What is an “adventure,” exactly?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “adventure” as “An unusual and exciting or daring experience; Excitement associated with danger or the taking of risks.”
Danger and risk come with the territory, which means adventures do sometimes go wrong. Sometimes they become even greater adventures, like when you get lost and discover something even more exciting than you had anticipated. Sometimes… they don’t.
Last year while on one of my most anticipated adventures of the summer – a solo motorcycle journey through the Kootenay mountains in southeastern British Columbia – things went sideways. Quite literally.
I ventured off the highway – the 31A route from Kaslo to New Denver, well known among BC motorcyclists as a must-ride road – on a side quest to visit Sandon, a former silver boom town become ghost town I’d heard about at an info centre at my last stop.
The problem was, the side road became more and more gravelly as it went on, and as any motorcyclist will know, gravel can spell certain doom.
Riding carefully and trusting in my off road treaded tires, I made it all the way to Sandon, slowing down to turn onto the bridge over the creek which is rumoured to hold 10,000 yet-undiscovered coins washed away in a flood that destroyed much of the remains of the former mining town: who could resist the lure of such treasure?
While I attempted to accelerate gently into my turn, my motorcycle (or, it has been suggested, some other unseen forces *cough* ghosts) had a different idea. It didn’t move. So I pulled the throttle back more, and the engine revved higher but it still didn’t move – was the tire stuck? So I pulled the throttle even more and as I did all of the built up pressure released suddenly and instantaneously, and rather than going forward into the right turn, the bike went down on its left with full force, body-slamming me to the ground with it.
Ghosts: 1, Janelle: 0.
I managed to wriggle my leg out from under the motorcycle and decided to take a moment to breathe and assess the situation before doing anything; a habit instilled in me from my Wilderness First Aid training.
“Well now you’ve really got yourself an adventure, Janelle. You’re alone, in the middle of nowhere in a LITERAL ghost town that NO ONE knows you went to because it was an impromptu side quest, with a sideways motorcycle.”
“Wait, who said that?”
I’m pretty sure it was a voice in my head but not 100% positive…
While I was being subjected to this internal berating, a truck pulled up behind me without warning, as if arriving out of nothingness.
“Do you need some help there?” a man’s voice called down from the window.
Not accustomed to asking for help, moderately embarrassed at my mishap, and immediately wondering whether it was preferable to be alone in the middle of nowhere or alone with a strange man who was possibly a ghost or something worse in the middle of nowhere I hesitated, but then reason took over and I allowed the stranger to help me, and my motorcycle, up.
Little did I know at the time, this moment of misadventure would change the course of the next six months of my life – possibly more (I’m on month six now).
But there in Sandon, as I climbed down the rocky banks of the creek to remove my armoured riding boot and plunge my mildly sore foot into the glacier-fed creek water, I still assumed I’d be riding home after a little rest. It was only when I attempted to stand up again to climb back up to the road about 5-10 minutes later that I realized I could no longer stand on my foot, and this might be more serious than a bruise.
What followed was a series of serendipitous events that I still shake my head at when I think about it… there is hope for humanity found in the kindness of strangers, acquaintances, and friends. Some people are just born heroes.
My rescuer John – himself a motorcyclist – took me to the clinic in the nearest town of New Denver.
“Are you the patient?” They asked me when I entered. John had called ahead and it seemed my arrival in this small town hospital was the most exciting point in everyone’s day, except perhaps mine.
Even the town’s X-ray technician, who was off that day, agreed to come in to help me out, or witness the spectacle, I’m not sure which. “Looks like you crushed your foot” he said upon seeing my X-rays. Sounds about right.
Sitting on the hospital bed after receiving my prognosis I called a friend I had been planning to meet up with later in the afternoon, an hour south in Castlegar, to tell her I wasn’t going to make it for our swimming hole adventure.
“Friend” isn’t really the right word here, to be honest she was more just an acquaintance – a friend of friends I had only met once, briefly, on a snowboard trip. This distinction is important because it makes her part in the story that much more meaningful to me. I didn’t feel comfortable asking her for help… but upon learning of my situation she insisted on driving the hour to pick me up, take me home, feed me, and give me a place to stay that night, and as long as I needed.
The next day, eager to get back to work and still not understanding the gravity of my situation – I didn’t know it yet but I would be off regular work for months to come – I hitched a ride home with another stranger via a ride sharing website. Upon my arrival back to Vancouver I was greeted with the amazing sight of a knee scooter that my roommates – knowing how hard it would be for their resident adventurer to be immobile – had conspired to procure for me.
Scooter Janelle was born and a whole series of new adventures were to come.
Of course, I wouldn’t have chosen this particular outcome. Being injured was/is hard at the best of times and despite my eternal optimism I’ve had to endure a whole series of challenges. I would certainly have preferred to live out the rest of the summer and fall according to plan, and I had a lot planned: Tofino surf trip, stargazing in the Rocky Mountains, motorcycle camping across the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island, and a motorcycle journey down the coast to California.
But sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan; that’s part of the adventure of it. As I’ve learned from previous life tragedies, you can only choose your choices, but you can choose your choices. You can choose how to approach the adventures and misadventures that come your way.
One thing the Oxford English Dictionary leaves out of its definition of adventure is perspective: one person’s adventure could be another person’s nightmare, and what’s routine one day could be an adventure the next. Riding a knee scooter certainly turns rush hour transit trips, uneven sidewalk cracks, and grocery shopping into experiences “associated with danger or the taking of risks,” for example. Even more so trips down the insanely steep Kits hill to the beach, pretty much the only outdoor activity Scooter Janelle could manage.
Thanks to this adventure-gone-wrong, the little ghost town of Sandon is going to have a whole lot more meaning for me now. And you know I’ll be back there on another adventure. There’s treasure to be discovered, after all!
Next time, though, I will be parking my bike in New Denver and hitching a ride with a 4-wheeler down that ghostly gravel road. Life is an adventure I would like to continue living for a little while longer!