Trying to stay sane, take 2

Yes, that’s right, TRYING so very hard. I have 2 weeks of spring break (which is why I’m home and not in North Carolina) and I THOUGHT that I’d just get to chill at home (with that minor excursion to Virginia Beach. But instead, my parents just sprang on me that when they drive me back to school (which is always really nice of them to do instead of putting me on a bus – see I know how to be the grateful child too) we’re going to leave a few days early to spend some time at Stone Mountain State Park.

I actually just took a minute to google this place and in so doing, I’ve already calmed down a bit. How bipolar do I sound?? It just that the last few days that I was planning on being in Richmond, overlap with another friend coming home from college for the weekend, though the truth is, I think we’ll still overlap for a day. Anyways, apparently we’re going to Stone Mountain with the Casons b/c Jocelyn goes to school with me and we’re friends and all so I shouldn’t complain too much.

Also, I just don’t like surprises.

So actually this place looks pretty cool. There’s rock climbing and fishing and my mom said she didn’t know yet if we’d camp out or get a cabin. And we’ll be driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway to get there which is supposed to be pretty. Apparently it’s “a shame” that I now live in NC but haven’t really traveled through the state.

Though I have been to places on the coast like Hammocks Beach State Park on Bear Island and Carolina Beach State Park, which is so far my most favorite beach ever, but that could be because that’s where I met Ricky (the guy my parents hate), though it does also happen to be a pretty cool beach.

And last time my parents drove me to school we went to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. And another time to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher —have I told you about my fishmonging father?

Whatever. My mom asked me to go online and find things we can do at Stone Mountain so that’s why I’m here—any suggestions?

Verdict is up: NJ is NOT the armpit of America!

I’ve been traveling all over lately that if finally just feels good to stay at home for a bit. My paralegal job is in the city and I’ll be sharing an apartment (if you can even call it that!) in the city, so I guess I should try and appreciate my parents’ large sprawling home while I’ve still got it.

People call New Jersey the “armpit of the U.S.” but somehow, how do I put this…I guess when it’s your own armpit, it’s really not that bad. In fact, I’d say NJ is the forearm of America, or wrist even. Whatever, drop the analogy—my point is the NJ is not so bad!

Anyways, I’m going on the road again, but this time, on the road to the malls of New Jersey! Woohoo! I need to buy a TON of stuff to furnish my half of our apartment so I’m trading cars with my mom and taking her mini van all over the state to get the best deals. Not to brag or anything, but I happen to be a fantastic shopper… just one of my many talents! 

I already went to Monmouth Mall since it’s the one right by my house. I sometimes just stop there to pick up lunch because they’ve got a Salad Works and I’m trying to lose a little weight so I can move to NYC thin (is that pathetic?). Anyways, to encourage myself I bought something at Jessica McClintock that pulls just the tiniest bit too much (is that dumb?).

Tonight I’m going over to Freehold Raceway Mall with some friends, mainly to check out the collection at Kirkland’s Home Furnishings, but I’m sure we’ll also pop into Forever 21 and Dead Sea Cosmetics…hello?…i’m moving to NYC, I gotta look good!

Tomorrow my mom and I and said friend (hi Carly!) are all are going to go to Ocean County Mall in Toms River. We figured we’d make a day of it and drive down to Point Pleasant Beach and then stop at the mall on our way back. We’re going to go canoeing on the Manasquan River and eat cheese fries (not good for diet)—I’ll make up for by getting a salad for lunch…Ocean County Mall has an Everything Yogurt & Salad Café.

I guess it’s not such an extensive tour, but 3 malls are probably adequate since I don’t actually need so much (though I like to pretend that I do).

Wish me good weather tomorrow!

Martha’s ready to get away again! (just need a little advice…)

I happen to have accrued a lot of vacation days from work. I haven’t taken full vacations for the last 4 years and since we have a cumulative vacation day policy, I’ve got about a month left that I can still take this year. I get a little crazy about it actually. As I was writing that I was thinking, wow, if I don’t take them this year, then next year I’ll have SIX weeks. But I’ve got to break that habit, otherwise I will NEVER GO ANYWHERE, and I’m done living like that!

So I think starting on the Thursday before Memorial Day I’m going to drive up to Oregon for a 2-3 week roadtrip. Why Oregon, you ask? Well, why not? I’ve been reading up on things to do/see in Oregon, so I’m starting to get some ideas for us there and there are also a few places along the way that I’ll check out (like Red Rock Canyon in Nevada). Most of all, I’m going to bring my journal (which is really my laptop) and I’m going to get some writing done. I have drafts of poems and short stories that I’ve written in the past (some as far back as 20 or 30 years ago!) and I’d like to devote some serious time to getting them in better shape to share with the world, in one way or another.

I guess I just want to throw out some of my ideas and see if anyone has suggestions. I’ve heard amazing things about Mt. Hood National Forest and Golden-Silver Falls State Park (is it wrong to choose a place based on it’s name?), so I’d like to make sure that I at least get to these. Other than that, I’m open to suggestions. Maybe also Crater Lake National Park.

Browsing through other people’s trip itineraries online, I’ve come across this trip which looks like a good few days trip around Portland, which is something I’d also like to do. Any other “must do’s” in the area?

I figure that if I do stop at Red Rock Canyon, I’ll go in Vegas while I’m in the area, even though it doesn’t quite fit into the theme of my outdoors traveling itinerary…Though I just checked mapquest and it’s a 20 hour drive from Phoenix to Portland, but that’s going up the California Coast, not going through Nevada as I had wanted and I don’t want to go TOO far out of my way. Has anyone done this trip before?

Westward, ho!

Confession 1: I stole a road sign. I know that is totally wrong and completely not my style, but there were 2 deer crossing signs about a foot away from each other and one of them was all crooked and about to fall down and they MUST have put the other one up to replace the old falling down one and it really was just hanging by a thread (like a metal thread, what’s that called?) and it was like 2 a.m. and we had been driving for so long and there it was.

Confession 2: I am totally geographically challenged. I went out on this road trip thinking we would just zip from one city to the next and then from state to state to state until we ran out of states. But it takes a freakin long time to get from place to place!

Last I wrote, we were in Pittsburgh, which was fun. We spent a lot of time by the Alleghany River and took the cable car up Mount Washington where we got a breathtaking view of the city—and a taste of where teenagers who want to make out go to get away from their parents. Hung out with Jackie for a few days and caught up and she got to meet Ryan who she loved (who wouldn’t?), and not that I’m insecure, but I do always love when my friends like my boyfriends. Jackie lives in the “Strip” district, which has a noisy outdoor market and some trendy nightclubs (that I wouldn’t step foot in, of course) that kept me up late and woke me up early, but at least it seems like a really lively place. Very colorful and bursting with life.

We left late last night, drove for a loooooong time (getting lost a few times and stopping for that deer sign — I seriously don’t know what we were thinking) and then crashed at a friend of Ryan’s from the Rainbow Family in Glen Jean, West Virginia. I haven’t really gotten a chance yet to explore—we’re going out as soon as I get off the computer to New River Gorge National River to do some serious whitewater rafting. I’m actually a little scared b/c aren’t some of the biggest rapids in the world in West Virgina? And apparently we’re not allowed to leave the area before going to Gauley River National Recreation Area.

Wish me luck…

Oh, btw, I have no cell phone service here, but I’ll probably check my email again before we leave—we’ll probably be here for a few days, at least.

Ok, ok, I’m going!
Peace!

I’m Baaack!

Bro, don’t read this: I ended up hitching a ride from Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico and then all the way to Albuquerque. I was at Guadalupe Canyon (in the NP) which is by far the most magnificent and I ran into this old man who actually I’d run into already at Big Bend National Park a few days earlier…turns out he’s doing a similar trekking route as the one I’ve got (sort of) planned, so he gave me a ride ‘cross the border to our next stop in Carlsbad (it was just under an hour, still in the Guadalupe Mountains, so I probably could’ve ridden my bike—had I not been so damn trusting and left it unlocked by my hostel a few stops back. First my laptop, then this. Grrr.). But then Old Man gave me a ride to Albuquerque which is where he lives and while I probably could’ve biked that over the course of a few days, it was nice getting a free 6 hour ride.

The companionship was certainly nice while I’ve got it. I’ve met a ton of people down here, but most of these “friendships” last for the duration of a hike and then dissolve as quickly as they picked up. Though now I have random people imprinted upon the peaks of the mountains I’ve scaled in the Southwest.

George ended up being a great tour guide through the Carlsbad Caverns National Park — there’s this incredible network of underground caves that date back about 500,000 years. George knew the ins and outs and brought me to some very cool rock formations within some hidden caves. Apparently he had been bringing his kids and grandkids for years but this year they were “busy” (I think it’s more complicated than that) so he was happy to have the company of a young person, I think.

When we got to Albuquerque, he let me shower at his house and then he dropped me off at Cottonwood Mall and now George is just another bleep on my radar. Never to be seen again, but probably never forgotten. If I were to be writing a play or a screenplay, George would be the apocalyptal Old Man…the seer who comes to this world to watch over the orphan child and lead him in the direction of the gods….

I had no idea how welcome the cool walkways of a huge indoor mall would be. I’m not generally Mr. Mall, but, what an alternate universe: People who are CLEAN and SOCIALIZING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY… almost foreign concepts to me by now. I got a twang of…something. Would I say homesickness? Maybe. I went to the food court and got something delicious and greasy and then…Tim is really reverting back to his old ways… saw a movie. Saw 10,000 BC which was both fun and crap—one of my alltime favorite genres…

I found a hostel (which is where I am now, finally online connected with the world) and I think I’m going to lay low for a few days and explore this city. My body physically needs a break from climbing.

BTW, is my movie taste that bad?
Haha—I just saw that Rotten Tomatoes gave 10,000 BC a 9% rating. That’s probably the lowest rated movie I’ve ever seen…and yet, I enjoyed it. What does that say about me?

Next stop? Hmmm… You’ll just have to wait and find out!

Trying to stay sane

I am in the worst mood ever, and sometimes the only thing that makes me feel better is to drive to Short Pump Mall. Besides the fact that it reminds me that Richmond doesn’t suck as bad as it used to, there also happens to be a Barnes & Noble right next door where I can go and mope over a cup of coffee and a self-help book.

I’m at home in Richmond visiting my parents (I’m in boarding school in North Carolina for my last year of highschool…b/c I WANT to, not b/c I’m a bad kid…) and every time I come home my parents get on my case about this guy who I’m seeing that they don’t really like so much. It just really stresses me out because I respect my parents’ opinion so much and they usually respect my decisions, so then I just start to doubt how I feel about Ricky and then I get all anxious and insecure and ARGH!!!

Anyways, that’s not why I’m writing here. I just found this site and like the idea of sharing nice travel experiences, so I thought it would be a good idea for me to focus on something fun my family did and then I got carried away with my rant so now I’m going to try and back up a bit.

Out of all my 17 years on Earth (all of which were spent in Richmond), my family has never once gone to Virginia Beach. I’d gone only once or twice with friends, but never as a family (i.e. never staying overnight in a nice hotel). So we went earlier this week, stayed in a Holiday Inn (that’s nice compared to the dumps I’ve crashed at) and actually had a good time. We spent a lot of time on the beach and on the shops that line the coast. Got some chotchkas and some food that’s probably really bad for you (and yet so good). When we needed a break from the sun we hid out in Lynnhaven Mall for a few hours. There’s a Barnes & Noble there, so we were all happy (we’re all big readers). I even begged my parents (who gave in!) to take me to the Build-A-Bear Workshop which was SO MUCH fun! (Yes, you read that right, I’m 17 and begged my parents for a stuffed animal…and got it, hee hee.) We actually went back the next day for a movie. Saw Shine a Light which was pretty good, but apparently I’m “too young” to get all the references. The Rolling Stones are pretty retro these days and since retro means kinda cool, I kinda know a thing or two about them (or at least that’s how I had to spell it out to my parents who for some reason thought my interest in 70s music meant I was snorting cocaine). Sometimes I feel like my parents are immigrants, though my family’s been in this country pretty much since it started.

At some point in there we also went to the Virginia Aquarium Marine Science Center for my fish-enthusiast dad.

Ok, I actually do feel a little better. See, self-help books do help! (I had read in one of the books in my stack to write about sometime good to take the focus off the bad.)

There’s more than just Starbucks and grunge…

I only have a few more months until I start my job (paralegal in NYC—eek!) so you might be seeing a number of posts for me. I’m seriously about to spend all my money traveling all over this beautiful country of ours! Anyways, a little over a month ago I roadtripped with some friends down the east coast, 2 weeks ago I visited my grandmother, and now I just got back from Seattle.

I got off the plane and was greeted by my cousin and her boyfriend whom I had never met. I hadn’t seen Jenny is over a year and was eager to meet the guy that she had met, fallen in love with really quickly, and was planning to marry way too soon (in my opinion). I had never been to Washington so wanted to see as much as possible in the 4 days that I’d be there. From the airport we were going straight to Spencer Spit State Park Beach which is on Lopez Sound, a bit of a ways out. Like halfway there though I realized that I had forgotten to pack a bathing suit, so we stopped at Alderwood Mall for a quick bikini hunt (why do I always forget SOMETHING when I travel?) and then we were back on our way. Just the drive itself got me excited for my trip. First of all, the scenery was stunning. Mountains and flowers and the sky was perfectly blue and sun was bright. Our windows were down and I got to breathe in luscious mountain air—what a high! Also, Jeremy (the guy) and I were hitting it off. You should see how he looks at Jenny—maybe people can really fall in love that quickly… Spencer Spit was beautiful. We were camping out that night, so set up camp and then spent the rest of the day lounging and hiking around the area. I’m not the world’s most interested birdwatcher, but couldn’t help but be awed by some of the birds nesting around us. The next morning, we woke up with the sun, ate leftover hotdogs for breakfast, and then headed back to Seattle. We dropped our stuff off at their apartment and then went straight to the Woodland Park Zoo, which was a lot of fun. Jenny and I used to go on family trips together when we were younger and our favorite stops were always the zoos—so this was no exception! We went out to eat later and then crashed at home in front of a movie at like 9pm.

The next day we went to the Seattle Aquarium for a few hours which was fun—I’m really not so into aquariums, but Jeremy is a fourth grade teacher and happens to know all about the aquarium, so it was actually rather cute seeing him getting so excited about every single fish we passed. We spent the rest of the day at Northgate Mall eating and shopping—2 of my favorite pastimes.

I was leaving the next afternoon, so in the morning we went to Alki Beach which is pretty close to downtown Seattle, and then we left for the airport. I was so sad! Well, at least I know I’ll be going out there again soon…for a wedding!

First stop: Pennsylvania!

I realize I was being a bit close-minded about the east coast. I know that the major cities that I was frustrated with comprise only a small portion of the coast… really I think I was just distressed with my job which was supposed to be an environmental grassroots group but which was so heavily under the influence of big business that it was losing its focus. Anyways, we’re in Ohiopyle in Pennsylvania and I just want to write about my experience in this gorgeous state so far. The Laurel Mountains are a wonder whose majesty left me dumbfounded and hungry for what’s to come in the next months. When we got to Ohiopyle State Park, we immediately met up with this group of very cool people from Denver who were just ending a roadtrip of their out to the east coast. We exchanged email addresses and we got a lot of GREAT info about where to go between here and Colorado. We spent 2 days at Ohiopyle State Park with our new friends. The only word to describe the area is awesome, and not in a totally awesome way, but in a truly awe inspiring way. There was waterfalls all over that made it just seem like water was pouring from all parts of the sky and gathering just before us, and there were waterslides which was crazy fun. The Denver people had A LOT of beers and we all drank and slid, drank and slid and by the end were covered with mud passed out in the sun. today they left early (I don’t know how they got up) and we’re just recuperating a bit at this campsite before we head out. Since Pittsburgh is so close, we’re going to spend the weekend at a friend’s house there. We’re picking Jackie up at the Ross Park Mall (where she works) and then taking her and her Little Sister to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Jackie and I both were Big Sisters together in college so we thought it would be fun to Big Sister together again.

Not that I want to plan to far ahead, but if I want to be in Missouri by the beginning of May, Ryan thinks that we should spend this month exploring Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky, but I also really wanted to go to Minnesota. I have a friend at Lake Maria State Park and I’ve heard beautiful things about that area. Does that make sense? Anyone have any ideas if we have time to head all the way up north before returning to Missouri by May 1?

Ryan says I should include that Kingpin and Silence of the Lambs were both filmed in Pittsburgh. Oh, and Groundhog Day.

Ok, will try and write again soon!

Let the road trip begin !

We are on the road, baby! Wow — is it wrong for me to be in awe of myself? I have totally just broken our apartment contract, drove all my stuff to my parent’s house in Braintree, packed just what I need, filled up my car with gas, made a quick stop at the South Shore Plaza (for a first aid kit), went to pick up Ryan, and now we’re GONE. Gotta get off this East Coast of appearances and commercial crap.

Get ready to be involved in a month-long (or more) journey of a (or my) lifetime! I’ve got my laptop and I’ll be recording our trip from Massachusetts to…somewhere. We’ll just be driving. We know we want to end up at the Rainbow Gathering in Wyoming on July 1st, or earlier to help setup. So actually we’ve got about 3 months, but I may stay with my sister and work for a while in Missouri waitressing or something because Ryan needs to be back in Boston for 2 weeks in the beginning of May. My sister lives near Montauk State Park which is a clear stroke of genius by the hand of my personal guiding goddess, Mother Nature.

I don’t mean to say that the whole east coast has been murdered by the corporate American dream, but somehow the bubble that I’ve created around myself has become stifling and it just NEEDS TO POP already. I need the great outdoors, I need air, I need to BREATHE. We’ve got my tent and we’re going to campsite jump for as long as we can. Also, I’m lucky enough to have Ryan (been together 4 years) and a Rainbow family across the country and we know that if we need a roof above my head, we’ll have one. Check out welcomehome.org to become a part of something truly amazing. Ryan actually is the driving force behind that. He’s been going to Rainbow since he was a kid, so he really does have “family” all over the country.

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Jacksonville Jewels

I woke up early this morning and rode my bike over to Atlantic Beach (I’m in Jacksonville visiting my grandmother). I saw the most GORGEOUS sunset. I had brought my yoga mat and spent a good half hour (which is a long time for me!) doing my sun salutations (Surya Namaskar) facing the beautiful rising sun. I spent the rest of the day shopping with my grandmother who needed some new towels and some good walking shoes. We ended up going to The Avenues Mall and to Regency Square Mall — just so she could see every single shoe choice in the whole city!

My grandmother is always raving about Amelia Island State Recreation Area Beach. She likes taking the boats around the area. We’ll bring a picnic, and apparently there are dolphins nearby, so I’m excited about that!

Oh, and just in case anyone reading this is planning a trip to Jacksonville, I highly recommend The ZOO at Gulf Breeze & NW Florida Zoological Park and Botanic Garden. We were there a few days ago and seriously spent all day with the animals and flowers. I think I had read somewhere that it was a good place for kids, but I think it’s a great place for 20-somethings and their grandmas! Ah…I love vacation!


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