eHopeful Part 2: We Have Lift-off

Less than two months after I started corresponding with Frank, the Navy pilot I met through eHarmony, I volunteered to fly 3,000 miles, from New Jersey to Washington, so we could meet face-to-face. (You can read more in Part 1!)

Frank

The profile pic that launched a thousand ships (or, you know, one airplane).

“I should have been the one to invite you!” he moaned, which proved how little he knew me. He was the first person I met on eHarmony, and I had been the one to reach out. My middle name might as well be Sadie Hawkins.

Frank and I were communicating endlessly by that point, and I couldn’t bear the suspense any longer. We made plans to meet in Seattle, where we’d spend a night (“IN SEPARATE ROOMS,” I clarified repeatedly) and do some sightseeing, before heading north, closer to base, where I’d spend another two nights, he at home, me in a hotel. He hinted at a few surprises while I shopped for clothes and got my hair cut, both of us more excited as each day passed.

The weirdest part about the whole thing was that no one told me not to go. Not my parents, my siblings or my closest friends. Was I that stubborn? That in need of adventure? It was as if I’d been single for years instead of months; the ink was still wet on my divorce paperwork and I hadn’t been on the market in over ten years, yet I felt ready.

The flight to Seattle went smoothly, unlike picking up my rental car. I was delayed two hours, and wound up with the only thing they had left: A giant red minivan.

IMG_6134

“I got this,” I told myself as I drove into a city I’d visited only once before.  “No big deal. Just driving a MINIVAN into downtown Seattle by myself, about to meet my soul mate.”

“Is there any chance I can check in early?” I asked the front desk once I arrived at my hotel. My Pre-Soul Mate Meeting Plan definitely included a shower and change of clothes.

“No, I’m sorry,” the receptionist replied.

I went outside, suddenly feeling panicky, and texted my best friend.

“YOU GO IN THERE AND TELL THEM YOUR SITUATION,” she fired back. I obeyed, stomach in knots.

“I’m sorry,” the receptionist said, unmoved by my romantic tale. “There’s nothing I can do. But I can give you a free parking pass.”

I wound up changing in the main bathroom, right before Frank arrived, two hours early. It looked like I’d be making my grand entrance in the lobby, a la Kate Winslet on the stairs of the Titanic.

eHarmony-Frank-Titanic-stairs

Make it count, Frank.

But somehow he had been able to check in (must’ve been the Southern charm of a native Tennessean).

“I can come down or you could meet me up here,” he said, from the shroud of his room.

“I’ll come to you,” I replied, taking a deep breath and heading to the third floor, eager to avoid an audience.

Moments later, I knocked on his door and he swung it open, looking as nervous as I felt. I had worn my black wedge heels, striped cotton dress and yellow cardigan from Old Navy because I knew he liked them, but now was cursing my decision. I felt huge, standing nearly six feet tall, and probably not much lighter than him, though I’d finally hit my goal weight that month. In heels, we were almost the same height, blue eyes anxiously meeting blue eyes.

We awkwardly embraced. Oh no. Oh no. This isn’t how I expected this to go. Will we really click? Was this a mistake? Does he really like me? Does he still think I’m pretty?

We walked the short distance to the Space Needle, struggling for conversation. The March weather was mild compared to temperatures back home, but I shivered anyway. I relied on the people skills I’d honed through my work as a project manager, trying to keep uncomfortable silences at bay. Once atop the Needle, Frank pointed out various landmarks, his command of the territory impressive. He must be used to seeing it from up here, I thought.

IMG_6056

I listened to the slow, calm way he spoke, as if this kind of conversation could go on for hours with nothing more pressing to get in the way. A vast contrast to the animated, hyper speed I was used to, having grown up a breath away from New York City. I nodded and pretended to listen, while my head and heart and breath continued their intrinsic rhythm: Go-go-go.

IMG_6062

Eventually, as we toured Pike Place Market, accepting the samples of exotic fruits and vegetables offered to us, he took my hand.

Oh thank god. Relief flooded my body. He likes me! 

eHarmony-Frank-first-pic-together

Our first photo together. Beautiful, no?

eHarmony-Frank-Pike-Place-Market eHarmony-Frank-Pike-Place-monkfish

We shared a candlelit dinner followed by drinks at one of a million hipster bars in the city, where we both finally started to relax. We sat knee to knee in a cozy red booth, staring into each other’s eyes while he occasionally murmured compliments in my ear. I flushed from head to toe. My experience with romance up until then had been young and sweet and tongue in cheek, then familiar, comfortable and tongue in cheek.

I had never been so earnestly wooed.

It was working.

eHarmony-Frank-candlelit-dinner

Next up: eHopeful Part 3: High Altitude! (Don’t worry. I’ll wrap this shiz up in Part 4.)

~*~*~*~*~*~

eHopeful Part 1: The Ascent

Meet Jim Bob Frank. Let’s call him Frank. Because frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Okay, yes I do. I soooo do.

Wait, yes I do. I soooo do.

When I joined eHarmony last year -because it seemed the most upstanding of the popular online dating sites- Frank popped up as a match almost right away. For those of you unfamiliar with eHarmony: a) Lucky! and b) They don’t trust you to wade through the man pool on your own. You take what they send you, and what they send you is based on their road-tested algorithm.

Sometimes they even have faces!

Sometimes they even have faces!

It was slim pickings out there, I could already tell, so the fact that Frank lived 3,000 miles away was of little concern. He was my age! And flossed!

I chose the least pushy of my options and sent Frank a smile, then waited with bated breath. By the next morning, we were corresponding through the protective nest of eHarmony’s guided email program.

THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.

THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.

I soon learned Frank was a conservative Navy pilot from Tennessee (stationed in the Pacific Northwest). I was a liberal project manager from New Jersey (stationed in suburban New Jersey).

Frank grew up with debutante balls and sweet tea, dogs roaming the family farm (and constantly getting hit when they wandered too close to the highway…seriously, how many times did this have to happen before you did something about it, Frank?! Don’t they make leashes in Tennessee?!). I grew up with Green Day and Trader Joe’s, roaming any one of the six mega malls near my house.

But if eHarmony said we were a perfect match, who was I to argue?

eHarmony-Frank-starfish

Did I mention he was an excellent speller?

We’d both recently endured traumatic divorces, but felt ready and excited for a new relationship. It took three weeks of novel-length letters before we exchanged actual email addresses, and another two weeks before we chatted in real time.

The first phone call was abysmal.

Our emails had been full of clever subject lines and sweeping romantic gestures. Our first phone chat? Stuttering and sweaty palms. The conversation felt forced, dry and unsatisfying. (Er, that’s what she said.) This is never gonna work, I thought.

After we hung up, two and a half brutal hours later, his nervous laugh echoed in my ears. My stomach flip-flopped. There was just something about it. Deep, sincere and rumbling. It reminded me of an old friend.

I couldn’t imagine not hearing that laugh again, and two weeks later, found myself saying, “Why don’t I fly out to Seattle so we can meet?”

IMG_6140

Okay so maybe patience isn’t my strong suit.

 Stay tuned for eHopeful Part 2: We Have Lift-off!

How long would you correspond with someone before forcing the issue volunteering to fly 3,000 miles to meet?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Back From the Stupid, Sweaty Ashes

It’s been 8 months and 11 days since my last post.

No tall tale explaining my absence could rival the truth. The past year was riddled with changes so epic, gains and losses so staggering, that I even considered shaving my ‘stache.

Do not.

Just kidding.

Clearly, I couldn’t figure out how to strike the perfect bloggy balance after a job layoff and divorce, so I did what any normal person would do – I went into hiding I sweat. A lot.

This experience was f&*#$%^ awful!

This experience was the worst of the three.

(In case you’re wondering, that was the Hamptons Marathon last September. 26.2 miles and all I got was a shitty medal and a stale bagel. Seriously? I drove all the way to Long Island for this? Seriously?!)

Now that the dust has settled, and now that I have dating stories too good not to share, I think it’s time.

It’s time to say hello to Go Jules Go 2.0: The Hot Mess Edition.

You’re welcome in advance.

We're headed for new heights, baby.

We’re headed for new heights, baby.

So how the hell have you been?! Peg? Darla? Rache? B-Man? Anyone still out there?

P.S. – I missed you so much.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I Tried My First GU! Oh And Ran A Half Marathon.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in so long, but I wanted you to believe running my first half marathon last month actually killed me.

Entirely possible.

At least I lived to see BaconFest 2014.

Actually, it did something far, far worse.

It hooked me.

Me. The blogger with a penchant for vodka and chocolate-covered bacon everything.

Dependency? Moi?

Dependency? Moi?

This is my life now:

Note the deodorant-looking stick, Anti-Chafe. Its street name is "Chub Rub."

Note the deodorant stick, Anti-Chafe. Its street name is “Chub Rub.” This is seriously a thing.

Oh and see those little silver packets on the lower right? Those are GU brand energy gels. I don’t even like Gatorade, let alone creepy pudding packs with space-agey Nutrition Facts.

Finally, though, I listened to the advice of 10,273,047 seasoned runners and tried one during a recent training session, around mile 8, when I felt particularly sluggish. I went with the least offensive flavor I could find: Tri-berry. (Named so because GU berries run triathlons. Obviously.) Sure enough, 20 minutes later, I felt a sudden pep in my step that lasted the entire remaining 5 miles.

Fine, GU-lovers. FINE. You win this one.

Fine, GU-lovers. FINE. You win this one.

Speaking of winners, the rumors are true: I completed my first half marathon, The Wild Half, on Sunday, May 18th, in Wildwood, New Jersey!

Wild-Half-Wildwood-sign

I encourage you to caption this one yourself.

I chose the course because it ran alongside the coastline, i.e., it was FLAT. After 8 weeks of training, I still had no idea what I was doing, but my sister, a race veteran, was there to guide me every step of the way.

IMG_6715

Mostly we rode rollercoasters.

Her calming presence didn’t stop me from asking the obvious questions.

Wild-Half-Packet-Pickup

I can just hang it on the wall and say I did this? …Right?!

I was also careful not to disrupt my normal routine the day before the race.

Wild-Half-Hydration-1 Wild-Half-Hydration-2

The morning of, I lined up with the 10-minute mile pace group. My goal was simply to finish without walking, but I knew the faster I finished, the faster I could drink “celebrate.”

Stretching: More or Less Effective Than Vodka Shots? Discuss.

Stretching: More or Less Effective Than Vodka Shots? Discuss.

I programmed the 80’s cardio mix on my Pandora app and got ready to rock and roll.

I was feeling great until about mile 7, when the sun and endless stretch of pavement started to sear my soul. By mile 9, I hit the low point usually reserved for mile 10. Then, miraculously, I saw the mile 11 banner. I had missed the 10-mile marker altogether.

Wild-Half-thumbs-up

I was probably distracted by my sobriety.

Despite that mental boost, by mile 12, I was ready to stop running. Two of my oldest friends, shame and pride, pulled me through.

“But NOT finishing would make a much funnier blog post…”

With a stitch forming in my right side, I grimace-grinned down the home stretch.

The official finish line photo. I think I was disqualified for the rebellious-yet-jaunty placement of my race number.

The official finish line photo. I think I was disqualified for the rebellious-yet-jaunty placement of my race number.

I passed through a string of enthusiastic volunteers to claim my snazzy finisher’s medal.

Fried Twinkies here I come (thank you, Jersey boardwalk)!

Fried Twinkies here I come (thank you, Jersey boardwalk)!

So, not only have I become one of “those” people, I’ve also become one of THESE people:

Half-Marathon-bumper-magnet

To add insult to [inevitable knee] injury, what am I up to now?

Hamptons-Marathon-badge

If you were forced at gunpoint to run 26.2 miles, who would you drag with you?

chocolate-bacon***As promised, one commenter from my last post receives a Vosges Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon bar! The lucky winner is: WTF Elsewhere! Congrats, Lorien – I’ll be in touch via email to award your prize!***

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Birthday Bacon Bash Giveaway!

Today I’m celebrating the fact that, despite all signs pointing to an early Death by Pork, I’ve officially lived to see 32 29.

Not for lack of trying, mind you.

Not for lack of trying, mind you.

I just returned to New Jersey after attending the most beautiful ceremony I’ve ever witnessed:

Baconfest-bag

That’s right. Baconfest Chicago 2014. On April 26, hundreds of like-minded souls gathered to pay tribute to the almighty bacon gods.

IMG_6544

The Midwest air outside was as crisp as the bacon that awaited us. You could smell it from blocks away. Everyone was in high spirits as they entered the UIC Forum. Speaking of spirits – your admission included 7 drink tickets! Seven! Yes. I truly was among my people.

My BaconFest partner-in-binge-eating prefers to remain anonymous. I think you can see why.

My BaconFest partner-in-binge-eating prefers to remain anonymous. I think you can see why.

Once inside, I had no idea where to start, so I got in line at the first station and just worked my way around. (In case you’re wondering, yes, my jeans and I did eventually regret this plan.)

Bacon wonderland

Bacon wonderland

Halfway through my trek, I saw Carriage House was serving Bacon Crispie Treats: Fried pork rinds (yeah, you heard me) in place of rice crispies, bacon marshmallow, and bourbon bacon caramel glaze, served with a side of bacon chocolate milk for dipping.

They looked a lot like this (okay, you seriously expected me to stop eating long enough to take my own pictures?). Photo credit: http://nutmegnotebook.com/

They looked a lot like this (okay, you seriously expected me to stop eating long enough to take my own pictures?). Photo credit: http://nutmegnotebook.com/

When I went to pick up a little square treat from the oh-so-tempting tray, 5 came along with it. I glanced up sheepishly, and the guy manning the table said,

“Take them all! There are no rules at BaconFest!”

And he was right. It was succulent lawlessness at every turn, dozens of people elbowing their way towards things like this:

BaconFest-bloody-mary

Holy mother of bloody bacon Marys.

Another highlight was Pigs in Mud from Farmhouse: A cup of rich, chocolate bacon custard, crispy bacon soil, topped with a sugar-coated gummy pig. This adorable concoction even earned them the “Most Creative Use of Bacon” prize.

The top 2 winners in my book?

1) Bacon balls courtesy of Mark Hemmer from Bridge House Tavern: A rich yet delicate blend of Nueske’s bacon, veal and foie gras with a Luxardo cherry in the middle, served with a cherry maple glaze over apple-jicama slaw.

(I scarfed this too quickly to get a picture.)

2) The BSLT courtesy of chef Andre Christopher from Bistro Dre: Bacon crusted salmon sashimi with bacon tempura crunch, bacon mayo, bacon ponzu, micro lettuce, baby tomatoes and caramelized bacon red onions.

The line in front of the Bistro Dre stand proved I wasn’t the only one loving this creation.

IMG_6547 IMG_6546

The delicate raw salmon and greens snuck into BaconFest thanks to the tempura flakes and bacon mayo.

The tender raw salmon and light greens snuck into BaconFest thanks to tempura flakes and bacon mayo.

I’d suffer bacon-less nightmares if I didn’t include a couple of honorary mentions:

1) Bacon Infused Scotch Egg from The Gage – bacon yolk, bacon bread crumbs, with smoked pork belly, petite greens with bacon vinaigrette, smoky-bacony kimchi broth:

2) Bacon Wrapped Dates from the Municipal Bar & Dining Co – jumbo date stuffed with brie cheese wrapped in applewood smoked bacon:

My only regret? I somehow managed to wind up with a leftover drink ticket.

I've never been more ashamed.

I’ve never been more ashamed.

What other food would you like to see celebrated, festival-style? Leave a comment by 12pm midnight EST on Sunday, May 4, 2014, and I’ll randomly pick a winner to receive a Vosges Mo’s milk chocolate bacon bar!

Tasting is believing.

Tasting is believing.

~*~*~*~*~*~

I Ran 10 Miles And I’m Really Not Sure How I Feel About It.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t been blogging much lately, I’m here to confirm your suspicions.

I was abducted by aliens.

It actually wasn't bad. I love hats.

It actually wasn’t bad. I love hats.

After undergoing a series of surprisingly enjoyable probes, I returned to earth (well, New Jersey, so, debatable) a changed woman.

The type of woman I never, ever thought I’d be.

A…a… Oh god. Don’t make me say it.

A runner. I’m a runner now, okay?

I talk to people who I thought were my friends about hydration belts and minimalist shoes and something called GU.

Unless one of these is bacon-flavored, PASS.

Unless one of these is bacon-flavored, PASS.

I look at charts like this and pretend I understand.

Image courtesy of buildleaneatclean.wordpress.com.

Seriously. What the Fudge Stripes is a tempo run? Does listening to the 80s workout mix on Pandora while I run the dishwasher count? (Image courtesy of buildleaneatclean.wordpress.com.)

Perhaps most tellingly, I feel great! can barely move.

We're gonna need a clean up in aisle 6.

Clean up in aisle 6.

Up until 4 weeks ago, the farthest I’d ever “run” was 2 miles. The only race I’d ever completed was a 5K. 8 years ago.

So after managing to jog a whole 3 miles 3 weeks ago, I signed up for a half marathon on May 18th.

running-wild-half-logo

Because I never really loved myself.

That gave me 8 weeks to train. “It’s down the shore,” I said, using the native phrase for [describing] any part of the Jersey coastline. “It’s flat. I’ve got this.”

“Do the first two miles and it’s all downhill,” I huffed during my first long run.

That worked. Except when it was uphill.

“It’s all mental,” I puffed.

That worked. Except when my right calf went numb at mile 5.

I somehow hit 10 miles on Thursday. More importantly, so did my dog, Uncle Jesse.

running-UJ-Jules

May 18th is now less than 5 weeks away, and the one thought that’s genuinely keeping me going? “If I don’t live to see BaconFest [next weekend], pig heads will roll.”

Why else would anyone ever exercise?

Why else would anyone ever exercise?

So, have you ever lost your mind any tips for me? (Note: I’m especially interested in advice about carb-loading.)

~*~*~*~*~*~

I Did It.

I hit my goal weight!

I FOUND THE WORLD’S BEST BACON.

This isn't it.

This isn’t it.

During recent travels, I stumbled across a fun little bar and restaurant in Seattle called The 5 Point Café. (No, they’re not paying me to mention this. Though if they were, I’d ask for compensation exclusively in pig.) They opened in 1929 and own the bragging rights of “the longest run family eatery in Seattle and oldest bar still in existence in Belltown.”

Seattle_-_Five_Point_Cafe_01

I did not know this when I entered.

All I went equipped with was the recommendation of my hotel concierge:

ME: Any good spots nearby for breakfast?

CONCIERGE: Well 5 Point has sort of your typical diner breakfast, and they’re just up the block. Everyone has tattoos.

ME (to self): Gee, I’m sure you mentioned that last bit knowing I’ll fit right in.

Why didn’t anyone warn me they don’t wear colors in the Pacific Northwest?

Seriously. Why didn’t anyone warn me they don’t wear colors in the Pacific Northwest? (Photo taken in front of de wonderbaar Auld Holland Inn in Oak Harbor, WA.)

The idea of an omelet and mimosa was too much temptation to resist for this Jersey native, so I zipped up my bright red raincoat and trekked around the corner to find an unassuming café with a large U-shaped bar and seating on either side.

5-pt-cafe-interior

I was told I could sit anywhere, and because it was a quiet Wednesday morning, decided to hog (pun SO intended) a booth. When the coffee came, I closed my eyes and smiled. Ah, Seattle. Thank you. Thank you for getting it. I may wear neon, but I like my coffee black, and jet fuel strong.

I took an uncharacteristically long time to order, because everything on the menu sounded so good. I was craving avocado, so finally went with the California eggs benedict. At the last minute, I said, “Can I get a side of bacon, too, please?” It was $4 for 4 strips. I couldn’t decide if this was a bargain or a rip-off, so reserved judgment.

When my plate came, I was overwhelmed. In the best way. There were two poached eggs atop tomatoes and avocado, resting on dense english muffins. All of this was smothered in hollandaise sauce, alongside PERFECT hash browns: shredded, with a completely crunchy, crispy top. 

5-Pt-Cafe-CA-eggs-benedict

Good morning to ME.

But then.

Oh.

And then.

The afterthought side dish:

5-Pt-bacon-heaven

“Our famous bacon,” the waiter said, as he rested the magical plate to my left. Four strips of the thickest bacon I’d ever seen sat before me. Still, I was skeptical.  Was it too thick? Would it still be crispy?

I took a bite and… cue Meg Ryan-When-Harry-Met-Sally moment. It melted in my mouth. I took another bite. My life was forever changed. It was tender and fluffy, yet fatty and crispy. I saw the face of Leonardo DiCaprio wrapped in the voice of Justin Timberlake ensconced in the body of Channing Tatum.

Their website makes it sound like they might marinate it. Maybe it was deep fried. I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t even know what I did on the rest of that trip. All I know is I’m going back.

For bacon.

5-pt-bacon-2

What’s the most decadent thing you’ve ever eaten?

P.S. – I’m actually headed to BaconFest 2014 in Chicago next month and will let you know if I find anything that can top this. Anyone else going?!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Oh F%#&. My Mom Got A Smart Phone.

Babs-smart-phone

You heard correctly, Chipmunks:

My mom, Babs, got her first smart phone!

Sticking with this would have been smart.

Sticking with this would have been smart.

The adventure started when my dad gave her a Radio Shack gift certificate for Christmas, intending to let me help Babs actually purchase the phone. Because he never really loved me.

Now, I love my iPhone, but wouldn’t exactly call myself a smart phone expert. My only solid advice was, “Get the gold one, it’s pretty.”

Wow, I really need to stop biting my nails.

Wow, I really need to stop biting my nails.

Two hours at Radio Shack and the death of my soul later, Babs got her first lesson from me:

“See this blue icon with the A? That’s your app store. Click it and type in Macy’s.”

Any good teacher knows you have to speak your student's language.

Any good teacher knows you have to speak your student’s language.

While she took to the shopping apps like nobody’s business, the past few weeks have looked like this:

IMG_5787

IMG_5791

IMG_5792

And my very favorite:

IMG_5793

…Wait for it…

IMG_5794

I [just called to say I] love you, Babs. Thanks for letting me use those screen shots for the world’s amusement.

How do you/your parents fare with technology? Any gadget gift fails?

P.S. – I suck royally for not responding to recent comments. Rest assured my absence has only made my heart grow fonder, and I totally want to have 10,000 of your babies.

~*~*~*~*~*~

My Dog Is About To Make Your Weekend

Uncle-Jesse-youre-welcome

Some of you may already be familiar with my obsession with my Labradoodle dog, Uncle Jesse.

He’s a model.

He eats lying down.

He answers to ridiculous commands.

He’s the inspiration behind my inaugural blog post.

Recently, I began to notice something even more incredible than the fact that he turns his snout up at the sh*tty knock off Milk Bone biscuits from the local bank teller.

I noticed he learned a command entirely unintentionally.

Because he’s the most amazing f%$&*@ dog in the world.

Happy Friday!

What’s the best pet trick you’ve ever seen? (Links to videos STRONGLY encouraged.)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Image

Maine: Best Worst Trip Ever

Last week, Rachel’s Table and I headed north to Freeport, Maine to visit Darla from She’s A Maineiac. I guess we were kind of excited.

Maine-Trip-Jan2014-yay

We were originally going to go Friday-Sunday, but decided to leave on Thursday afternoon so we’d have a full day with Darla while her two adorable kiddos were in school.

Without traffic, it’s a 6 hour drive from New Jersey.

We took Rachel’s car, agreeing to split the driving time. Did I mention her car is new? And if there’s a pothole, I’ll hit it?

Somewhere between New York and Connecticut, we (and by we I mean me) hit 37 potholes. And I’m not talking little divots in the pavement.

crater

Good job on 15 North, guys. Really. It’s impressive.

On Rachel’s high-tech dashboard, we watched the air pressure in the driver’s side tire plummet.

Rache-tire-pressure-dashboard-Maine

By the time we reached Boxborough, Massachusetts, we had a flat. Rachel pulled over while I surreptitiously checked her fuel tank. Plenty to keep the car running and heated for at least an hour or two. Whew.

“I don’t know how to change a tire. Do you?” she asked with a laugh.

“I’m from New Jersey. I don’t even know how to pump my own gas,” I replied. “But I just renewed my AAA membership!”

Maine-trip-AAA

In under 30 minutes, a tow truck arrived. The driver got the spare out of the trunk and started rooting around while Rachel and I bounced up and down trying to keep warm.

IMG_5506

Rache “spares” a smile for this photo. *groan*

“I can’t find the key,” he announced.

It took us much longer than it should have to understand that tires have unique “keys” to unscrew the lug nuts so no one steals them. The spare in your car is supposed to come equipped with its matching key.

the_more_you_know2

We tore apart the car, but alas, no key. Thanks, Toyota.

Eventually, he said our only option was to go to the nearby dealership and have them change the tire – when they opened. In the morning.

Oh, did I mention Rache had 20-inch fancy rims?

This detail becomes important later.

This detail becomes important later.

“I’m so sorry I broke your car!” I wailed for the first of many times.

After the tow truck driver unloaded the car at the dealership, he said he could drive us to the nearest hotel. Nevermind that we had two non-refundable rooms waiting for us a mere two hours away in Maine.

“Do you have anywhere for us to put our luggage?” we asked.

“Just your laps.”

Our essentials were scattered between six bags, not including my swinging 1970s, fully-loaded cooler, which took up half the back seat. I grabbed my laptop and two bottles of champagne. “Screw it,” I said to Rachel. “This is all I need.”

When we arrived at the hotel, Rachel explained our predicament to the front desk. The man at the counter replied deliberately, “You have a coupon, riiight?” He nodded slowly.

“Um…yeeees,” Rachel said, catching on.

When we saw the receipt: 50% off! What’s more, our room overlooked a funky indoor pool, white lights and palm trees (you go on with your bad self, Holiday Inn), so we opened the balcony sliders, and more importantly, the champagne, and toasted to the kindness of strangers.

Holiday-inn-balcony-view-Maine

Maine-champagne-Jan-2014

Rachel called the dealership at 8am the next morning, and they finally got back to us with the verdict two hours later.

“It’s not just a flat. Your rim is damaged beyond repair.”

“Of course it is,” Rachel replied.

“And since you have 20-inch ones, we’d have to custom order a replacement. It wouldn’t be here until Monday.”

“So…my only options are to wait until Monday…or get 4 new 18-inch rims and tires?”

“Correct. And it’d probably cost the same either way.”

She covered the mouthpiece. “I knew. I knew when we got that car with those friggin’ rims…” She spoke into the receiver, “I guess I’ll have to get four new tires and rims, then. How long will that take? …Okay.”

“I’m so sorry!” I cried.

“Jules, it’s not your fault. I hit them, too,” Rachel reassured me, gracious as ever. (It was totally my fault.)

Turns out they had to order the ‘regular’ rims from a nearby dealer and couldn’t start work until 1pm.

They gave us a complimentary rental car, and we killed time at a local diner.

“There’s no lobster on this f&*&#% menu.”

"I haven't showered in 24 hours!"

“I’ve been in these clothes for 27 hours!”

At 3pm, they gave us the good news: “Almost done.”

At 4pm: “We just realized we have to put all of the tire censors back on. It’s going to be another hour.”

5pm: “Okay, just finishing the paperwork.”

5:02pm: “Our computers just froze.”

5:30pm: “Let me give you the damaged tire and rim. Oh, wait, it’s filthy, we need a bag. Hang on.”

5:35pm: “We can’t find any more bags.”

5:45pm: Finally, FINALLY on our way. “Good thing we left Thursday night.”

7:00pm: Reach Maine.

7:30pm: Darla texted. “I can’t get out of my driveway. It’s a sheet of ice.”

That’s right. At last we were in Maine, 24 hours behind schedule, and NO DARLA.

But there was lobster. Lots and lots of lobster.

IMG_5523

IMG_5522

These were called “Lobsicles.” Heh.

Saturday morning, another text from Darla: “I still can’t get out!!”

So Rachel and I shuffled around the icy streets of Freeport alone, waiting for the temperature to climb above freezing.

At one point, it was so slippery, a gift shop owner reached out a hand while holding the door, towing us inside. Later, when we peered longingly into Freeport Chowder House, the man inside waved us in.

“Are you open?” we asked.

“Not for two hours, but I never turn down customers,” he replied. “I don’t have the fryer going yet, but what do you want? Lobster roll?”

Rachel and I looked at each other. “YES.”

Breakfast of champions bloggers.

Breakfast of champions bloggers.

It was noon on Saturday before we saw Darla, but she was worth the wait.

IMG_5546

The sun even came out…just in time for us to drive home.

Bartending for Rache and Darla from my favorite possession: My parents' 1970s cooler. Dude. It keeps ice frozen for THREE days. IN THE SUMMER.

The (in)famous swinging 1970s cooler, a.k.a. my favorite possession. It keeps ice frozen for THREE days. IN THE SUMMER.

Despite the many snafus, this li’l trip north had so many heart-warming moments, I wouldn’t trade it for anything would totally trade it for another 10am lobster roll.

IMG_5537 - Version 2

And they say chivalry is dead.

P.S. – I even learned how to pump my own gas!

Jules-pumps-gas-Maine-Jan2014

Since the word count on this post is already as atrocious as the potholes on Route 15, I hope you’ll head over to Rachel’s Table and She’s A Maineiac to read more about our adventures!

IMG_5544

Have you ever had any vacations that didn’t go, ah, according to plan?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~