Originally I had planned to visit William and Mary for another round of birthday celebrations before coming home for the weekend, but hurricane Irene began to look more and more frightening on the radar screen. Even if the severity was all hyped up and nothing would happen (as usual) any major storm would flood my street, turning my neighborhood into a secluded island. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge deal – but it was Thursday and my new internship started Monday morning in Tennessee. So, I would simply reverse my order, going home for a day and then seek shelter at the higher ground of Williamsburg.
Except, just as I pulled into the driveway of my house for the first time in three months, the college emergency notification service called me and an automated voice declared that the college would be closed as of noon tomorrow. Everyone out of the dorms now. I immediately went into contact mode – did everyone have transportation? Where were out of state students going to stay? Was there any sort of plan? I hastily and grumpily flung my clothes from the car into the laundry before massively unloading the rest of my clown-packed car into the living room. Soon I learned that everyone was accounted for, a relief despite my disappointment in not getting my college reunion.
I visited my next-door neighbor Ann and got some delicious and calming pie and soon after my dad came home from the grocery store. My cats were delighted to see me (at least I would like to think so) and I cuddled Graycie until she began to look annoyed. Meanwhile, my relatives from my dad’s side of the family in upstate New York were in town. It was the first trip down that they had been able to make in years and the hurricane was about to cut it short. Again, though it was the first time I had seen my dad in several months, soon we were both out the door to meet up with the relatives for dinner. It was wonderful to see everyone again and the restaurant we ate at had the most gorgeous waterside backdrop – made even more impressive by the tempestuous winds beginning to toy with the waves.
We came home full and happy, and I vegged on the couch eating more junk food (and by that I really mean popcorn) and watching more tv (and by that I mean a USA marathon of Psych that turned into another marathon of Monk) than I had in a while.
The next morning we said good-bye to my Aunt Lorraine, Uncle Bill, Aunt Judy, and Uncle Doug before they began the drive west away from the storm. I continued to stuff my car full of whatever random things I believed I would need for the coming semester. My visit home had been less than 24 hours, but I needed to push on.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Having arrived so late and figuring the next leg of my next journey would be another 8 hours, I decided to spend the day in Colorado Springs and tour the town (Lydia’s pleading also helped a little with this decision). I woke up at 9 and peacefully read and fooled around with pictures on my computer until Lydia was awakened by a phone call. Lydia’s sister’s husband Nestor’s (ok so my second cousin in law??) car had broken down. His cursing Spanish amid rapid broken English radiated over the speaker and soon Lydia was calming him down and we were both out the door to the rescue. We picked him up, called several people, consulted a few mechanics, attempted to drive the car only to have a piece of metal drop from the bottom (never a good sign), and finally got a tow truck. Lydia was cool-headed the entire three hours as I watched from the back seat, more entertained and grateful for my own car’s reliability thus far, than bored. Lydia loaned him her car and I became the driver for our tour of the city. Despite my alarm going off every time I turned the car on (now for real this can’t be my fault every time) and me stalling on the side of a hill during a hairpin turn, the drive was quite nice. We drove through a blur of sites like Old Colorado Springs, Manitou, a kind of cultural/artsy downtown area, Miramont Castle, and the railroad car station that takes you up to Pike’s peak (a day’s journey I didn’t feel was necessary). We had stopped by the visitor station and gotten both a map of the local streams with a breakdown of their chemical components and a handful of tiny samples of locally made smelly-good lotion. In most places of the world and even the U.S., they warn against drinking water from the tap, let alone directly from a stream. Here, they pass out cups for just that. So throughout this tour we would stop at a random spot and stick our cups under an artistically designed spigot. The water was carbonated and not really my style but still really interesting just the same. The differences in iron you could especially taste. Having just finished a watershed class where we talked a lot about the chemical components of streams, I tried to analyze the water a little bit, but soon settled back into the summer mindset of forgetting everything I have ever learned.
The thing to see in Colorado Springs is Garden of the Gods. My grandmother begged Lydia to take me there, but honestly, Lydia would have taken me there anyway. The city park is filled with a curving road for driving tourists as well as side trails for bikes, hikers, and even horses. The ground is somewhere between grassy and desert, with majestic terracotta/burnt sienna (yes, I am familiar with my crayon colors) towers of rock jetting out toward the sky in noteworthy shapes. One rock is called kissing camels, another balanced rock, and yet another steamship rock. I was enthralled with climbing and exploring, slightly upset I didn’t know geologic terms off the top of my head, but overall just engrossed. Having thoroughly driven throughout the park, the sun was beginning to set, and we were getting hungry from the long expedition, so we headed home. Back at the apartment, Skippy’s son Joey (are we on third cousins now, or am I just making things up?) joined us for pizza and cinnasticks as a reward for bringing over a new DVD player for Lydia. Amongst other dinner table discussions, Joey and I decided there was evil in the world because not everyone can go to art school. We also discussed everything Lydia and I had toured that day and as a final hurrah Joey decided to take me up to the side of the mountain. I had another moment of camera failure (I had brought the camera but the memory chip was still in my computer), so you’ll have to take my word for the scene being just gorgeous. If the sky had been clearer, the city lights would have looked like a reflection of the brilliant stars above. Joey did his best to explain the geography of the city to me through the use of “blinky lights” (the technical descriptor of course) as markers. We drove up the side of the mountain until we came to a dirt road, and then just kept on going. The road was thin and probably very steep on either side, but Lydia had assured me that he was a good driver before we left, so I gazed out the window, lost in thoughtlessness. We stopped by Helen Hunt falls on the way down and drove to more of Joey’s old high school hangout places, armed with ice teas from the gas station and discussing music preferences, stupid high school pranks, and various family stories. We stopped by Joey’s house in search of Lydia’s precious, but lost, Casablanca DVD, and I ended up staying, engrossed in conversation with Skippy, his wife Lynda, and daughter Lisa on family history, which evolved into a conversation on environmental issues, which degraded into politics and the gold standard. I really wish I had the ability to persuasively present my political views, but I am really only comfortable with a subject if I know the facts inside and out, and in politics this is hardly ever the case, so I’ll stick to my science. Joey quickly saved me with a tour of the house and a journey to the basement where I watched some of his productions from film school and obtained a CD of old family pictures. We ended the evening at around 2 or 3am on Lydia’s porch, discussing Star Wars and Carl Jung’s steps to becoming a hero, snacking on fruit gummies and our empty drinks.