Sometime in the midst of the hot and humid month of June in Mazatlan, I began to think about what I wanted to do for the summer. All I knew was that I needed a) to get out of the heat and b) an adventure.
At first I thought I would pack up the dogs and drive to higher elevation and cooler climes in Lake Chapala/Ajijic area about six hours away. I even booked a place for us all to stay for two months. But, a week or two later, I knew it wasn’t going to be adventurous enough to satisfy me on b). And I had an intuitive feeling that I really should go up to Belleville, Ontario to see my parents, who were both in full-time care with Alzheimer’s – my mother in the last stages.
This intuition turned out to be correct.
Although I had really not wanted to leave my dogs again, in short order I cancelled the booking in Ajijic, booked a dog-sitter, booked flights, and flew away from Mazatlan on July 3.
The visit with my mom and dad was difficult and sad as always. Neither of them know who I am anymore. My mother was practically bed-ridden at that point and, to all appearances, unaware of anything. My father was declining rapidly and could not remember anything or anyone, but could still converse and take care of his own personal care, dressing himself, feeding himself. He didn’t know who I was, but he did enjoy a visit from whoever I was over the course of two days. I left and flew to Calgary.
A week later, my mother passed away.
Had I known it was that close, I would have stayed. My sister and her daughters had time to fly up and be with her, my father, and my brother and his family in time for her passing. There was no funeral or memorial because my mother had made prior arrangements back in 1996 to have her body donated to the University of Toronto’s Anatomy school for research. The University came to the home and collected her remains, which will be released to us in two years, along with their thanks – they will provide a memorial service at that time.
A sad time, but also a relief. We all felt terrible about watching her decline for years in care, and we knew that if she knew what was happening to her, she would horrified. Thankfully, Alzheimer’s takes away that kind of self-awareness too. At least, we hoped it did.
Once in Calgary, I stayed for a week or so in our condo and began to search for a vehicle, maybe a small RV, in which I could do a road-trip and maybe some camping. I settled for a 2002 Toyota Sienna van with the two rear rows of seats taken out and some camping equipment. It was a quick decision. I sold my 2001 Nissan Altima to buy the van.
And I set off west to British Columbia with no particular route or onward plan. I knew that I could stop in Vancouver for a week or so and stay in my son Tim’s apartment while he was away working on site in the Yukon, and wait for him there until he returned and joined me for a couple days on my road trip to further points.
My travels are shown on the map diagram below. I did do some camping, but I also spent nights in various other accommodations such as a university dorm, a camping cabin, at friends’ and family’s homes, an off-the-grid cabin in the woods with compost toilet and outdoor bathroom, and motels. I have slept in so many different beds over the last two months, I think I could sleep anywhere now! And drive? Yes, I drove over 5000 kilometers mostly by myself without incident, and ended the trip back in Calgary.
It was a great road-trip and experience. An adventure! And something of a voyage of self-discovery too. After so much time spent alone with myself, I slowly realized that although I enjoy solo travel, I also missed having a travel companion sometimes. And that I really, really, want to try road-tripping in an RV and camping off-grid – boon-docking they call it. Next summer?
Here is my trip map. Each point on the map has a blurb to read. A few pictures of the trip are also included below as well.
Columbia River at Revelstoke, British Columbia
Camping Cabin at Pleasant Valley, Oregon
My 5-man tent and van in Revelstoke, British Columbia
Crater Lake, Oregon
Wild and windy beach at Florence, Oregon
Off-the-grid cabin in the woods in Washington State.
Interior of the off-the-grid cabin.