Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sweet Home Georgia

Visiting Bridget’s family in Georgia is a respite from the uncertainties that create excitement while traveling but also make me long for comfort and stability. I’m struggling to find a balance between accurately capturing the heaps of kindness we encounter without rambling for pages about how I’m falling in love with each member of the fam. (Or maybe it’s the bomber margaritas that JP is feeding me through an IV!)

I meet Matriarch Sally, a hospitality hummingbird making an array of dips with representation from at least five different countries while also baking cookies for a household of ravenous college boys. Matriarch Julie is a steel magnolia who slices strawberries while rattling off kid’s schedules between suggesting activities for us. Uncle Pete and Uncle Tom regale us with stories about Bridget’s Dad, Sean, as a 20-something and the “remember-when’s” of family vacations. Morgan keeps us healthy with laughter with his well-timed sarcasm and one-liners. Ryan impresses with his La Crosse skills blowing out the opposing team 19 to 1! Camryn and Aislin perform Slinky-like back handsprings and ensure that we are never deficient with hugs. Shea kept earnest presence with us and may have convinced Aunt Julie to let her move to California with Bridget. Kayla and Bryn drive hours between meetings and activities just to be able to see us for a few. Sean whisks us off to Tennessee for a day in a log cabin by Lake Cherokee. JP and Nick introduce us to Athens nightlife at a bar where we paint each other with neon crayons, fashion necklaces from pipe cleaners and dance until they kick us out. JP wakes us the next morning with orange juice in bed while Nick is busy in the kitchen making custom omelets.

Although they offered us everything but their first born children, the best part of the trip was catching a small glimpse of the lives of a few people who enrich the world with their spirits. (If you’re reading this, I hope to see you on the Kern in June!)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Roaming The Carolinas

“You’re going to have to detour an hour and a half around I-40 because of a rockslide,” Dan, our hostel angel warns. We opt for a scenic byway detour tucked in the Great Smokies; it runs through a vortex of disturbances. A truck doing 80 in a 55 zone passes us on the double yellow; ten minutes later, the truck is a permanent addition to a cliff. (Hope you’re okay, sir.) Shortly afterward, a crack-head pulls into a gas station behind us after running another driver into a ditch and queries us about directions with his pants unzipped. We reply with screeching tire marks. Fast forward to Asheville, North Carolina. PHEW!!!

We pause between purchasing yoga mats for each other and wandering to soak up the energy of dancers and a drum circle. A girl swooshes in tie-dye next to a purple-clad hula-hooper while a lad in tatters trips out with his eyes closed, hands swaying. Clark takes us out for Wedge Beer, Ruby Slippers jazz band and Portobello Burgers. We hear a young man playing a saw with a violin bow as we head out of town.

Driving through a myriad of confederate flags on our way to Greenville, South Carolina, we are in dire need of a life maintenance day. Sue overlooks that we are dirty hobos and makes us at home in her grand loft. We scrub our bodies and clothes, drink sangria (why are we always drinking?!) and cook stuffed peppers together. We are rejuvenated. All systems go for Georgia!

Another Round, TN 37201

Nashville equals debauchery. We start at one in the afternoon with a marathon of beer and shots. Our beloved bartender, Sammie, hooks us on locally brewed Dos Perros and Yazoo Wheat while we sketch “Manhattan Bitches” on dollars that we add to the mezcla of tacky decorations above the grease trap. Our beer workout makes us ravenous for pounds of fried pickles, pulled pork and brisket. (P.S. Beer workouts are outnumbering our runs at this point.) All the pickles killing our buzz prompt us to shoot innumerous amounts of Jameson next to our 90-year-old friend “Anal,” –I’m not even joking… that’s his name. Conversations flow like Yazoo with our other new friend Scott who gives us a shot of purple stuff… oh God… and we buy another round of Jameson for the closeted-rocker musicians. I drunkenly take notes about our evening that I desperately want to remember such as, “Bridget’s escape pauses at the risk of being groupies…” Translation, anyone? After we visit every bar downtown, another new friend, Jes, drives us to “REAL” Nashville, on the east side where we encounter a wash tub player (a wash tub with a stick coming out of it.) Fiddlers, guitarists, bassists, cellists, and harmonica players are feeding off each others’ musical genius. We exalt their talents and drink more Dos Perros. Cheers, Nashville!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Almost... Kentucky

• Almost have bourbon in Bourbon County- apparently it’s DRY on Sundays!
• Almost have a Mint Julep, Kentucky’s signature cocktail, after failed attempts at several bars
• Almost have fried chicken (instead Bridget is spat on by our waiter)
• Almost make the exit for just ONE of the bourbon distilleries; the signs are well disguised.
• Almost finding a market along the highway that sells vegetables (canned soup doesn’t count)
• Almost go on the GOOD tour of the Mammoth Cave, but settle for the second-rate one with the entire population of Louisville’s unruly children
• Almost have bourbon at a Kentucky honky-tonk… instead, we settle for the local Mexican bar where we make-shift our own Mint Juleps with grapefruit soda next to bikers acting like they’ve never, ever, ever seen attractive women
• Almost score free camping in Mammoth National Park
• Almost sleep for more than a couple hours a night… but awake to ticks crawling on the netting across the entire circumference of the tent.

Moral of the story: don’t visit Kentucky unless you hate alcohol, fried chicken and like to ogle unattractive people. But if you find yourself in Kentucky, be sure to check out your local Mexican bar (always a good time) and Mammoth Cave National Park; despite the ticks, it was stunning!

Toothless People, "The Charleston" and Other West Virginian Delights

Every town in West Virginia ends in –burg or –ville or -wood or –town or –ford… Casey and Johnny Ray laugh about my texts constantly adding the wrong suffix to Mill-. Our first night in Millwood, Bridget and I are delirious from our nine-hour road trip; Casey sets up an I.V. of Shiner Bock for us while Johnny Ray slaves over sweet potato fries and burgers. (You guys are the best!) We meet their friends April, a.k.a. Marilyn Monroe, Brian, Ryan and Zach. Oh, Zach. He was clearly absent the day “The Charleston” was taught in dance class. He stands up and starts flailing limbs in every direction, 1000 percent confident that he is teaching us the right way to perform it. Adorable.
Our next morning’s run along a country road garners stares as if we have ten heads as well as, “I think he went that way!” from a- presumably local- toothless biker. Apparently people don’t run for fitness much in Millwood.

An excursion to Marietta, Ohio (missed the state sign photo op- again) for beer and crack pizza at the brewery followed by headstands on the Ohio River bridge. What else would we do on a Saturday? We consider wearing all black to church for Easter Sunday, but decide against it after hearing that it’s actually a shoot-able offense in West Virginia or Kentucky. Extra big hugs and kisses to Casey and Johnny for the 6 a.m. coffee and the birth charts; we miss you already!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First Leg

Road trips never start to feel real until 100 miles away from the starting point; there’s something about being far away that makes the miles tick by without effort. Into Pennsylvania, we detour at exit 23 off of Interstate 78- Shartlesville. No sh*t… Shartlesville. We can’t resist checking it out, just to find that it’s one of those where I fight against the verbal puke that would assault a local with, “Why do you live here?”

After our appalling detour, we pass the renowned World of Pigeons silhouetted by fields spackled with abandoned wagons and farm houses. We roll along steep hills draped with pines and leafless oaks. I gaze at a hawk gliding over blue-hued mountains in the distance, Incubus pumping through the speakers and glance at Brij, allowing gratitude for this experience to wash over me.

The upper tip of Maryland is a flurry of steep grades and water dripping down maroon rocks along the interstate. Merely driving through Cumberland gave me the desire to build a home alongside all the others stacked neatly into the hillsides. As the passenger, I am responsible for taking photos of state welcome signs as proof that we actually did drive through these states. Apparently I really suck at photo shoots from a moving vehicle. I either zoom too much or not enough or cut off half the sign. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

“Welcome to Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!” the next welcome sign reads. Gogol Bordello’s strange ballads serenade us as we ramble by the reddest red barn, sun glinting off its unused silo and a truck with remnants of blue paint between patches of rust. Trailers covered with dime-store banners or spray painted sheets of plywood perched on two-by-fours are substitutes for billboards, usually campaigning for old, white, Republican, male politicians. I never thought grass could be astounding. The greenest green grass that lines every stretch of highway in West Virginia is proving me completely wrong.

Millwood, home of Casey and Johnny Ray, is our stopping place for the evening. I’m learning that directions can be confusing. “Take a right,” could, for example, mean “Take a right at the next light,” or it could mean “Take an immediate right.” VERY open to interpretation. We end up on a dirt road flanked with inoperable washing machines and children’s abandoned playthings. Bridget picks up her phone almost completely out of battery and phone range to clarify directions, “Hey Casey, are we supposed to be on a dirt road?”
The convertible crawls past trailers with lurking, curious characters. “Wrong turn,” he replies ominously. Bridget flips the car around as fast as possible in a five-point-turn and a half hour later we are safe from the nocturnal humans, hugging our greetings and relaxing after our first day on the road.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Naturally, the only way to start a cross country adventure is by learning to maneuver silk ribbons with grace and poise; at least that’s how Bridget and I thought best to begin. Last Sunday at the Trapeze School of New York, we mastered the art of climbing ribbons- similar to those you’d see in Cirque du Soleil- foot wraps and aerial splits. Okay, so we didn’t exactly master it, but we had a blast and sore muscles to prove it.

We spend the next couple of days are spent scrambling for last minute necessities- like the most miniscule stove IN THE WORLD and toilet paper, assuaging meltdowns into moments and drinking my goodbyes at Public House.

It’s Thursday night and I walk into the house to the healthy smell of flax bread Bridget is preparing especially for our trip. A single recipe turning into a quadruple recipe changes the outcome of a couple loaves to countertops overflowing with pans and pans upon pans of bread. Bridget’s mom, Bern, and I burst into laughter when we see her betray an I-may-have-overdone-it-look spread across her face.

Although we crawl into bed two hours later than planned, we arise with the anticipation of tasting our country’s culture, sleeping beneath the stars, hiking, running a cumulative 100 miles (three miles down), and reconnecting with friends and family. One route to West Virginia chosen and three tearful goodbyes to Bern, Sean and Seanie later, we drive toward the green light at the end of Wall Street in Bridget’s convertible Eclipse.