Saturday, July 1, 2017

Make that Ocean to Ocean to Ocean: Canada's Really BIG!


Over the past few days,  I have been revisiting 50 Canadians Who Changed the World and shamelessly reliving The VIA-Rail, 50 Canadians, Ocean-to-Ocean, Book-Tour Extravaganza.  Rail-trip of a lifetime, courtesy of VIA-Rail and Harper-Collins Canada. Sure, I had to talk endlessly about one of my books and write a few articles for VIA-Destinations, a now-defunct magazine, but that’s what I do anyway. Lots of defunct publications out there.
Along the way I remembered that Canada borders on not two but three oceans -- that the country is so big, in fact, that the Arrogant Worms wrote a song about it. If we can't have Northwest Passage as our national anthem, I vote for Canada's Really Big.
But three oceans. One image each for Canada Day, why not? First up, a good-looking young couple literally ON the Arctic Ocean. This is from a couple of years back, one of our voyages with Adventure Canada. And, yes, this September we'll again go voyaging with AC and ride around among the icebergs. Someone's gotta do it, right?
Ocean number two is the Pacific. Soon after Sheena took this photo, we made our way to Granville Island, home of the Vancouver Writers Festival, where one sunny afternoon, I had chatted with Australian novelist Peter Carey. I was puffed up with irrational pride at the way Vancouver sparkled in the sun, and I said, “So what do you think of Vancouver?”
Carey smiled and said it was great, but then he took a beat: “Have you ever been to Sydney?” At that point, I had not, and he encouraged me to visit. Later, when I did get there, I went to the top of the tower, Centrepoint, and found myself gazing out over the most spectacular harbour in the world. Just keeping things in perspective.

But before revisiting Granville Island, having walked much of the Seawall around Stanley Park, we sat down on one of those big grey logs on the beach and I removed my shoes and socks and rolled up my pantlegs. Carrying a copy of 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, I strode across the sand in manly fashion and waded into the cold, salty water of the Pacific. 
What I had forgotten was that those waters were relatively warm. I was reminded of this a few weeks later, when we reached Halifax and I felt obliged to make some corresponding gesture. One afternoon, assisted by three volunteers -- Sheena and the Mallorys, Mark and Carolyn, fellow voyagers in the Arctic -- I ventured into a hard-to-reach corner of Point Pleasant Park. There, at least twenty metres from the main parking lot, despite a driving rain and a rocky shoreline that would have deterred a less intrepid author, I waded into the Atlantic Ocean.
I wanted to build a cairn to mark the occasion, but my companions convinced me to adjourn instead to a nearby pub. At the Lord Nelson, looking into the future, we raised a glass and drank to the greatest country -- or at least the second biggest -- in the world. Happy Canada Day!

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