First, I want to thank everybody for the birthday wishes (it was Thursday, if you didn’t know); it meant a lot.

I took Thursday and Friday off last week and went down to visit a friend in Philadelphia. Having never been to Philly, it was a very interesting trip. I’d never driven down the Jersey Turnpike before, so it was… educational, to say the least. It was actually much more fun than I thought it would be—the traffic on the Turnpike itself wasn’t bad at all. Hell, the traffic up to the George Washington Bridge was far worse than what came after it.

The mini-vacation was pretty laid-back, which was nice. My friend Mike and his girlfriend Meg were consummate hosts and they made me feel completely at home. Even their pets did a great job at that: their cat, Charlie, spent the night with me the whole time I was there, and both dogs (Ralphie, a beagle/something mix, and Stella, a full-blooded beagle) spent a good amount of time on the bed with me as well. We went out to dinner on Thursday night, then Meg had to go to bed because she had to work on Friday. Mike and I stayed up and I showed him the wonders of Guitar Hero, which he’d never seen.

Friday was somewhat of a lazy day; while Meg was at work, Mike and I went out to lunch, then came back and put on the Porcupine Tree DVD, at which point I fell asleep on the couch (with the cat lying on top of me). Waking refreshed, we took the train out to Mike’s friend’s apartment; said friend was holding a “Bro-BQ” (i.e. no girls allowed). Several hours of food and beer later found Mike and I waiting for the last bus on the route to take us back, and an extremely grumpy but very nice bus driver allowed me to ride even after I, idiot that I was, hadn’t realized that I would need exact change for the bus fare and only had a $10 bill.

Saturday saw the three of us all sleeping late—I was up the earliest at 9:30, at which point I showered and then headed downstairs so as not to disturb the others, started reading (On Writing, by Stephen King, which is an awesome book), and after about twenty minutes promptly fell asleep on the couch (with—you guessed it—the cat lying on top). Once the others got up I joined them and they made us a big home-cooked breakfast (did I mention what awesome hosts these people were?). The idea was brought up to me after lunch of going to an amusement park—a water park-slash-amusement park, to be more precise, and given that it was going to be around 90 degrees that day, it sounded like a wonderful idea. A trip to Target later for a swimsuit and we were off. We got to Dorney Park around 4:30 and waited 15 minutes before entering the park, because we got in at half price and lots of people were leaving, which was nice. What wasn’t nice, however, was my not thinking about what was on my feet. I had worn my shoes to the park, because I knew that we’d be riding roller coasters and stuff later on, and I had just assumed that I would walk barefoot around the water park, but what I hadn’t planned was that the cement would be textured like the rough side of Mount Everest. It wasn’t but ten minutes before my feet had holes in them so large you’d have thought I had the stigmata. I went on one water ride and couldn’t deal with it anymore, so I went to the first aid station to get bandaged up—they gave me bandages and waterproof tape and asked me why I hadn’t bothered to get “aqua socks”, which had been on sale at the front of the park. I stated simply that if I’d known they sold them I would have bought them but I hadn’t seen any signs (and sure enough, the only signs for them that I could see were visible only when looking toward the exit of the park). Long story short, I’m wearing giant band-aids on the soles of my feet and they hurt. :( But it was made up for with many, many rides on some really, really awesome roller coasters (there were something like seven of them in the park).

Sunday was another sleep-in day for us. Mike and I had made plans to play a round of golf in the morning, but that was squashed the night before, given the situation with my feet and the fact that the roller coasters had pretty much made us all extremely sore. It was essentially a morning to recover and prepare for what turned out to be the most surprising and pleasing part of my trip:

On Thursday, while I was driving down, I had stopped to get gas and my phone rang. It was my friend Melissa, calling to wish me a happy birthday. Melissa moved with her fiance to Tampa a few years ago and I hadn’t seen her since the going-away party, and over the last while we haven’t talked as much as we would like, so it was a real treat to hear from her. She asked if I was at work, so I told her what my plans for the weekend were, and when she heard that I was going to be in Philly, she excitedly told me, “I’ll be there too! I’m coming up on Sunday for a conference. We should have lunch when I get in!” So I agreed to meet her at the airport and we would go to lunch. So when I got to the airport, I had no idea where we could go—she suggested that we just start heading north on the highway, since that was the direction she was headed toward her hotel, too. I had no clue as to where we would eat, so we kind of kept an eye on the sides of the highway for a decent place to eat, and then Melissa spotted a sign pointing to an area of town that she thought her hotel was in, so I pulled off that exit. We found a pizza place to eat, caught up for an hour or so, and then I took her to her hotel, which luckily only happened to be about a mile and a half from where we were (thank you, Melissa’s quick eyes and Google Maps on my phone!), said our goodbyes and I headed back to the highway.

A long, long drive later, including about an hour and a half waiting for the GW bridge and I-95 past it again, and I finally got home last night at around 8:30. I was exhausted and not altogether ready to come back to work today, but after all that it was good to be home, even though there are no pets coming to keep me company this evening.

Thanks again to Mike & Meg, and to those of you who remembered my birthday. :)