by Nat Vickers
The Rogue Festival will be upon us soon! Enjoy another Rogue Festival performer preview article, with more to come between now and the Festival. We also have an article about this year’s Rogue Festival Muse, and once Rogue begins, watch for reviews and video interviews. For more information on the Festival itself check out their website and keep an eye on KRL’s Rogue Festival Event Page.
Why would anyone choose to ride their bicycle across a country – let alone, a country the size of Canada, the second-largest country by landmass in the world?
For me, it started with an assignment, a curious entanglement of history and poetry, mashed together by a substitute teacher grasping at straws to control a room of wily sixth-graders. Pick an explorer and write a poem. A poem? Does it have to rhyme?
The teacher replied, “No, it just has to keep you busy until the recess bell rings.” With that, she snuck a yellowed paperback from her purse, covered the scantily-clad cover models with on hand, and escaped into her own stories.
And I dove in to mine. Cabot, Cartier, Champlain, Franklin, Hudson, scurvy, shipwrecks, new shores, setting foot on new lands for the first time in human history – a history so myopic that only Europe seems to get one. These were the stars, the Brad Pitts and Leonardo DiCaprios of their day. I was hooked.
I was never a risk taker. Truthfully, I loved the spoilers. I wanted to know how it all ended up, turning the book to the very last page to breathe that sigh of relief – oh, my favourite character survives! – and relaxing back into the beginning to find out how it unfolded.
The explorers could never do that. No, when you’re an explorer you have to climb into your wooden ship, trim the sails, and leave the harbour, eyes locked onto the disappearing shore, knowing that may be the last time you ever see home again.
That step before the plank was the end for you and land, before disease, destruction, drifting off-course, and mutinying into the gaping maw of a storm that will tear your hull to splinters and spit the wreckage out the other side. It means you, dropping fast like an anchor to the bottom of the ocean, lungs exploding your last breath, a rush of bubbles that won’t see the surface. Then it’s just a wide open ocean brimming with monsters, falling off the edge of the map.
How can you get on that ship unless you know you’ll be back again someday. The explorer: one part challengers of death, the other knowing they will never die.
Until they do.
Like Shackleton. If Hudson and Frankin were my Pitt and DiCaprio, then Shackleton was the Patrick Swayze to my eleven-year-old heart. Those others guys thought the ocean might have monsters. Shackleton stared down the Antarctic, the last unexplored part of the planet. One night, looking at the shore from the safety of his ship Endurance, he said he saw “huge blocks of ice lifted into the air and tossed aside. We were helpless intruders in a strange world, our lives dependent on the play of grim elementary forces that made a mockery of our puny efforts.” The journey was the monster.
I wrote the poem about him, knowing it would win a Pulitzer. I won’t share it here because it was bad. Eleven-year-old wannabe Shakespeare bad.
Then… I realized something. Not the obviously racist and colonialist context of the whole Magellan expedition. That came later. No, I realized…
“Excuse me Miss Substitute Teacher! Where are the women explorers!”
The teacher tersely replied, “There weren’t any, dear.”
“… They stayed home.”
“Why?!” I demanded.
The teacher sighed, put down her steaming coffee mug and glared at me over her thick-rimmed bifocals. “Because, that’s what they did.” And as if that solved the problem, she returned to her stories.
“But that’s so boring! What if there was a woman who wanted to be an explorer, why would she have to stay—?“
“Nat!” she admonished, “It’s quiet time. Write your poem.”
I did. But when I wrote it, I wrote myself right there on that boat, too, sailing away.
BikeFace is for anyone who’s dreamed of being an explorer, and been told they can’t do it. It’s a two-wheeled adventure of Canadian proportions, spinning strange-but-true tales from a 7,000 km (sorry, 4,400 mile) bicycle ride across the country! There are graveyard groundskeepers, wild west proprietors, and wanderers with secrets only fit for strangers. This one-woman storytelling whirlwind retraces a real-life bike ride from Halifax to Vancouver, uphill and against the wind the whole way.
Tickets to BikeFace are $12, and the show will be at Dianna’s School of Dance, 816 N Fulton St. Dates and times are: March 2nd @ 5:30 p.m., March 3rd @ 3:30 p.m., March 4th @ 5 p.m., March 9th @ 7 p.m., and March 10th @ 5 p.m.