TO BORROW THE WORDS of Alex Garland in his description of Ko Sahn Road, Canon Beach is, for us, a decompression chamber. Here we soak in misty ocean vistas as we reflect on our trip, discussing from a comfortable distance what it will be like to return home – to the organized days of school and work, to familiarity, and to the challenges that lay waiting on the back burner.
After camping for several nights, the basic comforts of a hotel room seem amazing to us: a shower that isn’t quarter-fed, actual pillows (not stuff bags filled with clothes) and clean sheets. We feel reintroduced to modern society.
Despite having become largely a vacation spot, Canon Beach has mysteriously (and thankfully) retained an authentically Northwest character. Nary a modern building can be found amid the salt-encrusted wooden guesthouses, pubs and shops; while the young traveler may feel a bit out of place among the mostly middle-aged crowd, the atmosphere is unpretentious and provides enough breathing room for people like us, who are just seeking a little downtime.
Here I write postcards to relatives, read and take in the last coastal sunset I will see for a long time. But after a couple days of slow living, we take a breath and decide it’s time to go.
We stop outside of Portland to see Nick’s sister’s family, and are given a delicious meal of ravioli before making the final haul. Passing through Portland’s arteries I relive experiences from a month ago: time spent driving aimlessly with my dad, long bicycle rides on my own. Halfway over the Columbia River we see a sign welcoming us to Washington, and all of it is swept into the past.
By the time we roll into Seattle, treated to the skyline as we drive up and away from Tukwila, the sky is transitioning from a burning pink to a cool, fizzling purple. I drop off Nick at his house, exchange a hearty man-hug, honk the horn and head down south.
Back in the suburbs I debate what to eat for dinner, guiltily enjoying the fact that for once I know exactly where I’m going. I know that both Paul’s and Ai’s teriyaki joints will be closed because it’s Sunday, but am sure that Ichi will be open. I pull in, order the usual from back in my high school days, and get it to go.
As I pass through the streets that divide the memories of my youth, I accept that this is where I am from. I feel a sense of connection, of unexpected pride for my hometown as my car fills with the smell of rice and spicy chicken, knowing that – for better or for worse – these are my roots.
The things that have changed in this city – the new buildings, the closed shops, the unfamiliar families where friends used to live – are reminders of the time that has elapsed, and of all the places I have been.
This concludes the Tour de Cascadia – thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Happy travels.