So we got in our car and drove to the End of the World.
Land ends only a couple of hours away from us, but we've never been. It's one of those bucket list things that, owing to proximity and ease, just gets bumped below things you want to do more but above the impractical and prohibitive. Never mind. These have been challenging times, I don't mind admitting, and we decided to have an adventure of some kind each weekend of the summer, if only a minor one. Several of my siblings' kids came up last weekend for Sunfest. Next weekend we're visiting Regency England.
The End of the World seemed doable. I stopped by the Catbox, and mentioned the day’s plans. Lizardinlaw handed me a tea. I thanked her, though I already had a coffee. "Going to the end of the world in a bit," I said. "Anyone want anything?"
"Bring me back a cool rock," said Zephronias. I didn't know if we could take rocks from there, but said that I'd look for me.
Silverai_me asked for apathy. I found the idea of someone going to the effort of requesting apathy a bit paradoxical, like the kids at the local high school a few years back who created a Couch Potato Club and lounged near the Club's Week display in bathrobes. When anyone asked for an application to join, they were told the effort of requesting disqualified them.
"I'm allowed to care right now," said Silverai_me. "That's why I need some more apathy to cure it."
"Who says Silverai is gonna use it raw?" asked Zephronias. "It might be for a bottled emotion collection. It might be for a potion recipe. Maybe it's a special KIND of apathy that can only come from witnessing the end of the earth. 'End of the earth' apathy has got to be different from 'my cousin's hamster just died' or 'some neighbor I don't know is having a potluck.'"
I pondered these things, bid farewell, and went to get my wife, who'd fallen back asleep. We packed, ensured that Artemis the cat (who seems to be doing fine) ate again and had had water available on the porch, and departed.
Two hours later we stopped for dinch at the nearest small town. The Seacliffe Inn only serves in the evening, and we didn't want cheap chain food (the town boasts the usual suspects of fast food), so we went to a seafood place, hitting it after the lunchtime crowd had left. Only two other couples occupied tables. The owners hadn't adjusted the excessive AC that plagues the contemporary world and, without body heat to counteract it, the place was cold. We ordered coffee and hot soup on this summer's day, to take the edge off while they prepared our meals. The waitress, a friendly homespun type, asked where we were going. We told her (though one imagines she had a pretty good idea) and she suggested we take the tram to the tip and then walk back, or vice-versa.
Dinch concluded, and we departed.
You'd think the End of the World would be more clearly marked.
Oh, we'd printed out directions from Googlemaps and checked them against what charts we had. And a prominent sign pointed us down the road.
Still, as the way there branched and forked, we saw no further signage. We stopped by a crowd and clusters of cars near a shoreside park, thinking that might be it. They had gathered, it turned out, for a baseball game, and libations at pub 'n' grub sort of establishment called the Happy Snapper. We looked about. A sign indicated the Administrative Building for the End of the World, so we knew we were in the right place. We decided to ask there.
The parking lot may have been occupied, but the door was locked and those occupants hid within. A map posted on the door assured us we'd been going the right way. When we turned back out, we noticed the smallest sign possible, indicating the same. Would it hurt to post a larger sign? The odd reassurance along the route? Rental cottages crowded the shoreline but, apparently, it's indelicate to tell tourists where to go.
Bat cracked ball in the small park, a place from rural American dreams.
It finally occurred to us there really was only one direction we could head.
The gateway, at least, featured prominent signs. The gatekeeper handed us a map. She was not the aging character one might imagine, a Charon sort of figure, but rather, a smiling, plucky young student clearly employed for the summer season. We asked about the tram. "Just drive to until the end of the road," she said. Park at the Visitors' Centre. The tram leaves every ten minutes or so. Otherwise, it's about a half-hour walk from the Centre. Depending on how fast you walk."
The road passed a number of enigmatic signs. The road to Sleepy Hollow seemed curiously out of place. We wondered if we'd pass similar signs noting the roads to Asgard, Peyton Place, or the Shire, but we did not. We did stop by the marsh, which had walkways and canoe rentals. It's on the interior side, so no one need worry about strong currents. It proved a place of great natural beauty, with red-winged blackbirds and hedge sprites. Here be dragonflies.
It was at the Visitors' Centre that I was able to fulfill my first boon from a noder. The small theatre ran various films of relevance. Some were new, but we walked in on a low-definition, educational relic from 1968, one I'd seen at least twice before in my childhood. Age had not improved it in the slightest, but my wife, who had managed to miss it until now, insisted on watching a little. And so, at World's Edge, I found apathy. I remain uncertain how to bequeath the gift to Silverai_me, but it's his, or hers, if still desired.
The place otherwise brimmed with visitors and languages: three generations of a Canadian Sikh family, the obligatory Japanese tourists, a garrulous old American man with a bicycle. I wish we had thought to bring bicycles, though I imagine they rent them, someplace.
A large family group, some of the women in hijabs, walked towards the Centre. An older man sang something in Arabic and the children responded and giggled, a familiar game-song. One decidedly non-Arabic couple sitting and waiting scowled, certain, I suspect, that the song was secretly about Jihad against the Infidels, or otherwise about them.
A girl with green hair poked her head in a tintamarresque (despite photoshop, these things survive at tourist spots) and her boyfriend or brother took a picture. This particular tintamarresque makes it look like the user has just caught a monstrous fish.
Our ride to the World's End brought some suprises. Among the scattered folk walking back along the road we spied a small unicorn, gold-alicorned and galloping.
We got off the tram and removed our sandals and walked in the surf towards the point. And it is a point; the peninsula, perhaps one-hundred meters across where it joins the land, tapers to a nothing where people stand and watch and take photographs. Behind them, sometimes, ships sail over the edge.
Some people stepped in the water to get a better shot; the overly-cautious warden standing by shooed them out, warning of the currents, even this far away, can carry them out, sweep them away.
I stooped to pick up what I determined to be a sufficiently cool rock, a tiny, wave-polished thing resembling the tooth of a mythical beast or the arrowhead used by implausibly tiny hunter/gatherers. It's small enough to mail, if Zephronias wants it, and if Homeland Security does not consider rocks from such locations a threat. Otherwise, I must carry it to California at some far-future date, when I take that promised road trip and visit my nephew who works in L.A..
A biker looked out, a man in a Friday the 13th t-shirt. It's not so uncommon a sight; a nearby port town hosts biker events whenever Friday falls on that date. A couple asked him to take their picture. One of them, in turn photographed us, on that point so often seen online. The next group was a family, who chose to take their own shots, in various permutations.
We stayed to reflect on the state of things. Out on the water, two ships, a large freighter and a smaller pleasure craft, vanished over the edge.
We're not there, not yet.
The Sikh family gathered near a posted notice.
We walked happily back along the beach as though years had been stripped away. I could imagine us back in our twenties, thirties perhaps, decades still ahead. The shoreline grew difficult and we veered back onto the road.
"Hey," said a young man into a cell phone. "We found your... son or daughter's cell at the End of the World. We’re heading back to the Visitors' Centre now. We saw a bunch of texts from mama so we assume this is your son or daughter. So, yeah. Maybe call someone they're with, let them know. We'll leave it at the, uh, Visitors' Centre."
The Garrulous Old Bicycle Man appeared, tried to get the goods on the situation. The young woman lit something handrolled. The pair passed it back and forth as they walked.
A scantily-clad couple, a blond and a blonde, shorts and shorts and a halter, walked towards the point, drawing the old man's attention. He later scooted by to report back that they were from British Columbia.
A short time later, the smoking couple with the cell made a joint decision to head off-road to a parallel path in the woods, one that excluded bicycles.
"I think I’d like to take that path," my wife said, a moment later.
At the base of the peninsula we found a small establishment where we ate ice cream and reflected on the day. Two hours took us back to home and a hungry feline, our adventure complete. We'd observed the edge and returned, safely, to our home.
Today I think we're seeing the new Spider-man movie.
Being a true account of a Visit to the End of the World