coming down the mountain
photo by Jamie Bishop
This past weekend was spent up in the mountains of Blacksburg, Virginia, with Jamie and Steffi, who we hadn't seen since they moved from Chapel Hill in May of 2005. The drive up Saturday morning was fairly uneventful, and we enjoyed all the scenic views afforded from the highway; when we approached Pilot Mountain, Janet officially renamed it Nipple Mountain, because, well, just because.
After getting to the Bishofer homestead -- a cozy little house only two miles from downtown Blacksburg and Virginia Tech, where both Jamie and Steffi teach -- we took the nickel tour of the house, had some lunch, then went for a hike to a scenic spot where you can see the nearby valley, as well as the mountains beyond; it's apparently even more impressive in the Spring, when the trees are green and the flowers are in bloom. Then we headed back to the house, got in the car, drove the short way to downtown, parked, and walked around. Blacksburg is a fairly small town, and so the circuit around downtown didn't take very long, but it was populated by the staples of a college town: restaurants, pubs, tattoo parlors, music shops, clothing stores, art-house movie theater. We also paid a visit to The Easy Chair, a cool little independent bookstore with an eclectic selection of titles, many of which I've seen discussed in litblogs; I wrote down a few that looked interesting, to find at the library later, and once again felt guilty that I didn't buy anything.
At one point, the streets of downtown bled into the streets of the university, and suddenly we were walking through the campus. Steffi, who seems to have been quite taken with the college and the town, served as an excellent tour guide, explaining what the buildings were, and pointing out that many of them featured Hokie stone, which was periodically extracted from a nearby quarry. It was also interesting to find out that nearly the entire campus was rigged for wi-fi, something that seemed incredible to me, but I guess it'll get more and more common in the coming years.
We made it back to the car, and drove around a bit more, checking out the enormous football stadium and the duck pond. We stopped at a nearby golf course, got out, walked up a hill to one of the greens, and were exposed to a breathtaking view of the mountains on all sides. It was also rippingly windy, and I started wishing I'd brought along my scarf. Then it was back to the house for more chatting as Jamie made homemade pizzas for dinner (they were delicious). That night, we watched 21 Grams on DVD (since neither Janet nor I had seen it before); horribly depressing, but well done. Before bed, I read a bit more in Octavian Nothing, but I was so pooped out from all the walking that day that I didn't last long.
The next morning, we had waffles and chatted some more. The sofa bed was put away, and our things packed back up (though we didn't bring much). Jamie persuaded us to come down to the basement to his makeshift photo studio, and had us sit for about a dozen shots. Most of it was informal, such as the photo above, where we would be just talking and he would occasionally take a picture. But he also did ask us a couple of times to pose, and one of the results is below:
photo by Jamie Bishop
I am sometimes pathologically incapable of not making a face when a camera is pointed at me.
Afterward, we drove back downtown and had lunch at a neat little vegetarian restaurant, during which it began raining lightly outside. The restaurant only served breakfast-type dishes, and I got a veggie wrap with eggs and white cheddar that was simply incredible. We then went back to the house, Jamie burned a CD of the photographs, and we gave Trinity (their black and white cat) some goodbye scritches; my allergies actually behaved for the most part while we were there, which I was thankful for. We all said our final goodbyes, exchanged hugs, and left around 3:30.
The drive home was an endurance trial. It's about four hours from Blacksburg to Raleigh, and the majority of the trip yesterday was spent in the pouring rain. At one point coming down the mountains (my memory is fuzzy on which highway it was exactly), a fog sprung up that frankly frightened me. It was the thickest fog I'd ever driven in, where I could only see about ten feet ahead, and the only indication that the truck in front of me was still there were his brakelights. On either side of the guardrails, the world simply disappeared into the whiteness, as if it were no more consequential than a dream. About five miles later, all downhill, the fog lightened, as did my anxieties; it truly was a disquieting feeling. We got home around 7:30 last night, and grabbed some dinner at Whole Foods.
It was such a fun weekend, and I'm so glad we could see Jamie and Steffi once more before we leave in March. They were terriffic hosts and fed us very well. I wish it could have lasted longer, but I'm grateful for the time that we were able to spend with them.