Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Long Road Home

Road trips are some of the most amazing experiences that one can partake in. They're an awesome way to see a portion of a country that one may not be able to see at any other time. This types of adventures are something that I look forward to. I love traveling and embracing various regions and seeing sights that many only view in photographs.

At the end of my second year of AmeriCorps, I had to make my way back to Iowa. Instead of just driving straight back from Florida, I decided to make a road trip out of it. My first pit stop was up in Old Town, Florida to see my friend Kevin. Kevin and I met in college through Camp Adventure. Kevin was the director of the day camp in Stuttgart, Germany the summer after I was there. That summer, we were able to meet up in Rome, Italy and Salzburg, Austria. He's now a traveling OT and was reassigned to Florida a few days before I left. So the timing was perfect! He's currently staying in a small "cabin" behind a motel in the middle of nowhere. With the river right behind his humble abode and no other souls for miles, we spent some time catching up down on the docks. It had been about 3 years since we last crossed paths in Chicago, so it was good to hang out again.

The next stop on my road trip home was Houston, Texas to see my college friend Megan and her boyfriend, Chris. Megan and I met (along with our other friend, Trisha) at UNI while taking Spanish classes together. I still remember the day:

It was a Friday morning in our Spanish Linguistics class during my senior year. There had been a rare Thursday night football game at the UNI Dome the night before and I had managed to get my sly mug up on the big projection screen numerous times throughout the game. As we were leaving class, Megan came up to me and mentioned that she had seen me on the screen at the game and called me a "big screen whore." Needless to say, an instant friendship was formed between the three of us that still holds strong to this day.

The 12 hour trek through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas was made even more daunting when my air conditioning decided to quit on my as I was leaving Florida. Louisiana presented itself with traffic jams, interstates running through swamp land, and a stifling heat that caused me to sweat out 4 water bottles worth of perspiration! Needless to say, arriving at Megan's apartment was a welcome reprieve from the long hours in the car! It has been four long years since Megan and I last saw each other in the flesh! I was welcomed to Texas with a delicious homemade meal and some much needed rest!

Unfortunately, the trip took a bit of a sour turn when I was out for a run with Megan and Chris and ended up pulling a muscle in my lower back. This was an unexpected and unwelcomed addition to my trip home. I spent the rest of my time in Texas limping around and trying to regain my spry youthfulness. Outside of injuring myself, Megan and Chris were awesome hosts! They showed me around the great city of Houston, including some pretty wacky sights:

- Gigantic statues of the Presidents of the United States, just chilling in a random parking lot. Oh, and they were joined by all four members of the Beetles. I mean, who doesn't want a large, plaster bust of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln?

- Massive lawn chairs just chilling in the middle of a residential street, beckoning all that walk/run/live by to come and have a seat in them. These chairs make even the tall feel small...

 - The "We <3 Houston" sign on the side of a road. This super colorful and monstrous landmark has been moved a couple of times to help prevent it from being vandalized and defaced.

 - A wall consisting of water cascading down, covering the spectators in a unending light mist that felt amazing on those hot, lazy Texan days.

Another highlight of my trip to Texas was the celebration of Megan's 26th birthday! We definitely celebrated to best of our ability! I was able to meet some of her friends in Houston, including her two roommates while she completed her Master's at the University of Houston. In addition to new faces, I was also able to catch up with Elizabeth, another former UNI grad who I spent the summer with in Italy for Camp Adventure. We met up a couple of times while I was in Florida and it's always a good time when we finally cross paths.

Following my great pit stop in Texas, I crawled back into my car and headed up north to good ole Iowa. 14 hours of driving + a bad back = frequent pit stops to stretch and regain feeling in my tailbone area. The drive took me through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and finally landed in Atlantic, Iowa at my friend Trisha's house. She recently accepted a job at Atlantic High School as a Spanish teacher and has been in the process of getting settled into her new house and classroom. I was able to help her get posters on the wall, move desks around, and figure out some lesson planning during my relaxing time with her.

I finally made my way back home and was reunited with my parents and the farm. It's been good to be home, but I'm definitely ready to embark on my next journey to Colombia!

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