Monday, May 26, 2008

The Great American Road Trip (Including Parts of Canada!) Part 4

We had been on the road for over a week and were headed to Banff National Park and Jasper.  Leaving Lake Louise was tough, but I fell in love with Jasper.

Jasper was gorgeous--tucked between snow topped mountains, with a small street lined with cute shops and a huge open field where we tossed a football around until late in the evening.  The camp ground didn't have showers, but I didn't care.  I had taken at least 12 at Chateau Lake Louise and got some of the grime washed off of me when the eight of us got into a snowball fight at the top of a glacier in Banff.  The Chinese tourists LOVED us and took lots of photos, the tour guides?  Not so much. 

Our next stop was Birch Bay in Northwest Washington.  Near Bellingham and on Puget Sound, it felt good to be surrounded by water again.  Growing up in San Diego it always felt odd not to be able to see or drive to a large body of water.  I felt detached, slightly homesick and though I was having an incredible time I missed all of the little routines that made up my life at home.  I walked down to the bay early one morning before everyone was up and was writing in my journal and reading a book about Canadian birds (Um?  Canadian birds? I told you I wasn't feeling like myself).  

"Good morning!" someone called to me from the shore.
"Hello," I said, looking up from my book to an older woman, barefoot with her pants rolled up to her knees.
"It's a gorgeous morning, isn't it?" she asked kindly.
"It's so beautiful here."  I noticed an older man look back at me from his place on the shore.  "Is he clamming?"
"Yes, it'll be our dinner for later."

We ended up chatting for over an hour.  They had been married for over 40 years and had dozens of grandchildren.   It was exactly what I needed--while I loved my friends and our conversations, there was something so reassuring and calming about being around people who were grandparents.  We talked about our trip, where we had been, how impressed they were that we were taking a road trip instead of sitting on a tropical beach somewhere.  Digs eventually came down and joined our chat and Dan and Wes followed.  

Eventually the couple left with friendly wishes for a continued safe journey.  The woman waved goodbye to all of us and gave me a knowing nod as she passed.  Perhaps she knew I needed a good grandmotherly chat.  I was grateful.

We spent the afternoon on the Bay, eventually building a bonfire and playing frisbee until the sun set.  The next morning we needed to leave early.  We had stayed longer than expected in Lake Louise and Jasper and had some ground to make up.  

We drove straight through the Northwest over the next couple of nights--stopping only in Seattle for lunch and again in Portland.  Somewhere I have a poem I wrote while sitting on the corner of NW Davis and 10th--now the Pearl District.  Then?  Definitely NOT the Pearl.  I have no idea what I was doing sitting on the corner and didn't even remember it until I was walking to lunch with a friend one day a few weeks ago and got a fluttery feeling while standing and waiting to cross the street.  I looked up and saw the street sign and remembered I had written a poem there.  Who knew I'd eventually live here?  (If I come across the poem at some point and it's not too mortifying, I'll post it here for you guys to mock).

Driving late through the evenings with four guys who were like your brothers was about what you'd expect.  Many, many horror stories were told to freak us out, masks were worn to freak us out and oh yeah ... ANYTHING they could do to freak us out?  Was done.  Repeatedly.  

Late one night we were winding through a mountain road somewhere in Northern California.  It was about 2 a.m. and the guys were tired.  We were stopping about every 20 minutes so they could get out of the car and walk around and those of us with weak stomachs could put our feet on the ground.  We had been driving straight for two days and over the past few hours hadn't passed any other cars.  The cool evening air was starting to perk us up and the guys were back to trying to scare us again.  Until the silence of the night was interrupted by a bang that sounded like a gunshot.  

Everyone paused for a moment and than ran back to the cars.  We jumped in and Wes and Dana jammed on the gas pedals to get us out of there.  We started cracking up--a bundle of nerves and premature feelings of safety.  The laughter stopped when Wes, who was in front of us, started slowing down.

"Oh my god," Dana said.

I looked up from the back and saw Digs' face go white.  When I looked out the front windshield, I saw Wes' truck stopped a few feet in front of us.  His headlights were shining on something straight out of a horror film.

A nun, dressed in full habit, was standing in the middle of a country road at 2 a.m. and she was waving for us to stop.

To be continued ...