Kriti and Adam were last seen in a Days Inn outside of Charlotte, NC. What will they do next? Find out in the next few paragraphs as we catch up with them on Tuesday, October 20.
Today, we were actually headed to a specific place - Adam's cousin Arthur's house in Atlanta, GA. It was only a three hour drive, but we were only supposed to get there after the workday ended (apparently people in the Real World don't have fall breaks), so we had plenty of time to go on little adventures on the side. We could get as lost as we wanted to, because we had a GPS to guide us back!
Neither Adam nor I had ever really driven with a GPS before, so we were both really enthused about her navigational superpowers. At one point, he exclaimed "I need a GPS. I need a GPS for my life. I get lost on Wilder Bowl sometimes." (I pointed out that they probably didn't make existential GPSes. He did not take that well.) We christened her GLaDOS, after the seemingly-benign-but-actually-deranged artificial intelligence whose voice guides the player in the game Portal (which incidentally, neither one of us has played. We're just geeks).
Our first diversion was when Adam spotted the town of "Cowpens" in South Carolina and declared that he was taking that exit. As we drove in, we spotted a river on GLaDOS's map and decided that we needed to find a bridge that would go over it. We drove all over the country roads, as GLaDOS, who just wanted us to get to Atlanta, repeatedly yelled things like "Recalculating! Drive 1.2 miles and... recalculating! Recalculating!" I'm not sure if we ever did manage to go over the river, but we stopped at a beautiful one-lane wooden bridge over some railroad tracks and took pictures. It was also really fun to stand on the bridge when cars went on it, because the whole bridge vibrated intensely.
We'd been using GLaDOS to help us find places to eat, but after a misadventure involving "via-points" and sudden U-turns, we decided to intrepidly explore the highways for diners. This plan failed utterly (at one point, Adam muttered "there are more churches than places to eat here"). Swallowing our pride, we turned back to GLaDOS for help, and she directed us to the Peach Blossom Diner in Spartanburg, SC. Here, I got chicken fingers, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni salad, chocolate cake, two hot rolls, and unlimited sweet tea for about seven dollars. It was all so delicious, too. I'm completely in love with Southern food. I'm not sure what we're going to do without sweet tea - I don't think we went a meal without it. I could gush on and on about it, but I don't want to run out of superlatives, so I'll move on.
Our next diversion occurred not too soon after that, when I spotted a sign for Bob Jones University. It's one of the most conservative Christian colleges in the country, and has quite the reputation. Neither of us knew that it was in South Carolina, so we were pretty surprised to see the sign, and decided that we had to drive through there. It was interesting, everything looked completely immaculate. The buildings were all the exact same colour, and everyone was dressed semi-formally. We were going to get out and walk around, but we were too intimidated, especially because none of the 50+ girls we saw were wearing anything other than dresses and skirts, and I was in jeans.
The rest of the drive to Atlanta was mostly uneventful; we found a fountain in a rest stop in Georgia that served both Pepsi and Coke products, but that was about the most exciting thing that happened. We got into Atlanta and went out for dinner with Arthur (Adam's cousin), and his wife Denise. Arthur promised to take us to a shooting range the next day, and decided to give us a preliminary shooting lesson that night.
That was a pretty intense experience, given that we were handling actual, real weapons. The cardinal rule of guns is apparently, never ever point the gun in the direction of someone else. Arthur told us to think of it like there was a deadly laser beam pointing out of the barrel of the gun at all times. He showed us the "push-pull" grip, and how to hold the pistol steady, how to avoid reacting preemptively to recoil (which ruins your aim), how to aim accurately, etc. He also taught us the difference between automatic, single and double action triggers, loading mechanisms, and safety features.
Unfortunately, we didn't actually get to shoot at the range. Apparently you have to be 21 or older to shoot a pistol without your parents accompanying you. This rule, oddly enough, does not apply to rifles and shotguns, even though they're ten times as scary. Arthur owns an assault rifle, but we hadn't brought it to the range with us, so we couldn't shoot at all. It wasn't an entirely fruitless trip, though - we saw and got a picture of this sign:
We spent most of Wednesday being very lazy (it's break!) and hanging out in Arthur's house. We decided we should get going that night, so we could spend a lot of time driving back up to Maryland, so we headed in the direction of Birmingham in Alabama, but ended up stopping half an hour ahead, in Lincoln. I looked Lincoln up as soon as we got in, which I did for most of the cities we stopped at, and according to the census statistics, I calculated that the town had around 3 Asian people (I like maths, okay?). The next morning, when we checked out, there were two Indian people working at the hotel. Apparently I met two-thirds of Lincoln's Asian population right there, which is funny to think about.
We plugged GLaDOS in, but she refused to charge. Adam then realised he'd left part of her in Arthur's house (hopefully not her morality module), and I realised I'd left my glasses there, as well. Luckily, we were only an hour and a half from Atlanta, so we scrapped our Alabama-exploration plans and went back up to collect them. We drove a lot that day, through Georgia and Tennessee, and some of Virginia.
Tennessee was a really interesting place. It seemed instantly different when we crossed the state line from Georgia. It was extremely rural (at least, the parts we were in. We also drove through Knoxville, which was not rural at all). There were so many farms, the dirt was really red, and everything seemed to be closed and for sale. It was beautiful to look at; it was probably my favourite state to drive in. We passed through Cleveland, which had a Main Street, a First Bank, and an IGA in it (just like Oberlin, except that the bank is First Merit Bank. Close enough). We stopped for dinner in a town called Etowah. I'll spare you the details, but the food and the sweet tea! Oh my god!
It was almost midnight when we decided to stop for the night in Marion, VA. For the first time in our journey, we didn't have free internet access, but we somehow survived. Every night, we would get our computers out and go to bed at around 3, and then scramble out of bed at 10.30 am, trying to get out before the check-out time of 11. This time, we managed to both stay up until 4.30 am, despite no computers being involved (but the scramble in the morning stayed the same).
The motel seemed to be run by an Indian family, who asked if I was Indian. I replied that I was, from Andhra Pradesh (the state in India that I'm from). We'd just left and were pulling out of our parking space when the owner came running up to us and asked if we wanted anything. We were confused, so he clarified "Coffee? Ice? Anything?" "Coffee would be great!" said Adam, and I nodded, trying to be as enthusiastic as I could. We went back in, and made some more polite conversation before the owner asked the question that I knew would be coming.
"Do you speak Hindi?"
Most Indians I meet in the US tend to ask me this question. Unfortunately, I don't really speak Hindi. I understand it very well and I can probably speak it to save my life. My native language is Telugu, though. India has at least 22 major languages, and Telugu is mine. But the moment I said "I can understand it, but not speak it," he seemed to assume I was Indian-American and to lose interest in talking to us. I tried explaining, but to no avail. It's funny how my accent seems American to Indian people now, and Indian to American people.
Anyway, we walked around town for a little bit, trying to find a good, Southern place to eat. We wandered into an Amish antique store, but found nothing of interest. Marion was an interesting town - it was smaller than Oberlin population-wise, but definitely bigger otherwise. It had its own theatre (a real one, not a movie-theatre) and seemed very cultured and fancy. There seemed to be more hair salons than places to eat! Realising we weren't going to get any traditional Southern food here, we hit the road and let GLaDOS take us to Joey's Country Kitchen in Rural Retreat, VA. How much better can you get? I will refrain from talking about the food again, but I now know what a hotcake is! (It is delicious, that's what it is.)
We then decided to head to Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a beautiful, winding road pretty much entirely along national parks. GLaDOS refused to help us in any way, despite our "destination" being set to a town on the Parkway. We tried both "Fastest Time" and "Shortest Distance" as options, but apparently the most efficient way to get to a specific point on the parkway is to take highways that aren't even that close to it. When we first got onto the road, it was intensely foggy for quite a while. The leaves were all changing colour, red, yellow, orange with dashes of green, the road twisted and turned every two minutes, and we couldn't see more than a yard in front of us. We had soundtrack music playing that was mostly mellow, but would get dramatic every so often. It was definitely among the best experiences I've had recently.
It got less foggy later, and we stopped a couple of times so Adam could take pictures (and a break from driving). Here are a couple. Unfortunately, I'm in all of the pictures, so you'll have to deal with that.
I climbed a tree!
We finally got home at around 9.40 pm, exhausted but really happy. A minute before we pulled into Adam's driveway, we rolled down the windows, opened the sunroof, and started playing "We Are The Champions" as loudly as we could. It was a great trip - I got to visit six states I'd never been to before (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee). Just exploring with no destination is one of the most fun things you can do, it seems like. We probably spent more time driving than we should have, but hey, we have an excuse to go on another roadtrip to fix that!
Back to Oberlin tomorrow. I'm really excited!