There was a note waiting for Nic when he checked in. “Vanilla Bean loves his Cinnamon Bear.” The receptionist printed it up and had it taped to cardboard backing. I had stopped just south of Gary to call and put him on the reservation so he could check in, and to leave him that note.
When I reserved the room I was told that there wasn’t a hot tub, and I was ecstatic when I saw that they had misspoken. “Me, a fat bowl and that hot tub, that’s how I’m spending my night.” I said. Nic nodded and mmm-hmmed in approval as we stared lovingly and a bit lustfully at the bubbling pool. But first, we went skateboarding
Days before I left, my friend and neighbor Andrew gave me his old 9.75” Black Label board, complete with Independent trucks. It was the first board I’d owned in almost 20 years. And it had been as long since I was on one. I said to him “You just gave me my next broken bone, y’know.” He laughed. Then I went and bombed the hill in my neighborhood. I like a fast board, so I replaced the wheels and bearings with some 59mm Bones Rough Riders and Swiss bearings. Then I went and bombed some more hills.
Nic and I poked around Jeffersonville, Indiana on our boards. When I was at the skate shop getting wheels the guy assured me that my deck was certain to explode if I skated it. “I’m just going to cruise around surf some curbs, keep it mellow,” I said to him. But once I was skating around Indiana with my best friend like I was 12, or 22 again, one thing lead to another and an ollie off one curb lead to an ollie up onto a sidewalk, which lead to an ollie onto a curb which lead to more ollies. I was impressed that I still could, and that my board didn’t snap. I was equally impressed that nothing on me snapped either. Like I said, my board is fast. And you had better come correct if you step on it. Nic found that out the hard way when he came incorrectly and was pitched off, abrading his knee and putting holes in the knee of his new hiking pants. Lesson learned.
First aid was the liberal application of forementioned hot tub.
That night I didn’t sleep. Nic snores and I’m incapable of falling asleep or staying asleep if someone is snoring. So I ended up in the back of my car in the hotel parking lot and got a couple hours of sleep. Kind of.
Nic and I like to walk, so the next morning once he was up and we spent a couple hours soaking in the hot tub, and then headed over the river to spend a couple hours hoofing around Louisville. By the time we made it down to the pedestrian bridge, over the Ohio River and to the edge of downtown Louisville, we’d walked three and a half miles on concrete. And I had worn the wrong shoes for all that walking.
Louisville was boring, as Nic said it would be. There were a lot of places to get drunk and that was about it. To be fair, we didn’t explore very far because at that point we’d walked about five miles and I’d only gotten about three hours of broken sleep the night before.
We found some racist monument boasting the atrocities committed by some genocidal white guy, got a cup of coffee and headed back to Indiana. This time we took a different bridge, one intended for vehicles with something of a walkway about three feet wide on the other side of the bridge’s structural beams. It wasn’t so much of a sidewalk as it was the area between the supports and a four foot tall railing. While the beams gave the illusion of some sort of safety, vehicles were whipping by less than three feet from us. I was making this point to Nic and, as if on cue, a semi-truck went by at that moment and almost took Nic’s stocking cap off his head in passing. The entire walk across that bridge was a mildly unnerving experience. But we did it with joy and laughed most of the way.
We attempted to get dinner at bar across the way from our hotel, but we didn’t stay long. For starters, they were out of Impossible patties, had a white power sticker on the wall, and took way too long to make Nic’s burger. And right as we were about to ask to get Nic’s burger to go, one good old boys that was playing pool started telling a story about how he told his buddy “to shut up and drink the beer” because he didn’t “care if there is one of those damn pride flags on the can, it’s wasting the beer if you dump it out.” Right. Way to correct your homie on how not to commit partie fouls instead of how not to be a homophobe. Check please, we’re out.
After that we went back to the room and filled up on whatever food we’d brought with us and soothed our aching feet and stressed nerves in the hot tub, and then went to sleep.
Until I woke up about two hours later to the sound of snoring and went back to my car where I was in and out of consciousness for another couple hours. Once the sun was up we made coffee on a camp stove in the bathroom (again) and took a final dip in the hot tub.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to an old friend, one you don’t see very often. In that moment I always get this deep pain, the aggregate feeling of missing that person in the span of time since we last parted. It’s a feeling that bears roots in the depths of my stomach; a precursor to how much I’ll miss them between now and the next time we meet. That shit’s hard.
Nic and I hugged in the parking lot, said ‘drive safe, text me when you get in, I love you’ and parted ways, again. He bore east, back into Kentucky. And with the north to south leg of my journey over, I pointed my headlights west, and hit the gas.