Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wander Around Washington -- 7-27-07 (Vashon Island)

My dad believes in the concept of Karma, although he never refers to it that way. Instead I remember him saying to me over the years, "Son, clean living pays off."

I'm thinking of my dad this evening. As I work my way north toward the ferry terminal, I realize I'm low on cash so I'm looking for a cash machine. The gas station has a cash machine, but it's out of order. The lady at the cash register sees me looking at the machine and says "I can give you up to forty bucks in change off your card."

"Great," I say grabbing a Gatorade.

"Oh, you don't need to buy anything," she says.

"No," I insist, "I'm thirsty."

I get my quart of Gatorade and a bunch of change, thank the clerk and roll down the hill to the ferry terminal. "Just in time," the fare-taker tells me. I roll on the boat and it pulls away from the dock ten seconds later.

Clean living pays off.

I've never been a fan of cell phones, but my boss strongly suggested one would prove to be handy on this trip and he was right. I'd used the phone a lot to set up meetings, connect with folks and even do a couple of interviews but my favorite use of the thing has been to call my lovely wife. I call her now from the ferry, tell her how much I miss her, how close I am to home, how lovely Mount Rainier is off to starboard at this moment. I'll be home tomorrow. I'll camp somewhere on Vashon Island.

It's a short ferry ride to Vashon. The light is fading and the warm day is becoming a cool, clear night. I pull on my yellow rain jacket both for warmth and visibility. I turn on the lights on both my bike and my helmet.





Vashon is always lovely but there is something wondrous about the island at night. Only a few miles from the big cities of Seattle and Tacoma, Vashon remains a world apart. While the cities blaze and hum and click and whir with the business of men every hour of each day and night, Vashon remembers the rhythms of the sun and moon, the tides and the trees. The island sleeps. Here and there a dog barks at my passage, remarking on the unusual break in the natural order.

I could ride through the night, catch a late ferry to the mainland and perhaps be home by midnight. I have the legs and the lights to do it. But tomorrow will come soon enough and as the poet Bill Holm has noted "the heart can be filled anywhere on earth". My home is not just Issaquah or in the arms of my beautiful wife. It is not even just Washington state, this lovely state I've gotten to see know a tiny bit better over these past weeks. Willie Nelson said "home is where you're happy." I'm happy to be right here, right now.

I find a quiet clearing, not far from the road, dark and quiet and I roll out my bivy sack. By the light of my helmet, I see a small slug about an inch and half long. This slug is more active than most slugs I've seen. The creature is waving all four of its tentacles, it knows I'm here.

I don't know much about slugs, but tonight I learn something new. I'm settling in, drinking the last of my Gatorade and eating the last of a bag of chocolate chip cookies. I don't think there are bears on Vashon but as is my custom, I stash the food somewhere away from where I sleep. But before I do, I shake a few cookie crumbs out near the slug.

A tiny crumb is a big cookie to a slug. By the light of my helmet I watch the slug reach for a crumb with its lower tentacles. It seems to like the crumb, it grabs it up, stuffs the crumb in its mouth and chews. Then it reaches for another.

I settle in for the night. In the morning, all the crumbs and the slug are gone.

Today's stats: Dst 77.56 miles Ave 11.8 mph Max 29.0 mph
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