Friday, March 04, 2016

Post Deployment Leave

As soon as Brian was home and we were free to go, we hopped on a plane for a much needed jam packed vacation on the east coast.

I can't tell you the last time I've spent a birthday with either of my parents, but was fortunate enough that this trip stretched over both their special days. We landed on what happened to be my dad's 63rd birthday. As we descended the escalator into the baggage claim at the Pittsburgh airport, my dad was standing there with his arms outstretched. After nearly a year apart and 12+ hours in airports and airplanes, he was a sight for sore eyes. After snagging our checked bag, we called for our driver, aka my brother, to pick us up outside. After a quick lunch at Primanti Bros. - where Brian and I were excited for the cheapest meal we'd had in months while my brother was disgusted with how expensive it was to eat in the city -  we were on our way back to my parents house. 

The next 36 hours were spent hanging out and enjoying time with my family, most of whom I hadn't seen in over 2 years.

On Wednesday morning, we packed up mom's car - which she had lent to us for the trip - and headed out for a special side trip to New York City. It had been years since I'd been to the Big Apple and Brian had never been, so we planned this special side trip to celebrate our upcoming 2nd wedding anniversary. Driving into and through NYC is always a combination of Frogger and Tetris, but we were staying half a block off of Times Square and I was able to park the car in a parking garage until it was time to leave.

We checked into our (amazing) hotel and were back out the door before our bags landed on the bed. It was pouring down rain, but our stomachs were grumbling and we were on a tight schedule. After a quick meal at a nearby Japanese restaurant we were back off and walking to find Grand Central Station and, more specifically, The Campbell Apartment. My friend Matthew (usually called Kiwi by me) -  who is from New Zealand but we all had gone to college together at the U of M and lived in Pantzer Hall - was in town visiting family and extended his stay by an extra day so that our trips overlapped and we were able to catch up. The drinks were delicious but the stories were even better. Before I knew it, we were saying goodnight. Kiwi had an early morning plan to catch and we had a lot of things to accomplish in a short amount of time.

Thursday morning meant sleeping in a bit (we were still on Alaska time after all) and then hitting the shops of NYC before lunch with another friend from college, JenDel, and finally taking the subway to Battery Park for a tour of Wall Street and the Statue of Liberty.

Thursday night meant a long awaited date night to The Book of Mormon on Broadway and an after show cheesecake at Junior's. I was also hoping for a late night trip to the top of the Empire State Building, but the rain hadn't let up all day and was still coming down, so we opted for skipping this til Brian can actually see all that the view has to offer.

Friday morning we loaded up the car once again and took off for the Bronx. My awesome friend Ty is a keeper at the Zoo there and had a tour planned for us. After hugs were exchanged he surprised us with all access passes to the zoo and gave us a personal tour.

Before heading out of town, Ty had one last surprise up his sleeve and allowed us to go feed some of the animals in the petting zoo (which was shut down to the public for the season), including the porcupines I'd been seeing pictures of for years!

Getting to feed the goats might have been the highlight of Brian's trip, as he has a love affair with the screaming goat videos online.

If it weren't for my family waiting patiently for our return back in Pennsylvania, I could have easily spent our entire trip in NYC. But alas, the time came for us to head back and before I knew it, we were back in the car for another long drive. Plus, my Seester was finally in and would be waiting for us when we got there!

The weekend was spent hiking, shopping, eating, spending time with friends & family, eating some more (omg there was SO. MUCH. FOOD.), and even a little basketball.

Early Monday morning I hosted my very first geocaching event for Leap Year where both myself, Charlie and two cachers from Pittsburgh were in attendance for breakfast at Sister's. Afterwards we cached out the rest of the town (all 3 of them!).

Mom's 15th birthday (she's 1 of 2 Leap Year babies in our family) was also on Monday, so we had a family dinner Monday night at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Johnstown. It's been a long time since my entire family was together, and it felt good to see all of us sitting at a table.

Tuesday morning Brian and I were back on the road for a blitz trip to Baltimore, MD to meet up with Brian's uncle Tommy and aunt Tina. I'd not met them before, but suggested we tour the National Aquarium before a nice dinner after. The National Aquarium never disappoints and was stunning as always. It was also great to hang out with some of Brian's family too!

We even got to catch a dolphin show before chowing down on the best steak I've ever had in my life.

Wednesday came entirely too soon. It meant squeezing in as much family time as possible before our early morning departure on Thursday.

Trips like these mean so much more now that we're spread out all over the place. Until next time family... xoxo.

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