Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm a survivor!

Today was a whole bunch of excitment. And sheer and utter exhaustion. But ya know, the goods come with the bads.

Hurricane Ernesto. Was actually a very welcome relief. The past couple days have been insanely hot and I was thrilled when Tuesday night it started raining. Yesterday it was kind of gray but nothing bad. Then around 4 when it was time for me to hike all the way across campus, it started POURING!! I am not prepared for this kind of thing. You can tell who has lived here for a while, they all automatically carry umbrellas.. smarties. I arrived at the Ethics Seminar absolutely drenched! And unfortunately, people love the AC over here so the auditorium was frigid. Oh well, everyone else in my group was soaked too..

Walked to a seminar around 6 and it was lightly sprinkling, no biggie. But at the end of the seminar.. around 8pm.. it was POURING again. And tons of LIGHTNING and THUNDER. Does the CAPS make it seem more intense?? Luckily I phoned up my number one hero and he and the trust suby arrived in no time flat and whisked me and another UCDavis friend away and home safely. The lightning was pretty intense but most places have lightening rods and there were tons of people just out jogging or walking their dogs like it is no big deal, so I can't say it was too scary. The storm continued all night and today it has been sprinkling on and off (but i did bring my PreCip!!). Hopefully I can run home before it starts up again, if it does.

So first hurricane down.. no biggie. Love the cooler weather it brought and the lightening was pretty amazing. It rained about 5 inches or something crazy, but it is good because we were having a drought this summer.

Today was also my FIRST real lab to TA. I've spent the entire week frantically autoclaving, begging equipment, and prepping for it, and I think it went off pretty well. It is a challenge dealing with 10 students who all have completely different levels of experience, but the ones that have a lot were really nice about helping out those who didn't. Bless my dear prof, but he just went on and on about historically famous plasmids and then left me.. alone. For the rest of the time. Except to come back and tell me he thinks there is residual DNA in dialysis tubing, and talk about his daughters' swim team. Awesome. I was frantically busy, but I think everyone learned a lot and got their projects done. I just can't believe I have to start all over again for next week, but hopefully it will just keep getting easier. Now it is 6pm, I missed the Ethics seminar, I just innoculated some cultures of plasmids I hopefully tranformed into e.coli with frog behavior genes in them, and everyone has gone home. I am starving and exhausted and have a ton of papers to read and homework to do before tomorrow. But I think I am just gonna go home and see what yummy thing Trent has fixed me tonight.. Love having him here, it is the BEST!!!


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Swimming, not sinking!!

Hehehe, I am in my new lab!! Probably shouldn't be blogging already but... meh?

Back at the bench and I LOVE IT!! Never thought I was an obsessively clean person until you ask me to transform a plasmid into some e.coli... I nearly sprayed the whole place down with ethanol and relabelled half of their equipment already.

Anyways, sorry for the lack of updates, no internet at the home yet. But Trent arrived yesterday, so that will probably change very soon. I have lots of great pictures of the adorable cottage looking more home-like everyday. Look forward to a post hopefully by this weekend. I cannot believe how busy I am.. at school from 8am to 8pm today! But things are going great, finally settling in. OH, and Sara.. TA-ing is a trip!! Love the students, but tons of work. Last friday I poured about 200 LB agar plates. My arm was dying!

Gotta run, don't wanna make a bad impression. Hope you are all doing great!

Friday, August 18, 2006

my new favorite thing

I am runner by nature. I'd rather run anywhere I am going for efficiency, it makes me feel a whole lot better after a stressful day, and it is a great time to practice speeches or conjugating spanish verbs. I think I am even a pretty good runner. Although I run like a Kalajari bushman, I am highly efficient and can go for ages. It is also the way I get to know a town, every place I've stayed a while I stake out by running. It affords you ample people watching time and chances to venture down random streets, with the comfort that no one thinks you are crazy because you are running. Not jogging, running. It's important, that distinction.

However.. I've been running about everyday out here and.. well, I just don't know. It is still a great way for me to know the town (I run up and down Franklin St, checking out the scene) and the campus (the med center/school is HUGE, looks like an airport, but not as huge as the football stadium, holy moley!). But man.. the humidity. It doesn't bother me so much just walking around, and it is kind of nice because it makes you feel like you are working out really hard cuz you are sweating so much. But not always so pleasant.

SO... new favorite thing: The outdoor pool. A blissful 84 degree oasis of lovely clean water, friendly people, and easy access. Right in the heart of campus, moments from my department.. it is going to be my constant companion!

Update: a bit of a childish rant

Oh my goodness. See.. I've moved, and I've started a new job, and I've started school... but I have NEVER had the pleasure of doing all three at the exact same time. Wow. It is intense!! And it is further made fun by the fact that I sent my passport (why would I need that any time soon?) and SS card by MEDIA MAIL!!! I had to use my UCDavis diploma to get a new driver's licence! And I am pretty sure the post office isn't sending my mail here so I cannot prove residency yet. Awesome. Oh and the health department thinks I never got my infant diptheria and tetnus shots. Umm, pretty sure I did...

I miss freshman year of Davis. I am hard pressed to think of a happier year in my life. I met the love of my life, both Trent and plant biology (hehe), I got to live in a tiny little room with the bestest girl friend you could ever ask for, and everything magically seemed to fall into place. They helped me register, find my textbooks, find my classes, provided a place for me to live and eat, and even gave me furniture. I didn't have to do a thing! And, I admit ashamedly, I was kind of expecting a bit of the same treatment here. Not with the housing, I love our tiny home and am very glad we aren't doing on campus, but maybe with some of the other stuff. I still want my campus tour! I want to go to a football rally with my homies from the dorms. I hate all this grownup nonsense. Yesterday was our orientation. I was thrilled (I even finally bought a denim pencil skirt just for the occasion, the option from Gap, Sara, and I love it!). It was a pleasant event, ran into some friends from the interview process and then bam.. your done. No tours, rallys, nada. They did give us a commuter mug. Argh.

Today I have TA training, although I STILL haven't heard from the prof I am working with. Maybe I will go hunt him down. I did manage to start a new checking account and filled out all my grad school forms (except the ones that required a passport/ssn card, but I have a darling HR advisor who is completely understanding and patient with my bumblings), and am going swimming in the lovely outdoor pool afterwards. Tonight there is a new graduate student social, for all grad students, not just our department. My fellow MCDB'ers kind of looked down on it, but I think I might just go.. I need a little more planned social activities! Monday we have our officical MCDB orientation which will be great to hear, and I get to pick my class(es) for the semester. Oh and I bought a coffee table from a lovely woman at a REAL store, not craigslist. I am starting to feel just a bit grown up I guess?

Ok, online assistance: I love the coffee table, about 2.5' wide and 4' long. Dark wood with stain but you can still see the grain. No real embellishments. I will try to post a pic soon. So it is DYING for a fabulous rug. Any recommendations? I would like it to be a bit bigger than the table, nice colors or pattern, and under $100. Go crazy on it! Thanks

Freshman are moving into the dorms with their nervous parents patiently carrying bags of Target goodies and loading money onto their reg cards to ensure they eat (jealous!). I want to grab one of them and tell them "Do you have any idea how lucky you are to be starting out?" And I should probably tell myself the same thing.. especially cuz mine is being paid for :)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Just a quick update on NC life thus far. I am currently at the Davies Library on campus and desperately need to be working on putting together a convincing arguement that I, out of the six potential applicants, would be the best fit for a highly successful research professor's lab this fall. But I just have to share my stories with my friends first...

Things have been going well, I've started to really live in the little home and find my way around Chapel Hill. I still need Trent on the phone when I venture out of my little town, but he is quite handy on the internet. It is definitely a growing up experience. Until yesterday, I'd never bought: a vacumn, a microwave, a blanket. I've never thought of buying a sofa, though I will be doing that soon. I even didn't realize that you had to call the gas company to have them turn on the gas.. after I bought all the fixings for a fancy spaghetti dinner and realized the stove didn't work. (But somehow I have hot water... no idea how this is working.) I am realizing I have a lot of growing up to do and I am feeling very proud of myself thus far. I took myself out to dinner last night, on Saturday night I went to a play in the little Forest Theater just meters from my house, at Penney's kind suggestion, and I finally decided on the color scheme for the chairs and tables (glossy white and bright green). I went grocery shopping and have nearly finished restoring the tables and chairs. I was feeling very proud of myself. Until this morning.

I was exhausted last night after a day of battling the big box stores so after working on the tables a bit in the late evening (the best time, cool and no bugs!) I climbed into bed with my new blanket and slept great. Up early this morning and had time for a run before I needed to get to campus to study it up. So off I go. But then with a sinking dread.. I realized I had just locked myself out. How interesting those first few moments are. The sinking dread, the immobilizing realization that you are completely alone to figure this out. I quickly investigated all the windows. The weather has gotten cooler and I was sick of the paint smell so I've been leaving the windows open, with the screens on of course. I even tried the one that required me to delicately balance over a bush of poisin ivy. No luck. Finally, I realized that the one window that wasn't open had the loosest screen and wasn't locked. But it was SO hard to open!! I managed to get it propped up about 7 inches and found I could fit my head through it. And yes, this is probably my biggest concern for fitting through something (go ahead, laugh away). So I began to shimmy through. Unfortunately about at my hips the window slid shut a bit and I was completely stuck. I was too far from the floor to get any resistance to push against and my feet stuck out from the window too far from the ground. Hmm... right. Fortunately, I suppose, the window I chose to sneak through was right on the gravel path that leads by all the cottages. I heard a car arrive in the lot and footsteps on the gravel. I was wiggling around furiously, but couldn't get the window to go up any further. Finally I heard, "Umm, need some help?" I had the stranger hold on to my feet so I could push against him and tumbled on to the floor. I looked up and there was the local UPS guy, dropping off one of Trent's boxes. So I will be seeing lots more of him, but hopefully not in the same circumstances. After my meeting I am off to the hardware store to make 10 copies of keys and hide them in various locations. Time to grow up Jean, though I am happy with my McGuiver sensibilities!

I have more pictures to post but really need to get studying. Wish me luck at this meeting!

Friday, August 11, 2006

More pics!

My living room fireplace and built in bookshelves. Already decorated with an original R.C. Peters. Oh la la!

My current bed situation. Fabulous new bed, great new sheets.. and my REI sleeping bag. Which is much too hot. Oh well, one thing at a time! At least now I have a lamp and a bedside...chair! And clean walls. So important!

The chairs. What should be their color fate? Carolina Blue??

Wearing the Yellow Jersey!

Dad's Birthday Dinner! There is a candle in his sorbet.

These lamps.. need to be replaced, right? Maybe just the shades? I need some online assistance with this one, girls!

Laundry room! Seriously, this is one of my favorite parts of the new house.

Our cute, but tiny, kitchen. Before cleaning. You can't tell the grossness that abounded in this picture, but trust me.. it was nasty. Just painted this room today. Except for the blue cabinets, I kind of like those!

Mean Jean makes her parents work when they are kind enough to drive across the country with her.. You guys are the BEST!!

Wow!! I am back! I am now sitting in the Caribou Cafe in downtown Chapel Hill. What a crazy couple of days it has been since the last post. No internet yet at the house.. which is so disconcerting, so I apologize for the lack of info. Here ya go-

So we arrived Monday and met up with Bob the landlord. We walked around the house and got situated. Immediately unloaded the car into the livingroom and finally got a chance to poke around in all the cabinets and closets that we couldn't before during our frantic dash around the cottage. Still adorable, has central air/heat, and a dishwasher as well as washer and dryer. However... not so clean. Weirdly not clean, really. Good thing the parents were hanging out for a few days!

We went to our homebase for the first few days, my Mom's college roommate's house. She came over to see the place, and then she took us to Whole Foods for lunch which was an oasis of beautiful salads after our I-40 food for the last week. We were all amazed and all got way more than we could eat. Luckily it is right by my house.. it is going to be very tempting! Then we followed her over to her house not too far away. We gathered our wits and chatted for a bit and then headed out for some serious shopping. First to the bed shop where.. I dunno, they all kind of seem the same to me, but I found a reasonably priced one that seemed to be very comfy and got it! Hope the Bubs approves! Then we went to "Tuesday Morning" next door which is like Ross. I got some sheets (the highest count I've ever had!) a couple pillows and some hangers. Penney headed home after directing us to Target. And man, did we go crazy at Target. TONS of cleaning stuff, shower curtains, bathmats, garbage cans, toothpaste.. everything! Glad I've been saving up my money these last few months, it is expensive starting over. We kept having to go back through after forgetting a few things, and finally rewarded ourselves with Starbucks before heading home to unload it all. Mom and I tackled the dirtiest room, the kitchen, while Dad was a trooper about my lack of furniture and set up a little camp with the newly bought pillows and a sleeping bag. The kitchen wasn't hopeless, it just never had someone come through and clean it. Weird. I am dying to know if the previous tenants got their deposit back. It was cathartic to scrub and lay new shelf paper.. and great having Mom to help. Finally exhausted we headed back to Penney's house for a wonderful shrimp dinner and lots of great fruit. I crashed on their basement futon after a long evening of telling stories.

Tuesday we were ready to work. After breakfast at their house, we went to explore Chapel Hill, getting maps at the visitor's center and a recommendation to eat at Momma Dip's for lunch. Apparently she has a cooking show and makes wonderful southern style food. We finally got our fried chicken, and it was wonderful. I am gonna have to bring all my western visitors here for a proper introduction! We dropped off Dad at the house, I thought to rest, but he was an absolute champion and spackled and sanded the bedroom and dining room. We had decided that although it would be a lot of work, a new coat of paint was necessary and would make the place look great. Mom and I headed out for a Craigslist adventure. First off to Cary, about 20 minutes away, to buy a fabulous old Shwinn Hollywood Cruiser (The exact same model bike I rode all through UC Davis, this time green though) from a very pregnant woman. Can't wait to get it all spiffied up, but it was a steal at $20. Then we went to a HUGE Lowe's and got completely lost. Finally just recruited someone to walk around and find everything on our list, birdseed for my feeder, a fire extinguisher, a step ladder, lots of "apartment off white" paint, and lots of other last minute things. We were ready to head home when Bubs called with a Craigslist deal we had to go collect on. Fortunately still in Cary, we followed his directions over the phone and showed up to buy two brass lamps from a man for $15. Can't argue with that.

Back home and we were super motivated and got the entire bedroom painted. I feel so mean putting my parents to work, but it was great having the extra hands and so much easier to do before the bed arrived on Thursday. Many hands do make light work and soon we were done and back to Penney's house for dinner and good sleep.

Wednesday we decided to take a day off. Penney drove us up to Durham and gave us a tour of Duke University where she teaches voice lessons. Mom had a meeting with a prospective collaborator, and Penney and I wandered around campus, coming across a Jewish conference, the beautiful Engineering building and the old Bio building. Beautiful campus, but oddly laid out with two distinct campuses nearly 5 miles appart. Apparently students have classes on both campuses though. Though it was pretty, I have to remember that they are now my mortal enemies. I bleed Carolina Blue now.. or so I should...

We came back home and rested before I thought it wise to check up on the house. Luckily I did for a ton of boxes had arrived and were (unlike SF) left on my porch! Great to have more than the same 6 outfits I had on the drive. I was also pleasantly surprised by how great one coat of paint looked and the house seemed to be really coming together with my cute bike sitting on the porch along with my first hanging plant and bird feeder (that no one has visted yet, even though I've seen cardinals flying about. A squirrel got into the seed bag which I left out.. lesson learned. It is fun watching the squirrels run about, really feel like I am out at camp or something!). I quickly drove to meet up with my parents and our friends at Aurora, a fancy Italian restaurant for my Dad's birthday dinner. Lots of great conversation, I can't wait for Bubs to meet Penney and Eric. Back home for my last night in their beautiful house.

Woken by singing (they are both great singers) Happy Birthday to my Dad. He is amazing and has had more wonderful stories in his past 77 years than anyone. And still is up for any adventure. We packed up and said our goodbyes, and then Penney came over to see the improvements on the house. She also took us on a walking and driving tour of the UNC campus which I desperately needed. I feel much better about finding my way around now and we even went to my future departments to snoop around. Such a beautiful old campus, with lots of history. And it is growing like crazy. But I can't believe how close our little cottage is to the school, I am only about 5 minutes away, walking! SO lucky. We did some last loads of laundry for my parents so they wouldn't have to do it immediately when they got home and then went back to our favorite Whole Foods for another spectacular salad. We dashed home and grabbed the laundry before heading out to the airport. Despite all the worries that yesterday brought they made it home on time, which is unusual even when security isn't elevated. I am going to miss their constant companionship, we were a neat triad these past weeks. I headed out to get another Craigslist gem, four chairs and a table for $20. The chairs need a little work and painting.. any color recommendations? They are very simple but cute, and I want something fun. Advise away!

So now it is just me.. and this new town. Lots to still do, register the car, new drivers license, get my UNC id card so I can get into the gym and such, painting the livingroom (I painted the dining room and parts of the kitchen today! Go me!), fixing up the table and chairs, buying a dresser, finishing lining the shelves, and a bizillion other things. Luckily I have nothing really until the 17th, except for a meeting on Monday with a prospective lab to work with. Hopefully I will coordinate something with my other newbie Grad students who I am sure are in the same boat as I am. It feels unreal that this is actually happening, but so far I really like Chapel Hill, I love the warm weather (even the humidity, crazily enough), the people are all super friendly, I love our little house and getting it all fixed up, and I am getting to be a pro at Target. I just need my Bubs out here!!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Stage Eight Recap

Crossing into North Carolina through the Smokey Mountains
Mom and I at the Appalacian Trailhead, with the beautiful background.
The old highschool my grandfather went to which they get to enjoy forever.

Well, well, well...
Tonight we are finally in North Carolina. I've decided to blame Tennessee for all my misgivings about the South and my aprehension in general. Sorry Tennessee. I am sure you aren't that bad, but I just was never that taken with you. North Carolina on the other hand.. just fabulous!

We woke up fairly late this morning but Mom and I managed a quick, but nice, swim before breakfast and hitting the road. I started driving and we quickly listened to the last few minutes of Shopgirl before I put on my cd of all my favorite songs. The ones that make you feel better about yourself.. I know you all have them. If not, "Wildflowers" by Tom Petty. Honestly. We drove down through lots of back roads that took us directly through Pigeon Fordge (Home of Dollywood) and Gaitlenburg (which is a huge version of Pier 39, every Ripley's, hotel, and shop). It was overwhelming and nothing like the little vacation town my Dad remembers. We were pretty unimpressed with the clientelle and the whole situation.

But then we entered Smokey National Park. And it was simply stunning. So immensly green and wooded, with lots of creeks and waterfalls. We stopped to take pictures and celebrate crossing into NC. We found the Appalacian Trailhead (interested, trent?) and there were lots of people out hiking and swimming in the lake. All of whom we assumed were North Carolinians.. sorry Tennessee. We drove out of the park on a very curvy road and through the town of Maggie's Valley, which was simply charming in its innocence and lack of Ripley's. Rejuvinated, we pressed on to Ashville. Which was SO Trent and Jean. Tons of Subaru's with mountain bikes and kayaks. Happy families walking around, even some same sex couples (yay!) and lots of little art galleries, book stores, and fancy shops. They even had a hemp store! We found a cute sidewalk cafe and had a nice and leisurely lunch. We explored the town a bit, stopping in at one of the bookstores, but the day was slipping away so we didn't stay long. Definitely excited about getting to know that town better though.

Dad took over driving and I catnapped in the back to avoid the sickness that the curvy roads induce. We started listening to another book by Alexander Smith McCall, but of a different series. This one is of German linguists who get into crazy situations. It's called "The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs" I believe. SO funny. With some navigating we managed to find King's Mountain. My Grandfather grew up here and went to the high school and my father spent time visiting his grandmother and other family. The town has grown a lot but there were some parts he remembered. It has been great listening to all his stories. My grandparents are both buried there in a beautiful place that overlooks the old football stadium of the highschool he went to. We managed to find it after being given some mungled directions (you'd think the fireman would know exactly where it was!!) and spent some nice time there remembering. I never knew them, but I know what a big part of my lives they still are.

We made our way back to one of the two hotels in King's Mountain, a Holiday Inn. Immediately off to the pool to swim. I was eager, as this pool was large, deep, clean, and square. It, however, was also occupied by the sassiest 2 and 3 year old girls I've ever met. They immediately came over to inspect my cap and goggles and then told me I couldn't dare wear the cap in the pool and it was necessary they try on the goggles. The combination of their heavy Southern drawls and their sassy attitudes was hillarious. Mom and I could barely contain our laughter! I managed some good swimming, but it was punctuated by "Haaaayyy, watch this" and "Haaayyyy, something something something, ok??" Yes, sure, okay.. whatever you said, little crazy one. The two girls were absolutely fearless, of strangers and of the pool, and their parents didn't seem to mind one bit. I went immediately back to teaching swimming lessons at Hamilton and tried to get them to blow bubbles or kick their legs, but they just looked at me like I was crazy.

We headed of later to the Mexican restaurnt recommended by the front desk. It wasn't as bad as it could have been for being the middle of nowhere North Carolina, but everything had meat in it, which we weren't expecting. Lots of beans and tortillas, but I am totally stuffed! We cruised around town, getting completely lost but then suddenly ending up in the perfectly right area magically. The town seems to be doing well, there were lots of gorgeous old Southern homes, and plenty of businesses.

Tomorrow is the ninth and final stage. We are about 3 hours outside of Chapel Hill. We are thinking of going straight to my house and meeting up with my landlord and getting into our cute cottage and doing lots of laundry before heading over to my Mom's college roommate's house where they will be staying. And I might be staying while I buy a bed and maybe a chair or something to make the house liveable! It will be crazy to be back in Chapel Hill, especially knowing that it is for good. I hope I remember how to get around and where our place was! I am excited to be able to get stuff done, I hate just fretting about it with no chance of resolving anything. Any deals online about furniture or decorations.. let me know. We need, um.. everything!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Skirt Search

Can't sleep, so I apologize to those reading this blog purely for trip details, but..

I've been on an epic denim skirt search ever since I regretfully gave away my favorite one last year. It has been ongoing and even caused me to pry nosily into our friends lives (sorry Colleen, thanks for the skirt info though!). Here are some options I've found so far-

JCrew. Don't necessarily love it, but hard to tell. I like that it is JCrew and will last forever, just not sure about the material. But how awesome is their fall marketing. Did you see the golden retreiver wearing the smart driving cap?? Love it.

Gap. Awkward model makes the skirt not so appealling, but it could be alright, no?

Chip and Pepper
. I like this one better, but it isn't on such a nice sale.

7 for all Mankind. Love the jeans from this company and the skirt is nice except not sure I want to spend that moola on something already fraying. I sound like my mother...

Did you know they made 7 for all Mankind and Juicy skirts... for little girls. How ridiculous!! I would have fallen in some mud puddle chasing a frog and ruined it immediately! If I ever wore skirts optionally when I was a child.

Anyways, leave your vote in the comments, or your recommendation for ones I missed. I want to wear it all the time.. especially with these boots, in esspresso! Or these, and cute argyle socks with the weather turns foul.

Stage Seven Recap

The family with former President Andrew Jackson. Himself!
Mr. Jackson and I having a private chat.

Hi there!
Tonight we are in Farragut, Tennessee. This state is longer than we anticipated, and we have become a bit lazier in the mornings and more interested in sites along the way. No worries though, we are still fine on time and enjoy the trip.

This morning, Mom and I eagerly scampered down to the pool to resume our daily swimming regime. The desk clerk, however, informed us that the pool would not be opened until 9. Sheepishly, we went outside to stare whistfully at the cool waters. Until Mom said.. "Oh what the heck" and we quietly swam about for a half hour or so. A rope was strung across the pool, perhaps indicating it was not for use, but we just swam under or over it on our links. So, we may be fugitives of Jackson, TN! We drippingly (we had expected to get towels from the front desk) made our way back to the rooms, sneaking past the front desk. Showered and packed up, and headed down to a nice breakfast. Back into the faithful Subaru after consulting some maps, and headed off, with Mom at the helm. We started listening to "ShopGirl" by Steve Martin on tape. A fun story, and I loved the movie, but apparently the book was a bit more risque, which is hard for a daughter to hear while her parents are in the car. Very hard. But we are all grown ups, right?

I scouted fun locations to stop for lunch and just outside Nashville we came across The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's home before and after his presidency. Much more our style than the touristy aspects of Nashville. It was a running farm, with lots of cotton, racehorses, and slavery unfortunately. We watched the introductory movie and then explored the grounds. It was a beautiful house, he apparently really liked wallpaper and brightly painted walls, some of the rooms looked right out of the stylish home decor magazine, Domino! They had very important feeling docents dressed up in their late 1800's clothes who proudly showed us around the house. Dad found an exact copy of a desk passed down through our family in Jackson's office, but the docent didn't have many details on it. How interesting though!

We wandered through the kitchen and some of the slave's quarters, as well as the garden where Jackson and his wife are buried. I know very little about this President, and had never been to a presidential home before, so it was an interesting trip. On our way back to the cafe for lunch, we ran into the docent who plays Jackson himself. Strikingly similar in many ways, he referred to himself as Mr. Jackson and answered questions in the first person. In a manner I am finding more and more common down here, he had lots to say and took his time saying it. It is quite a change from the quick pace of CA. Unfortunately, we were beginning to melt in the humid heat and were starving so we slipped away from his political soapboxing. The cafe had the nicest Southern style food I've had yet. Great shrimp gumbo, beans, beets, and cornbread. Really yummy. We sat and talked about Dad's memories spending summers down in South Carolina as well as Kings Mountain, NC.

Back in the car with me at the wheel and we began heading East with no real goal. We just were finishing ShopGirl when the storm hit, quite innoculous at first, but then really opening up and dumping water. Once the lightning started coming quite close, we decided to call it an evening. Plus we lost another hour to the time changes so it was getting on in the day. Mom found Farragut, a suburb of Knoxville, and we decided on the Country Inn, based on my assesment of their pool (clean, but small) and the promise of a good breakfast. The rooms all seem alike by now, but this hotel has a cute, cottage like, feel. We immediately headed down to the pool to swim away our stiff backs and legs. I had fortunately received an email back from the UNC prof offering a rotation in his lab, but this brought on a new wave of anxiety as I realized I was about to get back to work in a very big way. Lots of studying to do when I get to our new house. I will be a faithful patron of some lucky coffee shop, since we will have no table or lights yet..

After the swim, Mom and I headed out to explore the town in hopes of finding a place to eat dinner. We ended up taking a bit longer than planned, finding a beautiful big lake with a private yacht club with sail boats, as well as a public one with mostly motor boats. Huge houses lined the shores; this town is doing quite well unlike others we've been to lately. We managed to find the older downtown and saw lots of cute churches and old homes. Back to the main strip and we were overwhelmed by all the options for dinner. It was getting late so we opted on picking up some chinese to bring back to the hotel. I asked for some steamed broccoli with some black bean sauce on the side and they gave us about a pound! Yummy though. Stopped by a Kroger's to get some Red Hook beer that will hopefully calm my nerves and we had a lovely dinner, chatting on the beds. Talked to Trent who calmed by fears (although I am nervous about his upcoming eye surgery on Monday and his crazy amount of work to do at his job and with packing up the apartment). I think I'll have another beer and call it an evening.

Stage Eight (over a full week of travelling?!?) passes through the Smokey Mountains into North Carolina and Asheville. Because we spent the night here, we will have a full day to explore this area before heading down to Kings Mountain and staying the night out there. Then into Chapel Hill on Monday. So much to do there, but I am very eager to get there and get going on all those things, instead of just fretting about them now! Yet, bittersweet in knowing that our fun adventure is nearly to a close...

Friday, August 04, 2006

I just walked down to get ice. On the way, a nice gentleman commented that he hoped he left some ice in the machine, how nice the weather was, and that I was looking lovely this evening. For the record I was wearing an old triathlon shirt, my bright yellow cordory shorts and no shoes. Not so lovely. After getting ice, I headed back. Two young girls were running down the hallway giggling. Scooting out of their way, I was pleasantly surprised when they slowed down and said "excuse me" and "pardon me." I officially love the South.

Stage Six Recap

Me waving goodbye to life West of the Mississippi
Mom and Dad and the Muddy Waters
Mom looking fabulous in the Cyprus Grove Park in Jackson, Tennessee.

Hello there-
Tonight finds us in Jackson, Tennessee. It is unexpectedly cool, only 80 so degrees, but pretty humid. Make me feel like I am back in Costa Rica! What a busy day we've had.

Last night we stayed up late reading, and Mom snuck out to get cookies from the tea service. I tricked her into snuggling with me and we stayed up late chatting. So no swimming this morning :( Oh well. Nice breakfast, finally yogurt and cereal after lots of biscuits and gravy. We loaded up the car, which is getting more out of disheveled every day, and set off. Immediately stopped for gas and found ourselves engaged in an in depth conversation with the sparcely toothed attendant. He had lots to talk about, including a tip on where I could go buy a huge inflatable UNC something or rather (I could not understand about half of what he said) for $5. It sure is true about the Southern Hospitality, everyone seems completely eager to be your best friend. There were a couple of Boss Hogg looking characters enjoying a morning cup of joe.. it was just classic!

Dad started driving and made it all the way out of Arkansas and right to the outskirts of Memphis. I took over as designated city driver, drove across the muddy river, and got completely lost trying to find "Mud Island," a park celebrating the Mississippi River and it's history. We finally found it, after getting a scenic tour of the area, and parked the car in a very precarious sloping loading dock. I realized that this time being at the River was a whole different deal than the last time I was here two years ago, and had a minor panic attack. Something about being East of the Mississippi makes it seem more real. We took the friendly advice (again, eagerly given!) of the entrance attendant and made our way to a beautifully planned community on the island for "the best pizza around." It was also the town's video store. I snuck out to call the electric company in NC to activate my account and arrived back to enjoy a lovely feta, spinach and tomato pizza. We explored the very chic grocery store before piling back in and heading EAST (EVER EAST is our slogan!).

We continued on until we'd had enough. Which turned out to be Jackson, TN. We are about 2 hours from Nashville. It is a very funny town. Every chain store you could imagine and it is quite booming and bustling though we can't figure out why. We scoped the town and went to a liquour store, for some evening cocktails, which by law could only serve items containing alcohol. So free wine bottle opener for us!! Tonight we are in a Quality Inn (we are trying to give all the different chains a chance) and so far so good. Mom and I love to find the random jewels that each town has to offer so we immediately headed out to the Cyprus Grove Park. We weren't expecting much, but it was lovely. No one else was there, except for the ranger who seemed to be avoiding us, so we headed off on the raised boardwalk trails, not really knowing what to expect. It wove through a beautiful forest swamp of cypruses and cottonwood poplars. We spotted a cardinal and many fun dragonflies. Then we came apon the "Raptor Display" which were large cages each with a huge raptor in it, except for one with a pair of Golden Eagles. Ever since a wonderfully awful trip on Lake San Antonio searching hopelessly for Bald Eagles, they have always been a joke. "Look it's a juvenille!! (of some raven or some other less impressive bird)" But today, there sitting in his large pen looking regal was a bald eagle!! They were all injured birds, but seemed to be well taken care of. There were about 4 Goldens, the Bald, and one lovely owl.

We continued wandering about, even heading to the lake, but the bugs were starting to come out in full force. Definitely felt like I was in Costa Rica with the cool humidity and tons of insects. The lake was filled with catfish who we encouraged to eat up the buggers. We really realized we were in swamp land when I mistook a cicada for a hummingbird. That is one big cicada!! Mom tried to off herself for the second time in two days, helpfully trying to clear brush from the path knocked down by a recent storm, she nearly threw herself in the swamp along with it! We made it back (unbitten even!!) to find that the ranger had just given up and left, so we made our way back to town. Lots of joking about Deliverance in those back trails and we were a bit spooked to be without a map for most of it!

We'd originally planned on having our first real fried chicken dinner and bringing it back to Dad in the hotel room. We carefully combed the portion of town though to be near "Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken," which Mom found in the phone book, but to no avail. She even asked a gas station attendant who said it was right next door.. but no luck. We thought we'd lost it! But a second gas attendant told us that the place had gone out of business and recommended Chick-Fly, or so we thought, right across from the Walmart. We dutifully followed the "locals" advice and went. Turned out to be a Chik-fil-A, a chain, but it was a happening party, let me tell ya! There was a clown, a person in a cow suit, prizes given away.. just mayhem! We had to be a part of this scene and got three salads to go. I was completely overwhelmed by the outright excitement everyone had over this restaurant! Every restaurant's parking lot in the town was packed, apparently people like to spend their Friday nights out around here. There are 3 days of no sales tax to help low income folks buy school supplies but it seems everyone treats these days like a party. Fun stuff.

Back home to enjoy our chicken (it may have been Dad's favorite dinner yet!) and drink our bottle of wine. Sooooo.. no swimming tonight either it seems. Tomorrow morning, I promise! I got an invitation from a really great professor to rotate in his lab this fall, so Mom and I have been looking up various UNC prof's CV's, with her telling me which schools they went to are the best. Nice, lazy, evening.

Stage Seven will bring us into my home state for the next few years. We are thinking of getting off of I-40, our road for the last few days and states, and heading through the Smokey Mountains, and into western NC, including Asheville which is supposed to be a fabulous mountain town with tons of biking and kayaking. Bubs and I will be spending lots of time out there, I bet. Hopefully we will stay out around there tomorrow before heading down to King's Mountain, NC, the next day. This is where my Dad spend a lot of his youth and it will be fun to see what he recalls. Then Chapel Hill by Monday! This trip went amazingly fast.. kind of makes the country seem smaller. We've finished our third book on tape, our latest being another in the "Number One Ladies Detective Agency" series. We listen to lots of country music because it seems appropriate and I have been teaching my parents about the joys of Jack Johnson, ALO, and Matt Costa.

What a trip.. and no, Em.. we haven't completely lost it. Just goofing around and making lots of good memories. But we are thinking of going past Chapel Hill to the Atlantic just to say we've down the entire thing. And still get along!

The picture the computer left out.. Mom in a very windy, momentary, storm!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Stage Five Recap

Dad and I spotting with the Indians outside the Oklahoma History Museum.
The crazy roads of Oklahoma City.
Mom being blown away by a brief storm outside the marina restaurant.
A boat pulling into the marina outside our restaurant.

Tonight I am writing from our lovely room in the Hampton Inns, Clarkville, Arkansas. We had a lovely day, a good mix of getting the drive done (We were in 3 states today!) and exploring the local culture.

This morning Mom and I enjoyed the pool at the Irish Inn and we all went to the free breakfast. Seems our hotel is a popular place to eat. Pretty good food and very nice coffee. We packed up the car, saw a loaded car with two girls about my age with NC plates and wondered if they were going to CA, and hit the road. Mom started driving as I navigated and dozed a bit in the front. We soon left Texas and were in Oklahoma. Lots of famous people are from here and they are darned proud of it. We went through Woody Guthrie's, Garth Brooks, and Carrie Underwood's home towns. Soon enough we were in Oklahoma City. We got gas on Garth Brooks Boulevard and I took over driving, I am used to the city stuff. We managed to find downtown after passing a river with a crew team practicing in it and made our way to the Oklahoma Historical Museum. A huge, beautiful, place, which we figured had better lunches than the Stuckey's from yesterday. It was amazingly detailed, almost overwhelming in the amount of historical paraphenalia. We trotted through, seeing old film equipment that Dad still has, the Gemini Space Pod that an Oklahoma native flew on the first in space docking, and lots of information on the crazy way Oklahoma was settled. They just agreed that at noon on a certain day, registered people could run out and stake claim to big pieces of land. Nevermind that there were all sorts of Indians living there. Of course, tons of conflict ensued for years.

We had a really nice lunch at the Museum cafe and got back on the road. I drove straight on through Oklahoma and into Arkansas. The land out here is MUCH greener, just lush with trees, even though they are in a drought right now. Many lakes and rivers, our favorite was one on a Lotawatah Road. Not kiddin'. We found Clarksville in the AAA Book and it seemed like our kind of small town. We decided on the Hampton because it had all the necessary requirements, indoor pool, hot breakfast, internet. Turns out to be one of the nicest places we've been yet, they had tea and cookies out, a clean and nice pool with a fun family from Denver who had driven to Maine for Mom to chat with, and friendly folks. We took a nice long swim in the pool (I just swam around the periphery for ever, best way I've found to actually get any exercise in these small pools) and Mom nearly drown herself trying to mimic the 10 year old girl doing summersaults in the pool. Everyone is okay though :)

Came back and finally drank the beers we'd bought outside the Grand Canyon. After a bit we headed out to explore the city. Dad loves the marinas so we headed to the local one, on a creek leading to the Arkansas river. It was just perfect. A total family operation, we immediately felt like we were definitely in the South. Mom and I had the catfish special, with sides of greens, fried okra and cold slaw. Gotta remember that okra is fried out here, not what I was expecting. They had all the southern fixin's on the menu, even frog legs!! Ahhhhh!! We noticed some people looking down at the river for a long time, so we went to explore. They were feeding catfish with some pellets you could buy for a quarter. They were pretty full, I guess, because they weren't too interested in mine, but we got to chatting with the family. It was the owner and her mother. They had a thousand things to say, from giving us directions, to their objection with the huge Adult Store that moved into town, to all the local history of the area, all the way to finding out that the daughter went to the University of Alaska and majored in Psychology and has seen many Davidson Films. Small, small, world. But it is nice to be able to chat with anyone and not be thought to be crazy like I was in San Francisco.

We hung around there for a bit and went and saw the campground by the river. Then we made our way back into downtown and visted Ozark University, which Mom's friend Mrs. Munger loyally donated to yearly even though no one knew why. Beautiful, small, college. We laughed that I might have my first teaching job here.. Trent, you okay with Arkansas?? The town is doing better than Shamrock and had quite a bit going on. Lots of Mom and Pop stores and Auto Repair shops. We looped back around to the hotel, dropped Dad off, and cruised to the tiny movie theater right next door. No "The Devil Wears Prada" so we weren't interested. Back to the room for some reading and relaxing!

Stage Six (wow, this is going fast!) should take us into Tennessee somewhere. We'll go through Memphis, maybe lunch there, and find some other small town to get acquainted with tomorrow. We are definitely getting the hang of this lifestyle. It is just going to get greener and greener and I have the feeling that Chapel Hill is going to feel downright metropolitan after some of the places we've seen!

Stage Four Pictures

Pictures from Stage Four...
The Irish Inn in Shamrock TX
Downtown Shamrock TX (actually this morning)
The open highway somewhere in Texas.. Or New Mexico.. Not really sure.
My view of the trip approximately 1/3rd of the time.

We are in Clarksville, Arkansas. I will report with full details later, off to explore the town and have dinner somewhere!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Stage Four Recap: Gallop, NM to Shamrock, TX

Pictures from yesterday's stage.. the camera is in the car and I am too lazy to go get it right now. No real interesting pictures from today though.. :(

Evening all-

Didn't think I was going to be able to post tonight, but it turns out our hotel in Shamrock TX does indeed have internet!! And our room is so close to the lobby I get to write from the comfort of my scratchy queen bed. Yay.

Today was a long haul. Literally. Up early this morning, Mom and I scoped the pool but were dismayed by a gross film. Oh well. We enjoyed the complimentary breakfast, got gas, deposited my last check from UCSF, and hit the road. Mom started off driving, and lasted nearly 3 hours till we were all dying for a break and stopped in Moireity, NM. Which is a nothing little town, really just a series of truck stops and fireworks stores that Mom and I power walked by trying to stretch our legs. Dad took over from there and we soon crossed the Continenal Divide and left NM for Texas! The second we crossed the state line it started pouring rain, and continued on and off for the afternoon. The sky is amazingly beautiful, so wide and filled with gorgeous clouds. The rest of Texas is pretty boring though. Trouble is, we couldn't find a place to eat lunch. Luckily we'd stocked up on Cheezits and juice at the last stop, but, especially after crossing into Central Standard Time, we were very late for lunch. Finally we just pulled into a truck stop called Stuckney's. Not so awesome. Johnny Cash blaring on the radio, we hesitantly ordered some sandwiches from a bored girl and made idle chitchat with a fella. It was food, but definitely the worst we've had so far.

I took over driving, and since we'd just finished the Tony Hillerman book, decided to tune into the local country stations for lots of Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. It seemed appropriate. We were hoping to make it to Oklahoma, but Mom found a cute sounding town just west of the border that we decided to explore instead. We cruised through the surprisingly large town of Amarillo with every chain store you could imagine and easily found our Irish Inn, in Shamrock TX. Everything is green and little leprachauns are painted everywhere. We immediately headed to the largest and deepest pool we've been to yet and swam away our sore backs. Dad ventured off to the bar at the hotel, big mistake. Everyone was cheering while watching televised Dart Championships on ESPN34 or whatever, and Leonard Skynard was blaring on the jutebox. We met up with his at the restaurant instead, after immediately realizing there is no way he would have stayed in that bar. We decided to live like locals and had beers (which had to be brought in and paid for at the bar) and catfish for dinner in the room where the local Lions Club meets, and I was pleasantly surprised at my first taste of catfish. It was in some sort of cornbread breading.. quite tasty!

We dropped Dad off at the room and made our way to downtown Shamrock. Quite a cute, but sad town. Lots of boarded up shops and a distinct barrier between the black and white sides of town. We had a great time peeking in shop windowns and wandering through the neighborhoods. Everyone was really friendly, waving hello and all the shops had notes on the doors about the owner's being out of town, but please call this number if you need them, and such. We found the tiny General Hospital, with only 2 doctors apparently. It is a huge change from SF, but kind of fun at the same time. It wasn't too hot but nice to walk around in a tank top with no worries. Big lightning storm in the distance, but I haven't seen fireflies yet...

Hopefully another nice swim in the morning before starting Stage 5. Wow, this trip is scooting right along!! Stage Five is completely unplanned, but we are hoping to end up in Arkansas if everything goes well. From then on to Tennessee where we will start taking our time exploring the area. I am really excited about the Appalacians and the Smokey Mountains, especially Asheville, NC, which I've heard is gorgeous. It is a huge HUGE beautiful country and I am so thrilled to see it all!

Congrats to Em and Rob on the 5 years of success! Stay safe in all those earthquakes out there!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Stage Three Recap

This evening finds me in the lobby of a very nice Holiday Inn in Gallop, New Mexico. Not as many fun people to watch but I am tired so that may be a good thing.

After a rough night of fighting with the theromstat and loud fan where none of us got a good night's sleep, we went down for the free breakfast. Which was pretty sad. I think we do better in the little towns. We quickly drove back into the park and enjoyed the different views the morning had to offer. Much less cloudy and fewer people. We drove East along the South rim, stopping every now and again. I am tempted to do some hiking in there, it looks very similar to Mt. Zion Park in Utah.

We finally left the Canyon and Dad drove through Cameron and lots of sleepy Indian towns until we reached Tuba City. It had grown a lot since my Mom was there in 1965, but she recognized some buildings and told us fun stories about going to the hospital to see the newborns and having lunch at Rosie's Cafe. We happend across Hogan Restaurant, named after the traditional houses that Navajo's use. The restaurant was filled with everyone from Tuba City, including a couple Navajo policemen, lots of big families, and cute old couples. We had a darling waiter who spoiled us. Dad took up driving again (I was beat after sleeping SO badly the night before) through a the longest inhabited town in the country, an Hopi town called Old Oraibi. We chatted with some locals and bought a nice necklace for neice Anna. Dad drove all the way to an old historical trading post where we bought some other goodies, watched some Navajo ladies weave blankets and explored. The whole time change thing kept throwing us off.. you pass on and off Navajo land, which uses Daylight Savings, unlike the rest of Arizona.

I drove on from the trading post. Mom had found a Tony Hillerman book on tape in Tuba City which was really fun because it is set in the exact places we were going through. Past Window Rock and lots of mesas. Beautiful big skies with lots of clouds tinged pink by the red soils below. We arrived in Gallup around 5:30, and decided to call it a day even though we were short of our goal of Alberqueque. Dad spotted this hotel with all the right ammenities, free HOT breakfast, indoor heated pool.. we had to do it. We got settled in and Mom and I went down to Historic Route 66 to explore the city of Gallup. Not much going on, but a wonderful library being used by lots of folks and a cute but pretty closed down downtown. We wandered all over, finding the Quaker meeting house and a Whole Foods-esque grocery store which was fun.

Back to the hotel for a nice swim. Mom taught me all her aqua aerobics moves and then we enjoyed the hot tub. Mom, I think, enjoys talking to people in the hot tub more than the soak itself! Dad had already gone for a swim and was enjoying a cocktail in the hotel bar. See the above photo for the explanation he left us in the room. We wandered over to the Ranch Kitchen next door that had a great Mexican buffet with real, spicy, tamales and enchiladas. Finished off with some excellent watermelon, it was a great dinner. Back to the hotel, into the lobby to update the blog, then off to the room for a hopefully better night than yesterday!

Stage Four is our big push across the country. I am hoping to end up somewhere in Oklahoma, forget Texas. Lots more Tony Hillerman book on tape to get us across.. it is going to be a big effort. Hopefully we'll get in another swim before the long drive. We are beginning to be old pros at the hotel stuff, but every once in a while I think how nice it will be to be in my own bed. But then I realize I don't have my own bed right now!! Craziness! I can't wait to get settled, and get my sweet Bubs, out in our new home!

PS- Too sleepy to wait for Blogger to upload today's pictures.. sorry. Expect them tomorrow though! And tomorrow's hopefully, as well!

Photos from Stage 3