Travels 27: Falling In Love Again [The Final Installment]

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense.

Take what you have gathered from coincidence.

The empty-handed painter from your streets,

Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets.

The sky, too, is folding under you

And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

     –Bob Dylan “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”

Carpe R-Pod.

     –Patrick Egan

Well, it’s over.  Our journey to the west coast and back is completed.  Now it is not a day-to-day reality, but a seedling memory, destined to grow and spread like Kudzu along a Virginia roadway.

All this may sound ponderous, but it isn’t over to me or to my wife, Mariam.  This trip was the longest I’ve made in decades.  It filled in many blanks in my mind’s geography.  I’ve seen places I have been dreaming about since I was a child.  I’ve met people in out-of-the-way places that won’t be easily forgotten.  For me, some stops were repeats from trips made as early as 1964.  For my wife, many of our destinations were new to her.  We’ve shared a great deal.

There are a million different ways I could have gotten from Rainbow Lake, NY to Orting, WA, but I chose one.  It was a ribbon of asphalt, sand, gravel and metal that led me to a certain door, of a particular house, on an average street where my grandson lived.

Don’t look for a PowerPoint “My Vacation” slide show, or a list of places I took pictures.  You’ve read my humble posts.  You got the general view of what happened along the way. ( I want to thank all the people who took time to read my goofy musings and please know that I appreciate your comments more than I can truly say.  I hope you found these blogs amusing, informative and thought-provoking.  Thank you for allowing me to play the role of tour guide in ways I hope were creative and worthwhile.)

So, how did this whole thing, this budget-busting, underestimated and exhausting trip change me?  What have I learned?  How am I different from I was on the morning of September 18, 2013?

The answer is that I fell in love again…in love again with emotions I feared were beginning to die inside me.  I’m invigorated and in love again.

In love with my wife, for being with me every mile of the way.  We argued routes, menus and which CD’s to play.  But we were hardly ever out of each others sight…something I want to keep happening.  The success of the trip was because of her genius and patience.  All I did was keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road (with only a side glance at the girls on the split-rail fences).  Remember,  I can multitask.

I experienced a renewal of the love I have for my daughter, Erin, as I watched her cuddle with Elias as I did with her forty years ago.  My love grew for Bob, her husband, for making my little girl happy.  And, Elias.  I am in love with my grandson.  Within days of our arrival, he began to crawl with serious intent.  This is no small issue; dealing with a ten-month old wanderer.  I will never forget the sight of Elias kicking with joy as he saw his daddy pull up in front of the house at the end of a work day.  If all children were loved like that…

I fell in love once again with my son, Brian, who encouraged me to continue the postings.  “It’ll be strange when they end,” he emailed me.

This country.  This amazing country is a place that can be loved in countless ways.  America has the beauty, geography, history and people who could keep one on the road forever.

Every person, eye, rock, tree, sand dune, mountain, lake, diner, hand, gas station or store has its own unique tale–but most will never be told.  Every face I saw is a doorway to ten thousand moments of joy, sorrow and all other emotions you can name.

I wish I could live a hundred more years just to open one or two of those doors.

And the land itself is a giant face…the face of “our land”, everyone’s land, regardless of any differences.  The “big picture” is joyfully heartbreaking to gaze upon.

It is polite to stare.  How else can you really absorb it all?

If you think it’s goodbye, it’s not.  There are more blogs in my head now than ever before.  I’ll be back…

So, happy trails to you, until we meet again.  Now, excuse me while I scrounge through our trip stuff to find that refrigerator magnet…the one that says Route 66 on it.

Awake, awake, the world is young,

For all its weary years of thought.

The starkest fights must still be fought,

The most surprising songs be sung.

     –J. E. Flecker

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Travels 12: A Rest Farewell

And though the line is cut,

It ain’t quite the end,

I’ll just bid farewell till we meet again.

—Bob Dylan “A Restless Farewell”

I’m sitting at Erin’s breakfast table composing the final post of our visit to Orting.  In an hour or so we will be on our way homeward.  The route back is going to be much different.  We’re heading down the Oregon coast for a few days, then into Northern California, Death Valley, Monument Valley (remember the John Ford westerns with John Wayne?).

On the way to Orting, each hour was just that many fewer miles between the R-Pod and Elias.  Now, each hour takes me farther away.

Thanks to the reasonable heads that reopened the Federal Government (and National Parks) late last night.  As far as I’m concerned, the Tea Party can go back to their districts and spin their loss any way they would like.  They failed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in a way that made the USA the laughing-stock of the educated and informed world.  I’m glad to put this disaster behind me.  Our only real remaining obstacle now is to get through Tioga Pass and over the Sierra Nevada Mountains before the highway is closed.  But these challenges are in front of us.  What’s behind us?  What will I remember about our visit?

The answer is far too long to answer in this short space.  We had a wonderful time here.  Elias has made progress even in the time we were here.  He is pulling himself up to a standing position with no effort at all.  I watched as he enjoyed story time at the local library.  I carved a scary pumpkin for him.  And, I’ve seen him meet new people with my wife’s special friend, Maureen and her husband who live in Seattle.

But all was not glory.  We made a drive to see the Olympic Peninsula but I wasn’t feeling that great so we returned after one night by a road that took us over the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge (where a previous bridge collapsed due to wind shear back in the 1940’s).  We never made it to Forks where the “Twilight” books are set.  But there were plenty of signs of the occult and esoteric in places like Port Townsend.

I must say that I did enjoy riding my bike for a few minutes along the Foothills Bike Path, until my front tire blew out.  It’s a good thing that I was wearing my helmet because when I fell my head came within two inches of an un-mowed patch of grass!

I also regret having a real coffee from one of those cute little cafes that serve one’s lattes from a drive-thru window.  These shacks seem to be particular to the Northwest.  I actually did stop at a few of these…but not the ones where the female baristas where bikinis.  Personally, I am offended by such a practice.  It is so not politically correct.  The male baristas should be made to wear bikinis as well…just sayin’.

So, now I’m off on the final leg of the journey.  Adventure calls.  Strange things will be seen.  I’ll even be driving part of the old Route 66, where I hope to get my kicks.

Friends and readers, more posts will be coming your way soon.  So, sit back and enjoy.

This time I’ll be following the rising sun.

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