Sal and I are no stranger to road trips, especially long ones... we've even been as North as Canada, but when my brother, Kyle, chose Virginia as his destination for medical school, we didn't realize quite how far Virginia was until we started our drive there. Seven hours long. Usually Sal and I are good with car rides together... we find things to talk about, music to listen to, and when I get bored enough, I bust out a book, or this time study materials for my CPT exam. It gives Sal some silence while driving, something he enjoys doing wholeheartedly. I am never the one to drive these long trips, I'm never the one to drive in general. I drive enough to and from work each day, that I am grateful when someone else says they'll drive.
We headed to Virginia bright and early, the day after Kyle had gone down with his girlfriend. My parents would be coming a few days later. It's a good thing we left earlier, because my brother's car had broken down and he needed to get to his first day of medical school somehow. As soon as we got there we quickly found a place to eat, which ended up being a fast food restaurant, but it was probably the cheapest I've ever been to, with much better quality food. Imagine that? I ended up with two chicken wraps for about $3. It satisfied us enough to help us through car shopping. He did not purchase a car that day though, even though we visited about four different dealers, even hopping in the car with one to go to another lot. We took the below photo as proof that we were alive at one point during the drive (haha). Off we went to dinner afterwards, to a local place that turned out to be delicious!
The next day, Sal woke up early to bring my brother to his medical school orientation. We were all so excited, that none of us could go back to sleep, so we decided to start our day. We had planned, the night before, to get my brother a fish tank, for many reasons: a) he would probably be lonely when we left b) he loves fish c) it doubles as a night light d) it's calming. All great things, we thought, for someone who was going through medical school. Sure, he'd have to take care of them, and clean the tank, but it would give him an easy break from studying. We wandered around Petco & Petsmart, and eventually chose the tank that would host his new fish. Sal set it all up for him, so that when we went to pick him up from school, he'd open the door of his apartment, and see it first thing. We decided against filling it with fish, because we wanted him to be able to pick out which fish he wanted. Let me just tell you, he had a feeling that we were going to get him a fish tank, but he didn't know which day it would be, and he was just as surprised as we thought he'd be! I couldn't keep my mouth shut in the car, I was so nervous I was going to spill the beans on our way home. Thankfully I didn't, and the look on his face when he opened the door was pure happiness.
I also made chocolate chip cookies for him, because who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies? I don't think there has to ever be a reason to make them! We found ourselves wandering a fish store later that night, looking for the right fish to put into the tank. It was funny watching him go through aisle after aisle of fish, trying to find the right ones. We brought them home, named them, and placed them into the water. They looked right at home, and it definitely made his place a little more homey.
The next morning, Sal dropped Kyle off at school again. This time, we took our time getting ready, and found ourselves out the door, in search of a 'waterfall.' We found a trail, one that we thought would be a nice hike to this awesome waterfall. Five miles later, we realized it was not an awesome waterfall like we thought, and that we were going to have to walk the five miles back to the car. I have never walked that far in my life, and my whole body was exhausted. We were all ready to give up, but that would have gotten us no where, and we would still have to walk back at the end of the day. We didn't pick Kyle up from school this time, in fear that we'd be late, and he'd be there waiting for us. Instead, my parents got down that day, and we had them pick him up. It turns out that we made it home before them, and we quickly showered, knowing we had to be ready for Kyle's family picnic with the medical school.
We were ready, and waiting when they finally got home. It turns out that my brother had to stay later, and so after he got ready, we piled in my jeep and headed to the football stadium, where they were holding a family picnic. We piled our plates full of burgers, hotdogs, potato salad, and watermelon, and found ourselves a table. The weather was perfect, and the atmosphere of the stadium was grand. We talked together, and eventually found ourselves talking to one of Kyle's future professors. It was funny, and when we headed out, the photographer even snapped a few pictures of us, which came out beautiful. The night could not have gone better, at least not in my opinion.
The next day was rainy. My parents brought my brother, and Sal and I found ourselves wanting to explore all the Virginia had to offer, in our case, it was wine. We found a wine trail, Bedford Wine Trail, that was actually farther than we thought it was, and ventured off. Kyle's girlfriend, Michele, just wanted to sit home and relax, and frankly, I don't blame her after our nine mile hike the day before. So it was time for another adventure. When we arrived at the first little countryside winery, Hickory Hill Winery, our hopes were set high. The guy that owned the place was hilarious, and guessed our ages immediately [side note: no one ever guesses our ages correctly, so we were stunned]. He was also spot on in describing me as a person, so much so that I thought he was diagnosing me with something! We enjoyed the wine, and absolutely loved the pineapple sangria that he let us try. We picked up our wine trial passports, and were on the way to the next place.
Ramulose Ridge Vineyards was the next closest winery on our list, and we headed there. It had beautiful views, but the wine wasn't all that great in my opinion, unfortunately. We left quickly, wondering why these wineries didn't have crackers or something to pick on while visitors tasted the wines. We still powered through to the next winery, White Rock Vineyard. This winery had spectacular views, and if we had brought our own lunch, we probably could have eaten it in the amazing eat in area overlooking the wineries. The wine here wasn't terrible, at least not to me - Sal did not enjoy it. I actually liked one enough to buy a bottle, but found myself wondering why once Sal mentioned that they sort of tasted like cleaning products.
The next winery, Peaks of Otter Winery, was probably the worst wine I had ever tasted. We had to pay to try three wines, or all of them, which was over 25 different wines (uh, no thank you). We paid to try three, and quickly noticed that all of the wines were so insanely sweet, that we couldn't stomach to drink them. If the person wasn't drunk after trying all 25 wines, they would surely be in the bathroom for the rest of the day. The only cool part of the winery was the map that hung on the wall, and you were able to put a push pin into the town that you were coming from. It was awesome to see where all the visitors had come from, how far they had traveled.
It wasn't until we were going to go to the last winery that we finally stopped and got a sandwich from WaWa, which was about the only place we could find. It definitely wasn't a smart idea to wait that long; I was feeling good, too good. We headed to the last winery, LeoGrande Winery, which wasn't disappointing like we thought it would be. And we enjoyed it, as well as the people we were with. One group of women had even followed us to all of them. We lost them when we went to one of the wineries, but met back up in the end. We realized that there was one winery that wasn't open, and we hoped that we would still be able to complete our passport and receive the free wine glass at the end! The informational center that held the power to check out our passports and hand us these glasses closed at 5, and we had to make it there in time. We literally arrived at 4:59, just as they were closing up. We begged the guy that we would be quick, and that we were only there for the ... he guessed it, "glasses?" As soon as we walked out and got back into the car, Sal and I clinked our glasses, having had a pretty successful day.
The following day was Kyle's big day, his White Coat Ceremony! We all got ready bright and early, and headed to the church where it was being held. Speaker after speaker had nothing but motivating and inspiring things to say, and told quite amazing stories. One by one each future doctor went onto the stage and said their name and where they were from. It was incredible how far some of these individuals were coming from. Prior to the ceremony, they listed fun facts about the class, who was married, where they went to school, what their undergrad degree was in. Being the first medical students at this university would be groundbreaking. They will all leave a legacy, and at that moment I could not have been prouder of my little brother. He would be leaving his mark on the school, on the world. It's crazy to think how fast time had truly gone; I swear I was just poking fun at him when he was younger and tried to hang out with my friends and I. We're much closer now, which I think is why it killed me that he was moving so far away, but I knew it was for the best. I look up to him, probably more than he realizes. He deserves all of his dreams to come true, and I will always be right there pushing him along. When he thinks he can't study another word, I will be there telling him he can. I know he can - he can do anything he sets his mind to. He has accomplished so much, and even though he's not anywhere near the end of this part of his journey, he's got so much determination that he will not let himself fail. It's truly inspiring.
As soon as we got back to his place, we popped open a bottle of champagne that I had brought just for this special occasion! We ate lunch, shopped for necessities for Kyle, and then got ready for dinner. It was a celebratory dinner, but there underlying sadness... we'd all be leaving the next day, and while we were happy that Kyle would be officially starting his journey to becoming a doctor, we probably wouldn't be seeing him for months. Still, we chatted over drinks and delicious pizza [who would've thought that you'd find that in Virginia?!]. Of course, we ended the night with dessert, because really, there's no better way. We left the next day, with more tears than anyone could handle. It wasn't goodbye though, it was just see you later.
It was one unforgettable trip, one unforgettable moment, one unforgettable start.