Last Thursday, Zion drove me from Boiling Springs to Harrisburg, PA to catch a bus at the Greyhound station. Got there with plenty of time to spare, so I pulled up google maps and found out there was a brewery only about a half mile away. I walked down to Appalachian Brewing Company and took a seat at the large, empty bar. There were others in the restaurant area eating, but alone I sat at the bar. The bartender, Andrea, was very friendly and told me to sit wherever I want and that I could put my bag on the stool right next to me. She asked if I was out hiking the AT, and we started chatting about that. I ordered the beer sampler and she said if there was more I wanted to try after the sampler, that I could "sample" more. We chatted about the area and about how she is an outdoor maniac herself. I asked her if she knew of any public transportation to get back to Boiling Springs from Harrisburg, and she said she didn't, but would take me herself when I got back. I'm still blown away by the hospitality. For as many bad things we all hear about in the news, I can tell you first hand that there are good people in this world. I should have called my adventure the "Proving There Are Still Good People in the World Tour"!
After my sampler (plus a few others), which I might add, was really good beer, it was time for me to head back to the bus station. I asked Andrea if they had any dinner rolls I could take with for my trip, but unfortunately they didn't. Instead, she tossed me a Clif Bar, which I didn't expect but was thankful for. I thanked her and was on my way.
I sat next to a very interesting lady on the bus who helped make the first half of the trip pass quickly. She was almost completely blind (could only see white lights/objects), and checked with me as soon as I sat down, that I was not going to rob her. I was caught off guard, but assured her that I had no intentions to do so. I'm not sure if she could see that I look somewhat homeless (according to my family, who frequently mentioned that when I was home; not that I disagree) with my beard or not, but I wonder if her thoughts would have been different if she could see me clearly. Anyway, we talked for a while and exchanged stories. I told her about my Appalachian Trail journey, and she told me about her journey across America, going to every state to talk to people and get information to write an article for The New Yorker. She also talked about her experiences as a screenwriter, and some actor and actress friends of hers. It sounded to me as though she's had an exciting life, and is still continuing on doing interesting things. I thought my 17 hour bus ride was going to be long, but nothing compared to hers. Turns out she started out that morning in Saratoga Springs, where I had lived before moving to California, and was on her way to Utah. That's a long haul.
I got to Cleveland and after a brief break, heard an announcement about a bus leaving for Gary, but I wasn't suppose to board for another 10 minutes or so. I talked to the lady who made the announcement and she said that it wasn't for the bus I was supposed to get on, but that she had room on her bus and could get me there an hour earlier. I jumped on that bus and called my Dad to let him know to meet me at the station earlier.
Dozed on and off throughout the rest of the trip. One stop was in Muncie, Indiana where I had gone to college, and it was a cool feeling to be back near my old stomping grounds. We drove by the football stadium, and not that Ball State was any good when I was there, but I got a sense of Cardinal Pride that put a smile on my face. Finally made it to Gary just after 5am and hopped in my Dad's truck for the ride home.
I got home and gave my Mom a big hug when I walked through the door. I talked to them for a few minutes, then headed down to the refreshingly cool basement where my room is. I was able to get a few hours of sleep in before we headed up to Chicago for a family event for my sister Kristin's (commonly referred to by her nickname "Din") graduation from grad school at Rush University. We met up with her boyfriend Jeff there and enjoyed some appetizers just before some awards were given out. Just like the little overachiever that she is, Din walked away with an award that the faculty of professors chose her for!
Following the family event, we all helped move Din's last truckload out of her apartment, then hit the road to head back home to Indiana. I love seeing the Chicago skyline! That night, my other sister Carolyn, and brother-in-law Aaron came home.
The next day, we went back up to Chicago for the official graduation ceremony. Truly awesome to think of everything she has accomplished. I always look at her as my little sister, but this made me realize just how grown up she is. It's kinda crazy in a way, but awesome at the same time!
Went back home and had dinner with the whole family and Jeff's parents. Enjoyed some delicious pizza that we have had in our town since I was a kid, for as long as I can remember. Carolyn and Aaron gave me a bottle of Yellowstone beer made by Rogue that they had picked up during their trip to the national park. Good stuff!
Sunday we went to church and came back to the house to hang out before taking Carolyn and Aaron to the airport so they could fly back to Arizona. Sad to see them leave. Had a good time with them, just always want more. During lunch, got a surprise visit from an old friend Mike. It was good to see him. On the way back, we stopped at my Grandma and Grandpa's house to spend some time with them. It was great to see them! I'm always excited to hear how closely my Grandma follows my blog! (Hi Grandma!). She also read the book A Walk For Sunshine, and she must remember it a lot better than I do, because whenever she reads about where I'm at, she has usually already heard of it, as she remembers it from the book.
I was planning to head back Monday, but I woke up and Din convinced me to stay another day. It didn't take much convincing, as I wanted to spend more time with the family, sleep in a bed again, and now I would be able to see my good friend Dave. I spent the day cleaning the house for my parents, which I didn't even mind, then I met my Dad over at my other grandparents' house. We ate dinner with them and had a good visit. My Grandma was funny, touching my beard, and Grandpa gave her a brush and helped get her combing my beard. After spending some time with them, we headed out and I went over to Dave's parents' house. It's always a hilarious time visiting with them and seeing Mom #2! I know you're keeping up on the blog too, along with Dave, and I believe cousin Orva too, so...HELLO! I had a great time seeing you guys!
This morning, met a bunch of the same crew from the night before, at breakfast and it was fun once again seeing all them! My Dad and sister took me back to the bus station and we sat around and talked for a while before the bus came and I hopped on. It was really tough saying goodbyes to all my family after spending the past few days together. One of my friends told me something that I often think about now and really believe in. As hard as it is to be away from family, I should be thankful that we all care enough to miss each other and want to be around each other that much.
So now I sit here and type this blog, one thing that helps me kill the 16 hours I've got til I reach Harrisburg, PA. Hence the long blog post.
If my ride shows up sometime soon after I get in around 6:15am and I get to the trail at a decent time, I'm planning to get about 13 miles or so down the trail. I don't plan to know anyone on the trail after taking this many days off. I'll miss the people I've had fun with, but it will be fun meeting new folks.
Here's to hoping I haven't lost my trail legs!
Oh, and not related to the trail, but when I was at my grandparents' house, my Grandma pulled out some baby and childhood photos I've never seen, so I posted a few of those.