But not quite like Jack Kerouac.
After completing all paperwork for our long stay visas at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. , we had some time on our hands: the response time from the Embassy for a oui or non was at least two weeks. Rather than further test the patience of relatives, Annie hit on the idea of doing some exploring and staying with people using the Couch Surfing web site. Couch Surfing is a mash up of boarding house, dating service, and your college ride board, blended together on the internet.
I was a bit skeptical of Annie’s idea. We were a family of five; from my viewing of Couch Surfing, most participants were in their early twenties and single, possibly looking for a date as much as a place to stay. What would Couch Surfing have to offer us? Annie ignored me and pressed on.
The kindness of strangers
Our first surf (wave? home? stay?) was an easy, waist high left break that took us to Laurie and Brian in Annapolis, Maryland. A gregarious, on the go pair, they keep busy with their daughter Ellie, consulting at a Washington, D.C. think tank, flying K-130s for the Marines, running for mayor of Annapolis, and hosting Couch Surfers. We arrived a day ahead of Hurricane Irene, ate very well, and had a fantastic time. We got along very well with the Deppas, and look forward to seeing them again.
The next couch wave we caught was a gnarly right break that washed us up in Dublin, New Hampshire. Susan and Ed live in an old farm house in a small town that is the home of the The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Yankee Magazine, and a former artist colony. The town is an archetypal New England village: white clapboard church, town hall, and general store. Ed is a former school teacher and programmer, and now spends his time sailing and building boats. Susan is a writer and editor, former progressive provocateur, and a collector of cookbooks. Their place was funky and fun, and we had a great time visiting with them.
In addition to the couch surfing stays, we also spent the waiting period visiting with friends. While in New Hampshire we visited with Dave and Jenny, who live in the central part of the state, near an idyllic lake. Dave and I have worked together across several companies for more than fifteen years. Dave and Jenny moved from Palo Alto over ten years ago, in search of a larger lot (Dave still talks about the tiny lot he grew up on) and a better place to raise their three fantastic kids. We spent a few days with them, swimming in the lake and enjoying the late summer.
Our travels then took us back to Annapolis where we stayed with Bill and Mary Jo. Bill and I met in the fourth grade at St. Stephen’s in Alexandria; we’ve been classmates then neighbors and friends ever since. Bill and Mary Jo have a lovely home on a creek that leads out into the Chesapeake Bay; they have two great kids, two feisty cats, one well behaved dog, one large boat, numerous other watercraft, sports equipment, games, and toys – it’s like being at camp. Our kids want to move in here.