As I write this post, it is April 30th, the last day of April and only ten days before we have to be back in Canada. I find myself sitting on the most beautiful beach I've ever seen. The sand, white as new fallen snow, is as fine as powder. The ocean before me, described in many tourist pamphlets and review sites as "emerald green" is in reality the most vivid aquamarine, as brilliant as the gem for which the colour is named, and more blue than green. As my eyes track up from surf to horizon, the waters take on the deep blue you might find in the sapphires that grace the delicate hands of royals. Today is windy, the sun not quite so hot as to invite us in to the choppy, sparkling waters.
Yesterday, though, was perfect. The hot midday sun baked down on our increasingly golden skin, and for which the water was our only reprieve. In the stillness of yesterday's air, the water was as calm and clear as a wading pool, and as warm, too. The sun reflected in dancing ripples on the ivory sands beneath the surface. Tiny clear jellyfish floated just below the waves and would have gone entirely unnoticed if not for the shadow their cell-like bodies cast beneath them. That, and the persistent tingling, burning sensation their sting leaves on the thighs of unsuspecting passers-by. Our bright yellow Frisbee soared over the water, offering stark contrast to the blue of the ocean and sky; it's silver logo glinting like the waves. Diving for a wayward toss was not so much a sacrifice of the body as it was a veneration to the wonder of nature.
We didn't expect to come to Florida this late in the trip. We thought we might be in Tennessee by now. But, on the recommendation of an Alabama local, we made our way to Pensacola Beach. We've been in the area about five days now, and both of us have begun to realize how hard it's going to be to leave. It turns out West Florida is much nicer than we expected. The folks are friendly, the weather hot, the ocean a jewel, communities dotted with quaint beachy cottages. We balk at the thought of our adventure coming to a close.
Lately we've been reflecting on the places we've been and the people we've met along the way. Each and every one of them a testament to the good of humanity. Perhaps we've been lucky, but I'm beginning to suspect that pretty much all people are good people, and that the news media are just bullies and fear mongers.
In light of this slowly unraveled revelation, we've decided that our adventure should continue, that our lives will be made richer by experience and the people who make those experiences memorable. The conjured memories of most of our favourite places are coloured with faces and names as much as they are scenery and environment.
Gore Bay, Ontario would not have been as lovely without Jean and Darlene, nor Kenora without Cathy, Bob and Jennifer. The Kootenays blessed us with Lenni and Valentin Fieber, two young brothers from Germany travelling the globe in their Ford Expedition.
In Yosemite, Rose and Steven Pon became fast friends and even shared their campsite with us, right in the heart of the park. At Holtville Hot Springs we found ourselves aquainted with Les (is More), without whom we would not have braved Slab City. While at the Slabs, the fine gentlemen of the LoWs (Stan, Jay and his affable pooch Gordo, George, John, and the rest of the good ol' boys) greeted us with coffee and conversation, morning and night.
Most notably, our super secret hot springs excursion found us friendships that will last a lifetime: The wild and wonderful Jed and Maxine from Maine who taught us that it was okay to hang out with your wang out; John and his beautiful and sultry daughter Hailey from San Francisco who welcomed us for meals on several occasions and who left us all their food when they departed so we could stay another whole week; Chris and Stacey from Vancouver who have been travelling together on and off with their roof top tent and their excitable pooch for years and who have inspired us to head to Mexico; Richard, the unspeakably cool cat from San Diego; Werner, an eccentric genius who will regale you with his life stories (whether you're listening or not) and who is willing to take risks in the name of science, even if it means eating two potent weed gummies in a row and drinking a whole bottle of wine; Fabien and Isabella from Germany (and Brazil) in their impressive Unimog complete with it's own espresso and cappucino machine;
Chris and Jules from June Lake who we were lucky enough to reconnect with again purely by chance 2000 miles away at Magnolia Beach in Texas nearly four months later; Josh and Adena from Mammoth and their swingin' friends Blake and Liz from Riverside who live in a nudist colony year round and who can slack line in the nude better than they can clothed;
Colter - sweet Colter - the only person on the trip who we visited at his home in Boulder, Utah. He took us in, fed us, entertained us with a day of desert four wheeling, ruins hunting, and gun shootin', and stole a little piece of our hearts while he was at it.
At Hot Well Dunes in Arizona we met the lovely, gentle soul Greg Scott who we travelled and hot spring hopped with for a week, who also invited us to his home. We didn't go only because it was out of our way, not because we didn't find ourselves in the best company. Most recently, in Perdido Key, FL, only forty-five minutes from where I currently lay on these pristine sands, we met the endearing and soft spoken Denis Rogers. An ex-cop, widow, and animal lover formerly from Utah. We visited with him for four days. He cautioned us with the intensity only an ex-law enforcement officer would, having dealt with the worst of us for much of his storied life. Next time we make it to Perdido, we'll take a ride on his boat through the intracoastal waters. This list is a limited account of the people who made us feel like family over the last year.
Not to be forgotten are those incredible employees of the YMCA across Canada and the US (especially in San Luis Obispo, CA, San Angelo, TX, and New Orleans, LA), as well as all the other incredibly warm and engaging conversationalists we've met along the way in grocery stores, fast food joints, hot springs, restaurants, libraries, and campsites. Your kindness of spirit will never be forgotten, but rather passed along in good faith that it will be received with the same gratitude and humility we have discovered in ourselves over the last 11 months.
Now, our plan is to return to Canada to reconnect with the kind, wonderful people we left behind and have begun to miss acutely (our family and dearest friends) and to make as much money as possible before the snow flies. With any luck, next winter we will find ourselves meeting new people, having new experiences, and making new memories in places much further South of the border wall. To Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Costa Rica.
We've been leaving the windows open at night again, and have once more heard the Universe calling. We've learned, it's best to listen.