Muscles tensed, I take a deep breath, dive under water. Uninterested in bathing, Baylor sits on the mid-river island laughing as I come up gasping from the cold shock. Toes drifting in the current, I lie on the sun toasted rocks while Baylor follows his nose to more interesting places. Gone just a few minutes, he comes back. Sits awkwardly close. I try to get him interested in a stick, but he’s not having it. What’s up dude? You’re acting weird. He scoots closer. Alright let’s go.
Finding the shallow spot, we leave our island, head for the opposite shore. Baylor runs up the steep bank and I follow suit. Reaching the top I turn back for one last look at the river. Can’t help but laugh. Baylor did his part, but I got my lines all wrong. When he sat awkward close I was supposed to say, What’s that Lassie? There’s a fleet of fly fisherman on the other side of the rocky berm? Guess our river retreat wasn’t as remote as it first seemed.
Approaching the border I’m struck at how simultaneously arbitrary and powerful it is. The landscape looks the same, sounds the same, smells the same, yet feels markedly different. Deep-seated patriotism taking over, my excitement about crossing back into the states grows. The man at the border dutifully asks the required questions then quickly moves on to talking about the adventure, sharing stories of the places north and south he’s road tripped. Looking at the growing lineup of cars behind me, he finally says, Well, guess you better go. Enjoy the ride.
Though the unknown start of any adventure is surely a delight, there’s something to be said for returning to a place. For driving along roads already traveled, using memory instead of maps to reach a destination, cruising towards the familiar. The passage of time is particularly evident in the agrarian countryside; oceans of corn swaying in the breeze, signs for apples and pears replacing the call for u-pick berries. Seeing a roadside stand, I pull off. Happily hand over 11 quarters in exchange for 4 perfectly ripe nectarines and a massive peach. Wiping sweet, sticky juice from my chin, I toss Baylor a bite. Think Joel Salatin would approve. As he says, This magical, marvelous food on our plate, this sustenance we absorb, has a story to tell. It has a journey. It leaves a footprint. It leaves a legacy. And carefully, locally grown food is a tasty story we can be proud of.
Sun low in the sky, I consider how far we should drive tonight. Calculating distance, I know I don’t want to be stuck for the night in the urban sprawl stretching from Seattle to Portland. Better to get a good night’s sleep around these parts and brave the cities during the day tomorrow. Vague memories of an idyllic seaside town and beach campground filling my mind, we cruise east.
Farmland giving way to beach cottages, I spot an army of RVs peaking through the trees. Pulling up to the welcome hut, I wave at the young guy inside.
Hi, just wondering if there are any tent sites available, I ask as I pull open the hut door.
Are you a member? he asks.
Probably not, because I have no idea what that means, I say laughing.
The woman at the computer shakes her head, no spots available.
The guy laughs, looks like you’re on quite the adventure.
Mentioning Alaska the woman perks up. She was born there and we enjoy talking about it’s massive beauty, various must-see spots. Conversation winding down, I prepare to leave.
So you just need a spot for the night? she says.
Pulls out the map, highlights the row of tent site. Go pick one you like.
Fiery sunset reflecting on the water, Baylor and I wander down the rocky shore. Tomorrow we return to Bend. Come full circle and officially wrap up Phase 1. The conclusion of one chapter and beginning of another.
Time to look ahead, pour over maps and launch the next phase of the adventure. Three states and two provinces visited, the rest of North America awaits.
69 days down. Many to come.