Another week and a half on the road has come and gone.. though I'm not sure how it went by so fast. I guess time flies when you're living out of your car...
After New Mexico, Mom and I headed to Texas to visit my dad's side of the family. After a night in Austin (not enough time at all-- but I'm fairly certain I'll be back) with my cousin Stephanie, we headed to Baytown, Texas-- former hometown of my dad, Jimbo, and current home of my Grandparents, Maw Maw and Paw Paw.
I'm a little ashamed to admit that it had been over 4 years since I'd seen my Grandparents.. but between my inability to afford to travel anywhere but back to VA when I was living in Seattle and their inability to travel because of health issues, a visit hasn't been possible on either end until now. Needless to say, it was wonderful to see them again and to eat some of Maw Maw's good southern cookin'-- my first homecooked meal in three weeks!
I was also able to visit my cousin Kristina whose husband and two little boys were a blast to hang out with (Kristina's pretty fun, too-- just for the record!). After Stephanie and I dropped my mom off for her flight back to Richmond on Saturday, Justin (Kristina's husband) made us all an an awesome sushi dinner (which I was so impressed to see a 6 year old and a 3 year old dig into!) and the grown ups stayed up late drinking wine, playing games, and making up for lost time (it had been three years since I'd seen Kristina-- way too long!).
After another night at Kristina's on Sunday, I loaded up the car once again and headed east through Louisiana to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where I spent two nights with a family that was as close as my own kin through college. Jay ran the college and youth ministries at my church in Harrisonburg and his wife Jennifer became an adoptive big sister to me, always inviting me and my friends over for home-cooked southern meals, sweet tea, and precious kid time with her then three year old son, Riley. Jay and Jennifer moved to Mississippi in February of my senior year of college-- just a week after their second son Nate was born. I hadn't seen Nate since I held him in the hospital the day he was born, so it was a real joy to catch up with the whole family and see how the boys have grown. Nate is a hoot and Riley is so smart and witty-- already spewing his dad's signature brand of sarcasm. I was sad to leave them yesterday morning, but so blessed to have gotten some quality time with one of my favorite families.
As wonderful as it's been to sight see and visit parts of the country I'd never seen before, I have to admit that the last week has been my favorite part of my month on the road. I do love to travel, but deep down I know that all the cities in the world can't stack up to quality time with family and friends. I've realized over the past few days how blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life and it's been a joy to see so many of them in such a short period of time.
I'm in Atlanta now, staying with my little brother, Brian. I've only been here a night so far, but already it's been so good to catch up and to get to know his life here, and I'm looking forward to a few more days of hanging out before I finally land in Virginia.