2022 is my last-ever summer vacation, in essence. August 1 is (possibly was, by the time I finish this post – it’s July 31 as I write the intro) my first day at NWS Norman. From here on out, there’s no convenient 3 months off of being a student. I’m a little sad about that, but after this summer I’m not even sure that will be a whole lot different than 2022. Because that was the theme of summer 2022: it was a lot more work than I expected, and a lot more backloaded than I could have imagined.
That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of opportunities for fun. In the last few months, I’ve been all over the Plains with TORUS, as well as vacations in Florida, Michigan, Montana, and Delaware. It’s been a full year’s worth of vacations this summer. So in reality, how could I complain? Well, in those same few months, I’ve defended my thesis, then worked right up to the deadline turning in the 100-page final copy of my thesis, all while having to move out of an apartment and into my first house. Oh, and I got covid. It’s been an interesting summer.
But this blog is not really designed to dwell on the negative. I want to contextualize it, because this has genuinely been a busy and mentally exhausting stretch. It wouldn’t be fair to talk about this summer without noting that Elizabeth and her cousins found me asleep upright on the couch in Rehoboth Beach, with my laptop still open to my bibliography. But life is what you make of it, and I can definitely say that amidst the craziness, I found time for fun this summer. Let’s give some of the trips a brief overview.
TORUS itself was a wild two weeks for me. Not the weather, which outside of one exceptional day on High Plains remained very tame. But on my last-ever field project, I was determined to make the time memorable. Mission accomplished. If I have time later this summer, I’ll write a post about some of the funnier memories. But between the 55-ounce margaritas and the hot tub in Salina, and forbidden mini-golf and the brewery in Council Bluffs, and The Big Texan, and the night I got so drunk I threw up all over my hotel room floor in Lubbock, and cornhole at Pal’s in North Platte, and fishing at the lake in Norfolk, and millions of other funny moments with Mike, Sam, Wenjun, and the whole crew, I can confidently say that I put my all into having fun every second of the project. Did that dismay the PIs? Possibly. Did I add value to the project acting as a sounding board for Mike during deployments, and remember to snap into business mode when I needed? Absolutely. I wouldn’t have done it any differently.
TORUS shift one ended ignominiously on May 31. That gave me a whole 2 days with Scipio before Elizabeth and I jetted off to Sarasota for Kins’s wedding.
The wedding was a glorious mess. Because Elizabeth was a bridesmaid, I got to stay in the AirBNB with the other bridesmaids. And *that* was a fun time. I’ll try and get into the entire wedding in a blog post in the next little bit. But a quick summary in case I don’t: the highlight was being reunited with college friends for the few days. Bradley, James, and Jenna all stayed at the house as well, and I got the chance to catch up with them over the course of the long weekend. We drank at a birthday party for Kins’s bridesmaid Hannah the first night. Then we drank at and after the rehearsal dinner at a local fish fry restaurant in the Sarasota area. Then came the wedding day, a mess of last-second plans and errand-running to get everything done. As hectic as the lead-up was, and boy was it hectic, the ceremony itself was beautiful. Kins and Keer’s vows were enough to bring tears to half of the eyes in attendance.
And the reception was a pretty damn good party, too. I’d lost my voice by the time we Ubered back to the Airbnb.
Elizabeth and I stayed in Florida for an extra June Sunday. The two of us took an Uber out to Siesta Key and lived it up. We found a good restaurant near the water, and then laid out on the beach long enough for me to get a really nice sunburn.
I was burned enough to be exhausted by the time we got to the AirBNB by the end of the night. Instea of overexerting myself, I took it easy that evening so that I could recuperate and be ready for the stretch run of my Master’s Degree.
So you can understand my consternation when I woke up the next morning with covid.
At first I wasn’t sure that I had it – in fact, I tested negative the morning we flew back to Oklahoma. But I felt like dogshit, and worse throughout the day, and by the time Elizabeth and I made it home I was drenched in sweat from the exertion of taking a suitcase upstairs and running a 103 degree fever. The next morning, my covid test made it much clearer.
Elizabeth managed to stay uninfected through a whirlwind week of quarantine. Because remember, this is the two of us. There wasn’t really time for me to truly quarantine, especially with move-in to our new house in 8 days. I had to wear a KN-95 to help Elizabeth load a washer, drier and fridge into a U-Haul from one of her sorority friends all while sweating worse than I ever had from the heat and the fever while my throat felt like it was being rubbed by sandpaper. Not a fun memory. Then there was the packing, which I did from my office quarantine in between Tropical Smoothies. And finally, after a few days of going insane and long Scipio walks, there was freedom from covid. All in all, I would rate the experience one star out of five. Particularly inconvenient timing.
And just like that, once it was done Elizabeth and I were moving boxes and boxes and boxes from The Links into our first house. The house-finding process had been tortuous, with a market so insane that even rentals were disappearing the day they got posted. We lost out on multiple bids at the very last second, leaving us with no home plan as late as the end of May. Finally, we got lucky – a 1,700 square foot home on Woodside Drive in north Norman with rent under $1,400 a month. If it’s a little old-fashioned, who cares? It had a yard for Scipio, which counted for much more. We set a move-in date of June 15, and with the help of James, Sam, and my sister Taylor, dragged all the furniture and all of Elizabeth’s sweaters across town. Spoiler alert: we have a lot of stuff. The move-in process has been long, and while we have most of the big stuff done, it’s August now and much remains to be done. But at least by this point we have a mostly livable house, as long as you avoid the sunroom.
Maybe the house would have come along faster, but the process of moving stuff from The Links to our house before the move-out date on June 28 became less organized and more frenetic as the final day approached. Why might that have been? Well, I had something else going on on June 28. Nothing major, though – just my freaking Master’s thesis defense. The date had been circled on my internal calendar for months, with dread increasing steadily as the days counted down. I started the slides weeks before the defense date, while still in quarantine. Never have I prepped more for a presentation – I went over Venn Diagrams in Google Slides for hours to properly format them, I roped everyone I knew into listening to it, and I practiced nightly for days. Each practice round felt solid, uninspiring. But on the day of, with two dozen donuts (I am not above bribery) on the plates of awesome friends who attended my talk during their lunch hours, and with 50 more people on Google Meets watching, I could tell the whole way – I was knocking it out of the park. By the end, there was a weight off my shoulders – nearly. First, I had to matriculate some difficult questions during the open Q&A session, and then I had to matriculate the even tougher closed session. But instead of being the fabled gotcha questions, my master’s committee decided to spend most of the closed session going over improvements they wanted to see to my thesis. That was either a good sign for my talk or a bad sign for my paper, but either way, I had officially passed my defense. There were two parties that night – one at the Mont with those same friends who had showed up to support me, and one that was purely coincidental with boundary layer people in the NWC. Both of them felt like the most relaxed fun I’d had in weeks.
Relaxing isn’t in the Nolan and Elizabeth playbook though, and by the end of the week the two of us were off to Michigan to spend the 4th of July with my family. My mother picked us up in Chicago on the day of July 1 and drove us back to Grand Rapids, with a quick brunch stop along the way. We spent the next few days largely spending time with my family – dinner outdoors on beautiful Michigan evenings, bocce in the backyard, Mario Kart with Alex in the living room. We got to see my friend Dervin for a breakfast at Red Geranium and give him his groomsmen gift. And perhaps most fun of all, Elizabeth got to experience (most) of an annual 4th of July celebration with the Meisters. We weren’t able to make it to the Kentwood fireworks show on the 4th, because that’s when our flight back to Oklahoma City was. But on the morning of the 3rd of July, after taking Dervin out to breakfast, the two of us drove out to Taylor and Kyle’s and met up with them to go to the annual Ritsema 3rd of July party on the banks of Green Lake.
The party was a bit tamer this year than the 2021 edition, but only a bit. There was still a good deal of fun to be found at the sandbar, blasting music and drinking White Claws. I lost to Nathan again and again in cornhole, but bonded with him over some moonshine. I think Elizabeth enjoyed her time with the Ritsemas and co:
We actually made it back to my parents’ house by the end of the night. That meant we were ready to rock and roll for the Kentwood 4th of July parade the next morning. My parents didn’t hold back on inviting people – my grandparents, cousins and their kids, and neighbors galore crowded the roadside as the fire trucks and political campaigns marched by. Elizabeth’s from DC, so this was like a slice of small-to-medium-sized-suburban-town America. I hope she enjoyed that one too.
Too soon, our trip was done and we were flying over fireworks out of Midway Airport back home. This time I would be home for a full 8 days before Elizabeth and I went on another trip. In those 8 days, I had page after page of thesis edits to go through. Scipio and I had a new neighborhood to explore through a scorching summer. 18 of the 31 days in July hit at least 100 in Norman, and some were much hotter than even that. When we weren’t racking up an insane AC bill, Scipio and I were on the couch, making my thesis better. Elizabeth took off to Washington to find her wedding dress and left the two of us in our edit session. She came back at the end of the second weekend of July, just as I sent the next draft to my thesis committee. I told them I would be out of town for a while before getting my last edits in in time for the July 28 deadline. What was the reason I’d be unavailable for the next week?
Elizabeth and I were off to the crown of the continent – Glacier National Park.
Glacier is incredible. There are so many places in the US that I’ve been told are incredible, and somehow all of them have not quite lived up to the hype. This maybe goes all the way up to national parks like Grand Teton when measured against my expectations. But Glacier? Glacier lives up to the hype and then some. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to blog about the week, because it deserves a 40-part series just like last summer got. But a 40-part series with my new job is going to be pretty tough to spit out. I will keep the details short here and just talk about my overall feel, which is something that I found could fade in my memories during my blog series over the national parks last summer. The first half day and the next full day in Glacier were about as close to perfect as a day can get. Elizabeth and I loved every second of it, and we were just all over the park. Toward the middle of our trip, I started to come unstrung slightly from the lack of sleep, the stresses of spending a long time in the car with my fiancee, and the long summer I’d had. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the trip – I did. But I did have occasional breakdowns interspersed with the incredible highs of the trip. It was maybe more emotional swinging than I intend to do in future travels. No chance it was enough to make Glacier anything but my very favorite national park in the United States.
The last breakdown that I had was pretty justified, in my defense. I received an email from the head of my master’s committee on our second-to-last night in the park. The essence of it was that yes, they hoped I was having fun in Glacier. And oh by the way, your thesis needs major work to be able to be submitted by July 28 in time for you to get your degree. It’s both true that I worked quite hard after my defense to get the thesis up to snuff, and that there was much that I had left undone. But it got a little harder to enjoy the mountains and the lodgepoles and the snowfields when I was 9 days away from potentially not graduating.
I almost felt a sense of relief when Elizabeth and I made it back to Norman. Now I could finally focus on the last grind as a student. The next couple of days flew by at home while I systematically tackled the requested edits and revisions. Even now, in the throes of my thesis’s final fugue, the madness of the summer 2022 schedule was unrelenting. Elizabeth and I packed up fresh suitcases and spent nearly a week in Rehoboth Beach. Originally intended as a relaxing beach week to help me celebrate my last week before entering the workforce, it turned into something much less than that. It was a writing boot camp. I hid for hours in the bottom bunk that Elizabeth and I slept in, working on figure formatting, inserting references, and tidying up the last mistakes. There was a little bit of time for me to spend an hour or two at the beach, or go for a bike ride, but this “vacation” was 20% fun, 80% work, 200% stress. The only way I know how to do things, apparently!
We headed back to OKC late on the night of July 27. I worked from the airplane, doing last revisions until 2:00 a.m. live with Liz until both of us were satisfied that the work was really done. She gave me the green light to turn in the thesis the next morning. Elizabeth and I got home at 3:00 a.m… to a house that apparently had lost AC while we were gone and was 89 degrees. It was too late for me to care. I slept like a sweaty rock.
Finally, the next day, while sweltering it out waiting for maintenance, I was able to put a bow on the summer. My thesis was submitted and accepted, ending my time as an OU student. I got bills paid off (barely: I came within about $100 of running out of money entirely in the process of getting new appliances, paying double rent and utilities, and a massive inflation run in the summer of 2022. That stress really mingled well with everything else), and all of a sudden, I had 3 whole days to myself to enjoy freedom.
Then August 1 rolled around. And it was time to start my new job.