By Alejandro Yoshizawa
Published in 16.1
I was a very lucky boy. Unlike most Canadian families—where the children are raised and live only with their parents—I grew up living with my parents, my Japanese grandparents, and my uncle Barry. It was here, at my grandparents’ house, where I spent the first six years of my life. This afforded me the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with both my uncle and my grandfather, with whom I was particularly close . In addition to helping on the farm, having meals together, and playing games, there was another avenue which I remember very fondly: long rides.
What we called a “long ride” was essentially a camping and fishing trip—sometimes as short as a daytrip or as long as several nights. Luckily, living in Metro Vancouver, we were a 45-minute drive from either the downtown core or lush mountains and pristine lakes and rivers, depending on the direction we drove. Long rides occurred exclusively in the domain of the latter. My family—aptly described as outdoorsy—loved camping and spending time in the wilderness. Before I was born, my grandfather used to hunt deer and moose for sustenance. My oldest uncle, Dennis, would later recall to me about being “sick” of having to eat so much deer and moose meat! “Gamey,” I believe, was the adjective he used.
Typically occurring on weekends in the spring, summer, or fall, our long rides took us all over the province. Our chariot was an old, blue Toyota pickup truck that looked beat up; it was far from luxurious, but tough as nails. A small camper was placed in the bed of the pickup, with a boat secured on its roof. Inside, we would store our food: a mish-mash of Japanese and Western cuisine, our long ride fare typically included rice balls (onigiri), chicken, various types of Japanese-style pickled vegetables (tsukemono), vegetables, pop, chips, and freshly brewed coffee. Our departure time was the one thing about long rides I complained about. Nevertheless, my uncle and grandfather would always insist on leaving early. Looking back, waking up at 5:30 a.m. on the Saturday of a long weekend was an exceedingly small sacrifice. Besides, as soon as we were on our way, like clockwork, my eyes would slowly close and my head would begin bobbing around, shifting between my uncle’s and my grandfather’s shoulders. It would be another hour before I’d spring to life and exclaim, “Are we there yet?”
One of the reasons we didn’t simply call what we did camping or fishing was that it was the ride which was the real joy. We’d spend hours laughing with each other, taking in the beautiful scenery, and randomly choosing new dirt roads to explore. My uncle’s truck was a 4×4, and we never hesitated to push the envelope by exploring anything slightly resembling a “road.” Bouncing up and down in unison, tree branches serenading the sides of our truck with loud screeches, Grandpa, my uncle, and I were in our element. With large grins on our faces, our hands secured what objects we could amongst the violent shifting of the vehicle. Eventually, we’d spot a lake. Consulting a map, we could usually ascertain which lake we were at. After finding a spot to park the truck, it was time to set up camp!
One long ride I remember particularly fondly was our trip to Gustafsen Lake, about a 7-hour drive from Vancouver. It was a calm Indian summer. Bright yellow, red, and orange leaves adorned the trees as we approached the lake, slowly swaying in a late afternoon breeze. Hopping out and stretching my legs after a particularly long, long ride, I remember looking around: the scenery magnificent, the lake serene, and our camping spot nicely snuggled between the two.