Sunday, August 9, 2015

Anacortes: The Beauty Beyond the Corridor

Months ago, we made plans to visit some of our cycling friends, Malcolm and Michelle, in Anacortes, Washington. Another friend, Tom, was to fly in from Philadelphia, and the plan was for all of us to go riding together for a few days in advance of our cycling tour in Italy in September. A month ago, however, we realized that Mark's cycling days are behind him (due to cancer-induced pain), and we cancelled the cycling tour. Nevertheless, we still wanted to come up and and hang out with our friends for a week, and we're so glad we did.

Our friends' home in Anacortes, an oasis amidst cedar and fir trees.

On our first day, the others went riding while Mark and I drove around Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. That evening, we had a wonderful dinner that included two more cycling friends who also live in Anacortes. Lots of good food and laughter, topped off by a game that was new to us, "Cards Against Humanity." I highly recommend it if you're good with a bit of crude humor.

Rick, Tom, Michelle and Malcolm

On Tuesday, Malcolm, Michelle, Tom and another Anacortes cyclist cycled up the slopes of Mount Baker to Artist Point. Mark and I drove up and met them at the top with lunch. We so wished we had been cycling, if only to take in the gorgeous sweeping views as one neared the Mt. Baker ski resorts. 

On the way up and again at the top, I thought of the dozens of times I have passed Mt. Baker on I-5, both when we lived in Vancouver from 1986-1996 and while visiting since then. I also thought of the countless times I used to see the mountain from Vancouver on a clear day. Yet, I had never been there, never explored outside of the I-5 corridor. 

As we drove up the slopes of the mountain, I was reminded of a post I wrote over three years ago when I first started cycling after tackling Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake for the first time. Here are some (slightly edited) excerpts:
"Yesterday, we cycled all the way to the top of canyon, and I was blown away. I again marveled at the beauty that has been there all these years that I have lived in Salt Lake, but which I never saw or experienced. There were a number of reasons for this, but it basically boils down to the fact that I was going through life with blinders on, my nose to the grindstone, oblivious (and almost willfully so) to a landscape and a world that I refused to see or visit. It didn't escape me, as I rode up and down the canyon yesterday, that this could be a metaphor for my life in general - particularly with respect to my hidden sexuality:  it was always there, a land rich in emotion and beauty, but I refused to go there ... 
"For most of my life, I have been in survival mode - simply putting my head down and trying to get through whatever crisis or challenge I was facing at the time. I would go all out, trying to just get to the top of the metaphorical hill ... But by putting my head down and focusing on the "top of the hill," I missed out on the journey. I didn't care about the journey; all I cared about what the destination. I had to "get through" the next challenge so that I could then "get through" the next challenge, so that I could then "get through" the next challenge, etc., etc. In the process, I exhausted myself and missed out on all the beauty that was beyond the corridor of my life."

On Wednesday, I joined the others on a ride around Anacortes and Fidalgo Island. It was the first time I'd been on my bike in a month, and I enjoyed getting out.

On Thursday, Mark and I went whale watching along the southern edge of the San Juan Islands. It turned out to be a beautiful day and an unforgettable experience. 

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