Chicago -> Cincinnati
At the beach in Chicago, we looked at a map and realized two things. One, wow, we are finally close to home. And two, we had a couple different routes we could take back. I decided to text a friend I had randomly made six years ago on a high school trip to Spain that I knew had lived in Cincinnati and had briefly talked to about visiting when we were planning the trip. She had actually recently moved out of town, but was going to be back in town for the night. What were the chances?! Being that it had been six years since we had seen each other, we figured it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. And with that, our route back home was altered to add a quick stop in Cincy. We hauled out of Chicago in the early afternoon and drove until we hit Cincy, a 5 or 6 hour drive. We met at a cool brewery, Rhinegeist Brewery. I swear, we did more on this trip than drink beer, it just so happens that a lot of our stops included breweries… So anyway, after catching up and introducing friends, we tagged along with her group of friends to head out for the night thinking we'd just see a bit of the town and get back to the bus. Except heading out for the night ended up including driving into nearby Kentucky for a bar with incredible student deals (it pays to hang onto your college IDs folks) and then a ride to grandma’s house to sleep. A hilarious sequence of events led us to it, but it was a great night nonetheless. We woke up and enjoyed some eggs and bacon courtesy of Jackie’s gracious and amazing grandmother, snapped a great group photo (check our Facebook), said our goodbyes, and headed onward.
Next Stop: Syracuse!
We could taste it now. We were back in the same time zone, and a drive home was under 24 hours straight. But, of course life had other plans for us. The supposedly 8 hour drive from Cincy to a Syracuse Walmart ended up taking more like 12 or 24. I’m not really sure. I got in the zone and hunkered down behind the wheel jamming to tunes until about 4 or 5 am when we finally arrived to the luxurious Walmart parking lot that would be our final stop on the trip. Great places, those Walmarts. We were under 5 hours from home now and trying to make sure we didn’t leave any clues as to where we were, desperately hoping to surprise Dillon’s family for the family pig roast Saturday night. Jesse finished out the drive, bringing us home to Luke’s where we cleaned the bus, organized our stuff, and cleaned ourselves up to be presentable at a family outing. We had a bit of downtime as we waited for the party to get fully underway before crashing through the backyard to announce our presence. I’m not sure how surprised anyone was, but hey, it was worth a shot and I’m sure Dillon had fun driving the bus through his backyard. A great reunion ensued with even better food and dessert. It was a great way to cap off the trip with family, friends, food, beer, and a nice bonfire.
All in all, this was an absolutely incredible experience. Certainly, one we’ll be reminiscing about and telling tales of for the rest of our lives. I’m sure we all slept soundly that night now that a grueling 47 day journey had come to a close and we could relax knowing we needn’t get up and drive to a new city the next morning. Words will not really be able to describe this trip. At least not until we finally process all the memories that seem a lifetime ago. Memories like Jeff. Who is that guy? He only left us three weeks ago for Europe? No way. In all seriousness, thank you all for following along, helping us spread the word, donating to the DOCF on our behalf, and for giving us all the support and suggestions we could ever ask for. This was an incredible opportunity to have been able to take and we’ll be forever grateful. To the crew as I write this from my home in Maryland, life feels weird without spending every second of every day together. Part of me misses it. The other part of me is very much glad to be sleeping in a normal sized bed in an air-conditioned house, showering and eating regularly, going to the gym again, and having time to just sit and be (and look at trees as you all know I enjoy doing). Love you all.
PS: we'll be leaving the donation page up for awhile in hopes of coming closer to our $10,000 goal. We'll also be working to update and get a more accurate count of just how many miles we've driven. As of right now, our rough estimate is about 10,250 miles. Our maphub app became too cumbersome to accurately track our progress as we had to log individual segments of roads rather than following a route. Our apologies to anyone who thought we were stuck in Southern California. Maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing... Stay tuned for more pictures and videos and potentially another blog or two about what we're using the bus for / how we're passing it on. Thanks!!
GMB Crew signing off