In August 1981 we arrived in Iowa City with four suitcases, two handbags, and a $300 check. 1981 BC - before children - as I like to say. We were young, newly married, in our very own apartment, traveling the town in "Cambus"(campus bus), and set to work on our degrees. We quickly made lifelong friends. Although none of us had money to spare, the good times never stopped rolling. The scenery in Iowa was jaw-dropping in its scale with miles and miles of corn fields, undulating roads, and uninterrupted views. It wasn't unusual to see an object in the distance on the interstate and eight miles later passing by it. Flat was definitely redefined.
Then, we drove into the mist and lost our hearts.
Armed with a PhD, Tarun came to interview at Virginia Tech (VT). The scenes we encountered on our drive from West Virginia to Blacksburg are etched in our minds forever. Going east on Route 460, through charming towns in the Appalachian Mountains, we were suspended in breathtaking views. The clouds hugged the valley like long lost lovers. We were smitten.
We approached the mist with trepidation, drove into it, and emerged feeling refreshed. When we returned to Iowa after our first visit, we could not wait to get back and start our new life. Last week, we drove back home from Blacksburg early in the morning and reminisced about those early trips. Once again we were suspended in serene disbelief. As the sun broke through the clouds explosively, we were reminded of why Blacksburg and VT drew us in.
Beyond the natural beauty of the area, we were intrigued by the unique architecture of the VT campus. The conformance is akin to the ivy covered buildings of storied campuses. A majority of the buildings at Tech are made of the "Hokie stone" from a VT-owned quarry near campus. The stone is limestone infused with magnesium and calcium, birthed 450 million years ago under extreme heat and pressure. The stone came before the mountains when the area was under a sea.
The main part of Burruss Hall, the primary administrative building, was built in 1936. It has a 3,000 seat auditorium and is named after Julian Ashby Burruss, the eighth president of VT from 1919-45. At night, bathed in an unusual hue, it stands as an imposing scene from a medieval story.
On one end of the vast Drill Field, stands the War Memorial Chapel, a dedication to alums who have perished in wars. The upper level has eight limestone pylons that represent Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Sacrifice, Service, Loyalty, Duty, and the VT motto - Ut Prosim ("That I May Serve"). The names of those who died in service are carved on the pylons. In the back of the Court is a cenotaph - a tomblike monument - carved with names of seven alumni who have received the Medal of Honor. The lower level houses a 260-seat chapel. It is a sight to behold at night.
Two hours from Blacksburg, we crossed Afton Mountain near Charlottesville. Driving here in fog is a white-knuckle experience. At 1,900 feet, it isn't terribly high but it is one of the windiest places in the country. I-64 crisscrosses the Blue Ridge Mountains through Afton and offers views like no other place near us. This time we encountered fog so thick that the scenic overlook offered a grey abyss instead of a gorgeous view of the Shenandoah Valley.
As we approached the top of Afton Mountain, this bridge to nowhere reminded us of the chance we took coming to an unfamiliar part of the country many moons ago. And here we are three decades later, thanking our younger selves for being fearless and hoping to find that kind of courage again.