Sorry, blog. I’ve been a terrible friend.

So I started this blog to chronicle my adventures in the West and, so far, I have failed. Out of the 5 weeks I have been out West, I have blogged twice. Super fail. I just wrote a long, long email to my aunt catching her up on everything that I’ve done, so I’m typed out at the moment (the email took me an hour to write). Instead of writing a whole bunch in this post, I’m going to provide you with pictures and short, but sweet, captions! I promise to catch you up on the details of institute later, in manageable mini-posts.

Warning: There are 31 pictures in this post and then some fun numbers representing my summer so far.

Leaving Induction in Denver for Institute in Phoenix we had 10 people, at least 10 bags to be checked, and at least 10 bags to be carried on to the plane that we fit into a 10 person max Super Shuttle. It was a miracle.

Poor Katie got stuck with the bags in the back passenger row!

Adios, Colorado!

We stormed through Target the day we arrived at Institute and cleaned them out of essentials like lamps (because our dorm rooms have no overhead lights in the living areas), blankets, light bulbs, and hangers.

A picture of Arizona that I took on the bus ride to school one morning.

Phoenix Institute 2011 Opening Ceremonies

Dutch Bros Coffee within walking distance of the dorms = life saver

We found a black widow spider in our classroom when we were setting up...yuck

I flew to Kansas City the first weekend of Institute for my cousin Kara's wedding! It was beautiful!

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Rogers!

Other than teaching children, TFA is VERY good at providing signage. So good that when I was on my own at the airport I had a ton of self-doubt and worry that I was in the wrong place because there weren't signs telling me exactly where to be and how to get there.

My clipboard with our class slogan "Work Harder! Get Smarter!" and my favorite dog, Bunk : )

Mr. Stacey and Ms. K setting up our classroom!

My Institute school, Solano Elementary, staff tricked us into thinking we'd be doing community service outside one very hot afternoon. Instead it was TFA, Totally Free Afternoon, Day! We had the afternoon off to enjoy ourselves! We were also given these sweet shades!

I took a red eye flight from Phoenix to Tampa, FL to spend 4th of July weekend with Eric and his fam. This was the sunrise on the flight into Tampa.

Eric got me a Camelbak water bottle for my birthday! I feel like I really belong in the West now!!

We went to a Rays v. Cardinals baseball game and ran into Eric's college roommate, Tyler, and his girlfriend, Lindsey!

Rays v. Cardinals - 7/2/11

Beautiful Florida Gulf Coast

It was such a wonderful, relaxing weekend.

I spent the night of 4th of July in the airport with a flight that was delayed 2 1/2 hours. Even so, I was patriotic and totally red, white, and blue. My other carry-on suitcase was even red!

Arizona's way of watering the lawn each morning...

View on our drive to the Salt River where we went tubing like we did in Florida at Bear Paw!

View of Arizona from the parking lot of the Salt River Tubing Company

Mike manning the cooler

Half of our tubing group!

The copy/print center that was set up specifically for TFA this summer.

Signage. Everywhere.

Signage. Everywhere. Even on trees!

and even with riddles/puzzles!

The walk back to my dorm from the copy center/rec center/classroom buildings we have sessions in on Fridays.

Phew! That was a ton of pictures. Sorry for that build up! Now for some stats:

Miles traveled since I left Florida on May 28: 12,977

Flights taken between May 28 and now: 7

Weekends from May 28 until today: 7

Weekends I have traveled since May 28: 5

Cups of coffee consumed: 18 (less than 1 per day! but I won’t tell you how much Diet Coke/Sprite I drink…)

Lamps purchased: 2

Average hours of sleep per night during the first two weeks of institute: 4

Average hours of sleep per night during the 3rd and 4th week of institute: 6 (getting better!)

Number of students taught this summer: 19

Projected number of students I will teach in the next two years: 200+

We have one week left of Institute in Phoenix. Then I’m off on (another) flight to Florida to see Eric and pick up my puppy, Bunk! Bunk and I are flying back to Denver to find a place to live on Sunday and I start TFA and DPS (Denver Public Schools) training a few days after that! I can’t wait to get back to Colorado to explore and meet my students!!!!!!

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Induction in Denver!

Hello again! TFA Induction started officially yesterday, but I flew into Denver on Tuesday for an early hiring fair opportunity.

Disclaimer: My posts this summer WILL be jumbled and might not make a lot of sense in terms of time and when things happen. So much is going on and sometimes I forget when events happened!

Mountains in the distance as we approached Denver

It. Has. Been. Crazy! There are 236 2011 TFA-Colorado core members and so many opportunities to meet people. We have structured reflection groups, seminar sessions, and meals to help us meet a broad group of people. I have already made some pretty weird and great connections with other CMs like…

  • My roommate at Induction is a Gamma Phi from Puget Sound and was president of her chapter the same year I was (2008)! There are two OTHER Gamma Phis here too making the total 4! To top it off, I met an Alpha Phi and an Alpha Gamma Delta which completes the Syracuse Triad!
  • One of the CMs in my dinner group tonight announced that she went to Appalachian State. I asked if she knew my friend, Lauren, who I met while living in Charleston and they are in the same sorority!! I learned a fun new fact about Lauren – she was the Kazoo Band leader. Really, Lauren? 🙂
  • I have found a few Cubs fans and also some anti-Heat fans (Go Mavs!).
  • and lots of other random and great connections

During registration we received TFA-Colorado t-shirts so now I really feel official!

I visited the local TFA office downtown for an interview with a school in the Springs. It was really neat to see it in person!

One of our sessions this morning had us exploring local communities. My group ventured to Southwest Denver to a predominately Hispanic and Vietnamese neighborhood. It was neat to explore and learn about that community. We stopped in a grocery store and some of the women in my group got pan dolce which I assumed simply meant sweet bread…

During our community experience excursion we passed Florida Ave!

Tonight we went to dinner in small groups with TFA alumni. Our group went to a Mexican restaurant called Lime. It is right downtown on a very cute street that was all strung up with Christmas-type lights. I highly suggest checking it out for anyone visiting Denver – the food was great and it looks like it would be a fun place to grab drinks at night!

During the opening ceremonies dinner last night a TFA alum who now works as a principal in a local school spoke. She gave us some really great advice, encouraging words, and really lit a fire under our butts about closing the achievement gap. She also provided some information about Colorado that I’d like to share (even though she told us not to):

  • Colorado is one of the states with the most sunny days per year.
  • Never leave home without sunscreen (because of the altitude) or chapstick (because it’s so dry).
  • If you don’t already have one, get a dog because everyone has dogs here.
  • Coloradans (is that right?) are very passionate about their sports teams which is too bad since I will NEVER cheer for Tebow.

I also learned today that 48,000 people applied for the 2011 TFA Corps, around 5,000 or 11% were accepted, and 30% of those accepted ranked Colorado as highly preferred. I feel pretty lucky to be placed in Colorado and to have the chance to live in such a great place for at least the next two years!

Don’t get me wrong – Colorado is beautiful and great, BUT we also learned some pretty staggering statistics about the state of public education here. Colorado is 47th in the nation in graduation rates and is significantly impacted by the challenges that under-resourced schools and communities are faced with.

Even after just two days with the TFA folks, I am beyond pumped about this summer and (at least) the next two years. I can’t wait to actually start learning to teach and DOING it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFSP’s 2011 Overnight Walk

AFSP is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. AFSP sponsors an annual Overnight Walk to help raise awareness and money for suicide prevention and mental health research. I have been involved with the walk since the first one in Washington, D.C. in 2002. This year’s event is my 7th! The walk is typically between 15-20 miles from dusk until dawn. The purpose of walking through the night is to bring the issue of suicide and mental health “out of the darkness and into the light.”

I participate because my mom died by suicide on February 1, 2001. In the beginning the walk was very therapeutic for me. It helped to show me I was not the only one dealing with the emotions I was feeling and that it was OK to talk about. In fact, one of the main purposes of the walk is to bring awareness to the issue and to show people it is OK to talk about and share your feelings. It is hard to feel better without seeking help and talking about it! As the years have progressed and I have participated in more events, my reason for participating has shifted a bit. I still find a lot of therapeutic value in the event, but I also hope to serve as a motivating factor for participants who have recently lost someone to suicide or are new in dealing with the grief and emotions associated with the loss. I want to help show people that it does get better.

This year the walk was in New York  on June 4 and 5th and I volunteered with the crew as Rest Stop 1 team leader. The walk route has rest stops and quick stops along the way that provide walkers with emotional support, water, Gatorade, snacks, restrooms, medical services, and a place to rest for a few minutes if needed. Most of my participation with the walk has been as a Rest Stop or Quick Stop crew team leader. I really love working with a group of people and getting to know them at the event.

The day started with crew check in, team leader meetings, the all crew meeting, and then my crew team meeting all between noon and 3 p.m. We met back up around 4 p.m., grabbed out vehicles, and set out to our rest stop location! We got really lucky with our location – Rest Stop 1 was located at the Brooklyn Bridge Park over looking Manhattan. It was beautiful. The only downside was that the truck couldn’t pull up very close, so we had to walk quite a ways to the rest stop location. We were all sore the next day!

Our theme was 4th of July/red, white, and blue and two of our crew members requested to incorporate butterflies since they are meaningful to them. We put together a poster board with pictures of the people we in memory of.

The following are random pictures I took before things got crazy as the walkers arrived:

 

 

 

 

Crescent!

We were caught by surprise when walkers started showing up because I never got a call from the command center letting me know walkers were on their way! We were just 1.33 miles from the opening ceremonies site, so all of the walkers showed up in a massive group instead of being spread out over time. All 1,800 walkers or so came through our stop within about 30 minutes! It was pretty crazy.

At the beginning, walkers were missing our stop because the signage on the route was confusing. I did a lot of yelling to reroute people and convince them to walk through the stop we worked so hard on! We also needed people to cycle through the stop for a head count to report to the command center.

After the mad rush of walkers, we got to work breaking down the stop and I took a few pictures of our beautiful surroundings.

My aunt drove the huge Budget truck and Michelle navigated. Kiera drove the passenger van with me as a navigator. We dropped off the rest of our crew and then made our way to the Brooklyn IKEA where we were dropping the event vehicles off. We arrived at the Ikea lot around 10 p.m. and hung out with one of the staff members running the event. We were pretty slap happy and it was a lot of fun to joke around – until our short wait for the crew shuttle turned into 2+ hours of waiting in the cold! We caught a break and got a ride from another staff member back to the ceremonies site at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn around 12:30 a.m.

We spent some time reading the luminary bags and cheering for walkers as they came through the end of the route.

Then we ate breakfast (sans silverware because they didn’t have it set out yet), grabbed medical blankets, and found a spot on the lawn where closing ceremonies would take place. It was so cold out, so everyone was bundling up in the medical blankets. I wish I was able to get a better picture – it looked like a bunch of baked potatoes!

Kiera attempting to wrap herself in the medical blanket:

Closing ceremonies started around 5 a.m. and it was a great end to the event. This year’s event raised the most money since 2005 with $2.5 million!!!!

Can you spot the FSU bag on the ground next to a woman in a white sweater towards the left side of the picture?

The 2012 Overnight walk is June 9-10 in SAN FRANCISCO! My aunt and I have already registered and I can’t wait to plan that trip! I hope some friends can join again and we can make it a trip like this year!

 

 

 

 

 

Jet-setting around the country – NYC

Last Wednesday, I flew from Denver to NYC to 1) visit my friends and 2) participate in The Overnight walk. I signed up to participate in The Overnight last summer when they announced the NYC location and was SO pleasantly surprised when two of my friends were able to join me! Kiera lives in the city now, so Michelle and I flew up and are staying with her at her apartment. My aunt Nicole also participated in the walk and crashed at Kiera’s over the weekend.

We did SO much while in NYC – The Overnight, saw the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met, got lost on the subway, had a mini Gamma Phi Beta reunion at Mexican Radio, spent time in Central Park, ate lots of yummy food, and wandered a bit to get some errands done! Here are some pictures from the week!

The Dakota

Central Park

Central Park

Central Park

Making friends with British business men

Crescent sighting in the subway!

Angry Birds in Urban Outfitters

GPB reunion dinner

Requirement of any visit to NYC: Street Meat

The Met

We had lots of adventures and a really good time! I always love visiting New York and especially love getting to spend time with my friends!

My flight leaves NYC for Denver tomorrow at 6 a.m. which means I need to be leaving Kiera’s apartment around 2:30 a.m.! I am not looking forward to that! I am looking forward to starting my TFA adventure though! These next 5-6 weeks are going to be intensive and busy, but I hope to be able to blog about the experience every so often still. I will definitely post pictures to share my new surroundings in Colorado and Arizona though!

See you in Mountain Time!

Welcome to Colorful Colorado!

My first full day in Denver was awesome! The weather was beautiful and just a little cool and I was up early (maybe I’m still on East coast time?) for a walk around Lake Sloan. Monday night I did some quick research to find a 2-3 mile loop or trail that I could walk/run on in the morning. I learned that the city/county of Denver has at least 80 miles of walking and running trails and I really had an infinite number of choices of places to go! I picked Lake Sloan because it was close.

The lake was absolutely beautiful with views of downtown Denver in the background on one side and the mountains in the background on the other. It’s crazy to me that I’m going to be living in a place this beautiful. It ended up being 2.83 miles around which is almost exactly the distance around the lake that Eric and I walked around in Lakeland! What a nice coincidence : ) I did a little bit of running just to gauge how fast I’d feel tired because of the altitude. The biggest thing I noticed was the burn in my nose and throat from the cold, dry air! It’s definitely going to take some getting used to.

After the walk, I did some studying and organizing back at my hotel room. Back in Lakeland, I packed two “carry on” bags that I intended to take to New York. One bag had my interview clothes that I’ll need as soon as I arrive back in Denver next week for my first day of TFA stuff. I realized that carrying two bags to NYC was silly and reorganized all my clothes into one bag to take to NYC and put the rest of the clothes in my bag to leave in my car in Denver. I’m so bad at over packing. Oops!

After all of that, I did some more research online and found a local coffee shop that serves lunch and has free wifi. I ended up going to Geez Louise. It was a neat place with a big coffee menu and small food menu. I had a plain grilled cheese sandwich, and it was delicious. I also had an iced hazelnut latte. Yummm. I did some more studying at the coffee shop and headed around downtown to explore.

Every time I go to a local coffee shop I think of my friend and sorority sister, Megan. She has a great blog about…coffee called A Cup of Mo! You should definitely check it out.

While wandering around, I stumbled upon the Colorado Department of Education! I’ve sent the CDE fingerprints and other paperwork as part of my alternative licensing process through TFA. I also drove down Speer Blvd. which is the road the TFA office is on and the campus where Induction will be held next week. It’s neat to see all of the places I’ve been hearing about the last couple of months!

I have one friend in Denver already. His name is Cole and we met in July 2007 at UIFI, the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute. UIFI is a 5 day Greek leadership institute. I was sent to UIFI that year by FSU’s Panhellenic Association since I was on the Executive Board that year. Most sessions are held at Indiana University and one session is held at UCLA in Los Angeles. I was randomly selected to go to the UCLA session that summer. Cole was also participating and he and I were in the same small group. We became friends and have stayed in touch! He’s doing me a big favor and letting me keep my car at his house while I am in NYC for week before I am able to move my stuff into TFA provided storage for the summer.

Cole and a few of his friends were going to Film on the Rocks for a showing of the Big Lebowski at Red Rocks Amphitheater and he invited me to tag along last night! OF COURSE I accepted the invitation! Red Rocks has been on my radar that last few years and I already have my ticket purchased to the O.A.R. show there at the end of July.

Red Rocks was everything I expected and more. Every time I got up to go to the bathroom or to walk around, I caught myself staring at the rocks, the mountain, and the city lights beyond the stage. It was just unbelievably beautiful.  Unfortunately, I forgot my phone, aka my camera, so one of Cole’s friends took a couple pictures for me and texted them to me. When I go back for O.A.R., you can definitely expect more pictures!

Last night was the kick off to the summer Film on the Rocks event. Every week or so a different movie is shown on the stage and a band is invited to play an opener before the movie starts. We also had a comedian from Last Comic Standing (I think) perform before the movie started. We got there when it was still pretty light out and met up with a couple of Cole’s friends who had been tailgating. Lots of people were tailgating – making food and drinking beer. Also, lots of people had dressed up for the movie. I had never seen The Big Lebowski before last night, so I didn’t get the references right away. Lots of people in robes!

People were going into the amphitheater in pjs, with blankets, other comfy items, and snacks. Apparently you can bring in snacks but no liquids. Seating was general admission and we were able to get seats pretty close to the stage. We laid the blanket out and set up camp. It was awesome! I’m so glad to have a friend in Denver who is able to show me stuff like this. My first day in Denver definitely turned out to be great!! I can’t wait for more adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Kansas City, KS to DENVER, CO!!!!

My last day of driving was yesterday!!! It was so great to finally be on the last leg, but it was going to be a tough drive. At least 75% of the drive was just through Kansas. Western Kansas = boring and WINDY. Also, there were quite a few hills, so I couldn’t use my cruise control the entire way. My car was struggling up the hills when it was set on cruise control, so I had to actually drive the car on my own!

So not only was there nothing to look at and hills preventing me from using cruise control, but the WIND was unbelievably strong! I checked the weather for one of the towns I was in and wind was blowing at a steady 36 mph with even stronger gusts! I saw a semi go up on 2 wheels at one point because of a particularly strong gust. A majority of my drive was spent battling the wind and trying to drive a straight line and stay in my lane.

As I was driving down the long, long highway, I would spot what looked like a small city with a few tall buildings in the distance. I wondered what cities there were in Western Kansas. As I got closer, I realized it was farms with tall silos! Wow. I thought that was pretty funny!

A few pictures from Western Kansas:

Windmills

Road to no where?

Podcasts really kept me sane, and occupied, for most of the drive. I probably only listened to music for 2 or 2 1/2 hours total for the entire 3 day drive. Before the trip, I found Pretty Good Podcasts on iTunes and those kept me entertained a majority of the time. I also spent a lot of the drive talking on the phone. Thank goodness for cell phones!!

When I was almost through Kansas and to the KS/CO border, I got a call from my friend, Alex, who works as a reporter/meteorologist in Texas. She was preparing her 5:00 weather show and saw that there was a tornado warning in NE Colorado! What the hell. I thought that once I got through Kansas, I wouldn’t have to worry about tornadoes! I told my dad and he and Alex kept me up to date on the warning. It kept moving NE into Nebraska – thank goodness! And with that…..

Welcome to COLORADO!!!! Woo!! Only about 2 more hours on the road and I was in Denver!

It was SO cold when I arrived! The weather was in the 50s and windy. I had to fish my sweater out of my suitcase! I was hot in my hotel room because the heat was turned on…imagine that…heat in May/almost June?? I opened the window for a little bit to let the room air out. It was so relaxing laying down with the window open to a cool breeze.

I headed downtown to grab something to eat and ended up at a Mongolian Grill. It seemed like a lot of places were closed, probably for the holiday. I saw Coors Field where the Rockies Play! I plan to attend plenty of those games while I live here!

And that ends my 3 day long cross country driving journey. PHEW! It was a long drive. I’m so glad to be here and excited to explore until Wednesday afternoon when I leave for NYC for The Overnight walk!

Final stats for the drive:

  • Cop count today: 7 (The highest concentration of police officers on the highway was in Georgia and Florida. Interesting!)
  • Total cop count: 25
  • Miles today: 609
  • Total miles: 1,901
  • Hours today: 9.75
  • Total hours: 31.5
  • Cheapest gas so far: still $3.52 per gallon in Dalton, GA
  • Dead deer count: 15 – Obviously Kansas has a lot of deer…

Day 2 – Nashville, TN to Kansas City, KS

Sunday was my second day of driving. I drove through Nashville/Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, St. Louis/Missouri, and Kansas City/Kansas. It was neat to take in the different landscape that Florida doesn’t have like all of the lush green hills covered in grass and trees. I also took in some other sights not typically seen in Florida – poor, dead, roadkill deer. I’m so glad I never drove through the Midwest at night. I would have been terrified of hitting a deer (and subsequently totaling my car!).
I didn’t get to see much of Nashville since I was basically just driving through and was there for about 9 hours. I DID learn that Nashville has gross bugs! The hotel I was staying in was….not the best, so the bug infestation might have had something to do with the gross hotel, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there! This little big guy was hanging out on the balcony outside my room. Gross!

This is a view of (what I think is) downtown Nashville from my hotel room.

Proof that I drove through Kentucky:

Go Cubs! Part of my drive was through southern Illinois. I was born near Chicago (though I only lived there until I was 1 year old) and felt so at home : )

There was lots of beautiful scenery on the first half of my Day 2 drive through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois.

Eric’s mom great up in southern Illinois and her parents and a few of her siblings still live in the area. When I mentioned to her about a month ago that I would be driving through St. Louis on my way out to Colorado this last weekend she told me she’d be visiting her parents that weekend! We worked it out and I stopped at Eric’s grandparents house for lunch! It was great : ) I had pork steak (a cut of meat that is not available in Florida and one that I had never heard of) and lots of bbq style sides with the meat. We sat outside and talked and it was a very nice break from driving. Eric’s mom and cousin showed me pictures of the family around the house. I was able to pick out Eric and his sister’s baby pictures. I also saw Eric’s grandma’s bulletin board full of pictures of the grand kids. I’m on it!! There’s a picture posted up there that was taken of Eric and I at the Gator Bowl game a year and a half ago 🙂 I’m so glad that I was able to see them. It was my first time meeting anyone from Eric’s mom’s side of the family. I hope they liked me!

St. Louis Bread Co? I thought it was the Atlanta Bread Co. Ha!

The drive through Missouri was 5 hours long and terribly boring. That drive definitely made me home sick, but I think it was because it was 1) boring, 2) I didn’t have much to look at, and 3) smack in the middle of my 3 day drive. I saw something interesting though which made me think of my favorite TV show, Friends. Somewhere in Missouri there was an older gentleman sitting in his wheelchair on an overpass looking out over the oncoming traffic. He had an American flag and POW/MIA flag hanging by his wheelchair. I wonder if he sits there every day, most days, or just for the Memorial Day weekend. I wonder where he comes from and what his life is like. That made me think of the Friends episode when Joey is deciding whether to take the North or South route from NYC to Vegas and debating on whether he’d like to see the sights on either route. Friends always relates to real life!

I stayed at my cousin Kara’s house in Kansas City. I was pretty bummed that I was driving all of Memorial Day Weekend and wouldn’t have the chance to celebrate, SO when I found out there were Memorial Day fireworks in downtown KC, I was so stoked! Not only did I get to see fireworks, but I also got to see my sorority sister, Shelby! She’s from Kansas and just moved to KC! So good to see her : )

I hadn’t seen my cousin in just over 2 years, I think, so I loved catching up with her and her fiancé, Jon. They are getting married in three weeks, so I will be flying back to KC then! They have a dog named, Nash. Such a cute little puppy!

So that was day 2. So glad to sleep in a real bad in a real house and have great company! Day 3 is Kansas City, KS to Denver!!! 75-80% of the drive is JUST Kansas…hope it’s not too boring!

  • Cop count today: 3
  • Total cop count: 18
  • Miles today: 580
  • Total miles: 1292
  • Hours today: 9.5
  • Total hours: 21.5
  • Cheapest gas so far: still $3.52 per gallon in Dalton, GA
  • Dead deer count (morbid, sorry): 5

Day 1 – Lakeland, FL to Nashville, TN

Today began my three day driving journey from Florida to Colorado. I made today my longest driving day to get it out of the way and (hopefully) make the next two driving days feel short in comparison. The total distance was just over 700 miles and took around 12 hours of straight driving time. Killer! but seriously not as bad as I imagined it would be…

The day started pretty sad because I had to say goodbye to Eric : (. He helped me pack the last of my things into my poor over-packed car.

I drove away from his place and got a phone call from him immediately telling me to turn around and get my bag of toiletries. Oops! I guess I wasn’t ready to leave yet!

Then I was finally off on the longest drive I’ve ever done! I played the license plate game and plan to keep it going on the rest of the drive. I also kept a count of police cars that I saw. I only had to stop for gas twice and stop three times for caffeine/to walk around and wake up. Not bad!

I stopped in Chattanooga, TN to have dinner with my older sister, Michelle, and her 3 of her kids. It was really, really great to see them and I hope they take me up on the offer to visit once I’m settled in Colorado! I left Chattanooga around 9:15 p.m. and was already pretty tired. I knew I just needed to make it 2 hours to Nashville, but the drive was harder than I anticipated. I didn’t think I’d be driving through mountains until I got to the West!! I had to drive through a mountain with winding roads just west of Chattanooga and I thought my car was going to die trying to go uphill. It wouldn’t go faster than 60 m.p.h. without seriously struggling. I called Eric because I was worried something was wrong with my car. As usual, he was the voice of reason and reminded me that my car only has 4 V’s and 100 horses (V4 engine, 100ish horsepower) plus it was weighed down by all of my stuff. I was even more exhausted after all the concentration it took to drive through the winding mountain roads at night and so happy when I made it to my hotel in Nashville.

Since I wasn’t able to take any pictures, here’s some numbers associated with my drive so far:

  • Cop count: 15
  • Miles today: 712
  • Total miles: 712
  • Hours today: 12
  • Total hours: 12
  • Cheapest gas so far: $3.52 per gallon in Dalton, GA

Tomorrow I am driving to Kansas City with a stop near St. Louis, MO to have lunch with Eric’s mom and dad at his grandparent’s house! Eric’s parents just happened to be visiting his grandparents this weekend and it was on my route! Perfect!

When life gives you pen marks, make tie dye shirts!

I think this picture is appropriate to start out this post. Bunk was detoxing from the SPL reunion weekend. He was so exhausted from being around so many people and having a huge backyard to run around in!!

This post is basically just random stuff that happened in the last few days I was in Tallahassee. I need to be more conscientious about taking pictures so I can show what I’m doing! There are always big ducks hanging out with little and baby ducks around Lake Hollingsworth and I never take the time to take a picture. I finally did! I’m slightly afraid of the mama ducks though and secretly hold Bunk on a tighter leash when we walk by them so he won’t be attacked for looking at the babies the wrong way!

So while I was doing laundry a rogue pen got lodged into the vent on the inside of the dryer. EVERY piece of clothing that was in that load of laundry is ruined with pen marks EVERYWHERE. Every time clothes went by, the pen stuck in the vent marked it. Such a shame. I’m bummed mostly for Eric because his nice FSU and Columbia shirts were ruined : (. I decided to tie dye my penned shirts! You can’t really see the markings in this picture, but I promise, they’re everywhere!

After I finished dying the three penned shirts, there was still some dye left. I have so many Overnight shirts, so I grabbed one of the light yellow ones I don’t wear very often because of the washed out color and tie dyed it too! Which shirt do you like best?

P.S. notice how Bunk is behind this shirt. His feet and tail are to the left and head is to the right : )

I can’t take Bunk with me to Institute in Phoenix this summer, so my friend Sara agreed to watch him from today through early July and Michelle will be taking care of him in July until I come back to pick him up on July 16. So in honor of Bunk and dropping him off with Sara today, he gets a second third picture in this post.

Eric was a rock start tonight and helped me pack up my car. It was NOT easy fitting all of my junk belongings in my 2 door Civic, but he did it! I have to leave some things behind, unfortunately, but I was able to pack up all of the necessities and some.

Tomorrow I will start my three day driving journey to Colorado! I’m very, very sad to leave Eric but very excited about the adventure at the same time. This is huge and I can’t believe I’m actually, finally doing it! Tomorrow is a 12 hour drive from Lakeland to Nashville with a stop for dinner in Chattanooga. My sister, Michelle, lives there and I’m so looking forward to seeing her and her kids!!

Adios for now!

Special SPL Reunion

Last weekend I went with Eric to Brandon, FL for a special reunion with his friends. One of his best friends, Shane, is going to Guinea for 2 years with the Peace Corps and is leaving in July.

The group wanted to get together for a special reunion before he goes. SPL is the name of their group and they’re so well organized they’d put some national fraternity chapters to shame! Anyway – we started the weekend in Lakeland at the Flying Tigers baseball game with Eric’s friend Paul. We got GREAT seats and it was fun to be at a baseball game in the beautiful weather! Paul was taking pictures with his fancy camera. When it got dark, he was scolded by the pitcher because a light on his camera was distracting!

We arrived at Matt’s house early around 4 before he got off work. We were expecting him home around 5:30 (or at least I was and I didn’t know all that much), but he didn’t end up getting back until much later than that because he was selling a car!! First day on the lot at his job and sold one of the hardest to find cars in the region! Everyone was so proud :).

Soon after Eric, Paul, and I got to Matt’s house the other guys arrive (p.s. me plus 10 guys? I was a little worried, but it was a lot of fun!). Of course the first picture I took was of Shane and Grey with Matt and his sister as kids. That picture is just so funny.

Eric and Grey posing with food and supplies?

We watched the Preakness horse race and Shane had everyone pick a number out of a hat to cheer on that numbered horse. He even let Bunk pick a number! It was all very high intensity during the race but so anticlimactic when just one horse wins. I mean, I know that’s how it works, but it’s just a lot of excitement for such a short event! Eric picked the winning horse!

Matt has a trampoline at his house, but most of the trampoline fun happened after it got dark and after I went to sleep. Unfortunately (fortunately for some of the guys?) I was not around to take those night time trampoline pictures. Shane did though, so hopefully he’ll hold onto those for the future!

Of course I spied Eric chatting with Matt’s mom in the backyard. Always chatting : )

…and then the next morning, we took the obligatory group photos! Even Bunk was trying to get in!

Boys and the dogs, Thor and Bunk.

It was a really, really fun weekend. Lots of beer pong, a toast by Shane, Preakness watching, grilling out, a next morning picture slide show, and delicious home cooked breakfast!