Maxed out 

Lessons from the road relearned

By G.D. Maxwell

Firmly rooted to the clay soil of Smilin’ Dog Manner, I am missing what I don’t have. What I don’t have is aimless wandering, jumping in Mello Yello and spending long parts of summers on the road. I still have Mello Yello – the aging but trustworthy Westfailya – but mostly it sits in its half of the garage, happy to be out of the worst of winter but no doubt wondering when it too will hit the road. What am I saying? It’s a machine.

When I spent summers traveling, camping at the edge of beautiful lakes or traversing long stretches of stinkin’ desert, I missed what I didn’t have – a comfy home on one of those beautiful lakes, a garden to feel hopelessly inept in, ambitious projects far beyond my humble skills, routine, certainty, mind-numbing ritual.

Now the first thing I see each morning and the last thing I see each night is the shimmering water of Sulfuric Lake. There is a garden larger than my ability to cope and yielding unexpected benefits, namely bloodlust. I find myself drifting into revenge fantasies involving dead crows, crucified gophers, field-dressed deer, all killed in retribution over the produce they’ve filched. And there are ambitious projects far, far beyond my skills, the most absurd of which involve the construction of not one, but two boats. Got a lake? Need boats.

It’s no wonder I embraced the chance to jump into Mello Yello recently, even if it was only to travel to Edmonton to attend my Perfect Partner’s brother’s wedding. This is his second marriage, the first having expired shortly after his 25 th anniversary, which I also attended, and his bride’s first. I’m not sure which is scarier, a 25 year mistake or reaching into your 50s and marrying for the first time.

But who would miss a chance to travel to Edmonton? Hit the open road in the great Canadian/American tradition? See the sights, eat bad food, be tailgated by big trucks with questionable brakes, wake up in strange places, discover towns where guest and service are rarely linked in the same phrase, and reaffirm the totally bizarre belief that life exists outside of resort municipalities.

I like to think of Edmonton and all of Alberta as The West. I know, B.C. is geographically more west but it just seems too poofy to be The West. Alberta is, let’s be honest about this, the Real West. The West where men are men and chaps are just funny pants. The West where seldom is heard a discouraging word unless, of course, you’re a Liberal candidate in a Reform riding... which is to say all of them. The West, where a firm handshake and a steely-eyed stare are the measure of a man’s true worth, regardless of gender.

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