<In September 2006 [when I was eighteen] I was sent to Kentville NS to do an intensive course in additional machine gun, pistol and mortar skills. We spent time at ranges in Granville [South NS] and Gagetown, NB and after the course I took two weeks off, went to Halifax for a $300 Infinity bike, and continued from there on my first solo bike tour. In one day I got to Amherst and stayed for thanksgiving with some friends, and from there continued to PEI. The following is an excerpt from writing completed in the spring of 2009, regarding that trip.>
I turned right on the 16 out of Sackville and got to the Confederation Bridge that afternoon. A shuttle bus over the 13K bridge and I was on PEI, Anne of Green gables country. I biked past the McCain factory and past old churches set along the quite two lane highway, stopped at a convenience store at the lip of some small town and got apples and candy. Long after dark I got into Charlottetown, locked the bike and climbed a Wal-Mart roof to sleep the night. Someone came up early in the morning, didn’t see me, and I ran between the vents and intakes down to a lower level of roof and jumped down to a loading area at the back of the store. That was a quiet day. It was nice to be alone for a while, to think. I walked up and down some streets, shops labelled Anne’s this and Anne’s that, and stopped in book stores.
That night I was in a coffee shop. Strange towns are great in the day, but at night when it becomes dark they can be very sad if you’re alone and sleeping on roof-tops. I talked to the girl working, glad that her name wasn’t Anne. They were closing up soon.
“Have you heard of couch surfing?” She asked. She was late twenties maybe, dark hair tied back.
“It’s cool, its a club of people that take in backpackers on their way through a place. You post note on the net saying when you’re coming through, someone sees it and maybe tells you to come stay with them for the night. It’ s a good way to meet people, go party for the night. You should try it.”
“It’s a little late tonight.”
“Yeah… Sometime you should try it though, if you’re into this stuff.”
There was no one in the store. She had turned the closed sign. I looked down into the empty mug.
“What about you? Could I just crash on your couch tonight?”. Please, I though to myself
She was cashing out, the change was slamming and clinking in the register trays as she counted. She was quiet.
“I still have to do some stuff here. There’s a bar up the street-” She said the name “-I can meet you if you if you want. Half hour or so.”
Her name was Nisha, and she lived on the whole second-floor of an ancient square-built wooden thing that could have had a typical old corner store, or an art studio on its ground level. There was a long staircase where I put my bike, and mustard-yellow interior walls . We stayed up watching vintage sci-fi, eating popcorn, and after midnight I fell asleep on the couch and she actually threw a blanket on me before going to her room.
In the morning when I woke up she had gone to work already. There was a man in the kitchen. He had a white beard and could have been her dad.
“I’m Glen, I’m Kate’s room-mate. Your were pretty tired last night.” He looked like a professor, and thin beard, glasses. A granola eater, the kind of guy who took LSD in the sixties and now has a PhD and bikes to his research job in a yellow MEC jacket and spandex all year round.
“Help yourself to something. I got to go. She left you a note.”
I chewed milk and Cherios and read the yellow post-it note.
What a cool chick, I thought.
And that day i left Charlottetown, and it has kept a warm spot in my memory.