“Manners are fun with Katherine the Great."

Trip Start Aug 30, 2012
Trip End Oct 19, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Sunday, September 30, 2012

I have known my friend Kat since we were both little kidlets tearing around the horse paddocks together. She has also seen me at a complete loss for words, in an uncontrollable, ugly mess of tears, twice in our lifetimes.

The first time was just after my horse Tucson died during a competition. She sat in the dirt with me, in the middle of a paddock, by his dead body. Huddled together, both of us in tears. As the sun slipped away and both the day and his body grew cold. Until I was ready to move. The second time was after a straight 6 hour drive from deep Pennsyl-tuckey, through four states, in the shadow of the Shenandoah Mountains, as the lawn signs slowly changed from ‘Romney‘ to ‘Obama‘, the bugs multiplied in the humidity and the sweet southern air filled my lungs. When I got out of the car, ran up on her porch, gave her a hug and promptly burst into tears. And she stood there, patiently hugging me, until she couldn’t hold it in any longer: “it’s not what you want to hear right now… but you smell incredible!” And the giggling began.

Thus began my unplanned week of rest and recovery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jessie and Kat let me explode all over their lounge room for four days and nights, Kat bought me a bed to sleep on (I still feel bad about that!) and Jessie very graciously, despite being lactose intolerant, consumed every last chocolate memory of Hershey remaining in my luggage. Much appreciated as I could hardly bear to look at it.

It was also that first night in Charlottesville, at a local Mexican restaurant, that I realized I had an appetite again. Apart from my time in the safety of Joy and Joe’s house, for the most part I had been too anxious and stressed to finish an entire meal this whole trip - eating sporadically and usually leaving a lot on my plate. I’d also forgotten that I could be something other than a giant pain in someone’s ass - but we went out, had fun and promptly made new friends. We walked literally across the road from the house to La Taza and the outdoor tiki bar (a tiki looking one-person bar shack literally just plonked on the side of the road with some outdoor chairs and a fire pit. Very endearing!), becoming buddies with Mike ‘the weasel’, Pete ‘doesn’t care’ and Nate the hot sauce entrepreneur (not even kidding).

The next few days I treated myself. I did girly things, shopped and rested. Kat met me every day for lunch, and we went out every night for dinner (again, Kat was very gracious about it all but I feel bad about this!). I went to get my nails done, and made firm friends with an incredible lady named Ms Maggie - who said I had a wonderful, calm energy about me, that she was glad I was here being looked after, and gave me her card to keep in touch. Something just clicked. We shared life stories, disasters, hopes and dreams… she hopes to take her family to London very soon “I HAVE to go, I HAVE to!” and she thinks it will be good for her kids to visit a country outside the Unites States. It really would be. I really hope that she makes it and takes that walk down Abbey road that she so wants to do.

I received some bad news that afternoon. I didn’t leave Halifax on bad terms, I just excused myself for a few days. I had hoped to swing back through on my last night in the USA just to say good bye and make things right. Now, maybe possibly my friend’s services might all of a sudden after a year of planning be required by some family members out of town. But he’d ‘let me know’. I was at a loss for anything else to say, so I didn’t.

An afternoon at Carter’s mountain orchard with a group of friends - tasting wine and eating apple cider donuts at sunset - made things a little better. From the safety of the mountain we watched a storm cloud hover over the city and lightning flash inside it, lighting it up from within. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Friday night then brought a much needed opportunity for us both to let our hair down, and after a girly shopping excursion we begin at ‘Monsoon‘, a great Thai restaurant that we’ve been to previously (sometimes hard to find good Thai in the States!). We head into town to see Kat’s friends play in a band and then on to ‘Bang!’ for some wicked cocktails. I meet Kat’s medical student friend, who is super tall and wears a funny hat. Thusly, he reminds me of Asher. It’s very lucky he’s there, too. I was stung by a bee at lunch on Thursday (true friends awkwardly pull bee stings out from your armpit) and my arm is slowly blowing up like a hot, red balloon. He diagnoses me with possible cellulitis, which scares the bejeesus out of me cos I’ve seen what bad cellulitis can be like!

It made me go to the medical centre anyway, where we spend most of Saturday morning. It’s not cellulitis, but it’s an allergic reaction which does need treatment. And it does hold us up from our hiking excursion, which doesn’t begin til late afternoon. My friend in Halifax lives mere minutes from a point on the Appalachian Trail, an iconic hiking trail that runs clear across a lot of the Eastern part of the country and something I’ve always wanted to see. I’ve never been shown it though - and my solo PA hike took me through some game lands further south to ‘dinosaur rock’. Kat, being Kat, knows that seeing the AT is really important to me. So she’s done some research, and taken me on a long drive out of Cville, through some precarious 4wd trails, to where the AT crosses through Virginia. We hike a little off it to Crabtree falls before powering up to it and triumphantly hopping around a bit.

It’s my last night in the United States. We’ve conquered the AT but it’s getting late and we’re starving so we hit Blue Mountain Brewery on the way home - worth mentioning for their fantastic and fantastically-named beers and their giant pizza. We also stop off for some ‘fire in a can’ as I’ve come to call it (Sterno). Jess has some friends over when we arrive home so we all take the ‘fire in a can’ out to the front porch, where the six of us spend the night chatting and toasting marshmallows for s’mores using the last of the Hershey’s chocolate. I’m really glad that this was my good bye to the States and not an anxious night in Pennsyl-tuckey.

As I’m not in Pennsyl-tuckey though, the next day is a long, 6 hour drive to the airport which I’m a little worried about being alone with my thoughts for. Encouraging messages from home, Joy and Kat get me through, and soon enough I’m safely at Philadelphia International changing my greenbacks for Euro.

She took me in with no notice and saved the remainder of my trip. I taught her how to poach eggs. Not really a fair trade, but there are years to go yet!

Thanks for everything, Katherine the great.

Your B. xx
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Steph on

Sounds like the week you needed to just relax ans enjoy your holiday. I am loving the blog! x

Kate on

I too was stung by a bee this week, as I was brushing my hand through my hair. Stupid bee in my hair.

HKSparkles on

Arriving at such short notice and yet ‘Kat met me every day for lunch, and we went out every night for dinner’ really says it all - about both where you came from and where you ended up.

sparkeflies on

You are right, HK. You are right.

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