I woke up early, happy that my last night in the Astro had been uninterrupted and stoked that I had such a beautiful view to enjoy after crawling out of bed. The sun was rising over the clear waters of Tahoe and it was serene. After looking out over the water, I got back into bed for a while, staying warm under the covers. When the sun was up properly, so was I. I repositioned Scottie and made breakfast, which I ate sitting on a rock overlooking the lake. It was all coming to an end! I didn’t feel sad or longing, I was just happy for the experience I’d had and was looking forward to the next things I had planned.
I drove away at about 8am, choosing to take the fastest route back to the Bay area to bring back old memories from when I used to make the after work commute. As I drove out of the forest and onto the multi-lane highways heading south west, I recognised most parts. I could see where I’d been sat in traffic for hours on end while desperately trying to get away for the weekend after a hard slog at Tesla.
The drive took me a good four hours and if it wasn’t for the trip down memory lane, I’d have been over it once I hit the chaos of the Bay area traffic. I was quickly reminded of how people change lanes like crazies, causing near-accidents everywhere their wheel crossed lines. Having not driven in this sort of environment for a year, I did my best to stay out of trouble, thinking how bad it would be to have something happen to the Astro in this late stage. As I got close to Fremont, I kept a lookout for the Tesla factory and sure enough, as I drove up an off-ramp, there it was, it all of its bright white glory. To my surprise, a huge smile spread across my face when I saw the company that brought me to America in the first place. Without them, I wouldn’t have done this travel and I wouldn’t have met any of the people that have changed my life over the last three years. On top of that, it made me realise that I’d done it! I’d been unemployed and travelled (mostly) solo for a whole year when I wasn’t sure I’d even last a few months.
I continued on past Fremont down to Santa Clara where I was going to be staying with Derek and Kylie. It was there that I’d camped for the month of October building the Astro before the trip and playing with their two beautiful kids. It only made sense that I should end my travels there as well.
Before getting to D&K’s I ran some errands around Santa Clara, going to the doctor for a check up to use up my medical insurance money (thanks Tesla) and picking up some parts I needed for the Astro from the ever-faithful O’Reilly’s. After a quick stop for a burger lunch, my last meal cooked out the back of the Astro, I drove through the suburban streets to D&Ks place.
Kylie, Emma and Oliver were there to greet me while Derek was busy at work. Emma was too shy to say hi and Oliver wasn’t at all sure about me but I could immediately see that the now 1-year-old had grown up heaps since I last saw him three months ago. Me and Kylie got straight into catching up while the kids played, throwing balloons and rolling toy trucks around. I realised suddenly how tired I was so it was nice to sit on a soft couch and relax.
We played outside in the backyard for a while, Oliver climbing all over Kylie’s kayak holding on to my hands to keep himself steady on his two feet. After doing that for a bit, I was suitably nervous about my bike being in the car outside so we went outside to retrieve it and put it in the garage next to all D&Ks bikes. More play time and then we were off to the park around the corner.
Oliver was settled into the pram and Emma rode on her red straddle bike complete with a bright yellow helmet on her head. Per her request, Emma lead the way while I walked next to her and Kylie brought up the rear with Oliver. Soon enough, we were at the park that we’d played at many times before and we got straight onto the slide and playing in the sand with their plastic buckets.
We played for a half hour before returning home where Derek pretty much met us there. Kylie went off for a free lecture while Derek made us all dinner as I tried to occupy both Emma and Oliver. Oliver kept trying to crawl up Derek’s leg but I managed to keep him mostly out of the kitchen. We all ate pasta around the table then Emma declared it was time for her to have a bath. She did also keep mentioning that I needed to have a shower. Ha ha. While Derek and Emma bathed, I played with Oliver in the living room and got in touch with some friends about catching up over the next few days.
In true last-minute fashion, in the next ten minutes, I’d agreed to go to a Kings of Leon concert where Kaila, Kimberly and Anthony were. After twenty minutes, Vanessa was also committed to coming and after I told Rob about it, he’d bought tickets and was on his way too. Once Emma finished her bath, I let Derek know the plan, had a quick shower then organised getting to the Shoreline Amphitheatre. I downloaded Uber onto my phone and bought a ticket for $35 through Ticketmaster, even though the event had already started. Half an hour after the original planning had started, I was picked up outside the front door by a friendly guy earning a bit of extra money to pay for his studies. As a bonus, he was a Formula 1 fan so that filled up our half hour ride with conversation.
After I got dropped off at the gate, I waited out front for Rob and his mates and when he called me, I did the inevitable jumping around with my hand in the air until he found me. He gave me a huge hug and I felt the roughness of his beard brushing against my cheek. He introduced me to his mates from BC who’d been with him when he tried to meet us for the eclipse. Inside the gates, I joined them in the food lines where my new friends paid a huge amount of money for food. Vanessa walked through the gates shortly after so we went off to find her. That was easy enough and I got more hugging.
All together now, we walked onto the grass area to try and find Kaila, Kimberly and Anthony. This would be a harder feat thanks to the hundreds of people scattered around the grass but Kaila had sent me a photo as a hint. Right as we were about to enter the crowd and look around, Kings of Leon entered front and centre and the stage lights went down. Shit chance of finding them now in the dark! We stayed where we were to enjoy the first song then I left the group to creep into the crowd and find our friends. With Kaila’s phone shining into the sky I got them and had hugs all round. I went back to find the Canada group to lead them back. We were all together soon enough and started really enjoying the concert and catching up as best we could between songs.
I hadn’t listened to Kings of Leon in ages, but the music was great and the sound within the amphitheatre travelled beautifully. They played for a couple of hours and after “Sex Is On Fire”, the lights went up and it was over.
The crowd started to disperse and we joined the masses. Not wanting to uber with the mob, Kimberly and Anthony offered me a lift to their place so I could Uber from there. We all split up to take our different transport and I followed A&K amongst hundreds of people to the carpark where we wandered in circles a bit until we found Kimberly’s Mazda. We’d passed lines of cars coming in so we assumed a shitshow trying to get out but it wasn’t too bad, soon enough we were on the highways of the bay heading to Sunnyvale.
We got back to A&K’s apartment and an Uber was only four minutes away. That was enough time to go inside and have a look at Kimberly’s ring. Another experiment with UberPool, I hopped into a new Honda with another guest already in the backseat. No conversatio in this Uber, we all kept to ourselves as the driver made some late turns but got us both home. Back at D&K’s house, I bundled up my bedding form the car, carried it inside and snuck in the back door. D&K had set up a pen for me in the playroom where I rolled my mattress out and quickly went to sleep. No more sleeping in the Astro.