Feeling rejuvenated, I walked downstairs to say good morning to Hope.
She was dressed and ready.
We had french press coffee together; our day had been mapped out.
First, she would show me her and her ex-husband's former place (the Farm).
(Side note: I met Hope's ex on Brian's Ride, too.)
Then, we would go back to her place and eat lunch.
Next, we would visit two state parks.
Finally, we would tour Slippery Rock, its university, and the famed North Country Brewing Company.
I showered and dressed.
Before rejoining Hope, I called my youngest sister and left her a Happy Birthday message.
Off we went in Hope's SUV.
Stop #1: the Farm
Western Pennsylvania at its finest.
Barns and cornfields and soybeans and apples.
A small creek trickles in the background.
Many memories remain: all calculated by the age.
The age of Hope's only daughter -- now in her 20s.
Ghosts from the past (probably the Babcock family) linger on the property.
It is peaceful here, but too vast for one person to handle its upkeep.
Stop #2: Moraine and McConnell's Mill State Parks
Directly off the 422, one can ditch the urban world for Pennsylvania's beauty.
Free-flowing water, mills, rocks upon rocks, and steep cliffs.
A wonderland for explorers of nature all thanks to an ice age.
A mecca for whitewater rafters, kayakers, and hikers.
Hours could pass here without notice.
I could not thank Hope enough for showing me the real Pennsylvania.
Stop #3: Slippery Rock
We drove the back way -- to see if she could remember it.
Small town fueled by its university.
We stopped by her daughter's home, and ran into one of her roommates (a college football player) en route to an away game.
Another player was outside in a truck waiting for him.
Jody had a few minutes to hang out before joining one of her friends for dinner and a movie.
She gave me a tour of the house, and I received some of the structure's backstory.
Hope -- her mom -- did quite a bit of renovation on that house.
Wishing not to linger too long in Jody's space, we stay only a few minutes before taking a tour of the university.
The new part.
The old part.
The dangerous hill.
The climbing walls and upscale dining halls.
The new field.
The old field.
Then, we made a right.
Within two-minutes, we reached the North Country Brewing Company.
Hope and I enjoyed a nice dinner with even better beer.
I tried the Lavender Abbey.
Not because it had the highest alcohol content, but because it had lavender in it.
Lavender in beer?
It worked: I don't know how, but it worked.
The young girl leaning forward saw me with the camera; she tried to give me more room.
(Now, I see her to-go box.)
Following our meal, we run into one of Hope's former leadership students (now a married 40-something).
She reminisced about that particular class: how close they remain despite how many years have passed.
I tell her there's something about Gen-Xers.
We head back to the country.
Back to Mercer.
I close the night with a cup of tea and admire all the art work and photographs throughout the house.
We say goodnight, and I take a hot shower before going to bed.
An early Saturday morning start awaits -- I set my alarm for 5:40 a.m.
Until we meet again, my friend.