars left by the operation.
— Ouch… How old are you?
— 22, I’ve been living on the streets for about 10 years.
— Woah… OK, so where do you live?
— It depends. In the past, I’ve built tipis by the side of the road and I’ve hunted for food with my dog, but he died. Do you have something to drink?
We serve him a glass of juice, surprised at how open he is to talk about his life.
Once we’ve reached Moncton, we drop Alex off and wish him good luck. A thick silence floods the RV after his departure, the 30 minutes spent with him were destabilizing. His harsh reality serves as a reminder to appreciate the people we are with, the roof over our heads and our good health.
A few hours later, we exit the RV for another round of fresh air and to test-drive our new drone. Its predecessor, lest we forget, had accidentally drowned a few days prior. We get back on the road and cross over to Nova Scotia. We make it to Truro where we settle for the night in Victoria Park, just in time to take a peak at the Supermoon. It feels like an appropriate time for a group picture. We gather in front of the RV (it wouldn’t be a family shot without Raymonde!) and set up the camera. Moments later, I feel intense heat crawling up my back, I turn around to find out that my jacket has literally melted off my body! Standing next to the RV’s heat exhaust wasn’t the best idea…
Day 6: Distribution & Meeting with Dean Petty from Anchored Coffee
Morning hits and we head to the Canadream garage in Halifax. The very unglamorous part of having a home on wheels is the emptying of the grey & black tanks. But as they say, you gotta do what you gotta do. The employee at the front desk is astonished to see us. We are most likely the only Canadream RV on the road at this time of year. We strike up a conversation with Allen who gladly helps us. He’s impressed by our tale and offers us a tire rim so we can make campfires along the way. We promise to dedicate a thought for him every time we light one up.
Before meeting Dean at his shop, we distribute magazines at Atlantic News and Maps&More—the travel store. It’s always a pleasure to meet new retailers who support our project. Some even go above and beyond, and offer us a place to park for the night.
We head to Anchored Coffee, which Dean co-owns. Back from a Nicaragua trip where he surfed and visited coffee farmers, he’s looking tanned and relaxed. Maintaining strong relationships with coffee farmers is at the heart of Anchored’s fair trade business model. The set-up at Anchored is very chill. It matches the guy to a T. He takes us through the space and introduces us to his small team.
Dean is better known as a surfer, so where does his interest for coffee come from? How did he become an entrepreneur? Dean was born in Maine, just south of the border, so why did he decide to settle down in Nova Scotia? We have a ton of questions so he invites us back to his place, which he affectionately named Camp Bueno. It’s a suitable name for the spot we discover; a warm & well-designed home that faces three different surf breaks that he can easily access from his backyard. The inconsistent conditions and the dire need for a wetsuit aren’t ideal for some, but for Dean, this means undisturbed surfing only feet away for his living room.
Everything is a matter of balance for me. When I was deep inside the surf industry, I had lost the freedom that came with riding waves, that feeling of being a kid and skipping school with my brother and our friends to go surfing. Everything became performance driven, so when my associate came to me with the idea of opening a coffee roaster, here in Nova Scotia, I saw an opportunity to build something new and rebalance my life. — Dean Petty
Sitting in his living room, beer in hand, we discuss his lifestyle, which revolves around simplicity and pleasure. He seems proud to call Nova Scotia home, still wild & untouched by surf’s hyper commercialization.
We’re aching to get in the water with Dean, but a foot of water won’t make for much excitement so he invites us to the skate bowl instead. Night has fallen and we make our way to the limit of a dead-end street where we see a garage. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but what’s inside is nothing short from any skateboarders’ dream; a very sleek wooden bowl surrounded by a few couches to hang out with friends.
Day 7: A Very Long 14-Hour Drive
Nova Scotia is windy. No need for an alarm when the gusts make the windows crack. Outside, the fog is so thick, it’s impossible to see a few inches ahead. We take in one last salty breeze standing on the cliff’s edge and bid Dartmouth farewell. We’re going back to Montreal, just long enough for a shower and a short sleep.
Tomorrow we’re headed North, to Rouyn-Noranda in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region to be precise.
Written by: Catherine Bernier
Translated by: Élise Legault
Edited by: Catherine Métayer
Photos by: Catherine Bernier, Eliane Cadieux
Aboard: Jean-Daniel Petit (founder), Eliane Cadieux (art director & graphic designer), Julien Robert (director), Catherine Bernier (content creator) and Elise Legault (producer)
We were on the Nova Scotian coast just yesterday with Dean Petty (Journey 3) and this morning we’re going to the woods of Abitibi, North of Quebec. With the distance separating both locations (not to mention the clash in landscapes as well), our endeavour seems a little crazy, but we’re up for it. If we aim to spread our mission across Canada, from East to West, we’re going to have to get used to the long drives!
Day 8: From Sea to Forest
7:30 AM, Montreal traffic has no mercy this morning, but thanks to our good night’s sleep on solid ground, there’s no way this will kill our spirit. We’re all looking forward to seeing Abitibi-Témiscamingue, where Jean-Daniel grew up. For most of us, it will be our first time. This is rather understandable for Maxime, our French colleague who’s been in the country for a few months, but for the rest of us, born and bred Quebecois, we’re seriously questioning why we’ve never been. It’s almost as though we go out and explore the world before we have a look in our own backyard. OK, Canada is huge & extremely vast, but you don’t have to go very far to fall under its charm, especially when you discover it through the eyes of locals.
Entering the region, we stop at a gas station to fill up:
“ — Man at the pump: Regular or Supreme?
JD: Regular please
Man: Regular gas for a supreme guy!?
Man: Where are you guys headed?
JD: We’re going across Canada & the US. Our final destination is Vancouver.
Man: Oh boy, you won’t be there in time for dinner!”
Driving through the La Verendrye Park, we discover that there are about 22,000 lakes in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The further we go North, the more we’re being engulfed by the forest. A panoramic view that definitely doesn’t leave anyone indifferent.
Launch Party in Rouyn-Noranda at Belisle Sport
8 hours later, we’re ready to meet the community of Rouyn-Noranda, Jean-Daniel’s home turf. At Belisle Sports, more than 60 people welcome us with open arms. Guillaume Leblanc, Abitibi & co’s general director and J-D’s childhood friend and business partner, greets us warmly. There’s a real sense of belonging floating in the air, not only are people here to support the magazine, they came to show their love for the movement Guillaume & Jean-Daniel, two “local kids”, are fuelling. Together, they are shining a massive light on this beautiful region, more commonly known for its mining potential than its myriad of water ways and acres of forest. Combine those efforts with the cultural effervescence of the area (think FME, the Festival des guitares du monde and the Festival du cinéma) and you have the right ingredients to create a real buzz. There is huge potential in Rouyn-Noranda, more people are choosing it as a place to settle in and develop their entrepreneurial ideas. Contrary to saturated cities, here, everything is still extremely fertile.
Day 9: Refuge Pageau and the Aiguebelle Kennel
After a good night’s sleep at JD’s childhood home, the team splits up to cover more ground. Maxime, J-D and myself go meet Carl Routhier & Élyse Lessard at the Aiguebelle Kennel whereas Elise & Julien make their way to Amos to meet the team at the wildlife sanctuary Refuge Pageau. It’s a tough split, we’d like to meet everyone, but time is of the essence when you’re on the road!
At the kennel, Carl, Élyse, their two kids and their 60 dogs are waiting for us. This definitely isn’t a small family. The couple’s unconditional love for dogs brought them to develop a canine pension program & a sleigh-ride trail that stretches over 50 kilometres.
Dogs are real, they don’t lie, they’re pure. That’s what drew me to understand them better & share my life with them. Here, we don’t humanize dogs, we study them to size their natural behaviours and establish a balanced group dynamic. — Carl Routhier
The kennel’s energy is particularly vibrant & stimulating. J-D, Maxime and I observe as the dogs go through one of their regular training sessions in the forest. As soon as Carl grabs one of the harnesses,’ the dogs go wild. Just imagine 60 dogs barking & bouncing around in every direction out of sheer excitement to go exercise. At this very moment, we come to understand why Carl & Élyse would dedicate their lives to these dogs. The bond they’ve developed with their dogs is beyond compare and, to them, worth any sacrifice. Having travelled the world for years in a past life, they consider themselves as happy as ever, right here in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
The entire team meets back at Jeannot’s (J-D’s dad) house at the end of the day. Elise & Julien are just as elated as us. Fraternizing with a pack of wolves, feeding moose and taking care of prey birds is without a doubt memorable, but the Refuge Pageau’s mission goes way beyond these types of experiences.
The refuge is everything but a zoo. We first aim to rehabilitate animals and then we educate visitors. —Félix Offroy
Félix is Michel Pageau’s son-in-law. He worked for over 20 years with the man who spoke with wolves. He’s now carrying on Monsieur Pageau’s mission and is making sure that everything runs smoothly. He also initiated the Refuge’s reinsertion program which offers on-premises work opportunities for people in need of experience and structure. An interesting exchange which gives these individuals a sense of achievement and a privileged contact with nature.
To top their day off, Elise & Julien witnessed the rescue of a Great Horned Owl, right before they were about to take off. The owl was found injured, it was so weak, it could barely move. The healer, nicknamed the “King”, administered first aid before taking the bird to the clinic.
—Normally, I wouldn’t have been able to hold a Great Horned Owl, its grip is too strong, he would have mangled my arm.
This type of rescue is a common practice at the Refuge and truly demonstrates the importance of the organization in the region.
Since our encounter, we’ve gotten news that the Great Horned Owl is doing well! We were even invited to name him, which we did with much delight! We settled on “El patrón” due to his impressive, almost human-like stare.
Abitibi-Témiscamingue may not have the most imposing mountains or the greatest diversity in trees, but its wild side has an intriguing “je ne sais quoi”. One that has inspired people like Carl, Élyse and the team at the Refuge Pageau to give purpose to their lives.
Next destination: The Canadian Prairies
Purchase our first edition and make your way to p. 33 to read: Monsieur Pageau, encounter with a legend on his home turf, a sanctuary for wild animals.
Written by: Catherine Bernier
Translated by: Elise Legault
Edited by: Catherine Métayer
Photos: Catherine Bernier, Elise Legault, Maxime Beauffeny
Aboard: Jean-Daniel Petit (founder), Julien Robert (director), Catherine Bernier (content creator) and Elise Legault (producer).
Although the warmth and generosity of the Témiscabitibiens (Journey 4) had made us want to stay for a final round, a storm was about to hit Abitibi. With nothing but four-season tires, we had to take off into the night to avoid finding ourselves in a ditch! Here in the northern boreal region, you gotta trust Mother Nature’s cues.
We fled the storm only to confront, shortly after, another considerable one in Ontario.
Rookie move, we hadn’t actually looked at where the storm was coming from! Our first encounter with winter was quite rough, we froze our a**es off!
Day 10: Good Day Snow, Goodbye Gas
Waking up in sub-zero temperatures, our breaths instantly transform themselves into condensation. We warm up around a cup of coffee before starting our day of driving in a whirlwind of snow, with an empty tank of gas…
Thunder Bay, 6PM, we find a restaurant that meets our needs. The scene goes down as such: four frozen and famished Quebecois unloading in an Indian restaurant with their generator pack & four computers that need to be charged. We definitely receive (and probably deserve) a few stares.
Bellies & batteries full, we drive all night to get to Winnipeg. Out of ideas on where to park, we make our way to one of Elise’s colleague’s driveway. She’d never actually met Shola before, they’d only done projects via Skype.
Day 11: Refuelling
We wake up in the Winnipeg version of Wisteria Lane, closely watched by suspicious neighbours. We knock at Shola’s door, luggage in hand, ready for a thorough cleaning.
— Hi there, it’s Elise, in the flesh. This is my team, thank you for welcoming us!
— Hey, it’s my pleasure. The washing machine is located in the corner. Feel free to use the shower and here’s the Wi-Fi code. Make yourselves at home.
For dinner, we cook up a Mexican fiesta to thank our host. We literally take over Shola’s kitchen and succeed in triggering his alarm by (almost) starting a fire.
A few minutes later, we hear sirens:
“— Firefighters: Is everything alright here?
Shola: Yeah, thanks, I have a few Quebecois over, they’re trying to make Mexican food…”
The incident breaks the ice before the feast. We dine and discuss the perceptions English Canadians have of French Canadians and vice-versa. No slandering, we are simply seeking to understand the differences between both parts. We end up cheer-sing to the fact that we are all Canadian despite our geographical and cultural differences.
Day 12: Meeting with the Manitoban Gray Wolves: Bruce, Brian and Larry
Now in Dauphin, we meet up with Pam and Bruce, local beekeepers. The latter takes us on a tour on which we visit the warehouse where he stores all of his hives, his workshop, which is full of artisanal furniture, and finally his four log cabins. Tonight we’re taking a leave from Raymonde (our RV) and we’re cozying up in one of the charming cabins.
When Bruce finds out that J-D has a canoe & kayak company, he humbly shows him the canoe he assembled entirely himself as well as the one belonging to his friend Brian:
— Brian is a world traveller and an outdoor enthusiast. I spend most of my time in the mountain or by the lake with him and Larry. You must meet him.
— Why not!
On this note, we pay a visit to Brian.
We take a short drive in Bruce’s pick-up down a wooden path where, at the end, we discover his accomplice’s home, which he also built himself. It’s a beautiful wooden house painted dark green, a string of Nepalese flags is dancing in the wind, just like the ones found at the base of the Himalayas. This cabin was made exclusively of recycled materials, not because it’s a trend, but because it’s cheaper. After selling his shares of the family business quite some time ago, Brian decided to live a modest life, but to live it fully. He’s since travelled the world by bike or camper-van. He’s only had a semi-pertinent ‘nest’ in his hometown for a short while.
We spend a few hours discussing his lifestyle and the decisions that come with it. They are the type of decisions people tend to forget when they contemplate leaving everything for a life of travels. It’s interesting to broach the concept of stability with a man of his age. Attributed by many as a qualifier of his generation, Brian definitely participates in shaking up its definition and making it his own.
Day 12: A Hike, Finally!
It’s 7AM, we make our way to Bruce’s kitchen for breakfast. Him, Brian and Larry, the third and final (but definitely not the least) musketeer. We have a taste of Bruce’s 100% pure honey all while discussing the tensions currently being felt in the beekeeping industry. Canada is a considerable honey producer, 38 million kilos each year to be precise, and most of it comes from right here in the Prairies.
Once our cups of honey-sweetened coffees are emptied, we head to Riding Mountain National Park, the highest peak between the Laurentians and the Rockies. Our muscles have grown accustomed to our sedentary travelling and become feeble since our departure. There’s nothing like a hike to spruce them up a bit.
Alone on the trail, we take in as much fresh air as possible. Larry, the doyen of the group at 77 years of age, is definitely the daredevil of the bunch. As we walk, he tells us about his adventures in the Yukon where the sun doesn’t set in the summer time. Which, for him, means more fishing, running & rowing! On his end, Brian has just bought a sail ship named Zazou. He usually leaves for Baja, California for a few months in the winter, but this year, it’ll be him and his dog on his sailboat, a dream he’s been waiting to accomplish for some time now. Finally, Bruce is a mountain bike fanatic, his most recent ‘toy’ is a Fat Bike which allows him to ride into the winter months.
There’s something comforting in seeing this group of friends perpetuating the idea that playing outside, testing your limits and accomplishing your dreams knows no age.
Day 13: A final ‘family’ meal
Nostalgia is imminent as we feast one last time together. We’ve all realized that no matter the age or life journey, our shared values have quickly solidified a precious bond among us.
After our copious breakfast, we load up the RV and head to Regina. At a gas station, we meet a young Gaspesian who has packed her life in her little Aveo. She’s planning on travelling at her own pace for the next four years. It’s the beginning of quite the adventure and being fellow road travellers, we fully encourage her.
In Regina, we grab a bite with Nathan Jones, a photographer we were acquainted with through Instagram. The authenticity of his images stunned us just as much as his muse: the province of Saskatchewan.
As an outdoorsman how does he manage to get his fix in Saskatchewan? Have his photos influenced people to go discover more?
Everyone drives through the Prairies without ever stopping because they idolize the coastline. That being said, this chunk of land has a raw and appeasing beauty, which is what I try to represent in my images. Our parks are there ready to be explored by visitors and even more importantly, by locals. I want people to realize what they have access to. — Nathan Jones
Content with our meeting with Nathan who provided us with a similar perspective to Bruce, Brian and Larry’s, we hit the road and park somewhere off the highway.
Day 16: Golden Silence
Perched on his bed, Julien slowly wakes up and pulls the shades. A light beam pierces through the window and we discover the panorama surrounding us. Nathan was right, the Prairies do have an enchanting charm with their echoless fields. Confined for the past couple of days, we take advantage of this moment to appreciate the immensity of the space we find ourselves in. Solitude is easily felt here, the silence is thick, almost disturbingly so, but right now, for us, it’s a little slice of heaven.
We absorb a few rays of sun before heading to Calgary where Chanelle, J-D’s girlfriend, is waiting for us. Chanelle will be spending the next week with us. Realizing that our RV has become a bit of a pie sty, we divide & conquer our cleaning tasks. We park for the night in the heart of Downtown Calgary slightly overwhelmed by the city’s upbeat tempo.
Day 15: Wake Up!
5:11AM, our alarm starts ringing. We conjure up all our strength and functioning neurons to try to turn it off. No luck. It comes to our attention that the RV’s battery is empty, which means the alarm won’t stop until we drive. We make our way to the garage and wait for it to open. Rough morning! At least the distribution goes extremely well in Calgary, the retailers we meet are enthused by our mission and are excited to share it with their customers. Shelf Life Books, Velour Clothing Exchange, The Uncommons, The Livery Shop, Patagonia Elements, Meraki Supply Co, Little Brick Café & General store all take copies.
We leave the Canadian Prairies with the feeling of having discovered an untapped resource, one that is located right in the centre of our country. Not only is there land beyond what the eye can see, but the people you find here are equally interesting.
Tomorrow’s horizon is looking quite steeper, we’re going to Waterton Lakes National Park with Jeff Spackman.