Weekend in Jacksonville

Last weekend, I got to drive down to Jacksonville (North Carolina -- since most people automatically assume Florida) and spend a few days with Zach. We hadn't seen each other in nearly four weeks, which is pretty normal for us, but still... we're both more than ready to get to a point in our lives where we can see each other every day. However, I won't graduate from Duke for another 646 days (but who's counting?), so in the meantime, we know that God has a purpose for this stage in our lives and we're making the most of the time we do get to spend together.

Since there wasn't a final turn-in at the armory on Friday, Zach figured he'd be getting off work at a much more reasonable time (4:00ish) as opposed to the Friday nights where he's at the armory well past 10PM. I had planned to arrive in Jacksonville between 2:30 & 3:00, enough time to hang out in the armory and meet everyone. Of course, however, the ONE weekend I come down is the ONE weekend Zach gets off at 1:15. That never happens! Maybe I should do it more often :) So, I didn't get to meet everyone in the armory as planned, but nothing ever goes according to plan, right?

I finally arrived in Jacksonville at 3:15 & Zach met me in the parking lot across from base. Reunited at last :) We drove on base (which doesn't scare me nearly as much as it once did. I mean, it helps when Zach is in the car...) and to the barracks. After briefly meeting Sanzone & Clark, and saying hello to Hipp and Howard, we went to the armory. Sight count was still going on, so I got to walk around the shop & see where my precious boy spends practically 90% of his days. He showed me all of the weapons & offered to let me hold different machine guns, but I declined :) I figured I'll end up holding/shooting more machine guns/other weapons in my lifetime than the average person, but I'm still not quiiiteee ready. I did, however, eat a leftover hotdog from "Hotdog Friday" -- in two bites, for the record -- but that's as adventurous as it got in the armory.

We left the armory & went to the PX and the commissary. We had decided to cook dinner both nights while I was visiting -- partially because Zach never gets homemade food, and partially because we love to cook together. We bought everything we'd need to cook for the weekend for less than the cost of one meal going out -- go us! On the menu for Friday night -- shepherd's pie, one of Zach's favorites :) I cooked the ground beef while Zach took care of the mashed potatoes & mixed vegetables... and while it might not have been as good as the shepherd's pie at Cheesecake Factory, it was pretty darn tasty!

After dinner, we went to Lennen's apartment, where the boys were having a birthday party for Fields. I got to meet a lot more of the guys who work at the armory (Lennen, Fields, Evon, Cosby, & Jennings) and hang out with a bunch of the guys I'd already met/knew (Sousa, Hipp, Howard, Wirtz, Watts, & Sanzone). Let's just say... the night was rather entertaining :)

Saturday was... beach day! We went to the Cookout in Jacksonville with Hipp, Howard, & Sanzone. The exciting part? You can actually go inside the Cookout in Jacksonville to eat! Zach had told me about it, but I finally got to experience it for myself. We quickly ate & got in the car for our drive to Emerald Isle. Once there, we enjoyed being out in the ocean. The boys brought a little ball that actually bounces on top of the water, so they threw that back and forth all afternoon as I struggled to keep my head above water while being completely obliterated by the waves. No big deal :) Hipp, Howard, & Sanzone left later in the afternoon, while Zach and I stayed around for another hour or so. The weather had been fairly overcast all day, but the sun finally came out toward the end of our trip and was absolutely gorgeous!

We left the beach and got ready to cook our second dinner of the weekend: three cheese chicken penne -- my favorite :) Zach decided that he wanted to cook all of it for me. I wasn't good at just sitting there and watching him do everythinggg, so he finally let me chop up the tomatoes for the bruschetta. I also got to peel & chop the cucumbers, just because Zach absolutely loves them. (I even arranged them into a cute little heart.) As far as the rest of the meal went, I poured the lemonade and spent a good ten minutes intricately folding the napkins, but Zach did everything else. And... it was amazing! Grilled chicken, penne pasta, alfredo sauce, bruschetta, shredded cheese... mmm :) Who knew that Zach was such an incredible cook? I definitely lucked out. And for the first time ever, I finished my entire plate before Zach...and had seconds! I still can't get over how good it was.

We had originally planned to see Inception, but the only theater in Jacksonville didn't have any evening/night showings. Lamesauce. We ended up renting Up. And... I bawled the entire time. It was such an adorably cute movie, but nobody warned me how sad it was! Thankfully, Zach just held me as I sobbed for thirty minutes after the movie ended. I know, I know -- I'm ridiculous :)

I woke up on Sunday, checked out of my hotel, & met Zach at church -- the First Baptist of Jacksonville. I really liked it! It's a big enough church to have multiple services, but once I got there, it was a lot smaller than I had thought. Definitely a place I could see myself going. After the service, we ate lunch at Chili's and went back to the barracks to hang out for our last hour or so. Zach's cammies were hanging up at the end of his bed, so I tried them on. Cute, I know :) Speaking of cute, check out the picture hanging above Zach's bed in the barracks...

We went to Sanzone's room for a little bit so I could say bye to him, Hipp, and Howard, and then we left base. I went with Zach to get his weekly haircut (definitely an awkward point in my life -- try being the only girl in a room with thirty or more 20-year old Marines. Lots of stares...) and then -- it was time to leave. You would think that since we've been in a long-distance relationship for over two years, we'd be really good at the whole "saying goodbye" thing -- not the case. Oh well. We still had an absolutely wonderful weekend -- some much needed time together, just me & my best friend :)