Autumn Fever

I get a little, well, stir-crazy in the fall. It's possible that the looming winter leaves me craving a change in scenery, and though the leaves are golden yellow and the trails tacky and sweet, I can't shake it. I must go somewhere.

And so, with very little money but a lot of determination, I head for the west coast and Vancouver Island. My high-school best friends are in Vancouver, and my sister is in Victoria—a visit with them will help me recharge, and get me through the next six months of snowy days and frozen nights.

My bike attached to the back of my car, and with the first season of the Serial podcast downloaded, I hit the road early on a Thursday for Vancouver. Though I've driven Hwy. 3 across BC a handful of times, I've never done it alone.

I pass through Cranbrook and Moyie before stopping for breakfast at my aunt's in Creston, then onwards over the pass to Castlegar for a third coffee. I would stop in Grand Forks for the hotel's famous borscht—like we did when we were kids—but it burned down a few years ago.

Already I appreciate the solitude, accountable to no one but myself. I can listen to Ludacris as loud as I want. I have the freedom to stop and look at a lake without someone nagging from the car, “Let's go!”

When I reach Greenwood, Canada's smallest city, I park outside a vintage toaster shop and go for lunch in one of its historical hotels. The soup is delicious, the town—ghostly. Empty storefronts and silent streets make my visit pleasant but short-lived.

Soon I am engulfed in the Serial podcast, and then I remember a place I hoped to stop; Klikuk, or Spotted Lake. Just past Osoyoos, this saline endorheic alkali lake can be seen from the highway—it is all sorts of strange.

“I just don't understand,” I say to myself. Self-talk is another perk of a solo road trip.

Giant spots with different colours make up the lake. As I walk the shoreline my boots crunch in salt. It has historical significance; Klikuk is a traditional medicine lake for First Nations, and its minerals were used to make ammunition in WWI.

I get back to the Serial podcast, but before long stop at one of the numerous vendors along the highway in Keremeos. Various shades and shapes of orange pumpkins scatter the vendors, and I buy a bag of peaches. They smell like they belong in mid-July, their scent fills my car with sweetness.

When I descend into Vancouver I'm reminded of the time I lived here; bustling streets, wild nightlife, the mix of salty ocean air and street car exhaust. I stay with my friend Shelby for the night, and in the morning we celebrate.

Our good friend Said, originally from Mexico, becomes a Canadian citizen this morning. Shelby, Renee, Chrissy and I have come together for the ceremony—it has been two-and-a-half years since we were in the same place. We watch as Said, among 55 others from 18 different countries, says his oath to Canada, sings the national anthem, and receives his citizenship. It's emotional. We all gather for brunch afterwards as though no time has passed. Good friendships are funny like that.

Then I catch the ferry to Victoria and sneak into my sister's apartment. Unbeknownst to her, I plan on spending the long-weekend. I watch like a creep from her window as she arrives home. I don't want to scare her—that's a lie, I definitely do—and hide in her living room. When she walks in I say “hello.”

She gasps and falls against the wall before processing that I am here. Then we hug, giggle, and talk in gibberish like sisters do. We spend the rest of the weekend mountain biking, eating turkey and pumpkin pie (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). We walk my favourite place in Victoria, Fantan Alley, and buy old records.

And suddenly it's Tuesday and I drive home. The leaves aren't golden anymore—many have fallen in submission to winter. The snowy days and frozen nights are on their way, but they don't feel as ominous as they once did. A change in scenery has changed my perspective, recharged a little bit of my soul.