Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Move, day 6: ARRIVAL

So, our final day of the road trip arrived on June 13th. It was a short, seven-hour drive total, so we moseyed and added a few stops.  Faraday helped navigate us from Greeley back down to Denver.

These skylines start to look the same...


Whew...we made it through Denver. I can relax.

Under the influence of Judy, we decided to visit the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  We've seen the picturesque Naval Academy campus, and while the USAFA campus was much different, it was just as pretty. 

Love your mountains, Colorado Springs.

After the guards oo-ed and aaww-ed over Faraday on a leash in the car, they directed us up to the visitor's center. We took turns cat-sitting and walking around the nice displays on Academy life. Then, the parents and I switched off cat-sitting and hiking up the 1/3 mile trail to the Chapel.

The Chapel was incredible.

I overheard a tour guide describe a bit about the chapel's design. It was designed by the company that created the plans for the tower-formerly-known-as Sears, and was this architect's very first project. He used aluminum siding and the silhouette to represent airplanes and aviation. Also, there were originally going to be 21 spires, representing the Academy's continuation into the 21st-century (though it was finished in the 1960's), but they ran out of money. The most they could add was 17, so there are 17 spires.

Looking up at the roof from inside.

The stained glass is lovely!

Beautiful organ.

Driving out, we admired the whole campus.

Air Force Stadium

Our next stop was the park Garden of the Gods, closer to downtown Colorado Springs. Here there are huge, red rock formations out in the middle of the typical scrubby landscape. They were gorgeous!

We continued on our journey and soon hit another several-hour stretch of wilderness with very little civilization. Unlike our previous day, the scenery changed quite dramatically every so often, from flat plains with views of mountains...

 to being actually in mountain passes at 9000 feet (I drove this leg and my parents mostly slept, so no pictures for you) back to different-looking scrubby plains:

Somewhere nearing the border with New Mexico, we saw some impressive dust devils/whirlwind/thingies. Can you see? The one on the left is a dust devil and the circle on the right is a reflection in the window of a cord. Ignore the circle on the right.

I missed the "WELCOME TO NEW MEXICO" sign, but HERE IS NEW MEXICO!!! My new state!

It's pretty, no?

About two hours later, after passing through Taos, Chimayo, and EspaƱola, we reached The Hill. Los Alamos was purposefully built up on a mesa, fairly far from anything else, as the site of a government research lab, army post, and secret city during WWII. The Hill was terrifying to drive up and down the first time--during my interview visit, it was snowing and icy. Thankfully, we had a completely typically gorgeous New Mexican day to drive it this time.

Pausing at an overlook. I'm in love with this view.

Dad saw at least one of the Truchas Peaks, which he climbed as a teenager. Getting our fill of pictures for now, we drove around the last few bends in the road...

...to my new hometown. Hello, Los Alamos!

States visited: Colorado, New Mexico

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Move, day 4-5: Cousin and Boulder

In case you missed them, check out my other moving and settling in posts here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Current Update and Day in Albuquerque

Another status update: my stuff reportedly left NJ today! Yesss! Today, I got a library card, ran errands, and saw a movie at 1pm on a Monday. I was literally the only person under 50. It was awesome. Now I'm in Starbucks on their wi-fi. It's not a bad life.

So, Day 4. We left Laura's, located a Starbucks despite a rain storm (thanks, iPhone), and headed through Kansas City. GPS/maps/driver/navigators got a bit confused on the highway spaghetti, but we survived.


Just chillin'.

After leaving Missouri, we hit, of course, Kansas. We listened to the Wicked soundtrack. We saw wheat, corn, farms... "Yay, another new state!!" soon turned into, "Oh my...the scenery sure doesn't change much out here...we have HOW MANY MORE MILES TO GO?"

Seeing signs for Aunt Jan's birthplace was fun.

Something happened in Kansas at some point.

Kansas had helicopters, though--that was new!

Also, windmills.

Around lunch time, we started looking for food. There are super long stretches of highway in Kansas without even gas stations. Eventually, we saw a Quizno's sign! Pulling off, congratulating ourselves on finding non-McDonald's, needing to use the facilities, we arrived at the gas station/pizza joint/Quizno's only to see a tiny note on the door: RESTROOMS CLOSED. Inside: a dark and empty Quizno's counter. Well, phooey.

Only seven-ish miles down the road, however, we found an open Subway with open restrooms. Score. Faraday requested a walk by almost leaping out of Dad's arms and through the half-open window. I "walked" him for a few minutes, until he got tired of sniffing dusty pavement.

We're still in Kansas, Muffin.

Eventually (and I do mean eventually--it was probably seven or eight hours) we weren't in Kansas anymore. Helloooo Colorado!

Faraday enjoyed the breeze.

It turns out that, for a while, Colorado looks like Kansas, too. But at least we were in the last state of the day!

Denver Airport says hey. Also, Dad was born in Denver!

We ended up in Greeley, CO, at the lovely home of my dad's older cousin, Judy! She lives in a huge house, in which Dad and Mom got their own room and bathroom and SO DID FARADAY AND I. It was glorious! Faraday pretty immediately fell in love with the stairs--he'd ZOOM up the first flight, scitter and slide through the turn on the hardwood floor, then ZOOM up the second flight.

Judy fed us delicious sloppy joes and salad, then regaled us with tales of her genealogy research. I am so impressed with her skills! We briefly discussed the two of us taking a trip to Germany for further research--she has the research skills, I have the language skills. Perhaps we'll actually do it someday.

The next morning, we did not get into the car. What?! For reals! We spent two nights at Judy's! After sleeping in, we went on a little Greeley walk. Usually, we could see the Rockies from town--but with the fires near Fort Collins, they were covered by haze. So sad.

 Mom, Dad, and Cousin Judy:

I left them before lunch to drive down to Boulder to meet up with good friends from college! The Rockies were glorious. Their home is beautiful. The last time I saw them was in Oxford several years ago, so this was great!

I saw NIST. Hello, NIST!

Our lunch cafe gave us free tiny cupcakes!

After lunch, we dropped Jeff back off at work and Mayumi and I headed to Pearl Street for some window shopping and catching up. What a lovely town!

Why yes, I DO love western mountains!

Swinging Lady

Eventually, I had to say goodbye and drive back to Greeley. But not before saying goodbye to Mayumi's doggie!

 Such a sweet dog. The Queen would approve.

Judy fed us more deliciousness that night and we had more rousing family history discussions. She really is fabulous and I hope to see more of her, and Jeff and Mayumi, now that I'm only one state away!

States visited: Missouri, Kansas, Colorado.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day! And life update.

Due to lack of internet and full-size keyboard (but hellooo great 4G in my house!), we're pausing The Move series.

Basically, I'm living in my awesome townhouse in Los Alamos and just dropped Mom and Dad off at the Albuquerque Sunport (aka airport).  Our seventeen days together FLEW by! Faraday and I miss them already.

My new place is fantastic! My first floor is bigger than my entire NJ studio. I'll do a proper new-home tour once my stuff arrives and I unpack. "Oh, your stuff hasn't arrived?" you ask. No. No it's still in New Jersey. I hear now that this is normal for summer moves, but the company didn't tell me that until I arrived. My parents and I made a huge trek to Santa Fe and purchased air mattresses, towels, lawn chairs, bowls, and bedding, mostly on clearance, so we could move out of the hotel. I also picked up a few work shirts just in case my other clothes don't arrive before I start work on the 25th. I'll survive...at least I have a fridge, broiler pan, and per diem (until my kitchen stuff arrives).

So, my parents left today, after a lovely day in Albuquerque. It was a fitting Father's Day activity: Dad lived there for three years at the end of junior high and beginning of high school. We stopped at a museum (more on that in another post) near Kirtland AFB, which was Sandia Army Base when he lived on it.  He took us by the childhood homes of some of his best ABQ buddies. Finally, we had lunch in Old Town at La Placita, where he used to eat with his parents. He got to eat sopaipillas with honey--a dessert he's raved about my whole life.

Love you, Dad! (And Mom, too!)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Move, day 3: Friends and Fireflies

The first big city we drove through on Day 3 was Nashville! The CMAs filled up hotels within a 15-20 mile radius, pushing us farther out of town than we planned. From the highway, it looks fairly nice:

We were all super excited to drive into Kentucky! Our little hour-long stint in the state was my first visit. I can report that it has a very nice Welcome Center rest stop, brilliant green fields, cows, and horses.

And apparently, Princeton.

 One side effect of driving 2000 miles with my cat that I did not fully appreciate beforehand was The Shedding. My car has NEVER needed such a good vacuuming.

The major tourist stop of our day was Cahokia Mounds State Park in Collinsville, Illinois. Cahokia was home to a pre-Columbian city of native peoples that was larger than London at the time. It boasts many large, man-made mounds of dirt, upon which rulers lived and lorded over the people. While Mom and Dad climbed the largest--Monks Mound--Faraday and I chilled on a bench with his water and litter box.

The dirt, trees, people, and strong winds freaked the dear out. When Mom and Dad returned, Farad LEAPED from the bench to Dad's shoulder, clinging to him and meowing! We quickly retreated to the car. Dad was touched that his grand-cat showed such affection for and trust in him!

Another site in Cahokia is Woodhenge. It is similar to Stonehenge, only wooden. Yes.

Leaving Illinois, we crossed into another new state for me, Missouri! The Arch is quite impressive from the road. Due to cat restrictions, we opted not to stop, but I'd like to visit it in the future!

 Finally, after leaving the fast highway for slower, windier, farmland-ier roads, we arrived in Warrensburg, MO, at the home of my best, oldest friend, Laura.


Last time I visited, they were in NC and she and her husband, Dustin, only had two kids. NOW THERE ARE THREE!

Hannah, Luke, and Mary Anna are just adorable. Hannah immediately showed me her new room, which is quite swanky, and the quieter Luke warmed up to me soon and gave me the tour as well.

Mary was the real test. After momentary shyness, she came to me! I got to hold her for so long! This baby whom I've gotten to know via her frequent appearance on my Facebook feed liked (or tolerated) me! Yay!

Faraday, now, has never really met children. Small, hyper people are apparently not his thing. The kids were sooo eager to be his friend, though. Maybe I can find children in NM with whom to socialize him.

Laura is such a wonderful hostess. She fed us a delicious dinner and set us up with such comfortable accommodations. Dustin and Laura seem like great parents, too--it's fun to watch friends with kids!

After dinner, Mom, Dad, Hannah, and Luke hunted for fireflies. Mom's never really seen them, so it was a treat. They caught the glowing bugs, Laura put them into a water bottle, and Mary chewed on the bottle.

Finally, we all went off to bed, got up early, said goodbye to our friends, and hit the road again!

States Visited: Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri