Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. I feel it is the urge to drive...

I wake up briefly, and I have a routine 3 am drive. I have insomnia and have since I was about five years old. I usually jump on the highway near the house here and it's ten minutes to the 24-hour drive-through to grab a coffee and then take the freeway to the American border. It's only 20 kilometers (12 miles) away. I haven't crossed the border since Covid started; I just do a U-turn at the last border exit.

YES, what a PRICELESS confluence of ocean, mountains, an extinct volcano, and the 49th parallel which is the actual point of entry into America. I live in Vancouver, Canada; I accept there are places with poor or non-existent roads or freeways. I have lived in cities where this might not be pleasurable. But I can do a huge 30-minute loop around our freeways and capture the best views the world has given this small piece of river delta called the Lower Mainland where Vancouver sits amidst a backdrop of ski hills. Washington State calls its region the Pacific Northwest. We often call this area God's Backyard but so often it's God's Parking Lot.

Still, I think the cure for insomnia is driving when you're the only car on the road. I admit I'm fortunate to have this wonderful location to myself, even a road I call my Bible. Everyone should visit Vancouver simply for the small triangle of land I call home. It is "Spectacular by Nature," as the slogan goes. But the traffic, like everywhere else, is hell.

I'm passing Mt. Baker, the Pacific Ocean, and the American and Canadian islands, all in the dark. But in the daytime, it is an intense view. It's about 25 minutes to get there, to the border between Canada and America. I love driving, it was a passion until three accidents removed it and replaced it with anxiety.

Insomnia has many causes; I would add an excess Coke Zero and anything with caffeine to this list. And I'd put them first. I mean, you need a little buzz to get you up; even with insomnia, coffee is great.

Living near the 49th parallel meant my Summer vacations were largely in the USA. When people would come to Vancouver on trips, I'd drive them out to one of the cold metal demarcation markers signifying the number out of some 5000 of them. On one side, it says CANADA, and the other says US of AMERICA. There are no fences; it's just a forested road. And to get it in its full glory, you have to walk around it, which technically means you illegally crossed the country unnoticed.

If you cross illegally, you could be charged with war crimes, invasion, or gluttony. I like to point this out as we stand in the middle of a dense forest. Too dense to even get a stretcher through. It's not easy to coordinate a car accident in Canada that ends up in America.

Contrast America's southern border, and it's a different world. And if you drive down Zero Avenue, you can get out and see the original markers from Canada and America; run around it, enter American bush that so thinks you couldn't get a stretcher to declare war on the U.S.

I actually did this neat staged scene for a camera course I'm taking. But I got a lousy mark on my final assignment, though I suspect my teacher didn't notice the 180-degree swivel sans a gimbal, from Canada-to-America. Dammit, I committed felonies for that shoot!

Few people have a road as a religious path, but it's a road to put on your map. Zero Avenue is my Bible; things, even trees, are geopolitically milestones. You can be driving in Canada and see some old guy ten feet away checking his mailbox. Completely different lives lived. Even though we're brethren. In fact, the Peace Arch has gates inside and above them that read: MAY THE GATES NEVER CLOSE... and then they were closed during Covid.

* * *

This is a therapy drive I do since three car accidents in three years, none my fault, have left me anxious when I'm driving. I've probably done this drive almost 300 times since Covid self-isolation was the thing to fear. I like driving when the idiots are asleep. I do a U-turn at the border and return the way I came. In 15 minutes, I'll be back in bed. It is a midnight drive like no other on Earth.

Maybe you should go out in your city at 3 am, and drive the freeways without any idiots, be it Chicago, Toronto, Miami, Los Angeles, Toky0, Beijing, or London - these are incredible freeway cities. And anywhere, there's a freeway. You've got Interstates choke-holding American corridors; you can find one to drive on. The road infrastructure was to be used at night too.

I would like to know your thoughts on driving your fairly empty freeways at 4 am and the therapeutic driving around cloverleaves and shooting across overpasses.

What cities does this work well in/which does it not? Streetcleaners and garbage men are out early. If you have a story about your driving experience, with your music, with your head out the window at 4 am, please send it to:

Mayo Clinic
Car & Driver

OF RUSSIA: A Year Inside

Brent (Brant is the Russian version) Antonson has seen a Russia few foreigners have. Indeed, few Russians. This young Canadian ventured to Voronezh, eleven hours south of Moscow by train, to spend a year inside a country torn by strife, fresh into a new century, and struggling with the clash between history and future. Tasked with teaching English to students at one university, and then a second, his story is riddled with romance and deception, and punctuated with near disaster and disappointment. Antonson's candour and insights set Russia on the edge of failure and achievement – much like the students he educated, filled with a dash of hope and a lump of fear. His wit did as much to get him in trouble as it did to keep him out of it.

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