I am back in my wonderful country and I am dazzled with the clarity of the light, the pouring and distribution of colors, everything glowing like electricity with the uninhibited sun. The ocean is a blue at its most majestic, waving with the fine wrinkles of age, the tall trees are lit in a thousand variations of green, most lofted high by invisible spindles of dark trunk. Everything is so clear, so clean and so American. I’m not aware of the differences between the countries, the one I just came from and the one newly arrived, but there is something. Obviously the difference is subtle, for I am unable to identify it, but it is also the most apparent thing I know. There are the obvious differences like the color of money and the comfortable, familiar road signs. And maybe that’s just it: maybe it’s a plethora of familiarity, a million things more familiar in the States than their Canuck counterparts. The paving of the roads. The solidity of the traffic signals. Gasoline measured in gallons. Attention towards a single language. But there is something else, something that evades specificity. The ratio of ozone to nitrogen in each breath. The gravitational forces at latitudes less than forty-nine degrees.
I can’t define it, obviously, and I’m comfortable with that. I’m just comfortable and that’s important. In all honesty, I had only just gotten comfortable with being in Canada. I recognize the transparency of this, but: I felt like a foreigner. Perhaps it all stems from the immigration and customs procedure at the border, but I almost always had an uneasy sense of guilt or dissimilitude about being there, as though I would be assessed with an eye more aware, more judging and strict. I don’t think I ever was, and if my car hadn’t had a Kansas plate, I’m sure no one would have known the difference. (But they did know the difference. I often spotted the eye of a passerby notice the front of my car, my Powercat plate, and know that there should definitely be a proper license plate there — Kansas is one of the few states that don’t require them on both ends of a vehicle — and then, in passing, they’d swing their head ‘round in order to read where exactly I was coming from.) But I had finally gotten comfortable with being an American in Canada (or perhaps forgotten) and now I’m back in the States.
Either way, I’m glad. I’m so ready to proceed down the coast, the long Pacific coast to Los Angeles. I won’t get to start for a few more days, though, as I’m heading inland a bit to visit my cousins in Tacoma and sightsee around their area — Seattle, Mount Rainier.
But for tonight, I’m about 100 miles out from there, on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, dominated by the Olympic Mountains and the towering forests of the Olympic National Park. My exact site is in the campground at the Sequim Bay State Park, a small park that is mostly campground and the mile-long saltwater coastline of Sequim Bay. The brochure to the park says that this area receives less than half of the yearly rainfall of other Puget Sound locations since it lies in the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains. The word “Sequim” comes from a Native American word meaning “quiet waters,” which very aptly describes the water tonight — I have a spectacular view of the bay from my site, although through some much-welcomed trees that help keep my site somewhat private. The campground is one of the finer that I’ve stayed at with paved roads and vehicle pads and level spots for pitching a tent, which I have done. I think I will like the next couple weeks very much with the cool (more appropriately, perhaps, cold) nights, making perfect weather for camping.
Sequim is not far from where I got off the ferry from Victoria. The ship arrived in Port Angeles around 5 p.m., leaving very little time for sightseeing on the peninsula. The reason I got in so late I will set down in a minute. First I will explain that I had wanted to drive further than Sequim tonight, further south and closer to Tacoma, but the area spoke to me and I had to stop. I had passed a restaurant, too, that I had definitely wanted to stop at also, but there was one major problem: I was not hungry in the slightest. It occurred to me that I could stop for the night, get along with my normal routine, ie pitch my tent, write my journal, and by the end of it, possibly maybe be hungry. And so that’s where I’m at now, the time only 7 p.m. and proper hunger not quite here yet. Maybe it will not come at all — my developing paunch says it would be okay if it didn’t come for days — but my taste buds hope it will come before the restaurant of my desire closes, whenever that is.
My late arrival to America is easily justified. When I arrived at the Coho Ferry line at 9 a.m., the 10:30 ferry was completely full — it was full at 7:45, they said. So I happily waited for the next departure at 3 p.m. I left my car in queue and walked the 10-minute walk back into downtown Victoria. I first sought out a place for breakfast, something to satisfy the hunger that arrived so quickly despite last night’s 11 p.m. Chinese food fix. I found a place called Willie’s Bakery that serves hot breakfasts too. I sat down and ordered a coffee, which they diligently kept filled (most places so far — as long as I’ve been drinking coffee, which is not long — have asked me whether I wanted more and, not being a coffee drinker, I never knew how many fill-ups were acceptable). I had the breakfast special too, the chef’s version of Eggs Benedict. In my previous writings I revealed that I’ve never had the dish and so it seemed only appropriate that I try it for the first time in the formerly British Victoria. I almost wish I had tried traditional Eggs Benedict before this version, since I am sure I would rave about this version for years. But I had no benchmark to measure it against and so I will just assume by taste alone that this was the ultimate and forever superior version of Eggs Benedict. In lieu of English muffins, which I don’t care much for anyway, they used some type of bread — “bread” with an adjective before it, a word I’ve forgotten. The egg was perfectly poached and the rosemary ham (was it rosemary? I should have taken notes) was “simply delightful, dahling.”
The meal has sufficiently kept me full all day long. I added a blueberry yogurt muffin to my bill, but beyond that I have had nothing to eat all day and so I am surprised that I’m not hungry. I spent the rest of my time — most of it, anyway — on my laptop at the internet cafe I mentioned yesterday, the one with the ridiculously beautiful girl running it. She and I tried to work out my floppy disk situation (since they don’t let people bring their own disks in) but I finally asked whether I could just bring my laptop in and forget about the disks and she said “of course” so I walked all the way to-and-fro my car, and we got my laptop online. I took the opportunity to, besides the normal updates, resize my eire*land photos, since they were taking up a whopping 76 megabytes and I had just crossed my allotted 200 megabytes on the web server. So they are smaller now, only taking up 30 MB now, and I’m in the clear once again.
When it was nearing time to head back to my car to handle immigration around 1:30, I emptied my pockets of Canadian currency on the cute cafe girl. I assured her it was over the $5.76 I owed, but I think it was only over by six or seven cents. But I was free of my change, completely free of it, and I was happy for that. I know I could have changed it to American currency as well, but I’m not about to take $1.23 to be changed, let alone six or seven cents.
I waited in line for the ferry for a couple more hours, passing the time with my John Steinbeck book (which I hope I can finish soon so I can start another) and talking on the phone back home to my friend Sarah, who gets to go see John Mayer tomorrow (Sorry I’m missing your wedding, Laura — wish I was there; give John my best).
As much as I love the mountains and can’t seem to get away from them, I’m starting to get sick of them. I’m almost literally sick of them — seeing more make their way over the horizon draws a physical response in my stomach, an unpleasant one. I don’t know how to get away from them, or if I even will before I get back to Kansas. They’ll be all around tomorrow and the next day and the following few days as I make my way south through the Cascades, which really only disappear once I get into California five days from now — and even then I’ll eventually be looming under the shadow of the Sierra Nevadas. But I’ll live; as with everything I eventually tire of, I just have to remember that very soon I’ll be back among the total nothingness of Kansas.
I washed my car today, for only the second time on my tour, successfully lowering my summer-average of once-per-week. I had had enough of the of bug-plastered bumper that I acquired in Montana and had successfully smuggled past immigration not once, but twice — they never even look at the obvious, just ask to look in my spare-tire compartment.
So I will go get supper now, paunch or none — my willpower against Mexican food is too nonexistent. Yes, too nonexistent. Tomorrow I may lay on the beach, sucking in my gut, first thing, but soon move on down to the Wollen’s by late morning. I think the plan is, since they don’t have work tomorrow, to look around Seattle a bit.