I sat in the Robin Hood Motel in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, awaiting my newest work order from headquarters. Finally it arrived in an email: “Proceed to Saskatoon, Manitoba.” The lyricism of the place rolled over my tongue like an ancient mantra. I started packing.
It is a 1,500 mile journey from Victoria to Saskatoon. Given the lateness of the hour and the need to take a two hour ferry ride back to the mainland, I decided to leave early the next morning. My phone rang.
Change of plans. Higher-ups in the organization, the European connection I assumed, decreed I return to Lebanon, New Hampshire and turn in Sienna 23, the Toyota van I drove 60,000 miles over the last year, for a new Ford, filled with the latest mapping technology.
My Canadian visa allowed me to continue working in the Far North until November 5. I assumed that would be the case, but the winds of corporate commerce shifted, so I turned south, “Back to the land of Coca—Cola.”
Crossing the border took fifteen minutes: ten in line and five with the border guard. Then I headed to a gas station for two reasons: yes, because I needed gasoline, but more importantly, to use my fleet card again and experience low gas prices.
Gasoline in Canada, at its cheapest is $5.05 a gallon. Even though TomTom picks up the tab, paying that much when you are not used to it is irritating. Additionally, I could return to paying for gasoline and vehicle maintenance with the corporate fleet card, a system that pays for the gasoline without my intervention. In Canada, the fleet card did not work, so I had to pay for gasoline with an American Express card. Oh what an ironic hardship you think. But American Express is accepted only at national chains in the Vancouver metro area. Otherwise I had to pay for gas with my own Visa card or cash, which always necessitated getting a receipt, photographing it, attaching it to an electronic finance sheet, and submitting it for bi-weekly reimbursement. A hassle in which I never felt confident in my accuracy.
Now all that is behind me. I am on I-90 heading east, first to Ellensburg, Washington, a town I last visited several summers ago after my beloved motorbike, Moto Fabini blew its engine in the Scablands. I was hauled to town in the back of a pickup.
After Ellensburg I crossed the wheat fields of Washington, through the lovely named city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, up over a tree covered pass in the Rockies, through the rolling volcanic hills of central Montana, down into the softer rolling hills of central Wyoming and east into the Badlands of South Dakota; there to the towns of Deadwood, Sturgis, and Wall.
I visited all three towns once before on the ill-fated Moto Fabini journey dubbed The Coulee. This time, as I approached Wall, I realized I achieved the American Tourist Trifecta: visiting South of the Border, South Carolina, The Thing, Arizona, and now, Wall Drug in South Dakota, all within one year. ‘Look on my travels, ye Mighty, and despair!’ (Ken Burns should do a documentary.)
So now after Ellensburg, Washington, Butte, Montana, and Gillette, Wyoming, I write this in Oacoma, South Dakota, on the banks of the Missouri River, where Lewis and Clark passed by 209 years ago on their Journey of Discovery. Today, shotgun shells are sold in the village supermarket.
And so the Driver returns from his yearlong journey, not quite as a mythic hero, but chaste and somewhat austere from the adventure. Let’s see what the future holds.