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Day 17 – The Journey Home

Total Day: 354.2 km

Total Trip: 5,814.6 km

‘Way back at the beginning of this trip, when we were in Nakusp, BC for the Horizons Unlimited Rally, we went to a talk by a couple of travellers that had ridden two-up through Italy. Frankly, I wasn’t overly impressed with their talk, but it proved to me my belief that “adventure riding” had nothing to do with how aggressively you can ride off-road, and everything to do with going somewhere you’ve never been, rather than riding to the same place you always go. The end of their talk was a credits scroll, to which they added the theme song of that Canadian gem of a 1970s and 1980s TV show “The Littlest Hobo”. If you don’t know the show (amazingly, it was syndicated in many countries…), the “Hobo” was a peripatetic German Shepherd who always saved the day, like Lassie. The show was terrible. And then there was the theme song, “Maybe Tomorrow”. If you were a kid in Canada at a certain time, that becomes an earworm if you hear it. Thanks to that talk, I still hear that theme song as I write this. However, it was an apt song for today, as today was our route home. It was very familiar, as Leavenworth is so close to Plain, WA, where the Touratech Rally takes place. It was only a few hours to home. I woke up now looking forward to heading home, especially since today was a special day – my youngest’s 18th birthday.

But first – breakfast! We were in a quaint little tourist town, and I had been here before. I knew a good spot for breakfast right in the heart of town – the Renaissance Café, a place I had eaten at a few years ago. We packed up our gear for the last time, packed the bikes for the last time, made wistful comments to each other, knowing that this had been quite a special trip. We made our way to the restaurant, and for the second time in 24 hours we navigated the convoluted and overly complex parking meter system that exists in Leavenworth. (Not only are the instructions for the meters inscrutable, but the enforcement is both unrelenting and unforgiving.) We ate a delightful breakfast, and then made our way back to the bikes.

The first few miles were slightly different for my RRP, as while I had been to Leavenworth before, he had always turned off just before, to head north about 10 miles to Plain, Washington. Once we met up with the section of Highway 2 with which we were more familiar, it really felt like we were on the way home. This being a Friday, we rolled through sections that have been jammed on other trips, one lane sections with weekend traffic headed home to Bellingham or Seattle or points west. What often took an hour on those Sundays likely only took us 10 or 15 minutes today. We stopped at the large gas station we normally do for a rest and a drink, and a final refuel. It’s here where it happened: the embarrassment of dropping the bike, at low speed, and in public.

I was manoeuvring to a gas pump, when a lifted pickup “rolling coal” blasted into the station from the street, and looked like he was heading for the same pumps I was. I was already stopping, and this caused me to weave at low speed looking to avoid him – he blasted past me – and over I went. Red faced in embarrassment and exertion, the bike was righted with some help. Because where else does that sort of thing happen? And it was the only time either of us had a tip on the entire trip. Sigh.

Riding on, we made it to Sedro-Woolley, Washington, and our last stop for a beverage. This is where we said our goodbyes, as we would be in different lanes for Canadian Customs, which was a short ride away now. We were reeling in the miles today, and as we shared a hug, we knew that we would be riding on our own soon enough.

We continued up Highway 9, making our way north. Past Acme, and the small restaurant where we had our first meal together on the trip, the Acme Diner. Through the twisting wonderful roads west of Mount Baker, and heading through the slow speed limit of Sumas, Washington, we reached the Canada – US border crossing. I took the left lane, reserved for NEXUS holders, with one vehicle ahead; there were only 4 or 5 cars in each of the other lanes.

For the previous 20 minutes, I had been practising what I would say to the border guard. I pulled up, shut off the bike, took of my helmet and gloves, and we had a quick chat. When she asked if I had anything to declare, I said yes – I had some t-shirts (some I paid for, some were free); some fridge magnets for my collection (and to annoy my wife); some stickers (some paid for, some given as promotional items); and two new tires. I then told her the story of my tire delamination. She said “that’s fine, no taxes on that, those are necessary repairs”, and she waved me through with a smile. I asked if I could pull over just ahead to put my Nexus card away and put my helmet and gloves on, and she said “you can do that here, I’m in charge, not anyone behind you.” I’ve found all of the Canada Border Services Agency to be great to deal with, especially at the Sumas crossing, but this lady was one of the best yet. Thank you.

It turns out that RRP had a similar experience, in that his guard was a motorcyclist as well, and also preferred adventure bikes. They chatted about motorcycles, and RRP also had no hassles coming home. That always makes the end of a trip that much more pleasurable.

RRP and I had chosen different routes once we were back in Canada, so once I was through the border, that was it – there was no RRP in my communicator. I was on my own, solo in my helmet. I turned on some music, and made my way towards my last stop – a Starbucks that’s about 1/2 way to my house. It was hot, again, and stopping for a large iced coffee was in order. I wasn’t stopped long, though. Now that I was on my own, I just wanted to get back to my house.

In under an hour, I was parked outside my garage door. I pulled my panniers off, and rode the bike up into the garage, turning the engine off but leaving the bike on so that I could record the day’s final mileage as it sat ticking and cooling down. I was smiling – outside and inside.

The next day, I unloaded the panniers, and washed everything – the clothes, the dishes, the sleeping bag and pad. It’s all set in a large bin, at this point put away for the season and ready for next year, whatever that adventure might be. The following day I took the bike down to a local car wash and hosed off all the bugs and gunk. It somehow felt like I was washing away some memories.

Without question, this was a great trip. Without question, it was great to be home. But even as I unpacked and cleaned things over the next couple of days, I knew that I would remember this trip as one of the best I would ever take. So much thanks goes to my Regular Riding Partner, who really made the trip special. I could not have done it without him, and we both talk about how memorable it is. We also talk about planning something for next year…

Stay Tuned!

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