On Thursday the 22nd of September, I arrived at an average-looking apartment building in south Vancouver. The sky was overcast, the nearby city streets were busy with the frenetic buzz of rush hour traffic. The change of pace from Tofino to a big city was slightly jarring. Earlier that morning, I had woken at 6AM, packed my bike up, and caught the Tofino bus to Nanaimo, where I would ride the ferry to Horseshoe bay, just north of Vancouver. The journey totaled about five hours, which had passed quicker than I expected. I was caught up reading Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums on the bus, which was more relevant to me after experiencing buddhism first-hand at my second retreat. For example, in the book, Kerouac mentions the compassionate Avalokitesvara, I recognized the name from the teachings I received at the Hermitage. This gave the story much more depth than it would have held for me before.
I wasn’t sure which apartment building was the right one, because the format of addresses in Canada is different from the states, which confused me — they put the apartment number first, before a dash, and then the street number of the building. I had tried to use some pay phones to call Shannon, but they were all broken, which frustrated me to no end. I began to notice how the loud sounds and the hectic pace of the city were augmenting my stress level. I just needed time to adjust.
When I finally found the right apartment building, the manager of the building seemed to notice that I looked a little lost, and asked if I was looking for Shannon. I wondered how he knew. I guess Shannon had told him she was expecting a friend via bicycle. While I waited at the entryway to the apartment, I reflected on what brought me here.
I liked Shannon because she was intelligent, direct, and creative. Her poetry was raw, sexy, and confident. She was a bit older than me, but I liked that; she had 11 years on me. After my last several relationships with people my own age, I had wondered what it might be like to be with someone who had more life experience and maturity. I’ve always thought I was more mature than my age suggested, so it would be fitting for me to relate to someone who could meet me at the same level.
Moments later, Shannon came downstairs and we hugged. It felt good after several weeks of thinking about seeing her again. Here I was, back in Vancouver. I had no intention of coming back before we met, but I figured it would be good to meet in person before we decided on where to travel together. I like planning things together, face to face; e-mails and chats just didn’t cut it for me when making big decisions.
As I entered the apartment building’s lobby, the first thing I noticed was the musty smell of stale cigarette smoke on the walls and carpet, which brought up memories of my grandmother’s house in Florida. I told Shannon this and she said she couldn’t smell it. I guess when you live somewhere long enough you don’t notice the smells anymore.
After taking the creaky old elevator up to the second floor, I stepped into her one bedroom apartment. She admitted that she had lived alone for many years, which I could relate to. I lived alone for a few years in college. But unlike Shannon, I liked having roommates to bond with. I like creating community, and living alone just felt too isolated after a while. She didn’t want to give in to the compromise that it sometimes takes to live with others. I told her that, for me, the benefits of roommates outweighed the drawbacks. Of course, you have to like your roommates for it to be an enjoyable experience, and I could see how a few negative experiences could taint your perceptions of what it’s like to share a living space in a communal living situation. To each their own, I suppose.
That evening, Shannon gave me a little tour of her plot at the community garden, which she had finally gotten after three years of waiting. She was a first-time gardner, and a rather successful one at that. She had a ton of kale, chard, green onions, and other miscellaneous veggies growing. So, it was fitting that our first meal together was a tasty homemade potato soup with lots of kale in it.
After much discussion about potential places to go on our bikes, we finally decided on the Lochside Regional trail and the Galloping Goose trail near Victoria. I had wanted to check out Victoria on my bike, because I had heard that it was a very bike-friendly city, and I read about the Galloping Goose trail online: it used to be a railway, and after its abandonment, it was converted to a multi-use path. Measuring at 60km (37 miles), it passed through forests, farmland, and urban settings. There wasn’t much elevation gain, which was perfect for Shannon as it was her first bike camping trip. There’s lots of deciduous trees on the pathway, so it would be a beautiful fall ride. It seemed like a no-brainer, so we decided that we would catch the bus to the Tsawassen ferry terminal the next morning. The ferry would take us to Swartz Bay, which was located at the top of the Saanich Peninsula. We would take the Lochside trail down to Victoria, then try to go from Victoria to Sooke. We weren’t quite sure how far we would go, because Shannon really wanted to go see some of her friends perform at nude poetry reading event in Victoria called Poetry in the Raw. The event was on Monday night, which meant that once we got to Victoria, we would stay for a day before seeing the show. That sounded fine to me; I had never been to a poetry reading, especially not a nude poetry reading. Apparently, audience participation was encouraged, meaning, you could strip down to your birthday suit during the performances. I figured, why not?
The next morning, we cooked up some eggs and toast for breakfast, then packed all of our gear onto our bikes. I remarked at how organized Shannon was. She had organized all of her clothes and our food into tidy piles of ziplock bags, all ready to be packed away. I ended up carrying the bulk of the load, because she only had two rear panniers, whereas I had front and rears as well as a handlebar bag. I carried our water and our tent, which added a good amount of weight to my bike. I didn’t weigh everything, but it seemed about the same as when I left Portland, which was about 70 pounds.
As we finally left the apartment building, I was excited to be back on my bike. Something about feeling weighed down with all the gear you could need for living out in the woods for weeks is empowering. The bike becomes your mobile home — a kind of extension of your own body that provides for you and cares for you. There is definitely a sense of attachment to your bike when it takes you wherever you want to go with your own body’s power.
The ferry ride was uneventful. I had become quite the ferry traveler. It was one of my favorite ways to travel. Kind of like a little cruise ship that offered plenty of room to roam, to read, and to eat. Not that the food was amazing, but it was still nice to have the option to get a meal while you waited the 2 or so hours it took to get to your destination.
At around 3PM, the ferry pulled into Swartz Bay. Anticipating the ride ahead, I impatiently waited for the ferry operator to open the gate and let the foot passengers and cyclists off. After a few minutes, we finally were able to roll the bikes off the deck and onto the road. Soon after, the cars followed, racing past us with a roar and a cloud of tasty diesel particulates. I was so looking forward to getting onto the Lochside trail, so I wouldn’t have to choke on car fumes. When we finally did get onto the trail, I was pleased to see tall grasses and lakes again. It was good to be out of the big city and onto the path.
After we got off the road, we pulled into a rest area to stretch and adjust our luggage. A few minutes later, we were ready to pedal for a few hours. On our way, we passed through lots of scenic farm land. I reveled in the fact that I was no longer biking on highways like when I went to Nanaimo. I knew this was my favorite bike path of my whole trip thus far. One of the highlights of our first day of biking was the colorful pumpkin patch in the golden autumn sunlight.
A few hours later, at around 5 PM, We stopped at a farm stand and asked for directions to the nearest camp site. They recommended an RV camp, which didn’t sound like a great option, but we tried anyway. About halfway there, a truck driver pulled alongside and told us that they didn’t allow tent camping there, so we turned around and headed back to another site, called Island View Beach. This ended up being better anyway, because this quiet beach was so peaceful and beautiful, and we were able to set up a tent without anybody bothering us. Not to mention the lack of camp fees!
Camping on the beach meant lots of sand in the tent, but I didn’t mind too much, because the soft pounding of the ocean waves on the beach was worth all the sand in the all the tents in the world. As the sun set that night, we cooked up some minestrone soup and then sipped it with the seagulls lulling us into a meditative enjoyment of the beach. As it grew colder, we decided a fire would be nice. It hadn’t rained in days, so all of the driftwood served as our firewood. After several frustrating tries at starting a fire, I got some embers going and added sticks to them until we had our own beach inferno to keep us warm. I meditated by the fire for a half hour before bed. At 3AM, I woke up to the wind whipping the tent with fury while the rain pelted our shelter. I realized we had left our bikes uncovered. Not wanting my chain to rust in the salty air and rain, I got out of the tent and covered our bikes with a tarp. The next morning, I awoke at around 8AM and saw the sun drying the rain fly on the tent. Always eager to capture the beauty of a good sunrise, I hopped out of the tent and started taking photos.
I was able to lure Shannon out of the tent with the promise of a gorgeous sunrise and hot coffee. I don’t think she was used to waking up this early. For the duration of the trip, we alternated randomly between getting up early and sleeping in late. That day, I wanted to get an early start. But soon after we made a breakfast of hot oatmeal, the rain began again. We decided to stay in the tent until the rain subsided. It ended up raining for several more hours. At that point, we decided we might as well start cycling, because it would likely be raining all day. So we packed up the tent and loaded up our bikes in the rain, thinking we were in for a very wet day.
As I prepared my bike for the day, I realized my wheels were coated in sand, which would eat away at my brake pads and mess with my gears. Luckily, a few quick wipes with an oily sock rag along the rims was enough to clear most of the sand off of my bike. As the minutes passed, the rain fell with more intensity, so we decided to stop at a picnic table shelter to have some lunch. We pulled out some tuna and crackers and munched until the rain subsided. All of a sudden, the sun came out, and the rain clouds were gone. The entire landscape was illuminated, and all the colors of the beach were all the more vivid. We were both amazed at how quickly the storm passed.
As we chugged up the hill to get back onto the Lochside trail, Shannon had to get off her bike and walk. I was beginning to realize that I would have to be patient on this trip. I had several speed advantages on her — thinner road tires, clipless pedals, and I had already been cycling for nearly four weeks. I just hoped she wouldn’t be offended if I didn’t always cycle at her pace.
We stopped at the farm stand again, this time, purchasing some veggies and refilling our water supply. Then it was back on the road. Our time alternated between chatting side-by-side and quiet time to ourselves as the only sounds we heard was the rustle of leaves and the crackle of tires on gravel. When we passed a few small farms, one particular farm caught our attention with a few gigantic pigs. I wondered out loud how many strips of bacon that would make.
I was beginning to really love the Lochside trail. My point of reference was highway 19A on the way to Hornby island, which was a gravel-laden highway shoulder alongside lots of car traffic. The Lochside trail was refreshingly car-free for most of the ride, and much more scenic.
By the time we got closer to Victoria, the trail forked. On the right was the path to Sooke, and on the left, to downtown. We weren’t really sure what there was to see in Sooke, but the Galloping Goose trail ended around there, so it made sense to keep riding to check it out. About an hour later, dark clouds rolled in, and we were only a quarter of the way there. A few minutes earlier, we had passed a sign for Thetis Lake. We decided we should probably find a camp site soon, so we decided to search for a site around the lake. After following signs to the park, we kept looking for the lake, but couldn’t find it. The park seemed rather small and surrounded by condos and apartments. Later I would find out that we were only in a small section of the park, and had to keep going north to get to the lakes. But without a map and the sunlight waning, we decided to just suck it up and pitch the tent in a visually obscured spot not too far from the housing developments. Concerned that people might see us, Shannon questioned the spot. I told her, “don’t worry, we’ll be out of here first thing in the morning, nobody will care.” The spot wasn’t ideal, it was sloped and bumpy, there were blackberry bushes threatening to puncture the tent or our rain gear, and it definitely wasn’t scenic. It felt more like a hobo camp than a camp site. Quite a difference from our previous night’s camp site. I didn’t care, I just wanted a place to cook a quick meal and hop into our combined sleeping bags for the night. We cooked up some broccoli we had purchased at the farm market in some soup and fell asleep quickly.
The next morning, the rain was coming down hard, and I was feeling less and less enthusiastic to keep going to Sooke. I wasn’t even sure what there was to do in Sooke, and I didn’t feel like cycling just for cycling’s sake with the nasty weather. Plus, there was that Poetry in the Raw event that Shannon wanted to go to that evening. So we decided to backtrack to the fork in the road and get a hostel to dry off in Victoria. This was my first real day of rainy riding, and it didn’t take long to realize that my rain pants weren’t that rain-proof, and neither was my cycling jersey. After an hour of fighting gusts and gales with sideways rain splattering my face, I was cold and wet, and ready to find shelter. We weren’t sure where we wanted to stay, so on our way into town, we stopped in a tunnel while Shannon called some friends asking for recommendations of places to stay. I had this idea that I wanted a place with hot tub access because all I could think about was getting warm. While I stood waiting in this windy tunnel, a chill set in and I started getting impatient and irritable. On the tunnel walls, I saw a bunch of racist white supremacy stickers plastered over a peace art mural, which angered me. While I waited, I figured I would do some public cleanup and tear off as many stickers as I could. 15 minutes went by and I was getting quite cold. Even though Shannon was being really thoughtful and helpful, I just wanted to keep riding, at least so I could warm up through exercise. So we set off again, and a few minutes later, we stopped at a hotel to use their internet connection to do a little more research and to warm up for a few minutes. There were several prospective hostels, including the Turtle Hostel and the Ocean Island hostel. We decided on trying those two once we got into town.
20 minutes later, we arrived to a more populated downtown area, but we took a wrong turn and I felt a bit lost without a detailed map of the city. This frustrated me even more, because I was soaked to the bone by this point. Shannon was remarkably calm and nonchalant when I told her we needed to turn back because I thought we had gone the wrong way. Luckily, we crossed a bridge and found ourselves in the middle of downtown before too long. We rode to the turtle hostel, and I was excited to dry off. We took one look at the tiny hostel, and I stepped inside. It smelled weird and seemed cramped. Shannon got the same impression as I did, and we quickly left. An asian woman came out after us, asking “are you staying at the hostel?” I hoped we wouldn’t have to face her. Shannon replied, “no, I don’t think so”. Akward! At least she didn’t ask, “why not?”
A few blocks of backtracking, and we arrived to the Ocean Island hostel. It was much nicer, roomier, and I thought to myself, “finally!” We paid the slightly pricey $38 each and received a room key and a towel. I marched upstairs, weighed down by my near-excessive baggage, and plopped my bags onto the floor of the tiny bedroom. This room was so small, the bed left only a few inches of room between it and the walls. “This is… cozy” I thought to myself. No matter, it would work. It was certainly roomier than the tent!
That night, we wondered what to eat for dinner. I wanted to check out some of Victoria’s restaurants, and we both really wanted to relax with a beer after several nights of roughin’ it. We found a cheap place called Pig that had cheap pulled pork sandwiches. Oh. My. God. I was in heaven with their barbecue sauce. It was delicious. We split a sandwich and their interesting BBQ spaghetti. I was surprised, it was pretty good. I got an IPA and Shannon got a ginger beer. Both were tasty and refreshing. We were lightweights together, and tipsily walked out, headed off to the poetry reading. The show was unique, to say the least. It opened up with a curvy dreadlocked girl walking out onto the stage, obscured only by her accordion. She nervously and bravely sang a song and played, and afterwards, everybody snapped their fingers. My first poetry reading and I realized the cliché of snapping your fingers instead of clapping was true. The rest of the show was hit and miss. A few of the pieces I really enjoyed, including one that involved a metaphor of the human body and its skin as a “time machine” that allows us to travel in time. It was oddball and thought provoking all at once. The nudity wasn’t really erotic, at all. It just made you realize how vulnerable we are when we shed all the layers of protection.
After the show, some of Shannon’s friends came to our table and we talked and laughed for a little while before the event center closed up shop and we had to take it outside. I was tired, and we headed back to the hostel for a good night’s rest.
The next morning, we went to this restaurant called Cabin 12 and had some delicious Eggs Benedict, or “Bennys” as they called them. The potatoes had just the right amount of crunch. I savored every bite. Afterwards, we decided to ride around the Seaside Touring route, which curved along the coast, and was quite scenic. Before we left, though, we had a minor dispute about what to do. Shannon was feeling nauseous and wasn’t sure if she wanted to ride. I wanted to go fast, and I mentioned that I typically wanted to ride faster than she did. I suggested maybe she should rest up and I could do the ride on my own. In the end, she came with me, and I ended up glad that she came. Soon after, her stomach was feeling better, and we ended up putting in a good day of riding. On the way back, the sunset was beautiful, and I saw a trail that led up to a viewpoint on top of Gonzales Hill. We climbed up a steep, narrow staircase up to the top of a big rocky outcropping. We arrived just in time for a glorious sunset view of Victoria.
After our long(ish) ride that day, I was pretty hungry. Being the predictable eater that I am, I got the pulled pork sandwich again. When I get something that I like, I will get it again, and again, and again. Some might find that boring, but I’m not always a risk-taker when it comes to trying new restaurants. I’ve just been burned too many times in the past ordering something new and having it turn out boring or downright unpalatable. I was pleasantly not surprised that my sandwich was just as delectable as the day before.
The next day, we decided we’d gotten our fill of Victoria and wanted to head to Mayne island, where we could immerse ourselves in natural beauty and the slower pace of island life. We woke up and made some instant coffee as we had every day prior, and checked the ferry schedule. We had plenty of time to ride all the way back up the Saanich peninsula before the ferry departed at 4, so I decided to do something touristy — I went to Miniature World, a campy museum full of the most detailed models documenting historical artifacts of Canada and beyond. My curiosity begged me to see what it was all about. Shannon didn’t seem too into it, so I went by myself. It wasn’t as awesome as I thought it might be, but it was still kind of cute.
Afterwards, I went back to the hostel, and we packed up and prepared for our longest ride yet, which covered about 50km. We followed the Lochside trail back north, until we missed a turnoff and went the wrong way. Instead of turning back to find where we went wrong, I decided we should keep heading east to the coastline and take the Seaside touring route North (the part of the route that we didn’t ride the day before) Along the way, we began to wonder if we would be able to make it to the ferry in time. I told Shannon that we might not be able to make it, and this put a damper on the mood of the day. I said we could camp another night on the Saanich peninsula if we didn’t make it — no big deal. Still, Shannon was eager to get to Mayne. The Seaside touring route turned out to be a lot hillier than the Lochside route, and about halfway up a hill, Shannon’s fender caught on her tire. Luckily, I had to my tools handy and I removed the fender for her. We continued on, thankful to finally reach the Lochside route again after all those hills. Another hour or so, and we were back at the ferry, with a half hour to spare! We made excellent time, and celebrated with a chocolate ice cream bar. On the loudspeaker, we heard an announcement to start boarding. I figured we could wait for the cars to go, so we weren’t in a rush. By the time we started riding towards the ferry, my tire was flat. I began to freak out a little, because I had all this weight on the rear end of the bike, and I didn’t want to bend the rim. I told Shannon to go ahead without me while I filled the tire with some air to prevent damage to the wheel. It was a good thing I sent her ahead, because the ferry had already closed the loading gate. Apparently, she had to convince one of the ferry workers that I was on my way, and to wait just another minute. Unknowingly, I kept fiddling with my tire. By the time I arrived to the gate, the ferry operators were visibly irritated that I was holding the whole ferry up. “Sorry about that, I got a flat tire on my way down here,” I said, sheepishly. The air I pumped in didn’t last a minute, and I was rolling the bike on a flat again, luckily, not too far.
I was a surprised that I had gone this far without a flat. At first, I was disappointed, I thought Schwalbe tires were supposed to last for thousands of miles without any problems. Turns out, the tire was fine. It was a tear in the rubber of the inner tube at the base of the metal air valve that was the culprit. Luckily, I had purchased a few spare tubes in Vancouver a month prior. I had 50 minutes to change the flat before we arrived at Mayne. I crossed my fingers, because I have only changed a flat one time before, and never on this particular bike. I turned the bike upside down, took the wheel off, and got to work. An older man got out of his huge Ford truck, came up to me, and handed me some paper towels and rubber gloves. He said, “Here, take these. I like my bike too.” Pleasantly surprised, I told him “Oh, thanks, I was just looking for some gloves”. Bike grease doesn’t come off easily, so I was glad to have the gloves while I worked. I pried off the tire, pulled out the broken tube, and started to replace it. It took me way too long to change this tire. Every time I tried to squeeze the tire back into the rim on one side, the other side came out, or the tube fell out of position. I knew there had to be a technique that I hadn’t yet remembered. I ended up needing help from Shannon to get the tire on. We got it on just in time, as the ferry pulled into the harbor. It was then that I realized the wheel had a broken spoke and a serious wobble. I cursed and decided I could probably ride it for a little bit without doing much further damage. I would try to true the wheel later with my spoke wrench, but in the meantime, I had to get off the ferry and get to our campsite before sunset.
We hauled our bikes up the steepest hill, and stopped in at the nearby realty office for a map of the island. It was a rather small island, so there wasn’t a whole lot of complication in finding the camp site. 15 minutes later, we found our camp site and paid the $12 per person to pitch a tent. I wasn’t used to paying for a camp site, but it was certainly cheaper than the $28 for the hostel. Not to mention, much more scenic. The campsite was on the water’s edge and filled with all sorts of wildlife. Having no natural predators, there were deer all around the camp site. We found a nice spot and pitched the tent. By then, the sun was setting, and we cooked up some dinner and enjoyed the sound of waves on the shore, frogs and crickets chirping, and the occasional splash of seals and otters. It was refreshing to be back in nature and out of the noisy city.
Our next day was spent exploring the island. We checked out the village center, where they had a couple restaurants, cafés, and grocery stores. I refilled on some supplies and remarked how the island seemed like a retirement home with so many old people. “This is where I want to go when I’m old,” Shannon told me. I could see why. You could enjoy the company of other older folks and enjoy the quietness and solitude that the island offered.
After eating a lunch of tuna and crackers (this was a fairly common lunch on our trip), we rode to the lighthouse. I admired the picturesque qualities of the park, as well as the interesting sandstone formations on the coastline.
I snacked on some dried apricots and then meditated for a bit at one of the picnic tables. I wanted to keep up the practice after my retreats, but was finding it a little more difficult to get myself to meditate daily than when I was on the retreats. But that day I did get a good half hour in.
We did a little more exploring and hiking. At one point, Shannon really wanted to hike, but I wanted to keep biking down the trail. So, we compromised. I would ride ahead to the end of the trail on my bike while she walked the trail, and I would ride back and report to her what was at the end of the trail. I had fun feeling like I was mountain biking, even though my bike wasn’t really suited to the task. I sped along the narrow pathway, whipping around bushes, through trees, dodging boulders and roots. It made me realize how much fun mountain biking can be, and made me want to get a mountain bike when I got back home. For dinner that night, we ate at a restaurant on the water’s edge. I got a beer and a burger. Expensive, but satisfying. Sometimes I just love splurging at restaurants because I can’t make that kind of food when I’m roughing it in the woods. We split a berry pie and a cheesecake for desert.
By the third day of our stay, we decided to forego the tent and sleeping bag situation and try out of the lodge on the bay — it was only $40 a night, or $20 each. We checked out the room. It had a nice view of one of the bay, and the bed was quite springy. Before sunset, I wanted to hike up the Mt. Parke ridge, but Shannon wanted to write back at the room. After a short, steep hike, I got in some solitude on my hike and meditated at the top. It was refreshing.
Back at the room, Shannon was waiting for me with a bottle of wine. I was really enjoying our time together, having a new lover with me on my journey made it so much less lonely. We ate at the restaurant again, because Shannon really wanted to try the burger instead of her previous dinner of fish. It was romantic, with candles and all. We took one of the candles up to the room.
The next day, we decided to head back to Vancouver. After a week of travel, we were open to traveling more, but the weather took a turn for the worse and we decided it wasn’t much fun to hang out in the rain all day, so back to Vancouver we went.
Back in the city, we were at Shannon’s apartment, and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go next. I had gotten quite comfortable with her, so I decided to stay a few nights while I figured out what to do next. At one point, she said she didn’t like watching me plan my trip and be on the computer working while I was at her place. I felt bad about this, but assured her that we could spend time together and that I would stop talking about my eventual bittersweet departure. The highlight of being back in Vancouver with her was a day trip to Lighthouse point. We ended up riding 45km total, with a lot of steep hills. Two thirds of the way there, I asked, “where did the bike trail go?” A concerned mother with her child chimed in, saying “there is no more bike path. You’ll have to go down Marine drive. But there’s no shoulder and it’s rush hour, it’s dangerous.” She kept putting her hand on her heart, she seemed really concerned. “Have you been down that road before?” I told her I had gone that way to Horseshoe bay a month prior. “Does she know what you’re getting her into?” She asked. I thought she was just overreacting. I knew we would be fine.
On the way to the lighthouse, there was a huge traffic jam. As we passed all the cars on our bikes, I couldn’t help myself and I said out loud, “Haha, suckers in cars!” Some woman overheard me through her open car window, and yelled out sarcastically, “Nice.” Oops… I didn’t mean for anybody to hear that. I looked back and grinned at Shannon. She blurted, “well, it’s true!”. I laughed and said “I’m glad I said that out loud, actually”. I knew I was probably just pissing off drivers and deteriorating the driver/cyclist relationship, but decided to not care. Maybe all these traffic jams and holdups would make drivers think twice about their choice of transportation. Several times, stalled drivers made comments out their windows like, “I’ll trade you vehicles!”, or “Can I get a ride with you?”. We laughed and kept riding past the trapped drivers.
We finally arrived to Lighthouse park after 35km of hills. It was a nice forest, but the lighthouse itself was a bit underwhelming. Oh well. I was glad to be back in nature, not too far from Vancouver. There were lots of ferns, moss, and old growth trees.
Shannon was tired. I think I wore her out. We decided to take the bus home, but not until we passed the police blockade that held up all the buses. After riding in the rain back another 15km or so, we stopped for some sushi appetizers. The hot miso soup and green tea we ordered was SO satisfying after a wet day biking and hiking. I savored every drop. We boarded a bus back to the city, and decided to head to a nearby Ethiopian restaurant for our main course. The dinner was delicious, all served up on a huge platter with injeri. Nom nom nom. We were stuffed afterwards and had to lay down for a while. We tried not to talk too much about the fact that the next day, I would be leaving. It was bittersweet. I wanted to be back on the road and heading back south with all this bad weather headed our way, but I didn’t want to leave the loveliness and comfort of staying with Shannon. She told me I should leave before we saw each others’ “dark sides”. I supposed it was for the better that I would be leaving shortly after, even though I wasn’t afraid of helping each other face the less-than-pretty sides of our personalities.
The next day, I packed up my bike. We had a delicious farewell breakfast of vanilla greek yogurt with fruit and fluffy pancakes with banana syrup. It was all delicious. We tried to enjoy the last hour before my departure. We tried not to be sad. I was a mixture of sadness and happiness. As we took the elevator down to the ground floor, we both knew the end of our time was minutes away, and tried not to focus on it. She told me she wasn’t going to cry, but tears came anyway. I said, “You’ll come and visit me in Portland, right?” I didn’t know if she would. I told her it wouldn’t be the last time we saw each other. We kissed one last time, and I pedaled away without looking back. I hoped she would be alright. I knew I would miss her, but I would be OK. I left her with a messy apartment, to do our breakfast dishes alone with the lingering silence in my wake. It was a love-filled two weeks; saying goodbye wasn’t easy. I found myself in solitude again, brimming with possibilities for the rest of my trip.