Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Being in one BIG Apple (New York)

February 2012

This week I got to visit a city I’ve wanted to visit since I first watched King Kong. New York. The Big Apple. New Yoik as the locals say (or so I wish they would say as that’s how I’ve always imagined them to say it like that!). My mum and sister had flown over for Bryony’s half term week as a birthday present to her. And because Mum couldn’t cope not seeing me till July otherwise. Not that she told anyone that. Oh wait…
I arrived at JFK airport on the Tuesday evening after a long day in class (unusually for me with a paper hand in and midterm in the morning), with the day made even longer by a supposed half hour wait for Mum and Bryony being extended to a two hour wait due to delays. Wasn’t a real drama, apart from being asked every 30 seconds if I wanted a taxi (my answers getting more and more curt!), and I just found a corner, sat down on my bag and read my incredibly boring book for a class. Such a good student!

With the Sis

Bright lights & tall buildings

Mum and Bryony eventually arrived looking fairly tired and pissed off with the whole ordeal (apparently they had to sit next to a load of hawking Kuwaitis. Read that as you will), so I didn’t wind them up about keeping me waiting (well a little bit…). Thankfully we were met at JFK (very nice corners by the way if you’re ever waiting there. Just make sure your bags a soft case because otherwise the bum starts to hurt) by a driver and ride who took us to the apartment we were staying in. 

In the back of a yellow cab
Where are we again?
Anyways, with Mum and Bryony being jetlagged, the first night involved wandering down Broadway to Time Square looking amazed at the tall buildings and flashing lights. And me looking disgusted at the number of English accents I could hear. We ate in a place called Ellen’s Stardust where a lot of Broadway actors and singers work when they aren’t in a show. It was packed out (being Valentine’s Day) but we managed to get a seat in there nevertheless after a little wait, (tourist-y bit alert!) the place was stereotypically diner-ish with shiny tables and paper cloths etc and food to match. The food itself was pretty good (at least what I had was seeing as I was staaaarving by that point!) and the entertainment consisting of the waiters and waitresses taking turns to sing rather well known songs (including a worryingly good rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” by one guy. Scarily good I tell you!). One thing I will say is the place is freezing inside. Take a jacket you can wear at the table without looking like a muppet (which I didn’t, and therefore ended up looking like a muppet. What’s new I guess!) I then had to explain the concept to American tipping and how tax isn’t added onto prices until the end to Mum. Bless Mum, the conversation was waaaay more complicated than it should have been – I was thinking it was the jetlag but I guess it just takes more than a few days to get used to the American way of doing things (not passing judgement on that here…)!

Out and about in the Big Apple

Most days had an early start, in accordance with Mums strict schedule planned for the days, in order to maximise the time we had there (or so she said. At times I wasn’t so sure!). Being in NYC was pretty cool. It felt great to be back in a city environment with the hustle and bustle and noises. A world away from Chapel Hill! However the noise was phenomenal- honking, shouting yelling revving of engines. Driving in London is considered tough, but I reckon its nothing compared to NY! And the height of the place is staggering. If you’ve never been then most building are at least 20 floors high, many are many many more than that. The notion of the concrete jungle was well and truly appreciated by me wandering around the city! Although it was great to have a decent public transport system for once – miles away from the non-Sunday running bus service of Chapel Hill! It was hilarious riding the Subway too. Some VERY interesting characters on it, including a incredibly camp guy wearing Ugg boots and more jewellery than was probably healthy, banging on about how he didn’t like some person for some random reason but was still going for lunch with him the next day. I mean please don’t tell the whole carriage your incredibly bitchy social problems! It was interesting that we were advised not to ride the Subway, yet I thought it was no different to ridding the tube in London, but with far more interesting people – the real New York! I think Mum found it a little overwhelming as she constantly had no idea where we were (we went round one block where the Chrysler building is located numerous times due to her not being convinced that was where it was. Until we had to ask a random guy, only for me to shout incredibly loud in triumph when he pointed to the building Bryony and I had been trying to convince Mum was the damn Chrysler building) and - being Mum - would point things out to my and Bryony, only for a Cab to pull up beside us thinking she had hailed it. Awkward doesn’t even cover it after the third time…

We were staying in a friend’s REALLY nice apartment which was right on Broadway overlooking Central Park (no seriously!) and had its own army of door open-ers and elevator button push-ers and wish you a  good day-ers (again, seriously!). It was an interesting experience staying in a place like that, and one I wasn’t completely comfortable with. I am perfectly able to push an elevator button myself thanks! The only down side to the apartment was the fact it was a one bedroomed apartment for three of us. Soooo being the male I had to have the sofa. Fantastic… Still, can’t beat the location being a 5min walk from Times Square I suppose! The 4 days spent in New York involved being absolute tourists. Times Square, Empire State Building (at night – VERY cool and highly recommended!), Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street and financial district, the World Trade Centre site, plus lots and lots of walking around the East and West side (and Mum and Bryony shopping more than I could handle…). I also went and saw the UN building myself and wondered around some of the smaller back streets of New York, getting a bit more of a real feel of the place away from the tourist trap areas, whilst Bryony and Mum spent far too much money helping prop up the US economy. I have to say I did succumb to the shopping extortion of NYC by buying a Abercrombie and Fitch top, simply because its one of those things you’ve got to do. And it was a damn nice top!

The view from the Empire State Building

Whilst doing the typical touristy stuff like the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station, we also did a couple of things not so known about in NYC (I’m comparing this to my own knowledge here!) such as a really cool park created on old railroad tracks elevated above street level in the Lower East Side with some really interesting views over the local area. The only problem was it was raining towards the end of the walk which wasn’t fun at all. And I wasn’t feeling to good that morning so didn’t really enjoy it that much… especially when we then had to walk about 150000 blocks (ok, very slight exaggeration) to some cupcake shop that was once in Sex and the City. The cupcakes were amazing, but woopdedoo I didn’t give two monkeys about the place being in Sex and the City. But whatever, it kept Mum happy I guess! That same day we also visited the West Side towards Chinatown and Little Italy where a large immigrant community established itself around the 1860’s and there is what’s known as Tenements, where large numbers of families lived. It was quite cool (again, apart from the weather!) as this place had the look and feel of a stereotypical New York slum type scene from a film which was pretty cool to see in the real.

It's not a real elephant. Clearly.
The last full day involved walking over the Brooklyn Bridge which was really cool (once we had worked out how to get on the dam thing!) and the views offered of Manhattan was really cool. We also ate dinner in Brooklyn Heights which was nice and very different from the mental-ness of Manhattan, even though it was so near to it. It also meant we got to see the sun set over the Hudson River and then see Manhattan lit up and night. So touristy guide bit here – definitely worth walking over Brooklyn Bridge in the afternoon, eat in Brooklyn Heights (some very nice looking restaurants there too!) and then walk back in the dark. And the bridge is devoid of retarded tourists later on the evenings too – perfect!

Brooklyn Bridge

Looking out onto Manhattan Island

The last day was spent wandering around Central Park and trying to work out where film locations were within it (a lot harder than it sounds!), and clearing up the apartment to go home. We were picked up and taken back to JFK again, and upon arrival at JFK, Mum and Bryony realised their flight was delayed by 2 hours (total joy), and as we got their soooo early I tried to get on an earlier flight home, only to find I had missed it by 5mins. So we became those depressed people you see on programmes like ‘Airline’ and ‘Airport’ who’s flights have been delayed, sitting around staring into the middle distance and occasionally getting up to buy food simply for the hell of it.

Pancake breakfast

Central Park

The 5 days spent in New York was a really great experience and was fantastic to see Mum and Bryony. I think that 5 days isn’t really enough time to spend in the city, and to really get a feel for the place away from the tourist areas one has to spend much longer there. I was particularly disappointed to not be able to get to Harlem, but you just can’t do everything in 5 days. Especially with two jetlagged family members!  Never-the-less, whilst I enjoyed being back in a City, and seeing a Northern City, I was glad to be back in the South, with good ‘ol Southern hospitality and friendliness, compared to (how I saw it) the much ruder Northern ‘City folk’. And as I thought that I came to the scary conclusion that I've spent far too much time in a small town in the South now and its starting to affect my outlook on life. What am I gonna be like when I go back home?!

The three of us. With a horse,

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Playing Soldiers. US style...

Feburary 2012 

I have realised I haven’t written about the ROTC since my first post waaaay back in October when I first joined. Having now ended the semester with the UNC ROTC unit (“Tar Heel Battalion”) I feel it’s time to write about it. Now I know that many of the guys and girls within the Unit have heard me comment and compare aspects of training and traditions between UNC and MSUOTC, and I still stand by my comment of there being both positives and negatives of both units. But the British Army is better. Obviously. 

As mentioned in my last post (LINK), the training is very different in structure to Manchester. At UNC there a two “lab” sessions a week – one in a classroom and one in the field (well, a park really), and 3 PT sessions a week at the God forsaken hour of 6am; alongside a two day FTX at the end of each semester. This is very different from the Manchester way of one drill evening a week and a weekend every few weeks. The PT sessions have been an interesting experience. One due to the fact that I injured myself from over training (went a bit mental with all the free gym facilities) and two; I failed the PT test. Twice.

NOW BEFORE YOU OTC-ERS JUDGE, I passed theoretically. In that if I did a PT test British stylee I would have passed. Comfortably. However, the US lot do it a bit differently, and so I have struggled to adapt to it and subsequently failed. Shameful I know. The big difference is the fact that one is not allowed to put ones knees down during the press ups (i.e. you have to be in the press up position even if you aren’t pushing), or lie back on the floor in the sit ups. This makes the tests significantly harder if you’re resting in a tensed position already. Also, sit ups are done with hands behind the head, fingers interlocked. I failed both tests because my fingers became sweaty and I lost grip, thus failing the test - called “terminating” (always though that sounded quite final and sinister for a PT test!). You automatically fail if you come out of the approved positions before the time is up, even if you have fulfilled the requirements. So obviously I failed. So much for that British pride in trying to out-run the fat Americans….

Standard Issue Kit

I have also worked out the rank structure and training structure of the ROTC since my last post. The programme is four years; so three years training, one year directing, compared to Manchester’s two years training and one year directing. I’ve been placed with the MS2’s (second years) which have passed Basic (so MLDP1 for you Manchester lot) and are currently doing all the leadership and beginning the orders process and slightly more advanced tactics, similar to our MLDP2. Now this suits me fine as a) I have no idea, and b) I have no responsibility. It is a little frustrating to go back over the leadership stuff again, but never mind. It’s the field tactics I’m more interested in, and being a “2” seems to be the best level in terms of that at this time. Maybe next semester I will be given a bit more of a chance to have a command appointment.  Its also a little weird to begin with to have someone who isn’t directing tell you what to do. I think the guys appreciate my input with things though (well I hope they do as I keep butting in!) as I bring a different perspective to things. Although it does usually bring the comment of “Bloody Brits!”

I also attended the FTX with the Unit (can never turn down a bit of fun in the field), in which I had great fun and really enjoyed it. And it was cold. And wet. Like Bleak Leek wet (for you who get the reference). But I loved it because I got to wear my lovely new combat jacket to prove how water resistant it is. And how dry my feet were compared to the thin desert boots the Americans get issued (poor buggers – they were soaked!) But simple pleasures for me! Aaaand because I got to prance around the area in my British uniform looking all sexy and interesting to the US units training to go to Afghan. Simple pleasures again! This was again a VERY interesting experience. I can’t quite remember the order of events (as it was quite a while ago now!), but there was Land Navigation, Night Navigation (a total bitch – me and a guy called Cliff back to battle through some pretty thick scrubland), lessons on cold weather injuries, command tasks, orders process, tactic revision (more learning than revision for me!) and the bit joy; paintballing (known as “Sticks lanes”).

Paintballing was a very useful experience to be honest, as I was just the same as what we do in Manchester with blanks, except you get shot at. And they hurt. A lot more than I can remember. So the usefulness comes from actually thinking properly about where to take cover, rather than just crouching down in some long grass and thinking that will do. I really enjoyed the STX Lanes (apart from when my squad lost our kit in the middle of dense woodland for about half an hour!), and really learnt from them as well. Which is always good I guess!

MRE's AKA Rat Packs

Out in the Field

Familiarity was welcomed over night as we slept out in bashers as per usual military tactics (called something different – can’t remember what) and as per usual it was freezing. And we weren’t issues bivvi bags. not sure if this was an oversight or just not provided, but god it would have made a difference to the temperature! The US also conduct stag, contrary to the popular belief that they are so hardcore they don’t need to look out for the enemy (cheeky humour there!). Food was another bizarre experience. I had been looking forward to getting my hands on some MRE’s for a while, and when I got them I was sufficiently entertained. They are HUGE. Like one meal MRE is about three quarters a 24 hour ration pack. And that’s one meal! SO MUCH FOOD! The best bit of the whole two days was discovering “Patriotic Cookies” – little biscuits in the shape of the Stars and Stripes, American Eagle and Statue of Liberty. I was chuckling for hours with that one!
As much as I enjoyed the two days, it is always a relief to climb back into the vans and get back to campus. Especially as free pizza was laid on! The only downside I feel was the lack of socialising once we were back. Where as in Manchester we would all go home, shower and then meet back up for a curry and drinks down Robbos (called something else I now understand!) I was really disappointed to find everyone just disappeared off to their dorms or houses and that was it. I guess I’m just lucky to have such a social unit that I’ve gotten used to at Manchester, and also a bit of cultural difference as well. I commented on this as well in my last post, and whilst it is now where near the level it is like in Manchester with parties every few weeks and drinks after every parade night, now I am getting to know the lads and lasses a lot more, I am starting to go out with them more regularly, especially to a wing night on a Monday with some of the MS2’s and occasionally Country Night on a Tuesday with a wider crowd, and the odd Friday.

Lost in Translation...
One social event which I made up for the lack of other socialising however was the Dining In. This was basically a meal to welcome in the new guys to the unit. Very similar to Manchester in one way. Very, very different in others. The first big difference was the lack of alcohol. Obviously with the drinking age being 21, and lots of guys in the unit being under, alcohol couldn’t be consumed. Not that it really mattered as enough laughs were had anyways! Skits were performed by each platoon, and various pranks and forfeits had to be carried out by people, usually involving drinking from the “grog bowl” which was a toilet bowl with a mixture of vile things put in by the 4th years. Naturally I had to take a drink and trust me it was vile. Food was provided which was nice, as was grape juice (instead of wine – clever eh?!) and a slideshow of the semesters training photos. Plus some embarrassing ones of people away from the unit. Including some terrible ones of me, from the Bavaria trip the year before with MSUOTC. Awkward trying to explain them! One really nice and poignant element of the night, which I found very touching was a place laid slightly away from the main table, but set up for a meal. This was for the fallen soldiers, and its traditional in the US Army to lay a place for the fallen, as not to forget them and to remember them during the enjoyment. I found that really touching and would like to see that started in the UK (some units may do this, but not at MSUOTC). 

Whilst the Dining In was a world away from Dinner Night in Manchester - where dinner jackets has to be worn, and silverware is on the table and port has to be passed to the right and the container cannot leave the table until finished – I really enjoyed being a part of the Dining In experience and it really made me feel a part of the Tar Heel Battalion. I think it has really summed up how the semester has gone with the ROTC, and I’m glad I pushed to be transferred to the unit for my time at UNC (plus I needed the money from the TA!). I’m sure I’ll have as much fun next semester as I did last semester and get to know the girls and guys even more!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eating, Drinking. Crying. More Drinking

February 2012

This past week I have crossed off one American tradition and one UNC rite of passage. On Sunday the great American pastime that is the Superbowl was held, and Wednesday the fiercest rivalry in college sports – the UNC-Duke game.

Most people at home have heard of the Superbowl – the big American Football match up between two great teams, but somehow more renowned for the infamous adverts (or commercials as they are known here!) they become the stuff of YouTube legend. I watched the Superbowl at Willey’s house with Pat and his mates (well, I guess to an extent I’d like to consider them my mates too now!), as Willy has a massive TV. Which is always key to enjoyment of a big game! The Superbowl is a bit of a ritual in the USA. It seems that most people sit down to watch it on the Sunday evening, and I think Matt mentioned that it is has the highest viewing figures of any American sporting event. Not sure if that is correct, but I can tell you we were well prepared for it with the fridge stocked with beer and the dining table chock-a-block with food! It’s estimated that Americans on average consume something like 3000 calories in the game time alone. ALONE! I could see why – fried chicken (so good!) macaroni cheese, biscuits (that’s American biscuits – similar to English scones but not really…), chips (crisps) and salsa, dips, and even more. The New York Giants were playing the New England Patriots, and as I had no affiliation to either I rooted for the Giants as they had a UNC alumni in their team. Fair enough excuse really! The Giants won 21-17 in the end, which also meant I won a bet with Andrea. Which I still haven’t seen the winning from (hint hint Andrea!). The funniest moment of the Superbowl was flipping the channel during half time to the Puppy Superbowl, which is exactly as it sounded. Cute little puppies running around in an attempt to get them to play football. Only in America! There was also an advert run at halftime of the game with Clint Eastwood and iconic American imagery, and it was really effective in my opinion – I had never felt so patriotic to a country I don’t belong to!

And then Wednesday. THE game. UNC vs Duke. The rivalry of all college rivalries. To anyone who doesn’t know about UNC-Duke rivalry, look it up (video below). Its intense to say the least. Throughout the week there was a build up to the event through charity events such as “Pie a Dookie” (Dookie is a derogatory term for a someone who supports Duke), where students were in the Pit and for a buck you could throw a pie at them (think they made a fair bit of money actually-not sure why…), articles in the student paper and adverts on ESPN. You know it’s a big game if ESPN is running adverts for it! Its rumoured that the President himself takes an interest in the UNC-Duke game. That’s how big this game is.

The actual day of the game was an interesting one. Carolina blue was out in force all over campus, and many families and alumni were wandering around. There was a lot of talk of how close the two teams were in standings and ability (VERY close) and how they match may play out. I was lucky enough to be able to get hold of a ticket (these tickets sell for anything from $300 to $4000 by the way. That’s CRAZY money) as did Lexi and Emma. We (well Lexi as she was the first one in the Dean Dome!) managed to get pretty decent seats behind one of the baskets in the second tier. To be honest though, wherever you sat was a good view and if it was with a load of other students then good fun too. The only issue to going to a UNC basketball game, as a student, is having to queue for hours at times to get in early and get a seat. UNC operates a phase system on the tickets, so it is staggered, but even if you have phase 3 for example (phase 1 being the earliest and best phase as you can get into the risers right on the court line behind the basket) you need to get to the Dean Dome early to try and get the best seats available for your phase. Me and Lexi were in our seats at 7.30 for a 9pm tip off. Yeah, exactly… The pre-game itself was intense. The Duke players were booed as they entered the court, the Duke Manager was booed even more, and the place simply erupted any time a UNC player did anything. And then there was the obligatory singing of the USA national anthem (yadda yadda - damn patriotic yanks!) and then the incredibly American but oh so great introduction of the UNC players, involving guitar solos, flag waving, cheerleaders and many, many high fives. And that’s without the screaming of the crowd and band playing. Its intense at ‘normal’ basketball games, but at with Duke you got the feeling everyone was so much more intense, so much louder. It made hairs stand up on the back of my neck!

Packed Stadium

 The game itself was tense. I had a knot in my stomach the whole game. The Heels (UNC) were behind to begin with but luckily came back to a narrow lead at half time, to maintain a comfortable lead all the way to the last two minutes. And then it went downhill. Terribly. Duke ate up the point lead and with 1.5 seconds to go were two points down at 82-84. Being a soccer and rugby supported I naively thought “well that’s that then we won!” But then Rivers took a three pointer shot and it went in as the time ran out. Basketball is one of the few sports where you can score once the clock as stopped. If the ball is in the air before full time and goes through the net after full time is counts. Which is what happened in this case. The silence in the Dean Dome was phenomenal. Absolute stunned silence. Never heard the Dean Dome so quiet in my life. The shock of being robbed of a victory over Duke by one point in the final second was hard to comprehend. It also meant that the customary celebration rush on Franklin street (the main street in Chapel Hill) didn’t happen (because we lost. Obviously) and everyone traipsed rather sullenly out of the Dean Dome. What was initially good humoured banter with the Duke fans in the Dean Dome before the game had taken a more sinister tone, and it was rumoured that a couple of Duke fans watching in a bar on Franklin Street had to be escorted out by the bouncers rather quickly after fulltime.

In absolute shock me and Lexi wandered up to Franklin to meet up with some of the other International (Emma had to stay behind to help clean up after the game) and a lot of people were still sat at the bars watching the reply of the final shot in shock. Except the internationals of course who the majority were steaming drunk and hilariously dancing away shouting “Fuck Duke” at opportune moments. Who says that disastrous things can’t be funny?!

All smiles before the game...
I found my reaction to the game rather interesting. Before I came to Carolina I never really knew of College sports, or even College pride. There is no comparable to UK institutions when it comes to college pride as in America. I guess the closest we get to it is the Oxford-Cambridge race. But even then that doesn’t really count because its either current students or alumni verbally slugging it out over Pimm’s at a garden party (sorry to those of you who go/went to these places – that was just too good an image to not write!). Hear people graffiti University signs and kidnap mascots. No seriously… At least it’s not like the football firms of the 80/90s when they went out and arranged fights with each other though. Anyways, my reaction was one of shock and genuine grief, because I really wanted Carolina to win. I guess I’ve become a Tar Heel now – I wear Carolina blue, know basketball and football players names and recognise them around campus, discuss UNC’s chances in ACC and NCAA etc, watch most games and know the words to the Tar Heel Fight Song. It’s one very small step to bleeding Carolina Blue from there, so I’m told!

The next day there was a sombre mood on campus, with plenty of Carolina Blue still about to show solidarity to the Basketball players, which were excused from class that day. The student paper had to print its title in Duke Blue and put “Duke is amazing” on the front page as part of the standing rivalry between the two schools. I admit that I was upset by the loss (not just because I wanted to party on Franklin and not go to class the next day!) but we face Duke at their stadium in March (which we’re gonna win!) and then have March Madness which is probably slightly more important in the grand scheme of things. Besides, it was said that UNC has never beaten Duke at home in the years they won the National Championship. So here’s a-hoping!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Aaaaaand I Will Walk (no where near) 500 Miles!

January 2012

So the one day I have actually ventured out of Chapel Hill this semester so far was a day trip for a hike to Hanging Rock. I was asked along by Lindsay and Laura, who were planning on going to ‘scout out the area for a trip for their residents’ (yeah right – just wanted a day out!). Anyways, the four of us (Michael being the fourth) bundled into Lindsay’s car rather later than the planned departure time of 9.30am on the Sunday (I woke up late, and Michael was still hungover. Sorry tired…) and headed out in the GLORIOUS sunshine to Hanging Rock State Park. The drive was approximately 2 hours away over towards Winston-Salem, and with the music pumping and banter flowing (mainly directed at me for being British…) it went pretty quickly. Lunch consisting of slightly stale sandwiches from Rams (free food!) and some amazing muffins and Oreo truffles (don’t ask. Just trust me they were fantastic!)

Hanging Rock. With some muppet in the way.
Perfect for some thoughtful hanging around

After lunch we went in search of a map of the park, and stumbled across a proper old southern man manning the information desk. Michael took charge of the discussion about where to walk and what to see, and I disappeared outside to look at the view. Simply because I had absolutely no idea what the guy was saying. I felt as if I had arrived back in NC for the first time and had to adjust to peoples accents again. And then Lindsay say it wasn’t a bad accent at all… Bloody Americans not speaking proper English! Following on from the country man’s conversation with Michael we decided to hit two trails, both of which offered amazing views over the NC foothills and piedmont. The weather was simply amazing there, glorious sunshine and not quite cool – perfect walking weather! Being young fit things we managed to crack of the walks at a fairly steady pace, allowing for a lots of time spent at the top of the two peaks, as well and mucking around on the ways up and down…because we were such mature young adults. Obviously…

Looking out from the peak

The first trail up to Hanging Rock was a short but steep one, and offered some cool rocks to look over. We spent ages up their getting some cool photos and Lindsay getting lost in a cave of some sort! We also passed a part of the rock where people had written upon it and for the first time ever in my hiking life I graffiti-ed upon the rock. Just to show a bit of patriotic pride! The second trail was a much longer one up to Moore’s Knob (stop giggling – that is the name of it). Which, ironically, we had to drive to. Yes, typical America when you go for a day hike, you still have to drive between the two trails you want to walk on…

Up the Rock

Anyways, the views up Moore’s Knob were even better – being over 1000ft above sea level we could see right over to the Blue Ridge Mountains. As it was such a clear day as well you were able to see stuff really clearly and with the Carolina Blue sky it made it quite a sight. We didn’t leave the State Park until it was starting to get dark (maximising daylight hours there!) and had a long old drive back, with song choices taking on a more chilled nature, and me dozing off repeatedly in the front seat (I got quite good at calling shotgun!). With a short stop at Cookout (a classic North Carolina drive through place which is amazing!) to replace all the calories we had burnt off that day (when in America I guess…) and a slightly worrying moment where we thought we were about to get held up by a homeless guy simply looking for a dollar for some food (very awkward moment…) we made it back to the Hill within about 2 and a half hours. Plenty of time for the legs to stiffen up and for us to all resemble zombie walkers shuffling up the stairs to the dorms! 

Hell Yeah!