September was half over. Days in Newfoundland were becoming short and wet. Like migrating birds, we were drawn toward home.
From the back of the ferry, I watched the misty lump of Newfoundland disappear with a bitter-not-sweet sense of loss. The place had romanced us with its warmth and quirkiness, and unlike Julia, I knew I would not be coming back. Unlike Julia, I don’t have enough lifetime left to return to such far-off places.
As with every trip I’ve ever taken, this one was more unexpected, more beautiful, better, different, and more surprising than I could have imagined. Also sometimes more difficult. Aren’t all trips like this? Aren’t yours ?
By now, Julia and I had been sharing 66 square feet (the interior of my trailer) for three months. We had traveled along almost the entire coast of eastern Canada. We’d rounded Quebec’s Gaspe peninsula, tracked the coastline of New Brunswick, dipped into Prince Edward Island for a quick taste of red dirt, blue sea, traditional music, and lobster. We had circumnavigated Cape Breton Island on the Cabot Trail and, finally, sailed to Newfoundland where we had wandered about for the past month.
The trip had been expensive. (More on this in the next post.) So “this is the trip of a lifetime” became a mantra that I’d mutter when a tank of gas cost $90 or a night in a campground $30+. I was seized with fits of frugality during which I’d clamp down on the purse strings like a convulsive sphincter.
For her part, Julia was in one of those awkward times of transition, having just graduated from college and not sure what to do next. During the trip, she explored several leads, but, what with intermittent internet and no strong sense of direction, she was floundering like a codfish on the beach.
Then, suddenly, an opportunity opened for her. A perfect opportunity. She knew someone who could all but guarantee her a job as a recreation specialist at a lodge in Yosemite National Park.
Not only would she be providing the same services that we’d been taking advantage of all through Canada–asking the folks at the tourist and information centers where to go and what to do–but she’d be doing it in one of God’s most glorious places. Her job would be to hike the trails and experience the activities in the park so she could advise visitors.
The immediate result, however, was that we had to shift from an open-ended, carefree romp to suddenly being on a schedule. A tight schedule.
She started her job in October. We would spend a week with a friend on the Bay of Fundy. (More on the Bay of Fundy in a Huffington Post blog for which I’ll give you the link when I get it done. I’m a little behind my own summer schedule, in case you hadn’t noticed). Then we’d blast back to Michigan in time for Julia to drive to California to begin work.
And I would, once again, drag out all the stuff I’d put in storage two years earlier and move into my new home base in time for a good old Michigan winter.
Both of us would experience, perhaps without being totally conscious of it, the way fate and grace had gently taken us in hand, opening doors and laying paving stones along our path. The way the voyage through life sometimes happens when we let it.
But–we still had to get back to Michigan.
If you’ve gathered anything about my travel MO, you know that I am allergic to long driving days of so-many-hundreds-of-miles-per-day. Now, we had to beeline almost 1400 miles (2200 km.) in five days, traversing three border crossings and an unknown number of construction zones and natural barriers, the most significant of which, as far as I could tell, was Lake Champlain in New York State. That one required a ferry crossing.
Not to mention driving the dreaded 401 through Toronto.
We made it home on time and without mishap or incident after almost 6,000 miles through five Canadian provinces and several US states. No breakdowns; no meltdowns; no injuries; only a few wrong turns and missed opportunities. No end of sea-and-mountain vistas. Forest romps. Friendly people. Fresh seafood enough to gladden the heart of any landlocked Midwesterner.
It had been, in every sense of the word, the trip of a lifetime.