Instantly friends

Day 4, Lake Crescent to Kalaloch Beach, 62 miles

Huge grin, laughing as he speaks, muttering accent peppered with British and Australian intonations. Simon sits across me at the Fork Coffee House. He’s bubbling about his tour, 5 weeks on the road, exploring British Columbia, up the Sunshine Coast, over to Vancouver Island, ferries to the San Juans, and now our paths cross on the Olympic Peninsula.

“Lots of rain! But that’s what makes everything so beautiful.” His eyes are sparkling. Dusty blonde hair and beard, complexion ruddy from the sun and wind. Simon is fully in, bicycle touring bliss. “And the hills on the Sunshine Coast, up and down and up and down, I’m in shape now!” (Sorry, Simon wouldn’t let me take his picture for the blog. “No picture for the blog!” More laughter.)

I’ve met five other touring cyclists so far today, three young men from Canada, and just leaving the diner, and two British sisters, twins. “I’ve got twin sons!” my response to any twins I meet. Laughter and recognition of the unique and powerful bond shared. All of us heading south, the whole US Pacific Coast, to San Diego. They all are following “The Book” (Bicycling the Pacific Coast) so I tell them we’ll be riding together, often meeting up down the road.

Seems any touring cyclists I meet become instantly friends. We share the passion and adventure of this unique form of traveling, exploring the nooks and cranny of landscape and towns, braving the challenge of the elements and the traffic. And the ecstasy, the gifts only possible from such exposure, endless vistas, hours of strain and sweat, breathtaking descents, breathing breathing in the air, the sun, the world.

I’m looking forward to campfires down the road, chatting over breakfast, cycling leap frog as we pass each other along the road. Laughter is the most common sound from the group camps filled with cyclists. And the occasional snoring. As one of the experienced travelers on this route, I also anticipate sharing my knowledge of the road. And more learning from the international flavor of my new companions.

Somewhere in our conversation, I apologize reflexively to Simon, embarrassed for the US election politic. He laughs even harder. “I can’t wait to see the deals that Trump will make, when he’s elected.” He goes on about how dishonest Hillary is, a neo-liberal who will continue all the bad deals with the Saudis. But I don’t argue, merely shrug and laugh along. Political agreement isn’t a requirement for a bicycle touring friendship. Nor should it be off the road. Sad how oft is the case, that ideological differences create insurmountable social distances, paralyzed political systems, inequities, prejudice, wars.

We would be so much better if we just got on our bicycles, rode together over hills and valleys, wind blowing away the cares and worries, anger and sadness melting away into another huge grin. Like the one on Simon’s beautiful face.

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