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  • Writer's pictureStanislas Wang-Genh

Duluth to Vancouver

July 13 - August 6, 2022

My heart is a bit tight as I drive away from Duluth (Minnesota), surrounded by high hills that keep the freshness of the lake. I get back on the road with these beautiful images and good moments that are already turning into memories.

Since a few hours, the road has become noisy and dangerous. Then it is not interesting for the eyes. But I move forward without really knowing where this wide asphalt strip will lead me. To make the road, it is to submit to the destiny while giving up the destination.

After two days of being pushed out of the way by these merciless cars, I break down and decide to continue hitchhiking with my bike. At the back of a gas station, I find a piece of cardboard and, using strips of thick black tape, I form the letters of my next destination: Baudette.

A red-faced guy weighing about a hundred kilos stops without hesitation, gets out of his SUV and, without saying a word, helps me carry my bike into his spacious trunk. A small "Trump 2024" flag flies in the passenger compartment of his car. We ride a 70-mile straight line. We talk about everything but exciting things.

His words stick to his gum, I have trouble understanding this accent.

Arrived at Baudette (Minnesota), I take out again my big black scotch, turn over my cardboard and this time I dial Warroad, last locality before Canada.

I am quickly picked up by a veteran who must be close to 90 years old. By forcing a little, we manage to put my bike in his car already full of fishing and camping equipment. His company is very pleasant, his voice caresses the spirit. He tells me about his wife and children with a lot of admiration and pride. We crossed the border and he dropped me off on the only road that led straight to Winnipeg. Only, between here and Winnipeg, there are 130 miles (210 km) of straight road in the middle of an arid territory. No chance to fill your water bottles, there is nothing.

The heat is unbearable. I have no more water and have to limit my effort. I find the thin shadow of an electric pole and start to hitchhike. Between each passage of car, I put my thumb in the shade.

Two long hours pass before a Guatemalan postal worker stops.

He warns me that the trip will be long because he has to stop in each little town for his deliveries. While he tells me about his mystical ayahuasca experiences, I look for a host for the evening on the Warmshowers app.

At each stop, I help him carry the packages.

I didn't think I'd be able to get there in a single day with a loaded bike. But after 237 miles (382 km) of hitchhiking, I'm finally in Winnipeg, where the friendliest family in town is waiting for me with a good meal and a hot shower.

They offered me to stay 4 days at their place in Winnipeg to wait for the next train to the Canadian Rockies. There are only two per week and I missed the last one by a few hours.

In the morning, I walk through the city and contemplate Winnipeg life. I couldn't live here. It's the rope or the exile. There is something toxic, poisonous about the city. This is where Neil Young started making music as a teenager and I can't even find a decent café to sit in.

After a few hours spent slaloming between the spectres and the junkies, I finally find the place. And for the four days I have to spend in this city, I have my own table in an Italian café in Little Italy. I read, I write, I observe old people talking. I discuss, sympathize and have lunch with all the idle characters of the neighborhood.

The train. Cross my heart and hope to never again complain about the SNCF. Taking the Winnipeg-Jasper train, Ulysses would not have thought of it. Too risky. In Canada, the freight trains have priority and the passengers suffer the damage of the imponderable. Nine hours of delay. I spend them on a bench in the station, sorting out photos.

It's a 40+ hour trip to travel 1050 miles (1700 km) through the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan (the country's breadbasket) and Alberta. Some of the stops at the stations last two or three hours. I read a detective novel and slept a lot.

But the last hundred kilometers are the reward. In the morning, we open our eyes. And through the window of the train, the telluric power of the mountains takes us to the gut. Vertiginous cliffs overhang lakes of pure water. And in this apparent calm, the wildlife of the heights: elk, porcupines, rattlesnakes, chipmunks, cougars, sheep, bears, grizzlies, caribou, coyotes, wolves, elk. I have not seen a quarter of these animals. But you can imagine them very well in this setting.

At the Jasper campground, it's $23 Canadian per night. But beware, the awakening is enchanting. As I leave my tent with my eyes still glued to the ground, I am surprised to see about 20 white-tailed deer around me. They have become accustomed to humans and they ignore them royally. I drink my coffee with the feeling of being part of a new species. I look into their big black eyes.

I decide to spend three days in this mountain town. There are many lakes and beautiful waterfalls to see. As the campground is 4 km from the center of Jasper, I jump on my bike to go and look for the strategic places. On the way, a young cyclist catches up with me and we quickly start a conversation. His name is Max, he is 23 years old. He is a specialist of the camping department at Décathlon, he knows a lot of things. The feeling passes very well between us. We are going to spend a week travelling together with other cyclists, including Menoah, a 20 year old Dutchman. He designed every part of his bike, which he had made in Asia in order to market it. A real marvel. If, in a few years, you can afford a Ginzel bike, you'll be able to say, "I know a guy who rode a Ginzel!

In Jasper, we meet a lot of travelers. We decide to share the campsites to divide the price. One evening, the whole Europe is represented around a big festive table. And not far from us, the white-tailed deer, always.

The road between Jasper and Golden is beautiful. The pictures speak for themselves. It's the first time I'm traveling with other cyclists. I like it. Everyone goes at their own pace, we wait for each other. We wash ourselves in the rivers, we filter the water, we share the meals. But also good moments of fun. In the evening, we share a camping site, always scandalously expensive in Canada. And that can be very expensive to sleep in the middle of nature, because it is preserved. Then it is infested of bears and grizzlies.

It is late July/early August. After a week-long trip to the Canadian Rockies, I leave my two office colleagues to head to Kelowna, in the Okanagan Valley, wine country. Anyway, they are heading to Mexico and our paths will surely cross again.

An extraordinary couple, to whom I must pay tribute here, welcomed me for a week in their large house. I needed a rest and we are very happy to spend time together talking about zen and bicycles. They take me on a tour of Kelowna and the surrounding area, including the mythical Kettle Valley Rail Trail, an abandoned rail trail over Myra Canyon.

The road between Kelowna and Vancouver is dangerous and not recommended for cyclists. I decide to take a bus. In the evening, I sleep at the only "troupe" in town. Two women and a man have managed to make themselves official, all three parents of a child. They showed me the newspaper articles.

The next day I go to the Mountain Rain Zen Community in Vancouver. There is a morning of zazen with a teaching. I was welcomed in a way I had never been welcomed before. There were about 30 of us and around noon, several people offered me lodging for the next few days. I even received gifts of money. Unfortunately, it is not good for a cyclist to stay in big cities.

I leave the next day and start the second part of my trip: the north-south axis.

Dans mes prochaines chroniques, je vous conterai mes séjours dans les temples zen de la côte ouest américaine: le Dharma Rain Zen Center, le Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, le San Francisco Zen Center et le Los Angeles Zen Center.

Corrections and proofreading: Catherine Forestier

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5 comentários

Mike Chisum
Mike Chisum
10 de out. de 2022

🤗Enjoyed the update and glad you are safe. Now the turn down south it may seem easyier riding going down south,lol. Best wishes from



Marita Vanderpoestclement
Marita Vanderpoestclement
21 de set. de 2022

In still water-is better. it are old letters which I found back!


Marita Vanderpoestclement
Marita Vanderpoestclement
20 de set. de 2022

To Sensei

Coming to a high mountain lake, I saw a pinetree reflecting itself in the water; it was so clear thar i saw 2 trees in it! But after what you said, the water surface wrinkled and I understood: ther is but One reflecting the other One!


Marita Vanderpoestclement
Marita Vanderpoestclement
20 de set. de 2022

😀Stan fait un voyage extraordinaire dans lequel il nous fait découvrir un Amérique inconnu, plein d'espaces vastes et sauvages avec des personnes bienveillantes et généreuses!


Membro desconhecido
20 de set. de 2022

Bonjour Stan, merci pour ces beaux moments que tu partage

J'admire ton courage et ta persévérance

Les rencontres humaines, magnifiques paysages, les difficultés que tu surmonte et le zen qui sous tend l'ensemble

Bonne journée, Kirsten

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