Most people have one last somewhat-grand summer plan before school resumes once more. It’s that one last thing to look forward to before routines and early morning alarms become second nature once more. In my situation, it was not my own last-big-summer plan, but rather a marker flagging when all of my high school friends start to move to their respective universities all over the country. I am so proud of each and every one of them (from Washington D.C., Ithaca, Rochester, Macon, and beyond), however, it is not easy to watch all of them leave me here at home for another three weeks to finalize my own departure dates and immigration papers.
My boyfriend and I’s last big summer plan was a road trip to see Coldplay in concert and, to make the most of the trip up North, tour his new campus in upstate New York. I have a thing about denying events I don’t want to have to deal with up until nearly the very last minute… and to be completely honest, I think this is how I’ve tried coping with the impending departure of my best friend, Carlton. When you have such a trip to look forward to, you can set a marker in time so that you are mentally and emotionally assured that there is no such need to dread or worry (no matter how many times such daunting thoughts may pop into your head) until such date has passed. This was my marker date, and guess what. Now it has passed.
Despite, the fact that denial has become much more difficult, the trip was amazing. Growing up my mother had a crippling fear of flying (she still has to be heavily medicated) that limited our family vacation locations to within the geographical range of how far we could drive. However, since I was traveling with his family there were no such limitations and we flew. Flying does often pose its own obstacles, and we were greeted with such obstacles upon a very early (about 5 am) arrival at our local airport. Because of bad weather around more than one important east coast airport, there were some serious delays and a handful of cancellations that made our previous travel itinerary nearly impossible to uphold. We ended up flying into a very small airport in Northern Ohio and renting a car which proved to hold excitement enough for me on its own. I was even greatly entertained by the tornado shelters signs that were posted outside of the restrooms in the empty baggage claim area.
From the airport we drove roughly 3 hours to the Finger Lakes region in rural New York only to make a stop at Niagara Falls along the way. We did not cross the Canadian border seeing as I had to send my passport off with my visa application which is currently pending. (That has left me anxious on an entirely different front.) The falls were absolutely incredible, and though there are definitely some tourist attractions on the outskirts of the state park itself, the falls and its views are entirely worth every overpriced fast food shack you have to pass along the way. A calm river that you pass on the drive in quickly transforms into rapids and then, magically and suddenly, the edge of the water is gone and clouds of mist rise hundreds of feet into the air, the only indication of a change in the landscape. After admiring the view and making the obligatory trek to the observation deck, we continued the drive to Ithaca.
The following morning we all toured Cornell, which totally broke the mold of every other Ivy League university I had toured thus far. (I have toured Princeton, Yale, and Brown, and at Brown I lived on campus for two weeks and took some archaeology classes.) The other campuses were nice, don’t get me wrong, but Cornell flowed effortlessly with the environment in which it was built. We drove around the campus in circles as it rained while we waited to take the later and sunnier tour, thank goodness. The university was academically and architecturally impressive, but not in such an imposing way that forces its prestigious academia on the community surrounding the campus. Everything seemed to work together in a calmer way, and the sights, while appropriately academic, were gorgeous in a breathtakingly natural way. It still hurts to think about Carlton leaving so soon, but I couldn’t have imagined any more of a perfect place for him. I can see him there so easily, and it appeared to be an effortless fit for his down-to-earth personality and his uninhibited passion for learning, plus I am genuinely excited for him and to see everything that this opportunity has in store.
Soon after Ithaca we made our way back to Buffalo just in time for the two of us to hop out of the car at the First Niagara Center for the concert. Coldplay has always been one of my favorite bands and I don’t think I could properly emphasis how excited I felt on the drive back to Buffalo. Every expectation or hope I had for the concert was totally and utterly exceeded. The band played every song that I could’ve hoped to hear with a mix from their new album intertwined amongst fan favorites such as Clocks and Viva La Vida. Free synchronized bracelets worn by everyone in the audience created a light show that was not limited to the stage. Everything about it was wonderful, and though I’ve been to other concerts before, this was above and beyond my favorite. I think it will stay that way for quite some time. Even the next morning as we drove through Cleveland and stopped for lunch we had a wonderful time. Nothing disappointed in the slightest. Although, when you have fried watermelon and pose with gigantic neon colored snails at lake-side parks, how could your day be anything less than extraordinary?
All in all, the trip was fabulous and I’m so fortunate to be able to have some final stateside adventures before I head off overseas. As far as the final markers of summer go and the impending changes that this autumn will bring, the journey and sights in New York (and Ohio) were a wonderful way to mark the beginning of an end and the new beginning that will soon be upon myself and many of my friends.