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Day 15

June 14, 2010 10 comments

Location: Haddonfield, NJ 

Miles Driven: 190 

Total Miles: 3,159 

3000 miles!  A definite milestone, I think.  The first thing I could think of is a song by one of my favorite folk musicians, Ellis Paul, entitled “3,000 Miles” 

Left Bethesda around noon, said my goodbyes, and headed Northeast towards southern NJ.  I knew I had to be back in the North when I paid around $15 in tolls to travel for under 180 miles of traveling.  I failed to hit up an ATM before getting on the road, so I had to reach into the big bag of coins to pay most of the tolls (I imagine the lady who accepted $5 worth of  coins was not too happy with me). 

Some bug splatter up front, but the Mazda is doing great

Back in somewhat familiar territory

My plan was to head towards the town of Medford, NJ where my friend Kelly’s parents and brother have an ice cream shop called Coneheads.   It worked out that ice cream was the exact pick-me-up I needed, and I couldn’t have met a nicer group of people.  Kelly’s parents, Ken and Mame, and her brother, Brian, were so very welcoming.  They made a great waffle-cone brownie sundae for me, and I enjoyed that while chatting with everybody. 

Me, Ken, Mame, and Brian

I even got a tour of the operations, learning how ice cream gets made.  It was like I was in the TV show “How It’s Made.”  If anyone is in the southern Jersey area, I highly recommend a visit to Coneheads.  Great people, great ice cream, and some great artwork inside.  Here’s one of my favorite paintings that hung on the wall: 

I love the subtle replacement of his microphone

So go check it out!  You won’t be disappointed  

Coneheads 

617 Stokes Rd.  Medford, NJ 08055 

Had just a half hour drive from Coneheads to my buddy Sam’s place in Haddonfield.  Hadn’t seen Sam since New Years.  We arranged a small get together at a nearby bar for my friends in the Philly/Moorestown area to all meet.  It’s been years since I’ve seen some of these guys. 

Jenna and Adam. On my last trip in 2005, saw these guys just a day or two into the trip. Glad we got to meet up again.

Breton (Sam's roommate) and Sam

Chloe and Nachiket. I went to grad school with Nachiket, and this was the first time I got to meet his wife. Turns out she has a brother in Alaska that I'll be able to link up with in Anchorage. Very cool

Best friends since Kindergarten

Thanks to all my friends who came out last night.  What a great time.  The plan for Monday will be to check out Valley Forge, and then I’ll be fixin for home in Endwell, just about a three-hour drive or so away. 

joe

Categories: Uncategorized

Days 12-14: Maryland

June 14, 2010 6 comments

Location: Bethesda, MD

Miles Driven (since Newport News): 310

Total Miles: 2,969

As I write this, I’m sitting in my old apartment in Bethesda.  My friends are gearing up for a conference that runs all week; a conference I would attend if I was still working.  Since everybody was going to be in town the weekend before, this was a definite “planned” stop along the way (as non-schedule driven as I like to be).

As un-emotional of a guy I like to think I am, it’s been a fairly emotional weekend for me.  I’ve become pretty close to a great group, not to mention the people I spent time working with (I worked at three different sites during my year and a half stint in MD).  Many have already gone their separate ways, and some will be moving soon, so it’s strange thinking this group might not get together again for a while.

When I originally left Maryland for Georgia this past January, I don’t think I felt the same way.  I was pretty opimistic we’d all be getting together again shortly afterwards, and sure enough we did, in Atlanta.  Granted, during that move, I didn’t know I would be going to Asia for two years come next January.  I suppose the reality of that has sunk in a little bit, and it’ll be hard for me to say goodbye, I think.  I didn’t think I could get attached like this in a short amount of time, especially with the folks I shared a home with. 

Goodbyes or no goodbyes, I am truly lucky to know such people.  Although it is a little tough to say adios for the time being, there will be fun times in the future, I’m sure.  I’m reminded of a tradition I once experienced at my friend Nick’s wedding in Taiwan:

The day of the wedding, the families and close friends of the bride and groom get together for a big lunch.  Nothing unusual.  But then, after most of the lunch is over with, the groom’s family and friends get up to leave the lunch, without notice.  And I was told not to say “再見” (goodbye).  We left, and we didn’t even acknowledge the bride’s family.

It seems odd at first, but once you understand the reason it makes sense.  Saying goodbye implies you may not see that other person(s) once again, so we leave and get up because we’re eventually going to be together once again, just as if I got up to go back to work after a lunch outing.

Not to say I’m going to just up and leave without notice, but keeping in mind that there will be opportunities to get together in the future is what makes this tough time a little better.  And, of course, the magic of the intertubes helps keep everybody feeling connected no matter how far apart.

Now that I’m done being an emotional mess, let’s continue with what’s been going on:

I arrived in the area Thursday morning after a quick three hour drive and drove straight to my old work site in Bethesda.  There I met up with my friend Frances who has been a big supporter of this trip from the very beginning.  She loves Maine, so I’ve been learning a lot about the state and the area near Acadia National Park from her.  She shared with me some amazing pictures from her past trips, and also gave me some tips on places to see and restaurants to check out.  After that, I went upstairs to say hi to some old work buddies – Jeff, Saj, Mila, along with the nice admins who always looked out for me – Shirley, Karen, and Camille (and Frances).  It was a little odd being a ‘guest’ in the place I used to work, but also liberating at the same time, knowing I didn’t have to return early in the morning or be there til late at night.

Left Bethesda to meet up with some old coworkers for lunch in Gaithersburg.  Great times at the Old Country Buffet.  I owe a lot of thanks to Steve for helping me with my initial camera purchase back in February.  He is really skilled when it comes to photography and has given me some great tips and insight in my continual learning of how a DSLR works.

Jenny, Me, Don, Steve

From there, I drove to my old apartment in Bethesda.  Once again, I was going to be a guest in a place I used to know so well.  Ashley, my former roommate, kindly left a key out for me.  It was good to be “home” once more.  I then picked up our friend Kelly from the airport, came back, and the old gang was together – Kelly, roommates Matt and Ashley, and myself.  Fun times.

I had to head out once more as I was meeting my friends Bea and Jon (aka “Intern”) for a dinner at a local Malaysian restaurant.  I used to work with these guys in Rockville and I had the fortune of sharing an office with these two.

Me, Jon, and Bea

I don’t think I ever had Malaysian food, and I’m glad I had the chance with these guys.  Jon knows his way around the menu and we ordered some tasty dishes. 

Roti Canai (Indian bread)

Char kway teow

Dessert: Es chendol (shaved ice)

After dinner, I met up with my friends Christelle and her brother Dag.  I’ve known Christelle for a few years, and actually met her when I was in Colombia for my brother’s wedding in 2006.  Turns out she had been in Rockville all along when I was in the area, but unfortunately we didn’t start hanging out until it was closer to the time I was moving. Dag’s another cool dude (despite his passion for the Lakers) I’ve hung out with while living there, and we’ve commisserated over several Washington Wizards losses.

Me, Christelle, Dag

P.S.  If you ever cross paths with Christelle, be sure to ask her for her delicious fried plantains recipe. 

Went out afterwards to my favorite Irish pub in Bethesda afterwards with the group.  I made plans to meet up with my friend Carolyn who had just moved to Maryland along with the folks staying at the house.  Our paths barely crossed, as she was heading back to NY the same day we were heading out for the hike. 

Returned to our home for the weekend to hang out for a bit and then crash, since the plan was to wake up early Friday morning for our drive to Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia.  The planned hike was to Old Rag mountain, and it would be key to get an early start since it’s a pretty popular hike.

Along with Jordan, another friend of the group, Kelly, Matt, and I headed to the park the following morning.  Matt drove.  It was nice going for a long ride without having to be the driver for the first time in a while.

The hills of western VA

It was a beautiful day for a seven-mile hike.  For those who haven’t done it, Old Rag is fairly strenuous, and has a great 1.1 mile section of what’s known as a “rock scramble”, where you work your way jumping, climbing, sliding under, and spider-crawling amongst boulders of various sizes as you get higher up the mountain.  Worked up a real good sweat, and had fun in the process.  Here are some of the highlights from the hike (credit to Matt for some of these photos):

Jordan, Me, and Kelly lingering in the back

Tall trees

Matt ready to get the perfect shot (of Yours Truly)

Taking a break - Jordan, Kelly, Me

Kelly and Jordan navigating the boulders

Group shot along the rock scramble

Amazing views near the top. From this height, you are looking down at birds in flight

Jordan checking out the long drop off the cliff

Almost near the top

I took a movie to hopefully provide a sense of perspective about how high this hike goes.  Old Rag Mountain has an elevation of 3,200 feet, so you are definitely flying fairly high.

I think it was close to four hours we spent on the hike.  Pretty tiring, but a great experience being in the outdoors with friends.

On the way back from the tour we stopped at a winery those guys had visited in the past.  I had never done a wine tasting before so I figured I’d give it a shot.  Actually was pretty fun, and I learned a little bit about the process.  I am no oenophile, but I enjoyed learning how the different wine flavors are created.

Attempting to be a wine snob. "I suspect the grapes were picked a day late..."

Returned home a few hours later, relaxed a bit, then it was time for a night out in Bethesda. Great fun, once again.  The following day, I met up with Bea again.  She took me to a Chinese grocery store to buy me some snacks for my travels (trailmix was running low).  She stocked me up on some great items that will probably last me a couple weeks.  Thanks Bea!

That night, after the US vs. England World Cup game, we held a party in the house – “Shindig off Sugarbush.”  Had the chance to meet up with some old friends and coworkers.  Between the prior night out, and this party, got to see a lot of familiar faces. 

I was thinking I’d post the photos from my camera and Matt’s from each of these separate nights, but there are way too many I’d like to share.  So I put together a slideshow here to recap different activites from the entire weekend, along with the previously mentioned meetup in Atlanta.  It’s sad that I might not see some of these guys again for a while, but how lucky I am to have had this time with them.  Call me sappy, but this is a good way to put all those fun times together.  The music I chose is the song “This” by the band No More Kings.  I like it because I take it to be a song about enjoying the simpler things, and moments, in life.

joe

Categories: Uncategorized