less like soup and more like heaven

So I forgot to mention that on the way to Ohio Corvin’s check engine light came on. Again. After just being fixed hours prior in New York. My parents insisted upon switching cars. Which we did, gratefully. But it was sad to pull out of my grandma’s driveway and leave Corvin pitifully, brokenly behind. But my parents’ car is much fancier. Volume control on the steering wheel, a CD player that works 100% of the time, seat warmers (not something I enjoy, but still), an honest to goodness clock, and admittedly much more room. Luxury. So Corvin was soon all but forgotten. Well, that is until we were about ten miles from Cassie’s family’s home and we filled the tank of our new vehicle. I think my heart changed its rhythm as the dollar signs increased. Little Corvin had been averaging about $27 per tank on the trip so far. My parents’ reached $66. I was not impressed. But I reminded myself 1) that their tank was larger, and 2) that we were incredibly lucky to even have a vehicle at this point. Thank God for my overwhelmingly generous parents.

The very blue house in Batavia became quite full when our party of four merged with the usual six residents. Between receiving numerous gifts and much adoration from the two youngest, and catching up with Beth, whom I’ve not seen for several years, our arrival stood in stark contrast to the past several hours of driving. I’ve realized road trips are a good balance of calm and [hopefully] uneventful stretches of driving past miles of gorgeous scenery, and periods of concentrated and vivid interaction with the people where and with the places in which you arrive. I appreciate both, but what I really appreciate is their harmony.

The events of Chicago (or, in my mind The City of Revolving Doors) sadly did not mirror Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as planned. But I still very much enjoyed the day. The Sears (or Willis, if you insist on being current) Tower was skippable in my opinion. Especially after just having been on the Empire State Building. But, whatever. The Bean in Millennium park was enchanting, however. I could have stayed and regarded it for hours. We stopped at a grocery store/vegetarian cafe called Kramer’s, which was a great decision. I’ve had this vegan Cuban sandwich in my mind for months now, seeing as Cuban sandwiches are the only form of pork I enjoy, and are the main situation in which I actually miss meat. But I haven’t gotten around to actually realizing this idea. Well Kramer’s beat me to it. Their Cuban sandwich was good, but I still think I can do it better, and I plan to.

There were non-food related events between lunch and dinner, but they weren’t especially noteworthy, so I’ll move right on to Gino’s. It had happened four or five times that when I mentioned the word ‘Chicago’ in relation to our itinerary, people responded with “go to Gino’s!” And so we did. Despite the fact that for the majority of the trip I’ve reduced myself to two meals a day, I consider both my vegan Cuban, and my deep dish pizza worthy investments. Not to mention, our server Dane! was one of the best waiters on the planet. We skipped out on the comedy venue we had planned on going to that evening in favor of spending more time at Gino’s and also stopping by the very fancy Grand Lux Cafe for Cassie’s dessert. By then we were exhausted. Three out of the four of us slept on the train ride back to Batavia.

Chicago Ginos

I really like the aesthetic of Chicago. It has interesting tall buildings and a lot going on, but it has a lot of space. Just walking through, there are pockets of air and sky filled places, the streets feel wide, and the people walking about don’t resemble some sort of human sardine run. It is has a sense on non-oppressive muchness.

My favorite part was the Tribune Tower. I started noticing these odd pieces of rocks here and there that didn’t seem to belong to the smooth facade. There were engravings of place names beneath each protrusion. As I walked along, I realized that these were collected from famous structures from across the world and then displayed in the walls of this building. It was fascinating. I think I can safely say that the Tribune Tower is my favorite structure in the US. I love that it wasn’t even an intended destination of our visit, we just brushed past it. You can’t even begin to imagine all that you’ll encounter on any given day.

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real hooligans

nyc bridge

So despite the car being out of commission, we made use of our extra time in NYC. Mr. and Mrs. H came home and gracefully provided excellent food and loads of patience and support. We consumed toxic levels of sugar. I got married. We pretended to go to Boston up until we reached the bus station (poor, deserted Boston pizza tour, someday I will attend to you). We got a cookie cake and split it amongst the four of us in Central Park. We pawned off the last piece, which simply read ‘sexy’ to some passersby. I vomited my quarter of said cookie cake. We walked the Brooklyn Bridge. At long last Corvin came back to life, and we set off once again.

My parents just happened to be in Ohio while we were passing through. Which was about as exciting for me as anything else on the trip, since I now see them only a few times per year, living on the other side of the country and all. Ohio mostly involved catching up with extended family, since I now see them only once every few years. There was a small family dinner for my dad’s side, and the traditional huge family dinner for my mom’s side. I got to meet my new, twin first cousins once removed. I got to visit my grandma before her open heart surgery. Great quantities of pumpkin bread were consumed, and my grandma sent two loaves with us on our journey, loaves which were greatly enjoyed and appreciated. We also made multiple trips to Swenson’s, which is now one of two situations in which I will consume meat of my own volition (the other being homemade Cuban sandwiches). One of our trips was the midnight walk. Which is a bit odd, since Swenson’s is a drive-in ‘lights on for service’ restaurant. But we claimed our parking spot and consumed our amazingbestintheworld burgers and milkshakes happily.

OH Swensons

the man who doesn’t fear pajamas

Sometimes things just don’t work out how you planned for them to work out. Control: we don’t have it. But we try so hard to believe that we do.

This morning I was destined to be in Boston by nightfall. I had my dinner planned out, I knew what the sleeping arrangement was going to be, I had a schedule of how things were supposed to happen. Today somewhere between feeling ill from copious amounts of sugar and then consuming further copious amounts of sugar, that plan failed. We took the train back to Princeton and retrieved the car. But on the way to Boston dear ol’ Corvin decided to go on strike. Maybe it had to do with ignoring all of the warnings and alerts, maybe it was a protest of all of the miles we’ve been putting on him, or perhaps he is revolting against leaving Florida (I would have a car that was partial to the tropics). Regardless of the reason, my poor car stopped working. On the highway. It just…stopped accelerating. I performed this battery trick my dad had coached me on before we left, and that served as a temporary solution. Unfortunately a little more temporary than was really optimal. Like maybe five minutes. So we found the nearest Toyota dealer (after calling my dad, twice). Which was miraculously close. Though it took about five more battery maneuvers to get there, we did indeed make it before it closed. So much for not driving in New York City!

I am not excited about my car breaking down. I’m not stoked about being thrown off schedule. But as usual, a lot of things went way better than they could have, and probably better than they statistically should have. It’s a miracle we were so close to a Toyota dealership, that we were in NYC where we were able to just take the subway back to Sarah’s place, that we had stopped at Trader Joe’s earlier to buy food, and most of all that we were all safe and unharmed. When we started driving this afternoon, I had this really negative feeling. In my brain I interpreted it as ‘we are going to wreck today’. It was so strong I could barely force myself to sleep. I awoke to Cassie pulling over because the acceleration stopped. How grateful I am that it was something so harmless.

Over the past few years I’ve come to the conclusion it is not worth worrying about what’s going to happen when you don’t have all your facts, and you have even less control. I could have stressed about all of the potential outcomes of the situation, I could have made plans A through Z. But it’s quite simply a waste of time and unnecessary as well. So I handed over my keys and re-entered both mentally and physically into the NYC portion of our trip. Sarah picked up cupcakes on her way home. We all pretty immediately donned pajamas, and preceded to have a picnic out by the river. Followed by a few rounds of pictionary telephone. Sometimes non-serendipitous events can be accompanied by really pleasant moments.

wow, gee whiz, golly wolly…

Sarah, my best friend for the entirety of my childhood, lives in New York City. Her and her family were out of town, but they offered to let us stay at their apartment. We accepted.    NYC

The first night we made use of a sweet hookup at the Empire State Building. We got our tickets half off, were escorted past all of the lines, and received VIP postcards. Needless to say, we felt pretty fancy. It was exceptionally windy, and it was really beautiful. Well worth visiting, but perhaps not at full price.

Day two started off in Central Park, where I believe a lot of time should be spent when in New York City. Maybe it defeats the purpose of being in a city, spending as much time as possible in a park, but not in my mind. There is something so pleasant about being in a place that is so very chaotic, and being able to grasp a bit of calm. We also took the Staten Island Ferry.

NYC central park

NYC ferry

On Sunday we had tickets to see The Lion King. It was phenomenal. So much creativity and talent. If I were the crying sort, I would have cried and cried at just how impressive and gripping it was. I am definitely glad to have had the opportunity to see it.

NYC cp

I took a personal day in New York. I was pretty impressed that I proactively claimed personal days on the trip, since usually I fail at it. But in hindsight, I still didn’t take enough. I get so caught up in doing things, that I forget my mind needs a break, a reordering, a calm and a resurgence. During the course of my “I’m an introvert, solitude please” morning, I read an article from Donald Miller, where he pretty much covered the reason for my need for a break from humans. It was mostly a relaxed, mosey-ish day. But a few things it included were: Yaffa Cafe, a bookstore, a few strolls through various parts of NYC, and some nature time in Central Park. I also may have visited Trader Joe’s, which I’ve heard has a crazy busy location in Manhattan. The line actually took under thirty seconds, despite what I had been told.

Sarah came home on our last evening. We had dinner and watched The Princess Diaries, which is pretty much a requirement for us whenever we’re together at this point. I think this is also the night we made fondue. But everything is such a blur, now three months later. Anyways, we had fondue one night, and I’m pretty sure all of us felt lardily ill and deliciously filled with deliciousness. Sarah is an awesome cook and baker, and I haven’t yet tried anything that wasn’t impressive. I choose my friends wisely.

NYC Sarah

*photos courtesy of Cassiopeia, Kev, and Lu. All of whom are better, and more motivated photographers than I am.

Freddie Mercury is dead

Our drive from Gainesville, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia was considered the first real driving stretch of the road trip. I’ve done the drive from Naples to Gainesville plenty of times, and by now it’s pretty well lacking in the adventure department.

Atlanta made it onto the itinerary due to the completely wonderful Sarah and Lindsey. Who weren’t at their apartment when we arrived. So we grabbed our bread, peanut butter, and honey and sought out the optimal picnic spot in their rather attractive development. We sat atop a sewage drain and enjoyed the lovely Atlanta weather which graced our feast. During our meal we were approached by a woman whom some of the group presumed was going to kick us out, but whom I personally thought was going to attempt to sell us something. In fact she offered us four free tickets to the Queen show that evening. Tickets which we eagerly accepted, but sadly didn’t end up using. It turns out during our little picnic, Sarah and Lindsey in fact were home. We spent the evening happily with them. Pseudo-Queen ain’t got nothing on those ladies.

Atlanta

We left early the next morning. Philadelphia was our ultimate destination for the day, but we had a stop planned in North Carolina. We stopped for a short visit with our friend Rhyne, one of the loveliest people in the world. He introduced us to crack in the form of an assortment of dips and spreads. Since we were ahead of schedule we (they) decided to drive through DC. Which was a bit of a driving nightmare. But we saw a few famous things and admired the pretty oldish buildings. Well, I mostly focused on the other cars and such, but I’ve been to the capital before, and am not too bothered about seeing it again.

We finally made it to Philadelphia, and arrived at the really nice home of one of my previous co-woofers, Abel. He, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend were really welcoming.

Philadelphia Abel

Our first day we visited the Reading market, which captured all of us. We found a statue I had wanted to see (photo to come someday when I’m not using an iPod Touch). We stopped at the Rodin museum, which is likely the only museum I will partake in on this particular trip. I have a slight aversion to museums, I’ve found, but this one I quite enjoyed. I spent several minutes toe to toe with one of Rodin’s statues, just gazing into his face. I never knew you could stare into the face of sorrow for so long.

Philadelphia domino

My favorite stop of the day (and I suspect it will be my favorite of the entire trip) was the Magic Gardens. Magical is the perfect adjective for it. A whole world of abandoned and broken, found and reimagined items splayed across the walls and floors of a mini neighborhood. There were bottles and mirrors and plates, colors and white, glass, ceramic, and metal. So many intricate pieces placed so specifically in such a heart and soul grabbing display. Many of the bottles contained small scrolls and scraps of paper left by previous visitors. People who wanted to leave a part of themselves in that place, or maybe were so caught up in the creativity that they wanted to have some small contribution. I definitely recommend going whensoever you find yourself in Philadelphia.

Philly

Philadelphia Batman

For dinner we had Philly cheesesteaks. Which were goodish, but not amazing. On day two we saw the oldest residential street in the US (pretty), and the liberty bell (unimpressed). I was partial to our bread, cheese, and jam picnic. All aforementioned ingredients were purchased at Reading market and were fabulous.Philly CS

We drove from Philadelphia to Princeton, New Jersey, where we left our car. The assumption was that not driving in NYC would be optimal, and not parking there would be cheaper. Hindsight may have disproven both of those theories, but eh, live and learn.

*photos courtesy of Cassiopeia, Kev, and Lu. All of whom are better, and more motivated photographers than I am.

backfiring cars and their human equivalents

Today commences the long awaited Mosa Lina road trip. This venture has been in our minds and on paper for around five years now, and is finally being realized. The Mosa Lina Road Trip was imagined in high school, extensively discussed and loosely planned, postponed, shortened, and the itinerary has been shuffled around. Now here we are on the road.

To be honest I’ve had my own hesitations regarding this whole journey recently. Partially in that I’ve enjoyed my short bout of settled life in Olympia (and did not particularly want to give it up). And partially because so many aspects of this trip aren’t my preference. Rapid succession traveling, primarily big city visiting, and constantly lots of people (in other words: little alone time) aren’t my favorite. But I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to not get too comfortable, I’m glad to be spending time once again with Cassie, Christy, and Kristin, glad for the opportunity to see the sky across America, to taste the foods of these little culture centers, to see all shades of street art, to smell cities and tiny towns and oceans and forests and desert, to hear traffic and silence and wind and music, and to further expand my mind and heart past what I’ve known. I hope my fears and misconceptions are proven wrong every day, and that I am astounded ceaselessly by the experiences I have exploring this country, and that my time sharing life with the individuals throughout this trip is positively life changing in even the most infinitesimal of ways for both me and for them.

The first day has been a good one. The weather in Florida has been uncharacteristically nice during my few short days here. Thankfully. I haven’t even had to make an effort to refrain from complaining! We started the trip with I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), had a very fabulous experience (as usual) at The Top – our favorite restaurant, and finished the evening watching Mean Girls. To my jubilance, we had the company of Holly, Brandon, and Brian upon our arrival in my once-home city of Gainesville. And even a short visit with Su, a woman whom Christy and I secretly sort of want to grow up to be.

Florida driving