Just when you think I'm telling the truth and that I've posted the end of the Bluefield Diaries, I had some more observations once I returned to California soil. Stick around until the end of this one; you'll be glad you aren't me.
Food: I think that Virginia must be the test market for any type of new candy or alcoholic beverage. I saw new flavored M&Ms, new Skittles, and a billboard showing Bud in a Box (not the official name): Budweiser in a refrigerator box so you can have cold "on tap" beer at any time. Think: wine in a box but with more of an appeal to the college crowd.
Rain, Part 2: I forgot to mention that Bluefield doesn't have any dust. How could they, really, when the town is wall-to-wall trees and concrete gopher holes? You could go several months without changing your house's air filter (if you actually owned an air conditioner in Bluefield, a town that only recently had record high temps of 93) and several months without dusting your furniture. Therefore, unlike Bakersfield, when it rains in Bluefield, the rain cleans the cars. A dirty car is a rare sighting in Bluefield. The photo is of Jarret's truck receiving a complimentary spot-free wash, courtesy of Bluefield, W. VA.
Cars: Speaking of cars, it wasn't until I returned to California that I noticed so many SUVs and trucks. In Bluefield, I may have seen two SUVs the entire time we were there, and that includes the hours we drove back and forth from Charlotte, NC. Not having anything other than an SUV for years, I'd forgotten the pleasure of filling a tank for under $80. The price of gasoline (in case this interests you) is $2.49/gallon, hotel rates are $89/night, and hot dogs at the game are $2.00. There are no watermelons in Bluefield.
Traffic: Remember when we were 16 and were taught that when you drive in the "fast" lane on the freeway, be prepared to move over if a faster car approaches and would like to pass? I don't know how many of you have noticed (driving to Vegas or to any destination over the Tehachapis), but people here have stopped moving over. It's what I have decided is an overall rude, me-centric, self-absorbed mentality of Californians on the freeway. Happily, that sort of stubborn unkindness isn't prevalent in the states we visited during this trip, and people still move over, speak politely, and say 'thank you' with a gentle southern drawl.
Speaking of being polite, on my last morning in Bluefield, I met a local woman in the lobby whose modeling agency was holding auditions in the hotel conference room. We got to talking a little about the extremely talented folks that had been mulling around all week, when she finally cocked her head a little to the side and said that I didn't look like I was from around there. "No," I said, "I'm from California."
"California!!" she exclaimed loudly, tilting her head again and scanning me up and down as if to discover some piece of evidence she previously missed to indicate I was from the West Coast. "Congratulations! I wish I lived there."
She meant that. She actually congratulated me on living in a state that is bankrupt, has overcrowded jails, is unfriendly to small business, has one of the highest rates of foreclosure in the nation, high-priced gas, Watts, and Spencer Pratt. What an eye-opener for me. How easy it is to take our gorgeous weather (10 months of the year) and whatever else other states don't have for granted.
Finally (and I mean it this time), we made it to the Charlotte airport. During the drive from Bluefield, the Blue Ridge Mountains interfered with our satellite signal (as you see in the photo, one drives through the mountains in Virginia, not over them), and our GPS sent us in the wrong direction more than once. When I finally remembered that prior to GPS we had a brain and a God-given sense of direction, I discovered that I could actually get us to Charlotte just by--I dunno--reading freeway signs. By the time we arrived to the Alamo rental agency to return our Dodge Charger, we were just grateful to be there with a little time to spare. We quickly hopped on the shuttle and climbed off at the American Airlines terminal, dragging over 150 pounds of luggage and harboring a desperate need for a Starbucks mocha frappuccino.
At security, they asked if I was carrying a cell phone, sunglasses, or watch, then they had me remove my shoes, belt and light jacket and walk through the metal detector wearing little but a revealing tank top and jeans. You'd think, therefore, after asking me to strip down, something like a car key (for example) dangling out of my jeans pocket would cause them some type of alarm. "Remove your thin jacket, please, but if that's your rental car key hanging out of your pocket--feel free to hold on to that."
You know the end of this story, don't you? Once I'd been cleared of being a threat to national air safety, I was lacing my belt through the loops when I heard the unmistakable sound of the Dodge Charger key flopping loosely out of my pocket, where I had put it (of course) for safe keeping while I muscled 150 pounds of luggage from the car. I looked down in horror---surely I did NOT leave that car on the line without a key, especially considering the message we'd been reading all week etched clearly on the plastic key fob: Replacement key cost average $150.00.
For the next 45 minutes, I worked on contacting the Alamo sales people, who I knew were one floor below me (yet so far outside of security clearance). I spoke to several people: One person said to FedEx it "next day" service; one said I'd probably be charged $250. To both of them I explained, "I'm UPSTAIRS! Come get it!!"
Finally, a manager gave me his cell phone number and asked me to find a store with a clerk who would take the key for me and hold it for him. He would then get clearance to come upstairs and retrieve it from her. End of story.
On the flight, I had wine, and it was good, and I sat beside a man from Dallas who kept me entertained the entire two hour flight (shout-out to Randall). In the airport in Dallas, I took an exhausted wine nap (thanks, Jordyn, for chronicling that with photos!), and when our flight was delayed an hour, a family of opera singers entertained us and made the long wait bearable. They received repeated ovations and gratitude from the many weary travelers. Click on the video to see a short clip. The opera singers were no older than 20. (Hint: they are singing from Phantom of the Opera)
I had such a great time in Bluefield, but now I need a vacation from my vacation. The end.