Journey’s End

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Having finished our ice creams at Fisherman’s Wharf, Evie and I made our way to San Francisco airport and the mood was unsurprisingly a little blue. We talked through all our highlights and tried to keep cheerful, but we knew what was coming. This was the end.

Evie got checked in for her flight to her next adventure – India (how cool is that? – and I returned to the Jeep and headed south for the 500 mile drive to San Diego which is where my flight was departing from two days hence. I tried sticking on music to sing along to, but the mood wasn’t with it, so instead I listened to an audio book we’d started a few days earlier called Barbarian Days, which for me, is hands down the best book about surfing and the surfing experience ever written. It’s by William Finnegan, who’s long been a writer for the New Yorker and it tells his story going back to the late early 60s of how he started surfing, his motivations, how it developed and morphed over the years to his current relationship with it. It’s less a story about surfing and more one about life, I highly recommend it.

I paused overnight at a motel just off the interstate before heading off again early the following morning. I got down to and around LA without too much trouble and drove on to Doheny harbour where I had arranged to meet Donna (who I went to the ballgame with) and her friends, all of whom I’d met during my stay in San Clemente. The rendezvous was at Pier 9 and they were all present and correct with their husbands in tow and about to board a boat for a whale and dolphin watching trip. This was to be their farewell present to me and was a very touching gesture from some really lovely people.

Monument Valley from the plane

The trips are run on a regular basis during the day and last for a couple of hours, they head a few miles out to sea where Bottlenose, Common and Risso’s dolphins swim and also where Blue and Grey whale are currently migrating north to the cold water feeding grounds of Canada and Alaska. Three miles out we came across a pod of about 70 Common dolphin who having located a shoal of fish were corralling it so that they could all feed. I was transfixed, seeing them hurtle about over an area of roughly half a square mile 15/20 minutes, all of them taking their turn – the video at the bottom shows some of the footage I captured. As it happens we didn’t see any whales, they were all either further out or deep below the surface, but it hardly mattered as the dolphins provided more than enough entertainment for us.

Returning to shore we said our farewells and I headed on down the coast to San Diego, stopping at a charity shop to give away a number of things I could not get into my luggage. These included a sodastream, a couple of boogie boards and my skateboard, which as much as I’d have like to have brought home, it was just too big for my case – and at least this way it can go to another home where it will have be cherished.

Grand Canyon from the plan

A quiet night in another motel was followed by an early start for my homeward journey. My flight was San Diego to Edinburgh via Philadelphia, which might sound a bit of a pain, but it did mean me not having to travel through Heathrow, which, I think is one of the world’s worst airports. For me, once through security, I much prefer to find the right gate and chill rather than be herded along over-crowded winding pathways, hemmed in by shops, restaurants and bars. Should commercial greed be prioritised above customer comfort?

The Rockies from the plane

Arriving in Philly, I headed out of the terminal building and met up with my cousin Patrick who lives just outside the city – I should add that we had aranged to meet and this wasn’t just a random coincidence… He showed me around the centre of town – Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, old town etc. as well as having a walk on the riverside path with its street food vendors, bars and other recently created attractions. We proceeded to an excellent city centre bar, with 30 or so ales on sale and generally had a great catch up. A perfect way to finish off my odyssey…