Days 190-192: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA & Edmonds, WA - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

March 4, 2015

Days 190-192: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA & Edmonds, WA

We have three days together in California before I return home to Seattle to reunite with the people and the dog that I love. There's so much we could do in the Los Angeles area, so many places we could eat, so many interesting places we could go. But mostly we don't do anything at all. Because of the dramatic time zone changes, the long set of flights, and the fact that we charged across the western half of Australia on heavily loaded bicycles in only a month, we can't seem to get enough sleep. It happens at all hours of the day, and it seems like we're forever going to bed, waking up, or thinking about the next time we'll be able to sleep. We're always at the point where we feel a few hours short of rested.

The things we find ourselves appreciating almost as much as sleep are the things we never quite had enough of during the six months we spent on the road: healthy food, a clean and soft bed, showers whenever we want them at whatever temperature we want them, and both power and internet available on demand. Every one of them feels like the highest luxury, like something we have to take advantage of before they're once again taken away from us.

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I see whales spouting in the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean below as the plane leaves Los Angeles behind and makes a hard right turn that aims it due north toward Seattle. In the two hours that follow, the views that run past my window like a slide show remind me over and over again of the ride that brought us to California from Oregon back in August. There are the ragged shores near Santa Barbara and the unending flatness of the Central Valley. Over Northern California I look down and see the town of Westwood, the thin and wandering line of the highway that took us west from there, a Lake Almanor that isn't nearly as empty of water in the late winter, and the unbroken expenses of ever-green national forest land in which we slept. Farther on, the aircraft travels right over Portland. Without even having to squint I can see the major buildings and arterials of the Hawthorne neighborhood, the place where there lies so many good memories, where we fell in love, and from where we set out on this incomparable adventure exactly 191 days ago.

An hour later I'm on the ground in Seattle, walking out through the last security checkpoint and scanning the sparse crowd beyond for my dad. He's leaning against a support column, in his black leather jacket, reading a paperback book, just like he does every time he picks me up from the airport. I get the sense he hasn't been this happy to see me since the day I was born, and there's profound feeling of happiness and comfort that goes along with that. He knows where I've been and he knows what everything I've experienced in the last six months has meant to me, because he's a more dedicated follower of this journal than anyone else. And so instead of talking about the trip we catch up on the other business of life, as I deal with the shock of shiver-causing cold weather for the first time in almost three months. Then we eat lunch where we most often eat lunch. We talk about the potential of the Seattle Mariners for the upcoming season, like we do at this time every year. We talk about Walter with the same kind of delight and love we always do.

Next we stop to spend some time with Micah, who has the greatest combination of intelligence, humor, music taste, and inappropriate thinking of anyone I've ever known. We started talking baseball one day back in fourth grade when he walked past the driveway in front of my house and we've been friends ever since — through elementary and middle and high school, through college and into our adult years, as relationships and jobs have come and gone, as we've traveled all over the world and back again. He's the kind of person who will always have a place near the center of my life. And today I get to meet his daughter for the first time.

Angela June was born back in January, when Kristen and I were cycling somewhere north of Adelaide in South Australia. Of all the events back home that I missed while traveling, not being around when she popped out into the world three weeks early is the one I regret the most. But today I do my best to catch up. Over a pint of beer that Micah brewed himself, I can't help but stare at the little limbs that look like over-stuffed sausages and listen to the details in the soft sounds that come out of a squirming baby. It's impossible to keep from touching the gentlest little waves of hair I've ever felt or laughing at the weird faces she makes when she farts or poops, or when she farts and poops at the same time. Soon she falls asleep in my arms, a feeling I've never before in my life experienced, and for which there is no parallel. It's a look into the more selfless life of adults that waits for all of us, and in this moment it seems so wonderful.

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The feeling of anticipation grows stronger and stronger as we approach my dad's house in the middle of the afternoon. Since the day I last said goodbye to Walter back in September I've been thinking about the day when we would meet back up again. As we drive, I imagine him passed out asleep on top of my dad's bed or beneath his ottoman, curled up with his head tucked in toward his belly. When the garage door opens, I picture that little dog head with its oversized ears popping up and a look of curiosity spreading across the face. As we pull into the garage, I imagine Walter standing up, stretching, and walking stiff-legged to the top of the stairs where he stands and waits for the basement door to move.

That's exactly where he is when I push it open. For a moment he stands still, staring straight at me, unsure if the person that he must have assumed was gone forever has somehow returned. But as I step inside and begin to walk up the stairs he springs to life, his body wiggling from furious tail wagging, his voice a joyous howl, his face reflecting nothing but excitement. His hair is out of control because he hasn't been groomed since I left, and he could use a good scrubbing to get rid of the dirt stains on his face, but he's still Walter. He seems healthy and happy. He shows no ill effects from the leg injury that had been bothering him for months. There's no way I can explain to him how sorry I feel for having left him behind, nor is it possible for me to tell him that I'll never again make that mistake. All I can do is rub his little head, scratch his tiny back, throw the tennis ball around the living room for him to go fetch, and start down the long path of rebuilding his trust.

He's most concerned with the tennis ball.

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And with that I'm home again.

With that I'm whole again.

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