Thursday, July 25, 2013

cleveland or bust

This is about a month late, but I've had a bit of blogger's block this month. I'm not sure why, but my focus has been elsewhere and I've fallen tragically behind.
Before I start feeling sorry for myself or making more excuses, I'm just gonna basically start where I left off, with our trip to Cleveland to help my brother start his new life there!

I told you all about our crazy experience driving to Cleveland - and while that was a bit jarring and definitely stayed with us for quite a while, the visit itself was great.

We went straight to the hotel to settle in and say our happy hellos, and get the weekend started!

Dusty was pretty excited about passing this bridge! He was extremely tempted to take a detour.

It's always exciting to be in a new city. We didn't really know what to expect from Cleveland, but we knew we had a lot to do.
First on our list: eat. We weren't familiar with the best restaurants in town, so we thanked the Lord for the digital age and decided to look a few up on Yelp.
We ended up deciding on a unique spot called "Fat Cats", which was only partially because I was wearing my favorite cat shirt.
It was very funky and artsy, located downtown with a creative menu and fun decor featuring local artists. Hipster heaven!

Love this shot of my beloved bros.

We were all pretty tired, so we enjoyed the sounds of the kitchen and the tasty dishes as we wound down from a long day of travel.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of shopping, napping, eating, laughing, wandering, exploring, moving, decorating, cooking, running, sighing, milk-strawing, chatting, and sleeping.

On Saturday we took the plunge and went to Wal-Mart - the new-apartment-resident's best friend.
We found wild geese congregating in the parking lot, and after shopping for a long time the boys had to get out some pent-up energy by cart-racing in the parking lot. Classy and entertaining.

I've heard a lot of no-good comments about Cleveland from random people, but I honestly enjoyed it!
It was a bit humid but overall the weather was nice, the scenery was lovely and there were a lot of really cool views and buildings, especially around the downtown area.
We had a lot of errands to run so we got to see a lot of the city just by driving to various places.
Dusty, Kevin and I spent a lot of time messing around since mom was the leader and Michael was the new resident, so we were just extras that made things more difficult by napping and goofing around.
We were most concerned with where the nearest Starbucks was at all times, and even made a Starbucks run in the middle of another errand. We were almost overtaken by the extremely confusing twilight zone road that ran in a confusing roundabout circle around the Starbucks, but we finally made the right U-turn and quenched our thirst for iced coffee delights. It's such a joy to be around my little brother. Even if we revert to childhood teasing tendencies, it's kind of the best.
Hopefully mom and Michael don't regret asking us to come along. :)

The view from Michael's apartment!
The biggest frustration throughout our time there is that Michael's Uhaul pod never showed up!
All of his furniture and possessions was supposed to be arriving any day, but instead they were giving us the runaround about when it would arrive.
We had to make do with multiple trips to the store, cooking a few meals in his kitchen and setting up the basics in the hopes that it would arrive eventually.
(It took several more weeks!)

My contribution to his new place - a kitschy gift that he'll love forever.

My favorite moments from the weekend were hanging out in the empty apartment, lounging on the clean carpet, taking naps...(sorry mom!), enjoying the voices of my mom and brothers and smelling her chicken enchiladas cooking in the oven.
My mom also taught my husband how to make perfect sunny-side-up eggs that weekend, which I am very happy about! Yum.

On the ground floor of his apartment building, there was a bar and grill and a little market, where we shopped for a few things like ice and hand soap.
While we were in the dairy section, lamenting over the discontinuation of Nestle's Banana Milk, Kevin discovered a little display with something called "milk straws". He was so adamant to try them, so we finally bought them at one point and spent that afternoon using them to drink milk and glass-bottled Starbucks frapps.

They were these funky little straws with cookies and cream flavored chocolate beads inside, so every time you take a drink the milk would filter through.
Weird and kind of great. Time to blow milk bubbles. Childhood flashback.

Another mystery in the apartment were these odd little bugs stuck to the outside of the windows. There were a lot of them, and they were just kind of chilling there. They were pretty small, but had kind of creepy and colorful little bodies. We were very glad they were on the outside of the windows.
Even so, we kept wondering about them - what were they? Why were there so many?

At one point, us kids decided to wander around the apartment complex to see what else we could find. We were starving, so we a great place to eat was at the top of the list.
We crossed the street to another high structure, and as we stepped onto the new sidewalk, I let out a gasp.
The bugs...those same bugs!...were everywhere. 
The black glossy finish of the building was covered in them. It was so covered, I almost didn't even noticed them at first. They were just sitting there, so we picked up our pace and rounded the corner...
into the apocalypse of the midges. 

Image Source
Image Source
I'm not even exaggerating.
We all staggered back, shocked, stumbling into the street, unable to scream, lest they all flow into our mouths.
They covered every inch of the sky-rise building, as far as they eye could see -- they covered every window for 30 stories. The air was thick with them.
We all grabbed the collar of our shirts and frantically covered our mouths, Kevin breathing through his shirt, "Oh god, oh god, they're everywhere...they're everywhere!"
We finally began to walk backwards, turning back as quickly as we could.
They were buzzing around our ears, our eyes, they were all over our clothes.
"I just wanna run. I just want to RUN," Kevin said.

We finally gasped a huge sigh of relief as we tumbled back into the apartment building, deciding to try out the bar and grill on the first floor.
It turned out to be a good choice - it was quiet, cool, and clean. It was late afternoon. We ordered a bunch of appetizers and munched on giant soft pretzels with beer cheese and chicken fingers while we shook from shock and our eyes twitched from haunted buggy thoughts.

Our last full day ended with a fancy steakhouse dinner and a lovely walk around downtown.
Michael had a gift certificate for John Q's, and wanted to use it since apparently it's closing down!

We pulled up and parked across the street, right across the street from this cool place.

Studly muffins.

Once inside, we settled down for the long haul. Appetizers, entrees, desserts, coffee.
It was the last supper of crazy family time and it was all very bittersweet. 
Dusty and I would be heading back home the next morning, but luckily mom and Kevin got to stay for the rest of the week. It's always easier to stagger the goodbyes!

Michael and Kevin reminisced about working at a sorority in Tucson, waiting tables and cooking and cleaning up...crazy stories about the chef and other workers and some of the weird people they encountered.
It was light and fun and nostalgic, and I felt really lucky to be able to have a little glimpse into the life Michael will live for the next five years.
I'm still secretly hoping he realizes how awesome we all are, and will decided to move back to Arizona when all this is over. But in the meantime, we'll just have to send our love across the miles. I definitely have experience with that, but I've never gotten used to it!

After dinner we decided to walk off some of the million calories we ate by walking around and enjoying some evening sights.

This was the courthouse! So cool!

After we walked several blocks and back, we all loaded back into the car and headed back to the hotel.
The next morning dawned drearily, and mom decided she wanted some McDonald's coffee.
Dusty and I jumped at the chance to go, because we had seen the fanciest McDonald's down the road and had to experience it asap.

It had chandeliers and everything! What a place.
Where the poor come to eat poorly and feel rich.

We then all met up at iHop for our last breakfasty meal together.
We had full plates of breakfast foods, and delicious lemon icebox pie shakes. (We had to try them, because what the heck is icebox pie? Well, now we know. And it's delightful.)
I was really dreading getting back into the car - I didn't want to say goodbye, and I certainly didn't want to try the 7 hours back home.
Even so, the time had come. We packed up our car and spread the loving goodbyes.
Hopefully it won't be too long until we say hello again!

Road tripping once more, we turned up the tunes, stopped by a Starbucks and just enjoyed the scenery.
It honestly went by in a blur - I hardly remember anything about the drive!
Before we knew it we were edging closer to Lynchburg, and right as we entered Afton, Dusty noticed a sign for Blue Mountain Brewery - an amazing spot we went for his 23rd birthday our first year in Virginia.
All he had to do is look in my direction with a quizzical brow, and we were quickly turning in, right in time for the gorgeous foggy sunset over the mountains.

We weren't terribly hungry, so we snacked one a couple of things (their baked beans are the best ever) and enjoyed the amazing view and weather.
It was the perfect way to end our road trip, savoring the sunset and crossing off another location from our Lynchburg Bucket List. 
Although I'm hoping we'll go back at least once before graduation!

The fireflies began popping up, and the entire evening quieted down in a blissful way.
What a gorgeous night.
We ended the vacation weekend with happy hearts, happy bellies and happy souls.