After 8 1/2 months, 20,859 miles and 36 states, we are back where we started. It has been one of the best years of my life; Greta concurs, adding that it was right up there with kindergarten.
There is so much to be grateful for with this trip. A little trailer that was our home. An old truck that never let us down (except for blowing a tire in the middle of the Mojave). Damn good weather most of the time. Good food, beautiful landscapes and interesting cities (but perhaps a little too much architecture for Greta). Strangers who became friends and with whom we’d like to stay in touch.
But the best part of the trip for us was the family and old friends who welcomed us into their homes and lives, and kept us from becoming homesick. I hadn’t seen many of these friends in 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years, and in every case, we just sat down and started talking as if we had never left off; this seems to be the case with all true friends. Our deepest thanks to all of you, and now that we’ve been to your homes, you have to come visit us.
None of this would have happened without Linda’s full support. This trip was a crazy idea, but she was behind it from the start, as she knew it was the right thing at this point for me and for Greta. She has had a busy and trying year, and our being gone just made it harder for her. She never complained (well, she complained about school), even though she was hard at work while we were gallivanting around the country. As is her wont, she cared about what was best for all of us, not just herself, and it’s one of the many reasons we love her. (We did bring her a lot of nice presents, and we’ll probably have to cook dinner for the next couple of years.)
But mostly I’m grateful for the past year spent with Greta. I knew she was a great kid before we left, but it’s been proved over and over on this trip. She never complained, she charged right ahead into every adventure, she navigated us flawlessly through complex metropolitan areas, and she grew up in front of my eyes. Not many people have the chance to spend this much time with their teenager, but I wish everyone did. On hearing what we were up to, many people we met looked at Greta and said, do you know how cool this is? Do you know how great it is that your dad is doing this for you? Greta always said yes, and I always added that it was just as cool for me: first of all, Greta was my excuse for taking the trip, and second, I wouldn’t have lasted two months on my own.
This trip was a great leap of faith for her. A few months into the trip, someone asked her if she had been positive about taking the trip when I first proposed it. She said, yes, but only because she had no expectation that it would actually happen. She figured, it’s another one of dad’s crazy ideas, why burst his bubble right away? As we drove through Springfield on the first day, she looked at me and exclaimed, Holy crap, we’re really doing this!
Greta made friends everywhere we went, including quite a few surrogate aunts and uncles, and it was really gratifying for me to see how immediately all my friends took to her, and vice versa. I’ve always been happy traveling by myself, but Greta was the best companion I could ever have had. I’m already feeling sad that we won’t be spending every waking moment together from now on (although I’m sure she’s feeling somewhat differently).
The trip may be over, but the blog goes ever on. As you may have noticed, we still have about a two-month backlog. We tried to catch up a few times, but everywhere we went, it was more important to live in the moment, to see and experience what we could and to talk to the cool people we were visiting. But now that we’re back in Eugene with time on our hands, we will get back to work on the writing, including some summary comments and greatest hits lists.
And for those of you who have been faithful followers of the blog, we have an invitation. Next Monday evening, Memorial Day, we will be putting our newfound barbecue insights to the test, since we haven’t had any good barbecue since Texas. You are all invited to the celebration of our return, which happens to coincide with my 60th birthday. We’ll have lots of pulled pork, cole slaw and cocktails, but if you’d like to bring more to eat or drink, feel free. Please just let us know you’re coming, so we can make sure to have enough.
it will be great to see some of you, and it’s nice to be home.