Also, I'm sorry if the pictures I post look like they're all over the place. I can't figure out how to place them properly.
Now back to my overwhelming trip down the interstate...
As I watch my surroundings completely in awe of where I am, I start to get a little anxious to see my cat, Eers (Full name: Mountaineer Pioneer Cormier). I've missed him so much. Although I very much consider him my cat, he's now lived at my mother's house for almost three years. I know he still knows who I am because he does things that he had always done with me but doesn't do them with my mom. We all drag my luggage inside and I get a little choked up when I see him. I pick him up and he stretches in my arms and I'm just one happy camper.
Mom, Corey and I had a fantastic four days of sightseeing, hanging out, shopping (my first steps into Target were nearly orgasmic) and eating, eating, EATING. I'm sitting here in Korea about three pounds heavier than when I left from all the heavy, nasty, hugely-portioned, yet excruciatingly delicious food I ate while home. And Nashville has some of the best around. I'm a sucker for anything southern and food is no exception. Being from West Virginia, I'm not quite a true southerner yet I'm definitely not a northerner. I consider anything south of the Mason Dixon "The South", so technically I think I qualify. Although I don't have the thickest of accents, I definitely have a slight twang to my words which I hope most find adorable and endearing. Anyone from the Carolinas or Georgia would consider me a northerner and anyone from New York and above would definitely think I'm from the south. WV is just stuck right there in the middle, not sure where it belongs. The farther south I get, the better the food gets, so one of my first meals was definitely some old fashioned BBQ, sweet potato fries and a giant glass of sweet tea that I sucked down like the nectar of life. This meal definitely wasn't my only foray into BBQ territory during my stay. And I have to say, the best southern food comes served on a plastic plate, everyone knows this.
Was I jet lagged you ask? NO, I wasn't. Remember how I said that I won the war? Well, I stayed up all Friday night with no sleep with the intention of sleeping on the airplane on the way over. That didn't happen. I was unhappily placed in a middle seat between a Japanese man and an Ecuadorian man for 13 1/2 hours. I "slept" for perhaps...three?...hours, if that. There was also a god awful movie selection so Pitch Perfect it was. Not great. I walked out of those baggage claim doors at roughly noon on Saturday, Central time, before daylight savings, meaning that my body thought it was 3am Sunday morning...about 40 hours after I had originally woken up on Friday morning, now running on that three measly of sleep I got on the plane. I told Corey that in no way was she allowed to let me take a nap at any point on Saturday, that I was to stay awake until a decent time comes that's acceptable to go to sleep that night. So, I got a Red Bull and plowed on through the afternoon and into the evening, completely exhausted from the travelling and extreme lack of sleep. At about 10:30 that night (now over two days of no sleep but the little on the plane) I popped two sleeping pills and crawled into the most comfortable bed I had experienced in over a year. Because of my tiredness and the sleeping pills, I was up and at 'em and ready for the day the next morning. Each night for about a week I took two sleeping pills to ensure I stayed asleep the entire night. I think for two days after arrival, Sunday evening and Monday evening, I got slightly yawny around 7 or 8 in the evening, but certainly nothing crippling like normal jet lag. After those first few days I was on a normal sleeping schedule and didn't get tired at all. So the formula for conquering the jet lag battle is don't sleep for two days + sleeping pills = NO JET LAG! It was 100% worth the not sleeping to not be miserable and up every morning at 4am for two weeks like I was the last time I made this trip. Never again.
During the weekend I kept hearing news of a giant of a snowstorm heading straight for St. Louis, Missouri, my next stop. My plan (and my hotel) was for Thursday-Sunday so I was going to meander on up there Thursday afternoon or so. That wretched storm was supposed to hit Thursday. Are you kidding me? So I track the weather over the next few days and sure enough, that sucker was coming at full force right in the middle of my travelling. Great. Because I was in no way wasting a day up there and eating the money I had already spent on the hotel for Thursday night (non refundable) I got Wednesday night at the hotel as well and went up the night before. I felt terrible leaving my mom's early but there was nothing I could do with Superstorm Helga or whatever its name was making a beeline straight for St. Louis. I pack my things, jump in my little rental Civic and head 4 1/2 hours northwest to The Lou.
I was terrified to get behind the wheel of a car. I hadn't driven anything, not even a bicycle, in the last 14 months, so the idea of driving a vehicle was downright terrifying. I test drove my mom's jeep a few times before getting the rental. I kept forgetting the little things, you know, like blinkers and whatnot. It was actually kind of amusing but I got adjusted fast. One thing I was looking forward to was plugging my ipod in and just driving and singing and turning the heat up as high as it would go with no complaints from a passenger as to how hot it was in the car. About 2 hours into my trip to St. Louis I was completely over it and just wanted to get there already. I arrived at my hotel, a lovely Hampton about 10 minutes from Zack's, at about 2 in the morning, safe and sound with no sign of snow yet.
My first day in this new city was spent alone in the hotel, eating a Lean Cuisine from the store downstairs while watching the snow swirl outside and the newscasters freak on the TV. I was told later that although St. Louis is cold and gets a little snow during the year, that this storm was pretty much unheard of and was paralyzing the city. Jess, who lives about 30 minutes outside the city, was stuck there and Zack, though 10 minutes away, was unsure if he should venture out to get me. In the end, he and his friend Steve (who I knew already because he came to visit Korea last summer) put Zack's Oldsmobile to the test and bravely came to collect me and save me from my boredom. We crossed the snow packed roads to his house where Jess arrived a little while later. It was craaaaaazzzzyyyyyyyy seeing them again!! I'm used to hanging out with them in a particular setting and surroundings and now, here we all were, together again in this completely normal, non-Korean situation just chilling and drinking at somebody's house listening to music in good old America. Totally 100% weird and awesome and amazing and seeing their faces was only the beginning of the happiness that will stay for the duration of my visit.
In Korea, Zack and I always hung out a bit more than Jess and I. Jess and Al always seemed to gravitate toward one another with things to talk about as did Zack and myself. Not that Jess and I never hung out or didn't get along, Zack and I just became better friends. But while in St. Louis, I feel that Jess and I became a bit better of friends and I'm really glad for that. I tell you what, they have some amazing people to surround themselves with there. Every single person I met was fabulous and so accommodating and just plain out nice to me. Everyone made me feel so welcome. I did some awesome things: went to a ballet (first time!), Union Tree Review played a show (incredible band with an even more incredible lead singer), the lead singer of said band took me to the zoo while everyone was working (even though some of the exhibits were closed, boo), had a crazy hotel pool partay and saw the arch (which is absolutely massive) twice...among lots and lots of other things. I ended up staying two extra days on Zack's futon because there was no way I wanted it to all end so soon. Even though it was definitely out of my way with an almost five hour drive there and expensive and I still had a five hour drive to my Aunt Shelly's in Kentucky and yet another five to get home to WV...it was absolutely worth it. I regret nothing. Nothing.
Tuesday night I had a great dinner at Jess's parent's and said my goodbyes to her because I wouldn't be seeing her anymore (but not really a big deal, she's coming back to Korea!) then headed back into the city to have a quiet last night at Zack's. Woke up the next morning very, very sad to tell him bye because, really, I don't know when I'll see him again. I managed to get through the farewells without crying or anything, something I told myself I can't do or I'd embarrass myself, and waited until I was far down I-64 before I really let it all out. The thing about the job we do is that you form these incredible relationships with some pretty amazing people and then you don't, or rarely, see them ever again after the short time you have with them. Zack really is one of my favorite people in the world so to say bye without knowing when I'll see him again is somewhat heartbreaking.
So, off I go with another city checked off my list and some new friends made. Lucky for me I-64 starts right in St. Louis and finishes off in West Virginia. Easy enough! Five hours to Mount Sterling, Kentucky...