A year ago today, I pulled out of my parents’ driveway in Athens, Ga., Rennie behind me in Roxanne, because he was not yet riding shotgun all the time, and my mom and sister standing on the curb, waving at us both through the windshield. It was the beginning of my Facebook Tour and I had no idea what lay ahead of me, other than open road. Three-hundred and 65 days later, here we are, about 2,700 miles away from that starting point but if you’ve been following the adventures since then, you know that it was not a straight path to get here. There were boats to row, mountains to climb, doggies to mend, axles to fix, axles to snap, new wheels to procure, Mexican visa processes to endure and, of course, lots of wonderful memories to make.
The last time I came to Seattle was two years ago and I was still living in Mexico. My friend, Grace, was living alone in a 1920s-era apartment on Capitol Hill and she had just started dating her boyfriend, Mike, and I stayed in the guest room for the better part of a week, leaving for two nights to travel up to Vancouver to see Aman & Stephanie, but more or less getting to know the Emerald City, which by the way, no one here apparently says; it seems to be a town above nicknames.
Now Grace and Mike have moved in together and they’re in the same apartment building that Grace was in before but they’ve gone up two floors to a beautiful, airy flat with an enormous kitchen and a wall full of windows in the living room that look right out to downtown, the Space Needle sticking up just above the rooftops.
In the end, I stayed at Aman & Stephanie’s for five nights, breaking my three-night rule for maybe the eighth time this trip. It made for good hanging out, though, and I had not seen them since we met up briefly in New York City, because they happened to be visiting when I was there and one night, when I suddenly had nowhere to go, they had me over to their Hotel Chelsea room and we had a sleepover. Since then, they have gone and eloped in Vegas, so I got to hear that whole story of how it came to be and see the pictures and get a good look at the rings on their fingers.
They actually live just outside Vancouver in New Westminster but we made it into the city a few times and I got to meet several of their other friends and walk around Stanley Park, which was much sunnier this time than when I visited two years ago in rainy October, and then, on my last morning there, another friend, Tamara, had to be in town from Abbotsford for a wedding, so she and I met at a park close to Aman & Stephanie’s and she brought me coffee and we strolled around for about an hour, getting to know each other better, since we had only briefly met in March on a friend’s boat on Isla Mujeres, when I was there for one of my many Mexican paperwork trips.
Here are a few things I saw.
I saw enough of Portland, Ore., to know that I would like to go back one day. Arriving in the glow of early evening, all the buildings sparkled like gold and the bridges stretched and arched their backs gracefully out across the yawning gap of water that nearly surrounds the city like a moat. “Hello, beautiful,” I murmured but there was no time to stop and take it all in properly; I had to find lodging for the night.
I was in town to see a friend who I did not know too well but she was excited to meet up at some point, although she said she was going to be spending much of her weekend at a music festival outside town. I was welcome to join her out there on the farm but it was a little bit pricey, so I declined, opting to meet somewhere more central instead. I figured I would find a spot to camp on the outskirts of town and that either that night or the next morning we would meet up. Little did I know what I had coming.
I never would have ended up in Florence, Ore., if I had not had someone there to visit, but that seems to be the way with Florence: you just end up there. That’s what happened with my friend, Max, and wife Jan, at any rate. Several years ago, Jan was trying to get back from their previous home on Vancouver Island to Oakland, Calif., where she and Max have a small six-unit complex of apartments that they rent out and where they were going to celebrate Christmas together— that is, until a snowstorm came in and closed down all surrounding roads, so that Jan found herself stuck in Florence. Ironically, though, it was the one place in the area that did not have snow, which inspired her and Max to buy a plot of land at an RV resort and set up camp, where they have now been living part-time for about two years.
I got there, because when I was in Sonoma, Pomona told me that if I was driving up Coastal Hwy 1, I should pay Max a visit. While Pomona herself had not yet been to visit him and Jan, she said she knew that in their backyard, behind their large mobile home, they had parked a smaller one for guests, and so I agreed to let her get in touch with Max and Max agreed to host me and that’s how we left things. Between leaving Ben’s place in Cotati and arriving in Florence, though, I had to spend a night at a campsite and I ended up in a rather dismal place in a dark valley with one gas station, where a glum attendant humorlessly rang up my potato chip dinner. Having arrived by night, I checked myself in using the self-registration station and so by the time I left at dawn the next day, I had probably spoken 10 words in 36 hours. Thus, it was with great glee that I pulled into Max’s driveway and extended my hand in greeting to this stranger. He showed me my bunk for the night inside of a Toyota camper, much like Roxanne but a little newer and bigger— with a better rear axle, I might add. I set my things down inside and looked around with a contented sigh. Yes, this would do for a night.