Friday, December 4, 2009

the adventure of the great Westfalia

So....I bought my dream car. A 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia. It's beautiful. What is even more beautiful is the adventure that I embarked upon just a few short days ago to retrieve it from its previous owner. At a ridiculously early hour (try 5am) on Monday morning, my friend Matt and I headed out of Birmingham heading towards Asheville, NC. Generally to get to Asheville, I-40 is the fastest way but alas, a land slide has occured between Knoxville and Asheville closing down I-40 and making the short drive a much longer one so I opted to go the back way through Ocoee, TN. Little did I know that Highway 64 has also been closed due to, you guessed it, a land slide. So a little quick configuring on my Tom-tom and we have a detour. Well, Tom-tom is not always the smartest little navigator and he began to tell me to turn on these tiny back roads in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. If I was looking for the scenic route, Tom-tom gave it to me complete with a dead-end on a gravel road about 2 hours into the back country. After much frustration, two funeral processions, and several car accidents, Matt and I arrived in Asheville and began the initial meeting with the Westy and its owner. All went well and we went on our way to sit down at Barley's Taproom to enjoy a good local brew and a much-needed dinner. I recommend Pisgah's Belgian-style tripel named Solstice. After filling our bellies, we did some quick shopping around Asheville that included Hops and Vines where I spent over $50 on some brews not yet available in Alabama. I also bought some sweet knit hobo gloves at a head shop that turned out to be perfect for driving the Westy in the cold. We finally checked into our room at the Arthaus Hostel and enjoyed a beer and some fine guitar picking from Matt before getting some shut-eye. The next day was filled with excitement of banks and paperwork of actually purchasing the bus (really, it was exciting but I'm sure no one wants the gritty details). Once said and done, Matt and I got into our respective rides with Matt driving my Camry and me taking the Westy for her maiden voyage to drive up to my favorite place in the mountains known as Max Patch. This is where I-40 plays a trick once again. The exit that I know how to get to Max Patch from is in all reality where the land slide is. Bummer. Tom-tom also screwed up again and took me to a Wal-Mart that doesn't exist anymore. Instead, we shop at the Food Lion next door which was a trip especially all the wonderful stares I was getting for being a slightly dirty-looking hippie with an armful of food (which if you've ever been in back country North Carolina, people are pretty interesting around there....I mean, really interesting). With a quick phone call to my mom, I get the details on the way to detour up to Max Patch but end up getting lost again and I have to three-point turn my Westy on a mountainside with only a gravel pull-off. Talk about an adrenaline rush. After I find my way and finally know how to reach the destination, I pull off at a gas station to top off the oil and have a quick talk with one of the gas station employees (another really interesting North Carolina resident). He asked the usual questions of "Are y'all hiking the AT?""Do you think this thing will make it to the top?" and a definite quote from him: "I saw you drive past here just a minute ago, fairly certain I heard you coming back and knew you musta gotten lost on your way." Oh, to be heard. Anyways, we finally make it Max Patch just after sunset and it is incredibly cold but incredibly beautiful. The moon was out and allowed enough light that we didn't have to use a flashlight. There were little patches of snow on the ground and a wind strong enough to blow you flat over. We stayed out as long as we could stand with the cold before hiding from the wind in the Westy for the rest of the night. All night the wind was shaking and howling against the side of the bus. We woke up to gray light and more nasty, cold, windy, and wet weather. Once our trek down the mountain was complete I stopped at the gas station again to encounter yet more interesting people who I am pretty sure think I'm nuts at this point. After getting advice from the locals on how to dispense my gas, we start our long drive back to Birmingham. Although the drive was long, it was rather uneventful considering I was driving a vehicle over 30 years old. I was a little nervous about not having a valid license plate but I passed several sheriffs and two state troopers with no flashing lights in the rearview so I wiped a little sweat off each time. The only incident I can say happened was at the rest stop just inside the Alabama state line where my starter refused to work. I was lucky that Matt found the solution in a fabulous book that the previous owner left me called "How to Keep Your Aircooled Volkswagen Running Forever." So as the advice went, I popped it into third gear and got out to help Matt push the Westy a few feet back (the thing is heavy and we actually had to have a good Sumaritan come help push). And holy of holies, it started right up. So 8 hours of driving, $30 in gas, and one sore butt later, the Westy pulls into Birmingham and is officially my dream car come true.

Friday, May 1, 2009

less than a week away from a new year

The view from the back porch of the apartment

David and I before hiking in the Sipsey Wilderness

Hiking at Moss Rock in Hoover

The creepy portraits David and I found at the antique mall

My new study area

In just a few short days, I will be a 23 year-old woman. Now, 23 is not a very exciting age. Nothing new really happens like being able to drink or rent a car but I am ready to enter a new year. I can hardly wait for the next day to start every time I'm ready to retire for the night.

I feel like Birmingham is becoming more like home with every day. I'm starting a garden on our back patio/porch and I've already acquired some mint and rosemary to plant. This weekend my roommate and I are also planning do to a little pruning in what we've come to lovingly call the "secret garden." It's just a little overgrown and we are planning on having a few people over for a birthday party. I would love to get a hammock to set up back there too as a little reading and relaxing place for the summer. In the dining room, I've set up a nice study area from some pieces I picked up a the most amazing antique mall I've ever been to. Since I haven't put many photos up lately, I thought I'd leave the rest of the update to speak for itself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the highest highs and the lowest lows

This past month has been a mixture of so many emotions. It's nice that the weather has warmed up and I'm finally able to go outside without freezing my patootie off. I've been hiking a bit with David and planning on doing an overnight trip next weekend in the Smokies with him and Sam Taylor. It will be nice to have some time away from the craziness that Birmingham can be. I'll be even more excited when its warm enough to go swimming.

The apartment is coming along nicely. Pretty much everything is set up except the dining room and we are still making little adjustments elsewhere. I've been working a little too much lately to be able to do much to it but I have used some of my days off to clean and decorate a bit. I'm really loving J.Clyde's. It's a nice reprieve from what I've been doing pretty much all my life. To just be working and not worrying about school or anything is actually kind of relaxing. I'm happy though that I can go back to Montevallo and use the resources down there to continue working on my photography. I've been invited to go on a trip to Romania this August with Karen who travels there frequently and knows the territory well. I'll just have to save enough money to afford the plane ticket and a few expenses. I think I'll be able to do it.

I'm very happy to feel like I am in the place I am supposed to be at this moment. Although this past month has been very difficult for me, I feel like I have made the right decisions. It is in the toughest hour that I feel my most unbreakable and intangible.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

it's nice to have you in birmingham

so it seems that life in birmingham is going fairly swimingly. I'm enjoying being able to kick back with friends and enjoy the "after college" life. It's the real world, but who's counting? So instead of working at Jackson's, I managed to get my foot in the door and J.Clyde's. Server extraordinaire at your service! My sleep schedule suffers for the late nights and my feet suffer from running around all the night but its worth it. The people are pretty fantastic and I don't mind a few drunks every once in a while. It's also nice to have a bed to come back to in birmingham every night. I definitely don't miss the couch-surfing days. The apartment still hasn't quite gotten together yet. We have a few boxes left to be unpacked and cable/internet hasn't been hooked up yet. Hopefully within a month everything will be set up and looking mighty fine so we can start entertaining.

I am still a little disappointed about the Peace Corps but I think that at least a year working on my own will do some good. I'm already learning alot about how I cope with managing money and the little surprises that life seems to spring on me (like getting my debit card number stolen, oh my!). The real world seems too surreal to actually be real yet. Its also a little too fun.

More updates when the internet gets set up!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

a new lease (on life)

I've found that decisions aren't always that easy but sometimes once you make them, things start to fall into place. I decided to defer my Peace Corps application and move to Birmingham. It's a scary thought with the negative attitudes about the economy and job security but I've done some pretty scary things before and made it through relatively unscathed. I believe I work out my problems through words and conversations. I've talked with many people who are important to me in my life about the decision to defer and most of them were pleased with the idea. They did not want me to give up the dream but at the same time felt it would be a smart move to take a year off to get my head straight. I guess the thing I am most worried about is that I have never truly lived on my own. The good thing is that my parents have provided me with the tools I will need to do it. I've learned from them how to budget, save money, be respectful to others, and work hard. This gives me a little more confidence when taking the full and total flight from the nest.

As for Birmingham, I have discovered in a week that I can find a roommate, a job, and an apartment. Well, the roommate was a given. I'm very excited about the new place I am moving into THIS WEEKEND. It's got all the character and charm that I love, two separate bathrooms, and a city view from a private deck and porch. It will also be the first lease I will ever sign without a cosigner. (I have credit! I feel like a real adult!) The job is at Jackson's which I believe I got with plenty of help from my brother. It will hopefully be temporary as I have an interview this week with a new hotel opening up in April that can offer full-time plus benefits. It seems that Birmingham will be my home for at least a year and to be honest, I am okay with that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

dreams on hold?

It seems I'm coming to a great crossroad in my life. I have a choice to make in the next few months and I'm not quite sure I'm ready to make it. I can either sit around in Guntersville and wait for the Peace Corps to come through sometime in the next year or move to Birmingham and work for a year while hopefully earning more experience to realize the dream of Peace Corps later. I'm not really sure which I want to do. I know after living for a month in Guntersville that I will not be able to find a good job here or be able to stand not having peers around. I am young and there are not too many young people in Guntersville. I am comfortable in saying that I am not giving up on my dreams but it may be smart to postpone them for now. Hopefully now with Obama in office, Peace Corps will receive the funding it needs to expand their numbers and programs. It is sad that our economy is in such a state and that I have entered the "real world" at such a time. It makes decisions a little harder. I am hoping this decision will come easier when I call my Placement Officer next week. I have a few questions about how likely it is I will get into a program by June, what my options are as far as putting my application on hold, and when the cut-off dates are for the next programs. Maybe that will clear a few things up.

Life is complicated. Sometimes too complicated.

Friday, January 2, 2009

good news, bad news, and everything in between

first the bad news. let's just get it over with. I talked to my Peace Corps placement officer once again and it seems that all the positions have been filled through March. Kind of a downer.

now for the good news. They are still considering me for the Spring and Summer invitations. I got some good advice to build up my resume some more by volunteering and taking some Red Cross classes. This also gives me a little more time to spend with my family before I leave for two years. Maybe it will be a blessing in disguise. Another bit of good news is that I am all moved into my new place in Guntersville. It's cozy and I will post pictures once I get everything cleaned up. It's been a busy few weeks since graduation with the New Orleans trip, Christmas parties, and visiting with friends. I am happy to have at least heard some news than no news at all. Keep praying for me and I'll keep you posted.