There is something that reminds me almost daily of today’s amazing person. That thing is the down vest I wear. It has two little duct-tape circles stuck to it in perfect symmetry on either side of the zip. These remind me of:
Kelly lives (or at least did in 2007) in Austin, Texas. She is a friend of a great guy I met in Switzerland, and through his help I managed to get in contact with Kelly, who then let me stay at her place (a household of female students) for a well needed weekend break in Austin.
The two little circles of duct tape were the result of one rouge spark from the brazier above flying onto my jacket. After almost 7,000km and three washes and two years later, the little patches are still on the jacket going strong. Ah the memories.
When I search through my memory of fantastic people that I met on my journey, there are some that just shine. Here I carry on my ode to those people I met along the way or who gave me a place to stay for the night (or nights), often total strangers, who subsequently left an indelible memory; a memory which from time to time drifts into my consciousness, taking me back to a lovely nostalgic place…today, those people are:
Rob and Liesl
Rob and Liesl live in Boerne, Texas. In a beautiful home just out of town. They both work from home, and have two fantastic kids. I met them by chance; I was lining up at a supermarket checkout in downtown Boerne, when a woman behind me started talking to me. Asked me what my story was, carrying a pack on my back and a skateboard in my shopping trolley. So I told her my story. The next thing I knew I was being bundled into her people-mover van with her two sons, her obviously intent on me not spending the night in my tent. I still remember Rob’s reaction when he got home and Liesl introduced me to him. “I thought that perhaps I had been replaced by a younger man,” Rob recalled later. He was all rather confused until he got the whole story.
Rob and Liesl were amazing hosts. In total I think I stayed at their home for 5 days. They had a sleep-out above their garage, so I had my own room detached from the house. Rob even drove me down to the Mexican border and came with me across to Mexico for a day (I had to renew my tourist visa stamp for the US).
I haven’t had contact with Rob and Liesl for a long time. I wonder how they are, how their triathalons are going, whether their kids have skinned their knees lately on their mountain board or BMXs or have taken up triathalons too…
I am still so full of gratitude for the five very restful days I spent at Rob and Liesl’s place; you guys have a special place in my heart.
Continuing this series of flashbacks, where I delve into my vivid memories of the trip, I re-introduce you to:
Keith and Mary
Keith and Mary live in Deming, New Mexico, USA. Deming is surrounded by beautiful desert.
I remember meeting Keith like it was yesterday. I was lurking around the carpark of one of the biggest employers in town (Walmart), half-heartedly thinking of setting up my tent in one of the green garden patches of the massive swathe of asphalt. I’m not entirely sure how we got talking, but I met Keith on my way out of the store, and after some conversation he eventually invited me back to stay at his place. Keith and Mary turned out to be “Trail Angels”, or those wonderful people who regularly host walkers on the Continental Divide Trail in the US.
I remember Keith mostly for his larger-than-life presence. A Vietnam veteran and now active community member, he was the kind of guy you just want to be around so that some of his greatness would perchance rub off on yourself. I could tell that there was a depth of life experience hidden behind his eyes that could fill volumes.
Where they lived was surrounded by quiet, stark desert land. The exposure was beautiful. Enough to harden a man but keep him honest and humble. Keith is well suited to be there; tough, honest, humble.
The day I left Deming was the day I surpassed the Guinness World Record; Deming and Keith and Mary will live on in my memory.
As you can see, I wore my pink shoes to match Mary…or perhaps Mary was trying to match me…
Every now and then I have flashbacks to this trip. It seems like an age ago that I completed this 2.5 year journey, but at the same time it is like it was only yesterday. Something that cements that feeling of timelessness is the memory of the people I met on the road and stayed with during the journey. Over the next few blog posts I will delve into those sweet memories and share with you some of the people that so often sneak their way back into my mind…
Kirk and Donna
Kirk and Donna live in Los Angeles. More or less on the beach in Los Angeles. They will forever occupy a special place in my heart for the awesome support they gave me at the end of my skate trip across the US. I met them through my blog, I think, right near the beginning of my trip when I was still in Japan in 2006….
The time I stayed with Kirk and Donna was a time for me that was transitional in so many ways. For the first time in a long time I was able to stop. Really just stop and not have anywhere I had to skate to the next day. I knew that I had a plane to catch at some point, but to be able to stop at their place and take at least a little bit of time out was very special.
This short stop was special in another way too. It was where the “longboard trailer” was finally made into being. The idea of using a trailer attached to my longboard to carry my gear had been hatched long before staying at Kirk and Donna’s place. That was somewhere at the beginning of the US leg. It had been given a healthy dose of encouragement half way across the US during a surprise telephone call from Cory Poole (on this very day, I do believe), and it was there at Kirk and Donna’s that it finally came together.
Kirk was an absolute legend, and just the man to be staying with at this time; he had all the right tools to convert an ultra-high spec carbon fibre longboard into a trailer that would eventually survive an epic 5,000km across China.
It is amazing how memories like this flow back to my mind like they were yesterday. I remember leaving Kirk and Donna’s place in an absolute mess as we hurried to get everthing packed for me to head to China. I remember eating amazing sushi near the beach. I remember talking faith at an icecream store. And I remember amazing watermelon smoothie…thank you Kirk and Donna for being amazing wonderful helpful generous people.
Below is the mayhem of packing for the flight to China…