June 15, 2016

Southwest 3: Albuquerque and Austin

I was so so lucky to have another connection in Albuquerque to cushion the blow of leaving Tucson.  Didn't hurt that New Mexico is beautiful and deserty but with the added bonus of More Trees, but I was even more appreciative that I got to see Sarah's brother and sister-in-law and finally meet her precious baby niece.  John, Erika, and Nora (eep!) were such welcoming hosts.  I got in late, but not too late for us to eat dinner at Monroe's, which was this deliiiicious New Mexican restaurant.  We actually bundled up in winter coats, continuing the weird weather roller coaster I'd begun in CA. 
The next morning I had enough time to hang out for a while, so we went for a hike with Nora and the puppies, which ended abruptly when a strange man started yelling at us to turn back.  And also howling.  It was fine.  We turned back, but other than that it was a great hike!  Really cool landscape.  Nora is such a little sweetie, and I enjoyed spending time with the sister-in-law of my sister-friend.  Bixby and their dog Peter got along swimmingly too, and Nora loved having a whole other dog friend to play with.
And then I left again and drove to Austin but I stopped in a few spots along the way.  I drove though Fort Sumner, so obviously I had to see Billy the Kid's grave.  I saw fracking machines, which looked like really strange and giant birds pecking into the earth, and I could smell them before I saw them.  I bought a pair of shoes at a gas station, but I promise they were cute.  I stayed at a Motel 6 in Lubbock.  And then there was Austin.
What happened in Austin was I put my wallet on the trunk of my car and started driving, and then that little pocket of some very essential items was suddenly gone.  I retraced my route twice, and it was still very much gone, probably blending its little tan-and-gray self into the big tan-and-gray Texas landscape.  I didn't know what else to do but drive to North Carolina.  And so I drove to North Carolina.
HOWEVER!  Three very incredibly lucky things happened after that minor catastrophe/major setback.
First: I thought I had $75 on my person: twenty stashed in my car, a twenty-five-dollar gift card, and thirty dollars left over from the MST still in my pack.  75 dollars is not enough to buy the gas necessary to get a person from Texas to North Carolina, let alone the hotel room I would surely need since it was already early afternoon and the drive alone is twenty hours.  BUT sometimes not unpacking all the way pays off, and when I went to get the precious and small amount of cash out of my backpack, my beautiful beautiful SECU credit card with my very own picture on it was nestled beside the bills.  I suddenly had money and a photo ID, and things were not so bad.
Second: When renting a hotel room, you need to provide a driver's license, and my driver's license was somewhere in a city I had driven fast away from.  I knew that this requirement existed, but for some bizarre reason, I know my driver's license number by heart.  (Pro tip: save this info in your phone!  Also, if you have an extra driver's license, stash it in your car somewhere!)  When I offered the bare bones information I had and the credit card with my picture on it, the kind kind kind man behind the desk told me not to get him into trouble and handed me the key for a room on the third floor.  Thank you, stranger.
Third: After eight thousand caffeinated drinks, after driving over the Mississippi at night, after hitting traffic in Houston and Atlanta, after tearful phone calls and many podcasts and Bixby faithfully riding shotgun - after all that, I got home.  And the next day, my dad called me to let me know a wallet-shaped package had arrived in the mail from Austin, TX.  "Open it," I told him, trying not to be as excited as he was.  Inside was my wallet, coins and all, missing some punch cards that presumably fell out when it flew off the back of my car.  And a note: Hi Anna, I found this wallet at XXX address. Thanks! Tony.  I googled the return address, but it was just a post office.  Thanks!!  THANK YOU!  You are the best person, Tony!!!  I hadn't bothered canceling any of the cards because I a) have to believe that people are fundamentally good and b) am lazy, so I was immediately back in business and ready for the next leg of the trip.  Can't stop, won't stop, here I come, Florida!
Next up, How George Weasley the Hyundai Elantra Busted His Nose (and His Feet) and other adventures I had in the Sunshine State.

June 9, 2016

Southwest 2: Tucson

Guys.  Guuuuuuys.  Tucson was my favorite.  Am I allowed to say that?  It was.  I tell people this and some of them are all, "Tucson? Really?" and some of them are like, "TUCSON. YES."  This grass-between-my-toes tree climber who grew up pretending to be a woodland fairy fell head over heels for the statuesque cactuses and the endless brown orange earth.  Have you read Stargirl?  No?  Go read Stargirl.
...Alright.  Now that you've done that, you get Tucson.
These are the things that happened:

1.  I didn't get in until after dark, which is always a little disconcerting.  Durham dance pal Leslie and her now-fiancee Adam introduced me to this delish mexican (southwestern? new mexican? i was never really able to distinguish) restaurant and my bike did NOT! get stolen off the back of my car.
2.  I zipped over to my couchsurf host's house and met him and his brother (hiiiii FRANZ AND CHRIS) and they were great and Bixby lurved them and I finally watched Jurassic Park for the first time in my entire life.  We also went to their parents' house because their parents' neighborhood has a pool/hot tub and we bopped back and forth between the two and the sky was the clearest blue you've ever seen and the cactuses were green and reaching and there were mountains in all the corners in the distance and I was like okay, Tucson, I like you.
3.  I went shopping on 4th Ave, where they have the best bookstore and a hippie shop and a place with raspberry soda and a little boutique where all this stuff was practically $5 so I bought a dress that didn't fit.  Hooray!  Sarah and Erika and I facetimed while I ate a salad.  I got a little baby cactus that I velcroed to my car and drove around the rest of the US and then killed on account of cactuses need water too.  Not a lot, just not none.  Sorry, baby cactus.  Also: Hub ice cream.  Swoon.
4.  Bixby was like a celebrity on a leash.  After traveling around the country with a dog, I will tell you where they love dogs the most and that place is Tucson.  Everybody wanted to say hi and pet him and learn his name and I was so proud of him and it was great.  I feel like he really flourished in Tucson.
5.  AND MAYBE THE BEST PART OF THE ENTIRE THING IS THAT GENEVIEVE LIVES THERE.  Gen is one of my favorite people on the whole planet.  She knew me at the most embarrassing and awkward time of my life and loved/s me anyway.  She had a bonfire at her house and her dad was there too and her fiancee Mikey and her friends and I brought Franz and we drank beer and they played music and everything was great.  We did other fun things too, like Try to eat at a restaurant that Hillary Clinton dined at once but there was an absurd wait so Go to a different restaurant and eat really good food and also margs and then Barhop around downtown Tucson for a while.  Great great!  Her friends are cool!
6.  Sunday was brunch at Mikey's grocery/restaurant place and watching the Panthers play football and then the All Souls Procession, which I had sort of adjusted my schedule for and was absolutely the highlight of the Tucson time.  We all got together for face painting and eating and then the parade started and it was the most magical thing.  All of us, all hundreds (thousands?) of us walked around in our masks and costumes for this strange and sacred ceremony with music and praying and an enormous urn.  We dropped in names of people who'd died over the past year and then they lifted the urn up and lit the whole thing on fire and it was sad and happy and beautiful and we danced across the stage even though we weren't supposed to.
7.  I left the next day (sad face).  BUT!! not before Gen asked me to be a bridesmaid in her September wedding, which means: I get to go back.  And guess who just bought her bridesmaid dress last night.  See ya soon, Tucson ;)