Monday, June 24, 2013

Dirty Jersey and Connecticut

My 10 days in dirty Jersey (with a brief 4-day stint in CT) is coming to an end and it was filled with the typical summer fun …

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a big fan of the following summer-associated activities:
1) sitting on a beach
2) swimming in a pool
3) getting pedicures

And I did all three of those things (willingly) and more this week! 

Highlights include seeing and spending good QT with my family, my growing niece (almost 8!) and nephew (almost 11), and so many friends. Bonus was getting to visit the MARS factory for my chocolate fix (a friend works there) and seeing the 70+ therapy dogs that had been in Newtown since its tragedy (I don't typically like dogs, but these guys melted my heart, especially because of what they did for that community).

Don't you worry, J will post about his very exciting 10 days in Colorado. As much as we both enjoyed our time, we are happy to be reunited!!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy 9th Birthday Mr. McKinley!

For those who may be newer to this blog, this is Mr. McKinley. J & I adopted him in 2004 when he was 6 months old. We kept him until 2011, when my parents agreed to take him in temporarily during our thru hike. We finished up hiking, bounced around the country on a road trip for a bit, and settled in at BD in March 2012.

Then the deliberation began. Do we take Mr. McKinley (who my dad renamed McK - he shortens everyone's names) back? Do we traumatize him once again? Plus, we weren't real sure how Mr. McKinley would do in a hostel environment with the loads of people we'd be hosting every night. Plus, every time we came to visit, he hid. It was almost like he was saying, "I am spoiled rotten here and you are not plucking me from this home." And my parents were clearly so, so in love with this cat at this point that taking him would put a little hole in their hearts.

Thankfully, the case never went to court. J & I decided to relinquish our parental rights and stick with occasional visitation.

But boy is "McK" getting old! 9 years = something in his 50s. Which makes sense why he is so happy since he is hanging out with a bunch of 60-something-year-olds!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There's No Place Like Roam

In May, we spent 17 nights sleeping at friends' or family's houses, 7 nights in the van, 5 nights in a hotel, and 1 night camping. In June (for the nights J & I were together), we spent 8 nights sleeping at friends/family's houses, 3 nights in a hotel, 2 nights in the van and 1 night camping. 

Overall, we LOVE life on the road. But, like with anything, there are pros & cons and things we only discovered once we made this our life. We wear and share many hats--presenters, schedulers, marketers, accountants, travel agents,  drivers--which makes every day is a new day, that's for sure. 

THUMBS UP: We have gotten to see TONS of friends & family in the 8 weeks we've been on the road. Approximately 70 friends to be exact (I'm a counter, remember). 

THUMBS DOWN: How could there be a con to visiting with friends & family, you ask? Well, because time is limited. And we are always on the go somewhere. So, we are often "squeezing" in visits. Or masking a visit as mooching. "Hey so & so, it'd be great if we can grab a dinner, but can we also take a shower at your place?" We try to spread out our mooching … shower at one person's house, washing dishes at another, laundry at another, using a printer at another, sleeping in a bed at still another, stealing Internet wherever we can. And the honest truth is if you haven't seen us yet and you are on the East coast or Midwest, we have probably already driven through your town/city, but could not "squeeze" you in. Or didn't need a shower. 

THUMBS UP: We feel like rock stars. People show up to hear us speak. And the feedback has been that they like what we say. What a feeling of pride and excitement we get from looking out into the crowd and hearing thank yous after the presentation. 

THUMBS DOWN: We literally feel like rock stars. We perform by night, driving during the day (9,000 miles driven!) and everything else happens when it's convenient (i.e., showers, checking e-mails). We also eat at different times almost every day because of our wild and crazy schedule, which pisses off our GI tract. 

THUMBS UP: We get to eat out a lot.

THUMBS DOWN: J & I have NEVER been the types to eat out, only when on road trips or visiting with friends. For us, it was more of a budget thing; we couldn't justify spending money on eating out unless it was attached to a social outing or necessary. Now, it is just very convenient to eat out. It's easy to make breakfasts & lunches (oatmeal, yogurts, sandwiches) on the road, but dinner is a whole other story. We've had small kitchens before, this one takes the cake (plus no oven to make the cake). Plus, with all the friends we are seeing … everyone wants to eat out! 

THUMBS UP: With SmartPhones and multiple wireless signals these days, you can be readily available. 

THUMBS DOWN: First of all, you know J does not have a SmartPhone. The day that boy gets one will be the day hell freezes over. So all responsibility of staying in touch falls on my iPhone. The problem is, I don't have unlimited Internet on my phone and we don't always have good service. Don't forget, we are driving to the deepest, darkest corners of the country. Oh, and did you know Panera Bread allows a max of 30 minutes for using their free wireless? Which is why we rely on friends' Internet. Which is why if you have e-mailed me in the last 2 months, it remains unreturned. 

THUMBS UP: We don't watch any TV. 

THUMBS DOWN: We have no idea what is going on in the world (but, did we ever really know in the first place?). While no boob tube for now is fine, I imagine we'll be spending a lot of time in bars on Sundays once football season starts. 

Again, we love our life on the road and I think having the sweet van helps (rather than living out of an itty bitty car). I have definitely soaked up spending the last 6 days and the next 6 days in ONE SINGLE place that has a decent sized kitchen where I can cook, use a real bathroom and rely on nonstop Internet. Ah, the simple pleasures in life. And once we finish up the east coast in a week or so and head west, we will have less friends' houses and hopefully more nights of camping! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Staying Put For A Bit

I have set up "camp" at my parents' house in New Jersey for the next 10 days and am glad for the "break." 

When I say "break," I mean to say we still have BP duties, I am writing medical articles to catch up on my freelancing and part-time work, I am giving round-the-clock tours of the Sprinter Van to all the neighbors, I am visiting lots and lots of NJ-based friends (that will come in a separate post) and I am trying to be a good daughter/houseguest taking care of the parental units and cat we abandoned 2 years ago. Some break! 

On a side note, it is always interesting to come back to my parents' house, where I spent the first 21 years of my life. Their neighborhood has changed very little, so it is like I am stepping back 15 years and I never left (except everyone has aged just a wee bit). Cue nostalgia. 

J, by the way, spent 2 days here, then shipped himself off to Colorado for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, plus some hiking/backpacking with his lil sis and her wifey. Some would guess we needed a 10-day break from each other. The truth is, I only needed a break from his allergy-induced, echo-enhanced sneezing that takes place every morning in our van. Alas, I miss him (not the sneezing) already. But, the bottom line is, J could not spend 10 days in NJ without going to 10 concerts. Colorado and its concert lineup won this time. 

Last week, we did 3 smaller, beginner backpacking clinics (separate from Gear & Go Tour) in VA & NY. In VA, we visited with 4 sets of friends (no pictures!!)! In NY, we did one little hike, traveled roads not allowed and paid way too much in tolls. Did I mention we have an identity crisis in our van … are we a truck? a commercial vehicle? an RV? And we have yet to figure out our true clearance, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Oh, and we realized that traveling to Long Island during the week is NOT our favorite thing to do and is in fact our personal hell. Who would have guessed that? 

Stay tuned because as I enjoy the next 10 days off the road, I will give a 7-week assessment on how life on the road is. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Midwest

Our tour took us on a detour to Midwest from the East coast this week, mainly for our fourth presentation in Indianapolis. But as with all our adventures, we take the windy path to get there.

So we started with a stop for the weekend in Columbus, OH to break up the drive and visit J's friend Hoss/Jason and girlfriend theAccessory/Adrienne. Plus, I grab any chance I can get to eat at Mr. Suishi (the world's best sushi is found in Columbus, OH, trust me). Also, Hoss used his connections to score us all tickets to the Memorial Golf Tourney. Now, I am not an avid golf fan, though I have been introduced to the sport by marriage. I can remember some of my best naps watching golf on Sundays. But, any chance to try something new is my thing, so to the Tourney I tagged along.

It did not disappoint! Not only did I get to hobnob (or just stand 5 feet away) with golf celebs like Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and KJ Choi, but live golf is fascinating. We didn't just follow one group of golfers and instead walked the entire (HILLY!) golf course, so getting some exercise was a real bonus. Although it felt like I was in some kind of unfair race as I attempted to keep up with J & friends who have several inches on my short legs (their single pace was more like 4 paces for me). Hoss had VIP access which meant (good!) food and (free!) drinks, so take me to the Tourney any day! And I will have to publicly apologize for one of Tiger Woods' worst performances in golf history … he was just too distracted by my beauty. 

From Columbus, we headed to southern Indiana to do some "research" for our job. We did a 12.5-mile overnight backpacking trip on the Two Lakes Loop in Hooiser National Forest. Who knew Indiana had more than farmlands??? J & I were the only ones on the trail, unless you count the millions of ticks, deer and a single turtle. The trail is riddled with honeysuckle, which is my favorite scent in the world (I have in storage 4 bottles of honeysuckle body lotion from Bath & Body Works because they discontinued the scent).

J also came up with a new goal for us after we finish our other goals of hitting all the high points in each state and national parks … do a backpacking trip in every state! My first reaction was, do we really need more goals?? My second was hmmm … could be interesting to discover the hidden gems like we did in IN.

After pulling all the ticks off of us, we headed to Indianapolis to give our fourth presentation of the tour. We rocked it again. The REI was just about the most beautiful REI we have ever been in and we had our biggest crowd yet (sold out with 55+)! Our guest BP writer Stuart Peck was stellar with all his suggestions for local hiking (including the trail we did). I just can't stop saying how awesome these events have been and how lucky we feel to be involved in them!!

And we were able to squeeze in a very quick visit with a friend (Mouse/Kathryn) I haven't seen since 2008!! 

Next up, we head back East. We have back-to-back events in the next week, then some off time to recuperate. For me, this means catching up on personal e-mails, writing some medical articles and visiting friends and family. For J, what do you think it means? Concerts, concerts and more concerts.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Memorial Day Wknd in VA Beach

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Virginia Beach. Though we ALWAYS have work to do, the 4 days we spent there was the perfect balance of work and relaxation, namely in the form of visiting with J's extended family.

In our travels around the country, the easy option is to sleep in our Sprinter Van. But, it's always nice to stay under a real roof. And that's what we did in VA Beach, thanks to the awesome hosting abilities of J's aunt & uncle.

We spent a lot of time with J's Grandma, who recently moved to VA Beach from California. For almost 90, she still amazes me.

We also met J's cousin's new baby. His family now has 3 new babies in the past year and I must say, good looks and good genes run in his family! We are just happy someone with the "L" name is carrying it on and we have now officially passed the family silver on! The pressure is officially off ...

We made a quick pitstop in Danville to pick up a package that wasn't there (always fun), but at least we were able to squeeze in a quick visit (and extreme badminton game) with our favorite Great American Family.
Now we are in Ohio heading to Indiana and that will be a whole separate post because I reached my blogging capacity for the day. Plus, I suspect you have reached your reading capacity for this blog post.  Mutually beneficial.