Carefree (Hardly) Highway!



Well, by now, you hardly need an introduction to today’s guest blogger Jim Ferguson (above, 1978).

As Jim says in his post, he and I have been fast friends since meeting in the hospital hallways of Stanton Hospital in Canadian Arctic town, Yellowknife, in 1977. Yes, we were the original Dumb and Dumber… just kidding!

Jim has led an adventurous life as a Physician Associate, travelling and living for over 40 years in many US towns/cities including Nome, Alaska, along with his wife Deb.

Recently, the adventure bug has bitten once more and Jim has migrated across the continent from Oregon to Michigan to live closer to his daughter’s family.

Today, Jim shares with us a story from his youth, a young, naive Maritime lad seeking life experiences along the – perilous – road…


I was recently listening to Gord’s Gold (Gordon Lightfoot – such a fantastic album and one of my “favs”) …

… and as I was listening to Carefree Highway, I found my mind and thoughts drifting like a rowboat down a lazy river in a gentle summer breeze.

My thoughts were not of love or one-night stands as seems to be the theme of Gord’s song but rather I was reminiscing of hitting a different sort of carefree highway-the Trans Canada highway, in my youth with my backpack on my back with all my worldly possessions and setting my sights on Yellowknife (YK) in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Back in those days, all my friends in high school were talking about “going out west” to work in the tar sands at Ft. McMurray and dreaming of making the “big bucks”. I was less interested in the tar sands and more interested in YK. I remember looking at an atlas and seeing where the town of about 9,600 (at that time) was located and thinking to myself “that is where I want to be”.

It would be foolish for me to say I was not nervous as my mum took me to the train station in Halifax, NS in early June 1975 to start the first leg of the journey by train.

It was the first time leaving home for me, and at the time I was but a lad of 17-years old with long blonde hair and looking like I was about 12-years old.

Larry can attest to how young I looked. In Yellowknife Larry was this adonis-like beautiful specimen of manhood with his gorgeous quaff and thick moustache and hirsute chest while I was the total opposite of that image…😊. I looked like Kevin McAllister from the movie Home Alone. You get the idea.

With such an image in mind what could go wrong traveling alone across the country…right!!! Well… the initial part of my trip took me by train to Montreal and from there I hitchhiked to Edmonton, Alberta where I caught a flight to YK.

My aunt picked me up in Montreal and I stayed the night with her and my uncle. After breakfast the next day Auntie Sheila gave me $20 bucks and drove me to the west end of Montreal and dropped me off on the Trans Canada Highway and the real journey began. Auntie Sheila gave me a travel map of Canada and I recall enjoying long studies of the map and imagining where I was going and how the trip would unfold and the sites I would see. It was all very exciting (although my aunt thought I was crazy).

I have vivid memories all these years later standing on the highway, or just walking westward with my thumb out hoping for that “mother of all rides”, the one where you jump in and the driver tells you that he/she is going all the way to Edmonton! Well…those types of rides were rare and more often I would get a ride a couple of towns further along the highway, BUT when those longer rides did come along it was gold (not Gord’s Gold but Jim’s gold 😊).


My hitching days (frequent thumbing adventures from 1975-79) were filled with exhilaration, frustration, reassurance of my faith in humanity, and that the world can be an extremely dangerous place. Where better to experience these emotions and feelings than when alone thumbing across the country, eh?

The feelings of exhilaration mainly revolved around the absolute beauty that is our homeland-Canada! Wow!!!! What a beautiful country.

Yes… I am referring to the geographical beauty of Canada BUT I am also referring to the beauty of its people.

On the geographical side, there is magic traveling the roads and highways of the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia or along the mighty St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, or through the vast wilderness that is Northern Ontario to the seemingly endless great plains of Western Canada, and then seeing the picturesque Rocky Mountains and finally crossing over Great Slave Lake and coming into YK.

Go and listen to Gord’s song, Canadian Railroad Trilogy to get a vast sense of the beauty and majesty of Canada. It is truly hard to put into words the stunning beauty that is Canada from east to west and south to north. I’m sure you’ve all had your own taste of it. I never get tired traveling in Canada even to this day.


On my travels “across this mighty land” (Canadian Railroad Trilogy reference intended…thanks Gord) I encountered amazing diversity of colour, religion, nationalities, etc., all making Canada their home. I’ve long sensed that Canada’s greatness lies in its diversity and in the way such diverse groups can come together and create a peaceful community.

Even though I’ve lived in the States for decades, I have NEVER stopped being a proud Canadian, an admirer of Canadians’ exhibition of qualities of friendship and peace to others. I’ve encountered English Canadians, Acadian Canadians, French Canadians, white/black/brown Canadians, religious and atheist Canadians, male/female/LGBTQ/trans Canadians and everything in-between. No matter who they were… they were amazing people.

Yes… there were frustrating experiences… sometimes going several hours without a ride, or in the case of Northern Ontario, sometimes going several hours and barely seeing a car back in those days could be frustrating! There were lots of times where I would be caught in rainstorms and soaked to the bone with no bridge under which to seek shelter.

Some days when the sun was beating down and it was hotter than the Hobs of Hades (I understand that to be damn hot) it would be challenging to find respite from the heat.

I can’t tell you the number of times I unrolled my sleeping bag and slept on the side of the road off in the trees or in a field. Been there… done that! These were minor frustrations in the grand scheme of things. I always have loved being remote and having time alone so while some frustration did creep in, I did my best to appreciate the experiences… to enjoy the moment.

My faith in humanity received a boost during my hitchhiking days. I got picked up by some amazing people (see next paragraph for a glimpse at some of the #%*holes).

I was heading out of Winnipeg with my sights set on Edmonton and a car pulled over and offered me a ride. The man was probably in his early 50s and he was headed to Saskatoon. I struck gold!

What a gem. He worked as a regional sales manager for a pulp and paper company, and he had served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Well… we began to talk of my dad who was an RCN pilot and was part of the history of Canadian aerobatic flight – known mainly in the Maritimes as The Red Herring. This man knew of my dad and personally knew some of those in the RCN my dad worked with over the course of his career. The man let me drive part of the way so he could rest. He treated me to lunch along the way. He had a CB radio (remember those? “Breaker…Breaker…19”) and when he dropped me off on the west side of Saskatoon, he sent out a call over the CB telling people about me, and if they saw me on the side of the road to stop and give me a ride.

His final words were that if I ever hitchhiked out west again and if I got stuck or ever needed money, I should call him at any time of day or night and he would come get me if I was close by or would wire me money if I was not close by. His name was Neal Gelinas. We stayed in touch over a number of years, and I suspect that he has long since “moved on from this world” but he left a lasting impression on me as a young man on how I should treat others. There were many other wonderful examples I could share of the kindness of others towards me while traveling the highways and byways of Canada in my youth.

As you can imagine, hitchhiking as a teenager (especially one who looked like a 12-year-old) could be fraught with potential danger and peril. I experienced it all.


I was close to decapitating myself in Northern Ontario as me and this other young hitchhiker I had met on the way west decided to “hop a train” while it was racing through the woods northwest of Thunder Bay in the dark. Not a smart idea. Luckily, we came to realize that our plan had lots of holes in it and we came to our senses before either of us ended up dead.

On other occasions, I got into cars and didn’t smell the odour of booze or weed until the driver was speeding up the road like a madman. Luckily, I escaped any serious injury.

I know you are wondering “Heh Jim…did you encounter any scary weirdos?” Yes…there were scary weirdos! I won’t go into all the “hairy” details but suffice it to say that I’m a firm believer in keeping BOTH HANDS on the steering wheel while driving.

I probably should have sensed “Danger Will Robinson! Danger!” when one guy pleaded with me to change into some skimpy shorts he “conveniently” had in his trunk on one hot summer day when he picked me up in NB. I declined but still got in the car (what an idiot…yes I was a bit naïve back in those days).

I carried an 8-inch hunting knife with me but never had to defend myself with it thankfully. After 15-20 km things were getting a bit concerning so I had the guy drop me off under a bridge just north of Fredericton New Brunswick. He was going all the way to Montreal, but it was not worth the aggravation to stay in that vehicle any longer than I had to. There were other weirdos too.

As I sit here reflecting on those crazy days, I realize I would not trade them for anything.

They were great adventures, and I met some amazing people along the way, not the least of whom is Larry and his wife Maureen. All these journeys took me to YK where we met during the fall/winter of 1977, and we became fast friends enjoying lots of fun and interesting times together in Canada’s north and even a couple of visits in our later years.

My hitchhiking days (my old backpack below) are over so I will just have to live vicariously through Gordon Lightfoot’s Carefree Highway going forward.


Jim Ferguson

State of the (Dis)Union



It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the troubles of the world. To look outwards and stay focussed on all that is positive can be challenging.

Generally I do my best to avoid drinking up the deluge of information that emphasizes things I can worry over but which I have no control.

And yet…

When I read the essay below by my friend and frequent guest-blogger Jim Ferguson, I listen up because, as I know him, and as the way he describes himself near the end as, “Ever being the optimist…”, it prompts the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention.

So, let’s let the eternal optimist Jim carry you forward now from his unique perspective as a proud Canadian (and prouder HABS fan!) living in the tumultuous American milieu… Sir James?


Keep a room ready… I may be making a run for the border soon…

As usual, thanks to Larry for giving me a platform to express some thoughts.

As the title of this latest guest edition of Man on the Fringe suggests, I may be making a run for the border in the not-too-distant future.

No! I am not having a hankering for Timbits or the urge to get a hot plate of poutine. What I am witnessing before my very eyes is the socio-political infrastructure here in “the States” crumbling at a rapid rate and the thought of moving home to Canada seems more and more appealing to me.

Frankly, I have seen this coming for many years. No! I am not the great Kreskin or Nostradamus, but one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see the glaring evidence of a society in collapse.

The U.S. is such a society.

And believe me, when the tipping point is reached, it will impact my family and friends north of the border and globally. As the saying goes “As the U.S. goes, so goes the world”. I don’t know who said that but I’ve heard it down here for years.

For those who are history buffs, go back in time to the Holy Roman Empire and its collapse. Read Gibbons’ Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. History has a way of repeating itself over and over and over and…well you get the point.

Obviously, humanity A. hasn’t learned from past idiocy or B. doesn’t give a rat’s arse and keeps putting its proverbial hand on the burner over and over to see if it is in fact hot when turned on!

For those who have read my guest blogs before, you may recall that I am not involved in partisan politics. I do not belong to any party. Partisanship I find to be divisive and destructive to the general welfare of society, so I avoid it like the plague.

Oh yes! I vote but I try and examine the candidates and vote for character…not party. There’s a novel idea, eh! Having said that, the comments that follow are general and any likeness to any candidate or party is purely coincidental. Ok…I’ll do my best, but I am not perfect…😊

So… back to the collapse of American society.


Let’s look at the facts as I see them. I present my views in short, compact paragraphs. There’s no way to do a deep dive on each issue. I simply state them and offer a comment from my personal viewpoint and observations living in the States for the past 42-years.

First, this country, and so many others, is heavily driven by unbridled materialism.

Any nation that has such a leaning towards material pursuits at the expense of morality is doomed to fail. Think about it. If the almighty dollar is the ultimate value even more than human life itself, then human life will easily be sacrificed in favour of the almighty dollar and those in power who push such an agenda will not lose a moment’s sleep over it.

There must be a corresponding moral/spiritual/ethical code that leads to balance in society and brings out the nobility inherent in human beings so that the materialism is kept in check. If such morality does not exist what we see is what we are seeing now in the U.S. in the political realm where each party is accusing the other of being Godless, of killing the “others”, of lying, of cheating, etc.

When this occurs so freely, is anyone surprised when people fall into their “rigid identity” camps of their religion, their political party, their race, etc. and from inside those walls they can easily “other” those they feel are the cause of all of society’s problems?

It is happening before our very eyes and the result is societal collapse. When a group can “other” another group based on whatever criteria they choose, how long before it becomes acceptable to imprison the others or even kill the others.

I have seen this firsthand as a Baha’i with the persecution and execution of my co-religionists in Iran where many hundreds have been imprisoned and executed simply for their beliefs.

Second, I will state it for what it is. Pure and simple. Political corruption at all levels of government.

Corruption is rampant and the news daily is filled with glaring examples of the corruption. Here in the States, it is supposed to be government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Those days are long gone.

Special interests have control of the direction of the country and sadly the people suffer. There is evidence of this tragedy in every aspect of American life – politics, healthcare, education, equality, voters rights, etc.

I heard this joke about two honest politicians going into a bar… the punch line involving the fact that there is no such thing as an honest politician. How tragic is that!

It reminds me of one of my favourite movies – Gladiator – with Russel Crowe as Maximus and Richard Harris as Caesar Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius is talking with Maximus after the opening battle victory and asks him to be the protector of Rome after his death and give the power back to the people to which Maximus replies “this I cannot do sire”. Caesar states something like “that’s why it must be you Maximus”. In other words, the only honest politician is the one who would have the humility to decline the opportunity for such leadership.

America is struggling to find politicians of this type, and subsequently the nation has been dragged to the edge of the precipice and is teetering precariously on the edge. The notion of truth has been perverted to the extreme and people now hang their truth hat along party lines no matter if it is true or not. People often say that their truth is just as valid as someone else’s truth. They are willing to accept the poison as Kool-Aid and to continue to drink with healthy relish.

Third, I have talked about racism here in blogs but believe me when I tell you that racism has once again openly and freely reared its ugly head here in the States and it is frightening to witness.

When political leaders make blatant racist statements (as recently as today) publicly and make no attempt to hide their racism, it does not bode well for the survival of the nation. When police gun down innocent African Americans one after another, it does not bode well for the survival of the nation.

Racism did not end with the civil rights movement. There was no gathering around the White House with all colours singing Kumbaya! Dr. King’s dream of black and white children playing together in peace is still mostly a dream to many. Yes! There are models of unity throughout the country, but more is needed. Racism went underground and the guerrilla politics of the past few years have brought it out of its cesspool, and it is ugly and the stench is rank.


Fourth, the rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer.

This will not surprise any of you. This has been going on forever.

The problem today is that there seems to be no way out for the middle class and the poor. The economy, with its ups and downs, is collapsing and the “have nots” are in even worse shape. They cannot get decent jobs and subsequently cannot afford decent food, health care, etc. Their quality of life i.e. that mythical American Dream has been tossed out into the streets along with the families who bought into the nightmare. The current economic landscape does not bode well for survival of this nation.

Fifth, the loathing people have for their neighbours is palpable.

This hatred and antipathy are related to status, race, religion, economics…you name it!

I live in a small town in Oregon and maybe you have read about the great divide in Newberg, Oregon involving the school board and the tremendous disunity here.

It is sad as it has divided this community. I look out on the street where I live and there are yards with Republican candidate signs or slogans followed by Democrat candidate signs or slogans. Neighbours don’t talk to neighbours. Another sign of a decaying civilization.

Friends, I could go on. There are numerous other signs of the decline of American society.

It is now common talk among people here that depending on how the mid-term elections go it could lead to all-out civil war.

The BBC recently had an article on this. The reporter was interviewing people and one elderly couple in Arizona said they were ready for civil war and had armed themselves and were ready to fight to preserve “their way of life”.

Ever being the optimist, I am trying to be a catalyst for the positive and directing my energies towards the forces of light and away from those forces of darkness noted above. That’s all one can do I feel. No matter how dark things get, keep being a beacon of light in the darkness. Eventually others seeking the light will be attracted.

Keep your porch lights on and the spare bed ready in case I make a break for it. Thanks.