24 June 2010

not quite the Amazing Race, although a million dollars at the end of all of this would be nice

If you follow me on Twitter at all (@jen_talley) you may have noticed that I have been on the road for nearly the past two weeks on what I have been thinking of as my multi-city librarian-extraordinaire Eastern Seaboard extravaganza. I had two professional obligations in a row, one at the University of Virginia last week and one in Philadelphia this week. I am currently sitting at the Philadelphia Amtrak station waiting on a train that doesn't leave for another two hours; I could have done some lunch-type stuff with my colleagues at the conference, but at this point I am so tired of hauling around an insanely heave suitcase (hereafter the IHS), various totebags, a backpack, and a camera bag that I came directly here after the morning's sessions and am happy to just be sitting.

Since I was on this multi-city journey it seemed like a good idea to take the train. Flying would have been prohibitively expensive, even with the university covering a great deal of the travel costs, and would have necessitated checking the aforementioned insanely heavy suitcase and paying probably the overweight penalty as well as the bag-check fee, as well as dealing with various taxis and switching to trains or renting a car. Instead I plotted a course that went like this: Ann Arbor-Chicago-Charlottesville. Charlottesville-Washington D.C. D.C.-Philadelphia. Philadelphia-Pittsburgh-Toledo-Ann Arbor.

So I left Ann Arbor on the Saturday around lunchtime and headed five hours in utterly the wrong direction to Chicago. Two hours in the Chicago train station and then boarded the Cardinal for Charlottesville, a bizarre route that takes one across Indiana, along the Ohio-Kentucky border, through West Virginia and northwest Virginia before dropping one in Charlottesville and then continuing on to Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and finishing up in New York City. And this 30-hour plus extravaganza is considered a direct connection between Chicago and NYC. Really.

This should have taken about 20 hours and gotten me into Charlottesville midday on Sunday, but overnight we lost massive time due to apparently storms, and scheduling issues, and freight trains getting priority on rural West Virginia tracks, and when I woke up Sunday morning (not that I really slept much overnight, but I dozed off and on) we were still in West Virginia. And at lunchtime, we were still in West Virginia. I think we made it nearly to Staunton VA by dinner time and were finally deposited in Charlottesville around 7:30 pm Sunday night. By the time I gathered my bags, got a taxi, got over to Conference Services for my room key, had the taxi take me over to my Lawn room, and hauled everything across the Lawn into the room, it was nearly 9 pm. The wine-and-cheese opening reception which I was so looking forward to (and really, at this point, how badly did I need the wine?) was long over; I opened the window, closed the screen doors, pulled the bed out to the middle of the room under the ceiling fan, and collapsed.

So then there was a week of easily the best, most intimidating, exhilarating, inspiring professional experience of my life. It might be hard for people outside the profession/obsession to get how obscure points of bibliography can be exhilarating, so you'll just have to trust me on this. Or judge me and think I'm a complete nerd, but this is also true. My class finished up on Friday afternoon; I met up with a TARflies friend for Friday evening (we had frozen yogurt, which was awesome, and went to Target, which is always awesome) and then stayed up very late Friday night into the wee hours of Saturday morning drinking wine on the Lawn and talking with classmates/colleagues/new friends. Four hours later I got up, repacked the IHS, and got back on the train to head up to D.C. Stayed with another TARflies friend there and did touristy and/or relaxing stuff until Monday (Archives, American History, Toy Story 3, catching up on Dr Who and True Blood at her place, Air and Space, Lincoln Memorial, etc.) I got a ridiculous sunburn wandering around on my own on Monday, because I am an idiot and because it was REALLY HOT AND SUNNY, and headed out once again on Tuesday morning for Philadelphia. Except really, Wilmington, because I met Natalie there for the afternoon and we proceeded to hang out and talk and have a really good lunch and wander around her wonderful local yarn store, after which she drove me to Philadelphia and I plopped my insanely heavy suitcase into yet another dorm room, scrounged dinner at a 7-11, and collapsed again. Wednesday was spent being all professional and stuff again, and then dinner with yet another TARfly (we're EVERYWHERE) at a nifty restaurant called El Vez where I had a very yummy blood orange margarita and a crazy amount of chips, guac, and various other corn-based based food products. This morning it was back to professionality (oh, whatever, it's a word), along with the repacking and hauling of the IHS, navigating the Philly subway, and finally ending up here, now, at the train station with a couple of hours to spare. Seven hours today on the train to Pittsburgh, overnight to Toledo, and then from Toledo to Ann Arbor, a bus, and I will finally be home sometime tomorrow morning. Laden with books, papers, and other professional conference detritus, souvenirs for the kids, two more totebags than I started out with, lots of dirty clothes, a sunburn, and a completely exhausted, burned-out brain. And likely, immediately upon arrival, two small girls whom I have missed as desperately as I needed a break from them when I began this trek.

Holy cow, I'm tired.

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