Man, was I nervous coming into hometown dates. I liked all these women so much and the feelings of love were brewing for all of them ... it made me very uneasy.
Lindzi grew up in the Seattle area but her parents moved to Ocala, Fla., a number of years back so they could have more property and be closer to a real horse community.
Getting to see Lindzi in her element was incredible. She was at ease in a way I hadn't seen since the first time since I met her. Never in my life did I think I was going to visit a potential "family-in-law" in the South. It was never a thought being a California kid.
After meeting Margee and John ("Harry"), I knew why Lindzi was such an incredible woman. They truly are wonderful, caring parents who have their daughter's best interests in mind. I could see myself getting along with her parents. They reminded me a lot of my parents and how thankful, grounded and blessed they are to be so happy with each other.
I really meant everything I said about Lindzi that day. I began to fall hard for her as soon as I left Ocala.
Onward to Clarksville, Tenn., Kacie's hometown. I was so excited to visit Tennessee as I had never been before and didn't know what it would have in store for me. The day portion of our date went swimmingly as usual, but when Kacie started to talk about her dad, I got nervous. I really started to think he wouldn't approve of me being so different than a man he would normally want his daughter to date.
The evening was difficult for me. Kacie's family was really nice and welcoming, but every time I had a conversation with one of her family members, I felt like I was disappointing them. Kacie was raised with more traditional values than I was and I felt like that would get between us in regards to her family. I thought about it so much that it started getting in the way of my feelings growing stronger for her.
We had a few ups and downs in our relationship up until hometowns and then not feeling like I had her parents' approval was disheartening. Parents' approval and permission is really important to me and I didn't feel like I got that from her family, though they were really kind and warm.
I love Texas. No joke. It's definitely a state I can see myself visiting more often. I was really ready to see Nicki because the last few times I had spent with her I was really starting to develop strong feelings. She was hands-down the "dark horse" for me because I didn't expect her to be so awesome and understanding of everything.
I love talking to her and hearing her perspective on things. Every time we're together I find myself opening up more and more and she is really attentive and warm which are qualities I really like in a partner. And getting to go buy a new "cowboy" outfit was one of the best dates I have ever been on. We looked legit.
Meeting her family was nerve-racking because I really wanted it to go well. Her family dynamic was different than most, but it was so refreshing to see them get along so great, especially since her parents are no longer married. It shows how mature they all are in relationships.
I really liked the fact that her parents let her be her own woman and are respectful of her decisions. And they were really accepting of me and this whole crazy experience, which is a plus.
On top of it all, I will say that Nicki's dad was a total realist and I could see my father in him. I really admire her dad and in that brief moment of meeting him, respect his opinions, judgment, and character.
Last stop was Scottsdale, Ariz., to visit Courtney's family. Again, I was nervous about how this day was going to go because I had real feelings for this woman. I also had concerns about her based on what the other women were saying, but seeing her away from the other girls made me feel like her behavior was circumstantial.
Meeting Courtney's family was a very welcoming experience. It felt very familiar to me because I lived in Arizona for some time so it almost felt like home. Her parents' Saltillo-tiled floor reminded me of my parents' house and it was a good, nostalgic feeling. Rick was a true gentleman and I appreciated all the advice he gave me.
Later that day I was taken to a place in the Phoenix area that I had never been before and I am so glad I visited. I picnic a lot back in San Francisco and I loved that Courtney had planned this for our day. My date with her felt really natural and I have to give her props because she was really bold to assume that I would play along with a mock wedding.
Little did I know how much this elaborate setting would allow her to pour her heart out. Hearing Courtney tell me she loves me made it all worth it. All in all, it was a great hometown date and a great way to conclude visiting all of the hometowns.
This was the most difficult rose ceremony to date. It is so cliché to say, but they naturally get harder and harder as time goes on.
My decision to send Kacie home wasn't an easy one. I still had feelings for her, but I did make a promise to her father that if I didn't see it going much further that I would end it sooner than later to not hurt her as much. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt Kacie, but ultimately it was the right decision, as hard as it was.
Man, this has been a roller coaster.
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