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?
On Friday morning, thanks to a colleague, I discovered my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification test scores were higher than I thought. I wasn’t particularly keen on being called “moderately proficient” in all 6 test areas, but as it turns out, even scoring “below proficient” on some sections earns you a passing grade. Man. I don’t even know how I keep my head up with all these brains inside it.
On Friday I was also exposed to this brilliant GaGa performance, thanks to Hubster’s Howard Stern-listening ways:
Step #2: Throw caution (and your dog’s leash) to the wind and loudly sing Bruno Mars songs in the woods.
On Saturday morning, we welcomed a gloriously sunny, 80-degree day here in western New Jersey, so the fam went for a hike in the Round Valley reservoir area. Why is that a guilty pleasure, you ask? Because, aside from belting out “The Lazy Song“, we let the dog off his leash for the whole 4 miles (shhh)! Who’s a good boy? Uncle Jesse is, yes he is! Look at these little tree huggers:
Step #3: Do anything that requires you to wear glasses like these:
As for my Saturday evening guilty pleasure activity, it looks like not many of you were as interested as me in seeing the Glee 3D Concert movie, which is supposedly playing for
only 2 weeks. Babs, my sister and I were 3 out of only 10 people in the theater. I won’t hold it against you, though, because it isn’t nearly as cool as seeing the concert live in the flesh (they filmed the 3D movie during one of the New Jersey concerts; sadly, not the one I attended). They had some touching ‘underdog’ storylines rolling between songs, but it really was a concert movie, and it’s just not all that fun to sit still and watch a concert, even on the big screen in 3D.
The best part of the concert (aside from any moment featuring Blaine [Darren Criss]) was Brittany (Heather Morris) performing Britney Spears‘ “I’m a Slave 4 U.” That girl can dance! (Sorry, I couldn’t find any quality concert clips of this on YouTube.) Mercedes (Amber Riley) singing one of my favorite Aretha songs (“Ain’t No Way”) was goosebump-inducing, too. Those kids are nauseatingly talented. Can’t wait for Season 3 of “Glee” (airs Wednesday, Sep. 21st on FOX)!
Step #4: Drink [heavily] and practice saying, “The pee-pee does the picking.”
On Sunday, all the rain that was ever in the sky decided to fall at once, giving me the perfect excuse to stay inside and do nothing (though it did put a damper on previous ‘mini swim party’ plans I was looking forward to). If drinking vodka tonics and watching reruns of my new favorite show, “Millionaire Matchmaker“, counts as nothing, that is. And I kind of like to think of it as conducting research for you fine people. I may write a post dedicated to this startlingly amazing show, but in the meantime, tune into Bravo since they’re airing marathons practically ’round the clock. If you hate the matchmaker (Patti Stanger) for the first 5 minutes, beware. So did I.