Embracing a new life

Trish Drinkle brings us up to speed on her family’s spring adventures in Bonnyville, Alberta

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A guy in motocross gear ripping it up on the sand.

Northern Alberta has taught Leo a thing or two about riding. — Brook Evans photo

There have been days when we miss our mountain home with a deep sense of loss that has brought us to tears. We miss the clean running waters of the Kootenays and the warm, eclectic people of Ymir. I can still see the faces of those I’ve moved far away from. Most people have kept in touch, and for those friendships, neither time nor distance will stop the kindness and trust that flows within our relationships.

No, you cannot recreate a life. The only way to move forward is to embrace the new life expecting adventure. It is a different adventure, but the smiles, excitement and love are still the same. 

Life can get a little overwhelming. I used to go for walks in the forest when I was stressed out. Taking walks through town, I learned, is not the best way for me to relax. I end up yelling at the birds diving into the garbage, “You’re not real birds! Go eat some bugs! Bad birds, baaad birds. Go be a bird!” The ravens, seagulls and magpies hardly take notice, but the people around me wonder who that lunatic waving and yelling is, I’m sure. Cranky, I stink-eye anyone with a noisy loud truck with stack in my path. I need the forest to emotionally survive. Nature, animals, cool plants and water—this is what slows my mind down and stops the anxiety in the pit of in my stomach. The only way to move forward is to build a new life, one piece at a time. New stories, new adventures. Moving forward.

The most wonderful Mother's Day ever

“Good morning, Mama!” The kids were so excited to see me. “Open your present!!”

A fairly large box had sat in the middle of the living room from the night before. I was curious. What did they get me for Mother's Day? Why was this box so HUGE? We had to wait for Tatum to come down. All the kids were in the living room except for Tatum.

“Buggy,” I said. “Come downstairs, Mom’s going to open the present.” 

Knowing she is the most sensitive child in the family, I wanted to make sure she was downstairs to join in. 

“Mom, just open it, she won’t mind,” they all urged me, pleading and laughing. Why were they laughing? Poor Tatum, I thought. My poor little Tater Bug. 

“No, I will not,” I said. “I will not open the box until Tater is here to watch me open it.”

Then I heard it: giggle, giggle from inside the box. I had a Tater-in-the-Box for Mother’s Day! 

They were overjoyed to lavish me with such love. I truly am blessed. We then headed off for our Mother's Day adventure.

My boss, Terry, has been good to my family and I. Our Mother's Day adventure consisted of everyone riding and having a blast, courtesy of units from T&T Power Sports. To see my children’s smiles so big was the greatest gift for this mom.

I had continually questioned our move, wondering if we had made the right choice. It may sound simple, but the gift of family time, the gift of smiling children and the gift of a little braaap is what makes my world go round. I watched my husband show the children some moves in the sand with the quads and in no time they were whipping doughnuts, jumping, whooping and hollering in complete bliss. This past Mother's Day is going to go down in my books as one of the best I’ve ever had. 

Big lessons learned

Everyone who knows me will probably attest to the love and devotion I have for my kids. Like a grizzly bear, I will fiercely protect my cubs. If one of my cubs is getting a little cocky, however, I will teach him a lesson.

Fifteen-year-old Leo has grown about three feet in one year. He is a strong young man, full of confidence—and a little cocky. The cocky part can get you hurt if you are riding dirt bikes. He was getting a little reckless with the 230F dirt bike that Brook normally rides. Pushing it a little too far, I asked Kevan if Leo could ride his bike.

“He’ll probably wreck,” was his answer.

I nodded. “Yes, you are right, he probably will. Can he ride your bike for 10 minutes?”

He looked at me puzzled, then nodded. Leo was eager and he jumped on that bike and less than 10 minutes later, Leo and the bike parted ways in a cloud of dust. As he pushed the bike back to us he looked like a whipped puppy.

“Your mom called it, Leo,”  Kev said.

Leo looked confused. “Huh?” 

“Your mom figured you were going to wreck,” said Kev.

“Leo, remember when Mom asked you to take the garbage out, four times in one morning, and you still didn’t take it out?” I started.

He nodded.

“I’m pretty sure you just learned some good lessons: to respect the power of the bike you are riding, to ride to your ability, to pay attention, to ride at a responsible speed and to pay attention to what is around you,” I said.

He nodded again.

In a whiny nagging voice, I continued, “Leo, slow down. Leo, be careful! Leo, slow down! Leo, be careful! I’m pretty sure you would have ignored me. This way, you learned a lesson and know what to do different in the same situation. I can trust you to go riding with your friends and respect what you are riding. I trust you, son—sometimes lessons give you road rash.” 

“You’re nuts, Mom. I love you.”

That was over a month ago. Leo rides that bike well now. His skill has improved tenfold. There have been a few spills, but he’s staying clearly within his limits and growing as a young man and as a rider. We are incredibly proud of him. 

Mother and son bonding time

One Saturday afternoon, Leo came to me wondering what I had planned for the rest of the day. My husband was under the weather, so nada was my reply. 

“Let’s go for a ride. You and I,” he proposed. 

To me this is such a compliment—my 15-year-old son wants to hang out with his mom. We left from home on the bikes. I admired his skills and his protective nature, always looking back to make sure his old mama didn’t bite the dust.

In the forest, we had many surprises. There is a part of our frequent riding area that reminds me of “the shire” from The Lord of the Rings. It may be how the trees are growing, the magical flowers, the cushy moss—I’m not sure. But there is something special about the forest.

Our first stop was in front of an osprey nest perched high atop a power pole. The mom and dad were taking turns feeding the babies. We could just barely see their poky little heads in the nest, but we could hear them. As we continued into the forest, two white-tailed deer darted past us. Leo stopped and smiled, pointing. Farther along the trail, an owl flew between us, leaving me with such a feeling of gratitude. Owls, to some, signify wisdom. The wise old owl. It was a sign that we were on the right path, our choice to live in the land up north was a good one. It was a wonderful day, for mother and son. 

Wednesday Night Rides

As I dashed in the door after work, I saw my water bladder for my backpack all filled up and my dirt bike gear all laid out waiting for me. It’s Wednesday Night Rides time! This is a weekly ride hosted by T&T Power Sports for customers and friends. Eager for us to hit the road, the kids usually get my gear ready for the ride. The kids enjoy this time, sometimes bringing their friends along to share in the fun. Getting to know good people and helping new riders gain confidence on their machines, the Wednesday Night Rides have been fun for everyone.

The first ride, which was about a month and a half ago, was pretty thin. Terry, my husband and I were the only people to go out, but we used that time to clean up some of the messes in that riding area. By the time we went home, there was an entire truck box filled with garbage.

Now our rides consist of many participants, with some on dirt bikes, some on quads and some on side-by-sides, and all are out there to have a great time.

Loading up the bikes one night, a group of teens came to drop off pallets for that weekend’s party.

“Noooo, don’t, Mama!” Brook pleaded with me.

She had recognized some of those teens from her high school but it was too late. Mom was on a mission. I walked up to them and started talking. We decided that parties are OK and fires are OK—provided there isn’t a fire ban and that they have them in one spot only. The nails and screws from pallets pop tires and make a mess. I congratulated them for using condoms if they choose to have sex, I DO NOT, however, want to be the one picking them up, along with all the other litter that can accompany parties. They were pretty cool kids, and the gentleman whose birthday they were celebrating gave me his word that they were going to clean up. I chuckled. 

Brookie saw them at school the following day and nothing was said about our discussion, but the boys were incredibly impressed that she rides dirt bikes. They asked her if she wanted to come to the party.

“Um, I’m OK,” she replied. “I’m more of a dirt biker than a partier,”

Good game bum slap Boo—Mom loves you.

Fishing for JAWS

Ahh, Brook cried. I recognized that wail. Fish on, then off, and then cry. I know it well. We were fishing off a bridge by Franchere Bay on Moose Lake and Brook had had a monster bite, but lost it. The girls and I were skunked, but we had a lovely afternoon. Loading up the truck, I asked the gentlemen beside us if they’d had any luck. Yes, they replied, and pointed to the Rubbermaid container beside their truck.

“Do you mind if I show the girls?” they asked.

Absolutely not. Holding up the smaller jackfish, Tatum and Brook’s eyes were like two saucers. 

“Seriously,” they said. “That is what we were trying to catch! Are you crazy, Mom? OK, yes you are. But MOM! That is nuts! it’s like a shark!” 

The men were amused watching the girls' reaction.

“Oh sweetie, these are just tiny ones,” I said. “Here, want to feel their teeth?”

They were mortified. I was in hysterics. The girls broke it down for me. 

“Mom, the fish from B.C. were like fish from Finding Nemo. The fish here, they are like from the movie JAWS. Da da . . . da da da da . . . DA DA . . .”

We all laughed. Grossed out they may be, but eager to land one of those mutants they are.

Legends come alive

When I was young, my father usually told me bedtime stories. One of the frequent heros of slumbertime was Joe Leprat, a local Bonnyville trapper my dad and uncle met along the trail. They were stuck after duck hunting one night, with no hope of getting out. Joe appeared from nowhere and helped them out of the deep muddy hole they were stuck in. My dad always put Leprat into the stories. Fictional tales of a real man. Joe Leprat meets a bear. Joe and the wolverine. We had dozens of Joe stories.

Well, one day, he walked into T&T Power Sports. I almost fell off my chair when he told me his name. I filled him in on my bedtime stories and he laughed and laughed. Well into his 60s, this kind and gentle man remembered my dad and uncle. We spent part of the afternoon talking and I was overjoyed. Real Joe Leprat stories! As we parted, Joe gave me a big hug.

“We’ll see you soon, my dear,” he said. 

Adventures out the wazoo

That is our life.The people of Northern Alberta are hard-working people. It is a fast life and we are adapting. According to my children, I am now driving "like an Albertan.”

I have much respect for the hard-working people up here. Many people have moved here from Newfoundland—with a dialect I was not used to until now. Getting used to trail sleds, mud machines and mosquitos are other new adventures. 

We have some goals as the warm summer night closes in on us. We want to midnight swim under northern lights. OK, the Kootenay hippie is still alive and well inside my heart. Those who know me will read the above sentence as, “Trish can’t wait to skinny dip beneath the northern lights.” 

For more on Trish Drinkle's Off the Beaten Track series, see SnoRiders | Off the Beaten Track.

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