Last night I met with the last person on this leg of the trip, spent the night with the best kind of strangers in Chicago (more on that later), wrote at the bar and ate deep dish pizza at the place across the street from where I parked the car, and took off about 2:30 pm with my compass oriented for HOME.

It was a pretty easy drive. Amy Poehler narrated Yes, Please for at least half of it, and it made me like her even more than I already do, and also wish her editor had been more aggressive. The last two hours were mostly quiet. I drove in the dark and in silence for awhile and then turned on some music and opened the sunroof when I looked at the temperature gauge and saw that it was 57 degrees. Four days ago I was freezing. Hell, two days ago I was freezing. This feels like a sign.

And then I see the actual signs on I-70. Bates City, Oak Grove, Independence. I’m staying with friends for the next few days and the GPS tells me to turn here, but they’re not home right now and after four weeks on the road, I just want to be with people I love. I turn off the Google Maps lady and tell her I’ll see her in a few days, because I know my way around this place.

I see the lights of downtown Kansas City, billboards congratulating the Royals on a great season and understand again how life has gone on in my absence. The Kauffman Center is lit up, there’s a new thrift store on 39th Street, and it’s so warm I don’t even need a coat to walk across the street to Room 39, the restaurant that has been my best writing and hanging out space for the past twelve months. For two years it was both a job and family for my daughter Mary Glen and when I walk in and see the faces of these beautiful people, I realize they’ve been my family too.

I sit at the bar, chat for awhile and then open up my laptop because my heart is so full and me and bars and writing are the one combination that I can always count on. Brooke isn’t even working tonight, so when I see her at the computer changing the Pandora station, I jump up and give her a hug and ask what she’s doing. She says she’s here for the party. The restaurant’s ten-year anniversary party, when I just happened to come in. I’m finishing this post surrounded by food and drinks and old friends who love each other.

After four weeks and just halfway through the journey, my #IRLProject people have come to mean so much to me. But tonight my heart belongs to these real life members of my tribe who knew me when I walked in the door.

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