#66 Visit All 50 States (Illinois)

Complete With: Hannah S., Brian G.

Completed On: Thursday, June 21, 2012 – Saturday, June 23, 2012

This past weekend I headed to Illinois for the National Archives Conference for Fraternities and Sororities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, IL. It was super expensive to fly direction to Champaign. I ended up flying into Chicago, renting a car, and driving 2.5 hours by myself to Champaign. The roads are so flat and straight. There’s nothing but corn. It was a little nerve wracking because my rental car was a Kia Forte. I’m not used to driving small cars. But, it was so nice and new. I could drive up to 90 and not use tons of gas like I would in my Jeep. I’d say that was a good first experience in renting a car, as well.

Corn

The gist of the conference was to learn how to archive and digitize your organization’s history. A lot of NPC sororities were there, so it was pretty amazing that they had so many artifacts from the 1900’s. But, getting the audio from a wax cylinder or video from old slides is a lot more difficult and expensive than what a sorority founded in 1998 has to do. I’m grateful for that.

We also took a tour of the UIUC Archives and Libraries. They have artifacts from a really long time ago, which is pretty cool to see. They also have the John Philip Sousa Archives at UIUC. My band geek came out a little bit. They had all these original instruments and sheet music. There was a whole case of about 40 wooden clarinets.

They took us to the conservation labs too. This is where they treat artifacts to get them into their original (or as close to) condition as possible. They have these crazy machines that suck all the mold and insects out of old books and ones that can get rid of water stains on pages. It was interesting.

We went out on Friday night, with a brother from Chi Sigma Tau as our tour guide, to see what “downtown” Champaign was like. It was nothing like Athens or Atlanta. There’s basically one street that everything happens on. We went to a bar called Fire Haus. I guess it was the only popular bar because by the time we left, there was a line down the block to get in. The drink specials were also crazy cheap. We just had a few beers and then walked around. We stopped at this dessert place called Insomnia Cookies. The kid was closing up though and seemed like he didn’t really want to serve us. He told us they were out of ice cream. Somehow, that seemed impossible. We left with some pretty good cookies though.

That pretty much sums up my trip to Champaign. I’m kind of sad that I flew into Chicago but didn’t get a chance to see the city. Maybe next time.

~SL

#35 Go to a Live Concert

Completed With: Amanda S., Michael L., John N., and Paul C.

Date Completed: Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ok. So the whole #35 on my list actually reads “35. Go to a live concert (a legit one, not at a night club… no offense to The Far East Movement).” Turns out, I ended up seeing Far East Movement again!

Last night, my friends and I went to the LMFAO Sorry For Party Rockin’ Tour at Philips Arena in Atlanta. I’d only been to Philips Arena for the circus and an Atlanta Hawks Basketball Game. All very different events.

There was a band/DJ who opened. Sidney Samson? I think. Then Far East Movement performed a few songs. Then, LMFAO. There was also a cameo by Lil John. I’m not a huge fan of either, but I think it was a good first concert experience. We pregamed the right amount for me to have fun without feeling sick. We even hit up the ice cream truck before heading out. It felt like everyone was at the concert, according to Foursquare and Facebook. I even ran into my old supervisor from my campus job in college too!

The atmosphere was like a huge party… with a bunch of high schoolers. But it was a good time. We had seats but I stood up the whole time. Makes me wonder if having a spot on the floor would be so bad. I would have gotten to play with the blow up zebras, palm trees and beach balls and be sprayed with champagne.

After the concert, we tried to hit up Steak N’ Shake, but they had a black out. We left and went to Waffle House instead.

Overall, I still think it’s pretty ridiculous that people pay so much for concerts. I guess it’s cool to see a live performance and bask in the collective effervescence of it all, but I don’t think it’s really that worth it. With the ticket costs and parking costs, it’s just too much. I think I’d have to really be into a performer to go to another concert, maybe Adele or Jason Mraz.

Ice Cream Time!

 

Far East Movement

 

Quest Crew

 

LMFAO

 

Guest Appearance from Lil John

#57 White Water Rafting

Completed With: Shital L., Kelsey O., Danielle S., and Tariq C.

Date Completed: Sunday, June 3, 2012

This past weekend, my friends and I decided to go white water rafting. Only Shital had been before. We left at 8 AM for the Ocoee Rafting Company, just north of the Georgia/Tennessee border. I have to say, although this was my only rafting experience, usually these outdoor water places are kind of gross and run down. But, this place was really nice. The bathrooms were ventilated properly so it didn’t feel all gross and musty when you went back to change into dry clothes, which is always nice.

The Gang Before Rafting

Our appointment was at 10:30 AM. Basically, you get there and check in. The rafts hold 6 people plus your guide. You meet your guide and the other boats that may be going at the same time as you. We had a short safety introduction and equipment overview before we loaded up the buses to head to the river.

When we got to the river, we split up with our guides. We got into the rafts on land to practice commands and other safety procedures. Our guide was Lee. He was pretty fun and explained the obstacles and commands on the river pretty well.

The river was pretty nice. Some of the rapids were really intense. I think I swallowed a lot of water. There were some rough parts, but no one ever fell out of the boat. There were also some quiet parts on the river with calm water. Our guide encouraged us to hop into the water for a swim. Of course, I was the only one who stayed in the boat because water freaks me out. He was making fun of me because we were talking about completing this on my bucket list. Everyone was saying I needed to get in the water for the complete experience. But, I passed. Plus, the water was really cold.

There was also an option for someone to “ride the bull.” Basically, you sit at the front of the raft and hold onto the straps of the raft through the rapids. Our pictures are from Kelsey riding the bull right when a wave knocked her down. It’s was so funny!

Kelsey “Riding the Bull” and Tariq posing for the camera.

Near the end of the trip, no one had fallen out of the boat. So our guide was giving us the next set of instructions for the next patch of rapids. He said there would be a part when he would need the left side of the boat to lean left and everyone on the right side of the boat to slide over to the left. It sounds sketchy, doesn’t it? Of course, when you’re out on the water, you pretty much trust everything your guide tells you to do. We got to the point of the river where he gave us these commands and we ended up all falling out of the raft. He said it was because I had to get into the water to have the full experience. But, I pretty much freaked out. Everyone said I looked really sad when I fell in.

Overall, it was a really fun experience. I would highly recommend Ocoee Rafting. But, I know there are a bunch of other companies out there. Just make sure you listen to their instructions on how to row. I think I would be a lot more sore than I already am if I was rowing improperly. Oh and if you do choose Ocoee Rafting, book your entire group on one credit card, one reservation to make sure you all get on the same raft. Also, follow their directions on the website because your GPS probably won’t be able to find the location.

We’ll see if I ever do it again.

~SL

#66 Visit All 50 States (Texas)

Date Completed: Friday, May 25, 2012 – Monday, May 28, 2012

Completed With: Amanda S., Michael L., and Paul C. (amongst many other LPhiE brothers)

For Memorial Day weekend, I headed to Houston, Texas for the annual Lambda Phi Epsilon Convention. My line sister and I were registered as guests, but the only thing we really did with the bros was go to the party and banquet. We wanted to take the two days there to see what Houston had to offer… which wasn’t really much.

Houston

We got there Friday night. One of the bros picked us up at the airport to take us to the hotel. We stayed at the Intercontinental near the Galleria. It was a five star hotel, so it was really nice. But, they were really stuck up. By the end of the weekend, so many people had gotten kicked out. There was even a group there for a wedding and they all got kicked out too.

There wasn’t much to do other than eat. We weren’t really interested in going to any museums, but apparently Houston is known for them. It was really hot, even when we were indoors. Even the water in the shower was hot. I tried to keep it on the cold setting and it was still hot. I think it dried my skin out.

The first thing I noticed about Houston was that the roads were really bumpy. I don’t think it helped that we were driving a huge Chevy Suburban around all weekend. The interstates and major roads were all intertwined. It was so confusing. We had to make so many U-turns and got on to the wrong highway so many times.

We went to the Galleria Mall. It was fancy. They force you to walk through Saks Fifth Avenue to get to all the average people stores. It was really big and confusing. There was a skating rink in the middle, but it was nothing compared to the Palisades Mall in New York. I wasn’t impressed. There was supposed to be a pretty water wall somewhere around the mall, but it was confusing so we just left.

We did get to try the Kolache Factory though. They are like these little hot pocket-like snacks that Houston is famous for making. They come with different fillings. The one I had was a pulled pork BBQ kind and another one had potatoes. They were both pretty good, but I would recommend the pork BBQ one.

The Kolache Factory

There was a Jack in the Box within walking distance from our hotel and it was open 24 hours a day,  perfect for all of the drunken nights. I refrained from eating it every night. I did have it once though. I think those tacos were hyped up. They weren’t all that great. I think it was just a big deal because there are no locations in Georgia.

I supposed my overall impression of Houston was that it’s hot and boring. The people there were a little rude too. I didn’t feel much Southern hospitality. The roads were crappy and confusing. I feel like I could have found the same food in Georgia. There was nothing that really stood out to me.

Maybe I’ll have more fun somewhere else in Texas. Or maybe I should go back to Houston when I’m in more of a touristy mood. But, so far in my mind, Texas… meh.

~SL

#24 Visit the 9/11 Memorial

Date Completed: April 2, 2012 (My 23rd Birthday)

Completed With: Christina L. (My sister)

So, I wrote about this in my post about my birthday. I just forgot that it was on my list. Surprise! I’m just going to copy and paste my entry about it. Haha. Here’s to efficiency!

Our last stop was the 9/11 Memorial. That was such a bitch. To get tickets to enter the site, you have to go to another venue, the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site. No one was able to give us good directions to the preview site. We basically walked around for over half an hour. Our reserved time was for 5:30 PM. Of course, we missed that. By the time we got to Memorial, it was way passed our reservation time. It didn’t even matter though. They just scanned the ticket and let us in. There’s no admission for the memorial so I don’t see why the process has to be so difficult.

We finally got into the Memorial after a big run around. I guess it was all worth it. The Memorial was absolutely beautiful. There are two pools with the names of all the victims carved into the wood around the pools. They even have a digital directory if you’re looking for a specific name. My sister mentioned something profound to me. She said a few years ago, the twin towers stood in that very spot where we were. They were in smoke, engrossed in flames. There was panic everywhere. Today, in that very same spot, there we were in a park. The sounds of rushing water, so serene and calm. No smoke, no fire. Just clear skies and peace. How it should be.

Some people were there posing and smiling for pictures. I wonder if they really took in all the meaning. There were kids there talking about how they didn’t even know what 9/11 was. That’s so incredible to me. Now, they’ll have to learn about it through history books. They didn’t live through it. That’s so crazy to me now. So much time has passed but we can all still remember where we were when we heard the news. Never forget.

Rebuilding the NYC Skyline

 

The South Pool

 

Names engraved in history.

An additional note: I think this was a really important item to me on my bucket list. Even though I’m not from NYC, New York is still my home. It’s the place where my family was finally accepted into America and able to start a new life. My generation began in New York and it will always be a place near and dear to my heart, whether it be New York City, Albany, Nanuet, etc. New York is New York and this tragedy hit close to home for any American, especially New Yorkers.

-SL

#66 Visit All 50 States (Mississippi)

Date Completed: Friday, February 17 – Sunday, February 19

Completed With: Amanda S., Danielle S., Christine H., John N., Michael L., Paul C., Nelson C., Dinh N.

This past weekend, I went on a trip to Biloxi, MS for a friend’s birthday. Looks like I’m zooming through my bucket list now. Hope I don’t lose momentum.

We got there late on Friday night (around 2 AM) and had to leave Sunday afternoon. Basically, we only had Saturday to play. The entire weekend just consisted of gambling and drinking. Well, I guess the entire weekend was really just one day.

Biloxi is like a mini, trashier version of Vegas. Less glamorous, for sure. And less walkable. Less street peddlers handing out flyers for call girls and such which was a plus. We gambled and partied mostly at the Hard Rock. I guess that’s where the “younger” crowd goes. We stayed at the Isle, which is an old people casino from what I could tell. That just meant we could sleep in peace. Haha.

We ate a seafood restaurant called Taranto’s. It’s kind of a hole-in-the-wall type place that’s in the middle of nowhere but totally worth it despite sketch exteriors. Everyone goes there for the crawfish, but I don’t like working for my food. It was good though. Nom.

I found out that I’m really unlucky. I cannot gamble. I have no strategy. Luckily, I’m not addicted so I knew when to just stop. I still came out losing money, but not too badly. I also learned that Rumple Minze is my worst enemy. And thank goodness for friends who gamble too much so that we don’t have to pay for anything.

I took no pictures at all.

Happy Birthday, Paul!

On to the next adventure!

– SL

 

#66 Visit All 50 States (Massachusetts)

Date Completed: Friday, February 10, 2012 – Monday, February 13, 2012

Completed With: Debbie E., Katherine N., and Quoc N.

This past weekend I took my first trip to Massachusetts! The weather forecasted 2-4 inches of snow on Saturday, but it only flurried and didn’t stick. I was a little disappointed. I wanted some real New England snow, not this slushy Georgia “snow.”

Anyway, we landed in Boston around midnight. Quoc’s friends picked us up and immediately took us to a bar. We went to the White Horse Tavern in Allston. They said it was like the typical Boston pub kind of place. It was a lot of fun, very chill. We drank… a lot. I think it was a nice welcome. Haha. We headed back to the hotel, which was in Kat and Quoc’s hometown of Worcester (pronounced like ‘Wister’… wtf, right??).

On Saturday, we woke up and got ready to go to Boston to meet up with my sister and my two cousins. I’m glad I got to meet up with them, even if it was just for lunch. We went to Shabu Zen in Chinatown. It was pretty delicious. We got some bubble tea afterwards and my sister gave me an awkward Valentine’s Day present (an old sausage McGriddle and a heart-shaped sugar cookie that said “Eewww… Gross”). Then, we headed back to Worcester.

Me, my sister, and my cousins (Thy and Jenn)

ShabuZen

The rest of the weekend was just a lot of drinking and eating. We went out to a place in Worcester called Jillian’s, where we drank and played some pool. We ate dinner at a sushi restaurant, Kai. Then, we continued to different restaurants and bars to drink.

Other than eating and drinking on Sunday, we went to this really fancy mall in Natick, MA. It was the fanciest mall… EVER! I wish I had taken pictures. It was so fancy that I couldn’t afford to buy anything except for some pistachio gelato (my fave… nom!). We ate at another sushi restaurant called Baba. It was pretty good. I was still full from the pho we had that morning though. Haha. Too much food! We chilled in the hotel room until we went to dinner at The Boynton. Since it was Sunday and all of their friends had to work the next day, we just hung out at the hotel.

Sushi at Baba

Monday was our last day in Massachusetts. We woke up, packed everything and went out to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant. We went to a place called inhouse coffee that’s really popular in Worcester. Very good chai. Nom. Then, we headed to Boston to walk around before we had to head to the airport.

We stopped by Quincy Market to eat. We walked through a Holocaust Memorial on the way there. It was really cool. There were these glass structures that you could walk through and it had all the ID numbers of all the victims with quotes. I have this strange fascination with the Holocaust. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because I like to read about stories of survival. So I’m really glad we got to see that.

Holocaust Memorial

In Quincy Market, I found this restaurant in the food court that was served just different kind of macaroni and cheese! My favorite food! It was like a dream come true. I’ve been looking for a mac and cheese restaurant. I got the lobster mac and cheese. They freaking made it in front of my face!!! They tossed in the bechamel sauce, cheese, lobster, and noodles in a pan and cooked it to a creamy goodness. Sigh… so good. I’m drooling while writing this…

The making of my mac and cheese

Lobster Mac and Cheese.

We walked our food off a little bit around the market, bought some souvenirs, and stopped in Chinatown to buy some stuff from a bakery. Then, we headed to the airport.

I think the highlight of my weekend was everyone’s hospitality. We hung out with all of Quoc and Kat’s friends, so they made sure we had a good time. I love their accents too! I was really tempted to start saying wicked. It was a really good weekend getaway. I’m glad I invited myself along on their trip.

I wish I had taken more pictures though… Oh well. And I just realized I only took pictures of food and not people… Oops.

On to the next adventure!

– SL

#27 Harry Potter World

Date Completed: Saturday, November 12, 2011

Completed With: Christine D., William K. Jr., Linh V., Justin Y., David D., Grace L, Alison K.

I completed my first bucket list item this weekend on Saturday, November 12, 2011. I went to Harry Potter World in Orlando! It was great, except for all the people and long lines. We did all of the rides there. We also had lunch at The Three Broomsticks. I had Cornish Pasties and a frozen butterbeer. Yum. There was a media event later that day so I couldn’t take pictures with the Hogwarts Express because it was roped off for it. Enjoy the pics!

Hogwarts

 

Entrance to Dumbledore’s Office

 

Hogsmeade

 

Cornish Pasties at the Three Broomsticks

 

Frozen Butterbeer

Bucket List

I’ve been working on creating a bucket list. I’ve seen that most lists have 100 items. But, I guess I don’t want to do that many things. I didn’t want to fill my list with lame stuff. I wanted it to be realistic too. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

1. See the northern lights (http://gizmodo.com/5841669/this-igloo-resort-lets-you-watch-the-northern-lights-in-pure-luxury/gallery/1)
2. Bungee jump in Macau
3. Sky dive somewhere abroad
4. Hot air balloon ride
5. Go back to South Africa
6. Learn to swim
7. Re-learn how to ride a bike
8. Run a 5K
9. Fly a plane
10. Ride a gondola in Venice
11. Road trip East Coast to West Coast
12. Make a wish on a shooting star
13. Witness a solar/lunar eclipse
14. Help build a house
15. Go parasailing
16. Make my own (working) kite
17. Go on a helicopter tour of an active volcano
18. Take some sort of dance class (hip hop, salsa, ballroom)
19. Take a pottery class
20. Become a certified wedding planner
21. Go to the top of the Empire State Building
22. Go to the top of the Statue of Liberty
23. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
24. Visit the 9/11 Memorial
25. Go back to Vietnam
26. Take a picture running into Platform 9 ¾ in London
27. Go to Harry Potter World in Orlando
28. See the pyramids in Egypt
29. Knit a scarf (one that actually fits an average person)
30. Karaoke in front of strangers
31. Own a Volvo
32. Get a helicopter tour
33. Get a famous person’s autograph
34. Be an extra in a movie
35. Go to a live concert
36. Have a “short girls” + Ian reunion
37. Have my own office at work
38. See a Broadway musical in NYC
39. Play the bass clarinet again
40. Learn a song on the guitar
41. Learn a song on the piano
42. Play something on the saxophone
43. Visit a Disney theme park overseas
44. Plan someone else’s wedding
45. Go horseback riding
46. Pet a lion or a tiger
47. Frolic in a field of sunflowers/daisies
48. Trek through a rainforest
49. Explore a desert (a real one, not Vegas)
50. Fly in first class
51. Learn sign language
52. Travel through the Panama Canal
53. See the Great Wall of China
54. Tour the Grand Canyon
55. Visit Coney Island
56. Go to the Canada side of Niagara Falls
57. Go white water rafting
58. Witness a meteor shower
59. Be someone’s maid of honor
60. Send out a message in a bottle
61. Have someone send me a letter saying they found my message in a bottle
62. See an arcus cloud (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcus_cloud)
63. Go ice skating in Rockefeller Center
Who wants to join me in any of these? Do you guys think there’s anything else I should add? Lemme know! Holla!
– SL