The following entries have been recovered from the diaries of beloved blogger and former Jersey girl, Go Jules Go. Her current whereabouts are unknown. Presumably because, according to her new neighbors, “The service here sucks.”
Day 1: Arrive in Bend, Oregon. Apartment appears well-appointed, though several disturbing items were left on the counter. “Gifts,” the landlord claims. I remain suspicious.
Day 2: Attend first social gathering under the guise of celebrating someone’s birth. I do not trust these people. Why do they look so…happy?
Day 6: Forced to attend nudist retreat. My plans to go unnoticed thwarted by bathing suit, yet how else do I protect myself amidst the steaming pools of hippie tears hot springs? Must not show nipples weakness.
Day 9: Have risen at 6am for three days straight to engage in something called “trail running.” Zero alcohol remains in my system, yet I suspect they’ve slipped something into my kombucha. I feel…well.
Day 12: Small children and classical music-listening puppies surround me. I fear I am beginning to crack.
Day 21: Ford raging river and sustain 923 bug bites. My survival skills have improved markedly.
Day 30: Discover Trivia Night’s discount beer and tots. They are on to me.
Day 37: Have begun making strange hand gestures following outdoor pursuits. The situation is becoming increasingly dire.
Day 44: Learn the art of metalsmithing from a man who would not accept compensation. What drives the human spirit in this land of zero expectation?
Day 57: The hand gestures have become second nature; I can no longer fight it.
Day 63: Have accepted that I will never know real pizza again.
Day 70: Complete something called a “10k race”… “for charity.” Would have been charitable to not force feed participants hard cider 30 seconds following this strange event.
Day 71: Witness skinny dippers in a frigid lake. Oregonians must fear clothing the way I fear I’ll never stop watching The Hills on Amazon Prime.
Day 80: Trucker hat and race “tech” shirt. Uncle Jesse no longer recognizes me.
Day 90: Socks with sandals. All hope is lost.
This is the last known recording from Go Jules Go. If you have any information, please contact 1-800-CRY4HLP.
The group decided it was best to keep our hike short if we had full packs, and do longer day hikes once we’d set up camp. With my experience level somewhere between, “I’m still not entirely sure how to recognize poison ivy” and “I read Wild,” I was grateful for the modest expectations. Not to mention the other four women had enough outdoor prowess to vote me off the island the minute I asked who was bringing hair spray.
If there’s one thing a native New Jerseysian can tell you about moving to Oregon, it’s this:
Back east, I was one of the more outdoorsy people I knew. Day hiking, road cycling and the occasional marathon were my jam. By moving to Bend, Oregon in June, I quickly dropped several thousand notches. I had to trade my heels for headlamps if I wanted to survive.
Jules: Before and After Oregon. (Pssst, that’s not soup in that bowl.)
Nevertheless, backpacking was on my bucket list, and I’d be damned if I was going to let poop shovels throw me off course. I wanted tents, campfires and starlit skies, and I wanted them stat.
“Oh man, we should have consulted beforehand; this is way too much food,” Kristen said as I unloaded our provisions at our campsite, three and a half hours east of Bend.
“Don’t you worry,” I assured her. “Uncle Jesse and I can eat our weight in tubers.”
We didn’t have much time to explore before nightfall, but drank in the scenery (and the whiskey) before avocado quesadillas and the full moon took center stage.
Around 9 o’clock, long before I felt any urge to sleep, we called it a night. I tried to stay perfectly still in my borrowed sleeping bag, lest the swish-swish-swish of the “certified 18 below” fabric wake my tent mate. The temperature plummeted, my teeth rattled and my bladder screamed. And what is up with this inflatable pillow? My neck was at an exact 90 degree angle; I could see my blue toes perfectly.
Eventually I gave up.
ZZZZZZZZIPPPPPPPP. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered to Erin. “I have to pee.” Uncle Jesse caused a commotion trying to follow me in the dark, and after burying my toilet paper in a “carry out bag,” I put on every item of clothing I’d brought. Eventually I managed a few hours of fitful sleep.
By 9 o’clock the next morning, after some blood (and almost tear) shed, I was ready to call it quits, along with two of the other women.
Uncle Jesse, after thinking dogs twice his size liked sharing their food.
“If you’re leaving, I think I’ll go with you,” I said, trying to sound as calm as possible. Get me the f*@& out of here!!!!!! “I’m just a little cold.”
“I don’t think we can have both dogs in the car,” the getaway car driver gently explained.
I decided to stick it out, and within a couple of hours, the two remaining campers and I hit the trails and all seemed right again.
In fact, when I zipped up my sleeping bag for the second, and final, night, I thought, “I could get used to this.”
It wasn’t until the next afternoon that we found out a cougar had been roaming our camp.
Are you more of a backpacker or a back-to-Netflix-and-running-water type? Also, is a poop shovel just a regular shovel with an R.E.I. logo? Discuss.
“Oh nooooo,” I moaned, slapping a hand to my forehead.
“What?” my sister, Lori, asked, her knuckles bone white against the steering wheel.
“I left my phone on top of the car!”
“Stop it,” she said as we rounded another butt-clenching hairpin turn.
At the last scenic overlook, I had been so distracted by taking pictures and picking up Uncle Jesse’s poop that I’d forgotten to take my phone off the roof, where I’d placed it as I’d loaded the dog back in the car.
Lori pulled over at the next viewpoint, and by the grace of Chipmunk Gods, my rubber phone case had had enough grip that my phone had stayed in place instead of flying into the Crater Lake National Park wilderness.
“Should we check out the lodge?” Lori asked.
I nodded, my heart still racing. She and my niece were visiting me in central Oregon for the week, and we had decided to spend a day and night exploring the iconic landmark.
While they went to the bathroom near the gift shop, I inspected the Crater Lake Park brochure. The next day, I was planning to hike with Uncle Jesse while they went on a non-dog-friendly boat tour.
I was excited to possibly tackle Union Peak, the park’s toughest hike, or at least scale Mount Scott, a 4.4-mile trek with a respectable elevation gain.
I flipped to the brochure’s hiking section and my stomach dropped. Of the 16 listed trails, only three were dog-friendly. Around parking lots. Less than a mile long.
“Looks like I’ll be going to Plan B,” I said to Lori when she got back to the car.
AND I can’t get high?
With an afternoon waterfall hike now out of the question, we decided to continue driving the heart attack-inducing, 33-mile Crater Lake Rim Drive before checking into our motel, 18 miles away.
Whispering Pines Motel was the sort of place where Betsy at the front desk scolds you for even suggesting she send an “e-lectronic mail” confirmation. Betsy handed us our key, attached to a giant log…
Since it was nearing 5 o’clock, we decided to tackle dinner plans.
“Betsy said there’s a place with great pizza at Diamond Lake and we can sit outside with the dog,” Lori said. “She also told us we could come and pick out some movies on VHS. You really need to go look inside the main office, Jul.”
When we got to the pizza place, Uncle Jesse and I manned the lone picnic table in the yard while Lori went inside to order. She soon returned looking triumphant.
“Well, their pizza sauce has meat – which is so weird,” she took a breath and shot me the we’re-from-New-Jersey-and-know-our-pizza look, “but they said they could do refried beans [for you] as the sauce instead.”
“Awesome, thanks,” I replied, my vegan-beggars-can’t-be-choosers hat firmly in place.
Ten minutes later, a large man bounded down the hill holding a giant red can.
“I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about in there!” he grumbled, beginning to read the ingredients on the can. We quickly realized he was the chef. “They’re trying to give you refried beans with lard instead of this tomato sauce. Last I checked vegans don’t eat lard.”
“Wow, good looking out!” I grinned.
I assured him that he was indeed correct and deserved to win whatever episode of Vegan Kitchen Wars I had inadvertently triggered. Forty-five minutes after my sister and niece had finished their meals, my food arrived.
We spent the following hour surgically removing picnic table splinters from our hands…
…and arrived back at the motel in time to enjoy some company right outside our door…
…a refreshing shower…
…and some of that new-fangled telly-vision.
Ah, well. At least Uncle Jesse wasn’t holding a grudge.
No matter! I’ve still got eight hours of daylight left here in beautiful central Oregon!
I checked Google maps and my guidebook. Gack. Seven miles too far. I turned the car around.
When I eventually pulled into my target destination, the Green Lakes trailhead parking lot off of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, I inspected the tags hanging from other cars’ rearview mirrors.
That kid at R.E.I. better have sold me the right one.
On top of the colorful car tags, I also spotted a lot of these:
The trailhead parking lot was nearly full, but I found an empty spot – thanks to someone who probably started their day before noon unlike some jobless hobos. I filled out a “day use voucher” (a.k.a. Evidence I Was Here Should Things Go Horribly, Horribly Awry), stuck one half in the slot beneath the signage and the other half in my backpack.
The first five miles to Green Lakes, though mostly uphill, were breathtakingly scenic and only slightly buggy, with a well-marked, moderately trafficked trail.
By the time Uncle Jesse and I hit the lake and stopped to enjoy some peanuts and cherries, we were feeling bold.
“Once you’ve taken in the glory of the area, continue along the shoreline toward the east, where you’ll wrap slightly around the lake before noticing a number of side trails…” my trusty new guidebook read.
That sounds…confusing. I shook off any niggling doubts and headed east. At least, I was pretty sure it was east. Soon I found what was certainly the proper path. I persisted onward, but the lingering snow made it almost impossible to tell if I was still on a trail, let alone the right trail. I wonder what cougar tracks look like…
Every now and then we’d hit an open area and I’d gaze around hopefully. There is seriously no trail. Uncle Jesse and I bushwhacked for another seemingly endless stretch before I finally gave up. That’s it. Broken Top [mountain] is behind me, that means the water is in front of me. We’re going west (f%@&, it’s west, right?) until we hit the damn water.
The next thirty minutes felt like twelve hours, until at long last, I heard the familiar sound of rushing water.
I spotted people on a wide, luxurious trail…on the other side of the creek. F%#&. We walked south along the water’s edge, constantly being forced back uphill to more level ground, stomping over fallen trees and coarse, woody debris. In spots where it might have been safe, if highly unpleasant, to cross, the bank on the other side was so steep, we’d never make it up to the trail.
Eventually I succumbed to our less than ideal Fate. Uncle Jesse, always eager to show off, sensed my resignation and bounded towards the water.
“WAIT,” I said in my sternest Mom voice. “COME.” The water was rushing with the force of Donald Trump’s combover. Uncle Jesse stopped in his tracks, just inches from the crashing falls, and ran towards me.
I said a prayer and put both feet in. It was deeper than I thought, almost thigh-high. Okay. This is fine. It’s not so bad.
Uncle Jesse followed and immediately got scooped up by the raging current. I grabbed his collar, shocked by the water’s might. This won’t work. With not a second to spare, I gathered him in my arms, above the roaring waves, struggling to keep my balance. I made it nearly to the other side when my shin collided with something hard. A rock? A log? Holy s&#% it’s cold!
Uncle Jesse sprung out of my arms, and after a heart-attack inducing second or two, scrambled onto solid ground and up a steep hill. One more step, two, three… my head spun and my heart pounded. There. I clung to soil and suddenly realized my phone -secured in a race belt (all right, fanny pack) around my waist- had been completely submerged.
I freed it from its pouch as I crawled uphill, utterly amazed by my own stupidity.
When I made it to the top, finally back on the proper trail, I looked for a place to sit down. I sucked in a few deep breaths, adrenaline coursing through my veins. You’re lucky no one is here to witness your fool self.
I decided to keep walking, glancing down at the rushing rapids. If I hadn’t caught Uncle Jesse… I tried not to think about what might have happened; the next half mile was even more treacherous than where we’d crossed.
We trudged the final, endless mile back to the car, swatting away hundreds of blood thirsty mosquitos, the pain in my left leg growing.
107…108…I did not know it was possible to sustain this many mosquito bites
and live to tell about it.
When we reached the parking lot, I peeled off my soaked, mud-covered socks and collapsed in the driver’s seat. Thirty minutes later, a dripping wet, bug-bitten, bleeding blonde could be seen purchasing several bottles of wine from the local Fred Meyer.
I’m ticking one of the boxes next week, sans cell service, which means I won’t be putting up my usual Wednesday blog post, but I promise -PROMISE- the following post will make up for it. I mean it’s probably going to be the best thing I’ve ever written. Because it will involve your very favorite topics on this blog, based on the search term analytics that led you here: my suffering, sweating and -possibly- nudity.
Did you know that all you have to do to acquire THE BEST BEER KOOZIE (and deck of cards) EVER was drive 2,777 miles? Somewhere in the land of…well…LAND, I started to spot curious signs.
Forget your Exxon Mobil. Forget your BP gas. I bring to you…
Naturally, I couldn’t walk away from Kum & Go without a trinket or ten. And because I’m living the dream, I want to pay it forward. To you, dear reader.
ALL OF THIS CAN BE YOURS:
To enter, simply leave a comment describing your worst road trip (or other car) moment by 12 midnight PST (awww yeah, my first PST deadline!), Tuesday, July 2, 2019. The winner will be extremely subjectively chosen by whatever cute Oregonian is jogging (or stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking or mountain biking) by at that moment.
In between seeing fantastic local musicians, we subjected her three-legged, one-eyed dog to all kinds of unbidden “fun”…
…saw the sights…
…ate so much plant-based foodie goodness…
…and of course, went on oodles of hikes.
The best part of the Duluth Homegrown Festival -a 20 year-strong, nonprofit tradition that features local musicians performing all over town for an entire week- was the close-knit community vibe. For eight straight days, like-minded music lovers united to support their fellow Duluthians, shouting, “Happy Homegrown!” and sharing smiles at every turn.
Besides the bargain booze, highlights included:
And now I’m back in New Jersey.
I may have just signed a year-long lease on an apartment in a city 3,000 miles away that I’ve never been to.
It sounds like a dream come true, right? Freedom, adventure, new friends… What could go wrong?
Unlimited Cell Service? Psssshhh.
After discovering that the middle of Maine was a dead zone (at least for me), I took to hand writing my directions before entering unknown territory. Luckily, the impressively eclectic radio stations provided the perfect soundtrack for my 90s-style, Google maps-less travel. (Rant for another day: Why does New York City radio have the most monochromatic music on the face of the planet?)
“Fully Equipped Kitchen” Means Very Different Things to Different People
If you’re planning to do any cooking on the road, and assuming your lodging (mostly AirBnbs, in my case) will come equipped with certain basics as described — think again. Here are some common items missing in one or all of my AirBnb kitchens: Ice cube trays, wine opener, strainer (colander), dishwasher soap/cleaner, pot large enough for boiling pasta, curtains (ahem), and spatula.
You’re Going to Spend More Money Than You Think You Are
As a [former] project manager, I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t fully acknowledge the ‘over deadline, over budget’ mantra that accompanies so many projects – including road trip ones. Besides ALL THE GASOLINE, unplanned expenditures are bound to crop up almost daily. Like, oh, I don’t know, duty charges on your case of wine, forgetting your dog’s kibble and discovering he’ll accept no substitutions apart from homemade people food, and ice cube trays/spatulas/THINGS ANY NORMAL KITCHEN SHOULD HAVE.
But lest you think road travel is all a pile of tears…
Most People Are Mostly Nice. Really Nice.
By far the best part of traveling alone is forcing yourself to rely on the kindness of others. Rarely did I find anyone who wasn’t more than willing to offer the insider scoop, their washer/dryer, or just a general helping hand. I’m headed back to New Jersey with friendships and experiences I never would have had were I to stay inside my comfort zone.
And isn’t that the whole point?
Next time, though? I’m bringing my $%&*@! colander.
Have you ever road tripped? Was it what you expected?
“Hello. Bonjour,” a baby-faced, tow-haired man greeted, nodding curtly at me.
“Hello,” I answered to indicate that, while I was in fact learning French, I didn’t think ‘Where is the bathroom?’ and ‘My dog is beautiful and intelligent’ would be particularly helpful in this moment.
“Do you have any weapons, firearms, commercial goods?” he asked.
“No,” I replied easily, my hands resting on my steering wheel.
“Yes, a case of wine.”
“I’m saw-ry, how much?”
I gulped. “A case…?”
“How many baw-tles is that?”
“Twelve. Well, eleven. I drank one last night.”
He raised his eyebrows and looked at the officer in the booth behind him. They began having a hushed conversation. He turned back to me, looking like he was trying not to smile.
“Are you planning to leave them all in Canada?”
“That was the plan,” I said, smiling nervously.
“Why do you have so much wine?”
You don’t get out of this booth much, do you, sir?
“Well, I’m visiting a friend and I thought I should be a good guest and not show up empty-handed… She’s having friends over this weekend to welcome me…”
I wasn’t entirely sure if this was true, but it could be true.
“The first two bottles are free, but you’re going to have to pay a duty charge on the others. You can decide if it’s worth it to keep them. Just pull to the left and go inside.”
$61.90 ($46.30 USD) later, I was back on the road to Nova Scotia, my bubbly safely nestled in my trunk where it belonged. What’s more, my cell service was as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as the border patrol officer (unlike during my most recent adventure…). Things were looking good.
When I hit the small university town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, nestled an hour northwest of Halifax, I easily navigated the two blocks to my AirBnB apartment. As I was about to pull up the steep driveway, I saw a college-aged woman coming down the sidewalk. I paused to let her pass, but instead she knelt down at the corner of the driveway. My gaze followed her reach and I soon realized she was picking up a large branch that was lying in my path. She moved it aside and grinned at me.
It took me a moment to realize that she was not only offering roadside clean-up, but also allowing me, the non-pedestrian, to pass in front of her.
Oh holy cannolis. I am not in Jersey anymore.
As soon as I unpacked, I checked my phone.
“I can pop over in a little bit to say hi and we can make a plan for tomorrow, if that works!” my most recent text read.
After years of communicating through our blogs and joking-but-not-really about me visiting, I was finally within a few short miles kilometers of one of my oldest bloggy friends, Sandy from Sandy the Social Butterfly. We’d never video chatted or talked on the phone, but I wasn’t worried. Over the years I’d had nothing but sparkly experiences meeting other bloggers in person.
Thoughtsy and Go Jules Go.
Sandy arrived a few minutes later and immediately gifted me a bottle of her favorite Nova Scotian wine. Her stunning bright blue eyes sparkled and she was dressed to kill. Meanwhile, I was covered in 10+ hours of car funk and not sure if I’d remembered deodorant.
“I didn’t realize you’d be so tall!” she said.
And I’m only in sneakers, I thought. I didn’t miss my heels, which I’d left back in New Jersey, knowing my 3+ weeks in Maine and Canada wouldn’t call for them.
We gabbed enthusiastically before heading a few blocks downtown for a glass of wine, quickly falling into conversation like old friends. The waiter took our photo and made sure we’d promise to tell him if he should take another one.
“Canadians are so nice it almost makes me uncomfortable,” I confessed to Sandy.
Over the next few days, Sandy showed me around town, took me to wineries, kicked my ass in her boot camp class, arranged a gorgeous hike, and introduced me to her friends. (Too bad they were real bitches.)
P.S. – Even the dogs in Canada are nicer.
How does it feel when you travel? Do the people start getting nicer…or not?
You know how golfers love to compare their sport to life? Heavy-handed metaphors about taking aim, working with the winds of change, etc.?
I’m starting to do the same. With hiking.
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.
As 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.”
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.
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.”
Then I picked this trail:
Then I drove an hour there. I was ready and rarin’ to go.
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.
2. Hiking Guide Books ‘under’ embellish.
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.
4. In New Jersey, you can run, but you can’t hide. From cicadas.
5. Some Most times, you’ll see some cool ass shiz.
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.
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?