The Grand Tour

I took an 8-mile walk on Bainbridge Island yesterday. I started at my parents house and worked my way down to Town and Country, the fancy local grocery store. Bainbridge Island has two grocery stores: T&C and Safeway. Safeway is the people’s grocery store. It’s not pretentious. It used to be open 24 hours (which for Bainbridge is absurd). And it’s a chain, which means it has that generic, predictable feel. T&C on the other hand can be borderline pretentious. Especially the fruit section. The mango prices are pretentious. As are the avocado prices. But T&C is nice, there’s no denying that. They have a wonderful variety of products. They have the best coffee in the Seattle region(!). And it just feels nice.

After T&C I made my way down to the waterfront. I was trying to get away from the tourists. Tourists, in summer on Bainbridge Island, are ubiquitous. They come off the ferry like short short-wearing, ready-to-consume zombies. They are funneled down Winslow Way, where they fan out into any one of the kitchy gift shop places selling imported tea candle holders from Myanmar. They then make a quick stop at Blackbird Bakery before continuing down to the Pub and enjoying a beverage while looking out at the placid waters of Eagle Harbor. I don’t blame the tourists — Bainbridge is beautiful — and of course when I travel I am also a tourist. But I do blame them for their short shorts. And their Vanderbilt shirts. And their general lackadaisical walking.

I followed the waterfront trail all the way out of town, almost to the end of Eagle Harbor, where I saw a Garter snake lying on the asphalt. I poked it with a stick to see if it was still alive. I felt like I was seven. Then I ambled up past St. Barnabus, up Finch, west on High School Road, up Sands, and towards Mandus Olsen and the Grand Forest. The Grand Forest is one of the few places on Bainbridge that (hopefully) will never be developed. The rate of development on Bainbridge is insane. You leave for two months and when you come back whole neighborhoods have sprung up where there was once forest. You see a deer timidly munching on some grass and you think to yourself, “Munch now, deer, for the area where you’re standing has a sign that says ‘Land Use Permit,’ which means in six months your grass will be fenced off with little kids running on it, screaming, while a mother looks on fondly. A human mother.”

At the entrance to the Grand Forest there was something typically Bainbridge: a passive-aggressive note. It was from dog owners, and said something like, “Dear Horse Owners, we will respect your rights to the trail and handle our dogs how you’ve requested around your horses, but in return please pick up the waste left by your horses so it doesn’t befoul the trail.” They actually used the word “befoul”! I love when people write things they would never in a million years say in conversation.  I do it all the time. But mostly I liked the sign because I imagined Jane, age 13, out for a Sunday ride on her favorite mare Tulip, stopping every four seconds to shovel Tulip’s shit into a burlap sack she’d brought along expressly for that purpose. Honestly.

After the Grand Forest I walked past Murden Cove, climbed a hill, took a right on Ferncliff, and was almost home free. The walk was starting to take its toll on my body. My left big toe hurt and I had a healthy sheen of sweat. But I felt wonderful. I had gotten in the zone I get in when I walk at a vigorous pace for any time over 30 minutes, and realized some fundamental things about my life. I know I realized some fundamental things about my life because just before the Grand Forest I was walking as fast as I could, grinning, and saying “Yes! That’s it!”

 I got home at 4:49pm, just in time to watch a boring match between Chile and Argentina, and make myself a mate. It had been a grand tour. Walking is good for the soul.

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