Blogging, humor

Ride or Die…Ski Lift Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gulp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Right?

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

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

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

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

I stopped dead in my tracks.

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

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

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

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

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My helmet, in all its bowling ball glory.

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

“I’m Jules! It’s great to meet you!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And suddenly, 26 years in the making…

REDEMPTION. Turns out..

…I LIKE TO SKI.

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

#NeverInNewJersey

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

Socks with sandals. Need I say more?

Then I had to buy a Subaru.

Annnnd NOW the transformation is complete.

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

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

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

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

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

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT B

This snowman:

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

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT C

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

GIRLFRIEND #1: Where do you live?

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

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

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

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

#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT D

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

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

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

STEFANIE: Sure!

ME: You can borrow my Sno-Park pass!

Central Oregon: Where Even the Snow is Nicer!

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

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

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

Attn: All personnel including Irene

Camelback Mountain Resort

301 Resort Dr.

Tannersville, PA 18372

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

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

A wrist band or a cesspool of regret? Photo credit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh. Double ugh.

Kind Regards,

Go Jules Go

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.

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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, 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.

~*~*~*~*~*~

What transformations have you undergone?

~*~*~*~*~*~

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.

~*~*~*~*~*~

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.

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

This Wasn’t the Plan

Go Jules Go Title Graphic This Wasnt the Plan_4SEP2019

“We’re just gonna gun it,” Erin said.

The three of us stared up the hill from the safety of Erin’s Jeep.

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“If that Sprinter van could do it, we can do it,” Other Erin said.

Less off-road-worthy vehicles lined the road, their passengers watching to see who would tackle the beast next. On the other side of the cavernous potholes sat one of the best hikes in the area.

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And in central Oregon, that’s saying something.

Erin floored it and in a matter of seconds we knew: this wasn’t happening. Other Erin hopped out of the car.

“Okay, turn your wheels this way!” she shouted, motioning with her arms. My heart raced. We were dangerously close to rolling off the edge of the road.

“Don’t worry, the trees will stop a fall,” Erin assured me.

I peered over the side of the car, clutching Uncle Jesse. I am not ready to die.

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Well, you’ve done it again, Mom.

By the time Other Erin said, “Okay, your front wheel is off the ground,” I wanted to cry.

“I’m sorry, I need to get out,” I blurted and quickly grabbed Uncle Jesse’s leash, fleeing for solid ground.

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As I scurried down the hill to join the other onlookers, overhearing Other Erin say, “Okay, now three wheels are off the ground,” I thought back to the weekend’s adventures. It was Monday, Labor Day, and I was certain I couldn’t have crammed anymore excitement into a three-day period.

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I’M GOOD.

First, there was Uncle Jesse’s inaugural 10k, after which I drank a free hard cider (because this is Oregon), promptly vomited, then hiked uphill to a picture perfect lake where a new friend floated in a unicorn raft while I watched from a hammock strung between two Ponderosa pines.

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Then I picked up some Pacific Crest Trail hitchhikers who needed a lift and ran into a family whose raft tipped in the Deschutes River rapids, waiting with them until help arrived, followed by an impromptu sing-a-long at a friend’s house. That was Saturday.

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Uncle Jesse post-10k. Show off.

Speckled between those moments were more live music, planning my first backpacking trip, skinny dipping in a lake (okay, maybe that was a spectator sport for some), and hard cider – that I did manage to keep down.

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A year ago, I was slogging away on a Masters thesis, working full-time in Corporate America, hauling my $25-a-week Trader Joe’s groceries to a third floor walk-up into a 350 square foot apartment in suburban New Jersey, scrimping and saving every penny I could. I had planned to stay in my hometown for at least three more years, until I had just the right number stockpiled in my checking account.

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Uncle Jesse finds the only place he can spread out in the tiny apartment.

A year ago, the idea of living in a place where I could hike to a new lake every day, make instant friends, and bump into neighbors on the top of a mountain (more than once), was unfathomable.

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Hey, I know you!

A year ago, I hadn’t even met the friends who would help convince me to move to Bend, Oregon, sight unseen.

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They’re very persuasive.

As I watched Steve, a stranger and Patron Saint of Pothole Navigating, climb into Erin’s Jeep and expertly back us away from certain death, I knew life had many more twists and turns in store.

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Did someone say “twists and turns”?

A short while later, the Erins and some of my other new friends toasted on the shoreline of a beautiful, almost completely private, lake. While it wasn’t the hike we’d set out to do, we couldn’t argue against our good fortune.

“To Plan B,” we said in unison.

“And Steve!”

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Steve, you really missed out. (They’re naked.)

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How has life surprised you?

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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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Blonde Moments, humor, Kvetching, PSAs

The Mountains are Calling and I Must…NO.

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I glanced at the clock. 1:15pm PST.

No matter! I’ve still got eight hours of daylight left here in beautiful central Oregon!

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It’s 10:00pm in Oregon. Do you know where your local hard cider is?

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.

America the Beautiful Park Pass
Don’t be fooled. Apparently there are 47 different kinds of national/state/city park tags you’ll need to purchase if you want to (spoiler alert) suffer wildly.

On top of the colorful car tags, I also spotted a lot of these:

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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.

Since quitting my corporate job in March, I’d been hiking constantly. In New Jersey. Now, three weeks into my new Oregon life, I was seriously upping the ante.

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That’s how we do(odle).

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.

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My Jersey self never fails to think it’s the din of ever-present highway traffic.

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.

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It ain’t no thang!

“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.

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I suspect this will look more impressive over the coming days.

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.

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Quick question. Why are you so dumb, Mom?

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.

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And this souvenir was spotted in my trusty guidebook. (Vegan disclaimer: Many, many bugs were harmed in the making of this post, but not on purpose.)

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Had any fun run-ins with Mother Nature lately??

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