I could have fixed the flat myself. Probably. I mean, I have before and I just would have needed to find a better air pump to get the pressure up to 70psi. Then I thought of the time in Chicago I changed a rear tire myself and the next day it was flat again. Just like that, even after telling myself I wouldn't waste any more time and money at mechanics shops I spent $33 on a new tube, a new water bottle to replace the one I left on the counter of the shop I stayed at and the labor of a mountain bike enthusiast who didn't look a day over 15. C'est la vie, old habits die hard.
Bri and I kept the bike in the back of her station wagon and headed to Portsmouth, a quaint tourist town on the coast of New Hampshire known for historic homes, historic reenactments and more boutique gift shops than you could count. It felt a little strange riding in a car in the general direction I'd eventually be biking. Should I have cycled to Portsmouth instead? Was this in someway cheating? What are the rules of cycling New England to Bushcraft school?
We wandered the streets, popping into shops and checking out the wares. The prices all seemed outrageous, obviously exacerbated by my year in Asia where everything is a fraction of the cost in the states and my deliberate decision not to take a job immediately upon returning. In my adult life I've never not had a job. I've never been laid off and I've never been fired. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the savings and quite frankly the guts to take a "gap year" at age 31. I have never felt more hopeful, totally lost and absolutely free. That being said, many of my employed friends haven't acknowledged my new financial situation. In many ways I haven't acknowledged it either.
Bri and I wandered down by the water, past the locks that lovers had affixed to the chain link fence, through the impeccably manicured gardens. We got lunch at the Portsmouth Brewing Co. and tried a kefir lime leaf infused wheat (which was such a fun tribute to Lao cuisine's obsession with kefir) and a cider heavy on the cinnamon. A different version of me would have wanted to go to Strawbery Banke Museum. Fun fact the town used to be called Strawbery Banke and strawberry used to be spelled with only 2 Rs. But anymore I've tempered my need to see everything, do everything and run myself ragged. I've finally learned to enjoy the great pastime of doing nothing.
For dinner we went out to a place called Pilgrim's with Bri's husband. They're famous for portion sizes large enough to feed a family of four and their mudslides. I had a snickers flavored rum-infused mess of a milkshake that lasted me all though dinner. Some of the drinks were Bruce Springsteen themes like "Born to Rum," which is something of a mystery since my cursory Google search yielded no clear link between the Boss and New Hampshire or the frozen cocktail in question.
It was so incredible to be hosted, see a snippet of Bri and Mike's new world out of Chicago and back in New Hampshire. They seem settled, content. Big exciting places like Chicago are great, and so is coming home.