I am riding around with New York Plates, and that often seems to be a conversation starter. One morning, I met a couple from Missouri named, improbably, Bill and Melinda Gates—no relation. Over a few minutes of chatting, we realized that we all planned to end up in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park that evening. I had a reservation; they did not. She said, ”We’re retired. We don’t plan anything ahead of time.” We wished each other safe travels and went our separate ways.
Three o’clock that afternoon, I was in a solitary “Look Off,” a place where there is a great view, and enough room for a couple cars or RV’s to pull in. All of a sudden, I hear Frank Sinatra bellowing “New York, New York.” And there’s Bill and Melinda with their sweet old dog, balancing all four paws on the back seat. They’re laughing their heads off, and said that they wondered if they’d run into me again, so they found that song on the iPod and had it ready all day. We all laughed and sang a chorus together then, they went on their way around the mountains, and in a bit, so did I.
Later on, I checked into the campground, didn’t much like the spot I was assigned, so I came back out to the ranger booth to get a site upgrade, and there’s The Gates’ checking in. I walked up to the back of their truck singing, “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…” We laughed some more, swapped site numbers, and invited each other to visit.
I was wiped out, and eager to be horizontal, and, I don’t have a dog that needs walking, so I didn’t go out again that evening. Next morning I cooked this chicken cutlet, shallots, garlic, and zucchini thing I’ve been making in a red pasta sauce. Had some tricolor tortellini to go with it. All morning as I chopped and cooked I had a fantasy of inviting “my friends” over for lunch, but when I walked over to find them, they were gone. I kept looking for them, hoping they were just out sightseeing, but I guess they’d moved on. I had some real pangs of loneliness for a bit there, until I became re-acclimated to my own company. Funny how attached I can get to some of the folks I meet out here. The guidebooks on The Art of Solo Traveling didn’t have a chapter on this phenomenon. My imaginary friends in my head. We had a couple nice moments together. Wherever Bill and Melinda are, I sure wish them well, and their little dog, too.