Friday, December 10, 2010

Ah, yes. Shelby, Montana.

I remember it well. Years later when I mentioned it to someone that had spent time in Montana they told me there was a pretty good whorehouse within walking distance of where I wound up being stuck. Interesting. Although I had the time and the desire, I knew I couldn't afford the luxury as I had to have a certain amount of money to get into Canada so even if I did know about it I probably still would have passed it by.

I had gotten there early in the day and after the trucker had dropped me off at the bottom of the exit I had walked back up and set myself up in the spot where the northbound traffic could use the exit lane and go straight into the break down lane and pick me up. I looked at the exit sign and there was a crucifix carved into the aluminum. Inside the crucifix, was etched the following: In memory of those that died here waiting for a ride. That in itself told me I was going to be there for a while.

I had expected this. It was going to be pretty damned hard to get someone to pick me up that was willing to take me through an international border, but with any luck I could get someone to take me to the Canadian border and drop me off before I got there and I would pass through as a pedestrian.

A pickup with a couple of drunken cowboys passed and the passenger threw a beer bottle at me and missed and I cussed him out. They didn't like that, so they stopped up the road and started backing up. I had seen this kind of crap before. They were just looking to beat the hell out of someone for no reason.They didn't get what they had expected. Instead of some jerk hippie, they faced an ex-GI with a rifle. By the time they got close to me they saw I was in the prone position with a Mauser resting on my pack and I was stuffing a stripper clip into the piece. By the time they reacted, the piece was loaded and I was drawing a bead on the middle of the back window of the truck to fire a warning shot and I was taking the slack out of the trigger when they saw I wasn't some easily victimized hippie.

They took off like a scalded rabbit.

I looked around to see if anyone else had seen me and the road in both directions was empty.

I unloaded my rifle and put it back and waited and as it was getting late, the sky unzipped and I got wet before I could break out my poncho. It was a cold, hard rain and it chilled me to the bone. I was thinking about breaking out my nylon tent and digging in on the roadside when a car stopped. I got in all soaked and looking like a seal and found out that I was now riding with a Canadian minister that was headed to Lethbridge, Alberta.

He asked me if I was going to the Calgary something or another and I said I was because I figured that if I was, he'd take me through the border and he told me that he'd take me as far as Lethbridge.

We got through customs in a heartbeat because he told them I was an American going to the youth crusade something or another in Calgary. They only glanced at my driver's license and I was in Canada.

When we got there, he recommended me a motel and dropped me off. I was still pretty wet, and it was raining. Everything was soaked so I knew it would be miserable trying to set up a camp of some sort so I decided to motel it for a night and the minister got out and said something to the innkeeper. I got the room at a great discount which really is the only reason I broke down and rented a room.

At that time there were a lot of somewhat cheaper roofs to be rented in Canada, as there were youth hostels and some of the local YMCAs also had barracks-like situations where a rack could be had on the cheap. You have to remember that back in the 70s there were an awful lot of kids on the road. Unlike today where a hitchiker is a rarity, back then you couldn't drive 20 miles on any major interstate without passing one. The YMCA catered to the young by setting up barracks-type housing, at least during the heavily traveled summer season.

The motel wasn't much, but it was warm and dry and inexpensive. I went in, ate something out of a can in my pack and sacked out with my rifle handy and loaded. There was something about the place that seemed a little seedy, so I decided to take precautions.

When I woke up, I bathed and looked outside. It was still pretty wet, but my clothes were dry because I had arranged them on the radiator. I stayed in the motel hoping for the rain to abate until late in the morning and then decided to see if I could get to Dawson Creek about 675 miles away. There was a supermarket nearby so I picked up some grub and started on to Dawson Creek. It was a lofty goal, and I started in and Calgary and Edmonton went behind me quickly, but then I was off the main roads and the going was a bit slower.

I managed to get a ride out of Edmonton and twenty hours later at about 8 am I arrived in Dawson Creek after a pretty rugged all-nighter, much of which is now a blur. Dawson Creek is Mile One on the Alaska Highway. The trucker checked into a motel for a few hours and I sacked out under the rig. When he started it up in the early afternoon, I rolled out and started for Fort St. John.

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