One of the joys of travel is that you can go to another location and become some one that “no body knows your name”. You can casually walk aroung in a store, ever so calm and happy and folks say “ Heh, I like your style” or youthful clerk may come up to you and ask to take a photo of you and your t shirt and thank you and then exclaim, “When I grow up, I want to be exactly like you!. Which was nice but I am not sure that I have actually grown up! Take something good from within and throw it out onto the canvas of your world and the day becomes a passage of time to “abide”.
Now one convenient way to travel is to do a road trip. The fleet vehicle of Ataboy Endeavours is a pre 2000 Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer. It is in a constant state of restoration but it allows me to play a huge library of tape cassettes and amuse the passers by in parking lots. For example, one of the sticker on the back window says “Life is like a corn dog, do not ask me why”. So I don’t but folks with cell phones are prone to smile and ask me if they can take a photo.
I bought it on a magical “dude abides” trip to San Francisco. For several days, I was lucky enough to share some truly great quality time with an amazing woman who honestly appreciated “the dude”. Now a year later and a different time and space, I take a break to ponder three constants: paradox, change and humour. While there is always the challenge and the delicate dance of one’s own “transformation”. When I put on this t shirt there is the potential to create a private and public joy. I bet I could even make the stoic Leonardo Da Vinci radiate a tiny and cryptic Mona Lisa grin!
Jimmy has said “that there is a fine line between Saturday evening and Sunday morning“, and my fitful Saturday night of dreams had left me staring at the ceiling. My pal Chuck had said, “each morning pick something to do and do that thing right”. What I really wanted to do right was to regain my happy state of mind. Now Ataboy” is a four by four and built for rocky roads, so while I mindfully defused some mental land minds, the big shocks can take the edge off some of life’s speed bumps and the tape cassette can play tunes that took me back into times when I truly ruled the world from a pay phone. So on the spur of the moment I polished off breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, put the key in the ignition and headed south to end my day with some nonlinear events. I did have a “plan” yet I could easily be influenced by the sighting of masts or nearby trails to go off on an uncharted adventure.
Yes, it is a challenge but you can initiate change. You can cut you hair, shave your beard and lose thirty-five pounds and change your pant size by five inches in two months but the busy work of “transformation” is no walk in the park. It takes more than a t-shirt, a bumper sticker and yes, even a complete new style to transform you true self into some one that you can be authentically be happy with. You have to reach deep inside and throw out a lot of junk from within. Mother Teresa said “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. While I can wax poetic about the influences of love on my life, there is one thing that I truly to love and it is having my hands on a wheel and my world in motion.
My recent walks in the woods had convinced me that the muddy Nikes needed to be replaced with a more conventional hiking boot. Fortunately, there was a sale at REI and a thorough and zealous phone clerk name Tracy actually found my card number. The winds of change were in my favour and so I launched out of Vancouver with intents of finding three things, a pair of boots, a trail to hike on and a great deal on a wet suit for paddling boarding. I loaded up several tapes, a favored “man bag” and forgot several items that I would need later…including a flashlight.
Waiting at the border was spent listening to a recorded studio set of Jimmy Buffet in Sausalito. With the tape cassette engaged I went back into time when I “used to rule my world from a pay phone” and I lived by another name. I will keep that incognito to protect those who used to ramble in my world. Happiness was just thirty-five minutes away to the border crossing and I was loving the music. I was singing along with Jimmy Buffet’s song, the Wino and I know and slowly getting to the American border.
“And the Wino and I know the joys of the ocean,
like a boy knows the joys of his milk shake in motion.
It’s a strange situation, a wild occupation, living my life like a song.”
One of the bonuses of solo travel is that you can pick your own music and sing as loud and as off key as you want to. You can creatively fill your own time with odd efforts that some folks would call a waste of time, like waiting in customs lines. I looked at my watch and gave a nod to Einstein. Yes, time was relative. There was no way I was going to speed up this line, so me and my truck would slowly just move on and so would life. By three pm, I was heading south and it was time to change the cassette!
By the time I reached REI, I had listened to a mysterious tape cassette twice and on both sides. I was wondering what hands of fate had allowed it to fall into my cassette bag. Judging by the lyrics, there was no end of trouble that could occur when a man meets a woman and then that woman has let him go. From Nashville to Alabama, from Texas to Tennessee, it seems that even Darwin would be in awe of the multitude of mutations that could be permeated within the lyrics of country love song. Tear ducts could finally run dry and father time can became the only family you could have. With a happy honky tonk ditty, twanging lyrics told the tales of men having their hearts slowly being ripped from their chests. Now I am not stranger to pain nor am I immune to tales of things gone bad. In fact my whole life in the last few months had done more flip-flops than the whole inventory at REI and they were on sale! By the time I locked the doors and smiled at a few dogs in a nearby car, I had all the vital motivation and mental ingredients to attempt a weeklong drunk, buy a Collin Archer double ender sailboat in Bellingham and sail off the little latitudes. Don’t laugh, the seed of a private dream was already making roots in some quiet place in my brain. That ol honky tonk mirrored my own situation in way to many ways. So I turned to my truck, let another person take a photo of the bumper sticker and privately saluted the “she was the one” dialog in my head. I was thankfully I was drinking water instead of Margaritas. Going a rapid ninety clicks down memory lane, I had a shit-eating grin that could fool any hopeless romantic. “She” wasn’t going to leave my head soon. Nope, her smile of approval at my “dude shirt” was not going to be uprooted by other smile. The dudette abides. While life had throw in a few too many gutter balls, I was striking a few pins and my weight and mental heaviness was disappearing each day. If I was flying by the seat of my pants, at least my pant size was shrinking.
I have learned that if you throw out a fun and caring attitude to the world, the world does abide. You see things other would not, like the kid checking his runners on the rock testing stand or the elderly couple that has been together so long that they float in a separate world of their own, complete with knowing smiles and compassionate remarks. “Oh yes dear, that hat does look good on you”, but then you see her turn her head and smile. The charge card come out and Daddy can buy new stuff even though he thinks his feet are too small. Thankfully the t-shirt was working it’s magic. I was a renaissance man in REI. I walked alone with the calm of the dude. I waited in line and watched the couples interact. I listened to conversations and watched body language. I practiced the art of the seer and let my breath take control. I attempted to let go of my judgments and smiled. Sure the couple in front of me amused me for some odd reasons. He was trying hard to please her and her head was on a swivel seeing who was admiring her as she quietly kept tabs on him. That judgment went poof as I noticed a liquid version of some nutrient bar. Thankfully the ADD was keeping me sane.
Finding my way to kite and board store took me through the shoreline of Bellingham. Each time I asked direction, I praised the fact that I had no GPS. Folks were just naturally friendly here. I met a young couple intending to live on a boat in Victoria. I offered sage advice “yup with anything nautical, it is slow to get into trouble and slow to get out”. I interrupted a paint stained Mom scrubbing the hull of a boat with her child, and she gave me a play by play mental map including strategic building along the way. No North or South, but a visual map that made me grin. Then there was the lovely jogger who had a smile that could light up even the cloudiest days. At 6:30 I made it to the board store where I met a DJ who was just in the process of opening the door. The store was supposed to close at 7! Again, with a smile and a positive message on the t-shirt, I was able to get more gear for my budding interest in paddle boarding. By seven I was misplaced some where south of Fairview, a town I had never know existed. I asked direction from a fellow cutting the culvert with a weed whacker. “You go to the lights, the only set of lights, then go left, no matter what..keep going left”. I had to remind my self that marijuana was now legal in Washington and if any off the replies seemed a little left of center, well then they were. Yup the dude did abide.
I am not sure what squirrelly behavior inspires a municipality to name a road “Chuckanut drive” but by the time I got to the Larrabee State Park ranger station, I was tempting the Gods when it came to admiring a sunset. Yet I was inspired and urge to commune with thoughts and footstep on dirt was pulling me into the undergrowth. I wanted to watch the sunset and take in a little hike. With the advent of my daily exercise. I was becoming an endorphin junky. I needed to move. I parked at the ranger station and got some quick direction from yet another mellow couple. The lovely lady madly dashed off to the toilet but came back yelling at me “.you better hussle, the sun is going down. Take the road up the hill. You have at least three mile to cover and it is all up hill. The first step is always the hardest. Hadn’t I heard that in that country western tape. “I have cried my last tear drop for you” yet by the time I reached the 2.1 mile post, I was drenched with sweat. To motivate my pace, I attempted to calculate the number of my footstep as being equal to the probability of me relighting a past love. My ratio of was about a million to one and the odds of me catching a sunset were rapidly quickly fading.
The shadows were getting longer when I noticed a woman looking for a geocaching box in a nearby tree. I asked her which way could I go to see a sunset. She point down the hill and said “there is a look out down there”. I launched down the hill at a rate that surprised me. This woman, who started to ask me if I know about geocaching, quickly followed me. I had heard the term but she also mentioned some thing about her brain. Perhaps it was dehydration but I was having a hard time linking brain ailments with geological terms. My first thought was crystals, which made be me start to wonder about pixies and other forest animals. The woman then mentioned cougars and the possibility of meeting one. I wondered if this was a pun and set off for the outlook. To the right, I noticed a new trailhead and a total of .2 miles to race for a picture. My geocaching hiker continued down the trail as I scooted into the woods.
I made it for a view!
Yet the real new discovery was my geocaching hiker who I discovered was named Sue. I was coming off the mountain at a slow rate. I could see Sue’s flashlight and she was still tromping through the woods looking for yellow boxes. Armed with a GPS and a no hold bared attitude, she crawled up to trees above the actual trail. In the short time that I shared with Sue, I got to know a hero worthy of mention. While I was pumped about losing weight and managing to navigate the waters of post romantic bliss. Sue was pulling off a fantastic healing process that had taken her from being a high-level white water guide to an invalid in an electric chair and now she was climbing through the bush looking for little yellow boxes. As I shared the dome of light from her flashlight, she quietly told me her tales of once been a rafting guide, a microbiologist and was now off to work on charter boats in San Francisco. The amazing thing was, not too long ago, a virus had taken up house in her brain and put her into a spirally downward loop of pills and doctors. She had healed her self with a will to navigate white water and the scientific openness to explore alternate curse.
By the time I reached the border in was now past midnight. I told the customs lady about my random urge to hike and she shared her own story about doing an adjacent trail called the Oyster Dome.
Now you may ask why tell this tale and I can easily answer. Dreamers like me and Sue scare folks. We have the will and the desire to question what is the norm. While folks may say that there is not a “hope in hell”, there is the choice to question what put most folks into their own private hell. Perhaps letting go of expectations and assumptions set one free to accept a random urge to spontaneously hit the highway and spend an anonymous day of abiding. After panting up a hill, there are those few deep breaths to celebrate a spark of hope. I can sift through my memories and find joy. I can live my life like any song I want to and I am not afraid to sing along. I can even dig down into my own soul and find whims and ways that have a probability of a million to one of occurring.