Final Stretch …

We stayed up late visiting that last night in Greer, then slept like babies. We gathered our gear slowly, as Marie and Mike got the kids ready for their classes. He packed them in their carseats and we hugged goodbye and headed for the van. Final stretch. I glanced at the odometer: closing on 6,000 miles since we left home August 17 to start our adventure in West Virginia.

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On an impulse, we stopped at Belmont Abbey College, in Belmont, just west of Charlotte. Kathleen graduated from the school in 2009, about a week before Marie and Mike’s wedding. We walked the campus a bit, recalling our pride when we delivered her there as a freshman, taking pictures, talking with staff people. But not for very long. Then it was back in the van, back on I-85.

The timing had worked out just right, we told ourselves. Had we waited one more day in Vegas, as we planned originally, we would be squeezing something else out, maybe El Paso, maybe Austin or Galveston. I reminded myself that the route amounted to giant detours: due south from Williams, Ariz., to Tucson, east to Austin, then south again to Galveston. But it made sense, in a way, because we were determined to see Laura in New Orleans. Then it’s really a straight shot to Greer, and from Greer, to home.

We could have jumped on I-40 in Vegas to I-95 in North Carolina, and finished the trip in three days. But we had that precious week before I get my biopsy results, so did what we could, saw what we could, saw our girls and grandkids; Scott and Barb in Austin; camped out; took pictures; explored—which was the plan in the first place.

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It didn’t work out the way we hoped, and we ended with a frantic rush on interstates, grinding our teeth at multiple rush hours, stopping at countless interstate rest stops, gas stations, McDonalds, and Walmarts. But we came close enough. Lots of breathtaking mountains, deserts, fascinating little towns. Lots of Southwestern heat and Southeastern humidity. Lots of interesting food. Lots of interesting bugs.  Lots—and lots—of miles, a total of 6,428 when we pulled into the driveway. Lots of togetherness and memories to hold on to, whatever the future brings.

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