Thoughts of the Drunken Duck
It was the biggest hill I’d ever seen and as I swung my leg over my bike, I turned to Aislyn and we both smiled.
“This had better be worth it.”
What seemed like an hour later, the hill wasn’t getting any smaller or shorter; there was no end in sight. In our efforts not to lose our minds, we lost ourselves to sheer silliness and deep belly laughs. “I think the Drunken Duck is a myth!” I pronounced loudly, letting my voice carry through the foggy air like smoke from a fire. For some reason, we both found this incredibly funny and had to stop our bikes, we were laughing so hard.
After everything else that had happened that weekend, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if we were biking up a hill that lead to nowhere. Chased and bitten by swans, getting lost on a dark road trying to walk the seven miles from Windermere to Ambleside and biking miles in the complete opposite direction from the ruined castle we were trying to find; everything had happened mistakenly on that trip and, frankly, it rather delighted me. Even if the Drunken Duck turned out to be a field full of drowsy sheep, I didn’t care. I was there with my friend, breathing in crisp lungfuls of mountain air and everything was beautiful.
“Wait, is that…is that A PUB I SEE?” one of us cried, shielding our eyes through the soupy mountain fog.
It was indeed. The Drunken Duck rose out of the air majestically, like Lewis and Clark seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time. We both cheered and had renewed energy as we dragged our bikes and ourselves up the last stretch of hill. My butt was bruised, our lungs were burning, we were both sweating profusely under our coats, but it didn’t matter anymore. The Drunken Duck was here, it was real and it meant one thing: TEA TIME.
Taking tea, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest inventions of the English, right behind pubs and Harry Potter. We locked our bikes outside and turned around, excitedly chattering about the prospect of a proper tea. I stopped talking suddenly and my face blanked out. “What?” Aislyn asked. “C’mon, let’s go inside.” Looking across the road, this is what I saw:
Mountains wreathed in mist, hills bowing gently to one another — it took my breath away. We stood there in silence a moment and, after a deep breath, proceeded to walk into the coziest pub on earth. We briefly contemplated ordering pints till we remembered the enormous hill that we now had to ride down, so we went back to our original decision of tea. We collapsed into a booth next to a couple who were out for a brisk walk with their giant, sprawling Saint Bernard who took up most of the floor. I privately wanted to sit on him and see if he could carry me around but I resisted and instead lost myself in the most wonderful tea I think I’ve ever had.
We lingered for an hour or more, Aislyn nibbling on extra sugar cubes, and finally, we schelped our tired bodies back onto our bikes and took off down the hill. We whooshed through the air with what was at first a rather alarming speed. But after a few seconds, it soared into a feeling of delirious freedom and I began belting out praise songs at the top of my lungs. In this empty valley in the Lakes District of England, I could do nothing else but praise my God for the glory of the landscape that blurred through the air around me.
Now, almost four years later, I look out my window to a busy street and piles of snow, and I see the worn timbers of a pub with a funny name. I see the black and white striped street signs for Skelwith, for Hawkshead, for Grasmere and I feel the weight of bike pedals beneath my feet. I’m skipping over rocks in a park that I named Middle Earth and wading in cold rivers that make me feel alive.
I’m here and I’m there — and I believe I shall always be.