Some trips take years of planning or are inspired by some grand desire or purpose.
That’s not really the case for Ralph Martin.
His first trip across Canada as a teenager in the ’70s was inspired by a wet hat, and an interest in soaking it for a second time, in an entirely different ocean.
That trip, done with just $86 while hitchhiking, and a second one taken decades later and in much more comfort, form Martin’s first book, Cross Canada Adventures.
The Qualicum Beach writer and retired teacher is launching the book in the Windsor Room of the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
The NEWS caught up with Martin to discuss how he got started on the first of his grand Canadian adventures, and some of the exciting and worrying moments along the way.
“It was really quite silly,” said Martin of his reasons for the first trip. Living in Nanaimo while going to college, he and some friends took a trip to Tofino and, among other shenanigans, found themselves evading waves as they rushed up a narrow section of rock on the beach.
“There was kind of a round bit at the end, and it would fill up with frothy water,” said Martin. “We thought, ‘Hey, that would be fun if you could jump down in there and then jump out before the wave got you.'”
Martin’s hat (styled like a train conductor’s, and which he wore everywhere at the time) was not so lucky. It fell off his head and got soaked, but Martin managed to jump back down and retrieve it before it headed on its way out to Asia.
A friend’s remark to that effect sparked in Martin the idea that perhaps the hat should take one more dip, but in the Atlantic this time.
“That’s the only idea that I had,” said Martin with a laugh.
He was lucky enough to catch a ride from New Westminster to Edmonton with a band that his cousin knew, and found himself in Alberta one day into his trip.
Martin would not continue to be so lucky.
After enjoying a street party with the band, Martin decided by about 6 a.m. that he might as well continue his trip.
He hitched a ride to the highway from someone on their way to work, and was then picked up by someone else.
“A guy picked me up and said, ‘We’re going to Toronto, can you drive?’ And I thought, ‘Oh, this is going really well.'”
But just an hour or so later in Red Deer, the man stopped off at a police station.
“‘I’ll just be a little while,’ he said,” recalls Martin.
“Anyway, a couple of big RCMP guys came and rustled me out of the car and dragged me inside and interrogated me for a while and had to go through all my stuff and everything. Then after, I don’t know, probably a couple hours, they said, ‘Did you know this fellow had a gun in the back of the car?’ I said, ‘No idea!'”
Turns out the man had shot someone the night before. “Don’t know if he killed him or not,” said Martin. “Never wanted to find out.”
Eventually, the RCMP said they believed Martin’s story of being a hitchhiker, and drove him to the edge of town, telling him not to come back. These are a few of the tales Martin has of his first cross-Canada trip, and of another trip taken about 40 years later in a camper van.
Rather than show why his experience was unique, he said, the purpose of the book is, in part, to connect with people.
“Everybody that’s my age, all the boomers that I know have all hitchhiked someplace, or traveled somewhere, and if you mention it, suddenly you have common ground, and everybody has a good story about where they went at some point in time.”
Though he notes in his book that traveling has been a way to shed the monotony of the day-to-day and expand life a bit, he said his main goal with the book is to entertain people.
Martin will launch the book at the Windsor Room in the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. He’ll share a slideshow presentation, read excerpts from the book and sign purchased copies, with $2 from every purchase going to the Salvation Army in Parksville.
For more info on Martin’s book, go to ralphsbooks.com.
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