Friday, August 9, 2013

I have arrived.

Well, I'm officially here in Staunton.  The cross-country road trip was long and hot, like I knew it would be, but it was a pretty grand adventure.  We mostly just drove the entire time, but we did stop to see the Grand Canyon (I was just as underwhelmed as last time--I mean, it's basically just a big hole in the ground), and we spent two nights in New Orleans so that we could explore a little.  We also got to spend a night in Chattanooga with our friend Jess, who I haven't seen since she graduated from Pacific in 2007.  Jess is a mom now!  It was super excellent to see her, and I wish we'd been able to spend a little more time with her.

I did most of the driving, which means that Tiffanie took most of the photos, so I don't have too many to share.  But here are a couple!

At the Grand Canyon.  Approximately ten minutes after I took this picture, it started dumping rain on us.  If you got a postcard from me, it probably had this picture on it.  If you didn't get a postcard from me, it's probably because I don't have your address.

Cadillac Ranch, outside Amarillo.  I don't know how to work the zoom on my camera, and we were going about 70 mph, which is why this picture is so terrible.  But Cadillac Ranch is pretty cool.  You should definitely google it.

Tiffanie took this picture on our first night in New Orleans.  We stayed at a hotel in the French Quarter, and when we finally got checked in and settled, we set off in search of food.  Not three blocks from our hotel, we ran into Bourbon Street, which was a complete circus on a Tuesday night.  I can't imagine being there for Mardi Gras!  Also?  The humidity was nightmarish.  On the whole, the town was very cool and I'd like to go back, but at a less humid time of year.  And never again to Bourbon Street.

To try to escape the inhumane humidity, we spent most of our touristy day in NoLa in museums and shops.  The Audubon Society has an Insectarium in New Orleans, which was  incredibly cool.  First of all, it's in some kind of gorgeous, historic government building.  (Side note: the architecture in New Orleans is just breathtaking.  It's all so, so beautiful.)  Second, insects are generally pretty cool, and this place had a lot of them.  Big ones, small ones, scary ones, adorable ones.  This little cayman was hanging out in their bayou exhibit.

For me, the best part of the Insectarium was the butterfly house.  I went to a butterfly garden in Canada a few years ago when we were up there for a swim meet.  I had a great time, but I hung out in there for ages and not one single butterfly wanted to come be friends with me.  Tiffanie had lots of butterfly BFFs right off the bat, and I was super jealous.  But then this little guy decided to come hang out with me, and I couldn't have been more excited!  

Finally, we went off in search of beignets.  My sister-in-lawesome, Sara, was in New Orleans on business a few years ago, and when she came back, all she could talk about were these pastries.  Imagine if I went all the way to New Orleans and didn't eat a beignet! Sara would probably disown me. We had a bit of a trek to get to these, but they were absolutely worth it!

This is SoBou, a restaurant in the French Quarter where we had dinner on our last night in NoLa.  Delicious food, but more importantly, really cool decor.  The entire restaurant was done up like this.  I appreciated it.

Then it was off to Chattanooga to see Jess and her little boy, Porter!  Jess looks great and is great, and it was so good to see her again.  We spent the entire night talking about people we went to college with, discussing our lives and loves, and generally being awesome.  It's how we do.  

When I finally got to Staunton, my first stop was the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Birthplace.  I'm ambivalent about Wilson (his time period is one of the least-interesting in American history, in my opinion), but the museum was pretty fantastic, especially when you consider that they receive no federal funding.  This is Wilson's 1919 Pierce Arrow, which has been lovingly and beautifully restored.  

There was also this very, very cool exhibit on WWI trench warfare in the basement of the building.  I could have hung out down there for hours.

I officially moved into my apartment on Wednesday, and as soon as I got all my boxes and bags loaded in, I went off to get groceries.  There's a Kroger not far from me, and because Kroger owns Fred Meyer, most of the brands were very familiar to me.  This one carries my favorite Seventh Generation cleaning products and the organic, fair-trade soap that Tim uses, so I felt comforted.  But those small successes were NOTHING compared to how I felt when I walked past the specialty cheeses.  I very nearly burst into tears in the middle of the deli section.  I haven't had any homesickness yet, but seeing this cheese made me so unspeakably happy and heartsick for Oregon at the same time.  And yes, I absolutely did spent six dollars on eight ounces of cheese.  Worth it.  If only they had Tillamook ice cream, too!

I bought this awesome pillow as an apartment-warming gift to myself.  No regrets.

Since getting settled (with my one suitcase, air mattress, and camp chair--can't wait until Tim gets here with my real furniture and the rest of my clothes!), I've mostly stayed in and relaxed.  I spent a few hours on campus getting acquainted with the program director and the layout of the buildings, and I've pretty thoroughly explored downtown.  I took my car to the VW dealership here this morning, and I successfully navigated my way back to my apartment without relying on my GPS, which makes me feel very good about myself.  Tomorrow I'm planning to go see the first of many shows at the Blackfriars Playhouse, and on Sunday, my cousin Genevieve is passing through town.  Hooray for having family in this neck of the woods!

Next week I get to start my work study job.  Tim should be here by the 20th, and then it'll be a week of togetherness before my classes start on the 2nd.  I can't believe this is finally happening!  I hope the kids like me, and I hope I can keep up with the work.  I can't wait to get started!

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