Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hamilton Versus Harry

Sister and I love ridiculousness. We clearly love Harry Potter, as exhibited by our trek to The Wizarding World. We also love the musical Hamilton and almost anything that goes along with that these days. As such, while she had already seen the show twice before I had, I invited Sister to be my guest when I purchased overpriced tickets to the Broadway spectacle a little over a year ago. We spent the afternoon before the show on an outing to New Jersey, where we reenacted the famous Hamilton-Burr duel at the exact spot it happened across the river so many years ago. Since duels seem to be a theme in Harry Potter as well, a wizarding duel being the equivalent of a fight, Sister and I made sure to reenact just that sort of magical interaction on the streets of the theme park as well.

With thoughts of magic and history in our brains, when we made plans for our big road trip, I insisted that we stop at Monticello on the way back. I had never visited the plantation, and it seemed to fit in so well with our ongoing magic, history and musical theatre themes. I also truly love history and enjoy learning about all aspects of it, good or bad. After we were treated to a scrumptious breakfast by our ex-aunt in North Carolina, we drove further north so that we could explore Thomas Jefferson's historical home.

It was a bright, hot and sunny Virginian afternoon. We wandered the grounds for a few minutes before hopping on the tour of the house itself. This gave us plenty of time to set the stage for a wizarding slash founding fathers duel, fully equipped with a tricorn hat, colonial garb, and our magical wands. I'm not sure that the man we asked to take our photo had any earthly clue what we were up to, but he obliged nonetheless and documented what might possibly be the best mashup of all time.

After our prize moments of whimsy, we entered the plantation house and participated in a very insightful guided tour. As most people know by now, Thomas Jefferson was one of our most eminent founding fathers, certainly more universally recognized than Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson is revered as the author of the Declaration of Independence, writing the famed words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." At the same time, he owned hundreds of slaves throughout his lifetime, having intimate relations with some and fathering several others. While not specifically promoting personal beliefs, our tour guide was very intent on pointing out the stark contrast between Jefferson's words and actions.

In light of recent terrible events in the United States, in addition to an ongoing political climate of negativity, this visit to Monticello seems more impactful than ever. We have come so very far in some ways but in others not at all. We have embraced Thomas Jefferson's profound ideals in theory, but in practice, our country continues to follow in his hypocritical footsteps. 

After leaving the plantation, Sister and I drove right through Washington, D.C. and took a few minutes to hop out of the car and take a quick shot of the Washington Monument. I like to think that it still stands as a beacon of hope for what our country was originally established as: a place of freedom and independence for all people. It was an interesting way to end our trip through several of the United States.

I am so happy to have had such a wonderful adventure with one of my younger sisters. We engaged in some of the best moments of ridiculousness I have ever had. We saw magic and mystery, highways and history. The United States is a country worth seeing when its heart remains true.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Biscuits, Peaches, and Crap

Real road trips usually involve making several stops along the way, sometimes planned and sometimes impromptu. While our journey down to Florida was a straight shot, pausing only long enough for food and facilities, we took a more leisurely course on our way back North.

My mother is one of nine children and, as such, has relatives in varying areas of the country. Growing up, my siblings and I were taken on several little road trips to attend family functions in different states. I tend to want to visit other countries and continents nowadays, but will always feel fortunate to have seen a fair few things throughout the United States while growing up. Because of this, Sister and I already had a small list of places we wanted to hit on our journey home. 

First on our agenda: breakfast at Bob Evan's, a Southern restaurant chain specializing in comfort food and famous for their mouthwatering biscuits. Oooooh, the biscuits. I recall first tasting these caloric creations on some trip down south in my youth. In fact, I believe we as a family hearted them so hard that we bought the biscuit mix for sale on site. Sadly, the biscuit mix is no longer available, but we were able to indulge in the real thing a mere 30 minutes after we left our Orlando hotel. Despite the fact that we certainly did not need any more heavy food after the past few days, it was well worth the stop. We even found some amazing t-shirts with the quote "You are the bacon to my eggs." #sisters

Our next stop was at a place we found while googling online, called "Georgia Peach World." Apparently there are two locations, one on either side of the same highway exit, so it's quite the enterprise. There are hand-painted signs outside and a vast array of peach-flavored products within: peach preserves, peach liqueurs, peach wine, peach pastries. I suppose they can really lay claim to the fact that it is truly a world of peaches. We used this opportunity to pick up a few souvenirs for friends and family before continuing on.

We were then off to "South of the Border", by far one of the weirdest tourist attractions I've ever seen. The location lies on the border between North and South Carolinas and is essentially a small group of shops filled with crappy mementos and souvenirs in addition to large amounts of fireworks. Since there are much stricter firework laws in Connecticut, it's an ideal place for picking up some interesting pyrotechnics. It is also an ideal place to feel like you have stepped into a small outlet of merchandizing hell. I suppose when I was much younger, the novelty was running through aisles of endless knickknacks all colorful and at your fingertips. As an adult, it is more like an eerie wasteland of freakish materialism. Ah well, at least we got an amazing picture standing under a giant gorilla.

Our final stop for the day was in Wake Forrest, North Carolina, not far from Raleigh. This city is actually where Hot Blonde Cousin grew up and where some of her family still resides. Sister and I had made plans to spend the night with Cousin's mom, our technically ex-aunt but still considered family. She graciously agreed to host us for the evening, so we had dinner with her and another one of our cousin's. After some Mexican food and a few well-placed cocktails, we conked out after our long day of road trippin' through the American South.