Thursday, August 28, 2008

Changing our Date of Departure

No visas yet...  so, unfortunately, we have to push our flight back.  Instead of leaving on September 4th, it's looking like our date of departure will be more like the 15th.  I feel like I may be developing a stomach ulcer.  

I'm also missing the beach and my friend Kyle, who lives in a magical land where they drink 40's of Miller High Life out of wine glasses.  

And I miss her nice friends, too, who shared the cozy space with us.

In unrelated and happy news, we're headed to a wedding in Michigan this weekend (congrats to Tom and Jessie).  With luck, there will be enough fun and hijinx and firewater to make us forget our troubles.  Back soon with pictures.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Beach

There are few things as refreshing as a beautiful saltwater beach. In this case, Wrightsville Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina. We went partly for the beach itself, which is hard to replicate in Illinois, and also because Rebecca has a few friends who reside in Wilmington. Camping, biking, swimming, and sailing are a few of activities we were able to cram into the last week while staying with a friend of Rebecca's from high school.

In order to get our camping fix, we went to Carolina Beach State Park for the first night. It is a nice campground with gravel tent pads that drain well when it rains. We were able to ride to the beach in about 15 minutes from the campsite. At the beach we acquired stage 1 of our beach tans. In my case there was a little bit of a burn.

It rained the next night so we moved indoors to Kyle's apartment in Wilmington. In a mutually beneficial situation that would continue for the rest of our stay, we cooked her dinner (oyster and crab stew) in exchange for a place to stay and a guided tour of the local scene.

Two days later, after acquiring stage 2 of our tans, we were off to Ellen's (another friend of Rebecca's) family's river house for a day of sailing and relaxing on the Pungo River in northeast North Carolina.

They had a sunfish sailboat, so we took that out a few times while we were there. We didn't go to far, venturing out into the main part of the Pungo River only once because the water was a little choppy. Since a sunfish is such a small boat you really have to work together to sail it with two people so you don't get in each others way.

Coming back to Wilmington we had only a few days to hit the local french bistro for dinner, attend a local rock show that was way too loud (but good), and acquire stage 3 of our tans.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Baltimore, Maryland

We went to Baltimore, Marlyand to visit Rebecca's brother (a Johns Hopkins University graduate student) and grandfather. Here we are at the local crab spot, Jimmy's Seafood. You come here for either "dinner or crabs" as the hostess said. Come for dinner and you get white tablecloth and silverware, come for crabs and you get brown paper and wooden mallets.

We also visited the American Visionary Art Museum in the trendy neighborhood of Federal Hill.

We also brought our bikes and rode the Gwynn Falls Trail that winds through West Baltimore. It isn't completely closed off from the rest of the city as there is a dumping problem in the adjacent river and many abandon buildings are collapsing within a stone's throw of the trail.

There is now a Google Maps link on the left that shows all the places (restaurants, museums, physics labs, etc.) we went while in Baltimore, we'll keep updating it as we travel.

Baltimore is a strange place. We have been watching the HBO series The Wire which chronicles many facets of life in Baltimore, from cops and drug dealers to politicians, the school system and the newspapers. Compared to many large American cities, it has yet to be gentrified to any extent and thus retains a relatively low cost of living.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Got back from our camping trip at Jones Lake yesterday. 

It was a nice place, considering they offered only drive-in (rather than hike-in) camping.  Usually this means that you're going to be kept awake most of the night listening to the folks in the Winnebagos to your left and right adjust the radio, watch television, and fight over the family Wii.  I can say without exaggeration that we have experienced all those things.  Our first night, there was a rowdy group of teenagers chugging beers and guffawing well into the night, but they had mysteriously disappeared by the time I woke up. The second night, the Loudy McLoudLouds camped at the single available electric site a few "doors" down.  But even that didn't bother me so much.  It could have been much worse.

It was actually pretty charming.  The site we picked looked like our own little desert island.

We walked, biked, hiked, swam, read, rested, and ate very well (steamed zucchini the first night, pork chop tacos the second).  It was lovely to spend so much time outside--and to come home with the freckles/burns to show for it.

Storage Space...How to get rid of your stuff.

Here's a picture of our storage space in Urbana just moments before it was locked for the next year. We had to throw away all of our unnecessary stuff and we still managed to fill the storage space to the brim.

I think the final count was 7 pickup loads of just trash that were distributed discretely among dumpsters throughout Urbana. There were extra couches (much the worse for wear), poorly constructed shelving (thanks Target), most of the stuff that was in the basement when it flooded earlier this year, and many boxes of stuff that had somehow been moved one too many times from one house to the next without ever getting used.

My parents were trying to adapt the principles of Feng Shui to our moving process. I don't think we needed any prodding to realize how much extra stuff we had. Luckily, we got started on this moving/garbage ordeal long before we had to leave. The day we left for North Carolina there was only one pickup-load of stuff left to get rid of. Thanks to Russell and Kathy for taking care of that load.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Grinding the Granny Gear

We've been in Raleigh for a week now, and we've done lots of riding.  

I've ridden the Reedy Creek Trail (~10 miles) with my dad twice:

Jeff and I rode to Hillsborough Street and ate at Mitch's, the local pub/chili joint:

We rode to the Rose Garden for a picnic of cheese and saucisson:

And we've been back and forth to Whole Foods, which is always a nice ride:

Raleigh is a very hilly place, and Jeff remarked yesterday that he is worried that he'll wear out his lowest gear first.  In Urbana, the highest gear is always the first to go.  Thus the phrase "grinding the granny gear," which I read in a local zine yesterday, feels so very apt.

We're going camping this weekend--updates to follow.