May 21 2008

Sweet Home Virginia

Published by at 4:23 pm under Virginia

The one thing I could never figure out during our entire trip was what it would feel like to finally return home. I knew we were both looking forward to it. Because while traveling around the world is unspeakably amazing, there is also no substitute for the feeling of being surrounded by family and friends. Who speak English. And now that we’ve been back for a couple of weeks, I can say that coming home after eight months to everyone we love was one of the highlights of travel experience. With their help, we’ve been doing our best to grab this bull called Culture Shock by the horns, sleeper-hold it into submission, and ride it straight into a swimming pool full of cattle prods. Here’s a tutorial…


Three days after we landed, NASCAR came to our home city of Richmond. I think the Richmond race is a big deal in the NASCAR world, but I don’t know for sure because I know absolutely nothing about NASCAR, racing, or cars in general. It’s certainly a big deal for Richmond. Something like 100,000 people head for the track, and spend as many hours/days/weeks as possible tailgating before the race. When our friends called to invite us to come along, how could we refuse? Especially when it became clear that no one had any intention of buying tickets for the actual race… everyone was simply going for the tailgating. Righteous.

flags a-flyin'You may or may not know this, but Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America. Which may seem like nothing more than an interesting bit of trivia at first glance, seeing as it hasn’t held that distinction for 150 years. But not so for many Richmonders. When the War of Northern Aggression was temporarily suspended in 1865, Richmonders immediately began readying themselves for their inevitable counter attack. Strategic preparations continue to this day, including affixing Confederate flags to pick-up truck antennae, buying cases of Milwaukee’s Best Light on sale at Food Lion, and riding backwards on a wooden roller coaster called The Rebel Yell. Just let those Yankees try something!

But on one day out of the year, Food Lion is empty, the Rebel Yell is silent, and there is a startling shortage of Confederate flags on the highway. Amazingly, I never made the connection until last weekend: that one day is race day. And it’s a good thing the Confederate flags aren’t out trucking around, because we need every last one we can find to properly blanket the racetrack parking lot. Can you imagine if we managed to allow Dale Jr. flags to outnumber the Stars and Bars? Sacrosanct!

supporting our drivers with NASCAR hatsLike I said, I know nothing about NASCAR, so I spent my day eating grilled meats and trying to pick a favorite racer. It was a tough choice until fate introduced me to the merchandise trailer of Greg Biffle. My only criterion for a favorite racer is that his name be satisfying to holler at the top of my lungs in a Southern accent. Biffle, your name is music to my ears, even over the din of a morbidly obese woman in a miniskirt being hungrily spanked by her boyfriend behind the port-a-pottys. And I speak from experience.

2. Pot Luck Surprise Parties

We’re lucky to have friends who threw us a surprise “welcome home” party the Saturday night of the NASCAR race. Of course, at this point, we should just call it a welcome home party. The surprise bit went out the window when Brittany’s sister Lindsay called me to ask me to bring some of my mom’s famous hot crab dip to the party. And drinks. And napkins. Surprise!

partypic2.jpgThe party was great, and it also constituted another one of those “you’re not in SE Asia anymore” moments. We have Chick-Fil-A chicken nugget trays? A vegetable and dip spread? DRINKABLE WATER FROM THE TAP? Traveling in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam was such a different experience than traveling in Western Europe. When I think about the newfound appreciation I have for this horn-o-plenty called the United States, I’m so happy we were able to devote the time we did to exploring these countries. I am, of course, also happy about our time spent in Thailand, but there’s a distinct line between Thailand and its neighbors. That is, Thailand has Mr. Donut.

3. Fishin’

For all the fun I poke at Richmond NASCAR fans, I do have my own deep fried Southern passions. First among these: fishing. Not deep sea fishing or whatever other shenanigans people with too much money (Yankees!) have gotten themselves into. I’m talking about walking down to the lake with a pole, a tackle box, and some nightcrawlers from Bob’s Bait Shop. I’d been itching to get back to fishing ever since our first days in Greece, and this past weekend, Brittany and I finally scratched my itch.

ta da!The important thing, of course, is simply going fishing because it feels like HOME. And it doesn’t really matter if your girlfriend catches five fish and you catch zero. Nope, it really doesn’t. Really really doesn’t.

Other things that matter include catching a fishing pole on the bottom of the lake (this seriously happened, somehow) and the overall experience of patronizing Bob’s Bait Shop.

Yes, Bob’s Bait Shop flies a Confederate flag. Yes, Bob’s Bait Shop sells fake deer for target practice. Yes, Bob’s Bait Shop buys your old swords and guns. And yes, Bob’s Bait Shop’s parking lot is home to a super-size pick-up with the following license plate:


In other words, welcome home!

NEXT: Tales We Never Told: One night in Prague »



2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Sweet Home Virginia”

  1. Danon 21 May 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Dietz wishes he drove that truck.

  2. nateon 28 May 2008 at 3:36 pm

    who is that hunk of a man in the wicker hat!?!?

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