Saturday, April 30, 2011

Adorabletown, USA

I've been getting some Bulgarian spam on this blog lately, which probably means that it's time for an update, lest my fallow blog serve as a fertile crossroads for Balkan insurrectionists, counter-insurrectionists, counter-counter-insurrectionists, and people selling discount Tramadol at low low prices (protip: it's really Tums).

The week before last, Rob and I went to Virginia for our second anniversary. We started by going to some Civil War sites around Richmond, and then Richmond itself. As previously stated, Richmond is one of my favorite cities, but as I have already spoken of my love for it I don't need to talk about it again. AND THEN we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway, which I had never been to. And it is fucking gorgeous.

Look at this fucking mountain.
I drove most of the way, and even though I hate driving, it was a good experience to have. Along the way, we passed a group of like thirty people on mountain bikes, which gave me the idea to bike on the Blue Ridge Parkway myself someday, although I probably won't be able to do it on a fifty-pound Raleigh comfort bike. But even through the windshield of a car, the majesty of the Blue Ridge shines through. It was like spending three or four hours in a postcard. And everyone we talked to along the way was really, really fucking nice, the kind of nice where you don't know if they are actually sincere. But they are. They do the same Pittsburgh "make a little bit of eye contact, wave and smile" thing that I've had to train myself out of doing here, because on the coasts eye contact is considered a threat resolvable only by mashing one's forehead into the aggressor, antelope-style. I don't think I realized how much a very slight amount of eye contact with strangers meant to me until I was back in the Appalachian corridor.

AND THEN we visited Roanoke, which is the most adorable city I have ever been to. Among the cute things we saw there:
One of Roanoke's many, many adorable storefronts.
Tons and tons of old-timey advertisements, including an original Muffler Man, these giant coffee and Dr. Pepper ads on the top of buildings, and "gas" lamps lining the main downtown streets. Oh, and their buses look like old trolley cars. Even the chain restaurants and stores in town (and there aren't many, I only saw a defunct Subway) are made to look old-fashioned. And all these old-fashioned buildings are still functional. It's like stepping into a time machine, except the people aren't horrible, like real old-timey people are.

The only thing that would
make this better is a
squirrel in the saddle.
Everything is themed around trains because Roanoke used to be an important railroading hub and even though it's not as important now we still saw at least 37 trains come through while we were there. Okay, more like five. But, still, more than you expect to see on a daily basis. Rob is a big railroad geek and even though I'm not as super into it I still thought all the train stuff was awesome. The trainy highlight was a visit to the Virginia Museum of Transportation, which houses over sixty old train engines, a few dozen cars, and three bikes!

Bike riding is a thing there, which is surprising as Roanoke isn't that much bigger than Towson, but it's way less suburbanized and sprawley. There is even a Roanoke pedicab service. I saw over a dozen people on bikes while I was there, and since we were only in the town itself for like three hours... that is a lot. And even the bike-related stuff is cute; see the bike rack at right.

Roanoke is the kind of place I could see feeling comfortable in for a long time, and while I'm not about to up and move there (I can't imagine their employment situation is great), I felt instantly comfortable there, which is a lot more than I can say for Baltimore. It's no secret that I haven't been very happy here. Although, things might be changing for the better now that we're maybe definitely probably likely possibly moving to Hampden in August. I came to this we have to move NOW realization after my relaxing ride on Easter Monday afternoon turned into a near-disaster when a fratboy (who are to Towson as trains are to Roanoke -- huge, loud, and ubiquitous) reached out of his passenger-side window and grabbed my handlebars while his crony slammed on the horn. Even if it weren't for the hostility toward bikes, there would still be the un-walkability, the crush of chains (hey, I like Target as much as any Walmart-hating hypocrite, but not when it's the only place I can shop), the townies who don't like me* because they think I'm a student, the students I don't have anything in common with because I'm not one... the list goes on. I realize that I haven't really given Baltimore a chance because I don't LIVE in Baltimore. It's like living in Monroeville and hating on Pittsburgh; yeah, maybe you have a taste of what the city is like, but you don't really know, man. I doubt Baltimore will be our forever home, but maybe it can be more than our two-year home. And at least we'll have given it a fair shot.


* An example: I was riding in Rodgers Forge and this tiny shriveled-up white lady in a nightgown cupped her hands to her mouth and yelled "you don't live here!" It was actually kind of cute, but not as cute as Roanoke.

Don't worry, ma'am, that meth you ordered is right on schedule.

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