Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Time for long rides in the car and long runs in the woods. For bikes and big mountains. For dehydrating in the desert and getting flat tires. For camping under stars and eating pancakes with a spork. Bathing in creeks and sneaking showers in public ice skating rinks. Going broke and forgetting to care.
That's right, friends. It's Colorado time again.
The truck's all packed, the camera's charged, and my new bike's dialed in. I relinquished the 30-pound Karate Monkey and ended my brief affair with riding a big gear on a single speed - it's got a happy new home in New Zealand now. Instead I decided on an uber-tiny EMD from Niner. I've never had such a nice bike in my life. Hopefully I won't break it.
In a couple hours Montana and I are off to Vermont, where he'll be riding in the Single Speed USA race and I'll be eating chocolate and heckling him on foot since I no longer own a single speed. Then we'll head out to Colorado for some sweet trail riding/running and the Breck Epic (where I'll work on my aid station Hammer Gel refilling skillz), and then we've got to roll back across the country to dear old Wooster, Ohio so I can start real life and cross country training again.
It's going to be pretty great.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
So a couple days after America's birthday I stepped off the plane at LAX, into the welcoming arms of Lady Liberty - a disgruntled security guard who herded our whole flight past customs, past the baggage claim, and out onto the sidewalk. I started humming "Party in the USA". Police dogs were barking. Cop cars were flashing their lights. The whole terminal was evacuated. Nobody told us what was going on, so we ate some bad tacos and wandered back to the baggage claim two hours later. Our luggage was there, along with a dozen pissed-off airport employees who couldn't understand why everyone was so late getting their bags.
If that had happened in New Zealand, the airport would've given all the passengers a cookie and a hug.
After two more red-eye flights, I staggered into Pittsburgh International Airport where my mother and boyfriend were waiting. I piled my luggage on top of Montana and insisted on eating breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.
I hung around the house for a few days, waiting for the swelling in my ankles to go down. I went on a couple runs and nearly drowned in my own sweat. I realized that I was operating under a false sense of fitness in New Zealand. Running ten miles along the cool, clear waterfront is worlds different from running on a Pennsylvanian mountain trail on a humid, 95º day. I feel like a sack of hot mud with legs. The ten pounds I gained from eating cake with full-fate lattes for lunch isn't helping much either.
I spent a day saying hi to people I hadn't seen in four months and catching up with some local gossip.
Then I packed up again. Last Wednesday the parents and I took a trip down south to visit my brother in Athens, Georgia. We stopped off for a couple days in Asheville, NC to take in the Smoky Mountain air. Then I spent the weekend wandering around Athens with the brother while my parents shopped for antique records and whined about the heat.
After a week of eating cheese grits and affecting a Southern twang, I feel just about as Americanized as possible.
So now I have another week at home, and then Montana and I are off again to Colorado for some bike races and altitude training (more on that at his blog here). He's helping me build up another bike to replace the one I sold to New Zealand. Then we're shooting back over to Ohio to start my last fall semester in Wooster.
It's really nice to be back - even if it's just for a little while.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
My bags are packed. My bank account is closed. My bike's been sold off to a happy new Kiwi home. And I saw my last takahe.
This evening I'm flying from Wellington to Auckland. Then I have a quick 6500 miles to California, a teeny 9-hour layover in LA (where hopefully my Los Angeleno friend Alyssa will take me to the beach and feed me ice cream), and then another cool six hour flight across the country back to Pittsburgh, land of french fry salads.
I've already started my pre-travel routine: stress-eating, crying, drinking bad wine, and not sleeping. It's a very centering process for multi-day airport expeditions.
Exams are finally over (how many people forgot I was in school? I know I did. And then I had to take two exams over the weekend). All the exchange students are running out of time on their visas, and people are trickling away. We all tried to make our last week in New Zealand a good one, savoring our last cups of coffee and visiting zoos. But mostly it's been a week full of loaded goodbyes and repetitive conversations about flight schedules and airline food.
Like everyone else, I'm struggling to create significance with my last day (hence the goofy bird in the header photo instead of a dramatic Wellington sunset). Don't get me wrong - I've absolutely loved my time here. I've learned a lot, met heaps of amazing people, and seen some spectacular landscapes. It's been a wonderful break from reality. But my real life is still hanging suspended in the USA. Now I'm ready to start it again - to reconnect with my friends and family, do some real schoolwork, finish off my degree, and get serious about running again. I won't be cutting ties with New Zealand. I know I'm going to miss it as soon as I get home, so I'm definitely coming back here in the future. But right now I've got some unfinished business in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
So that's all I've got for now.
Peace out friends!
PS - Happy America Day! You should probably all go see the new Spiderman, because what's more patriotic than a cute guy in a red, white, and blue bodysuit? But really, it's awesome.