Monthly Archives: February 2013

Now what?

My 4 readers are probably thinking, “With all this great experience, you must have gone on to do something amazing that I’ll never achieve and shouldn’t even attempt to reach for.” You are correct in that assumption.

Upon my return, I floated back and forth between home and Pittsburgh for a little over a month. At home I relaxed, hung out with friends, and indulged in the sweetness that is free food and no rent. While that was nice, I knew my parents wouldn’t let it happen too long, so I also began applying for jobs.

When I visited Pittsburgh, I mostly hung out with my friends that I hadn’t seen in a few months. It was great seeing everyone, but when asked “How was California?!” for the 27th time, I gave up any hope of expressing emotion in my answer.

In mid-September I took a job with the company I had been working part time for all summer. The office is in Pittsburgh, so I moved out and got the ball rolling. At first I lived alone, but that sucked and was really expensive. So I moved in a with a friend.

Since then, I’ve been working two jobs and trying to figure out the transition into adulthood. It’s harder than it looks. Sure it’s tough to graduate, but afterwards is plain weird.

Which brings me to my next point (and title of this post) – now what? The trips are over, which means no more reading about me galavanting across the United States. I want to keep writing, but I don’t want to write aimlessly. As much as we all like surprises, a blog post that you can’t relate to is less useful than men’s nipples.

So, over the next week or so I’ll be deciding between a couple of themes I have in mind. Try to keep your pants on while I pick.

 

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

We drove the hour and fifteen minutes to Pittsburgh from Betz’s house in the morning to drop him off before I headed back to Middletown.

He and his friends moved into my old house from the year before, so it was really strange dropping him off there. It was the first time I’d seen my old place since I left so long ago. A pang of sadness hit me when I realized it wasn’t my place anymore. Then I got over it.

After dropping him off I headed out on the final leg of the trip by my lonesome. It was the three hour drive from Pittsburgh to Middletown down the mundane PA Turnpike. Normally, I’d make some sort of quip about the turnpike being equal to one or more of the gates of hell, but today was different. The painfully boring trek through western and central Pennsylvania has never been more welcoming. It meant I was going home.

Although I went longer periods of time without going home while still in college, this stretch felt much longer than normal for obvious reasons. I gained so much life experience in the last two months that I couldn’t even begin to describe it to someone. When my friends asked, “How was LA?” I never knew how to answer. “Good” would normally suffice for them, but inside I knew that it was so much more than good. I wanted to describe every minute of everyday, every beach, every work week, every mile on the road trip there and back. I wanted to talk about the people and the scenery, the drivers, the weather, the ocean, the culture.

The friends that did get to hear everything probably wanted to kill me. I was the obnoxious person returning from a semester abroad – all I could do was think and talk about everything that happened.

The final road trip was great overall. Las Vegas was awesome and I will absolutely be visiting again. I saw a ton of the Southwest, which I most likely won’t intentionally visit again. The Deep South rocked, and I can’t wait to go back to NOLA. I only got a taste of that city and it was sweet. The regular South was alright too. Each place has it’s quirks. Each has its pros and cons.

What’s next? Between these two road trips and other places I’ve been in my life I’ve visited 32 states and Washington D.C. so far. The goal is obviously to make it to all 50. I basically need to visit all the states that touch Canada, including Alaska but not including New York or Vermont. A few stragglers in the Midwest (I’m looking at you Kansas), and of course, Hawaii.

The three hours went by faster than I ever thought. I got off the turnpike and drove the familiar six roads to my house. As I pulled into my neighborhood, a sigh of relief overwhelmed me – I was home and it felt great. I parked in my spot in front of the house, walked across the yard, and opened the front door.

“MOM?! I’M HUNGRY.”

Ain’t no party like a Xavier party. Honestly.

We headed north to Cincinnati. The drive was only about 2 hours or so, but after driving around so much earlier, we were pretty exhausted. We managed to get turned around leaving Maker’s Mark – probably because it’s in BFE Kentucky where there’s no reception – so we took an odd route to get there. Once again more back roads, which is cool but really slow.

Our drive took us through Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky. We actually drove right past the Capitol building. It was on a really nice tree-lined street. I popped my head out of the sunroof at a red light to get a picture.

Convertible guy

The picture turned out to be of mid life crisis man driving his convertible instead.

The drive was relatively painless. We got to Cincy in the early evening to stay with Betz’s friend at Xavier. She made us dinner, which was awesome. She lived in a pretty big house, so we met the roommates and began the festivities for the night. We had a few drinks at her house while we got ready, played some games, and so on. Then the fun really began.

We went to a house party somewhere. When we walked in, there weren’t very many people there. Everyone was very segregated into their friend groups like it was a middle school dance when guys and girls are afraid to talk to each other. A really drunk guy stumbled by with a beer bong. However we couldn’t find any beer. The three of us stared at each other in astonishment. Xavier parties make Pitt parties look like a club in Barcelona.

After leaving the crashing and burning meet and greet we headed to some bars downtown. We danced around and did things that people do at bars like wait in the bathroom line and constantly look for your friends.

I slept on the couch that night and woke up to one of the roommates and her parents walking around the living room. So there goes my dignity. It’s a shame all my clothes were on – things could have gotten really weird then. After they searched for a phone in the couch I was on for some time they left and I slept a few more hours.

Betz and I left around 11 or 12 to head back to his house in Greenville. It’s about an hour and fifteen minutes north of Pittsburgh. On the way there we jammed out to Soulja Boy to rid ourselves of the crippling boredom that Ohio brings to America.

YOUUUUU

Good luck other drivers.

We arrived at Betz’s in the early evening. I met his family (sans father but including niece and nephew), saw his house, ate venison for the first time (that’s deer, folks), saw his farm and multitude of animals (including an awesome dog), had a bonfire, met another friend of his, chatted a lot with all these new people, and called it a night.

In the morning I was heading home for the first time in what felt like a year.

Finally.

Making my mark at Maker’s Mark.

We woke up late and bolted out of our friend’s place faster than Twista can finish a verse. We were heading to Loretto, KY to go to the Marker’s Mark Distillery but were going to have to make it fast or else we’d miss the 3:30 tour – the last of the day.

We were nearly across state lines when we realized we hadn’t gotten any Georgia peaches. Luckily there was a random peach stand when we got off to get gas, so we stopped to pick some up. I bought a basket of peaches. I don’t like peaches. So that was a poor choice.

Peaches (n Cream)

We entered Tennessee and the scenery took another change – this time for the better. It’s a gorgeous area full of rolling hills and green fields and trees. I made and obligatory “You’re the only ten I see” joke to Betz and proceeded to lose cell phone reception and fall asleep for a while.

We were surprised to see that this is the where the city all those jacked dudes in 300 were fighting about.

THIS IS

We didn’t want to get involved in their little fight so we kept going. Soon we entered Kentucky. Kentucky is very much the same as Tennessee except that it’s more north and less God fearing.

We got off the highway pretty early in Kentucky since Loretto is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Those are the best types of trips because you get to see the countryside for all it’s worth. Also there are no cops so the rules of the road only apply to annoying law abiding citizens.

As we approached the Maker’s Mark distillery we realized that we hadn’t brushed our teeth that day. Because we were all jacked up on testosterone from passing the Spartans, we chose to do exactly what is pictured below.
Mobile bathroom

We got to Maker’s Mark just in time for the last tour. Our tour guide was a little blonde girl with more attitude than Queen Latifah in Barbershop 2 when she argues with Cedric the Entertainer in his baby pool. She led the tour pretty quickly (she obviously wanted to go home) but it was still a pretty cool tour. We got to see the entire process that Maker’s Mark goes through to become the wonderful drink that it is.

I won’t bore you with the details (mostly because I can’t remember them) but it was a really interesting tour. One downfall though. My beer poop from the night before decided to strike about 10 minutes in. The tour was about an hour long. At first is was a slow, dull pressure, but with each step and each stop it became worse and worse until it felt like little rats were clawing at my bowels. If anyone bumped into me I was going to annihilate my pants.

As we approached the end of the tour all I could think about were the restrooms in the gift shop. They were calling my name and my insides were begging to meet the stall. Finally she explained how the process of creating Maker’s Mark came to completion and I nearly jumped for joy (I didn’t though because, well, you know).

A huge sigh of relief swept over me as we entered the building that contained the gift shop. Then the second to worst thing happened (the worst being public defection) – she made an unexpected turn and we entered the tasting room. Not only were we not done, I had to sit through a tasting of three different types of Maker’s Mark. Normally this would excite me as I’ve only ever had the regular bourbon, but today was different. At this point I was letting out little farts just to relieve myself of some pain. I looked at the seat I had to sit on and prayed to the Lord above that that stool wouldn’t get covered in my stool.

Ten agonizing minutes later, with sweat beading on my forehead and eyebrows, we were done. As I bolted up to leave, the tour guide announced one last “surprise” – we got to try Maker’s Mark bourbon chocolate. Because the only thing I needed less than holding the behemoth inside my bowels longer was food to make it worse.

I could have skipped the chocolate, but who know if I was every going to get the chance to eat it again? So I ate the delicious morsel and took off on a dead sprint to the bathroom. It was the entire way across the gift shop. I think I set my PR for the 100 yard sprint that day.

And it was worth it. The stalls weren’t some grungy, plastic door, stained toilet seat stalls. These stalls had full length wooden doors, relaxed country music, and wonderfully clean facilities. Until I got there at least. The release was similar to the feeling you get when you’re approaching your front door with your hands full of groceries and someone opens it just as you get there combined with catching your friend doing something really embarrassing and keeping it a secret until just the right moment.

After losing 10 pounds I dipped my own bottle of Maker’s Mark into their signature red wax.

Dippin Bottles

And here’s the perfectly dipped bottle.

My booze

Ok so I screwed up the wax a bit. Whatever. I had a rough day.

We left the distillery and headed to Cincinnati. Which is the hardest city in the United States to spell correctly on the first try.