I spent a nice and quiet weekend in Durham, North Carolina visiting my friend, Krista, her husband, Tim and their 8 month old son, Benjamin. I took the red-eye to JFK Friday night and was able to catch a little bit of sleep in 20 or 30 minute intervals, so I wasn’t completely exhausted. We had somewhat serious turbulence flying over the Rockies… it was just bumpy enough to keep waking me up. Thankfully, one of Bill’s co-workers hooked me up with a window seat in the exit row. I arrived in JFK around 5:30am and hung around the airport snacking on my Dunkin’ Donuts and juice. Then took the 7:55 am flight to Raleigh-Durham airport on the E190 aircraft. I really like those planes, very comfortable. I chatted with my seatmate and we joked about why jetBlue had blocked two full hours for this flight, since the actual flight time was only one hour and ten minutes… well, we ended up taking off from the runway farthest from the terminal. It took a full 20 minutes just to get there. It felt like we were just going to taxi our way to RDU.
Krista picked me up Saturday morning and we headed to their house about 30 minutes away. Benjamin got up from his nap soon after. We played with him and Karst and I spent a lot of time catching up. He’s such an adorable baby and loves to have his picture taken. As soon as Krista picks up her camera, he’s all smiles. Unless he gets cranky of course…. he is teething. He has incredible blue eyes and blonde hair. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a blonde baby with so much hair… I think I was pretty bald at this age. Later we ran a few errands and rented a chick flick to watch later in the evening. Tim had plans to play poker with some friends, so we rented a film we knew he’d have no interest in seeing. We rented The Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. It was better than I expected. Of course I was having trouble staying awake, so I missed some important parts in the beginning. I’ll probably watch it again someday. We went to Chili’s for dinner. We had talked about eating at places that were unique to Durham. Krista and Tim aren’t very adventurous eaters and tend to eat only at well known chain restaurants. If we had more time we would have asked for some recommendations for BBQ places. Krista really doesn’t like the vinegary taste of North Carolina BBQ sauce. She said the pulled pork is heavenly if you can get it with no sauce.
Sunday morning they took me to their favorite local diner. Elmo’s Diner It’s just across the street from Duke University and it’s a very popular place to eat on Sunday mornings. We got there early despite the downpour of rain. I had delicious whole wheat pancakes topped with apples that were simmered in cinnamon and brown sugar. It was quite obvious that these apples didn’t come from a can. Krista had the same apples but stuffed inside french toast. The food was wonderful as was the atmosphere. Krista raves about their gingerbread pancakes, but they’re only a seasonal special.
On the way back Tim took me on a driving tour of Duke University…driving because it was raining pretty hard. They originally moved to Durham from Southern California for Tim to attend grad school. A couple of years later, Krista also got her graduate degree in teaching there and Tim completed his Ph.D. this summer. It’s a beautiful campus with meandering streets and stone buildings. They even continue to use similar architecture when building new structures. Here’s an aerial shot taken in the Spring. We drove past the Duke University Chapel. It was dedicated in 1935 and built in a Gothic style. It was originally a Methodist chapel. But, Tim explained that they have a Catholic service on Sundays too and that many other religions will meet in rooms throughout the chapel. Krista explained how many brides-to-be will actually camp out on January 1st to be able to make a reservation for their wedding. We drove past the gymnasium where the Duke basketball team plays. The stretch of lawn next to the gym is called “Krzyzewski Park” after the basketball coach. It’s a pretty famous place where students put up tents and camp out to wait in line for basketball tickets…. and they do it in December! Krista did it once and just about froze. She said one time was enough for her. Unfortunately, because of the rain, we didn’t get to take any pictures of Duke. It’s a beautiful campus and I’d really like to come back next Fall.
Sunday afternoon I napped when Benjamin did. We made spaghetti for dinner and watched old episodes of Lost. Krista and Tim needed to get caught up. Krista and I spent time talking about classmates from high school. She showed me photo albums of hers. She’s been working on doing freelance photography. She’s photographed a few weddings. She’s also been getting into photographing babies and pregnant moms. She really loves it and her kick-ass camera helps a lot. I gave her some cool suggestions to do in Photoshop. Before I went to bed I talked to Bill about the weather in New York and the possibilities of flight delays. It was forecasted to rain heavily in New York on Monday.
Monday morning Krista and I took some photos of her and Benjamin. She showed me a few photos from a pro’s website that she liked and we tried to shoot something similar. Thankfully, the lighting in their master bedroom is fantastic. Here are my two favorites:
Afterwards… and after Benjamin’s nap, we met up with Tim at the Duke Gardens. Krista wanted to try and get some family photos with the beautiful fall foliage. It’s a beautiful park with lots of walkways, hidden gazebos and a lake complete with swans and ducks. Many sections of the park are landscaped in a Japanese style with a variety of Japanese maple trees… which were displaying vibrantly in reds and oranges.
It was a beautiful day on Monday, a little cloudy and warm. I really wish I had another day to spend there. Krista and I dropped Tim off at his basketball game and we went to Bojangles for a quick lunch before heading to the airport. I had the chicken biscuit and Krista had a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. It was really good. Significantly better than KFC. Not necessarily better than Popeyes, just different.
I spoke to Bill on the way to the airport for my 3:15 pm flight to JFK. There were severe weather delays in JFK and my 3:15 flight was delayed until 6:15… which meant that I would miss my connection to Long Beach scheduled to leave at 6pm. Thankfully, I had my U.S. Airways passes with me and Bill listed me on a flight from RDU to Phoenix and then on to Long Beach. It kept me out of the bad weather all together. (Krista, if you read this, you and Tim should look at this flight for future trips to California…especially in the winter. You can avoid the nasty weather airports like your cursed Chicago!) I flew on an Airbus A319 for just over four hours to PHX. It looked and felt just like a jetBlue flight… just with different logos and different TVs. They had TVs attached to the ceilings every few rows. The inflight movie was You, Me, and Dupree. It was pretty funny, but I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. Then I watched a History Channel show on the Mayan pyramids and their myths about the afterlife. It was really fascinating and something I probably would have watched had I flown jetBlue. I had a window seat and no one sitting in the middle. Afterwards, I closed my eyes and listened to Simon and Garfunkle. It’s amazing how easy it is to fall asleep to them.
After an hour and a half hanging around Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport… (why is it called Sky Harbor? It’s in the middle of the desert. There is no harbor) I boarded an old and shabby-looking Boeing 737 to Long Beach. It was cramped and the air conditioning wasn’t working well. But, at least it was only a one hour flight. Well… actually with the time change, it was a ten minute flight.
I got home and had some dinner. Bill got home a little while later from watching the San Jose Sharks lose to the LA Kings. Bummer. Bill did a little research on my flights and it turned out that had I tried to fly to JFK on jetBlue, I wouldn’t have made it. The flight filled up at the last minute with all the delays. Thank goodness for those passes.
I told Bill I definitely want to be a leafer next Fall. The colors were so beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in California.
“A leafer is any American who travels north to see the leaves change color. Also known as a wanna-be Canadian. Hogs your bars and parking spots. Check out that carload of leafers, look how happy they are that soon we will be freezing our ass’s off.”