The Calm Before the Storm
Updated: Jul 2
Monday, March 1st, 2023.
St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada.
2 days before planned start of journey.
There’s still so much to do! I’d planned to start the Cross-Canada adventure on May 1st, but postponed that until the 2nd, then the 3rd, because I needed more time to get organised. Now it's the evening of the 1st and it still feels like there's so much to do:
Build up the online presence - the website, the Instagram account, the Facebook page, the PolarSteps, the Twitter,
Finish editing the 2 fundraising pages; 1 for New Zealand donations, and the one for Canadian,
Letting people (family and friends) know about the LiveStream for the beginning of the adventure Wednesday morning
Distributing press releases to NZ and Newfoundland media
co-ordinating with the Child Cancer Foundation of NZ regarding PR
Purchasing travel insurance
Getting a comfort with my food approach for the journey
Buying a 2nd hand laptop for the trip
Revising my gear approach to account for the weather being 15-20 degrees cooler than expected
Filming/documenting feelings before adventure begins
Getting a Canadian SIM card
Buying a micro-SD card for use in the GoPro
Diarying about the final few days before departing Innsbruck, and about the journey from Innsbruck to St Johns, including meeting Jerry at Newark Liberty Airport and his wonderful (first) donation.
Unpacking pram and setting it up. Blowing up tyres, making sure it wasn’t damaged during transit from Austria,
Feels like so much just to get going. It’s going to be so nice just to get started and have nothing to do but run.
I’ve had late nights my 3 nights here in St Johns so far, trying to get everything prepared. Up til 4am last night. 2:30am the night before. I thought it was unlikely enough during these covid times that I made it here from Austria without picking up an illness. I dont want to get something now because Im so run-down - not when im setting off tomorrow and the weather is so bad. I need my body to be healthy. I need to rest. But I havent had the luxury, not with so much to do.
The biggest thing on the to-do list - the thing most compelling - has been prepping against the cold weather. I came from Innsbruck, which sits at a similar latitude to St Johns, but at 500m higher altitude. St Johns is at sea-level. In Innsbruck we’ve been getting 16-17 degrees some days. So I expected that coming down to sea level would mean a big temperature rise. But the day I arrived here it was a high of 2 degrees with an Northerly wind off the Arctic bringing a wind-chill factor of minus 3! And the forecast for this whole week is the same. Snow in May! What?!
Packing my bags in Innsbruck, I purposely left the sunblock behind and put it on my “to-get in St Johns” list. My whole expectation for the first month of this trip was to be in warm weather. I figured the first month was going to be a real baptism by fire in terms of the exercise side of things, as well as getting a good system going with my pram and my equipment, and learning what high-energy camping foods are available and affordable at Canadian supermarkets.
All of this stuff means 100 little micro-lessons to learn and refine over the first few weeks. During that time, you’re constantly fixing things and improving things and tweaking your approach. There’s a lot of learning, and that’s because there are a lot of little mistakes. That’s fine. That’s expected.
What I wasn’t expecting is to go through all those initial learnings while at the same time trying to stave off hypothermia.
Tuesday, 2nd March:
1 day before planned start of journey.
So, there has been a lot to plan, and get under control. But now it’s Tuesday, and I’ve made good progress. On Sunday I bought the main food staples I’d need; couscous, rolled oats, wraps, sardines, butter, salt. Sunday night I picked up a 2nd hand laptop I’d bought Kijiji, Canada's 2nd-hand online marketplace. Monday morning I sent away the NZ press release.
Things are feeling more like they’re in order. Most of the prep is done, there’s now not much more than can be done. No more physical training at this point is going to make any difference. A peaceful moment of calm, before things head in a new direction tomorrow.
Today I went in to Outfitters, the local outdoors store, to get a new sleeping mat for snowy weather. After buying the mat, I was pleasantly browsing the rest of the shop, searching for nothing in particular. After the mad rush of the last 2 weeks, I finally felt a bit of calm and relaxation.
Browsing the store with pleasant abandon, I let my mind wander for what felt like the first time in a month. In that state, I found myself enjoying the song “Boston” by the band Augustana, coming over the in-store radio. I used to love that song. But I hadn’t heard it in years. I don’t think it’s that popular, but when it came out it 2011 I was a big fan. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard it since.
The lyrics rang out through the store, over the first aid kits and camping stoves.
“She said, I think I’m going to Boston. I think I’ll start a new life.”
2011 was such a warm, fun and nourishing time. I really loved it. I had my first girlfriend then. Man, we cared for eachother! We had a great time. I found it so easy to be open and intimate with her. Is doing that just easier when you’re younger? It certainly feels like it was for me.
“Where no one knows my name. I'll get out of California. I'm tired of the weather. I think I’ll get a lover. And fly ‘em out to Spain.”
At university together in Canterbury, we did so well to make the most of our time even though the Christchurch earthquakes had just hit the city, and strong aftershocks were still disrupting society every few days.
I loved our weekends away to stay with friends in Akaroa harbour, on the far side of the hilly volcanic peninsula we lived beneath. I'd look forward to Saturday afternoon after I’d finished my rowing training and she’d finished her netball game, when we’d load up a car and drive away together.
We’d forget about work and classes for 48 hours and leave the city behind - heading through the foothills for a weekend away waterskiing, eating good food and spending time with friends while the fire crackled and warmed the bach against the winter outside.
Or we'd watch movies on the couch, feeling like we were a world away from Christchurch with its continuing earthquakes and aftershocks, its uncertainty, its city rush. We were in our own little Akaroa haven.
Why am I feeling all this now?!
I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard Boston in 12 years. Why has it come on now, in the 2nd story of this outdoors store on the edge of the earth?!
This spontaneous longing for comfort, coziness and nourishment has been plucked from the absolute depths of my memory!!
That can only mean one thing: my subconscious is really apprehensive about what lies ahead! And I can't blame it.
Slowly; I return from 2011, thankful for the trip there as a rack full of travel duffel bags re-materialises in front of me. In that still moment between worlds - once Akaroa has drifted away, but Outfitters is still a second from fully taking over - the opportunity to view things with a fresh perspective floats by. And I take it…
Am I really about to try and run across Canada?
As in, tomorrow morning??
It seems too crazy to be true. Just an epic idea, not something you’d ever really do.
But it is true.
How freaking good that - when I return from a daydream - this is the reality I find!!
Looks like it's go time. The train is leaving the station. And it's time to jump onboard!