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Mountain Detour

26 Mar

Last week, I took a spontaneous, last minute road trip to D.C. from Kansas. I had every intention of blogging about it as I drove (not literally AS I drove, safety nuts) but every time I stopped for the night, there was someone great to catch up with, or my attention would be derailed by reading up on Autostraddle, or Twitter, or Facebook, or… the welcoming softness of a hotel bed. So, that’ll be a catch-up entry later.

On the way out, I happened to stop in Lewisburg, West Virginia. I hadn’t been there before this trip. I came in to town through the mountains in the middle of the night. There’s something powerful and exhilarating about weaving through the foothills in pitch darkness, with my headlights cutting through the night not quite far enough to keep me from thinking that, in the next 100 feet, the road drops off the face of the earth. When I woke up the next morning, I stepped outside to a quaint little mountain town full of beautiful houses, and awesome little local shops, including a coffee house that brewed a delicious espresso. I couldn’t stop thinking about the town. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get to D.C., I would have stayed longer.

So, since my return trip started today in the early evening, I decided it was the perfect distance from D.C. (about 4 hours) to stop for the night on my way back home. Same twisty night drive coming in. And when I got here, I found even more reasons to love it. One of my favorite things about traveling are the random encounters with people. You never know who you will run in to, who will strike up a conversation with you, or give you a great story to tell. And Lewisburg didn’t disappoint.

As I pulled in to town, I stopped at the gas station to pick up a drink for the hotel. I got some iced tea from a “Teazer” fancy tea machine, which had to be brewed in a certain cup. Then I spent five minutes trying to find a lid that fit the cup. I gave up and headed to the cash register. As I set my purchase on the counter, the cashier pulled out a fitting lid from behind the counter and popped it on my cup. Her name was Wanda, and she was 70 if she was a day, grey and white hair pulled back in to a ponytail. She chuckled when I said, “Oh, good. I thought I was losing my mind because I couldn’t find those lids over there.”

“No, it’s not just you. For some reason unbeknownst to me, we have to keep those lids over here instead of by the drink machines,” she explained.

“Oh. Well, that’s odd.” I commented.

“Yeah, I think if you leave them over there, they do tricks or make messes when you’re not watching them.” Wanda joked as she rang up my snacks.

I smirked. Another great thing with meeting new people is finding the ones who can play one of my favorite games: carrying on conversations about really silly, random things. The kind of conversations where you walk away with a grin, knowing that you just bonded with another human being over the most innocuous thing. Tonight, it was to be iced tea cup lids.

“Maybe they’re a bad influence on the other lids, or they teach them naughty things to do,” I suggested.

“Oh, yup. I’ve got it.” Wanda nodded, “That’s why they’re called TEAZERS — they pick on the other lids, so sitting behind the counter is timeout.”

“Ha! That must be it!” I smiled at her as she handed me my change. She was chuckling out loud, “Have a good evenin’, sweetie.”

My next stop was for food. I have this road trip rule about only eating at places that I can’t eat at back home. I had to break my rule and pick Hardee’s, though, because I just couldn’t bring myself to eat alone at a Shoney’s. That’s an experience that has to be shared. Plus, I have a thing for Hardee’s Mushroom & Swiss burgers, but on sourdough bread and with a side of extra mushrooms. The Hardee’s in my hometown manages to screw it up every time, while charging me almost $7 for a fast food burger (because of all the add-ons). And I continue to go back. Because it’s worth the pain, these things are so good.

I was pleasantly surprised and cautiously optimistic when the girl at the drive-thru not only got the gist of my requests, but also only charged me for a regular sandwich. When I got the bag, I could tell it was right by the weight of the extra mushroom container. I know it seems simple, but I really love some foods a certain way. And I really hate stupid people. So, score another “cool” point for Lewisburg and it’s adept teenage fast foodies for being able to get my stuff right.

The highlight of the evening though is my hotel. When I arrived, I took a cruise through town, hoping to find something besides the corporate chain I stayed in on the way out. I’m game for saving $30 a night to not have a continental breakfast I won’t eat anyway. Not to mention I get the charm and quirkiness that comes with local lodging establishments. Fort Savannah Inn fit the bill, and I looked them up and called to confirm availability and wireless access. Good to go. On the main street near downtown, I pulled in to the parking lot in front of a lodge-type building with a sign advertising the main front desk. I saw the innkeeper peeking out the window at me, so I got out and went inside. The inner lobby door was a six-foot wide barn door that led in to a dark, defunct souvenir shop and cafe with “KEEP OUT” signs posted everywhere. Uh, okay.

I found the other door to the office, and pulled it open as the barn door creaked shut behind me. The innkeeper hollered at me from ten feet away, “You the lady who called?”

“That’s me.” I headed toward the desk and went through the usual check-in rigmarole. $52 with tax included seemed a fair deal compared to the $80+ tax at the chains. So far, seemed pretty normal. I hopped in the car to drive around to my room, and was greeted by outdoor kids toys on the motel walkway. Sweet. Motels with people living in them? Guaranteed experience.

Now I’m settled in the room. Once I figured out that none of the three (completely different) dead bolts on the door actually work, I used the door chain that appears to be from the 1950s and probably wouldn’t keep the wind out. I closed the curtains on the first-floor window that backs to completely pitch black woods, and I took in the wood beam ceilings and furniture that appears to have come from a dozen different hotel auctions spanning the last 30 years. I love it. And when I turned on the t.v. and it was already tuned to HGTV, I knew I had another sign that Lewisburg likes me and wants me to stay here.

Tomorrow was going to be a day for hitting the road hard. But I think at least a half day of antique shops, flea markets, local coffee, and taking in some mountain scenery here sounds like a much better idea. School will wait if I don’t make it back from spring break on time. But sometimes you have to pay attention when life tells you take a detour.


Warming Up… 25 Things About Me

13 May

As you can see, it has been quite some time since I last submitted my thoughts to the blogosphere.  Not for lack of good intentions, or being asked by friends and family, or for a loss of words accumulating in my brain.  Rather than attempt a full-blown return to putting it all out there, I thought I’d do a Facebook-style “25 things about me.” Part warm-up, part getting-to-know-me.  Part attempt to realize that not everything I blog has to be some perfectly crafted story or contain some life-altering revelation (and not that anything I’ve written to date has).  Just that I need to start writing more because it makes me happy, and that should be enough.

25 Things About Me

1. My guilty pleasures include: reality television, celebrity gossip, decadent espresso beverages, hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts, excessive pedicures, and the infrequent (or frequent, depending on my stress level) smoking of cigarettes.

2. I have this weird thing where words get stuck in my head for no apparent reason.  Words that I haven’t (consciously) heard anywhere.  Words I don’t know the meaning of, and thus have to look up so they will go away.  Today’s such word was “avuncular.” Other recent words include: vituperative, obfuscation, and megaloblastic.

3. I hate beer.  Hate it. I prefer vodka, or white wine.  Working on my appreciation of reds. But, the older I get, the less I enjoy drinking alcohol.  The benefit to next-day-repercussion ratio is too out of whack for me.

4. When I lived in California, I decided to learn how to ride a motorcycle.  That was 11 years and 4 bikes ago.  There is no feeling in the world as liberating and I will ride until I can’t hold a bike up anymore.  And then I’ll get a trike.

5. I’m a closet espresso snob.  I mean, just about anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Starbucks (I know, big evil corporate entity killing mom & pop shops… bite me, I’ve worked for them and I like them and if there’s a good mom & pop shop, they’ll be able to hold their own and if they suck, they won’t… but I digress). Here’s the big secret, people.  I don’t really care for coffee.  I mean, I’ll drink it.  But coffee does not equal espresso.  I blame my year in Spain drinking insanely addictive cafe con leche.  Once you’ve had coffee/espresso like that, the drip pot just doesn’t cut it for a real fix.

6. In my lifetime, I have had 20 piercings at various times.  I currently have four (lip, each ear once, nose) and I’m re-doing my venom piercing at the end of this month. It’s decoration and it makes me happy, that’s why.

7. Some day I see myself living (avec ma famille, bien sur) overseas for extended periods of time to work.  I’d really like to get back to the Middle East and use my experience in construction to help rebuild homes, schools, and community buildings.  Another reason to get my Arabic back up to par.

8. My uncorrected eyesight sucks and it gets worse every year.  I wear contacts that have to be special-ordered because optometry shops don’t keep the prescription in stock.  If my vision could not be corrected for some bizarre reason by contacts or glasses, I would be considered legally blind.  But I’m afraid to get something like LASIK done because the thought of lasers in my eyeballs freaks me out.

9. I was an Arabic linguist in the Navy.  I studied it (I use that term very loosely) for 63 weeks at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. Yes, I could read, write and speak it. I still can but I’m extremely rusty and I abhor being put on the spot about my language skills. I hate it when people find out and then say, “Say something in Arabic!”  Um, no.  I’m not a circus monkey.  I don’t do tricks. But it’s my goal to be comfortable enough speaking it again someday that this doesn’t bother me so much.

10. I have always had a feeling that I will die before I’m 45.  The older I get, the more I hope that I’m wrong.

11. My next tattoo is going to be a line of Arabic script on the underside of my left forearm.  It will be my fourth tattoo, but not my last.

12. I don’t think I danced with either of my dates to junior or senior prom at my school.  One of them is now out of the closet, the other was my best guy friend who had a crush on someone else.  Then, post-graduation, I went to two proms in another town with my boyfriend at the time who, weeks after we broke up, knocked up and subsequently married a girl he had a one-night stand with at a bar in Norfolk.  Boy, did I know how to pick ’em.

13. I bought my first individual stock today. Ooh, maybe that should not be number 13.  *knock on wood*

14. My ever-growing list of food turn-offs includes: pointy french fries, seafood that isn’t from a seafood restaurant, the entrails or any non-muscle part of any animal, cinnamon rolls, and sushi. Blech.

15. When I build my Barbie Dream House one day, it will have a library with built in bookshelves and a fireplace because there are few things I find more relaxing than reading.

16. Baseball. I can’t stand it.  There, I said it.  The list of things I care as little about as baseball includes: Chia pets, MySpace, the actual price of tea in China, Heidi and Spencer, how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie pop, and why people wear those ridiculous looking Crocs. In other words, I really don’t care for baseball. Or hockey. Or college sports unless they’re in playoffs and even then… meh.

17. I’m a big fan of diversity and challenging stereotypes.  I hate intolerance and extremism.  There should be more of the former and less of the latter in this world.

18. 99% of the time, I sleep with a fan on to block out all the little noises that happen at night.  Otherwise I get zero sleep. And once I’m awake, I’m AWAKE.  I would also rather stay up until 2 a.m. and sleep until 10 a.m. than go to bed at 9 and wake up at 6.

19. Due to a combination of factors influencing the items in #17, I am decidedly NOT a morning person.  In fact, one should not risk speaking to me until I have spent at least 10 minutes vertical and ambulatory, brushed my teeth, and put in my contacts.  Until then, I am not human and cannot be held responsible for my actions.

20. I’m pretty sure I’m at least mildly OCD.  I’m also a part-time control freak, especially when it comes to driving.  And I occasionally consider the need for anger management classes (also especially when driving).

21. I’m a big fan of social Darwinism/survival of the fittest.  You’d think that having a kid would change that a little, but I still  really believe that our society has made it far too easy for stupid people to survive.  Thus, they procreate and make more stupid people because it’s a proven fact that smarter people have fewer children… so if we don’t start making it easier for them to kill themselves off (more lax gun laws, fewer pedestrian crosswalks, less safety features on power tools) then someday there won’t be enough McDonald’s drive-thrus in the world for them to work at, and things like G.W. Bush in the White House will happen WAY more often than we’d all like.

22. In 2012, we want to go back to Scotland with friends & family for a five-year anniversary celebration.  (Hint: save the date.)

23. I have lived in the states of Kansas, Washington, California, Texas, and Virginia (Northern, thnkuvrymch) and the country of Spain. Worked in the U.S., Spain, Iraq, Kuwait, and Germany. Visited 42 of the 50 United States, the Yucatan Peninsula, France, the Netherlands, and Scotland.  I like to travel.

24. I am a PC.  Although I find the Mac vs. PC commercials very entertaining (the marketing geniuses behind that series should be given an award), I’m not likely to be convinced in this lifetime that Macs are more user-friendly or so much better than PCs that they’re worth the switch.

25. It takes a long time to think of 25 things to write about myself.  And even longer to actually sit down and write them.  I started this blog last week.  That’s just silly, especially considering it’s probably more than anyone wanted to know about me in one sitting.  But thanks for reading this far. 🙂  Send me your address and I’ll mail you a cookie.