May 6th, 2015
After completing some last minute details, Karen and I departed Pittsburgh midday, heading towards Columbus, OH. When realizing that our cross into West Virginia was our first state line (of many to come!), we stopped at the West Virginia Welcome Center.
While there, we met a couple, Stephanie and Bob, who were doling out free hot dogs and popcorn to all the weary travelers. Apparently, it is National Tourism Week, and Stephanie and Bob's Hampton Inn was providing us all with much needed nourishment. We asked them if we could interview them, our first attempt at this terrifying interaction. They agreed and granted us our first interview!
They've been on the site for decades, owning and operating the Hampton Inn. They've experienced great success in their customer service and in the consistently high rankings on trip planning websites. For example, they were awarded #1 in the world last year and #10 in customer service on TripAdvisor. Bob joked that it's just a "silly little hotel in Wheeling", but you could see the pride in their eyes as they talked about their hotel.
They introduced us to their Chief Financial Officer, Drew, who not only has a great financial background, but he cooks a mean hot dog. Something to put on the "special skills" section of a resume!
We asked for their advice... Hoping to gain useful information in how exactly we should proceed with our lives from this point. We're wanderers, and we're just trying to figure it out. Bob cautioned us to be safe, and Stephanie quickly rebutted by telling us to be open. She followed up with it, saying, "It's tough. I think it's tough to know at your age what you want to do for the rest of your life. So enjoy it and be open to everything."
I could not agree more. Last summer, despite my "career goals", I took a position as an accounting intern. My past math teachers would tell you how unwise this was, and I remember telling my father how foolish I was to even apply. My dad told me that I was too young to start closing doors, even if it be based in a subject I had struggled in in the past. After my 3 months, I learned to enjoy the challenge that accounting had provided me, but I had solidified my position that I didn't want to do accounting work for the rest of my life. But by eliminating that option, by finding out what I didn't want to do, I was able to focus more on what I wanted to do. But I had to first know that I could do it, even if I didn't want to. As it turns out, that job has opened up more doors than the jobs that I really, really wanted to do. Stephanie is right; I must remain open.
Being safe.... How does one "be safe" in this time? My every movement is trackable online; thousands of photos are taken of me every single day (thanks, survellience cameras). Every piece of information I can claim as my own has passed through the internet. Safety has evolved, and I'm not sure how we find it in today's world. I'm going to trust that humans, despite so much evidence to the contrary, are by nature good, and maybe I'll carry a Swiss Army knife incase one of the mean ones sneaks into my life.
Our interview was a huge sigh of relief. Karen and I were a little taken aback by their presence, and then we were unprepared. But Stephanie and Bob were kind to us throughout the entire process and were understanding of our struggles. We left feeling happy, excited, and a little proud. We had just communicated with total strangers, who had encouraged us and welcomed us into their lives. It was thrilling.
I apologize for the lack of photographs I have of Stephanie and Bob. I shot with film since Karen's battery had died, and I had given her my digital camera. I will be shooting a combination of the two for the remainder of the trip, but the film won't see the internet for several weeks.
We then traveled to Cabela's, a West Virginia treat that I couldn't help but show off to Karen. I was a little nervous that they wouldn't let us photograph in the store (for any of you who read my Paris blog posts, I was reprimanded by an angry Frenchman and almost got some police involvement due to my photographic crime. So needless to say, I was a lot nervous). But we asked the first woman we found. She was attempting to get us to get the Cabela's credit card, although I have a sneaky suspicion that my brother already has one... She nicely encouraged us to photograph as much as we'd like. So we went wild.
We took in the sights of the countless dead animals and the excessive amounts of camo. Although, to be fair, one of my friends cited that there is no such thing as excessive amount of camo.
I found the juxtaposition of dead animals and the clothes to be quite morbid and a little fascinating. Karen just laughed and shook her head at me, until we went into the Hall of Death. It's actually the Whitetail Wonderland or something like that, but it felt like a hall of death. Hundreds of stuffed whitetail deer were positioned to look alive, and the odd odor didn't help the reputation we gave it when we first walked in.
I've been used to dead animals for my 2 decades. I understand it, and I get that it is absolutely necessary to quell the obnoxious amounts of whitetail deer running around this portion of the country. It was just a little shocking to see them displayed like this and have it feel like a tourist attraction, but I realize, especially as I find more and more comfort in the city, that this is a necessary part of rural culture. Getting the first day of deer season off never surprised me as a kid, but now, I'm increasingly surprised by it.
We went back on the road, heading to Columbus. We stopped at a Jehovah's Witness parking lot to give Karen her first stick shift lesson. I realize that I have become more and more like my father as time goes on, and the lesson I gave Karen seemed incredibly similar to the lesson my dad gave me 5 years ago. My dad struggles to find words in stressful situations, and I battled with the same issues. Karen had to remind me several times to use my words. She got it though, despite my "Push that one in! No, the other one! *stall out* I meant the other one." Grateful for her patience as I work on my words.
We worked on it for a half hour, just the starting and stopping. I sometimes forget that it used to be incredibly challenging, painful, and quite frankly, overwhelmingly terrifying. Karen was a champ (and perhaps a little better than I was when I first started out).
We left the parking lot, and arrived in Columbus at 6:00 pm, beating my overworked sister to her apartment. She joined us soon thereafter, ready to take us to a delightful dinner at a fancy restaurant in Easton. We met her boyfriend and his sister there and enjoyed a very tasty italian dinner.
I managed to grab a grilled salmon, which was arguably one of the tastier meals I've had.
We walked around Easton for a little while longer, enjoying the nice night and our full bellies. Katie, with all her love and communication abilities, taught Karen a little more about stick shift, and managed to answer questions that I had struggled through. Henry cited it as the fact that she is still a beginner stick shift driver, so she has to think about it more. Seems to make sense to me.
The Easton shopping mall was mildly obnoxious. It had fancy on fancy on fancy. I felt extremely out of place in my post-travel tiredness and sloppy appearance. Luckily, it was late, so we couldn't feel too judged.
We considered purchasing a Tesla, but.... on second thought, it wouldn't be nearly as cute in Yellowstone National Park as our little MINI.
Tomorrow, we ride to Nashville, TN! Day 2, here we come!!
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