Little 500

April and its Many Pleasures

The STA World Traveler Internship is becoming a dot on my horizon now, within viewing range and getting bigger and more omnipresent in my daily life with each globe rotation. And if you've been wondering how I am preparing for this experience, I guess you haven't been following my blog. Wa waaaaaaa...sad. Well, I've been building my domain from its humble roots at blogspot to where it is now, a whole lotta pages of stuff. And with my previous trip still hovering in a cloud above my head like unprocessed thought bubbles, I've been busy putting that experience in an oak barrel for further fermentation before its eventual publication (in book form, baby!).

In the last couple weeks, I've had some thrilling moments, all in the name of travel and enjoying the Motherland. With this focus on "being where I'm not", I often shrink out of the social picture or adopt the ways of penny-pinchers to increase my spendings for future trips abroad. Oh, but not this time.

Road Trip to Des Moines

Two weekends ago, I decided to honor a promise I made to a certain sorority house in Des Moines, Iowa, one which graciously offered incredible support for a girl they didn't know in a contest that thrived on public outreach. I called up my travel buddy, Garrett, a Semester at Sea friend, and asked him if he was doing anything that weekend and wanted to fly to Indy for a road trip. Within hours he was booked, and within a week we sat in Broad Ripple (a neighborhood/the Indy Mecca of all things party-like) at a dimly-lit Egyptian restaurant talking strategies for shocking our friend, Alexis, tomorrow in Des Moines. Alexis is another Semester at Sea friend, my potluck roommate, and my ultimate travel companion. She knew I was coming but didn't know about the impromptu Flight of the Garrett.

The drive across three "I" states went from flat to flowing and chatty to hilarious. Needless to spell out in eloquent script, she was happy with the Garrett surprise hidden in the truck under my Dora the Explorer pinata and then immediately led us to our afternoon activities of outdoor paint fights and formal affairs (yes, it was a quick turnaround of cleanliness and demeanor, but we're professionals).

Day #2 in Des Moines consisted of finding Garrett's pants, eating excellent BBQ, and loading into a purple party bus with $250 worth of canned, bubbly goodness. These Drake University sorority girls put on quite a show in the middle of the bus, bringing along stuffed squirrels, skis, and funnels galore, and I couldn't help thinking how interesting American undergraduate culture would seem to anthropologists from foreign lands and times. We laugh at the cows on the streets in India thinking, "Why is that necessary?" I wondered the same thing while rolling through downtown in a crammed bus, sipping chilled beverages, watching others drink and high velocity and volume, and listening to Flo-rida's obsession with boots and fur. What a weird world we live in.

Little 500

The World's Greatest College Weekend. I challenge all to refute this statement. And though I will consider the point that it's delusional to believe without a doubt your college traditions are superior to others, I will speak firmly for myself and say I truly had my greatest Little 5 experience this time around.

Indiana University holds a bike race every spring where Greek and independent teams compete for pure glory and risk the bones in their body for our awe of the athletic spectacle. This time-honored tradition had apparently been in my blood for years prior to my actual attendance, as my father was on the steering committee for the events in his stint as a Hoosier. Of course, I don't bike, and neither does my dad, but we sure do enjoy watching things go in circles; and by things, I mean finely-tuned human machines on Schwinn bicycles.

As evolution would have it, the athletic event named Little 500 (standing in the shadow of the Indy 500 motor race 60 miles away) quickly transformed itself into a week-plus of gluttonous binge drinking and the active pursuit of making this guzzling action creative with varied activities (e.g. Greek events, massive themed house parties, strategic bar hopping, outdoor games, personal challenges, and the "early bird gets the tequila worm" mentality). Once again, the sight is one that simultaneously inspires awe, disgust, belly laughs, amazement, and disbelief.

This year was possibly the best because of my mastery in selecting venues and juggling my circles of friends. I had no idea I would could enjoy the bars on the busiest nights of the year (GO TOWNIE BARS!), hang with my favorite people (thanks to an unexpected, melodious blending of high school and college pals), experience new sides of my four-year home (Hello, Bloomington breakfasts), and all the while feel generally pleasant (life hasn't been the same since I found the "turn-off switch" for imbibing). I'm growing up and learning the tricks, learning who I like to be surrounded by, and understanding my own familiarities with new eyes.

On top of the weekend's perfection, I reaped once again the wonderful benefits of being an applicant in the STA pool. I got to meet up with a fellow Top Ten'er, Bob Fawcett, and boy did we have a good time. Friday night we met and exchanged a good amount of chatter at my new favorite townie bar, The Vid, discussing videos, potential life plans, experiences at IU, and all things deliciously travel related. Saturday night, however, brought on a whole new range of excitement with new townie bars, traditional Bloomington cocktails, night rides in pizza delivery trucks and a pre-dawn hang session in what most Hoosier students would entitle "Hippy/Creeper's/Skater/Don't-go-there-ever Park."

The most notable perk of this awesome encounter happened with our lingering stance on the curb outside the bars, where we conjured plans to ride in a very rumbly, intimidating truck parked nearby. Item #1 on my Life List keeps me always searching for the ultimate truck bed experience, but unfortunately Bloomington on race night is no place to challenge the laws of the State of Indiana. Instead, we asked the pizza delivery guy who owned the fantastic truck to take us along for his next delivery in the truck cab.

"We just want to see the town and go on a little adventure."

After showing us his teeth could pop out of his mouth (wow, they were in his mouth, and then all of a sudden they weren't!), he offered us a ride. We then proceeded to get our brains scrambled with the sudden acceleration of his loud engine and exchange looks in the backseat that screamed "Ridiculous!" in polite silence. It was a short adventure, but it left us laughing for a while as we eventually wandered towards People's Park for a chat that led into Sunday's sunrise.

I have finally found people that do what I do, share my oddball passion, and I thank STA once more for creating a venue for travelers to find each other and share what gets them going. Which leads me to my next pre-departure activity...

Lunching with a fellow Applicant

I'm not the only one who loves Yat's, Indianapolis, and traveling. After watching Jackie Knowles' application video for STA WTI, I thought "Yikes!"...I've got intense competition in my own 'hood! Though we don't share picket fences, Jackie and I share a side of Indianapolis, and we became in contact thanks to our Youtube videos.

We met up this week on an awesome weather day for an outdoor dining experience at our favorite eatery and exchanged travel stories that thrilled us. Jackie has had a slew of ballin opportunities, and lunching with this girl solidified my goal of reaching as many of those like-minded travel enthusiasts (applicants or otherwise) to contribute to the journey ahead.

It's really occurred to me now that the Youtube responses for the Internship are a coagulation of amazing minds that could make the trip mind-boggling in reach, motivation, and coverage. Just as I encouraged Jackie, I want to reiterate to anyone reading, "COLLABORATE!"

Wow. And that was just a week and a half in the Midwest. Not too shabby of a place, my friends, not too shabby at all.