Author Bill Pierce stopped in Thief River Falls, MN on his three month bike ride from Mexico to Canada. Pioneer 90.1’s Mark Johnson and Glen Braget visited with Bill about his travels along Highway 59.
Cilla Walford is a transplant from England who now lives in Grand Marais, Minnesota. “Lady and the Scamp” begins when Cilla decides to take a sabbatical from her teaching job and take her ancient dog, Sarah on a few last adventures
Back at the campground in Grand Marais I rely heavily on the kindness of strangers. My neighbour across the way put up my rattan blinds with the help of another neighbour, who also lives in a gated community in Texas to which I have been invited, and with the help of a few Miller beers. They blithely drilled into the outside of the Scamp, inserted screws, made a lot of comments about screwing, but put up the blinds. I slept for the first time without having to tie scarves over the windows. This morning, the anniversary of Sept 11, I had to listen to a discussion among my neighbours about how much the muslims hate us. I tried to remonstrate, to talk about my lovely Somali students, but to no avail. I am a lone voice in the wilderness. So I changed the subject. Then another neighbour set too and spruced up the Scamp’s bumper with black anti-rust paint, and helped me to change my propane gas tank. Another week and I swear I’d have my “rig” washed and waxed. There advantages to being a single woman RVer, even if I do have to put up with some sexist jokes.
I am anxious about leaving as I set off tomorrow to the great Canadian beyond taking my chaos with me. All shall be well, no doubt.
Waking up in Canada is like waking up anywhere, except we are Scamping, it is cold, and I don’t have to get out of bed. I plug in my electric kettle, select a precious Marks & Spencer’s teabag, pull out the Digestive biscuits, and listen to Sarah snoring, wrapped in her down comforter at my feet. Last night I was glad of her. I read somewhere that some cultures rate the cold in terms of how many dogs one needs to keep warm at night. I tuck my feet and legs under her warm body and wish I had two more dogs.
We are in a deserted campground outside Nipigon, Ontario, just off the highway, pathetically close to Thunder Bay, but yesterday it was raining and I was tired from the day and pulled into this deserted camp ground which looked as though Miss Havisham was the last visitor. I thought, “If I can plug in the Scamp and the electricity works, and I can have a cup of tea, we are staying.” So I did, and it did, and we did. When the rain cleared, and the sun emerged, I found a cabin with a note: Leave payment. Back soon. The caretaker came and knocked on my door at nine p.m. and we spoke a little French together and he gave me the Internet code so I hope I can communicate with friends across the border. A few feet away, Stillwater Creek rushes through the pines and boletus fungi. I have decided not to cook any, just to be sure. I remember what happened when I got my lawyers wigs mixed up with the anabuse caps and drank some wine. I was as sick as the proverbial dog. I’ve made it thus far without mishap, so why push my luck?
I had a lotta luck yesterday. At the Canadian Border Post (which reminded me of crossing the Iron Curtain back in 1970 -- cold hard faces, funny accents and guns) I discovered that I had been so focused on finding Sarah’s rabies certificate and my British passport that I had neglected to bring my green card proving residence in the USA. They took my papers and keys, and ran a criminal background check, and told me that it would be very difficult to get back into the US. I said hopefully, “Couldn’t I just turn round and go back right now since it’s just there?” But they claimed I had “attempted entry” and was committed to it now, and two of them went off and searched Scampi and the Big Blue One.
I loitered with Sarah on a patch of grass and thought of my checkered past, and remembered the little bit of weed the CaveMan had given me a few months ago that was in my possession somewhere and wondered if they’d let me have Sarah in prison.
“Ma’am! Come over here!” one of the officers called. She had something in her hand. I picked Sarah up and buried my guilty face in her fur and walked across the concrete, free, as I thought, for the last time. The officer had a wallet in her hand into which I had once tucked postage stamps, my British National Health card, and at the back was a photo copy of my alien registration card. “You’re OK with this,” she said. “It’s all the proof we need.” I wanted to hug her. I wanted her to come right back to the Twin Cities with me and dig around for my birth certificate, which still hasn’t shown up, since she was so good at finding things. Canada was ahead of us, and best of all, we were free!