Almost three months ago – far too long ago in hindsight – I walked into my boss’ office and gave in my notice of resignation from my job as editor of the Revelstoke Review.
It was the beginning of June and I’d just worked all day Sunday, followed by a very long Monday getting a special supplement of the paper off to press. I was expecting it to be 16 pages but it ended up being 24 pages and so I had to scramble on the weekend to drum up another story.
I was used to working weekends and usually didn’t mind – I would just show up to work later on other days, take mornings off to ski, leave early, and take extra vacation (though not as much as I was entitled too). I had a lot of freedom in my role that I loved. I had the benefits of working for a big company (like a dental plan and outside resources) but I also had total editorial freedom. It meant I could indulge my own interests with my reporting, but I was also conscious to try to reflect the community.
Over time, the pressure started to weigh on me. The constant weekly deadlines, the expectations I felt the community had, and the expectations I placed on myself were a burden that hit me hard earlier this year While I pretended I was doing well (and really, I have it amazing), I wasn’t happy, and was even angry at times. I thought about quitting way back in February, but instead I took a week off and had an amazing staycation skiing. I regained my sanity, but it didn’t last long. I tried to push through, thinking it was just a phase. It wasn’t.
For years I told myself I was going to go on one big adventure before I turned 40, and I decided there was no better time than now. I came up with ideas like backpacking across Asia, from Turkey to Indonesia; heading to South America, adventuring in Africa, or going across Russia in winter. Something stupid, slightly epic, but not completely unheard of. Something where I’d hopefully be able to emerge with some good stories and photos to pitch to magazines and use as a launching pad to a freelance career.
Eventually I decided bike through South America. I don’t know exactly why – probably some combination of culture and adventure appealed to me. I read blogs like While Out Riding, Spoke And Words, Nicholas Gault, Pikes on Bikes and many more that are filled with incredible pictures of dirt and invaluable descriptions of dirt road touring routes through the Andes. I spent idle time researching destinations and mapping out routes online. I bought a bike – a Salsa Fargo which is designed for dirt road touring. It’s got fat tires, a funky drop bar, mechanical disc brakes and a 2X10 drive train. I amassed a rack, panniers and more equipment for the trip. I was starting to feel prepared and eager to go and hopefully able to tread my own route south.
And then it all came crashing town. Literally, though by “it” I mean the trees in my backyard. On July 23, a wild wind storm swept through Revelstoke, bringing with it 96 kilometre per hour winds, and knocking over trees all around town. My yard, surrounded by lovely spruce trees, was possibly the worst hit in town.
I wasn’t there to witness the destruction – I left my house just as the winds arrived to get some Chinese takeout at Manning’s and head into work. I had to fight the wind and was blasted with debris as I rode my bike there. I turned from Fourth Street onto Victoria Road, directly into the path of the wind. I could barely pedal and had to turn back and continue up Fourth. I rode on the wrong side of the road so I would have more time to get out of the way if a tree was blown over.
I got to Manning’s and my phone rang. It was my tenant Kai telling me the trees in my yard were cracking. I hoped for the best, but as we talked, one fell. Then another and another. I left my food behind and zipped home. With the wind at my back, I reached my street in no time, only to find a huge tree blocking it. I scrambled over them, the bike on my shoulder and my eyes on the trees that were still standing.
I got home and my neighbours were all standing around, watching the my trees (and theirs) bend in the wind. The biggest tree in my yard had come crashing down onto my neighbours camper, a cluster of three trees that sat nicely on the right side of my yard was completely uprooted and got hung up on a pair of big trees next to my house; and at the back of my yard, two trees snapped and the others hung on for dear life.
We all watched nervously. I looked at a cluster of trees that threatened to crush my house should they fall; fortunately, only the top of one snapped. Finally, the wind abated without anything else falling. I circled the city, taking photos for the paper, then picked up my food, which was a little cold, and went to the office.
That night, and the next few, I slept restlessly. I was terrified of waking up to a loud crash and seeing either my trees coming through my house, or my neighbour’s. Bob Walker, the arborist, came by on Monday and remarked, on how dangerous it looked, but he wasn’t able to cut anything down until Thursday. That meant three more long nights and constant inspections to see if those trees were leaning any more than they were, or if the roots were getting pulled out of the ground.
Thankfully, they held up.
I lost nine trees in the storm and I deemed it too risky to keep the five that were left and had them all chopped down. And I got the bill and sent it to my insurance company. That has yet to be resolved. I lost my trees and my shade and my fence, but kept my house. On the positive side, I get better sunsets from the back deck and my room will probably be warmed in the winter.
This hung over me as I planned my trip. I bought a plane ticket and dealt with the fall out. I’ve cleaned out as much as possible, but it seems like nothing else will get done until the spring anyway, so what’s the use in sticking around?
I bought a one-way ticket to Bogota. My plan is to explore the Colombian countryside before heading to Medellin. Then I’ll turn south, and meander up and down through the Andes, into Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Ideally, I’ll make it all the way to Ushuaia – the southernmost city in the world. I’m going alone, I’m in no rush, and I’m willing to skip sections if necessary (I’m not a purist like some of the bloggers I mentioned above).
I leave on September 12. I have lots to do before I go, but now I have a sense of urgency and a deadline. I have one issue of the paper left to go and another one of those supplements that started this post. Then I get one week to pack up my stuff and store it away.
I can’t wait.