As I write this, I'm seated at a leather-bound table in a beautiful home in La Paz, Baja Sur -- hosted by a warm Mexican woman named Tuly, who lets travelers leave their bicycles (and/or small boats and/or V.W. buses with Tibetan prayer flags stung up in the window) in her airy garage for weeks (or years) at a time, while they go off and explore the rest of the world.
When we arrived yesterday -- perhaps anticipating our looming separation -- Bruce pulled out his proper camera and audio equipment, arranged Grimey and Edwards (aka our friends Zoe and Matt, pictured above at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet) just so around this same table,and asked them to reflect on the past 4 months on their bicycles.
And as they discussed what the trip meant to them, what's shifted and surprised them, and how they'd surprised themselves...
I couldn't help but think of all the little moments the four of us have shared, as our respective paths have criss-crossed since way back in San Felipe.
Moments such as:
Stubbornly refusing to go back and say hello to the strangers who had waved Bruce down from the side of the road, on account of being half a kilometer down a hill when I finally, reluctantly, stopped to wait for him -- thinking:
"What could they POSSIBLY want???"
Learning from Bruce that they were on the same journey we were (imagine that!) and wondering how to feel about that; sharing a swim that afternoon in the Sea of Cortez and a hose-off in the yard of their host, followed by a shouted farewell of: "See you down the road!"
Tentatively setting up our matching Hubba Hubba tents side-by-side for the first time, feeling so surprised that they'd wanted to finish early and camp with us...
... After I'd spent pretty much the whole day sulking and puking and laying around, whining about the heat.
Feeling even more surprised the next day when -- after they'd already begun a tremendous descent through a gorgeous valley filled with 30-foot cacti, and we'd pulled over behind them so that Bruce could consider puking himself...
... They'd reappeared 20 minutes later; having turned around and climbedback uphill, just to check on us.
Sitting around a table in an empty restaurant for four hours after crossing into Baja Sur; alternately drinking Tecate and trading stories and using the internet and trading more stories as we waited to eat an unexpectedly multi-course dinner that the chef had lovingly and laboriously prepared for us, all by himself.
Meeting Adrian and sharing our lunches on a random porch; and later co-developing a list of questions we wished we'd thought to ask.
Treading water in a surreal green palm-ringed river oasis, on a 98-degree afternoon.
Elatedly spotting their bicycle tracks, while feeling lost and hot and hopeless, in the demoralizing sand dunes of the San Ignacio salt flats.
Wondering if they had camped in the same creepy abandoned house that we had that night, seeking shelter from the howling wind across the barren landscape, and learning later -- upon finding them again in the delightful beach town of San Juanico -- that they had!
Trading war stories over morning coffee in their surfer-hostel courtyard, about the sand and the rocks and the shredded tires and the tops of mesas...
... And the kind people who gave us lifts in the backs of their respective pickup trucks, and who refused to accept any money.
Checking out at the supermarket in Ciudad Constitución -- where, certain there would be no witnesses, I was buying all kinds of bad-for-you things that would NEVER fly in my cart at home -- and feeling a hand land on my arm.
Turning to see Zoe's cheerful face, and thinking: Friend.
And finally, sitting in proper chairs around a dinner table at the sea-view AirBnB on which we'd collectively (and at the last minute) splurged just outside La Paz, with a pool and AC and laundry and everything...
... Using napkins and offering to do the dishes like civilized people, and all of us feeling properly strange about it.
All of these memories floated in and out of my mind, as I channeled my mother the former-TV-news-anchor and interviewer-extraordinaire to elicit their stories on camera.
And the thought struck me:
How, inside those rare occasions when we don't get to choose WHICH sides of ourselves get witnessed by the people around us...
Real bonds can form so quickly; in a fraction of the time it normally takes -- in the context of polite, mask-on, odor-and-appearance-and-temperature-controlled society.
As we leave Baja behind several days apart from each other, and they prepare to head East to our South on the mainland, I find myself preemptively missing their company, and their jokes, and their accents, and the luxury of having adventure-friends...
As well as all the OTHER friends they've graciously stood in for, and all the love they've reminded us of...
And how, no matter how far away we may get in kilometers -- we will remain, always, part of something bigger.