19/8/18. As you may have seen from the previous post we are on the West Coast of the US to give our daughter Eleri a big surprise. She has been walking the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Canada since early April and is now on the last stretch.
Back in February, when our house in Surrey was on the market but not yet sold, we had the idea that we could meet her as she finished the Trail but, because we didn’t know when she would finish, we had a problem. She had a start date and thought it would take about 5 months, so we decided to fly 3 weeks either side of her estimated target date of 5 September and make a long holiday of it with the bikes in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.
We also thought it would be good fun to see her face when she finished the 2,650 mile hike and unexpectedly saw her parents at the same time. We just hoped that she wouldn’t be too shocked or embarrassed !
In the months that followed, whenever we spoke to her, it was mighty difficult not blurting out the secret. Agreeing to sell the house and moving out in May didn’t complicate matters. What did, however, was finding our new house and being unable to move in until 1 August – only 2 weeks before we were due to fly to Vancouver. But the flights were booked so we were going! If we hadn’t unpacked everything by then it would still be waiting for us when we got back at the end of September.
As things drew closer we began to have doubts about delaying the meeting until Eleri was at the end and so made the decision to hire a car and drive to wherever she was straight after we arrived on the West Coast.
The flight was, thankfully, unremarkable other than being the first time either of us had flown on an Airbus 380 (the enormous double decker jobs) and was followed by a bus trip (courtesy of the American rail company, Amtrak) to Seattle the next day. We had a night in a most odd hotel – the address was 605½ (similar to Platform 9¾ in the Harry Potter books) Main St – which we discovered subsequently is a Historic Monument because it was a boarding house catering for Japanese immigrants saying dating back to 1910. It has been preserved in the same state as when the Japanese were rounded up and sent to camps following Pearl Harbour. An authentic 1940’s experience with creaky bedsprings, ancient sinks and bathroom down the hall!
Then we picked up a car and headed for Portland, Oregon, because Eleri had just crossed into Washington state and was spending a couple of nights in a very small town called Cascade Locks, where there was a “show” for hikers at the weekend.
The next problem was how to locate her without calling her and letting her know we were in town! On her phone she had an app which showed her location when she was in a place with a phone signal and this showed her to be at the western end of the long, narrow town. So on the Saturday morning we arranged on WhatsApp to have a “chat” with her in an hour’s time and headed of down the interstate to Cascade Locks. She had said she was going for breakfast so we found a diner in the vicinity of her location and there she was in the breakfast queue!
As you can see from the video it was a complete surprise for her and rather an emotional one for all three of us. She had thought a couple of things we had said recently were a little odd (nothing new there, then!) but had dismissed the thought while we were a little stunned that we had pulled it off! The group who she was with all seemed impressed with our feat and Eli, an Australian, said he was going to send a photo of the three of us to his parents asking when they were coming!
We spent the rest of the day with Eleri looking round the show (only small – she was grateful as the last thing she wanted to do was a lot of walking) and going for a drive up the very pretty Columbia River Gorge.
On Sunday we met up with Eleri and her friends for breakfast again but this time in Portland as Jake’s father (they are from Oregon) had given them a lift into town so they could go shopping for equipment at a big camping store and food supplies in somewhere larger than the small convenience stores in most trail towns.