Ten thousand miles and three months later, we’re right back where we started.
Ace and I rolled into Baltimore Friday, and he couldn’t be happier about it.
He sensed we were home about the time Raven’s stadium came into view. In the rearview mirror, I saw his head pop up. He sniffed the air, got up, stuck his head out the window and looked around. When we passed BARCS — Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter, where he once resided — his suspicions that we were home seemed confirmed.
By the time I pulled up to Riverside Park, his old stomping grounds, he was raring to go. He bounded out of the car as if he were ready for an extended gallop, then seemed to realize that, in his absence, there was much new to smell in the grass. For the next hour or so, that’s exactly what he did, sort of like a human with three months worth of newspapers to catch up on.
Then he saw his old friend Stan the biscuit man — recognizing him even though, while we were away, Stan had switched from walking to the park to riding in a motorized chair. Stan, as always, came through with treats, pulling a handful of biscuits from his large sack and tossing them to Ace and his own dog, Louie, who remains as enormously fat as ever.
After that, we kept running into more old friends at the park and, later, at Ace’s favorite bar, where we idled away the rest of the evening
Though we are back where we’re started, whether we’re “home” is another matter.
For one thing, we moved out of the house when we started this trip, seeking to live on the road for what we once paid in rent (Two months, we came close; the third remains to be tallied, but I’m sure we went over budget). Finally getting home and not having a home is strange — a rather insecure feeling — but with offers from friends to stay awhile, we’ve yet to resort to camping in the park.
The urge to nest — to have my own place, with my own stuff, where I can flop my own self down on my own couch — has grown stronger; and, in all honesty, I think Ace would prefer a return to routine. But the road is still calling. It’s saying “three more months.” It’s saying “keep running free.”
My economic situation is disagreeing, saying “don’t do it!” Running free isn’t exactly free.
Of course, neither roads nor economic situations can verbalize — though both can still slam a point home wordlessly.
In the days ahead, we’ll be trying to figure our immediate future out — and probably sharing our thoughts on it all with you, for in putting it down in writing, choices often become clearer.
As of now, we’re leaning — well I’m leaning — to sticking with the original plan: a few weeks in Baltimore, a visit to Philadelphia, then going to Long Island and, starting the same day he did 50 years ago, following the northerly route west that John Steinbeck took with Charley.
Ace might disagree. He has loved reconnecting with old friends — dog and humans. He has loved revisiting the old haunts. Yesterday, standing outside his favorite coffee house, Ace watched as a familiar pickup truck pulled up and the driver passed him a soup bone.
“See,” he would say if he could talk. “Where else does that happen? I’m telling you, this is home.”
Of course, Ace can’t talk. Nevertheless, we’ll be having some long and wordless ones in the days ahead.