My dad, Frank Baccari, posing with Jasper the Bear in September 1983. You can’t tell but he has a pretty sweet ‘stache here.

The day after my father passed away, I came across a photograph of him in 1983, then strapping and 21, posing beside Jasper the Bear—a wallet-sized snapshot of a pit stop during his six-week trip cycling home to Toronto after three months of military training in Esquimalt, B.C. My dad vividly shared the tales of his western trek with my two brothers and me when we were growing up. But none were as urgent as the last time, just weeks earlier, when I pressed him for specific details as his body was quickly shutting down from
a three-year battle with multiple myeloma. That photo was the first thing I packed for my maiden voyage west in March with Rachele, my best friend since high school. Jasper was the final stop in our west coast adventure, for me a necessary pilgrimage to retrace the cross-country narrative I had mythologized as my father’s youth. More specifically, I came here searching for the statue of a cartoon bear.
Click here to read on about Ava’s journey to see Jasper the Bear…