There's nothing quite like a jolt of reality to make you realize your vacation is over.
(Mountains to Sea Trail near Waterrock Knob)
The past few weeks have supplied ample evidence that our trip around the world was not simply over. It was totally finished, like, to the point where it's hard to imagine it ever existed.
(Laura and Lauren)
We spent about a week in Atlanta. Most of our time was spent shopping for a truck. I guess buying a vehicle is easy if you have minimal requirements and low expectations. We had neither, and it was a fairly involved process -- one which we could not see through to completion in Atlanta. Besides that, we cleaned our clothes (and cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned them -- some items will likely never come clean), had a birthday party for Jimmy, saw the nieces, saw Liz, and took general stock of life in America which we'd skipped out on for the past year.
(Super Dome, New Oreans)
Then we made it up to Waynesville, where life seemed to be chugging along as normal. We made it to the Folkmoot International Day parade, went to a party at Max and Sheila's totally refinished house, saw our old home (which is looking quite nice), visited with Janelle, saw Blair and Lauren and Harper and went on a hike, visited with my old boss Vicki, saw some of our great neighbors at a party, and had a five-course meal at Chris and Michelle's.
(Me, Chris and Michelle on the porch in Dillsboro)
Two days later I was on a Greyhound. I left Atlanta at 6 a.m. and got into Houston some 19 hours later at about 1 a.m.
(Jimmy's birthday party)
Greyhound is not the world's greatest form of public transportation, but it's not the worst, either. If you could ignore the grimy, gritty bus stations it was actually fairly pleasant, and I got to watch large portions of the Deep South slide by from a big picture window while I read a book and listened to the radio on my mp3.
I saw a guy get his bag stolen just feet from him in the Biloxi bus station, saw downtown New Orleans (the bus driver, a big guy named Demetrius, announced to us on the PA, "People, now we is in Nawlins"), and got to generally see life in places like Montgomery, Tuskegee and Lake Charles like I'd never seen it before.
(My view for approximately 18 hours)
In Houston I've consumed my body weight in Mexican food (really, don't call it Mexican food, just call it "food"), helped out at the church, sifted through the things we left behind, done more cleaning, enjoyed a few beers with Jon and bought a truck.
I, with the help of my dad, finally realized it was not much more expensive to buy a new truck than it was to buy a used one. In my previous jobs I'd saved all my mileage reimbursement checks into a separate account; by the time I left Waynesville it totaled more than $8,000 dollars, and I planned to use it to buy a truck. Well, if you want a Toyota or a Nissan with an extended cab and four wheel drive, $8,000 gets you a 12-year-old vehicle with 170,000 miles on it. So we bumped that up to $16,000 and the pickings were better but not great -- six or so years old with 50,000 miles. We went up again, to $18,000, and could get something pretty nice, but then my dad pointed out for just a little bit more I could get what I wanted brand new. So a 2009 Nissan Frontier king cab four wheel drive is now sitting in the garage, thanks to an end of model year sale and factory incentives.
Although I bought it, it's going to be Laura's truck for a while, so she arrives from Atlanta next week to fetch it, leaving me with the old Altima. Truck out of the way, we are focusing on where to move to. After spending a year in some of the world's hottest places, and after spending a scant two weeks in Houston, I'm hoping we move to somewhere within commuting distance of the Arctic Circle. Laura is hoping for something close to an airport, so we might have to settle for Bozeman or Missoula.
And think, all we need to do is travel a little bit more to get there.