humor

The Secret to Running a Marathon (During a Pandemic…Or Ever)

Go Jules Go How to Run a Marathon Title Graphic 14APR2020

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

Two dozen ice cubes hit the bottom of six water bottles. I paused halfway, switching hands, my left fingers already numb from reaching into the ice bin for the eighth time.

Uncle Jesse’s collar rattled as he pranced from paw to paw, letting out a low whimper every few seconds. His evangelical nature revealed itself every time I began our sacred ritual: Water bottle…yes…backpack…YES…leash…YES!…sneakers…PRAISE JESUS YESSSS!!!!

Uncle Jesse running Lake Michigan
Can I get an “Amen”?!

I wonder if he knows what he’s in for today, I thought, pulling a package of tortillas from the fridge.

With water bottles filled, I turned to sustenance, folding a few falafel balls into a wrap for me, and a sweet potato into one for Uncle Jesse. It was getting harder to believe the entire world was on lockdown, with Mother Nature beginning to show her sweeter side, beckoning restless souls to pack a picnic or meet some friends for happy hour around a sun-soaked table.

OH GOD I MISS THIS.

I checked the weather one last time. High of 60 with “abundant sunshine.” I was still getting used to the latter. Springtime on the east coast usually brought warmer temperatures by mid-April, but also a lot more rain. Bend, Oregon, on the other hand, still saw frigid nights and little precipitation.

Uncle Jesse double rainbow Maston 2020
And when it does rain in central Oregon? This happens.

As I packed my hiking bag, I went the extra mile (pun sooo intended), grabbing an empty shopping sack and stuffing spare socks, a shirt, Band-Aids, an extra hat, and a hand towel into it. I cast a glance at the calendar where I’d been counting down the days until this moment.

8 miles @ Maston

Crazy hilly 13 miles @ ?? Butte

REST

Easy 5 miles @ Shevlin Park

18 Miles @ Tumalo Reserve incl. ?? Butte (seriously does it have a name?)

REST

Every square of 2020 was filled with pencil scribbles tracking my progress, even though the Bend Marathon, originally scheduled for April 19th, had been canceled in March, courtesy of COVID-19.

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As a final step, I put two extra sandwiches, water, and a can of Coke into a cooler bag. I clicked my race belt on, grabbed my hat, and put on my dusty and trusty Altra trail running shoes.

Jules Altras by Deschutes River

“Allons, mon chien!” I declared, tossing Uncle Jesse’s leash and my ear buds into the shopping bag as we headed outside. Neither four months of marathon training nor eighteen months on Duolingo French would be in vain!

Jules Uncle Jesse snowy run by Deschutes River
How do you say, “I run until I cry” in French…?

I took a gamble on a new trailhead about 25 minutes east, near the Badlands, and landed in an empty parking lot just before 10:30am. Scoooooore. It was rare to find an empty trailhead on a Saturday morning, even during a pandemic. While a huge part of me felt guilty every time I got in the car to find a quiet place to run, it still felt safer to pick an open, abandoned trail than play ‘dodge-a-pedestrian’ while running on my neighborhood sidewalks.

Badlands trail sign
Besides, when you’re talking 26.2 miles, you’re eventually going to run out of sidewalk.

Before COVID hit, I’d spent countless hours trying to find the least-used trails in a 30-mile radius – research that now paid off handsomely.

Uncle Jesse on trail in OR
#IntrovertForTheWin

I moseyed over to the trailhead map, popping my ear buds in and snapping my water-filled backpack around my chest. Delighted to find a network of trails long enough to cover 13+ miles (meaning I wouldn’t have to do more than two loops on the same trail), I started my audiobook, locked the car, and began jogging. Uncle Jesse eagerly darted from side to side, making sure no stick went un-sniffed.

Uncle Jesse butt shot sandy trail mountains

The wide, sandy trail was packed down, mostly flat, and totally deserted. A cool breeze wafted by as if I’d placed an order. Wow. Okay. This will work. I’d spent so many training runs trudging through thick sand, narrowly missing mountain bikers, and/or getting snowed on, that this felt like running inside Darren Criss’s smile while petting puppies.

Darren Criss puppies zipper pouch
OH MY GOD HOW DO I NOT HAVE THIS?

The first hour flew by, even if my pace was nothing like flying. I was 6 years older and 20 30 40 (thanks, COVID-15) pounds heavier than the last time I thought I could run marathons.

Jules-Hamptons-Marathon-27Sep2014
Jules’s 2014 marathon recap: “This experience was f&*#$%^ awful!”

But I was also four years plant-powered and properly trained now, with a rock-solid faith in both my legs and my mental fortitude. I was a week ahead of schedule [for the originally scheduled Bend Marathon on April 19th], so if I couldn’t make the six hour cut-off time today, I’d simply try again next weekend, with no one the wiser.

Scott Jurek Badwater finish
So basically I feel like Scott Jurek now. Photo credit

While I may have missed the adrenaline rush of cheering squads, the aid stations, and the course markings of an official race, I didn’t miss the hard pavement, early start time, or collective anxiety, which usually peaked 20-30 minutes before race time in the form of mile-long port-a-potty lines. I especially didn’t miss the well-intentioned, but severely misguided “Good job!” and “You got this!” cries of much faster runners as they whizzed by.

Go Jules Go prep for half marathon Nov 2019
I also didn’t miss doing this the night before.

Hour two was harder than the first, as I began to realize there was no shade whatsoever; parts of the trail grew sandier while my backpack seemed to grow heavier. In hell, a mountain of sand and nothing but warm Gatorade and Donald Trump speeches will await me. Around the same time, I accepted that I would chafe in new, exciting places, despite wearing entirely road-tested gear.

Jules Salt Lake City trying stream water Jun 2019
Well that’s gonna be fun tomorrow.

I stopped just before hour three under a rare, shady tree. Uncle Jesse stared at me with big, questioning brown eyes. I pulled out our wraps and we ate them quickly. The other bonus to jogging vs. running long distances seemed to be that I could eat whatever I wanted without gastrointestinal distress. GU? Electrolyte chews? Energy bars? You can keep ’em! On all of our longer training runs jogs, we had simply stopped at the halfway mark and eaten sandwiches.

Jules Broken Angel burrito
Refried bean burrito for breakfast and falafel wrap for lunch? Don’t mind if I do.

The high desert sun grew more intense, though there was still a strong breeze, and our water grew warmer as we neared hour four, running along a dreary stretch of power lines. I made the executive decision to turn back to the car for more water, cursing inwardly as my toe collided with another lava rock hidden in the thick sand.

Uncle Jesse sandy trail
So…much…sand.

“And the making of a hero…,” the British narrator continued on my audiobook, Natural Born Heroes. Though I’d normally hang on Christopher McDougall’s every word, I tuned in and out, distracted by trying to retrace my steps.

Marathon mountain view Apr 11 2020
I was also distracted by this view.

Just as we neared what I was (…pretty…) sure was the path to my car, I spotted a man and his dog – the first person I’d seen all day. Guhhhhh. I did an about-face and started off in the opposite direction. The unexpected detour meant it was almost five hours in before Uncle Jesse and I reached Suba-Ruby.

Subara car commercial

If we’re not even close to 20 miles, I’m calling it, I thought, defeated. I glanced at my Fitbit. 21.5 miles. I grinned maniacally.

“Oh, less than 5 miles. We are making this happen,” I said aloud. Uncle Jesse tilted his head in response.

Uncle Jesse head tilts on backseat car cover 25Dec2019

I took a few gulps of deliciously frosty water from the cooler pack, quickly refilling Uncle Jesse’s Water Rover and my go-to bottle. I gleefully swapped out my ill-fitting bigger pack for my beloved little Camelback, and we set off to conquer the last few miles.

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Is it legal to marry an inanimate object?

During the final 45 minutes, stiffness settled into my legs and every minute crawled by. I refused to look at my watch until I couldn’t bear it. Knowing I could do all 26.2 miles offered little comfort; I still had to do it. I imagined sitting on the couch with my cheap bottle of Trader Joe’s bubbly, eating whatever the living f#@& I wanted, watching my long-awaited Redbox rental, Little Women – including all of the special features, dammit.

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Nerd alert.

When we finally rounded the bend back into the parking lot, I had to do two more tiny loops before my watch signaled that we’d hit our target distance. I let out a small laugh.

Marathon Fitbit screenshot Apr 11 2020
Booya.

“You’re a marathon man now!” I shouted to Uncle Jesse, 10-year-old Vegan Wonder Dog, who had already climbed into the backseat and was staring at me with tired, but alert, eyes. Par for the course, his expression seemed to say. He hadn’t missed a single training run.

Uncle Jesse snow romp 2 Cascades 2019
Sheer determination.

I poured water on a towel and wiped off my wind and sunburned face, wedging my “2020 Bend Marathon” trucker cap on, having finally earned it. I fed Uncle Jesse another sandwich, snapped a photo for the obligatory social media show-off, and we headed back home, where we sat on the hallway floor and shared a pint of Coconut Bliss ice cream.

Go Jules Go Uncle Jesse post marathon April 11 2020
He hogged it all.

Though I laid low and downed a couple of Aleve the next day -mostly for my back which wasn’t used to carrying such a large, heavy pack during runs- by Monday we were right back at it, running jogging eight miles like it was nothing.

Jules vegan sweatshirt
Plant-powered. For. The. Win.

~*~*~*~*~*~

I’m almost 38, overweight, drink like a [quarantined] fish, and have no business feeling this great after running a marathon – much more than I can say for my younger, thinner, meat-eating self.

Also I love you. And if you’re a nurse, that love is, like, getting weird.

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

I Heard You Had Nothing Better To Do

…What’s that?

…You’re impressed that I tore myself away from the seven pounds of macaroni salad I made last night long enough to write a blog post?

Me too!

Go Jules Go Title Graphic I Heard You Had Nothing Better to Do 8APR20

In between carb orgies and dry heaving every time I check my 401k balance and/or the news (thank god for John Krasinski), I’ve kept my quarantined self busy here in central Oregon by…

…Creating Oregon Trail: The 2020 Edition.

…Trying to convince my friend Sarah to go into the mask-making business (look at this beauty!).

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Sarah and I met wearing even less fabric than this.

…And launching my new humor writing course!

That’s right! You no longer have to weep each Wednesday when you reach the end of my blog posts. Now you can spend SIX WHOLE WEEKS bathing in all things comedy with yours truly. Or maybe you just want to be online BFFs while we ride this ‘rona thing out, and you’re willing to pay for it. That’s cool, too.

I was pretty excited when one of my favorite former professors, Kris Tucker, reached out to ask if I’d be interested in teaching a humor writing course for her Creative Writing with Kris series.

“I’ll have to think about it,” I said.

My only demand? Making the promo code “COVID19.”

If you know anyone who might want to use this unexpected downtime to hone their ha-ha’s, please share!

Gotta run. This macaroni ain’t gonna eat itself.

I love you so much. Please stay safe and healthy.

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And gorgeous.

~*~*~*~*~*~

How are you keeping busy while CRUSHING THAT CURVE?

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor, PSAs

My Quarantine Diary: 26 Days and Counting

Go Jules Go has been social distancing since Saturday, March 7th. What follows is her personal account from inside an unknown bunker in central Oregon. Please disinfect before -and after- reading. 


Day 1

Thank you, Past Jules, for investing in that Scott 12-pack when you normally only buy one roll at a time.

Day 3

Have been introduced to “new” phenomenon called “stress baking.” I contend that I invented stress baking in 1991 when I realized no one could ever love me like peanut butter blossoms could.

No, we love YOU, Jules. Go ‘head. Have another one. You know you want to. Photo credit

Day 6

Local library announced that book return has been closed indefinitely. F$&*. No longer have excuse not to finish, “Memoir Writing for Dummies.”

Oh, you thought I was kidding?

Day 7

Attempted to explain Zoom to Babs (mother). Will to live beginning to wane.

At least these ladies get it.

Day 9

Watched first quarantine episode of “Last Week Tonight.” No live audience. No laugh track. Felt lost.

Day 11

Go Jules Go: Dog Enrichment Toy Inventor and Mastermind. New business venture?

Day 12

Re-watched “Outbreak.” Beginning to worry that all life-long obsessions -chipmunks, beheadings, Patrick Dempsey and pandemics- will prove to be modern society’s downfall.

In my mind, that is 110% Ross’s exact monkey from Friends.

Day 14

Waved to stranger across the street. Was nice.

Day 15

Sweatpants have become stretch pants.

My quarantine wardrobe. In its entirety.

Day 16

Got Cinemax trial subscription just to watch “Contagion.” Key takeaway: Both Matt Damon and I will always find ways to embrace our Dad bods. (See: Day 19.)

Day 19

Can now rest ice cream bowl atop middle stomach layer. Convenient!

Day 21

Re-counted toilet paper rolls. 6. How did this happen?

Day 23

Quarantine in effect until at least April 30th. My birthday. Plans to sleep in Justin Timberlake’s bushes and make day special now thwarted.

I shall comfort myself by wearing favorite shirt. (Photo: ‘NSync concert  circa 2000)

Day 25

Dark days lie ahead. May have to cut Uncle Jesse’s hair myself.

We’ve tried this before. And we don’t like to talk about it.

Day 26

OH MY GOD HOW ARE THEY GOING TO FILM THE “AMERICAN IDOL” LIVE SHOWS?!

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor, PSAs

Meanwhile in Oregon…

Go Jules Go Meanwhile in Oregon title graphic 18MAR20

Hey! What’s up? Oh, me? Nothing much. You know. JUST THE USUAL PANDEMIC / UNPRECEDENTED CRISIS WHERE I PANIC ABOUT TOILET PAPER EVEN MORE THAN USUAL AND WONDER IF I’LL EVER SEE MY PARENTS AGAIN AND WHY GOD WHY DIDN’T I INVEST IN PURELL and… sorry? What was that?

In all seriousness, I hope if you’re reading this, you’re safe and sound AND FLATTENING THE CURVE; DEAR BABY CHIPMUNKS JUST STAY HOME. I’m proud, but not surprised, to say that my adopted central Oregon community is rallying like it’s Black Friday and our favorite child just asked for a Tickle-Me Elmo. Everyone wants to help, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

Speaking of beautiful things to see, here’s a clip from last night, when I shamelessly invented a new “dog enrichment toy” for my Genius Doodle, Uncle Jesse (who turns 10 on Friday!!! and just EASILY ran 20 miles because we thought we were training for a marathon in April, but obviously it was canceled because plague #plantpoweredpooch):

~*~*~*~*~

So…how are you?

~*~*~*~*~

 

humor

#NeverInNewJersey Round 2!

Not too long ago, I wrote a post describing the glaring differences between life in New Jersey, where I lived for 37 years, and life in Bend, Oregon, my hometown as of June 2019.

None of these things would have happened in ye olde Garden State.

Thanks to Rainbow Cloudjumper, I even have the hashtag #NeverInNewJersey to complement this ongoing trend.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had an entirely new set of examples. (For examples A-D, click here!)

Go Jules Go Never In New Jersey Round 2 Title Graphic 4MAR2020

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT E

This catalog, from Central Oregon Community College, landed in my mailbox the other day. I giggled as I scanned its front page offerings.

COCC brochure
Talk about knowing your audience.

I can’t remember exactly, but I seem to recall my local New Jersey Community College brochure looking a little more like this:

COCC brochure Go Jules Go NJ version

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT F

I recently went to a clothing/item exchange where a group of eight women all brought things from home that they no longer used or needed. When I arrived, I was shocked to find my friend’s living room transformed into a GoodWill-style shop. It was ridiculously impressive and I walked away with an entire bag full of quality wares. This isn’t even the #NeverInNewJersey part (though it certainly gets an honorable mention)!

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As I was unpacking my spoils, I noticed a strange scent. Was that… could it be… cologne? One of the items I brought home was a lightweight running top that was likely menswear.

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I should note that all of the clothes had clearly been washed prior to donating. My friends are STAND-UP CITIZENS [who, with such exceptional taste, also read this blog].
It was probably the faint remnants a pleasant, manly deodorant, but the point is, it stood out so drastically because: NO ONE HERE WEARS COLOGNE. I sat next to a guy at a film festival last week (benefiting the local environmental center and which required filmgoers to bring their own cup if they wanted anything to drink…#NeverInNewJersey honorable mention #2) and almost choked on his spicy aroma.

Coming from the land of gold chains and Axe body spray, I never thought I’d say this, but: I don’t miss it one bit.

Jersey Shore
Oh! Get outta here with that stank juice, son! Photo credit

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT G

All you need to know to understand this final exhibit, a Facebook group chat, is that I now live in a town boasting a beautiful river and waterfront amphitheater.

Never In New Jersey group text Go Jules Go

~*~*~*~*~*~

Stay tuned – I’m sure it won’t be long before I run out of alphabet letters!

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

Would You Wave Back?

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Would You Wave Back 26FEB20

Hot tears form in my eyes and my heart races.

“Can you explain what’s not working?”

“Just tell me what’s wrong!”

“I don’t understand why this is an issue for you.”

I swallow, surrendering to the tears, my face as red as a stop sign. In fact, I wish I had a stop sign so I could hold it up instead of trying to find the right words. I know I’m crying, but I’m not sad! I’m…mad. I have a million things I want to say, a million eloquent, valid points, but they simply won’t rise to the surface.

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Guhhhh…

All I can seem to utter is an emotional, “I don’t know, it’s probably just me. I’m sorry.”

Does this sound familiar? Every time I’m faced with a difficult situation, my body immediately goes into fight or flight mode. Picture your worst stage fright coupled with a funeral, and then those two things have a baby with the ugliest argument you’ve ever had. That’s kind of how my body reacts when it senses anything resembling confrontation.

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It’s not pretty.

Meanwhile, my mind has been turning over well-spoken, rational explanations for weeks, possibly months. Long, one-on-one conversations with close friends affirm that I have a sane, solid handle on the matter. Yet all of that goes out the window the minute someone signals it’s “showtime.”

In fellow introvert Jessica Pan’s moving and hilarious memoir, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come, she tells the story of trying to overcome her introversion by giving herself a series of daunting tasks over the course of one year, ranging from hosting a dinner party to stand-up comedy. In one challenge, given to her by a coach, she has to talk to strangers in London’s Underground. Not just talk to them, but ask the ridiculous question, “I’m sorry, I forget, could you remind me, is there a Queen of England, and if so, what is her name?” She was shocked to find that people actually responded.

“Nobody waves,” her coach explained. “But everybody waves back.”

Sorry I'm Late Jessica Pan
Read it, for reals.

I used to think something was seriously -I mean seriously- wrong with me. In fact, the feeling was so deep-seated that I didn’t even realize I still carried it until recently, after reading both Susan Cain’s Quiet and Jenn Granneman’s The Secret Lives of Introverts.

Also solid reads.

Turns out… I’m (we’re) normal! There are other people like me (us)! I always knew I was an introvert, but some part of me never let go of the notion that it was something to fix. Gotta give that presentation, gotta speak up in meetings, gotta tell charming stories at that dinner party… And I did. And I do. Sometimes it’s even kinda sorta okay! But it’s never, ever without sweaty palms and a racing heart.

While it’s deeply soothing to know that this reaction to stressful situations -including those uncomfortable confrontations- is actually just part of the introvert package, I can’t help but continue to wonder what my life would look like had I been born an extrovert.

How many more relationships, promotions and opportunities might I have experienced if, instead of crying and stumbling through awkward moments, I spoke my piece with confidence? …Would I be willing to trade my entire identity -including my introspection and “hyper” sensitivity, as some have called it- to find out?

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And what about my Redbox (solo) date nights?

Maybe I (we) don’t need to answer that question. Maybe, for now, it’s enough to know that if and when we wave, we have nothing to fear.

~*~*~*~*~

What do you think? Do extroverts have the advantage, especially in their love and career lives?

~*~*~*~*~

Dating, humor, PSAs

My (Un)Funny Little Valentine

Go Jules Go Unfunny Valentine Title Graphic 12FEB20

“Tee hee!”

I glanced down. A long, white finger pressed into the soft flesh around my stomach.

“You say it!”

After a confused moment, I heard myself utter in a high-pitched voice, “Tee hee…”

My new boyfriend -the first I’d ever had, apart from the man I married (and, ten years later, divorced)- chuckled under his breath.

Frank and I were on our way to Chicago to celebrate my 32nd birthday. Living on opposite sides of the country meant a very creative “second” date, requiring several plane trips between the two of us.

eHarmony-Frank-jet
And when I say plane…

“I’m trying to decide what dress to wear.”

My mind flashed back to a month earlier, when I’d confidently stepped out of the Whidbey Island, Washington hotel bathroom in underwear and pantyhose. I was the thinnest I’d ever been in my adult life, and the future seemed to span before me like the winking promise I’d always heard it could be.

IMG_6127
Whidbey Island or the Isle of Misguided Dreams? You be the judge.

Frank’s eyes swept over me, a frown accentuating his already elongated face. He held up one of the padded bras that had been in my suitcase.

“I think these should be illegal. It’s false advertising.” 

“I just…don’t like having ‘the headlights on,'” I swallowed thickly and retreated into the bathroom, taken aback by the venom in his voice. I stared at my stocking-clad figure. I looked…sexy…right? I suddenly felt ridiculous. Who even wears pantyhose anymore?

On the drive to dinner that night, having decided to don my single-digit-sized new green dress, Frank told me about a recent trip to L.A. with one of his Navy buddies.

“I could never live there. The women at the bars wouldn’t even talk to us. Such snots.”

I stared out of the window.

At dinner, Frank assured me I could “go ahead and order whatever I wanted,” adding, in case I’d missed the inference, “Don’t worry about the cost.” 

eHarmony-Frank-candlelit-dinner

I smiled tightly. I’d recently been laid off from my well-paying corporate job thanks to “merger redundancies.” This was good. A guy like this never would have dated me before. You know, when I was…the F word. I mean, just last week he saw an old picture of me and said exactly that!

“Ouch!” I cried, putting a hand to my face.

“You had a chin hair,” Frank said casually, leaning back into his window seat.

My cheeks burned, the unforgiving sunlight streaming through the airplane window. First I was the Pilsbury dough boy and now I’m Tom Hanks in Castaway? I blinked back tears.

“What’s the big deal?” Frank demanded, seeing my watery eyes.

A month later, he dumped me. Via email.

~*~*~*~*~

This Valentine’s Day, I was going to make light of all of my bad dating experiences in a post entitled, “If My Actual Dating Life Were Valentines.”

I took silly photos and even joked with friends about what a gold mine this was. On Monday night, I sat down to write my brilliant Valentine quips, staring at the crimson hearts on the screen. Before long, my own heart sank. It…wasn’t funny.

Go Jules Go REAL Valentine
…Okay, it’s a little funny.

I imagined all of the other hearts out there, smiling shyly in their stockings, exposed and vulnerable. I thought of every person rationalizing shitty situations because feelings of “less than” ate away their confidence. Smart, funny, kind people who might also entertain the truly insane idea that some jackass in aviator sunglasses was tied to their wellbeing.

eHarmony-Frank-duck-tour
What a quack of sh*t.

Despite what you might believe after reading this, I love Valentine’s Day. I don’t love the commercialization or the temptation to feel lonely, I just love love, and choose to embrace any excuse to celebrate it.

On this Valentine’s Day, in a brand new decade, wherever you are and in whatever circumstances you find yourself, I hope you’ll accept this embarrassingly sincere post as a tiny token of my love for you.

And if anyone so much as lays a g.d. FINGER on your chin hair, so help me baby Jesus Tom Hanks, you have my permission to bludgeon them with a jumbo-sized tube of Pilsbury crescent rolls.

Aunty Go Jules Go Valentine

~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, humor

Ride or Die…Ski Lift Style

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Ride or Die_ Ski Life Style 29JAN20

This doesn’t look good. I should probably make the prudent choice and turn around. I’ve still got all week before the new job starts.

img_20200127_113102

Rain turned to sleet, then snow, as I wound my way from Bend, Oregon to nearby Mount Bachelor, the city’s crowning jewel. Every winter, thousands of locals and tourists flocked to the snow covered mountain to…shred…powder…or something.

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I don’t understand half the things people say and do here.

When I moved from New Jersey to Bend last June, I made several promises to myself:

  1. Cultivate friendships that felt like family.
  2. Pretend being naked in the middle of the woods was normal.
  3. Go backpacking.
  4. Start dating running again.
  5. Tour the west coast.
  6. Ramp up The Vegan Dollar’s YouTube channel.
  7. Try all of the winter sports: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and downhill skiing.

In other words: Do all of the things that petrify me. As of this month, the only two left on my list both involved skis. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Mt. Bachelor rewards new skiers with an incredible deal via their “Ride in 5” ski lesson package, complete with equipment rental.

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Gulp.

Because people swarmed to the mountain on weekends like Go Jules Go to compliments, I decided to attend my first lesson on a Monday. I had already talked myself out of it for two weeks. The memory of my one and only other downhill skiing experience was still powder fresh in my mind.

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Jules: Before [ski lesson, hiding in yurt].
I was 11, and somehow, in the course of two hours, managed to: drag my mother off the chair lift, crash into a fence, and fall down a ditch, requiring a pimpled, teenage rescue team. I’d always been considered an athletic kid, but apparently this was limited to swimming pools and soccer fields.

This past Monday, I turned left into the Sunrise Lodge parking lot, clenching and unclenching my jaw. Ten foot high piles of snow blocked any form of signage.

Seriously? They don’t tell new skiers where to go? This is a sign. I should just go home and hug my dog. 

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Snuggly dogs: a solid reason to stay within your comfort zone since forever.

Eventually -on the third attempt- I made it to the proper parking lot and found the check-in and rental office.

“You look excited!” the check-in employee exclaimed. He had clearly been born with a snowboard attached to his feet.

“That would be the sheer terror,” I retorted, feeling the wild look in my eyes.

“Oh no, you’ll be great! Let me just make sure I have all of your information… And what is your weight, my dear?”

I swallowed. I knew this was coming. I didn’t even lie, lest I increase my chances of death from 99.9% to 100%. Besides, it was printed right on my new Oregon driver’s license [because despite the endless smiles and generosity, they are MONSTERS here].

I was sure to tell everyone at the outfitting station that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, my eyes darting frantically from the rows of skis to the exit sign.

“I think Matt Damon wore these in The Martian,” I marveled at my borrowed ski boots. They were harder to get on than pantyhose after a steamy shower.

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Right?

“NASA actually used ski boots as the model for their latest expedition.”

My head shot up and I looked at the guy who’d just made the remark.

“I don’t care if you’re yanking my chain,” I said. “I choose to believe you.”

“Do you want a helmet?” he called as I headed outside, shockingly heavy skis in tow.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“You mean we’re not just practicing how to take these on and off today?”

I’d been certain that, in a package of five lessons, lesson one was simply: These are skis. See you next time!

He laughed and walked over to a giant wall of black helmets. “I think it’s a good idea.”

“I’m not gonna argue! Safety first,” I replied as he jammed a 47-pound bowling ball on my head. I had flashbacks of a similar moment preceding my epic mountain cycling fail. He tightened the chin strap and I waddled outside, almost an hour early and feeling utterly ridiculous.

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My helmet, in all its bowling ball glory.

By the time my Australian instructor, Rohan, introduced himself, I was so antsy to get moving that I shouted,

“I’m Jules! It’s great to meet you!”

Because it was a quiet Monday on the slopes, there were only two other first-timers in my class, a couple from Brazil, who chose to spend their week-long vacation away from their hometown beaches and…learning how to ski in central Oregon. I sized them up. We were all going to die.

The lesson was two hours long, and much to my dismay, in under an hour, our downhill ski instructor announced that we were going to ski downhill.

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For the first round, that meant riding this escalator death trap. Oh sure, it looks like it’s barely on an incline in this picture. WELL LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING IT WAS AWFUL. AWFUL!

After nearly falling on Satan’s conveyor belt, which jerks you forward as soon as you place your skis on it, Rohan decided it was time for the real deal. The ski lift. The part I had been dreading since my summer ski lift tour.

Mount Bachlor summer ski lift Aug 2019
Hey fellow family members with an irrational fear of heights, let’s soar over a mountain of lava rocks to the (near) summit with only a flimsy bar between us and the open air! It won’t be scary at all!

“I’m not gonna lie,” I confessed to Rohan as we boarded the lift. “I’m glad these snow pants are waterproof.” I glanced skyward and said a prayer.

Rohan held my arm as we disembarked and miraculously, I didn’t fall. By the second and third rounds, I was launching off on my own with all of the confidence of a newborn giraffe.

“Looks like you two ah friends nowah,” he said in his Australian accent, nodding towards the chair lift.

“I might even let it take me out for dinner,” I grinned.

At some point, Rohan had to tell me to slow down and prove I was still in control on the turns.

“Wheee!” I cried as I flew past him and he laughed in spite of himself. When we hit the bottom of the hill, I said, “Admit it. We’re the best class you’ve ever had.”

“I’m very impressed,” he smiled indulgently. “It helps that you’re all athletic.”

And suddenly, 26 years in the making…

REDEMPTION. Turns out..

…I LIKE TO SKI.

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Jules: After [ski lesson, manic in car].
~*~*~*~*~*~
humor

#NeverInNewJersey

After spending the better part of my 37 27 years in New Jersey, not far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, I moved to Bend, Oregon last June. I was pretty sure I’d completed my Oregon transformation by the time I embarked on my first backpacking trip in September.

Socks with sandals. Need I say more?

Then I had to buy a Subaru.

Annnnd NOW the transformation is complete.

One of the most fascinating things about moving across the country has been observing the utter lack of jadedness among my new neighbors. And how, in a town of over 100,000, EVERYONE KNOWS EACH OTHER. I find myself constantly sending the New Jersey crew texts like, “I don’t remember what a car horn sounds like,” and, “Someone just BOUGHT MY GROCERIES,” and, “[Sara] and I just realized we went out with the same guy.”

Which is why I now hide in my apartment and make YouTube videos.

In fact, this happens so regularly that I’m about to fill an entire blog post with examples FROM THE PAST WEEK ALONE.

(Shout out to Rainbow Cloudjumper, who came up with this priceless new hashtag. )

He plucks his ideas from starlit skies whilst soaring through the air on magic and moonbeams.

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT A

While in line at Starbucks (you can take the girl outta Jersey, but you can’t take the crippling addiction to overpriced lattes outta the girl), this happened:

WOMAN IN FRONT OF ME (holding out giant reusable cup): Hi, is there any chance I can get some water in this? I can pay you.

BARISTA: Of course! I’m so sorry you had to wait in line just for water. We never charge for that.

WOMAN IN FRONT OF ME: I insist. I really, really appreciate it.

BARISTA (handing her the now-filled cup): It’s no problem at all!

WOMAN IN FRONT OF ME: Can I at least tip you?

BARISTA: We don’t accept tips, but that’s so nice of you.

WOMAN IN FRONT OF ME (waving a $20 bill): Please, I want to.

BARISTA (taking bill): Uh, well, okay, thank you so much.

ME (silently): How the f@&*% do I follow that?

Perhaps you’d like a copy of my new calendar, barista? (It’ll only cost you $20. Hey! Look at that!)

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT B

This snowman:

Built right in front of my door, for me, by my new 9-year-old neighbor with whom I’ve exchanged three words. Because love and puppies and rainbows.

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT C

I had two girlfriends over for dinner the other night. Within five minutes, this:

GIRLFRIEND #1: Where do you live?

GIRLFRIEND #2: I live in [blah blah] neighborhood.

GIRLFRIEND #1: Oh! One of my really good friends lives there! She said there’s lots of neighborhood drama. Do you know the crazy lady who won’t let anyone park in front of her house?

GIRLFRIEND #2: I *am* the crazy lady.

Uh, hey! Everyone! Look over here! Uncle Jesse has a new toy! Cool, right? …Right?

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT D

Every month, friends host a vegan potluck at the Environmental Center. It’s basically a #NeverInNJ free-for-all. This month:

(MY FRIEND) STEFANIE (to a new woman we’d never met): Hi, I’m Stefanie.

NEW WOMAN: Hi, I’m [New Woman]. Isn’t Bend amazing? Someone just gave me four snow tires for free! Hey, want to go snowshoeing tomorrow?

STEFANIE: Sure!

ME: You can borrow my Sno-Park pass!

Central Oregon: Where Even the Snow is Nicer!

Honestly, I could keep going, but my alarm just went off. That must mean it’s time to go compliment someone.

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

Dear Camelback Mountain Resort: YOU SLEEP ON A BED OF LIES.

Attn: All personnel including Irene

Camelback Mountain Resort

301 Resort Dr.

Tannersville, PA 18372

I humbly write to you today, one month, one week, and one day after “experiencing” your establishment on the occasion of my twin niece and nephew’s Sweet 16. Yes, some time has passed since we became acquainted, yet the memory of your commitment to serving fresh hell wafts through my dreams nightmares as though t’were yesterday.

I shan’t soon forget how you forced me into a serpentine line as long and disturbing as John Mayer’s dating history in order to acquire what you casually referred to as “wrist bands,” but what I soon came to learn were our room keys. A room key in plastic! Upon my wrist! Beneath which untold germs, mold, and general discomfort could mightily persist!

A wrist band or a cesspool of regret? Photo credit

My shock had yet truly taken hold, for soon I entered the chamber with which my wrist band provided access. You call this a “queen” bed? A queen of what land? Methinks you would make a killing in the fairytale business.

“Suite equipped with dining table for 6!” your website also proclaimed.

I can scarcely speak of what happened next. Surely -surely- your founders grasped math and commerce’s fundamental principles when devising your arcade ticketing system. I’ve no doubt the Laser Tag council spent long hours debating the most reasonable fee for 127 seconds of disappointment. Yet, when I completed this “game,” along with my sister, niece, nephew and three of their dear friends, why, I realized we’d spent $87.19!

My sister had to get a second job to pay for this “Escape Cube.”

We tried not to let this phase us, nor did we let the ghastly humidity levels of your indoor water park overcome our senses, because we had a grand feast ahead. A hand-delivered smorgasbord of pizza and cake! Why, what better way to celebrate the birth of two 16-year-olds who successfully emerged from my sister’s womb with minimal physical and only slightly staggering emotional damage?

“I had you both at once so I’d never have to go through this again.”

Imagine our surprise when, 45 minutes past the scheduled arrival time, Irene wheeled a rickety cart into our “suite,” rasping, “WHOSE BIRTHDAY IS IT? YOURS? SORRY WE DON’T HAVE ANY CANDLES. NOT ALLOWED.”

As usual, I did my very best to try to save the day.

The teenage contingent bravely sampled the “pizza” and we mustered as much enthusiasm as we possibly could in front of the dim, lifeless “birthday” cake. We flicked the switch on the “fireplace” and stared at the snowless “mountains” just outside our window. “Can one snow tube without snow?” we wondered.

When the clock struck 10:30pm, my sister and I rocked each other to sleep. Not for comfort, of course. There was simply no other way we’d both fit on the bed.

Ugh. Double ugh.

Kind Regards,

Go Jules Go