In 1970 a 17-year-old Ralph Martin dropped his cap into the surf at Long Beach on the far side of Vancouver Island. When he recovered his headgear he told himself, “You know what? I dipped this in the Pacific, I’m going to go dip this hat in [the Atlantic].”
Three weeks later, after an eventful hitchhiking odyssey, Martin stood on the northern coast of New Brunswick. In the presence of one confused onlooker he made his “ceremonial” dip into the Atlantic Ocean.
“There I was on the beach, took the hat off – there’s nobody around, it was kinda a crummy day – so I go down and I’m pretending I have a crowd and I dip the hat in and I put it on and I’m taking bows,” he recalled.
More than 40 years later the Qualicum Beach resident set out to repeat that trip with his wife in an old camper van. As they passed familiar places, Martin was struck by flashbacks from his original trip. He started keeping a travel diary sprinkled with teenage memories.
Martin kept those pages tucked away in a desk for years until he finally resolved to turn them into a book.
“My daughter actually said, ‘I’ve got a friend and she’s a writer and she says she has to write every day and that’s all there is to it. That’s her job,’” he said.
“And I thought, ‘If I’m going to finish this book, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll just write every day.’ So I did and it got be to the point where, yes, I finally got it done.”
Cross Canada Adventures: Two Journeys a Lifetime Apart was released at the end of 2017 and on Saturday, April 7, Martin will share some of his stories at the Nanaimo North Library. Some hitchhiking stories include brushes with the law, like one day in Goderich, Ont. that began with Martin castrating pigs on a farm and ended with a party and a police chase.
Cross Canada Adventures is Martin’s first non-children’s book. He said when he received the a copy of the proof from the publisher he did a “happy dance” in his living room.
“It was really kind of a lifetime wish that I had [to] see my name in print, so it’s pretty vain but I don’t care,” Martin said.
“I enjoyed it and I think people I’ve talked to who have had a read of the story said, ‘Yeah, it’s fun,’ and that’s all I care about.”
WHAT’S ON … Ralph Martin reads from Cross Canada Adventures: Two Journeys a Lifetime Apart at Nanaimo North Library on Saturday, April 7 at 2:30 p.m.