Monday, April 24, 2006

Back and Better Than Ever

So, I’ve been offline for the last few months. But I have excuses. For one thing, Matt and I have separated and are hurtling toward a low-budget, low-hassle drive-by divorce. For another, I have moved from Sarajevo back to good old D.C., where I am staying with friends for a few weeks while I sort things out. For another, I’m unemployed, homeless, and therefore paradoxically very busy.

And, most of all, I was off discovering Foamhenge. I had long since felt that I had the biggest problems in the world, and I should therefore gain some perspective. So I did what any sane person would do: I rented a car and drove off to see as many “World’s Largest” items as I possibly could with five days and $500.

I started on Wednesday with the World’s Largest Apple in Winchester, Virginia. It was about the size of a minivan, whereas I’d been dreaming of an apple the size of a city block. I was unimpressed. Then I moved on to Natural Bridge, Virginia, home of Foamhenge, the Stonehenge of Foam. I don’t really know if it was to scale, as I couldn’t get close enough to find out (it was temporarily closed for “improvements”). Instead I stood on the trunk of my rental car and took photos. I rounded out the day with the World’s Largest Manmade Illuminated Star in Roanoke, Virginia, which supports the troops by shining red, white and blue. Then I drove a bit south and stayed the night in Rocky Mount, Virginia.

Thursday, I drove to High Point, North Carolina, for the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. I found it by visiting the High Point Museum and asking the receptionist for directions. My favorite sport in the South is to ask a group of people for directions: they will each give you wildly varying instructions, along with the history of the town, their personal histories, and an offer to ride with you to your destination. (No, Mom, I did not give any rides to strangers.) You won’t get any closer to your target, but you will learn some great stuff.

From High Point, I drove south down 73. I missed the turn for Southern Pines (home of the Creationist Taxidermy Museum), so I had to console myself with a visit to Cheraw, South Carolina, which I visited for no other reason than my friend Jason is from there. Cheraw doesn’t see a lot of strangers, and my Virginia plates were viewed with suspicion. I also think I may have stumbled into an off-track betting parlor while buying Dr. Pepper. It was fun. Jason had told me about a Dizzy Gillespie statue in the town square, so I went off in search of it. After driving around for about an hour (an impressive feat, considering Cheraw isn’t that big of a town), I finally pulled into a Wal-Mart to ask the locals for directions. The Wal-Mart was swarmed, however, the pretty little town square (which I eventually did find) was completely empty. I took a picture of the Dizzy statue, and looked around in vain for someone to snap a photo of me with Dizzy. There wasn’t a soul around. For a while I entertained the idea of taking a trip where I stalk the hometowns of all of my friends, but then I remembered that most of my friends grew up in the same town that I did (making for a very short trip).

From Cheraw, it’s an easy hop east to South of the Border, home of the World’s Largest Sombrero-Shaped Observation Tower (admittedly, there’s not a whole lot of competition in that category). I bought all the hand-removing, housepet-killing fireworks you simply can’t get anywhere else, plus some Pedro keychains. Then I hopped another back road to North Myrtle Beach, where I pulled over, dunked my feet in the ocean, then got back in the car and left. I spent the night in Wilmington.

On Friday, I drove to Chapel Hill (I went to school there) and spent some time walking around campus. Everyone looked so young! I also had a barbecue sandwich, then went and had a glass of wine with my former boss, Margaret. On the rule that it’s still one glass of wine if you just keep topping off your glass, we had a lovely afternoon. After I’d completely sobered up, I drove to my hotel and crashed out.

Saturday I had lunch at Pepper’s Pizza with my friend Mike, who I hadn’t seen in almost six years. Then I decided to come back to DC a day early, as hotels in Chapel Hill were insanely expensive. I made it back to DC within four hours, only getting lost twice (both times in my own neighborhood – sigh.) I dumped my bags in my room and went out for a drink with friends.

I think I picked up a few lessons on my trip. Most importantly, I’m much smarter and more self-sufficient than I thought I was – I managed to drive, navigate, take photos, and ask for directions (sometimes simultaneously). I rarely got lost for more than a few minutes. And, overall, I took very good care of myself. I think that also folds into my next lesson: it’s far better to be on your own than it is to be in a relationship that’s unhappy. Hey, if I never get remarried, but still have great friends and an appreciation for stuff like Foamhenge, then bring on the 50 cats and the knitting fetish. In the end, single isn’t so bad.