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

#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

#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

Your New Life Has Arrived! (some assembly required)

I instinctively lifted my foot off the gas pedal and gripped the steeling wheel. My car slid backwards as I stared in the rearview mirror, wondering when the pick-up truck behind me would realize what was happening. Before or after we collided?

I can’t believe this. I cannot believe this.

The truck narrowly missed me, charging up the steep hill while I reached a trembling hand toward my hazard lights. As if it was my poor, low-riding, two-wheel drive Acura’s fault for not being able to overcome central Oregon’s lack of snow management.

F$&@%. What am I going to do?

No. Just…no.

Meet Suba-Ruby. SHE EATS CRAPPILY MANAGED ROADS FOR BREAKFAST!

Over the coming days, I moved countless boxes over icy sidewalks, painted walls and ceilings that felt like sandpaper, and waited for my couch to arrive so I could collapse at the end of each long day in anything other than a cold, metal camp chair.

I want my mommy.

And my couch did arrive. …Three weeks later.

F@&% you, Ashley Furniture!!! …No! No, wait! I’m just kidding. I love you. Come in. Do you want water? Cookies? Marijuana-infused soda (apparently that’s a thing here)?

I also checked my inbox repeatedly for any updates on a job offer I’d accepted earlier in the month. By the second week of December, with the apartment still in partial chaos and no news on the job, I flew to New Jersey for my twin niece and nephew’s Sweet 16, a.k.a. A New Circle of Hell that Requires Its Own Blog Post.

I now know what it feels like to be Leonardo DiCaprio in the face of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences circa 1993-2015: totally invisible. I had to sneak this photo before they kicked me out. I THOUGHT I WAS THE COOL AUNT. I THOUGHT I WAS THE COOL AUNT!!!!

Throughout the last few scattered and uncertain weeks, I kept myself sane by continuing my marathon training and French lessons, binge watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and creating the greatest calendar the world has ever known.

I know. I KNOW.

I also became an expert in cheap furniture assembly…

…Are there supposed to be this many leftover pieces?

…learned how to paint ceilings in high heels…

Because there was No. Way! I was going back to Home Depot for a pole extender.

…spent my first Christmas without my family…

…learned I can no longer party like it’s 1999…

…and attended my first drum circle, along with 66 other women.

You would have loved it, Jenn. (Photo taken from our 2019 Kristmas Krafty Korner – YES! We’ve kept the tradition going every year SINCE FIRST DOCUMENTED IN 2011 ON THIS VERY BLOG! …Not sure about our crafts, but both my camera and Jenn’s cocktail recipes have markedly improved.)

Though life kept marching onward, a familiar soundtrack accompanied every moment. Am I doing the right thing? Will I like this new job? Is this really the proper place and time to spend all of my savings on furniture plant roots? Will I ever find TRUE love? Why is Uncle Jesse looking at me like that? 

It seems I forgot to read the fine print on the “Live Your Dream Life!” manual.

I also went temporarily color blind when picking the bathroom paint color.

Despite taking a series of ballsy actions over the past year (like quitting a steady corporate job, selling all of my stuff, and moving across the country), building my dream life has felt a bit like parasailing. You experience the thrill of soaring freely through the air, all the while still tethered to whatever beliefs, constraints, and values you had before. Crippling insecurities, societal expectations, questionable past decisions… they don’t go away the minute you decide to spread your wings. 

Thankfully we are not tethered to paint colors. Ahhh. Much better.

Now, from the comfort of my new couch, Suba-Ruby sleeping soundly in the parking lot, I feel my pulse finally beginning to settle. Though the past six months have brought wave after wave of change, and though I cried at my friend’s Thanksgiving table when talking about having to sell my old car often think I might capsize beneath it all, I know I’m home. Because that boat I’m tethered to isn’t my shortcomings or my past or my fears – it’s my heart. No matter where I go, I can’t be anywhere BUT home.

~*~*~*~*~

What are you hoping 2020 will bring? (Psst, I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long. I’VE MISSED YOU EVERY DAY.)

~*~*~*~*~

humor

I Haven’t the Foggiest…No Wait. I Have.

Go Jules Go Title Graphic I haven't the foggiest... No wait. I have_20NOV2019png

Oh dear god no.

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Not today, Satan.

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I gripped the steering wheel and navigated countless potholes with the dexterity of a drunk toddler. I massaged my jaw. My ears were popping. Why were my ears popping?

Oh my f$^*&@ god. Is that snow?

I hadn’t seen another soul in at least a half an hour. I turned my phone off. Not like I had service anyway; might as well keep the battery fully loaded.

26 miles to go. A marathon. Well, at least I know I can walk it if I have to.

Jules-Hamptons-Marathon-27Sep2014
It’s a thing I do because I never really loved myself.

I went over my emergency plan for the twentieth time. I had my winter jacket, gloves, plenty of food and water, and a half a tank of gas. If my car decided to crawl into one of these cavernous potholes and never come out (I have a history with potholes), I’d probably survive. Maybe. I mean, I think so. I glanced at my temperature gauge.

I should have known this road trip wasn’t going to end well.

Maine-trip-AAA
Did I mention I have a history with potholes?

After an hour of navigating treacherous national forest roads between Packwood and White Salmon, Washington, I was never happier to see pavement. I’d been on the road for nine days ogling the Pacific Northwest.

With promising job prospects on the horizon, I figured it might be the last opportunity for a while for this Jersey girl to freely explore the terrain outside of Bend, Oregon (my new hometown).

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Not that the Bend sights deserve straying from.

From Mendocino, California to Cannon Beach, Oregon, most of the trip was fog-filled.

I began to wonder if it was a metaphor. (With no one but Uncle Jesse to keep me company, I had plenty of time to work on Deep Thoughts with Go Jules Go.)  Even though it felt like my life was finally headed in the right direction, was I still not seeing things clearly? Was this a reminder to keep moving forward, even if I couldn’t make out what was ahead?

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That’s not the “portrait” camera effect. That’s fog, I swear. Okay, it’s portrait view AND fog.

By the time I got to “NF-23” in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, nine days in, I was ready for sunshine.

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And wine. So much wine.

Thankfully, I got just that as I neared the Columbia River Gorge. Squinting, I pulled down my car’s visor and decided to do a quick loop to check out The Dalles and Hood River before settling into my AirBNB in White Salmon, WA. As I approached The Dalles, a white SUV zoomed past me and suddenly did a U-turn.

Oh my god. Are those…am I…being pulled over?

“Ma’am, I clocked you going 68 in a 55.”

Seriously? 55? On a highway going downhill?

“I’m so sorry. I’ve never been here before.”

I’ve only ever gotten one speeding ticket…when was that…14 years ago? God, I’m old.

With trembling hands, I forked over my license and registration, Uncle Jesse letting loose a series of piercing warning barks. When the officer returned a few minutes later, I was sure the paper in his hands was my big, fat ticket.

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Well, at least I got to see this (at a bookshop in Mendocino, CA) before I went to jail.

“I’m going to let you off with just a warning this time. You take care of yourself.”

“Thank you so much,” I breathed, shocked. “I’m so sorry.”

I drove off checking my speedometer every .00009 seconds. When I finally made it back to the AirBNB, I knew exactly what would calm my nerves: Korbel’s finest and the latest episode of Counting On. (You do know this blog’s original name was Go Guilty Pleasures, right?)

I pulled up the wifi network and entered the password.

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Fog or no fog, one thing was clear: It was time to go home and see what was around the next bend.

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So long, NF-23.

~*~*~*~*~*~

How do you fare on the road and with The Great Unknown? Any advice?

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

Letting Your Guard Rails Down

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Letting Your Guard Rails Down_13NOV2019

Not as nice as Bend, not as nice as Bend…

Sights whirred past as I tried my damndest not to go over 80 MPH. A giant, snow-capped mountain greeted me in the distance.

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Not bad. Not as nice as the Cascades…

When I reached my destination, the little mountain town of Mt. Shasta, California, I parked the car and let Uncle Jesse stretch his legs.

Every passerby -not that there were many- smiled and said hello. While my new home in Bend, Oregon seemed to have ruined me for any other town, there was one consistent theme along the west coast thus far.

The people.

Also the hats. A lot of hats out here.

“I’m Georgie, by the way!” the adorable receptionist-slash-barista said as she extended a slender hand. By now I was checking out of my hip Mt. Shasta motel and we’d spent the past ten minutes chit-chatting.

“If you and your husband are ever in Bend, you have my name and I have a second bedroom!” I said as I waved goodbye.

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Assuming you don’t mind sharing a bed.

Earlier in the week, I had decided to tick a few more west coast cities off my bucket list, and was pleasantly surprised when I found I could greet strangers like old friends as I wound my way from central Oregon to northern California. This whole…trusting…thing was kinda…nice.

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Almost as nice as the tap water.

During a recent trip back to New Jersey, my home state, I was startled to realize just how far I’d already let my guard down. After only four months in Bend, I’d forgotten how to avoid eye contact. To jump to the worst possible conclusion. To regard every kind act with suspicion.

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Oh, the landlord planted flowers? OVER WHOSE DEAD BODY?

I used to wear my cynicism, like most east coasters, as a badge of honor. You’re handing me a flier? Asking me how my day is? Hah! Go scratch, pal! I’ve got things to do! Places to be! Scowls to perfect!

Jules-wine-instagram
Vodka to drink!

But after just one week in Bend, I’d made a dozen friends and felt the reassuring hand of something I never knew I’d been missing: Community. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid to ask for -or offer- help. A ride to the airport, some extra boxes, paint supplies, you name it. My new hometown’s selfless generosity was infectious.

Here I am getting free metalsmithing lessons from the one and only Jim Dailing!

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Oh! And here’s a recent haul of free groceries from friends who just streamlined their diet! (Not pictured: The free wine some other friends dropped off just days before. …Yes, my reputation as the unhealthiest most fun vegan in Oregon precedes me.)

And sure, you’re gonna have to steal my sarcasm and pizza standards from my cold, dead hands (which I hope are buried under some beautiful flowers), but this whole neighborly love thing?

Bring it on.

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

Did you grow up in a don’t-make-eye-contact kind of environment, or a here’s-a-cup-of-sugar-you-didn’t-even-ask for place? Do you prefer one over the other?

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

humor, PSAs

The (Oregon) Transformation is Complete

Go Jules Go title graphic the Oregon Transformation is Complete_2OCT2019

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.

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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.

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Day 90: Socks with sandals. All hope is lost.

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This is the last known recording from Go Jules Go. If you have any information, please contact 1-800-CRY4HLP.

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What transformations have you undergone?

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Blogging

Poop Shovels and Potatoes: My First Backpacking Adventure

Go Jules Go Title Graphic_Poop Shovels and Potatoes My first backpacking adventure_18SEP2019

“Guessing everyone will want to bring their own poop shovel,” Kristen commented.

I scanned the Excel spreadsheet. Tarps, cook stove, First Aid kit, Kula cloth, Shee-wee…

Go Jules Go Backpacking Spreadsheet PM
I am not in Kansas Jersey anymore.

Words and phrases I’d never heard filled my eyes and ears last week as I geared up for my very first backpacking trip.

“I have -literally- nothing,” I said. “But I can bring food!”

Never underestimate a project manager in the kitchen.

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:

Buckle up. No, really. Really really.

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And bring whiskey.

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.

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Just because the potatoes required their own baby Bjorn…

“Don’t you worry,” I assured her. “Uncle Jesse and I can eat our weight in tubers.”

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Including tots.

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.

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Where’s your puffy, Mom?

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.

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Coffee. At least there was coffee.

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.

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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.

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humor, Just For Fun, Kvetching

Take A Hike

Go Jules Go Take a Hike Title Graphic_29AUG2019

“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.

I would have driven but my vision was, ah, obstructed.

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.

Mom. I’ve said it before. Get your s*&@ together.

“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.

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Oh, you wanted to see more of the lake? Sorry. There was this chipmunk.

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.

These trails are gonna be so great, Uncle Jesse!

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 simply cannot wait, Mom!

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.

Um…

“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.

The view from our motel.

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…

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and…

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…we were very, very glad we had packed extra wine.

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.”

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One of the items for purchase in the main office.

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.

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It was totally decent until the gnats arrived.

We spent the following hour surgically removing picnic table splinters from our hands…

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…and arrived back at the motel in time to enjoy some company right outside our door…

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…a refreshing shower…

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…and some of that new-fangled telly-vision.

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Ah, well. At least Uncle Jesse wasn’t holding a grudge.

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Not pictured: My giant bed. With me in it. And no doodle.

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Have any fun, roadside motel stories?

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Dating, PSAs

I’ve Hit the Shallow End

DISCLAIMER: Names have been changed because this is a very, very small town.

Go Jules Go title graphic_Ive hit the shallow end_21AUG2019

What’s that? How’s my dating life going, you ask?

Well, after the guy who yelled at me and the guy who scarred my friend for life, things started looking up. A few days ago, I attended a community event and an attractive man looked very familiar. Had he been there last month? Was he someone I might have briefly met through an acquaintance?

“Hey Carrie,” I whispered to my friend. “Who is that guy? I swear I know him. Oh my god, wait, I think he just ‘liked’ me last week on my dating app!”

What were the chances? Maybe this small town thing could work for me after all! The fact that we were at the same event meant we already had a few key things in common. Score!

Carrie, in typical Carrie fashion, smiled demurely and said between her teeth, “I’ll tell you about him later.” Her eyes widened by a fraction of an inch and I nodded conspiratorially.

I kept my distance and Carrie texted me after the night ended, including a link to a social media frenzy.

Turns out my latest prospect was suspected of first degree murder.

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Dodged a Bullet Possibly Literally_31JUL2019
Oregon is a lot bigger than New Jersey, from where I just moved. The dating options, however, ah, well, may not reflect this.

“Make sure you text all of your friends before you go on any dates!” Carrie reminded me warmly.

Thankfully, I’ve been too tied up with visiting friends and family to fraternize with Oregon’s Most Wanted.

I thought back to the prior week, when I’d invited another dating app fellow, Adam, to join me for happy hour with a few friends. He had been visiting to see if he’d like to move here, and we had all regaled him with our own Relocating Success Stories. Adam had been smart, laughed at my jokes, had had an adorable rescue dog, and looked like Darren Criss.

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For those of you who are new here, I’ve been blogging about my Darren Criss obsession infatuation totally healthy crush since 2011.

Adam had texted a few times afterwards, but I’d suspected wasn’t going to move here. Would I ever meet someone swoon-worthy who actually lived in my town? Or did I just keep upping my sidewalk chalk game with the neighbors?

This picture really doesn’t do us justice.

Then there was the Australian gentleman who bought my groceries for me this weekend when my debit card acted up. Yes, that’s a thing that happens here, because I live in Shangri-La. Unfortunately, he was my father’s age.

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And I’ve had enough therapy for one lifetime.

So what’s my next move? Well, considering I signed a year lease, it won’t involve another physical move.

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And seriously. Who the f&@* would ever leave this place?

You know what? I think I’m just gonna hold out until Darren Criss gets a divorce.

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Has your dating life ever been so rife with the criminal element? That, much like, “Are you, grooming facility, accepting new dog clients?” is a question I never thought I’d ask until I moved to central Oregon.

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