If you didn’t already know it, you don’t need to go all the way to DisneyLand to find out that it’s a small, small world. Peter and I have traveled many miles from home, and met people who knew people we knew.
We’ve had lovely trips, all squeezed into the few short years after Peter’s retirement and before dementia stole his mind. I’ve already posted a series about our very favorite trip, an African safari (see Contents above). Other series to come. We’ve learned a lot wherever we’ve gone, most notably that people make the journeys as memorable, as do the sights and sounds.
Alaska, 2006: we made friends with a bubbly, out-going English couple, Linda and Keith. “We live in St. Albans,” she said, “northwest of London.”
“My favorite pub is in St. Albans, The Fighting Cocks,” I told her. “Our friends Martin and Anna took us there, during my first trip to England in 1979.” Keith asked where our friends lived, then laughed when we said Bushey. The two couples live ten miles apart as the crow flies.
During that same trip we met Jean and Steve, both still English to the bottoms of their plimsoles, though they’ve lived in Australia for forty years. I convinced Jean that we should be “pen pals,” though I had to further convince her to drop her actual pen and use email or she’d never hear from me again. Eight years later we continue to correspond several times a month, and are each other’s shoulder-to-cry on during the bad times. Jean and Steve, Linda and Keith became friends on that trip and have visited each other in their opposite hemispheres of the world. Jean and daughter Karen came here three years ago, and we’ve visited Linda and Keith.
I’ve stayed in touch with another Linda from that trip. She lives in Florida most of the time, but summers in North Carolina. Merriwether — yes, related to Merriwether-Lewis —was one of our guides in Alaska. She mentioned she’d gone to Hollins College, not far from here. When I told her where we lived she launched into the Virginia Tech fight song.
England, Ireland, Scotland, 2010: On our “Circumnavigation of the British Isles” we met a New Hampshire couple. When we said we’d moved to Virginia from a village in upstate New York, they asked what village?
“Clinton,” I said.
“Clinton! Hamilton College! I went to Hamilton.”
He leaned in close. “Ever hear about the hockey ref at Hamilton? The guy who stomped his skate down on a player’s throat?”
“Yikes! No! Probably happened before we moved there.”
“He was an Indian fellow — Native American — who was always barefoot.”
“Oh-h, Indian Joe,” I said. “He was our neighbor.”
I’d never heard the hockey story, but verified that he did indeed go barefoot even in our bitter snowy winters. He was famous for his garlic too. To this day, I grow Indian Joe’s garlic. I keep it going, sort of like friendship bread.
The Canyons and Yellowstone, 2011: At the orientation meeting, there was a man wearing a maroon and orange Virginia Tech Hokies’ sweatshirt. He beamed. “You folks are from Blacksburg, aren’t you?” David graduated from VT, his wife, Janet, from Radford University. They’re Virginia residents, and we keep in touch.
Netherlands, 2008: On a tulip-time riverboat trip we enjoyed Sally and Lee whose son, we learned, had graduated from VT, and whose thesis advisor lives five houses down our street.
Mexico, 2008: Too bad we didn’t do our whale-watching trip to Baja California before we went to Alaska because we had a lot of laughs with Candy and Mike who live in Anchorage. We might have been able to visit them in their own habitat.
Our Bushey, England friends, Anna and Martin, have a place on the south coast of France. Several years ago they called to say they’d met Americans Beverly and Joel who vacation there several times a year. Joel introduced himself saying, “We’re from a little town in Virginia you won’t have heard of— Blacksburg.”
“We have friends there!” Martin said. Turns out we live a block apart.
Our African safari remains our favorite overall, but the Alaskan voyage on a tiny ship was equally special because we met so many people we still count as friends.