After a weekend back in the Midwest, I'm now back in Vegas, back with the bike (with everything still in one piece), and ready to get back on the road. I'm stopping at Starbucks down the road from where the bike was parked to figure out my next few weeks, and figure out where I'm going today. And honestly, to just relax for a bit before getting back on the road after a busy weekend.
I spent some time this weekend thinking about home, and what it means. I went back and visited family in Rockford where I grew up, I went to a waterpark that I'd been to every year as a kid, and I visited friends in Peoria and slept at my old apartment. And they all, in their own way, felt like home.
The house I grew up in hasn't really felt to me like my home for a few years now. A combination of living other places, both during college and after, and gradually (reaaaalllly gradually in some cases) moving my stuff out of there leaves me feeling more like a guest there than anything. And when I am there, I'm usually spending my time trying to see as many people as I can while I'm in town, so I don't spend much time doing "home"-type things.
Going to the waterpark was interesting. I don't remember exactly when or how long we went there (maybe my sister can fill us in in the comments), but it was perhaps once a year for 7 or 8 years that we took a trip up there, ending when I was in middle school or junior high. There are parts of it that are exactly the same as when we used to go back then - the Plunge, Slidewinders, Paradise Lagoon. My sister and I both remembered the Plunge being a new ride, but after looking it up online we discovered it's been there since my sister was 1 year old and before I was born - so we decided we must be remembering the year we were tall enough to go on it. There are some new things as well, as they've been taking out old slides and putting in more modern ones.
(Sidenote: The Wikipedia article doesn't even list the name of the old concrete slides built into the side of the hill, with huge rubber tubes that you had to roll up the hill because they were too heavy to carry the whole way. It seems to have been put down the memory hole. If you have stronger Google-fu than me, see if you can find what it was called.)
(Just kidding, I just spent a few more minutes googling and found a map which has it - Thunder Rapids! This map still doesn't have the awesome tank game on it [it was replaced by the Stingray in 2002], but it is from before Black Anaconda.)
Being there with the whole family was cool - like I said in the last post, we sometimes don't even get the whole family together all at once at Christmas time, so it was cool to see everyone. And it was fun to be the one taking the kids down the slides, instead of the kid who people were taking down the slide. Taking Brandon through all of the Paradise Lagoon slides, or taking Haley down Jungle Rapids and Cowabunga even though she was scared at the top (but loved it once she was at the bottom) was a blast, and seeing how much they enjoyed the park was a lot of fun for me too.
Going back to Peoria was interesting as well. I got into town around 3:30, which is when I used to get off work. I sat around on the internet for a few hours (which I usually did after work), went and played frisbee (which I usually did, during the summer at least), and then went to Kelleher's (where we went at least once a month) and Old Chicago (where we went at least once a week, sometimes two or three times a week.) In other words, it was exactly like my day would have been if I was still living in Peoria - except for the part where I came back to the apartment and there was no furniture in my old bedroom, and I slept on the couch. But despite that - it felt a lot like home. It felt really good to play frisbee, to hang out with all my old friends, to do the same things. It felt a LOT like home, and really made me realize how much I'm going to miss Peoria when I move.
But you want to know what? This morning, I got back on the motorcycle, and pulled out of the garage... and before I even got to the street, I felt like I was at home on the bike. It felt so good to be back riding again, to lean into the curve out of the apartment complex, to have the wind blow up into my helmet, to feel the engine vibrating under the seat. It felt like I was back where I was supposed to be.
Hopefully when I move to... well, wherever I end up moving to, it will feel like home too. Hopefully I'll find a good group of friends, some people to play frisbee with and drink beer with and build new traditions like going to a waterpark every year. But if not, there's always the motorcycle. I'd be okay with spending a few years someplace, saving up some money again, and taking another summer to ride my motorcycle around. Maybe next time I'll do Europe or South America - it doesn't matter too much where I go, because wherever I am, it will feel like home as long as I'm sitting on that seat. (Though hopefully by then I'll have replaced it with a slightly more comfortable one.)
Apparently the guy who I left the bike with didn't tell his roommate that I was going to be coming to pick it up until about two days ago. And they've been working opposite shifts, so he told her via note on the refrigerator. So she wasn't exactly keen on me just showing up and crashing at her place, though she did say she was a little more okay with it once we talked on the phone since I "sounded normal." It all worked out though, and it turned out she was nerdier than me, and had played quite a bit of World of Warcraft. And honestly, could probably have kicked my ass anyway since she's in the Air Force, so I don't know what she was worried about.