We spent half an hour at the beach in Dana Point, then started our trek back home.
In a couple hours we met our first dust storm.
The little Rabbit shook in the high wind and filled up with sand. We stopped for the night at a Motel 6 in Arizona.
Fifteen degrees and windy as we drove through icy Texhoma. We wrapped up in our sleeping bags and bought huge cups of gas station coffee. Sure would be nice if the Rabbit had heat.
A cop car pulled up behind us with its lights flashing. Drug search. We wriggled out of our sleeping bags. He let me sit in the patrol car with a barking German Shepherd. The verdict: replace your tail light, and your bags smell like weed (they don't).
An ice storm in Kansas. The windshield froze over. We stopped again, navigating to a dumpy motel with Montana's head out the window.
After six days on the wagon trail, we were back in mild Pennsylvania.
After all our efforts to avoid winter, I'd say we had a 30 percent success rate in 2017-18. We went back to work, doing as much as we could to crawl out of the financial hole we'd dug. When the spring snow finally melted, Montana started building a platform on the hillside above the bar for our summer home.
It was lovely and cool, far enough in the woods to feel separate from the Ohiopyle noise. But Mr. Spaghetti didn't like it much, and he slithered out of the tent during a thunderstorm. We looked for weeks, hiked around in the woods with a food bowl, put up sad desperate signs all over Ohiopyle and set traps (caught: a black cat, two opossums, one chicken, no Spaghetti).
Finally we took a visit to the State Park manager's house a half mile up the hill.
"Yeah, we saw that cat!" He told us. Spaghetti was alive! "He was on the porch, but when I went up to him he got so scared he started banging his head into the railing. So I just let him go." Not the smartest cat.
One morning I got up before the sun and set off into the woods with a food bowl and a flashlight. I hiked up the ridge into the woods near the park manager's house, calling for the lost pasta.
I dropped the bowl and ran to the rock outcropping. Spaghetti was looking out over the woods, all raggedy fur and dirty paws. I scooped him up and slipped down the hill back to the tent.
The rest of the summer was a rainy mire of bike tours and washed out rafting trips. We managed to sneak out to Colorado for one week thanks to the pounding storms that cancelled our trips on the GAP and the C&O canal. We spent six days mountain biking in Breck, which was probably the most riding I did all summer.
By the fall, we'd had enough of moldy tent living and moved back into the Shark. A big branch fell on the tent and ripped our fabric house in half.
Where to go in the winter? We agonized over that for a while. We didn't want cold, short days. Maybe southeast Asia? But it sounded busy, visas were confusing and it rains a whole lot there.
So in the end we decided on something easy, friendly and familiar. We booked tickets back to New Zealand. This time we'd tour the country with a better understanding of what it is (some nice roads, not a whole lot of wilderness accessible by bike) and what it is not (Colorado). Even if it rained a bit this time, we were at least guaranteed long days, no snow, cheap sushi and frequent skateparks (Montana just got a new Waltworks with an extra long tail and integrated rack to carry his skateboard along).
After all the bike tour work was done, we had a pleasant family Thanksgiving and Montana started a week-long bag sewing frenzy. The days were short and cold, and we were definitely stoked to leave.