Nashville, TN: April 15th – April 20th
If I haven’t made it clear by now, one huge thing I’ve learned this year is that traveling is all about the people you’re with rather than the place. So while I knew Nashville would be awesome on its own, when I found out that we would not only be there with two wiener women, Sammi and Alex, but also that our fellow Peanutters Elise and Iara were coming to visit, I knew it was about to be an absolute shell of a time. And it was.
We did a lot together in a short amount of time including eating several amazing meals out, traversing the city to take pictures with its murals and having a wine and intense monopoly night. However, my favorite thing was our night out on Broadway. It started with seeing a country band, and though country is none of our music of choice, we can embrace anything and we ended up having a great time at the show and making friends with the band. The night moved on to another bar with a state-of-the-art dance floor that was being extremely under-utilized, so Iara, Elise, Sammi and I made it our personal mission to liven up the place by dancing our faces off. The mission was a success and by the end of the night we had developed a fan base who referred to us as “The Spice Girls” and been invited to join a bachelorette party. All in all, a pretty solid night.
After a much too short visit, Iara and Elise had to head back East, but we thankfully still got to hang out with Sammi Sandwich and Alexandog as well as a new friend, the legendary Jacob Groves. Jacob, who also has a travelling job, has now met almost our entire class during his travels, and I was excited he headed over to Nashville to meet us as well. The six of us decided to check out the famous Gaylord Opryland Resort where we walked through the hotel’s seemingly endless, elaborate atriums, ate dinner at their Mexican restaurant and got completely lost within the hotel in our effort to leave. When we finally made it home we said our goodbyes, packed our bags and prepared to to part ways with Music City and head back to the lovely Midwest for the weekend.
Champaign, IL: April 20th – April 23rd
I was really disappointed because Champaign is a mere three hours from home, but I was unable to visit because we were only in town for three nights and had no days off. I hadn’t been home since Christmas, and of course I was dying to see my family and be on my home turf. However, I was able to get a literal slice of home because we found a Giordano’s in Champaign, which if you’re unfamiliar (if this is the case I feel terrible for you) is the best Chicago-style pizza. I could barely contain my excitement during dinner, and it was fun to watch Conner experience the cheesy, saucy goodness of Giordano’s for the first time.
I also felt closer to home because my friend Amanda came down for a visit. I’ve known Amanda for over 10 years now, and even though we’ve both changed a bunch in that time, our friendship has always stayed the same, and this time was no different. We caught up on our lives over drinks, explored the U of I campus and watched movies in my hotel room. Amanda also got to witness one of our craziest events of the year, Peanut Pals, which was really fun but weird for me to watch two of my worlds suddenly collide.
You’re probably now wondering what Peanut Pals is and why it’s so crazy. Peanut Pals is a group of mainly elderly people who are absolutely NUTS about Mr. Peanut and Planters and collect brand memorabilia. They then hold conventions where they sell and trade their memorabilia as well as do activities together. We got to work their trade show, and we were treated like shellebrity VIPS and given a bunch of Planters swag. I scored a dope Mr. Peanut bomber jacket as well as a Planters backpack with a working radio on the front of it. We also were offered a sizable amount of money for our work polos and talked with the members about everything Planters, including what one man called “the bad topic” – nut allergies. As weird as the Peanut Pals may sound, I admired their passion for their quirky hobby and how they’ve built a community around it, and the event was a shell of a time. I just may have to become their newest – and youngest – member after this job.
As people often do at the end of an era, I’ve been getting pretty sentimental lately and thinking a lot about my memories from the year. I realized that even though I’ve had an uncountable amount of cool experiences, it’s so much easier for me to recollect the people who have made an impression on me than it is for me to remember places, attractions or even, dare I say, great meals. Whether it’s an elderly gang of peanut enthusiasts, a spontaneous visit from nutty buddies or a good catch-up with a life-long friend, I know I’ll look back and remember who I experienced it all with much more than what we did. Though I doubt I’ll ever forget being compared to the Spice Girls.
Peace & Peanuts!