Monday, October 12, 2015

A Windy City Wedding

Back in April, one of my good college friends was getting married in Chicago. I had never been to Chicago, despite living relatively close to it for 4 years, so I was excited to finally pay a visit.
Evan and I both flew for free, thanks to sky miles, and we stayed in a hostel in the Arlington neighborhood near Lincoln Park, which was a really lovely area of town. This is what $85 a night can get you in Chicago (with a shared bathroom down the hall).
The hostel was being (inexplicably?) occupied by a large class of French students on a field trip, so there was never a shortage of people hanging around. Our hostel room had an unexpected guest who hung out with us as well. I think this is Katharine Hepburn, though I don't think Hedy Lamarr would be too far off either.
The weather was pretty dismal; highs in the 50s, gray, cloudy, and drizzly most of the time we were there.. quite a change from the South, where the redbuds had bloomed 2 months earlier and where we were starting to hit highs in the 70s and 80s each day. But I hear that's just how the Windy City rolls.

One of the best parts about Chicago is the L (or "el" for elevated train system). It took us everywhere we needed to go at any time, it ran regularly, and it was completely reasonably priced at $2.25 a ride to most anywhere in the system. We used it to get from Midway to the hostel, to bars and restaurants, and to downtown. We also used Uber for the first time, and it was a smooth, easy experience, waiting for 2 minutes on the corner and getting dropped off at the hostel doorstep (for free, since it was our first use).
We hit up the Lincoln Park Conservatory and briefly the Zoo, but mostly we caught up with my old friends who I hadn't seen in a long time, which was quite nice. Also, Lou Malnati's Chicago-style pizza, mmm mmm.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Springtime in Athens

The courthouse was sporting a nice look for springtime (circa late March), and the woods were sporting an even nicer look, complete with morels.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Woooo Spring Break!!!!

We had a plan for spring break this year: drive down with a bunch of graduate students to St. Catherine's Island and hang out on the beach. It was rock solid and on the calendar... so naturally it didn't happen. Turns out the island is more or less privately owned, and our friend who lives and researches there got word that the owners would be vacationing there during the break and wouldn't be pleased with a bunch of vagrants camping out on the beach.

So there went that plan. Evan and I came up with a brilliant backup plan: visiting Unicoi State Park near Helen, and camping out in a Squirrels Nest. A Squirrels Nest is one of 16 roofed platforms that are all connected and sit on the side of a very steep hill. They're actually cheaper than a camping spot, and apparently they had just reopened for the season a few days before we got there.
It was cold and rainy, and the "comfort stations" (restrooms) by the Squirrels Nests had not actually been unlocked yet. We also forgot to bring a flashlight, but there was a giant fire ring by the Nests that provided a little background illumination. In nicer weather a multi-mile hike to Helen and back would probably be in order. Overall, I can recommend a stay in a Squirrels Nest, but it's probably best to time a visit when there's not, say, a troop of boy scouts visiting, as you can easily hear everything that's going on nearby.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Merry Athens Christmas... in May

Athens puts a giant Christmas tree up in front of the courthouse each year, and it looked pretty festive. Another nice touch is that the downtown is lit up during winter nights with white lights.. didn't get a picture of it, but it looks like a little fairy land or something.
And this was my makeshift tree made from a tomato cage, flipped upside down, and wrapped in lights. It's more of a Charlie Brown kind of tree, but it did the trick in keeping guard over the presents.

Friday, May 8, 2015

I Could Never Swim that Far

In October I went to Chattanooga to participate in my third "Swim the Suck" race. It's a 10-mile swim down the Tennessee River, but no, I was not swimming it. I've been a volunteer kayaker for it, which means I paddle alongside an impressive athlete who's actually swimming it, keep their unofficial time, feed them snacks every 30 minutes of so, and make sure they don't get run over by a motorboat.

This year's weather forecast was absolutely dismal. We were all prepared with rain gear and extra sets of clothes, and we knew what the emergency plan was in case of lightning. When I woke up at 6am the day of the race, it was raining steadily, and I thought about how miserable I was going to be sitting in a kayak for potentially up to 6 hours.
To everyone's credit, nobody chickened out on account of the weather. We showed up, and we were ready to go. And as luck would have it, we were all starting to mill about the starting ramp about 30 minutes before race time, when the sun came out.
And stayed out pretty much all day. It turned out to be an exquisite day to be on the river, as the sky gods rewarded us for our bravery. My swimmer made excellent time, and we were off the river in about 4 hours, with tasty food and libations awaiting us. A few swimmers dropped out due to hypothermia, and some powered through nearly-hypothermic, which was rough to see. But for the most part, it was a great day for a race.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Game Days (Go Dawgs!)

I actually went into the football stadium this year, and this was the sight that awaited me at the UGA vs. UTK game:
On the tailgating side of things, check out this ridiculous remote-controlled recliner that can raise itself so high it dumps you out of it:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Asheville: the {insert nickname here} city

Seriously, what is Asheville's nickname? Here's my exploration of potentials.

Wildflower City: It has a nice botanical garden, with cool rocks and lovely plants like jewelweed, ironweed, and some sort of phlox.


Culture City: It has a cool sculpture walking tour you can take around downtown.

Foodie City: It has some good restaurants and breweries, even a bar that makes their own sake.

Future-site-of-a-water-war City: Apparently it's in one of the driest areas of North Carolina situated immediately next to one of the wettest.

Surely one of these must be close!
... Okay, I just looked it up, and apparently Asheville's nickname is "Land of Sky." Yeah, I guess it has some sky. Case closed.