1 Jan 2014 edit
In August 2002, it was a little more than a year since I'd left my job at my hometown newspaper. I had just sold my car and left my two jobs as a bartender. Between the tips in my pocket and the money I'd made from selling my car -- a 1996 Neon with a probably cracked head gasket -- I had about $2,000 to my name. I had a bicycle, camping gear, cooking gear, maps, a handheld GPS, a flip phone, two changes of bicycle clothing, and two changes of street clothes. I was in Camden, Maine, and my parents were taking my picture in front of a bicycle shop.
My destination was Austin. My plan was to ride to Savannah, GA -- via Boston, New York, and the eastern shore of Maryland -- and then turn right. I didn't really have much of a plan beyond that, except that I hoped to crash with a friend of a friend when I got to Austin. I heard they had a good bus system. I figured I could sort out a job before my money ran out.
Three weeks and 1,000 miles later, I found myself outside of New Bern, NC, more tan and more fit than I'd ever been or would ever be again. I stopped at a grocery store and picked up food for the evening, tying a bag of apples off the side of my bike. I was planning to camp just south of town, but as I neared a park in the center of town, I found myself surrounded by cyclists setting up camp. They were there for a fund-raising ride, and no, no one would mind if I camped in the park with them instead of riding another 10 miles.
I pitched my tent. I followed them to the free dinner being served for them across the street.
I rode 150 miles -- unencumbered by camping gear and all the rest -- in the fund-raising ride for the next two days.
I made new friends. They invited me to come stay with them for a few days in Chapel Hill.
I lived with them for a month. I borrowed their 1990 Ford Festiva for a year.
I got a job painting a house. I got a job waitressing. I got a job doing desktop publishing. I got a job making web sites.
I met a girl. We bought a house. We adopted a baby.
I never made it to Austin, though life has taken me there a few days at a time more times than I can count. Finally, in 2013, I even got a job there. Since February, I've made the trek enough times that it's truly become a home away from home. I've stopped using my phone to find my way around. Waitresses recognize me. People tell me about the secret back way to work, but I already know it. I have opinions about breakfast tacos.
It's time to finish the story I started more than a decade ago, which brings me to the point: With much love for Durham, and for the irreplaceable people who have made our lives so full here, we're moving to Austin this spring. At last.