“The discovery of the North Pole is one of those realities which could not be avoided. It is the wages which human perseverance pays itself when it thinks that something is taking too long. The world needed a discoverer of the North Pole, and in all areas of social activity, merit was less important here than opportunity.” – Karl Krauss, Australian journalist, critic, playwright and poet (1874-1936)
Early morning flight from Taipei into Hong Kong. So early I struggled to keep my head up in the taxi and then whilst transferring between airports.
Asia, although exotic and intoxicating and quite simply grand on a scale beyond anything I can explain in one line can be a frustrating place to live at times. In Taiwan, where I’ve spent the last year, it is never quite possible to be the first in line. When you’re waiting to cross the street at a crosswalk, a fellow pedestrian, 9 times out of 10, will step directly in front of you to wait for the green, even if you’re the only two people on the curb. Step out into the street, whilst idling at the designated line on your scooter, and ten other scooters will cut in front, blocking from every conceivable angle even the idea of an unadulterated start. Something incredibly important about securing the right to go first.
But all of that is now behind me. I sit rather comfortably in my
aisle economy seat on a brand new B777-200 floating across the Laptev Sea in
a rather northerly direction – having just past Beijing and now Russia –
I am at ease. We’re now at the part of the onboard flight map that is one big hunk of white (ice) and so I’ve enveloped myself in my weatherproof British Wax Jacket in a symbolic nod to the elements, just outside. And yet I am not quite yet free.
Freedom is going to come shortly in the form of a 16’3” Old town canoe. It’s going to be myself and the River. Man vs. Nature. To begin with, at the Mississippi River’s source. In a place in the world where I’m told one will find more bald eagles per capita than quite literally anywhere else on the globe.
The only thing blocking my progression down this river, at this
stage, will be the legendary, dreaded beaver dams. Although I’m secretly looking forward to encountering these obstacles more than I can say – even if they will mean several tiresome portages. It’s going to be totally surreal and it’s most certainly going to be wild.
Next stop: Newark, NJ, with the obligatory two-step into NYC, to be followed directly thereafter by a hop, skip, and a jump into Minneapolis/St. Paul. My old friend Ansel, whom I originally met in Taipei some years ago, has agreed to put me up in his flat overlooking the Mississippi River in the industrial part of that fine city. Until my brother and sister-in-law can pick me up for the five-hour journey up-state towards the headwaters of Lake Itasca. Where I plan to encounter for the first time in a very long time the phenomenon known as “pole position” – traveling old-school Old Town throughout the solitary wilds of nature.