good buddy

“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.”

 ~Henry David Thoreau

And nothing makes the world seem so cozy as to be visited by friends from afar.

I’m sure Thoreau just forgot to add that last bit.

This fall I have enjoyed the new sensation of having friends visiting me. How delicious it has been!

First, a friend from Pennsic War decided to work at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and we have had the delightful opportunity of spending out weekends together.  How wonderful it is to discover a new kindred spirit!  Whether sharing ciders and laughs, or cheesecake and knitting projects, or weekends have been a hoot!

Then, a friend who has been working in China had work that brought him to Pittsburgh, PA.  And compared to China a five hour road trip didn’t seem too far to travel for a good friend.  So a visit to Pittsburgh was made! And I have to admit I was impressed with that ol’ city.  I expected smoke stacks and coal mounds, and even sought them out for a photo shoot with the new Rainbow Rampage collection, but it was a tough search down by the river’s edge to find the grit and grime.  Downtown Pittsburgh was clean and trendy and full of art and life.  The tourist center even has a sweet little book detailing all the outdoor art installations throughout the city.  If I only had had time to explore more of them!

I did find the time to stay an extra day and attend the Mumford and Sons concert at the First Niagara Pavilion.  Which was so awesome! They were great.  And the adventure that took us from the Lawn to the third row was awesome too!

Mumford and Sons August 29, 2013
Mumford and Sons August 29, 2013

Then Sandra, my Swiss friend with whom I have shared many a travel adventure, came to Boston with her new beau; and I just had to head north again for a visit. It was one of my first road trips with Shelly, my big white van, and I was excited to test out the comfort-ability of the bed in the back.  It was great!

On the way up I stopped off in Delaware for a few hours to visit with a friend from my Drexel days, and we caught up with each other over glasses of white wine and dainty cheese plates.  Oh Wilmington how I underestimated you!

That night I stopped to sleep at a rest stop in Connecticut.

Lets pause for a moment and talk about rest stops, and deciding which ones to stop at.  Not all rest stops are created equal. As a solo traveler it is important to trust your gut and look for clues.  I was let in on this little tip at a Denny’s when I shared a midnight meal and a counter with a group of truckers on the I-10 West of Dallas.  Straight from the lips of professionals, I took their advice to heart.  I like to remember the three S’s:

1. Shakes

2. Semi’s 

3. Shadows 

Shakes, as in restaurants like 24-hour diners and fast food chains, create traffic and energy at a rest stop.  It may seem bright and noisy, but it is much better to stop over at a place busy with people and frequented by patrol cars.

Semi’s, as in tractor trailers, are usually a good sign that a rest stop is well used and on the beaten path.  If the stop is split between car parking and trucker parking…park with the trucks.  I like to tuck Shelly in between two monstrous truckers and find myself gently lulled to sleep by the deep growling idle of a monstrous diesel engine.

Shadows aren’t necessarily your friend. But the light sources that create them are.  If you are just plum exhausted and can’t bear the thought of traveling a single mile more in search of a bright glowing island of coffee and gasoline than pull into that dodgy looking blue sign rest stop off the highway. If you must park, at least park under the light.  Though it was the consensus of my trucker angels that if you have to choose between pulling over under the light on an exit ramp and pulling into a dark and shadowy abandoned rest stop, choose the exit ramp!

In all of my cross country adventures I have to say that Pilot and Love’s are pretty great truck stops. They have 24 hour restaurants and mini-marts, gas pumps, lots of lights, lots of trucks, and lots of parking.  You can always see them from the highway well before their exit because they have monstrous electric signs with the current gas prices printed in green and red which is a great beacon of hope when groggy highway fatigued eyes are searching for answers. And in the morning when you wake up in the front seat with your legs over the steering wheel and your feet stuck in the dash the cashier won’t look at you funny when you brush your teeth in their bathroom and pour yourself a 24 oz cup of steaming hot, incredibly bland, amazingly rejeuvinating coffee before hitting the road again.  Ah the life of a modern gypsy.

But I digress. Boston.  And then Houston, with another old friend and another new adventure.  Perhaps those stories should be saved for another day.  Each deserves its very own post I think, complete with catchy title and a photo that hints at stories yet to be told.

Over and Out,
Aeri

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shipping up to boston

Boston was a whirlwind.

A week after getting settled in, and just beginning classes, I got The Call from my mom. Come home, this is it. I packed in a daze, borrowed Adam’s ipod car player, and jumped in the Jeep to return to Annapolis. A week later we were setting my Granddad to rest with his relatives and saying good bye. Reading at the funeral was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Luckily, I have such wonderful friends and Rachel Wells, best friend since infancy, jumped on a plane almost as quickly as I jumped in my car and spent a few days with us; and my GEP friends kept me in the loop at school. After the madness there wasn’t anything keeping me around and so I drove back to school, intent on enjoying my last months with the GEP.

And for a spell I was successful. We had cook-outs and picnics, took trips to the beach (I went skydiving with Ale in Ocean City!), and went to summer concerts. Adam’s friend Dave was out east working for Ween as a sound guy at the Disco Biscuits Camp Bisco Festival. We spent nights in the city (and on a trolly in route), and had parties on campus (love the rubic cube theme!). We even had a pool party with a temporary pool that Chris, Ashley, and Katrina got. We went on night time walks with the Dugout Crew. We cooked dinners, had chili-cookoffs, started families (Love you Robert Plant, Grace, and Eleanor), and went camping. Tabi had Liam, and I visited Chela in Oswego, NY. And we played Soccer.

And that’s when I fell into madness again. Playing Soccer one evening, I tripped, rolled, and broke my arm. I had to have surgery to fix it! Now I have a plate and seven screws in my wrist. This was the last week of the program. Again, my wonderful GEP friends stepped up to the plate. I will be forever grateful to my group that finished the presentation and got their act together for the end of our consulting project. I couldn’t have finished the semester without them. I spent the last two weeks totally stoned on pain killers.

And then, it was the last night. We had a touching intimate closing ceremony in the afternoon. We played one last soccer match (I even tried to join in, kicked the ball around a few times, but decided explaining to the doctor how I broke my JUST set arm would be too difficult) and we took a bus into town for one last party. We partied like Geppers do, but no matter how hard you party eventually the night turns into day. And as hard as we fought the dawn, it arrived just the same. Many tearful goodbyes later, and I was again in the Jeep heading home to Annapolis. Only this time I was being driven home by another good friend, there for me when I needed him- Reid.

Apparently parents don’t want their children driving nine hours by themselves with one arm, a hangover, and a bottle of painkillers.

So thats that. That was my year around the world. I partied with more people, in more places, and made more memories than I ever thought I would. I am forever changed because of it. Even now, four months later and finally finishing the story, I am overcome by emotion. I would give anything to have the entire group together again, but there is nothing I have to give that would make that happen. Instead I’ll smile, tell the stories any chance I get, and work on some new ones in between. And when I can, I’ll keep traveling.

Like now, on my European Tour, trying to visit as many Geppers as I can in the next month.

Ganbei!