Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trips & Travels, Vol 3

Damn, I didn't mean to have a gap this big in between trip reports, but believe it or not I have been BUSY at work. However, I am determined to get this done, so here we go again.

All right. Last you heard, we were in California witnessing the loving union of our dear brother & sister-in-law. Then we went to sleep, woke up, packed, and once again hit the road. We were heading the Arizona & the Grand Canyon, but first I wanted to go to the Mission at San Juan Capistrano. It is where the swallows return to roost every year, and supposedly "the jewel of the California missions." It was indeed beautiful, and we did what tourists do at such destinations, walked around, gawked, pretended to read the captions at a variety of historical markers, etc. After wards we ate some RFA (really fucking awesome) Mexican food near the mission. The town was very charming and so was the saucy pork I ate with corn tortillas. We swung by Trader Joe's to buy some car-food (I can't even talk about TJ's. I realize that I am 5 years behind on this, but good Lord! I couldn't even believe HOW CHEAP everything was. Food that would be considered swank and therefore expensive in Memphis, TN was amazingly thrifty. Not to mention our dear, dear friend Charles Shaw), then set off into the desert.

The desert was hot and dry. I know I'm blowing your mind here. I am not much of a desert person; some people love it, but there were really only parts of it I found appealing. It seems like every 70 miles or so you pop into a "town" that has a gas station and maybe a few small buildings, and you think "What in the fuck are these people doing out here?" and all of a sudden, even though I haven't even seen it, everything became very The Hills Have Eyes-ish, and I couldn't help but imagine the inhabitants of these outposts, their leathery skin, their desire for rape and flesh-eating. That's very unfair, I realize, and I hope some desert-dweller doesn't happen upon this blog. Sorry guys.

The next day we were visiting the Grand Canyon so we drove through the night until we were in the national forest about 30 minutes outside the GC. We had been schooled by G that camping in national forests is a free-for-all, and we were so tired and chilly that we just slept in the car. My mind raced for about five minutes with thoughts of bloodthirsty hillbillies before I dropped off into an uncomfortable night's sleep. I woke up off and on all night with a kind of anxious tightness in my chest, which I couldn't figure out since I wasn't THAT worried about being hacked to death in my sleep. The next day I figured out that the altitude was to blame, when walking 30 feet had me panting slightly.

OK, so the Grand Canyon. The first sight that greeted me was not the massive, stunning canyon itself, but actually a Japanese man pursuing a squirrel with a potato chip, making kissy noises. Despite the fact that there were only, oh, I don't know, 30 signs in the immediate vicinity asking that no one feed any animals. Past Mr. Japanese Potato Chip Man laid the Grand Canyon... Wow. "Wow" with a period behind it kind of summed up my feelings about it. Yes, it is huge and it's crazy how huge it is, and the colors of the cliffs are really gorgeous, but I wasn't as bowled over as I thought I would be. Maybe it was the haze that hung in the air that prevented us from getting a crisp view, maybe it's the fact that we are inundated with images of the GC all of our lives, but I guess I felt kind of underwhelmed? I know the preceding sentences make me sound like a spoiled bored baby, but don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to take a shit on our beautiful national jewel. For me, I just didn't feel overwhelmed, which is how I expected to feel. Brandon thought that perhaps my feelings would be different if we had the time and stamina to go down to the bottom of the canyon, and I can imagine how that would be so, so different and just BIGGER. We chose a trail to hike, the Bright Angel trail, which only went 1.5 miles down into the canyon. I say only, but when you're coming up that 1.5 miles and you're as physically inept as me, that 1.5 miles is humiliating as fuck. Especially when there are a lot of skinny French people everywhere. I'm not obese, but good Lord, I'm not French either. The most insulting part of the whole thing is that I'm pretty sure they were drinking cream instead of water to stay hydrated, and still they're just so lithe and JUDGEMENTAL.

You don't think I'm being paranoid about the French, do you?

I picked up a fantastic new bathroom book in the gift shop, Over The Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon. If you click that little link, you will see the really fantastic cover, which features both a rainbow AND a skeleton. This book answers the question "How many people have fallen off this shit?" and many, many more. Personally, I think the creepiest stories are ones of people dying from exposure, going off into the canyon terribly unprepared for the heat & dehydration. Although some of the stories of people falling off the rim made me pretty creeped out as well, given Brandon's propensity to leap around on rocks that are high in the air all in the name of photography. As his domestic partner, I certainly don't want to "break" him of anything, but man, oh man, sometimes these vacations that involve high altitudes make me wish I had some of his sperm frozen.

We said goodbye to the Grand Canyon on Thursday morning and headed north to our final destination: Zion National Park. B had gotten his info from his brother, who lived out west for a good while and went to a good number of parks out there; G & almost everyone we talked to agreed that Zion was The Place To Go... and they were totally right.

Ok, I am going to wrap it up in the next entry. Then I will be done talking about our vacation, and I'm sure everyone who did not go on a vacation this summer will be very pleased.

Trips & Travels, Vol II

Ok, I said I'd be back and here I am. Back. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I have been feasting on tomatoes from my mom's garden, cottage cheese, tuna & crackers for lunch today, and all the rest of this week as well. It is the Patsy-Lunch-Special; my mother ate this lunch many, many days of her own boring office job. It's pretty tasty. Also sounds like diet food from the 70s.

I mentioned in the last post that we stayed in a cheap motel on the first night of our PCH adventure; this was not our intention, mind you. Brandon and I are Cheap Ass Travelers; we will only accept The Worst & Thriftiest in terms of lodgings, and we had (sort of) planned to camp out on these first two nights on the road. I had, in fact, reserved campsites at our two post-wedding destinations, but since Brandon seemed to be non-committal in the way of making definite plans, I decided to hold off on reserving anything for our two nights in the Big Sur area. I said to myself "Be cool. Adapt your husband's lassiez-faire attitude! Take that stick out of your ass and GO WITH THE FLOW." Well, what you don't find out when you don't plan is that both the private and public campsites in areas as spiritually rich as the one we were in? Those campsites fill up 6 months in advance. So instead of pitching a tent, we drove inland until we found a little independent crappy (but not scary) motel room. We took possession of a room with two Queen beds with the understanding that we could only use one bed and receive a reduced rate; however, B was so tired that when he got in bed with a dinky plastic cup of Shiraz, he promptly fell asleep, leaving an enormous crimson stain on the blanket and sheets. (Please comment with joke about broken hymen. I am too boring to think of one right now).

So we drove back down the coast the next morning, everything was as beautiful as the day before, plus there was a gathering of folks with classic cars that were driving down CA 1 in spurts that day. I am talking 1930s' Rolls Royces, not 1960s' Mustangs. I kept having the spooky feeling I had somehow been transported into The Great Gatsby, and kept checking the highway for the corpse of Myrtle. All along the cliffs there were gorgeous homes and the mere sight of them made me want to vomit with jealousy. (For some reason, on this trip, beauty kept inspiring me to vomit/piss/shit myself, which B found odd. After reading a Pablo Neruda poem to him in the car, I said "GOD, this just makes me want to murder someone!" which he found equally strange).

We stopped in the woods and sat on lovely, large Adirondack chairs that were in the middle of the Big Sur River, drinking coffee and taking pictures. We hiked on a couple of trails, and on our way down South stopped at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park, where there is a waterfall that pours into the ocean. Let me stop right now and reiterate: there is a motherfucking waterfall pouring into the motherfucking ocean. Once again, I fought off the urge to crap myself and soldiered on. We spent that night inside another cheap motel (I believe it was the Holland Inn in Morrow Bay, CA); I remember that this one had a really skanky throw pillow on the bed, and a dramatic picture of a single red rose on the wall, the kind of print that you can win at the fair if you're lucky.

We trucked ourselves back down to Orange County for the beginning of the pre-wedding festivities without incident, having some particularly tasty fish tacos in Santa Barbara on the way down. (Fish tacos may be the culinary highlight of the trip. I love you, fish tacos! You never do me wrong like warm rum in a hot tub!) Somehow, despite the snail-like pace of traffic in Los Angeles, we arrived back at our lovely sis-in-law's family's home right on time. Her family was just as wonderful, hospitable & sweet as our sis-in-law, E, is. They made us feel so welcome and just like we were part of their family, and it made the whole weekend so nice & easy.

Let me pause my already long as hell trip story to explain a little bit about my brother & sister-in-law, G&E. They are just a little bit younger than us, and we all get along really well. They are also big Avett fans so we usually try to go to shows together if it's geographically convenient, and in the past couple of years Brandon has grown really close to his brother, so we try to get together as often as possible. They are both smart, funny, and cute; they're like Brandon and I... only better. By better, I mean that E never says the C word like I do, and G doesn't harshly confront people about politics. Also, they eat less and exercise more than us. However, they love & accept us anyway, and through them I am experiencing the kind of sibling relationships I never even realized I longed for; we are family and we are friends, it's great.

We camped out in a dry creekbed the Friday night before the wedding (which was Monday afternoon) with a big group of G&E's friends, which included a large contingency from Bowling Green, KY, where they both went to college. We drank and ate cookies and saw a tarantula and I introduced the ladies to the amazing P-Style. Thanks to it, I indeed peed in style during all camping excursions. We spent the weekend hanging out with all kinds of friends and family, drinking at night with B's cousins that I was too much of a Frantic Southern Bride to hang out with during out wedding. They are all as cool and weird as I would expect anyone who shares the Dill bloodlines to be.

Monday morning we woke up and B dropped me off at the wedding site, where I helped E's mom & family do wedding prep. I was really happy to do this, because I feel like I have wedding karmic debt to pay off from all the fine ladies that helped my mom and I when we got married. They got married in a park overlooking the ocean; it was a really relaxed & sweet site. E's mom is the workingest work machine that I have ever met and was literally decorating and preparing 35 minutes before the wedding. She had to be shooed down to the hotel, where I watched her fix her hair, get dressed, and sew a panel on her dress in like 20 min. It was awesome.

So then they got married and everyone cried and I was so, so proud of them. I don't know why that's how I felt, I guess it's just so nice to see two people who you know are making the right decision. It's not like that at every wedding you go to, you know? And, as B said in his wedding toast, I think that we're just so excited that they're together and we get to share our lives with them, and someday our kids will grow up together. (I'd like to request a simultaneous awwww right now).

Still to come: canyons, panting, wading, (actual) camping, driving, driving driving!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Trips & travels, Vol. 1

I have been a really terrible blogger lately, just as I was an underachieving diarist in elementary school and awful journal-er in high school (somehow I think those are and should be considered different). However, the good news is that upon my return to this lovely page I have done a lot and have much to report.

So, around 2.5 weeks ago, I straightened up my depressing cubicle, leaving things that people might need in neat, organized piles, and then I drove away from work cackling, since I was to be not only off work but also out of town for the next 15 days. Yes! I hope you know how much I love this feeling. Although airplanes themselves are uncomfortable, making Brandon's leg twitch involuntarily and my hair and face feel greasy, I cannot help but be exhilarated when I am dropped off at the airport. My favorite part is when you ditch your checked luggage and get to wander around buying coffee drinks and/or reading magazines (FOR FREE AND WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO ABOUT IT) in the numerous Hudson News stands that dot each and every airport I have visited in the past two weeks, which have been quite a few, actually. I smell a monopoly.

I had been on an airplane not very many times when I met Brandon, but in the past 3 years that we have been together, we have flown this way and that, across oceans and up and down the eastern seaboard several times. I really like it, and when I am in a new place with him, I cannot help but quietly think "Thanks, babe."

Anyway. Let's at least DELAY the corny cheesiness, I may not be able to eradicate it entirely.

So we zipped up to New York for a friend's wedding. The state, not the city, mind you. It was a fast in & out kind of a trip, but invaluable for the simple lesson learned by yours truly: Do Not Get Wasted In A Hot Tub. There are all sort of scientific reasons, as it turns out, but for some reason, although I'm approaching 30 years of life, I had never been informed of the situation. When I woke up on Saturday, I had the worse hangover of the past 2 years at the very least, and although I was greeted when I was finally able to awaken at 1:00 p.m. by ibprofen, biscuits & gravy, and a tall boy Mountain Dew, I felt like hell for the rest of the day. I hate drinking. I love drinking. I hate it. I love it.

Anyway, the wedding was gorgeous, went off without a hitch, and since I was still suffering too much to indulge in the top shelf open bar, I was sober enough to drive everyone back to the other side of the lake in the bride's father's SUV. He is a judge, and I had never driven a judge's car before. It was... uncomfortable.

So we had one full day back in Memphis before we were to leave on our big trip, 11 days out West. B's brother was getting married in Orange County, CA, and we decided to take full advantage of our flight out there, and spend extra time seeing some sights. The last time I had been out to that part of the country, I was too young and trifling to appreciate any of it, and B has been wanting me to go out there with him for forever, so now was the time. We flew into Vegas, spent the night at our new sis-in-law's parents' house, and woke up really early the next morning and drove north to Monterey. Our plan was to drive south on the Pacific Coast Highway back down to the LA area, and we had 2.5 days to do it. Before we left, I had been checking things out, looking at the map, and one day I did a Google Image search for "Big Sur," (because I remembered the Kerouac book) and I came up with this:

So needless to say that I was RFE (really fucking excited). We spent part of the day walking around Monterey, where the water was full of a ton of jellyfish, great big blobby brains with streamers of tentacles hanging off on all sides, eating clam chowder, spying otters, briefly napping on the beach, and discovering the incredible cheapness of wine in California. Then we started our drive down CA 1. We wound out of Monterey, through Carmel, and then the trees cleared, we looked down, and there was the ocean.
And it was really & truly, the most stunning thing I have ever seen.

Seeing that stretch of coast makes me wish I was a much better writer. If I could express myself in a more beautiful way, maybe I could convey to anyone who would read this how much the crashing waves, the craggy cliffs, the blue water, the golden light made me feel. How much it made me feel. Brandon and I drove and stopped and drove and stopped, climbed on the rocks and took pictures, talking about the sealife, the plants, the waves, the tide, and how we felt unable to express the flood of emotions that we were both experiencing. We drove until it got dark, then turned around to find the cheapest motel we could, and then in the morning we did it again, travelling south to the parks around Big Sur, which are nestled in Redwood forests. That's right, you see all that incredible coastal beauty, then drive about 15 minutes to find yourself in Redwood forests. I couldn't believe it. I told B the whole thing made me want to laugh, cry, and piss my pants, all at the same time (sounds a little bit like a mushroom trip).

Unfortunately I have to go back to work now, but I am determined to blog about every part of this before I forget it all. So, installment #2, and hopefully pics to come. You can see B's first gallery of images here -- they're not pretty pictures as much as they are the things he really enjoys shooting.


design by