I have absolutely no idea where I was supposed to stick this, so I figure I might as well just stick it in the "Things that make you happy" thread, because it did make it very happy.
Anyway, for those of you that are interested, know, care, etc., I took a trip to Ohio to visit my girlfriend (whom I will call Stardust, as that's her forum name) a couple weeks ago, from the 12th through the 17th. She's visited me a few times, but this was my first time visiting her - or anyone - so it was pretty big for me, I guess. First plane trip I could actually remember, too. I'm going to assume you guys (assuming you're still reading) are probably interested in the trip, pictures of Stardust and me, stuff we did, places we went, etc.
And therein lies the catch: Stardust only managed to upload a small number of pictures from her phone due to low cell data/slow upload speeds, so most of them are from my phone. And, for the most part, I didn't use my phone if there was any chance of using hers, because her phone has a much
better camera than mine does. As a result, I'm pretty short on pictures. I'll add what I can, though, and tell you guys all about the trip.
Thursday: The trip there
So, I managed to arrive at the airport at 4 PM, about two hours ahead of the flight leaving, which is essentially "right on schedule". Getting through the airport? No hassle whatsoever. The Chattanooga airport was, honestly, a lot smaller than I expected. I was somewhat disappointed. Only four gates? Rather quiet? I grew up in Memphis, so I was comparing it to the Memphis airport. While the one in Chattanooga airport is a lot nicer than I remember the Memphis one being, it was still pretty small. I snapped a picture of it anyway.
After waiting about an hour and a half, I finally got to board the plane. It took off soon after. I had booked window seats for myself on all four of the flights I was going to have (two up there, two coming back), and was admittedly somewhat worried that I'd be uneasy with the heights (never having had an opportunity to actually test it) , but it turned out... I was just fine. In fact, that first flight felt magical - getting to watch the ground fall away beneath me, looking at all the tiny cars way, way down below... it was cool. I very
greatly enjoyed it. I was probably grinning like a little kid in a candy shop.
I landed in Atlanta, Georgia a very short time later (maybe thirty minutes) and finally got the "big airport" feel I'd been looking for... in spades. The Atlanta airport is massive
. There are six or seven "concourses" - massive buildings laid out in a pattern like so: | | | | | | | and it's important to note that each | would take about five to ten minutes to cross. Walking from one end of the airport to the other would take an incredible amount of time. Fortunately, I had a good two and a half hours until my next flight left, and wasn't in too much of a rush. I took my time.
This was not a mistake, which became especially apparent when I learned that there are actually underground "trains" beneath the concourses to carry people rapidly from one to the next. My only mistake was to ignore the warning that passengers "were encouraged to hold on to one of the poles or straps attached to the ceiling". The train accelerated very
rapidly and I found myself stumbling backwards until I found something to grab hold of. I imagine I looked pretty hilarious. Very fortunately, I didn't bump into anyone.
And with the help of the train, I crossed between four concourses in the space of about three minutes. Plenty of time. I got food from a Five Guys restaurant that was in the airport, made some phone calls, told everyone I was fine, and settled down to continue reading the Witcher novel I'd brought with me - until my plane started boarding. This second plane was headed directly for Akron, Ohio - just a short ride from where Stardust lived.
After a flight that was almost two hours in length, I finally arrived in Akron around 11:00 PM on Thursday night. I was tired, but the reunion with Stardust was a very happy one. There's not much more to say. Akron has a nice airport. We were out shortly and drove home to sleep.
Our first morning was pretty bright and early, as we picked up Stardust's sister (whom I will call "Alice") and headed to a nearby town called Alliance to pick up Alice's boyfriend's (Bob) sister (Jane). So, with myself, Stardust, Alice, Jane, and Son of Jane (Johnny? age ~ 4) all packed into the car, we headed up to Amish Country. This means little in the way of electricity, with numerous buggies and horse-drawn carriages (probably saw around 50 that day). After a brief stop in an Amish grocery store to look around, we proceeded to our next stop - a place called Tis The Season
I suppose this would be an appropriate place to mention that Stardust absolutely loves anything holiday related - and especially Christmas-related. This is the main reason we were visiting a Christmas place in the middle of October. It was neat. Very... Christmas-like - true to its name, I suppose. I thought it was kind of neat, but not being into decorating myself, I don't have much to offer comment-wise besides "holy carp I've never seen so many Christmas decorations in one place".
After that, we headed to a place called Hershberger Farm - which was a bit more than just a farm. They offered hay rides, had multiple shops, and a large petting zoo with horses you could ride. Jane's son, Johnny, got to ride one of the ponies, and the animals were of course adorable. There were mostly goats, calves and sheep, but also some ducks, chickens, and a very, very large horse (just barely visible at bottom-right of the below picture):
If you look carefully, there's also a goat up on the roof. You could put carrots in a little pulley-driven basket and pull them up to the top.
Being a farm, and it being October, there were also more pumpkins than you could shake a stick at.
And finally... I figured that because it is
the Limit Theory Forum, and since goats are a thing here (for better or for worse):
Have a goat. He's a hungry one.
That night we got food from one of Stardust's favorite restaurants - a little health-food place called BAM
. Alice and Bob went there with us as well. The food was good. Stardust is vegetarian, and I decided to try "the food of her people", i.e. vegetarians. I had what she ordered: a burger with fake beef. I guess it was deepfried tofu or something. It was okay - good, but not something I would eat over a regular burger. (Don't tell her I said that.
Saturday was a bit of a grab bag. If I remember correctly, we started the day off by going to get breakfast at some place she liked called Nectar
, then did some idle browsing in a nearby shopping plaza. After that, we headed up to a town called Medina, where she had a few things she wanted to show me - firstly, a Christmas museum called Castle Noel
. If you read the last spoiler (Friday) you'll know that Stardust likes Christmas a lot. She wanted to show me all the different fun Christmas places she liked to visit. This was one of them. And, to be honest, it didn't fail to impress. They had expensive store window displays (worth over $50k each, if I remember right), and lots of stuff - props, costumes, etc. from various movies. These movies ranged from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to "The Santa Clause" to "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and "A Christmas Story" - and there were a lot more than that, too.
She wanted to also take me to a favorite place of hers called Miss Molly's Tea Shop, but as it turned out, we arrived too late, and they were already closed. Apparently they only served breakfast and brunch. I don't actually remember all that much about what we did later that afternoon, which is odd. I don't think it was anything important.
Later that night we joined up with Alice and Bob again, and went to a place called "Maize Valley" in nearby Hartville. From what I could tell, Maize Valley is some kind of combination of a farm and restaurant. As luck would have it, we arrived on their "Oktoberfest" night - which meant the parking lot was packed well past the point of overflowing. We managed to find a parking spot anyway after some trouble, and headed in to the restaurant. They had really, really good food - the second best I've had on the whole trip. Unfortunately, no pictures here. Bob and I got to know each other a lot better that night and ended up steering the conversation in the direction of interesting topics such as games, game development, popular game franchises, and so forth, which was fun. Bob works heavily in computer stuff and is a big Linux/open source fan. We had plenty to talk about... but tried not to overdo it because Stardust and Alice are not nearly as into computer things.
Sunday was our "quiet day". I don't actually remember where we went to eat that morning (I think Cracker Barrel), or where we went for lunch, but I do remember that it rained most of the day. We considered watching a movie at a movie theater (there were no good ones available at the time), but eventually decided to just go to Target, stock up on snacks, and spend the afternoon and early evening watching Rick and Morty together - which was great fun. After that, we headed back to her house, but stopped at a place called Sheetz. It's like a gas station, but the store sells incredibly good (and messy) sub sandwiches. We each got one and then headed to pick up Alice for the event Stardust had been talking about for weeks: The Haunted Schoolhouse.
It wasn't really haunted, of course, nor was it advertised as such. It was a multiple-story school building that was very
well decorated with Halloween/horror themes - nothing spectacularly scary or horrific, though, because it's supposed to be somewhere you could take kids, too (but not the smallest ones for sure! 8 or older, I think). There were actors that would jump out at you or do different things as you passed by through the mazelike corridors they'd built, loud noises, creaky/shaky floors, flickering lights. Some of the themes included a redneck area, mad scientist laboratory, cultist gatherings, and an evil carnival. I found it funnier than scary, but Stardust was a bit jumpy. It was a lot of fun.
I went into it expecting to be underwhelmed, too, but the amount of work that went into it (and the actors, and their costumes) was just downright impressive.
Outside, after we got through the maze:
In the picture: Myself, Stardust, and Alice, left-to-right.
Monday was a bit odd, in that the time seemed to fly by a lot faster than I'd hoped. I'm not actually positive where all the time went, and I feel like I'm forgetting something fairly major. We drove around, she showed me stuff around where she lived, places she'd gone to as she was growing up, etc. She then took me to the McKinley Monument and Museum. From wikipedia (because I didn't get a picture apparently):
And here I am standing outside the monument, looking down the steps:
The inside of the museum was a lot of fun, but as far as museums go, I suppose it was relatively standard fare: There was a large prehistory exhibit, a large science-related exhibit (all perfect for schoolkids), a ton of stuff about President McKinley and the assassination, and a historical exhibit about "what life was like in the early 1900s". Here's the only picture I took of the inside of the museum:
I'm honestly regretting I didn't take more pictures. Stardust has some nicer ones, but they're still on her phone.
That night, we went to a place called Bravo
- Stardust's absolute favorite restaurant. They had amazing
Italian food. I took a couple pictures of the inside of the place, because it was beautifully decorated - hanging plants, marble columns, etc. - but unfortunately they all turned out far too blurry to post here.
It was amazing food, though. After that we went to a few small stores (including World Market, where I got the After Eights I mentioned in another thread), and then went back home.
A very sad day. Parting is never fun, and it was made worse this time for me because I really didn't want to go back home at all. She took the day off work so she could spend more time with me, and we mostly drove around until 3, looking at various shops and stores in the vicinity, trying to distract ourselves from the inevitable departure.
One of the places we went was a rock and gem store/warehouse she's never been to (we were curious). Unfortunately, it took us less than two minutes to determine that everything was absurdly
overpriced. It's worth mentioning just because I'm a big Dwarf Fortress fan, and they had microcline.
....and it was selling for about $60 for a flat, palm-sized fragment. I'll continue mining my own microcline in Dwarf Fortress, thank you very much.
We took one last picture at the airport, looking deceptively happy (or trying to):
The flights home were uneventful. I only had an hour to spend in Atlanta this time, but managed to get to my gate within twenty minutes - so about ten minutes to spare before the plane started boarding.
In summary, it was an incredible trip, and I'm still quite sad it's over.
It never feels like it's long enough.