Chapter One: A Weekend Wedding.
The wedding. Ah, the wedding.
More chaotic than I could've ever imagined, and in all honesty the best omen I could've asked for in starting this journey. If you read my last post, I left off with throwing my kickstand up in Bedford Hills. From Bedford, I rode north on some familiar roads; 684, 84 West, the Taconic State Parkway, etc.
The Taconic is one of the few highways I’ll always embrace, but only a specific section. If you hop on the TSP anywhere north of where it intersects with Route 6 in Cortland Manor, all the way up to where it joins with I-91 near the Massachusetts border, you'll be greeted with some of the nicest roadside scenery the Hudson Valley has. Makes sense - the road was the brainchild of Robert J. Moses and Franklin D. Roosevelt - they wanted to open up the Hudson Valley to a surge of new motorists during the 1920's, all while avoiding the rugged dirt and plank roads of Putnam and Columbia counties.
I rolled along, climbing the peaks and coasting down into the valleys. I thought of my college geology classes - I spent a good chunk of my college career studying the NY geologic survey, and could practically teach an intro class on it by my senior year. Three mountain-building episodes, millions of years of shallow sea regression and transgression, all punctuated by this entire region getting carved up by glaciers during the last ice age.
I pulled off at a rest stop to take in the scenery; the sun was rapidly falling over the Catskills, standing there across the river to the west. An older gentleman walked over to me, complimenting the bike and saying, "You look like you're fixing to do some traveling, I'll say."
"Actually, I just left on a two year trip." I said.
"Oh really? When did you leave??" He asked.
"Literally an hour ago!" I replied.
We talked for fifteen minutes or so - enough time to stretch my legs, but not enough to lose daylight. He was very friendly; his name was Joe. He'd spent a few years in Thailand and Sri Lanka after serving in Vietnam teaching english, and said he'd fallen in love with the entire region. We parted ways with a handshake, and he wished me luck on my trip. As I pulled back onto the highway, I thought, "The first person I'll meet on the road. The first of many."
I arrived in Queensbury shortly before sunset, greeted by Nick, Josh, Kevin, and Gazda. The mood was bright - it was a wedding weekend, after all. I pulled into the garage, and made my way inside. I gave Nick and Jenn some small gifts - hot sauce for Nick (a sadomasochist when it comes to "the sauce life"), and a Hermione Granger wand for Jenn (a self-described Harry Potter obsessive).
I was excited to watch the two of them get married. I'd known since the early days of their relationship that we'd all eventually be here - i remember having the thought after one of our typical "breakfasts at Hulbert" back at SUNY Oneonta. That was eight years ago. God, time flies.
The entire weekend was a level of chaos that, and I say this with complete confidence, not one of the bridesmaids or groomsmen had prepared for. Friday night included four hours of hard seltzers, Spotify sing-alongs, pasta dinners, magic tricks (by yours truly), and karate lessons (a la Colleen and Kevin, two people who have never, as far as I'm aware, done Karate.)
Saturday was much more mellow - relaxing at the AirBnB, snacking and napping. As it turns out, my hangovers have gotten a delayed fuse in my "old age" - mornings are fine, then I hit a wall around 2pm, suddenly hit with the all-to-familiar tightness behind my eyes that I became acquainted with in college. I was glad that I stopped drinking much after graduation. Saturday night was spent at a bar in downtown Glens Falls for the rehearsal dinner. We laughed, drank from the open bar, and ate to our hearts content. Around the end of the evening, a bottle of Crown Royal was produced out of no where, and we all joined the bride-and-groom-to-be in a ceremonial "Costo Family Tradition" - a shot of the brown stuff. It burned as it went down, and my thoughts flew back to Oneonta. I was happy. I was nostalgic.
The day of the wedding went off without a hitch. The forecasted rain held off entirely, making us all thankful, for once, about Upstate New York's unpredictability when it comes to the weather. The guys and I enjoyed getting ready in the farmhouse. I'd brought my camera, and became a de facto second-shooter for the day. I was more than happy to do it; I wanted these two to have as many good photos to look back on. Not to mention I shot their engagement photos last year (ironically, almost to the day!) - check out those here! I got the fun moments - the first look, the post-ceremony "Oh my god we just did that" moments, the post-ceremony "pass the fireball" moments, and more.
I want to say that I stood strongly watching one of my best friends marry the love of his life. I really, really would. But in all honesty, I broke hearing Nick, a soft spoken, always apologetic (I'm talking Canadian level of apologetic), not-terribly-fond-of-public-speaking person deliver some truly beautiful vows. The tears made a repeat appearance just moments later with Jenn's vows.
I'd also love to say that we all partied responsibly after the ceremony, tastefully sipping champaign, munching on hors d’ouerves, pinkies in the air. I'd really, really, really love to say that.
What *actually* happened was a night of debauchery that I hadn't had in years. Fireball Whiskey from the bottle. Raspberry White Claws. Ciders on Ciders. By the end of the night, I may or may not have ended up in a dress covered in lipstick kiss marks, while one of the bridesmaids ended up in my three-piece suit. I blame the White Claws.
After the reception, we all ended our night back at the inn down the road in Glenns Falls, dancing in the rain, listening to music on the front porch. I knew that I'd always consider this the start of my trip. The start of my life-changing journey on the road. I couldn't have asked for a better "Chapter One."