Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Break 2012!

Well, hello there!

You know how they say that "time flies when you're having fun?" Pardon the grammatical transgression here, but 'ain't that the truth?' I'm specifically referring to Spring Break which, for those of you unfamiliar with the UNC Charlotte calendar, was last week from March 3rd to 11th. And, as you may have guessed (by the subject of this blog), I have plenty to tell you about!

Spoiler: this is going to be a long post. I think you'll enjoy it, though!

Our Spring Break plans began one dark night in January on a late night trip to Target. Kelsey, Tyler and I were discussing potential things to do over Spring Break, as none of us wanted to commit to the monotony of staying home all by our lonesome. Ideas were thrown around in the car when the sudden realization hit us: why not use what we already had? All of us had ties to different beaches—Kelsey lives on Topsail Island, NC; Tyler lives in Virginia Beach; I have contacts in Surfside Beach, SC. And the thought struck us: why not travel to each locale, spend a few days, see family and then move on up the road to tour different places and experience new things?

Our route! Just under 900 miles.

It sounded perfect. After a few days (and a few brief phone calls), the plan was set. We even picked up a few extra people, too, in the form of Noelle, Jessie and my fantastic suitemate Hunter! The final plan entailed Kelsey, Tyler, Noelle and I leaving on Saturday morning; Hunter and Jessie left Friday to spend a day in Charleston. We would all rendevous in Surfside Beach that night and would leave for Topsail on Tuesday. We would spend two days there and, afterwards, on Thursday, we would head forth to Virginia Beach. Hunter and Jessie wouldn't be joining us, though; they decided to head back to Charlotte on Thursday instead. Needless to say, we were all very excited.

And then the trip began!

We're off!

We left early Saturday morning and stopped to fill up the gas tank in Florence, SC, a good 2 hours down the road. Normally I would not think this detail worthy of a retelling, but it was Noelle's first time pumping gas! Ever! In her entire life! Apparently in New Jersey pumping gas by yourself is illegal; someone is paid to do that for you. And so, logically, she'd never pumped gas before. Ever. Until now!

Coincidentally, this trip was quite the learning experience for Noelle. She learned what a "semi" was, having always referred to those big rigs as "eighteen wheelers." She even learned the lovely Southern expression "sic' 'em," as featured quite lovingly in the country hit "Sic' Em' on a Chicken," recorded by the good ol' Zac Brown band. She'd also never been to a Piggly Wiggly OR a Family Dollar before! (I know it's shocking, right!?) We can all proudly say that our New Jerseyan friend has now been a little bit more Southern-ified than before!

Anyways, we got down to the beach Saturday afternoon and went to my favorite restaurant in the world for dinner. It's a really, really small place hidden in a tiny, tiny strip mall--The Southside Grill. Fantastic. Hunter and Jessie got in right after dinner and we called it a night.

The next morning we all woke up and eagerly awaited the beach... but it was cold and rainy, so we spent most of the day inside instead! (It was fun, anyways, and relaxing is never a hindrance!) That evening we decided to make dinner--a delicious pasta primavera from scratch. I should probably mention that this was also Noelle's first time really "cooking," and she did well!

Cooking with the crew!

(And the meal was incredible, too.) Hunter and Jessie even made some delightful garlic bread! It was a feast!

It absolutely adore a hodgepode of multicolored vegetables. Especially with pasta. Yumm...

The next day we finally got out to the beach! (It was about time!) The weather was a bit chilly (or at least I thought so. Then again, I'm the most cold-natured person in the world, so I'm the wrong person to ask!) Jessie got a few group pictures and, well, they look really nice! Here's a few!

From left to right: Jessie, Hunter, Tyler, yours truly, Kesley, Noelle and my brother Kyle!

We went on exploring down the beach some more and snagged a photo at a pretty nice bridge. I've got to admit, we look like we belong on a cheesy album cover.

Can't you see it? "Beach Roadtrip: Greatest Hits." Okay, maybe that's just me.

The rest of the time at Surfside Beach was pretty down to Earth. We cooked out that night and grilled the most delicious vegetables in the world. (I'm sorry I keep referring to food. I just love to talk about it.) And that was it for Surfside! On to Topsail!

Before we got in to Topsail, though, we made one delicious pit stop to Kelsey's favorite restaurant: Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn! It's a spectacular place and if you're ever within 2000 miles of Wilmington, you HAVE to go. I ordered the delcious Veggie Deluxe burrito, complete with the following: roasted red peppers (these are my favorite vegetables ever--I could eat them like candy), zucchini & squash, lettuce, diced tomato, sun dried tomato dressing, marinated & grilled eggplant (this is probably my second favorite thing in the world), portobello mushrooms and tofu (marinated and grilled to perfection.)

Note how, as Kelsey says, the burritos appear swaddled in foil. And they're huge, by the way.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the place, especially Noelle:

I told you so.

Lastly, who can't love a place with a sign like this?

Oh, yes, we rocked out.

We then finished the drive up to Topsail and immediately headed down to the beach, which was gorgeous, I might add. We were on the beach for at least an hour and a half and only ran into ten or so other folks strolling; since we had the place to ourselves, we definitely got to relax! That evening we had dinner at Kelsey's place and welcomed Lauren and Riley, two of our friends who came to spend the next day with us! More people! Yay!

We got up the next morning and drove on down into Wilmington to spend the day. Downtown Wilmington is awesome, by the way. There are so many different shops that are all incredibly quaint and, at times, pretty strange:

Your guess is as good as mine: "the Jessi-topus? Octo-essi?" Either way, Jessie found some octopus, well... actually, I have no idea what to caption this picture as. Excuse the rambling.

Later that evening (once we were back at Kelsey's) we all went down to the boardwalk in Kelsey's neighborhood which overlooked part of a coastal inlet. It was a bit of a hike--we walked a little over a mile to get there, but it was definitely worth it, as the view was gorgeous. With the moon in the background, the scenery was incredible.

From left to right: yours truly, Kelsey, Tyler, Jessie, Noelle, Riley and Lauren.

And now that you've seen the standard, portrait picture, let's flash to the inevitable silly picture:

I didn't say that it didn't take us a few attempts to get a good, serious, non-ridiculous picture.

And that right there concluded our time on Topsail! It was a lot of fun and we all really enjoyed it, but it was time to mosey on up to Virginia Beach. Lauren, Riley, Jessie and Hunter headed back home, while Tyler, Kelsey and I charged forward.

Or, rather, we "defied gravity." Why, you may ask? Well, because of this:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's right: we got to see Wicked that night, courtesy of Tyler's parents. (We were all incredibly appreciative and floored at their generosity.) The show, though, was amazing. Not only was all of the acting spot on, but the scenery was beautiful. And the lighting was fantastic. And the effect scene when Elphaba appears to float in midair? Gorgeous, magical, amazing! Nothing was as fantastic as the final scene, though, which almost brought tears to our eyes. It was very well portrayed. I think, besides the actual "show," though, my favorite part of the evening was the occasion of the night. Let me explain.

All of us after the show, complete with fancy attire and playbills in hand!

As a college student, I don't get to treat myself to many "nights on the town." The same holds true for Kelsey, Tyler and Noelle, I'm sure. Most of our time is spent either studying or doing things which are typically cheaper than a Broadway show. It's not that we don't all enjoy the theater, but it's a lot more practical to spend time with friends getting coffee (which averages $5 a purchase) than going to see a musical (which is more than $5 an evening.) Thus, the concept of "dinner and a show" is a very rare one, indeed. But this occasion was different!

Eagerly awaiting the show!

Also "different" was our choice of dinner before the show. While standard custom might dictate going to a somewhat "fancy" restaurant in our somewhat "fancy" clothes, we decided to get it old school, choosing instead to go to Doumar's, a diner founded in 1907 and recently featured on Guy Fieri's show "Diners and Drive-Ins & Dives!" So there we were, fancy clothes and all, eating food served on paper plates. You've gotta love it.

At Doumar's!

So, yes, that evening was amazing. Hands down.

The next day was pretty low key, as well. It poured for most of the day, so we all spent lots of time doing homework at Tyler's house. That night we went to Waterman's, a restaurant on the oceanfront at Virginia Beach and then headed back early the next morning. The drive was a long one:

US 58: 105 straight miles of this.

We got back that evening around 5:00 and then went to dinner at Amelie's about an hour later. It was delicious, as usual, and definitely a nice way to conclude the week long excursion. We let loose a little steam, of course:

After all, 350 mile, 6 hour car rides are long.

And that was our roadtrip! It was obviously lots of fun and provided a great chance for all of us to spend time together, away from the stresses and burdens of school, simply enjoying life and each other's company. It was probably the best way that I could have imagined Spring Break 2012 and I am so blessed to have had the chance to go.

And that's a wrap!

Hunter in one of those quirky Wilmington shops.

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