Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Texas Girls Part III- Back to Our Old Stompin' Grounds

After driving for a million years across interminable stretches of American highway for 20 hours and crashing at Brooke and Chris's house as the sun was coming up Friday morning, Arielle and I rightly slept in until the extravagantly slothful hour of noon. Arielle poked her head out of the bed, took a quick survey of her mental and emotional health, and decided to go back to bed. I should have done the same, but I was already too overcome with the voice in my head that had started the "Days Left in Texas" countdown, so I dragged myself out of bed and attached myself to Brooke for the afternoon for errands. Our first weekend in town was the 10th Annual Spring Bash (Brooke's 28th birthday party). We've been celebrating this together since Brooke's 19th birthday, back when we were all just little nuggets in college. Our core group is about 20+ people, plus all of *their* people, plus those people's people, so Spring Bash is always a good time. Arielle and I crashed at my Dad's house Friday night after said errands, and woke up bright and early on Saturday to head back over to Brooke and Chris's house. The Bash was starting at 2 p.m., and would continue on until 2 a.m. the next morning- people trickled in and out the whole time, but altogether about 30 of us showed up to honor the last ever Spring Bash and wish Brooke a happy birthday. A good time was had by all, and there are pictures to prove it for those who may have a fuzzy memory of the night's events.

We started off with backyard games and beautiful Texas weather, which is always a good way to start a beginning of summertime party.
I can't tell you how long I had been wanting this avocado shake with bubbles. It is incredible.

 Our friend Mike, who serves in the Air Force, showed up to surprise Brooke. No one but Chris knew he was coming, so we all had a good Hallmark moment over that one. I'm being a creeper and taking pictures here. Someone has to document every aspect of our lives, right?
 Chris had grill duty. He later produced some amazing vegetable fajitas, a homemade tomatillo ranch sauce, and some incredible queso. The first half of Spring Bash was going swimmingly.

Arielle and I, soaking in the happiness of being surrounded once more by our gang of pals.
 The sun starts to set...

The game of corn hole in the backyard heats up...

and it's getting serious out there, folks.
 Beck-ay and Beck-ay, both newly banged. 

Here I was explaining to Chris the crucial information that my bangs still had cracks in them because they weren't trained yet. Seriously. I know, I'm totally scintillating.
 Far more interesting is the fact that Chris brewed this strawberry beer at home. He added pounds of fresh strawberries, and it smelled great. If I drank beer, I'm sure I would add "and it tastes great, too!" here. But I don't drink beer, so I'll just say that those who did said "it tastes great, too!".

The cast of characters around this table changed all night, but the good conversations were a constant. I'm not humble enough to keep from saying that I have some particularly witty friends. I really missed our silly banter, inside jokes, and stupid nicknames.
 In honor of the inaugural Spring Bash 10 years ago, an old skool game of flip cup was started.

Caleb (as Brooke says, "the prettiest girl I know), Arielle, and Travis, back together again. I spent a lot of time with these wonderful people when I came back to Dallas from Japan.
 This is what winning flip cup looks like. Pure, unadulterated childlike joy, haha.

Once we headed into nightfall, a storm started brewing, as is often bound to happen in Texas in April.

Shortly after this picture was taken, the tarp over the porch began to blow away. Since we were all wet from saving the electronics from the porch, and since the tarp was down for the count and it was 11 at night, there was really nothing left to be done.

Clearly, the most logical course of action was to make an enormous slip and slide in the back yard. So, we did. Happy birthday Beck-ay, indeed.
 J-Ben and Kate  look on, slightly amused, slightly judgmental, but eventually they took their turn. I begged off  due to photographer duties. 

Right about the time the slip and slide got old, the power went out. Here, Arielle sings a ballad from "Wicked" to express her deeply felt emotions regarding this situation.
We ended the night by candlelight, at around 3 a.m. Sunday morning. The power came on at 4 a.m., at which point I summoned a monumental amount of motivation and made myself get up from the couch so that Arielle and I could drive home and get some sort of sleep at my Dad's house, in his den, on our trusty air mattress. We had to be ready to go not too much later that day, since we both had afternoon plans with respective friends and then a planned outing to my favorite club in Dallas, The Church. All in all, going to bed at 5 a.m., again, knowing I'd get about 5 hours of sleep, again, was a price worth paying in exchange for seeing almost every single one of my friends in Dallas in one place.

This Texas trip was off to a very good start :)

Monday, May 30, 2011

For the Fallen

"They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

 They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them." - Laurence Binyon



Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Camping Fest

Bobby only has to work a half day today, and he gets Monday off for Memorial Day, so we decided this was the perfect time to head back to South Dakota to see the Badlands. When we went to South Dakota last summer we were expecting to have a good weekend filled with Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Badlands. Much to our surprise, South Dakota ended up being way cooler than we ever expected, and we barely had enough time to fit in said historical monuments, Custer state park for seeing wild buffalo, Wind Cave Nat'l Park for awesome camping and a creepy cave tour, and the Mammoth Site on the way back (a totally rad working archeological site that is the world's largest center for researching mammoths). We realized we would have to return the following summer and devote an entire weekend to South Dakota once more, just to soak it all up.

As a result, this afternoon we're heading out to make camp in Jewel Cave Nat'l Monument, so that tomorrow morning we can tour Jewel Cave (apparently it's the second longest cave in the world, that's crazy). Then we head out to Badlands Nat'l Park to spend the day hiking around and then camping in the grassland. Sunday morning is more Badlands hiking, then a drive through the park to get to Nebraska, where Sunday night will be spent in Chadron State Park. Monday morning we'll see what Chadron has in the way of  trails, and then we'll hit up Nebraska's cheesy Carhenge tourist trap on the way home. Although I don't think anything could top the epic cheesiness of our experience with Moqui Cave on the way to the Grand Canyon.

I hope you all enjoy your Memorial Day weekend! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we don't get rained out. Although camping in the rain is when you really test just how much you like camping, right?

Texas Girls Part II- In Which We Roadtrip from Colorado to Texas.

After hanging out together in Colorado for a few days and showing Arielle around, it was time to head to Texas. I had not been back to Texas since I moved up here almost exactly a year prior, and Arielle had been gone a little over a year. Our respective families lived in Texas, and we have a huge group of shared friends there as well (see my About page for some pics of said friends). All in all, we were super excited to head back South. We just had to do 15 hours of driving plus any breaks/food stops/gas station fill ups to get there.

We left at 8 a.m. on Thursday. I'm just going to cut right to the chase and tell you we didn't pull into Brooke and Chris's house until 5:15 a.m. on Friday morning. With the time change it took us right at 20 hours, so we only added 5 extra hours for two meals, a detour to Cadillac Ranch, bathroom/gas station stops, and some road construction. However, 20 hours traveling in a car with no sleep will make you crazy. In a good way, like being 14 and staying up until 3 a.m. at a sleepover and having way too many sodas and Little Debbies, but crazy nonetheless. I love the term "punch drunk" for capturing this facet of human experience perfectly. You know what else captures human experiences perfectly? Pictures. So here are a lot of them.

 Oh look, we're so happy and excited at 8 a.m.! Time to hit the road with youthful exuberance and an iced coffee covered in half a cup of whipped cream. Let's go, Texas!

 About two hours into our trip we were in the dredges of southern Colorado, with nary a Denver, Boulder, or Fort Collins-like town to be seen. For that matter, the mountains were gone, too. Southern Colorado looks like generic mid-west America, in case you were wondering.
Still, the weather was beautiful and the skies were blue, so when we were stopped due to road construction for almost half an hour we decided to get out and enjoy the breeze.
 Do yourself a favor, and find these sodas. They're by Dry Soda, Co., and they're incredible. I know you might be thinking lemon grass soda sounds disgusting, but trust me, it wasn't. We found an entire assortment of them at this frou frou grocery store in downtown Denver and picked up a 4 pack to share on the road as a tasty diversion from the hours of driving.
A not so tasty diversion was lunch. By this time we had been driving for 5 hours, and any Colorado coolness contained in such towns as Boulder, Denver, or Fort Collins was far behind us. Arielle decided to go full on road trip martyr and subject herself to the trashiest local diner she could find. She ordered some hunk of meat that came with two sides and a salad bar which consisted of salads based in pasta, potatoes, and mayo, rounded out with pudding and jello salad and an array of thick, chunky dressings.
 We puzzled over this arrangement. It may be hard to tell from the picture, but someone had snapped random digital photos of a few of the meals served at the restaurant. These were printed off (date stamped), framed, and hung haphazardly next to the salad bar. The top left  picture has what looks like a glass of wine next to it.
 My favorite thing about trashy diners? A dizzying variety of cellophane wrapped pies. Mmmmm. (I'm not being sarcastic, that lemon pie thing was calling.my.name.)
 We headed down the street to Sonic to get some drinks, and entertained ourselves with imagining what our "Road Trip Workouts- Sonic Edition" DVD series would look like.
Sonic yoga would naturally be in there as well. 
 Clearly, only 5 hours in, we were already pretty punchy. We were also just happy to be out of the car.
 Sonic in hand, it was time for me to swallow my pride and realize I was going to have to eat at Pizza Hut. We played  hide and seek in the parking lot while we waited for my food.

 The best part about this lunch stop was a park we stumbled upon while driving out of town, "food" in hand.
 Lactaid was a constant traveling companion
 Arielle, with her spread.
 Me, making sure nothing had been tampered with. Seriously, that Pizza Hut was sketch as hell.

 Swinging off lunch.
 Back to the grind. We drove another few hours through wide open spaces, talking and laughing and making up ridiculous jokes and stories and planning out our lives.
American Gas Station Gothic- Squeegee Rendition
 This gas station was the essence of southern Colorado. That sign on the pump says "Local Checks Only". There was no pay at the pump option, and when I went inside to give her my debit card she had to hold it for about 10 minutes while she dialed up the transaction on an old school system. She was counting out change on the counter and putting it in a piggy bank. The sign on the bathroom said "PAYING CUSTOMERS ONLY, NO EXCEPTIONS". It was cute, in a quaint way.
 We finally hit Oklahoma, but with that came some confusion. Here, Arielle stands in between the signs for Colorado and Oklahoma, pondering this nameless stretch of American land. Where are we?! What does it mean?!
 I think it means "Cortney's car doesn't have air conditioning and now that we're heading further south it's getting hotter so I'm going to take off my track pants now."
 This picture reminds me of Snoopy in his aviator gear, every.single.time.

 Oh, it's time to get back in the car, huh? Are you suuuure?

 We finally hit Texas, and I had a moment of jubilation, followed by the realization that the state of my birth is enormous and we still had at least 8 hours of driving left to do.
 People are pretty friendly in Texas, because as I was checking my oil at the state line...
 a nice trucker pulled over to make sure we were okay. I assured him that I just have an older car, and as such I have to be nice to it on long road trips and check the oil periodically, no worries. He tipped his hat and was on his way. Thanks, random trucker!
 Since it's pretty much the only attraction between the state line and Dallas, and since Arielle had never seen it, we detoured for Cadillac Ranch. We made it juuuuuust as the sun was setting.
 So tired.
 I think I was asleep standing up here.
Those bleary eyes say it all.
 We hit up Red Robin, and decided to indulge in a sit down eating experience instead of Jimmy John's in the car on the road. We are obliterated here, and we are trying to avoid thinking about the fact that we still have 6 hours left to drive. I wanted to cry, but I ate my emotions instead.
 This is at 3 a.m. We pushed hard after Red Robin, but then things got sketchy. I was miserably tired, and to keep awake we kept acting crazier and crazier. This is the first gas station where we were pretty sure the cashier called the cops on us, thinking we were drunk as we stumbled down the aisles, laughing and then kind of fake but kind of not crying from exhaustion as we mocked ourselves and purchased yet another caffeinated beverage.
 An hour or so later, this is the second gas station where we're pretty sure the cops were called on us to check us out. The same thing happened- we go inside, the cashier looks at us like we're crazy, and then a cop car nonchalantly pulls into the parking lot and straight up pretends to get gas as he checks us out.
 We had an hour left to go in this picture. I'm trying to steel myself for it, haha.

Tapatio Doritos got us home, of that I am sure. We crunched nonstop on them with the windows down. I'm way too paranoid and anal about safety to drive if I'm actually dozing off, I was just miserable and so tired of driving and being in the car. When we pulled into Brooke and Chris's house Friday morning I could have kissed the ground I was so happy. We'd made it to Texas, finally. And you made it to the end of this enormous, picture filled post.