I have a vivid memory of the first time I saw the San Juan Islands. In a park, somewhere on the Washington Coast I took photos of a magic sunset, beams of light pointing down to the spattered land masses while my good friend Sarah stood close, both us smiling, calmy content.
When I pedaled down to Washington Park in Anarcortes, three years later on the final day of my bike tour – it was with a leaping heart that I realised: I recognised where I was.
Complex patterns on a map are usually the only reference I have for my surroundings… If I’m familiarising myself with the area, it’s generally on the way out of town. In the Carribean I was comforted by well-known trees and plantlife… now I was soothed by seeing old photos come to life. The pier we dangled our legs from still stood, sturdy as ever, and it may well have been the same fisherman tying up at the dock after another long day.
This syncronicity marked the beginning of a beautiful period. Old threads are pulling together – old friends, old memories, clearing through the cobwebs. My welcome into Vancouver was from a familiar face – James, the first stranger I met on my coast-to-coast, way back in Nyack, New York. Originally from Canada and visiting for the week, he came to escort me off the ferry and, through his brother organised amazing accomodation for my stay in the city. A beginning and an end.
Then I got my oldest friend ever, Ange, like a lung full of fresh air. Her familiar sneezes, her tales about Australia… the tim-tams in her backpack – all such comforting delights! The same city brought me Leon too, the Irishman I cycled with through Ontario who had also just arrived by bike. We ate ice-cream and giggled over coffee, able to pick up where we left off. It was rejuvenating to take a break from the usual 20 questions, all the getting-to-know you fluff.
If ever there was a story that needed an ending, it was Guisepi’s – (freeteaparty.org). We met during my last trip to the States, and frolicked together up and down the coast, falling in love along the way. To credit just one person for igniting my wanderlust would be too simple and too difficult – but there’s no denying Guisepi is partly responsible. He sparked my love of freight trains, he dumpstered my first bin-meal and just generally set an example for low-cost, high-adventure, freedom. I flew home, that time, with a broken heart and a longing to return… it took three years and a lot of other journeys – but finally I made it back.
So hugging him again, after only loose letter and email contact, felt as complete a circle as any. We spent a long time just looking at eachother – waiting for the surreal to become reality. Then it was a full week of endless chatter, sharing all that we have learnt in the absence and inspiring eachother once more. We wrote letters by the lake and rode our bikes over the hills… we made tea every hour, tried Tibetan and Chinese brews and read stories from our books (his on tea, mine on bikes) until the night came to a close.
More serendipity and I found myself a ride to Eugene with Mariah, a Madisonian and someone I felt I knew already. With a reloaded bike I managed 5 days of blissful pedaling down the coast, across the Oregon/California border… until time ran out and I went back to thumbing it.
My Dad and Niece were arriving to San Francisco airport at 10 o’clock Saturday morning. Straight off the highway, I stumbled to the arrivals terminal at 10.20. Dads suspenders, flannel shirt and beat up suitcase were easy to spot and tears came as I hugged him again after almost three years. My sister and her partner Dani flew in from Barcelona later that night, and for the first time in a long time, I went to sleep with family under the same roof.