"No really, it’ll work. We leave the city at 5:00 am tomorrow, drive the four and a half hours and two ferries, hike to the waterfall, I get the shot in under an hour and then you guys can continue on your trip north and I’ll take my bike out of the truck and bike back the 175kms to Vancouver. Making it back for a solid 6 hours of sleep for my job the following morning."
It all seemed so clear and practical to me as I explained this to two of my dear friends amongst a rooftop party for another equally dear friends birthday.
The urgency and the idea spawned from sharing the desire I had to capture an image of our friend who lived across the planet. Bernard, or simply Bern as he’s known to us, had been filmed running off a waterfall midst doing a backflip some years ago and I just could not seem to get the image out of my mind. The image had stayed with me to point that was too long to sit on any further. Which brings us to this rooftop where I’m sharing this dream with friends whom are all of acquaintance to Bernard.
"Bern’s in the country. He’s staying at my house and we’re actually leaving for The Sunshine Coast tomorrow to explore for the weekend."
Timing is everything. It can give clear opportunity to strike but it can also diminish a sudden whim. This was both. Every asset was available. Bern, the waterfall, the trip and equally as importantly, the ride. Which was the catch. I had yet to learn how to drive. And with this place being so far from where we stood, I saw no easy way to make this opportune while also showing up for Sunday. I had biked the sunshine coast before and reasoned that I could bike the whole way back in one fell swoop before end of day.
It was Friday night, the sun had just set, this trip was tomorrow and I had a very big assignment at sunrise of Sunday back down in the city. So somehow, I’d have to drop everything this minute, go with this gang, make it up there, capture exactly what I needed and disband with enough daylight to ride a bicycle the 175 kilometres and two ferries back before the last ferry stopped for the night on Saturday at 9pm.
I convinced myself it was possible. So I convinced my friends of the same.
"But we’d have to change the itinerary of your trip. You’re leaving too late. I need more day light for the bike ride. Can we turn the 9:30am wake up call to 4:30am instead so that we can catch the first ferry to speed this up a little?"
"Yes why not. Let’s!"
God bless my friends and the alcohol that fired everyone up to believe this idea to be a good one.
"… maybe we should all stop drinking then?"
"One more and then let’s all go straight home to our beds!" the other roared in a cry that called for war like no one had ever done before regarding sleep.
What unfolded throughout the morning was smooth and seamless. Just as I claimed it to be. The bicycle and myself waited on the street in the dark of the same evening’s dark skies, threw my bike in the truck and jumped in. I was immediately reprimanded and yelled at for rescheduling 8 people’s sleeps without anyone really having any real notice. I gladly took that lashing as I was happily in dept to them for this. Upon completed earful, everything turned positive, a great big drive ensued and we laughed the whole time right to the destined waterfall.
Let it be known that this is a special place on all accounts and has a lot to offer beyond what you see in the image above. - And just like I claimed (claimed being the key word), we hiked in, captured much in that quick hour and experienced a moment that was significant for all on many levels.
This was my que to head home. Ferry schedules didn’t allow any room for myself to sit back and enjoy. I heaved my bike out of the bed of the truck and said my goodbyes. Not two minutes later it started to rain. A lot.
I had never realized just how hilly The Sunshine Coast Highway was. And it was all hills. I had known this from biking it so many times already. I guess I had just never equated those hills to a commute and an appointment to make. Last minute panic had me thinking there was no way I could do this terrain in the little light left in the day combined with the downpour and make it back to the last 9pm ferry to the mainland.
Biking as fast as I could to the ferry terminal, I paid and immediately started talking to every pickup truck driver for a hitch. No’s across the board. Every single driver had their story or reason. The era of Sal Paradise was no more. I stood in the rain waiting for the ferry, leaning against my bike weighing in my options. I couldn’t cancel the job. It just didn’t work like that. I didn’t have a tent much less a sleeping bag so I wouldn’t be able to sleep along the way and wake up for the first run the following morning.
Close to boarding time, a father whose truck was filled with his family six offered to take my bike and suggested that I start asking cars for hitches. Midst conversation a woman and her newborn son approached us to enquire. After explaining she replied, “Great, you can drive my car. It’s just me and bubbles and I could use the break.” “Bubbles?” “My son, he’s 5 months and the nicknames because he’s always blowing bubbles.” “Sorry but I can’t drive.” “You can’t?!” “That’s why I’m riding the bike.”
"That’s ok, you can still drive us."
"No you don’t understand. I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car in some five years."
Having convinced her but offering to take care of bubbles during the ride, she agreed and I slept during the first ferry. I woke up late and rushed down as all of the cars were starting to drive off the ferry. The mother stood amongst the revved up traffic coddling bubbles who was mid screaming fit.
"He hasn’t stopped crying this entire ferry ride. I can’t put him in his seat like this and drive. You’re going to have to drive and I’ll take care of him in the back.
"You’ve got this."
And she actually threw me the keys, landing in both of my hands as if I was braced to catch a rugby ball. My arms sunk down dramatically from the weight that was measured in my fear.
Without further argument, I got in the drivers seat. As I was putting the keys in the ignition my lane was rolling off the ferry. Panic immediately set in as I heard dozens of cars behind me revving to get off this ship which required me to start moving. I said aloud, “Press down on the brake to put move the gearshift into drive.” Still unsure of which to this day, I rolled off the ferry at a speed that I believed to be the fastest, most reckless speed the ferry staff had ever seen drive off the boat. Though it may have only been 3km’s an hour. Either way, I was confident the shipmates knew I didn’t know how to drive.
"Great! Since you’re up there, you can drive us the whole way." comes from the back.
I dared to meet her eyes through the rear view mirror while maneuvering the immediate sharp turns and waves of hills that is the Sunshine Coast Hwy. She was without seatbelt or much of a top as she breast fed Bubbles while leaning with the turns I was most surely taking too sharply.
"This is a great way for you to learn and I’m far too tired to drive anyways." I urged her to put on a seat belt and she told me that she would after breastfeeding and that I should break a little bit before accelerating into turns. I ended up driving all the way back to the city, arms stretched out in front of me so rigid as if to stop a linebacker from an inevitable tackle. Knuckles literally sheet white.
We even stopped once at a gas station, just for her to get some things. Bubbles stayed in the car with me. I looked back at him, now finally quiet after a solid hour of crying while I learned how to drive again, made eye contact between the two of us and said, “You do realize Bubbles that I could steal this car and you right now.”
But we made it. Not only on time for the last ferry back to the city. But alive and in one piece to boot. Which makes me laugh. Because I captured the image stuck in my head, made it to the gig the next morning and my bike even made it to the ferry as well.
By any decent rationale I should have never attempted this trip. It was not an available opportunity had most processed this before hand. But it was possible in that it was exciting and a little wild of an attempt. It required an entire world of friends, strangers, functioning trucks, boats, decent light and correct film exposures. I asked a lot of the world to align to make one simple image happen. There really wasn’t any time for for error to take place. But if we never take time, how can we ever have it?