4,500 Miles of Open Road Therapy

How a hellish cross country motorcycle ride helped this photographer make peace with the loss of his best friend and companion

4,500 Miles of Open Road Therapy

Author

Anthony Aquino

Photographer

Anthony Aquino

Camera

Canon EOS 1V

Film

Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak TMAX 400

On the last day of the school year, I jumped in my truck with my dog, Duende and we headed west. It’s become a habit, and a chance for me to travel and work on my art. But last year was different. After teaching art at a public high school in upstate New York for 10 years, I decided to leave the profession behind and focus full time on photography. I would not be making the trip back east at the end of summer. Portland, Oregon would be my new home.

Sadly, Duende became very ill shortly after arriving in Portland. I was told she only had a few days left. Just shy of 14 years old, she had been healthy and strong all her life. Suddenly she was dying. We packed my truck and headed to the coast for one last weekend together. When we returned, to our new home, she passed peacefully in my arms at our apartment. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through.

She was my friend and companion for 14 years, and every day I had responsibilities in taking care of her. The lack of her presence and the daily routines that were part of our lives left a serious vacancy for me. I didn’t know what to do with myself without her. So I flew back to New York and headed upstate where my motorcycle had been waiting for an inevitable cross country ride. I always knew the trip would be a kind of therapy for me, but I didn’t know it would be for Duende.

Anthony-Aquino-Moto-Canada-7

In the past I’ve spent weeks at a time on my motorcycle. I haven't found any other activity that requires so much focus while simultaneously allows you to process the thoughts in your head. So, I headed back west, this time through Canada.

"With the border crossing came the rain."

For the first four days I was joined by good friends Adam and Todd. We rode to a motorcycle rally just south of Buffalo, NY on day one and spent the next couple riding, and drinking. From there, Todd and I headed north to Buffalo and crossed the Peace Bridge into Canada. With the border crossing came the rain.

We rode the Queen Elizabeth Highway until we found Rt. 6 to take us up to Tobermory. From there we would catch the ferry to Manitoulin Island. It rained the whole way. We stayed on 6 north of Espanola where it meets the Trans Canada Highway, and camped there one more night. The rain held up just long enough in the morning to pack up camp and say our farewells.

I was now alone with the road and my thoughts, and of course, the rain and the cold. Depression set in quickly. Adam and Todd had kept me distracted from the loss of Duende. She was a friend they too had loved. From then on my distractions were found at each stop to refuel, eat, and warm up.

And I did find some respite. Then, back on the road in the rain and cold, my mind would relapse to the loss of my best friend. I would try to remember all the good times we shared together, but I could only think of the end when she was sick.

Call it luck, good or bad, but Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and eastern Alberta brought nothing but straight roads, cold weather, rain, and hellacious winds. In Manitoba the winds were coming from the south, hard. I rode 300 miles leaning solidly into the winds on my left with the more than occasional rag-doll wind gusts hitting me from the north. I was fighting the wind so hard I didn’t have time to think of anything else. Then Saskatchewan came with winds from the north, occupying my mind for another 400+ miles from the other direction.

The winds didn’t die down until I reached the Canadian Rockies, on the edge of Alberta and British Columbia.

Anthony-Aquino-Moto-Canada-3

Anthony-Aquino-Moto-Canada-14

Anthony-Aquino-Moto-Canada-5

Anthony-Aquino-Moto-Canada-2

With the rise of the mountains came an inclination in my mood. The winding roads were a change I desperately needed. I finally remembered the good times—and there were a lifetime of them—all mine to remember again. My sister had said to me shortly after Duende’s passing, “I think she’s been more places than I have, or will ever be. You gave her such a great life.” I hope I did, I know how much she gave me.

"Even in the bitter cold mornings while racing to catch the sunrise, my body beyond numb, and shivering to the point of danger, a smile was on my face."

I stayed in Banff, Jasper, and Whistler and saw so many beautiful places. At each location, I would get sad knowing I could never bring Duende back there with me, but I was also able appreciate all we had done together. It allowed me to focus on celebrating her life rather than mourn her passing. Even in the bitter cold mornings while racing to catch the sunrise on a lake, my body beyond numb, and shivering to the point of danger, a smile was on my face.

Anthony-Aquino-Moto-Canada-20

Anthony-Aquino-Moto-Canada-10

The end of the trip brought more rain. Making and breaking camp each day with no ease in the weather. Riding day and night soaking wet, looking through a fogged mask with low visibility. I was still cold, but had managed to find new gratitude on the open road.

When I think about my trip through Canada, it’s easy to recall the rain and cold. But I remember the lakes, mountains, and people who were so gracious to me too. And I remember Duende. We made that ride together.

Anthony-Aquino-Moto-Canada-17

Related articles
Field Mag Releases New Film Photo Zine FMO2: WINTER
FM02: WINTER Is Here! Our Second Film Photo Zine Is Now Live

The follow up to our sold out SUMMER edition delivers 70 color pages of 35mm and medium format film photos from 35 of our favorite photographers

Experience the "Real Japan" by Hiking the 1,000 km Michinoku Coastal Trail
Michinoku Coastal Trail Guide: What to Know About Japan's New 1,000 km Trail

This scenic trail winds through rugged coastlines, dense forests, and historic towns, helping revitalize a region still reeling from the 2011 tsunami

Behind the Scenes at the 2023 Vans Pipe Masters on Oahu's North Shore
Photo Essay: Behind the Scenes at the 2023 Vans Pipe Masters Surf Competition

35mm and medium format film photos from the legendary Hawaiian surf competition where the world's best surfers compete for $500k in cash—and glory

Searching for Surf and Safe Passage in the Gulf of Alaska
Photo Essay: Searching for Surf and Safe Passage in the Gulf of Alaska

A two-week boat trip through surfing's final frontier brings snow-capped mountains, icebergs and sea lions, hot springs and epic vistas

Battling Altitude and Ego While Hut Hiking in the Italian Dolomites
Battling Altitude and Ego While Hut Hiking in the Italian Dolomites

Faced with the unyielding effects of thin air, one hiker learns to let go of self expectations and what should be to enjoy what is

An Off-Grid Field Test with Amundsen, Deep in the Rugged Maine Backcountry
An Off-Grid Field Test with Amundsen, Deep in the Rugged Maine Backcountry

Exploring the North Woods by float plane, canoe and on foot to discover the Norwegian spirit of friluftsliv and turn a weekend in nature into eternity

More articles
4,500 Miles of Open Road Therapy

Gallery Mode

Photographer

Anthony Aquino

Camera

Canon EOS 1V

Film

Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak TMAX 400

Back to article
Get Free Shipping on our New Photo Book!

Meet WINTER, a fine art photo zine full of adventure inspiration

  • 70 pages of beautiful photography
  • 35 international contributors
  • Limited-edition & hand numbered
  • Printed in NYC with love
  • Use code "ZINEME" for free shipping
Shop Now
Get Free Shipping on our New Photo Book!