As planned, I took eight days off from the trail. The time away was to get some rest and then to attend a work-related convention.
More than once during the first days I was home, my wife said to me, "It's just like when you used to live here!"
And so it was. I was able to take a shower in the bathroom I used to use. Sleep in the same bed I used to sleep in. Eat food in the same kitchen I used to eat in.
I could get used to this.
The first full day I was home a thunderstorm blew through the area, dumping so much water that streets flooded and creeks overflowed.
I was glad to not be hiking in this weather and I was hopeful it wasn't as bad for my friends in the mountains.
During the time off I was able to go through my gear, clean it up and make sure I had what I needed for the next portion of my hike.
Of course, that also meant I needed to buy a new stove to replace the one I left at Mt. Collins Shelter.
I suppose you can call that a stupid tax.
On Monday I drove to Baltimore for DrupalCon, an annual convention for Drupal developers.
In case you've never heard of Drupal before, it is a platform for building websites and other web-delivered information. Many large websites you've probably visited were built in Drupal. This website is also run on Drupal.
The drive on Interstates 40 and 81 ran roughly parallel to the trail for most of the way to Baltimore. In fact, as I was driving I caught brief glimpses of white blazes in a few spots, including near Marion, Va. and Harpers Ferry, W. Va.
DrupalCon is a big event, attended by more than 3,000 people. It was fun to spend time reconnecting with friends and former colleagues, and meeting new people.
Many of my friends had questions about my hike.
Conventions like DrupalCon always involve a lot of walking. To help me avoid completely losing my hiking legs, I always used stairs instead of escalators.
Still, there was no way walking around the city and in the convention hall could replace walking up and down mountains.
One of the highlights of every DrupalCon is Trivia Night, held on the Thursday of convention week. Unlike trivia nights you might participate in at a local bar, this one involves questions only about Drupal and related technologies.
I was on a team with friends from Chattanooga, and Fabrice, a Drupal developer from France.
Our team ended up taking third place in the contest. Pictured here from left to right are Gloria, Lee, Bo, me and Fabrice.
Our prize was a backpack for each of us.
Yeah, kinda ironic, wouldn't you say?
I was pretty well set in the backpack department, so I gave mine to a friend who wasn't there that night.
I returned home on Friday, which gave me one more day to get my gear repacked, food organized, and relax a bit more before I returned to the trail on Sunday.
Of course, I spent as much time as I could with my best pal, Kim.
There were days, and there were daysFrom "Days Between" by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)
And there were days between
Polished like a golden bowl
The finest ever seen
Hearts of summer held in trust
Still tender young and green
Left on shelves collecting dust
Not knowing what they mean
Valentines of flesh and blood
As soft as velveteen
Hoping love would not forsake
The days that lie between