After 3 days in historic Chester, which included another day trip to Liverpool, we have bid farewell to our Canadian travel partners, Tom and Nanci. We shared some adventure on the canals, iconic historical sites, great pub food, and a “few pints”. Partings such as these are tinged with sadness, but at dinner last night we began formulating “what-if” travel possibilities for the future. Will it be a long distance bicycle ride, a sail down the St. Lawrence to the Madeleine Islands, or camping in the Yukon?… only time will tell.
Waiting for us in Cardiff Wales are our Welsh friends Huw and Nina Thomas. We are looking forward to a 3 day auto-tour of southern England at Huw’s able direction.
Our train departed at 8:19 and is scheduled to arrive in Cardiff at 11:15. Departure was precisely on-time for this comfortable 2 car train. We have found that timeliness is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to overseas train travel. I am taking this 3 hour transit as my opportunity to write this post.
A question persists for me. Would I plan another narrowboat trip? Certainly the 3 weeks that we experienced on the canals of England and Wales were filled each day with new sights and experiences. We estimate that we covered over 250 miles, navigated over 60 locks, at least 15 drawbridges, 10 long underground tunnel passages, and accomplished 4 high aqueduct crossings. While this may sound like a lot, it really just scratches the surface of the 2,000 miles available for the intrepid canal pilot.
Much of week one was spent tackling the learning curve with the assistance of two “competent women”, Christine and Kris. Week two was solo with Christine and spent further honing our skills. Week three brought Tom and Nanci aboard, both eager to lend a hand and embrace a totally new experience. By week three I had grown comfortable enough to consider myself unconsciously competent… reacting to the vessel and circumstances more with instinct than focus. As we approached Middlewich on the final day there was a lock that is sized to fit two narrowboats at the same time but with only inches to spare. The pilot of an especially attractive 70 footer and I approached the opened lock gates in tandem and each executed a perfect entry with nary a jostle of the other’s craft. We began to speak, each at our respective helms. He was surprised to hear my North American accent as it seemed inconsistent with the accomplished execution of our joint maneuver. With satisfaction I realized that the canals had presented me with a surprise “final exam” and I had passed.
Given the right opportunity I would not hesitate to reprise this experience. However, with each passing year I am increasingly aware that the horizon of opportunity is limited and ever closing in upon us. The gift of good health is a fragile one. We experience the loss of friends and acquaintances with increasing frequency. The possible “next things” waiting to be explored may be many, but the opportunities may be few. Our choices must be made mindfully and with a balance drawn between time spent at home with loved ones and time spent in the pursuit of our next adventure. I have often said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow the things that you may find you are then unable to do.” Those things include giving and receiving love from those who you hold dear.
Peace Everyone. Pete