We are packed early.
I sit in the passenger seat, Matt in the drivers', Mike in the bucket. The road to Asheville is 8 hours. It's an easy haul as 12 and 16 and 18 hour trips have become the norm.
It's the first time we're really using Matt's truck-camping system and we're happy. Happy because the weather is cooling off, happy because soon we will see the people we've missed for so long, the friends that might as well be family, the family we long to have with us during these 18 months on and off the road.
There is freedom on the road; an undeniable immunity to creature comforts of a home and those responsibilities that follow. To live simple is easy. It is welcomed. But there are people you leave behind, moments and occasions that you miss. And that "miss" leaves you longing - it leaves you heartsick for the people who made you.
When we get to Asheville the temperature has dropped to a chilled 30 degrees. We are bundled head to toe drinking bourbon and eating deer chili. There are smiles and farts and the sound of the railroad wailing in the background. We brush our teeth with river water. We skip showers and wear the same clothes over and over. All together now. We are all finally, finally together.
Every day continues like this. In laughter, in pounds of food and beer and doubled sleeping bags and pots on pots of coffee. We listen to Megan sing sweet lullabies around the campfire, to Mike's snores, to Lydia's five year old laughter and we think to ourselves, "God it's been so long, but damn. It's good to be home."
A note to the cold - I almost forgot my outerwear on this trip. Temperatures got down to 29 degrees. I lived in my Eddie Bauer Lodge Down Parka these 6 days. I actually did not remove it. Not once. Matt also kept his BC Ignitor jacket on, even when mountain biking. Megan wore my Storm down jacket on our Black Balsam Knob hike.