I awoke at dawn, wishing I could have a little more sleep, and crawled out of my tent...to realize that it was a brilliant moon casting all that light, and it was still the middle of the night. I crawled back in and went back to sleep.
The next time I woke, the sun was really up. I packed up my tent, sucked down some coffee, and hit the road. There were no bars of cell, so I hadn't checked in the night before, and I stopped near Binghamton, NY to let home know that I was alive and check the atlas. I texted Abel and suggested he ride Kestrel out to meet me so we could ride home together.
There was a giant cloud settled over Binghamton, and the riding became damp and foggy. I got on I88 east and rode back out into the sun, and then into another cloud bank in the next valley. I stopped for warmer gloves and then moved on.
At a gas station in Oneonta, where I picked up 23 from I88, I finally ate the peppermint Luna bar I'd brought from home. The first one got eaten on the first day, the second one on the last day. I should've called them Peppermint Parenthesis Bars.
Route 23 was gorgeous, but I already knew that, having taken some of it nearly a month ago in the other direction. I had some spotty recognition of a few sights, but it may as well have been new until I reached Great Barrington. A text from Abel told me where he was waiting, and I pulled into a parking lot and up beside Kestrel. I'd nearly forgotten what she looked like.
We hugged for so long that a woman gardening in the plaza said, "You two aren't married, are you?" I just stared at her, baffled, until she said, "You wouldn't be kissing if you were."
I let Abel lead, since as of that moment he had done 90 miles on a bike ever and I didn't want to lose him in traffic. Kestrel has also been displaying some shutting-down-while-riding issues, and we had to stop a couple of times to coax her into going again.
That ride was not the best of the trip, and it had nothing to do with a problem bike or a new rider. I was worried about going home. I'd stopped missing home somewhere in Iowa, and that fact had me concerned that I would never want to be there again, and that the homecoming process would be a terribly awkward series of interactions that would have me moving my things out of the house in short order.
Coming home from a big trip to people who have not been on a big trip is strange. When Sheila asked me if it was good to be home, I wasn't sure what to say. "No" is not right but "yes" is not quite right either. It's a pinch of everything, like seasoning soup. It'll be nice having company whenever I want it, and real homecooked food, and a shower every day. It'll be annoying sometimes having company even when I don't want it, and other people to factor into my decisions, and people depending on me to complete random tasks that I'll procrastinate on or forget about entirely. I'm looking forward to giving my clutch hand and my eardrums a rest. I'm sad to lose my new dusk-to-dawn sleep cycle. Talking to other people instead of myself will make me feel a bit less insane. Losing the subtle rhythms of life on the road will be impossible to explain or prevent but somehow unpleasant.
It was awkward at first, but some chatting, a shower, and some dinner helped smooth it out. I neither attempted to leave nor got kicked out. Abel opened the box of things I'd mailed home from Louisiana, and I gave him and Sheila the souvenirs I'd picked up for them, and showed off the ones I'd found for myself. I unpacked a good number of my things, spread them all over the house that was clean when I arrived, and then had to clean up the mess I made. Some of the things are still on the bike, because I wasn't all that inspired to deconstruct the last month of my life in one night. One of the weirder nice things about living in a minimalist fashion is that I never misplaced anything. Now that I live in a house again, I'll be regularly searching for objects that have gone walkabout. Perhaps if I get rid of some objects I can minimize the problem. That should be an easier task now that I've successfully lived without almost all of them for significant length of time.