Another day, another dingy motel room. One bed for the sleeping bag, one bed for luggage explosion! BOOOOM
The drive from here to Boston was only a few hours, and I ended up outside Erika's place with plenty of daylight to spare. It was bittersweet, knowing I would be turning the car over to its real owner at the end of the day, after so many miles of glorious, trouble-free conveyance. Coast to coast, in eleven days! The country has never felt so small, and so familiar.
Erika and I ran errands, then got lunch, then ran more errands. I mailed a large box back to my address in Oakland, with my sleeping bag, tripod, and souvenirs crammed inside. I got a quick tour of the neighborhood, and then as a special treat, Erika took me to Walden Pond and we splashed around for a while. I examined rocks and dug my heels down into the mud, and dove under the water, down to where the dust obscured the sunlight and coldness streamed over me, and I blindly felt the slimy reeds waving on the bottom, and brushed my fingers along mysterious, unseen objects. Erika laughed and cracked jokes with me, and we lingered for longer than we'd planned, as the mild summer light slowly ebbed from the sky. I heard the sound of a train, and she pointed it out, visible from the surface of the pond as it drove steadily along the distant shoreline, into the darkening forest.
We were among the last people to leave the pond. As we drove away I felt like I had a much stronger impression of the rhythm of life in this north-eastern part of the country - the details that made it authentic, or unique. Even if that feeling was an illusion, I was very glad for it.
I convinced Erika to join me for dinner on top of lunch, and we scouted out a Thai place that turned out to be very tasty. We talked about everything. Our history, our hopes for the future, all the things I saw on my road trip. It was wonderful to reconnect with someone I'd known so thoroughly for so long, and see her doing so well in a new environment.
But even the best days must also end. Erika drove me and my remaining gear to the hotel near the airport. I confirmed that they had a morning shuttle that would run me to my flight, but Erika waved that away and said that she planned to pick me up and escort me there personally, so she could see me safely away on the next leg of my journey: Back to Washington DC, and lunch with Ken and Chris!
I slept very well that night, knowing that even though I was far from home, I was being passed safely, from hand to hand, along a fire-brigade of genuine and loving friends and family.