On the road in America.
Seattle is a village; outgrown village. I have a bad cold, 2 nights in the Crocodile Club is hard, too much for an old man like me. The Dharma Bums are ontonight, garage rock from the 80/90s, reminds me of REM and the good days past, the guys are my age, not with my cold, the audience is my age, some look like they scheduled and have arm-twisted with teen daughters and boys for months to be able to take off tonight and be out and see the Dharma Bums, like they did 20 years ago; we are all old, just the Dharma Bums (named after Jack Kerouak’s book of his venture into Buddhism) take it easy, themselves not so serious anymore, just rock, unlike some band from the night before, that had more equipment then play. I wash away one Haywire, unfiltered Hefeweizen from Pyramid Breweries, Seattle, after the other, a little lemon squash with it, so refreshing that stuff. America has a great many brews.
I walk home past midnight, past a hotdog, completely tasteless, not even chili brings it to life, then I sit with my roommate in the kitchen of City Hostel, Jesse from Dallas who smokes weed in evenings, then works at the grocers all night, then smokes weed in the morning, usually sleeps during the day, but Saturday is his night off and he’s met this Spanish girl, so didn’t sleep today instead was walking her all day and was talking all eve, now he’s happy. Jesse’s been around for a while and up and down the country, knows Aerosmith, "which the young don’t know", no he doesn’t know the Dharma Bums; I didn’t before. Jesse would go to the park for food, where the hippies cook, is very relaxed and I could join him if I wanted, I am just drunk, tired, just want sleep, heal, tomorrow maybe I say, then I walk into my dark artistic groovy room/dorm: All spooky paintings on black walls, a frightened girl with pale face and blood stained white dress, a humpbacked goblin, naked with four eyes, these creatures side the window on the second floor, the fainthearted may jump right through it. Next morning I dare and look through it, beyond the black rag called curtain and I see, can see - a gull and a bee and a rose.
Sunday and hang over comes, marks my third day with diarrhoea, this is on top of a severe cold, blocked sinuses, cough and throat problems. This is me, after all the years in Africa drinking water from Conakry to Dakar to camel watering holes in Mauritania, it strikes me in a hostel in Seattle with some rot in the pipes; Seattle water really should be fine. Bottled water does the trick. I buy flu medication; cure my hangover and treat my sore throat.
Monday comes, Don comes, picks me up. The van is ready, Don insists on building me a bed in the back, "the little things more that I do"; Don is nice, the wooden bench that he attempts to build that would fill the space behind the 3rd row of seats, is a bricolage, a construction of sorts, but yes he is right I don’t own the tools that he has got... Don has a fully equipped garage, he owns a pick-up truck; for his work he says, a Harley, a boat, Seattle has so much water around, he owns a gun and he explains why, that even the police want him to wear one; the police cannot be everywhere. This is a goood bed he smiles wryly when another screw just won’t drive in all the way, Don is a great guy, he picked me up on the airport on Friday, he bedded and dined me in a Bn'B, Don is the guy who puts me on the road; on the road in America!
At 12 on Monday I own a van... almost... but this is another story.
I leave Don, this is somewhere north of Seattle, I get a bite to eat and organise a plane ticket for Christina, who I had left in Rome just weeks ago and then - I drive out to the main junction, south or north I ask myself? I think of going right and then go left and drive my new van north. I drive on an American road, listen to the engine, the roll-noise; it’s just the exhaust that rattles, it’s a good van, Don has had it serviced, fixed the gearbox and new brakes. I think I actually can commend Don, the unknown who I found through the Lonely Planet. My new van runs, I try the radio, Dave Brubeck’s Take Five comes on, later at Mukilteao it rains when I take the ferry to Whidbey Island. US homeland security is not on high alert, but a bit on red alert or rose or orange or what-ever, I know I should not shit myself when these US sheriffs or rangers walk by and look me deep in the eyes; they’ve let me into the country, they’re not out for me now, but this is my first day driving and I watched too many movies; am glad however I can go onto the ferry like everybody else.
I drive north and it clears a bit. Then there is another ferry over the Sound of Puget to Port Townsend and so many dolphins jump and dive. Before I picked up Brooke hitching a ride in a slight drizzle, sweet girl with a 4 string guitar on her back, tuned to a viola, Brooke tells me that the dolphins are not from here but introduced by the US military to fend off foreign submarines or terrorists thus help protect US naval nuclear bases. Whatever, in Townsend I follow Brooke to the upstage bar/restaurant, my cold and throat demand a strong local dark Porter beer, tourists play stupid card games, the hippies have long left. It’s open mike evening and whoever from town wants to perform sings or plays an instrument; there is talent in Port Townsend. The Porters are strong, I am sick and tired, dose off, the bar lady wakes me, Brooke is gone as well, I stumble out in the night, crawl into my van for the first so very cold uncomfortable night in the not at all equipped new van.
Around the Olympics.
Morning dawns and my throat has an apple stuck where my tonsils should be, spitting is green and painful, just spit long enough and the apple may go away, I grab a latte, the hot liquid oils a bit. Clouds still hover over the sound, sun though shimmers through, nothing holds me in Port Townsend, I leave and it gets sunny quickly while I head for the Olympic Mountains (wiki). Later on a little hike up Hurricane Hill the scenery at 1700m of altitude is all blue skies over white peaks and some pale cedar scrub.
Sun is magic for throat and senses, I roll back down, almost skip Port Augustus, after Crescent Lake I take a left up to Sol Duc (Salmon and Duck?) deep in the Olympic Forests. Night has fallen already, the cold is creeping back in down from the snowy tops. I quickly grab the opportunity for 2 hours of bath in the hot springs thinking it would do a little magic trick to my cold. Ensuite never to bed without beer, a small Portland Mirror Pond Pale Ale, some magic from the bottle and then hair still wet back to the freezing van. It’s rather that I wrap up in all the clothes that I have; the dune jacket inside the sleeping bag, the hat and scarf and the gloves, rather than the magic tricks that puts me into a comatose sleep and I survive another night. Next morning I hike up to the Salmon Duck falls embedded in thick old rainforest, a beauty par excellence, the senses on a ride, but Sol Duc’s just a forerunner of what seems to come.
Hungry like a bear I roll down mountain for an all American breakfast at Hungry Bears Inn; is my first food since long, the old lady just puts down SSHBSBT or whatever for sunny side (up) .... An old guy with a huge revolver in a holster, fully exited tells me his life story of stumbling over a bear cub (last night), that he shook and only saw black and couldn’t turn his rifle around, then ran home to get his 44 or 25 or whatever pistol gun, probably what is in his holster, the story continues a bit and I wish him luck as he swings through the doors with his coffee refill, bigmouth tells me my lady. I seek advice on road conditions and head for the Makah Indian tribal reservation at Neah Bay, the most north-western town of the US. The Makah Nation museum houses archaeological excavations of native fishermen’s huts from Ozette near-by some amazing 300 to 500 years old.
Then on a little walk out to Flattery-Cape I wonder a little about cougars (puma, mountain lion), elk and bears, they are supposedly around. Bears we see them on the beach tells me Tod who I give a ride a little later, Indian, he goes hunting with bow and arrow, for the deer as he says, but it is hard to get close, he shows me the eagle, but is disappointed, as he can spot only two and usually on the short ride would sight some 15. I reach Ozette (this is where the excavations were done), night falls quickly and I settle at the camp fire of Wesley, Jamie and Erika from Seattle, it is good to talk, drink their wine, the moon and stars are out, it looks promising, my cold is forgotten. Morning is overcast, the promise didn’t hold, a 30% chance of rain tells me Wesley with US American precision when I move out of camp. Even precise German’s will just tell you that there is a likelihood of rain without attempts to quantify. I go for the Alava Cape walk, take rain gear and again ponder about bear and cougar, they see you many times but you hardly ever see them. I reach the Pacific coast, a rough beach where huge logs lie around scattered or in heaps, the ocean may at times be so amazingly powerful. Pelicans migrate north to south, ride the waves, some cormorants rest on rocks further out, many gulls on the beach and they let me come so very close, millions of flies go up. There is a walk down along the beach with climbs over the stranded logs and another trail back; but the tide is high, my backpack with two cameras heavy, and the chance of rain still 30%! I head back the same trail and mull the where-about of the big black bear.
La Push, the rains now have started, I drive up to Hoh rainforests (wiki) in the Olympic National Park again. When all the 47km stretch outside the park boundaries to the Pacific Ocean was logged down in the last century Hoh still holds primary forest. Already late I still go for a walk and it rains as is customary for rainforests. Now trees grow almost 100m tall, 7m in diameter, nature feels striking enormous as I stand next to some fallen giant, especially its ability to rejuvenate as new sprouts usually start life on the old trunks (the circle of life in the rainforest as one fallen giant is birthplace for many new giants and they all stand in a row). Equally amazing is the changing course of the Hoh river and the constant rain that instigate growth of mosses that take their nutrition from the rains rather than the host, they hang heavy on branches veiling the trees in ghost like wraps but don’t kill them (Hall of the Mosses). Such is the fascinating micro-ecosystem of the rainforest, a mosaic of plants and species where everyone has a roll and all fits together. Dazzled after two hours I walk my way back to the van, the tourists have vanished, the rains now come down harder and suddenly I shriek up a deer, is it an elk?, which is not a moose/Elch (wiki).
Night in Kalaloch Beach, next morning I loop round Lake Quinault, then find myself in Aberdeen, later Olympia, later back in Seattle on another Friday, sleep after a few beers in the car park, very central, very cheap, much warmer than recently, still not organized. The rains have come to stay.
Despite the rains I attempt to reach behind Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, but all is very foggy and very rainy, an arduous curvy exhausting drive, I am happy once I land in Portland, Oregon. The rains are here to stay; forecast is 10 days of rain, I sleep, the trains howl all night, pulling heavy through the centre of town. So I eat two excellent Thai-curries, run between van and take-away stand, umbrella no-avail, I buy a book, Japanese junk in Powell’s and through the rain finally settle in Dechutes Brewery and write this.
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