August 6, 2019 – Dash Point State Park – Federal Way, WA
We’re back at Dash Point, the campground where we started this trip in the snow and ice almost 6 months ago. But it doesn’t look like Dash Point—we’re in the upper section of the campground, the part that’s closed during off-season. It’s a little more primitive up here, though it’s supposed to be a “full service” campground. There’s a nice bathroom sitting right next to our campsite, but it’s being renovated, has been for some time now—poor planning I guess, or maybe state park funds got cut—who knows? That leaves only one bathroom (with two unisex stalls) available to service nearly 80 campsites.
Then there are the plums. Don’t get me wrong, I love plums, especially the wild variety, and our campsite is full of them, wild plum trees bursting with small, round fruit. Yesterday, I filled a gallon Ziploc bag and took it to my son’s house, but it failed to make a dent in the plums which continue to fall like slow intermittent rain. They’re everywhere—on our picnic table, our camp stove, our pots and pans, falling on Loki. Some of them explode on impact, leaving gooey trails ready to be stepped on. The soles of my shoes are caked with black gunk, a mixture of exploded plums and dry dirt. On the positive side, nothing has fallen yet on my head, and Brent has decided to make plum wine.
We thought Brent’s 5-day work assignment was this week, it’s the whole reason we chose Dash Point. We’d looked at his papers a while ago and I distinctly remember them saying he had to report to work on August 5th. But, when we reviewed the papers again a couple of days ago, they stated he had to call and schedule an appointment by the 5th. He called yesterday and was initially told that his case was closed. After more prodding on Brent’s part, the woman finally found his papers and told him she’d call back to schedule the orientation on Wednesday. Hopefully it won’t slow things down.
I’m looking forward to having a place to settle down, a place to call home, but I’m not sure Brent is. Yesterday, he was lamenting the fact that “we won’t have any more adventures”, but I assured him we will. My life is a never-ending stream of adventures and I can’t imagine they will suddenly stop just because I’m in Arizona.
Though I’ve worked all my life, I’ve always made time for adventure. In my early twenties, I quit my job at the University of Pennsylvania and decided to backpack through Europe. I didn’t intend to travel alone, it just worked out that way. I couldn’t find a friend who was willing to take the gamble and come with me. My itinerary was vague—I had several addresses given to me by visiting professors who wanted me to visit, and I had a place to stay in London, my first stop. The American Express office in those days was a traveler’s hub—it’s where you picked up mail and money, if you were lucky enough to have some wired to you. Back in the 70s there were no cell phones and it was kind of nice that way. Nobody knew where you were and each place you visited was an opportunity to invent a new life, start over.
But my goal that September day in 1974 was not to pick up mail. I was looking for a travel companion and an interesting place to visit, and I found both. My boss at the university had enticed me more than once with his descriptions of magical North Africa, and there it was in front of me, an engraved invitation pinned to the American Express bulletin board. “Travel to Morocco in exchange for gas money.” A week later I found myself in a beat-up old blue van with a British couple, Richard and Jenny, who planned to settle in an abandoned house and start a new life in North Africa. It amazes me how little I needed to live on back then—just a small backpack, 3 changes of clothing, and a sleeping bag. At night, we pulled over to the side of the road and slept on the ground in our sleeping bags—I remember well the chill of the Spanish desert.
Morocco was my first taste of a truly foreign culture, and I loved it. In the port of entry, Tangiers, I met an Italian woman named Claudia. She’d been there for some time, supporting her brother in jail, buying him food and tobacco to keep him sane. He was caught with “kif” in his luggage as he was leaving and, since it’s a mixture of hash and tobacco, they doubled the smuggling charge. What it would take to get him out was money—lots of it, so Claudia appealed to her dad for help. Once her brother was released, we’d take off in her car together and travel through the Moroccan countryside.
Claudia’s father agreed to release the money, and her fiancé, Marco, would bring it to her hotel in Morocco. The only problem with this scenario was the fact that Mathilde had no intentions of marrying her fiancé, in fact she had already taken on a Moroccan man as her lover. When Marco showed up unexpectedly a few days later with the money, I unwittingly opened the door to let him in. Just as he crossed the threshold Jimi, Claudia’s lover emerged from the bathroom, a tribal savage naked but for the small towel barely covering his genitals. Italian insults flew, rude hand gestures exchanged, then Marco made his retreat, slamming the door behind him. I assumed that meant no road trip, and I was right. A couple of days later, I left in search of new adventures.
It’s been another adventure, this camping trip. It hasn’t always been easy, but I can’t imagine not having done it. And I can’t imagine having done it with anyone other than Brent. As much as we butt heads, he gets me, all of me, like nobody has before. I was afraid he’d be bored stiff while I was up in Canada, but no. He had his own adventures up in Anacortes. The camper across from us had a boat and offered to take him out salmon fishing, and friends came to visit from Bellingham.
The people we’ve met along the way are a big part of what has made this trip so special. Just before leaving our Anacortes site, Charlie came over to say goodbye. She’s been homeless for only a week, an army veteran, fleeing from an abusive relationship. Words gushed from her mouth like an erupting volcano, as though she’d been in solitary for weeks and had to make up for lost time. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met on this trip have been homeless, and some of the kindest ones as well. As we prepared to leave, she brought over one thing after another, cigarettes for Brent, a sweater for me, food for Loki–it was a never-ending stream of gifts. As we pulled out, she wished us a safe trip. “Stay strong”, Brent replied, and I prayed she would.