Category Archives: New Jersey is breathtaking

Tour de Fail

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This is going to be the best day ever.

Because I thought this is what my therapist meant when she said “get a hobby,” every year I now train for a 100-mile bike ride in September. As part of the training plan this year, I signed up for a series of organized bike rides throughout the summer. These bike rides come with roadside support, fully-stocked rest stops, and an ugly t-shirt to commemorate the ride.

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Is that brown or gray? Or both?

This past Saturday, the training ride was a 63-mile charity event for which I signed up namely because the registration fee was cheap. #foreshadowing.

My first second mistake was in thinking a “Stockton University charity bike ride” would leave from Stockton, New Jersey – about an hour southwest of my house. Nay. Stockton University is in Galloway Township, New Jersey (two things I’d never heard of!), a.k.a. exit 44 on the Garden State Parkway, a.k.a. Might As Well Be Cuba.

But, at least it was going to be a leisurely, social ride on a beautiful day – 75 degrees and sunny. “The best day of the weekend!” forecasters declared.

That morning, my alarm went off at 4:45am and as I headed out the door, a blast of cold air took my breath away. “Geesh!” I thought, “It’s June 3rd! Well, I’m sure it’ll warm up in a bit!” I grabbed my coat, picked up my sister, and we headed for the Parkway.

A few minutes in, raindrops hit the windshield.

“No matter!” I said. I checked my trusty weather app and it looked like it would be just fine by the time we arrived in Cuba Galloway Township.

When we parked at Stockton University (seriously, is this like Trump University? Have you ever heard of this place?), we realized we were going to have to wear our winter cycling gear because it was still 55 degrees.

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Where sunshine goes to covfefe die.

As the clock rounded 8:00am, the official start time, an overly cheerful man got on the microphone by the registration tent.

“We just have a few announcements to make…”

My sister shot me a look. We hopped from foot to foot trying to keep warm, and forty-seven announcements later, we finally took off with a huge pack of men going 21 MPH. In the rain. We got sand in our teeth and dirty water splashed in our faces as we pedaled at full race speed.

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Mile 1.

By mile 30, we were starving, soaking wet, and one meltdown in (mine. I am not proud). That’s when our friend, Jen, got a flat tire. Despite being experienced tire-changers, we managed to use up all of our supplies without actually fixing the tire, and were forced to call the roadside support number given to us during registration.

A girl answered and said, “What? You’re where? Your bike has a flat tire? Hang on, let me see if I can find someone. …No, you have to call a different number. Do you have a pen and paper?”

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Oh, yes. Please do hold whilst I grab my trusty scroll from the back of my bi–NO I DON’T HAVE A F@#$^% PEN AND PAPER!

“At least the fully loaded rest stop is only two miles away!” we said a half an hour later when we were back on the road. “Mmm, what do you think they’ll have? Bagels? Peanut butter & jelly?? Cookies???”

By then, our mouths were watering more than the skies overhead. We pulled up to the rest stop and looked around. There were three port-a-potties and one square folding table holding water, four gel packs, and half a dozen green bananas.

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Oh thank god. I was afraid I’d have to ride another 31 miles in the rain without any food.

We shared the fig bar I had stuffed into my saddle bag and readied ourselves for another cocktail of gravel and tears (did I mention it was an out and back, all flat ride, meaning you never stopped pedaling, mostly into headwind?). Before we made it two blocks from the rest stop, we heard a hiss coming from my sister’s front tire.

As I turned to head back to her, I started tipping to the left. My left foot was clipped into my bike pedal, meaning there was only one thing that could happen next.

*splat*

Splayed on the road and hovering close to the double yellow line, I unclipped my foot, leaving my shoe dangling from the pedal.

“It’s not that I’m not helping you!” Jen shouted from a few feet away. “I’m just stopping traffic!”

I hobbled over to the curb, avoiding eye contact with the line of cars inching past us.

Four years later, we finally finished. Our prize?

A two and a half hour car ride home.

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We shoulda gone to Cuba.

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Huh. Didn’t think I’d see THAT today.

It was just another Wednesday, albeit an unseasonably warm one in northern New Jersey, as I walked my dog through the neighborhood.

The autumn leaves were a Crayola box of gold, crimson, and green, and I snapped a photo when I reached my destination: a half-mile, gravel-lined walking trail near a local park.


I tried not to think of my mounting to do list and the fact that I was sweating profusely in mid-October as I walked briskly beneath the canopy. After thirty minutes, I reached my highest level of Zen (that is to say, an almost manageable degree of panic) and headed home.

Stepping back onto paved roads, I heard a strange shuffle to my right.

I looked up, and…

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There is a dog on a roof, said my Zen mind.

There is a DOG on a ROOF, said my anxiety.

There is a BLOG POST in your POCKET, said my inner chipmunk.

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Now that I’ve had time to consider this sight more deeply, I’ve come up with a few possible explanations:

  1. He’s a watch dog for a new K-9 super breed who can fly, bend steel with their minds, and resist the smell of crotches.
  2. He’s trying to catch a glimpse of Canada, so he knows what to expect after the next presidential inauguration.
  3. Anything is better than hearing his owner complain about work. I mean seriously, how hard is it to neglect pets for a living?
  4. He is a she, and she’s waiting for the right stud for whom to let down her tail of gold.

What do YOU think? 

P.S. – You still have one more day to enter THE GREATEST GIVEAWAY CONTEST EVER (ends MIDNIGHT EST, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21st)!

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Strangers Are Just Friends Who Will Arrest You

The other day, one of my Masters program professors reminded me of an old adage: Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.

Corny, sure, but it suddenly seemed like a fun challenge. In light of my landlord’s recent display of kindness (of which I am still highly suspicious), I thought maybe I, too, should adjust my attitude with this platitude.

I played out a scenario in my head first:

INT. GROCERY STORE – EVENING

“Hi!” I smile while the teenaged clerk checks the price of my almond butter. Forty-seven dollars, I want to tell her. That is the going rate for dry roasted almond pulp.

“Hello,” she grimaces.

“It’s so nice to see you, Kim!” I say, eyeing her name tag and assuming my role as transient bagger. “Let me do this. You’ve had another long day.”

She keeps her eyes on the task at hand.

“How’s your mother doing?” I ask.

“Um, fine,” she replies, glancing up briefly.

“And your dad?”

Kim stops, mid-scan, and stares at me.

“Do I…do we…I’m sorry. Do I know you?”

“You do now! Did you see Sully yet?”

“Um…”

“I love Tom Hanks. Aren’t he and Rita Wilson so inspiring? You should really try to find a guy like that. Enough with the bad boys.”

“Who’s…Rita Wilson?”

“Just a friend we haven’t met yet!”

Then, armed with the confidence only new confidants can bring, I’d go into situations like the one I was in on Wednesday night -seeing Amy Schumer live- with guns blazing. (Not actual guns. Amy and I don’t like those.)

“Amy! Amy!!! Hi!” I shout from 17 rows back. “It’s me! Jules!”

When Amy fails to acknowledge this attempt, I stand up in my chair.

“It’s JULES! Remember the time we never met?!”

I step down from the chair and flag a security guard.

“Can you please tell Amy I’m here?”

The security guard warns me that I’ll be removed from the theater if I stand on my chair again. I nod, wait two minutes, and then sneak down the aisle towards stage left.

“Amy!!!” I whisper loudly, taking the first step onto the stage. I wave a fluorescent pink band. “I brought you a slap bracelet!”

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No matter how many times I run through this in my head, I wind up in jail.

How about you? What stranger would you like to turn into a friend? (And do you think you could do it without getting arrested?)

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This Can’t Be Good.

This week has been filled with a delightful series of diversions. It’s amazing this post even ma–


Whoa.

What the…?

Is that my backyard?

I got home yesterday and someone had planted flowers. Lovely purple, orange and yellow, ah, daisies geraniums I-don’t-know-’ems, just to the side of my door.

I assumed it was the landlord, but even still, like any New Jersey native, my first instinct was suspicion.

I immediately texted a photo to Babs (my mom).

“Check the house. Is anything missing?” she replied in two seconds flat.

“Maybe he’s just trying to be nice?” My words sounded weak, even in writing.

“Did he use the flowers from your flower box?” she asked.

“No…” I answered.

“I hope they’re not flowers FOR YOUR GRAVE.”

“I hope I don’t come home tomorrow and they spell, ‘YOU’RE EVICTED.'”

It’s not that my landlord is a bad guy. No, no, no. He just, well, he seems to be of the more frugal variety, and in almost two years of renting, I haven’t seen any other display of Mother Nature’s bounty.

I’ll keep you posted. Random acts of kindness must not be trusted.

Have you had any surprises lately?

P.S. – Seriously, guys. What the hell kind of flowers are those?

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New Jersey: The Greatest Country in the World

In angsting over pondering what to write about this week, it occurred to me that I needn’t labor so hard. After all, it’s Labor Day weekend for us Americans, and the only work we should be doing is squeezing every last, sweaty drop out of summer before she packs her bags and says sayonara for another year.

So, from the bottom of my Jersey girl heart fringe top, I wish you a safe, healthy and happy holiday. And to my fellow chipmunks across the globe sharing in the season’s end: Yes, yes you have every right to judge us.

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‘MERICA.

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Knock, knock! Who’s there? THE WORST NEIGHBORS EVER!

A year and a half ago, I moved into a quaint two-family home. There aren’t many historic houses in the area, and my entryway bears a unique mark of pride:

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Of course, this agèd gem comes with a few charms that some might find off-putting: low ceilings, slanted floors, light switches to nowhere, and my personal favorite:

Ghost cows.

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The house is a renovated cow barn, and late at night, I can almost hear the far-off cattle cries.

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I think they’re coming from the beam where I hide my flask.

I haven’t told anyone this, but I stopped eating meat a few months ago, and my top theory is that the ghost cows took over my body.

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Jules circa 2014

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Jules circa 2016

In fact, now that I think about it, the cows were probably behind the sconce incident of April 2015.

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But I digress.

Recently, my quiet and respectful human and living neighbors, with whom I share a very, very (did I say very?) thin wall, moved out. I recall overhearing something about “carpenter bees” and “allergies,” but I was too busy Googling Yankee candle scents to appease undead livestock to fully appreciate their rationale.

Strange families were suddenly perusing the now-vacant apartment next door. This past weekend, I stepped outside and nearly collided with an older gentleman.

“You’ve probably surmised that I’m looking at the apartment,” he said in an I’m-just-a-guy-who-likes-hugs-and-hey-I-wonder-how-many-human-heads-will-fit-in-that-freezer tone.

“Ah,” I replied, avoiding eye contact and wondering why his tour included my half of the yard.

Uncle Jesse, my dog, barked loudly from inside.

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This is the actual apartment ad. Oops.

Since this run-in, I haven’t been able to shake the nightmares of what who might move in next door.

Please, help prepare me: What’s your worst neighbor story?

Lucky-Bamboo

My lucky bamboo (a housewarming gift) committed suicide long ago. I need all the help I can get.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Talking Animals Are My Favorite

Hi Chipmunks! I went to the zoo on Saturday.

Jealous? You should be. Here’s what happened.

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Happy captioning!

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Deep (Woods) Thoughts

You know how golfers love to compare their sport to life? Heavy-handed metaphors about taking aim, working with the winds of change, etc.?

You know what I'm talking about.

You know what I’m talking about.

I’m starting to do the same. With hiking.

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-Go Jules Go, 2013

I realized this weekend, while battling an unrelenting swarm of gnats for over 3 hours in the New Jersey highlands, that every hike this summer has provided a new challenge. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.

Heat.

Wet rocks.

Water shortage.

Bears.

Hike-2-mapAs soon as I was sure, fitness wise, that I had a trail in the bag, something would come along to knock me off course. (See what I mean about the heavy-handed metaphors?) This past weekend, I thought the pests were going to do me in, despite toxic levels of bug spray coating my red, soaking wet, weary limbs. By mile 5 of one of njhiking.com’s most challenge trails, I couldn’t see for all the gnats.

I came to a crossroads.

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If I went straight, I’d knock 2 miles from my remaining distance. By turning left, I’d have 3.6 miles -and another steep mountain climb- still to go to complete the originally planned trek. I stood there for 5 minutes, waving my arms in front of me fruitlessly, chugging warm water, studying the trail map.

I looked up at the brightly colored green and yellow trail markers painted on a sturdy oak.

“Fuck it,” I said aloud, wiping away the 8,000th gnat who’d suffocated in a pool of my sweat. “I’m no quitter.”

I turned left.

Solid choice, Jules.

Solid choice, Jules.

Why did I do it? Week after week, no less. Clearly this was torturous. Was I insane? A glutton for punishment? Just plain stubborn? Even Hub #1 had taken to calling me Forrest Gump.

I watched a video this weekend on why people hike. The filmmaker interviewed a series of hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Their answers to that million dollar question sounded familiar.

I needed to shift my perspective; it helps me let go of the day-to-day worries and focus on the immediate. You don’t worry about work when you’re trying to find a dry place to sleep.

I wanted to clear my head.

I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life.

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Pre-Gnatnado.

That’s the thing about hiking. Walking for walking’s sake may seem a little pointless, but that’s exactly what makes it so powerful. For that time in the woods, however brief, the only thing you’re responsible for is staying alive. To again paraphrase what fellow hikers have said:

Hiking allows me to push myself farther than I think I can go. I bring that back with me into the real world.

It’s not about how fast or far you go, but just that you keep going. In the end, I may wind up right back where I started (at my car, hopefully), but I know I’m one step closer to who I want to be.

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How do you recalibrate? What centers you?

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6 Things You Need To Know Before Taking Up Hiking

Alternate titles: R.I.P. Big Toenail; I Can’t Feel My Butt; Who Needs Heel Skin, Anyway?

I logged 17 miles in hiking this weekend, Chipmunks. (And I saw you! Yes. I saw my first chipmunk since December!)

Local hiking splendor.

Local hiking splendor.

You’re probably wondering who I am and what I’ve done to Jules. I have a confession. When I’m not drinking and Googling bacon recipes, I like to go outside and get my sweat nature on. I can’t stand running, and cyclists make me think devil thoughts, but give me a dirt path, some shady trees and a mountain view payoff, and I’m there faster than you can say, “Does this trail mix have chocolate chips? Because that’s really the only kind worth buying.”

Mt. Monadnock, 2005.

Mt. Monadnock, 2005.

It’s been a while since I’ve hit the hardcore trails , but in order to combat the three B’s (boredom, bumming and broke-itude) that have slammed me lately, I decided to get my Timberland mojo back. I’ve been tackling the relatively tame local trails over the past couple of months, and had planned on spending the summer working up to trails like the steep ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in northern New Jersey, with the ultimate goal of hitting Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire this fall.

But.

The stubborn Taurus in me had other plans. “Did the 6+ mile loop again today,” I told my first husband, Peppermeister, on Saturday. “Doing 10 tomorrow.”

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Then I picked this trail:

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Then I drove an hour there. I was ready and rarin’ to go.

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6 Things You Need to Know Before Taking Up Hiking

1. Just because a sign seems to promise bears, this does not mean you’ll finally carry out that long awaited convo with the Shakespearean meme bear.

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2. Hiking Guide Books ‘under’ embellish.

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3. By mile 7, you will not look like someone from an LL Bean catalog. Even though everyone else you encounter, inevitably, won’t have broken a sweat.

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4. In New Jersey, you can run, but you can’t hide. From cicadas.

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5. Some Most times, you’ll see some cool ass shiz.

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6. You will have every right to come home and do nothing but act superior, drink champagne and eat all of it. Just… all of it.

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Is there a sport / activity you think is borderline insane, but you love it anyway? Or one that, no matter what, you’d never be caught dead doing?

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