Sunday, July 31, 2011

Virginia and the DC Area

On Sunday of our vacation Matt and I said goodbye to my mom and took a train down to DC to spend some time with his family and some friends we have down in that area.

As expensive as the train is, it beats the hell out of driving. I would never volunteer to drive through DC, although we did toy with the idea of renting a car to get down there. I just wouldn't have handled the last part through the city. In the end we decided the train was better. We left early, we were at the train station by 6:45 (if my memory serves), but the nice thing about long train rides is you can make up on sleep. Matt also wasn't sick with a stomach virus this time, which was also a plus.

Some highlights from our time in DC:

Home cooked dinners ala Matt's Mom
Games and dinner at Faccia Luna with Dan, Arhan, and Sarah
Seeing Charlie and playing at the infinitely superior mini-golf courses in the DC area

Matt and I also took in the DC zoo and the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery. I haven't been to either of these places before. The zoo apparently has two giant panda bears, but it was hot, and they were hiding, and we didn't see them. Much of the zoo was actually under renovations. This actually didn't bother me, I'd much rather see that a public zoo is being kept up and improved. We can always go back and see what we missed next time.

Young lions, living the good life. They're all chewing on cow femurs!

Kiko going to the Think Tank. They have ropes that go overhead across the zoo so they can get around. So cool

In honor of my lab and our work on body size.

Me and a statue of a sloth bear. Didn't get a shot of the real deal, and this would be cute if not for all the stupid purse and camera straps.

Flamingos! Baby flamingo!!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Connecticut Trip: The Final Recap

Some of you may be wondering why it is taking me so long to write about my travels this summer, and why I am doing it after the fact. True, doing it during my trips would have made this simpler, but for security reasons I don't like publicizing when I'm not home for long stretches.

I've also been catching up at school and have had some health stuff come up, but that's another post.

While I was home I wanted to make sure I got at least one beach day in, since New Mexico is land locked, and I don't want to cross over into Mexico to see the ocean. On Thursday we went to Ocean Beach Park, in New London, CT. On the one hand, it's nice to have bathrooms and food easily accessible. On the other hand, it costs $14 to park, which is kind of nutty. But then on the other hand again, it's a pretty clean beach, so I guess you have to pay for it somehow. I never use it, but for an additional fee they also have a small water park and mini golf.

When I go to the beach, my primary objective is to be as lazy as possible. I always being books and snacks and spend a good bit of time sleeping. I did get into the water, of course, and it was a nice break from the heat. Matt was reluctant to go in much further than waist deep, which is actually counter productive. You need to just get in, get it over with, and you'll feel much better afterward. Standing around shivering just allows you to get splashed. Being in the ocean also means you sometimes pick up hitch-hikers, like this arthropod that must have gotten on our blanket via Matt's bathing suit (eek!)...

My other favorite thing about going to the ocean is just walking up and down the shore, looking at whatever I can find. Ocean Beach has a bunch of these pinking half clam shell looking things that are actually snail shells. They're really pretty. While looking out over the water, a huge sail ship was coming in for OpSail, a tall ships event that goes on every year. They sometimes have historical ships, the one we saw was pretty far off shore but I think it was a Class A ship. I could be wrong, I don't really know much about ships.

On Friday evening Lura and Steve had us over for home made pizza and game night. I have to say, I really miss these guys and I always look forward to seeing them when I visit. It's funny because I wasn't super close with Lura in high school, but we've become pretty good friends because we kept in contact through college. There aren't too many people I still see regularly since I've left CT, not because I wanted that to happen, but it takes a lot of work on both sides to keep up.

Matt and I specifically made room in our suitcases to bring some board games along on our trip, with the hopes of having a game night. We successfully stowed away Settler's of Catan and Flux. We brought Settler's to Lura and Steve's, and also showed them a new card game we learned from our friends in Socorro called Oh Bleep! All in all, it was a fun evening.

For some reason that still escapes me, East Hartford had it's July 4th fireworks on July 9th (maybe because it was a Saturday). Matt, my Mom, and I went down to the river for some fried dough, whatever free stuff we could find, and pulled pork sandwiches before the fireworks. Despite my town having no money, and the supposed economic apocalypse that our country is going through, the fireworks were actually really good this year. The town sets them off from two barges in the river, and we got a really good seat up on the levee. Aqua, who I haven't seen in over a year, was supposed to meet us but she got held up and I didn't see her until after the show was over. Regardless we chatted while she enjoyed her much needed fried dough. The next time I'm home, I'm having her over for tea for a proper visit. No excuses.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Big East Trip: Part 2

The remainder of my visit in Connecticut was all about trying to fit in as many activities into one week as humanly possible:

Tuesday evening - Trivia
Wednesday - Wadsworth Atheneum
Thursday -Beach with my mom
Friday - Visited Grandma, Dinner at Lura and Steve's
Saturday - Uncle Dave came over at lunch time for burgers and hot dogs, fireworks in the evening

I don't generally stress too much about having something to do every waking moment when I'm on vacation, but since I only had one week in CT, I had to make it count.

After our Tuesday trek to the shore to get lobster, our plan was to meet up with Mike, his girlfriend Emily, and Katie for trivia in Hartford. The place we were going to apparently hadn't updated their website since Christmas, but made us feel like WE were the dopes for expecting trivia. We ditched that plan and went to another place for some pub quiz action. We were half an hour late but still played. I personally believe that had we gotten there at the beginning, we would have kicked some ass. After a couple beers I didn't want to call it a night, so we found a diner-type place where I had a very large piece of chocolate cake. It was important for me to catch up with Mike, I didn't get to see him at all during my last visit because I was sick, and it would have been completely unacceptable if I missed him again this time around.

On Wednesday we stayed in the area and went to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. We spent a good 4+ hours in Hartford, going to the museum, getting lunch, wandering an old graveyard, and then back to the museum. It was a good day to be inside, away from the heat and humidity. They don't let the paintings suffer from the weather, so it was comfortable indoors at the Wadsworth.

I always forget just how much stuff this museum has, it looks modestly sized from the exterior, but I can never seem to get through all the artwork in one afternoon when I visit. I came close this time, but only because I'm not a fan of modern art and I kind of blew through some rooms that had carpet costumes and large monochromatic canvasses with splatters of paint. There was also this video of a guy on a motorcycle picking up a dead kangaroo... like I said I don't really get some of this stuff.

One of my favorite paintings by Dali (the melting clock guy), is on display. I like the painting because it has images that sort of magically pop out at you the longer you stare at it. The Wadsworth has quite a few paintings by some very famous artists, and it's not like there's any high tech security there. They do have a large guys who tells you when you're getting too close, but other than that it's just you and the painting right in front of you. They also have a fairly large collection from the Hudson School of Art, and I like standing in front of large landscape paintings.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whirlwind Tour East: Fourth of July and Some Lobby

Normally I don't like abandoning my blog for long periods of time, but I've been traveling to visit friends and family for the past couple weeks. Shortly after returning from the mammal conference in Portland, Matt and I headed to Connecticut and Virginia.

There never seems to be enough time to see the people I care about. That's true regardless of if my visits are a week or a month long. I haven't been back home since Christmas, which thanks to a stomach virus, wasn't the most productive trip. This time no one got sick, my mom took some time off of work to be with me, and I feel like we got more out of my visit.

On July 4th I met up with Jenn to go to the annual Willimantic Boom Box Parade. We got there early to get a seat on the porch at the Willimantic Brewery. It was so weird, and also fun. The parade has no marching bands, but a radio station plays marching music and people bring radios, and there were also some speakers set up at the parade itself. It also seems like just about anyone can march in this thing, and there were individual people marching, church groups, political groups, and businesses that participated. It's kind of hard to describe, because it's such a random assortment of entertainment. I'd like to be able to go again next year.

In the afternoon Lura and Steve stopped by to say hello, chat, and make plans for later in the week. We sat out on the patio, drank Hosmer Mountain sodas, and caught up. Later in the afternoon Grandma and Uncle Dave came over and we grilled some chicken and enjoyed other cookout stuff. I really value even these short visits with people, I've always liked just sitting around, being with people, talking. Sometimes I feel like there's an expectation to always be "doing" something, but to me this counts as "something". I did it more in high school and college with friends. It's sad it doesn't happen more often, because graduate school has made me into an accomplished breeze shooter.

On Tuesday my Mom, Matt, and I drove down to Abbots in Noank, CT for a lobster lunch. It might seem silly to make a trip like that, but after being in New Mexico, and no where near an ocean and reliable seafood, it isn't weird. We enjoyed some steamed mussels while we waited for our lunch, and took in some nice scenery. We sat out on the dock that looks out over the marina nearby.