Unplanned. [US roadtrip 2022.]

„It was so nice when we were allowed to make music under the gazebo. We sat together, jammed, and laughed. It was real, it felt so good.“

It’s getting dark. I only see his cigarette light up once in a while, the stars above, and the headlights of the trucks rushing by on the highway. And the dark shape of the gazebo somewhere over to my left.

We’ve been talking for hours with Dayle who lives on the small campground, right next to Highway 101, way up in Washington State. After our 3 days wilderness hike, we were looking for a simple place to stay, where we could just sit and read and go to bed early. Bridget’s quick research led us to this cheap campground that is barely more than a pullout from the highway. It has a little no-flush-toilet and metal numbers for the different ‚camping spots’. Well, the different patches of bare ground. „I will not pay for THIS“, I thought when we were greeted by Dayle with a “You don’t want to park there, go over there that’s the best spot”.

We hear stories about having his son live with him here for years after his ex-wife died. Stories of traveling with his band around the US. Stories of pain, physical and mental. And of joy when they were still allowed to rock the gazebo.

“You need to drive up to Mt. Walker tomorrow. I’ve been there once, it’s definitely beautiful.”

We are strolling to the small town‘s convenience store to buy some beers. Some people are greeting Dayle, some kids chat with him about their recent win in high school basketball. Some people just ignore him. And I hear a story for every house we pass, who lives or lived here.  

How can someone be so part of a community and also not?

„I really want to have a roof over my head. Something small. I am getting too old for this.“

Dayle is fast asleep when we pack our stuff and are about to leave his grounds in the morning. I write a quick thank you note on a piece of paper and leave it on his camping table. When I turn around and walk back to the car, I hear a ‚clink‘.

Bridget turns around from the campground letter box and meets me at the car. „I put in our campground fee. I want the officials to see that this place is used. So, they will maintain it and keep it open for Dayle.“

We did drive up Mount Walker. A thick layer of clouds hanging low in the valley, we didn’t even think we would get a good view. We circled higher and higher and when we reached the top we had a sea of clouds below us. The sun was just rising and turning everything into a surreal gleam. Thank you.  

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