Rounding Third, Heading Home, and the What Next

I remember last summer, on the day after my Type Rider journey ended in Milwaukee, Grace & I packed up the RV and started driving back to Massachusetts. We figured it would take a little over two days, and I thought how strange it was that it had taken me 40 days to ride out on my bicycle but I would return in a tiny fraction of the time. The scenery sped by so fast - we flew through Illinois and landed in a campground in the middle of Ohio that first night - then drove 9 hours the next day to New Jersey for one more night before Amherst.

Coming home was sudden and jarring, and it was hard to adjust to the huge shift in momentum. I had gotten so used to changing locations every day, spending hours cycling through the country backroads, discovering little gems of small-town main streets and meeting new people and enjoying the novelty of the everything of where I was. It was addictive, this daily rebooting, and I realized how easy it was to believe that this was the way of things always.

It was like this at Danielle's in Johnsburg, IL. Our four-day immersion on the Chain o' Lakes felt like years, like a good, worn pair of jeans just sits right on your body. We all experienced that in our own way. It felt seamless to slip into the rhythms of the day together: the meals, the outings, the lake, the hangouts by the fire. The boys took to each other immediately, and they kept good company together, with barely a fight between them during our whole stay. We all found a little bit of Zen on Pistakee Lake, and no one was ready to leave (Sammy wanted us to stay 10 more days), but leaving was inevitable. Monday morning, we pulled out the driveway quiet and pensive. Amy & I were bracing for a difficult ride back, certain the boys would be touchy and grouchy, picking fights at every turn.

But they didn't. Instead, we coasted through Indiana, stopping for lunch and gas on the highway and then for an hour or so at the RV museum in Elkhart, where I had passed through on bicycle the year before. We ended the day in Port Clinton, Ohio, which turns out to be the Walleye capital of the world. We got rooms at the Best Western, just across the street from Lake Erie, and if Amy and I hadn't been so hungry, we would have taken a stroll along the water. We got a good sunset with dinner, though, and then returned and watched House Hunters on HGTV until our eyes fluttered to a close.

The next morning, we all helped ourselves to the breakfast spread (three donuts apiece for the boys) then did a quick Google maps check for our route. It would be a long day on the road, close to eight-and-a-half hours, the bulk of it cutting through the length of Pennsylvania. I didn't think we'd have time to see any offbeat roadside attractions, but we managed to squeeze in a quick tour of Clearfield, PA (lunch at Sid's Super Submarines) before getting back on Route 80 through the Poconos (and Starbucks stop at Stroudsburg). The last two hours were a blur until they weren't, stop-and-start Jersey traffic reaching us just before Route 46, but we were too tired to complain with any vigor. The boys had perked up, though, already on the phone with friends plotting their plans for the evening.

And then: the unloading, the unpacking, the loads of laundry, the run to the grocery store for dinner and the next morning's breakfast, the mail, the watering of flailing plants, the feeding of the dog. Miraculously, we had enough in us to talk about the what next, which today meant beginning the paint job for the vintage camper we are turning into Food for the Soul Train, an "inspiration space" that will serve as the iconic representation for our art and writing workshops. It's been a quietly busy time for Maude's restoration, and we are inching closer to her completion.

Now, at the 11 p.m. hour, my brain's foggy with words and details and itineraries, the last 10 days smooshing into the past 24 hours and it's hard to separate what happened where and when. Photos help, and text messages with friends, the postcards and trinkets purchased, the lingering smell of a campfire, the small injury from kneeboarding healing, the flip flops that walked on 7 states in less than 2 weeks, the suntan on the boys' legs, a protein bar still stashed in the car, a tube of chapstick whittled down, a song on the radio, the loose string of a bathing suit, the zip of a backpack - these are puzzle pieces of the memories we've crafted. This is what we use to remember where we were. And then there's this: the sweet gift of that moment at the end of the day when I turn to Amy and look into her eyes and know how far we've come, and how big this life is becoming. It's easy to believe this, too, has always been the way of things.


Photos from the past few days live here: