Wedtrip 2016: How Chuck, Bucky & Ron Kept Me Moving

‘Out battered suitcases were piled high on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.’ -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Topping off at 6300 miles round-trip, this year’s ‘Wedding Roadtrip’ was by far mine and the General’s most extensive excursion yet.

midwest2

Inside the General–probably the most common setting for my snapchats

I was so thankful when I heard the three weddings I wanted to go to this summer all happened to be in an eight-day span–I did not have to consider choosing.

 

midwest15Seeing college buddies again after a year of separation brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Thank you to all the happy couples for gathering everyone together again! I also stayed with friends en route–Matt and Maddy in Portland, The Sean Berry outside Denver, Mitch during one of my four treks across the state of Nebraska. In St. Louis I had three days ‘off’ from driving, and stayed with Emily & Tommy, experiencing St. Louis and relaxing by the pool. I also explored St. Charles with college friend Brittany and Arizona-childhood friend Kristen, the latter of whom moved to St. Louis and strangely enough met Brittany at their mutual church.

midwest12I could not even begin to list all the beautiful people with whom I reconnected at the weddings and during Seward NE’s famous Fourth of July celebration. I love making friends wherever I go, but relaxing in the presence of dozens of people you love and who love you back brings a peace beyond words. We reminisced old memories, made new ones, listened to a lot of country music, shared a few drinks, talked about tractors, and danced the night away. Country people and their gracious communities will always captivate me.

midwest7The mechanical issues on this trip were a bit disheartening, but each situation was better manageable. I left Seattle almost directly from the shop after replacing a severely frayed throttle cable. After 2000 miles, only 100 miles short of my first destination, the bearings in my A/C compressor locked up and snapped the fan belt while I was on the highway at 9 p.m. on a Friday. (Nothing ever breaks during normal business hours, does it?) I tearfully called Dad in Montana and he immediately had a tow truck take me to a mechanic who was open late, and I drove away two hours later. In addition, I knew plenty of people in Omaha NE, and the Doerrs opened their home to me, complete with air mattress, until I could finish the final stretch the following morning. On the return trip I ran out of oil in Kimberly ID at 10 p.m., but a helpful country boy and his sister added oil to the thirsty General, directed me to my campground, and gave me the name and address of a mechanic who opened early the next morning for a proper oil change.

midwest5In regards to timing, I broke down in all the ‘right’ places and without major readjustments to my schedule. The bigger damage was, of course, to my wallet. I had budgeted generously for the trip and even portioned out a few bucks for a tune-up at Chuck’s Auto Repair before the trip, but did not think I would have two more trips to–you guessed it–Bucky’s Express and Ron’s American Car Care Center before returning to Seattle.

midwest3Financially there was one major thing that kept me from complete disaster: an app called Roadie. Roadie, the self-termed ‘On-the-Way Delivery Network,’ allowed me to compare my route with people who needed stuff hauled across the country. Kevin C. wanted his motorcycle hauled from Portland OR to Millcreek UT, and I happened to be going that way. By using the app to contact Kevin, I met his brother outside Portland, who loaded Kevin’s bike into the bed of my pickup, securing it themselves with their own equipment.

I was off! I drove 13 hours with what felt like half the gold of Fort Knox in the bed of my pickup. ‘You’re paying for this trip,’ I whispered continually to the red machine in my rearview mirror. ‘Please don’t get stolen. Please don’t bounce out. Please don’t break.’ I even slowed down around mountainous corners and did not drive more than four miles per hour over the speed limit (vast improvement, for those of you who are unaware of my safe yet cop-infested driving record).

midwest13

Castle Rock NE–I also spent time in Castle Rock CO on this trip

Since I was pulling into Millcreek late, Kevin and his wife Katie offered to swap me a night on their couch for two six-packs of Oregonian beer. Another trade in the books, and I not only saved on money for lodging, but got paid enough cash to cover my gas money from Seattle to Omaha! Thanks to Roadie, and Kevin, I was able to finish my roadtrip only $25 over my original budget, which includes expenses paid to Chuck, Bucky and Ron. My diet for the past couple weeks has consisted mostly of rice and Top Ramen-esque meals, and the General’s A/C is permanently condemned–but this trip was worth every penny for the sake of mental clarity and emotional fulfillment.

 

Joining a national gym (24-Hour Fitness) last December turned out to be one of my better ideas in regards to travel plans, because I was able to lift in Denver and Portland to supplement my running and burn off some extra drive energy. I ran around three lakes, in Storm Lake IA, one outside St. Louis, and one outside Lincoln NE. Regarding diet, this was also my healthiest trip yet: I only ate out twice, and bought everything else at grocery stores to pre-make meals in St. Louis, the halfway point.

midwest16

St. Louis: penguins, pool time, and a museum exhibit that possibly inspired a future roadtrip…

This year I only spent one night in a campground (sorry Mom) (she hates when I do that) (but it’s cheap and I love falling asleep under the stars while surrounded by the comforting sides of the General’s truck bed) (sorry Mom), as opposed to the four nights last year on a shorter roadtrip. I was also travelling through areas where I knew more people, and to my benefit (?) my friends have spread out more, allowing me to see more people on a given route rather than only at a destination.

 

There was a moment, while crossing the desert north of Moab UT at 84 mph, that I thought, ‘Even if my truck is disintegrating around me, perhaps I can make it just a little closer to home before the inevitable happens,’ and I laughed a maniacal laugh. My windows were rolled down and half my current driving outfit was lying on the passenger seat while I tried in vain to beat the heat, and my left arm became more sunburned with each passing minute, and my hair was tangled and my face was grimy. I was high on hugs and love from all the people I had seen in the previous two weeks, and I laughed. I was rocketing through hundreds of miles of burning sand on a tiny strip of pavement inside an inanimate machine which was the closet thing to a best friend an inanimate machine has ever been to me, and currently my only friend for as far as the eye could see, and I laughed. For a time I did not know if I would have enough money for fuel to get home to Seattle, but I just kept laughing, because my mind was at peace and there was still road ahead of me, so why not laugh?

‘But no matter, the road is life.’

midwest4

All Work and All Play

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks disappearing?–it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

seattle3

It doesn’t rain that much, it’s just overcast. All the time. But it rains sometimes.

Now that I have answered all your questions: Ahem.

seattle2Seattle has been slowly materializing for me over the past year and a half. I had never been here (unless you count flying through the airport countless times–one of my favorite airports, I might add!) until November 4, when I packed up my truck with my living essentials and my Empress and headed west.

How can I speak of three months in one post? Maybe it is not possible. It is mostly work and sometimes not, and occasionally sleep, and 100% life.

It is connecting with friends-of-friends over coffee, smiling uncontrollably while running through the light rain with arms outstretched, packing and unpacking, almost missing the bus, daily sack lunch to save money, dance lessons, budgeting, sitting in a corner next to a cardboard box/desk for an hour trying to unwind after a 16-hour workday, almost missing the bus, morning yoga, packing, drinks at midnight and pancakes at 2 a.m., a new church every Sunday, payday excitement, unpacking and packing, a penguin sweater, pulling off my heels and chasing the bus, free furniture, signing leases and other commitments, going grey, trying to understand football, almost missing the bus, paying rent, unpacking, jumping around and singing at the top of my lungs from the host stand at Hard Rock Café.

seattle10I have had three zip codes in three months, I have worked 50-65 hours per week since my arrival (thank the Lord for getting two jobs so quickly, I had some financial catching up to do!), and I have explored this city much less than other cities because of it. Nonetheless, I have still been up to the Space Needle, had a drink at Starbucks (it actually took me a couple weeks, so it was a milestone), hit up a couple museums, and watched people throw fish at the Pike Place Market.

I love both jobs and am excited where they will lead in the next couple years. Journalism is still on my mind but if I have learned anything in my travels the past couple years, it is that if you set your mind to something, work hard, stay focused, etc. then it will unfold naturally.

seattle7Like Seattle did. One of the main reasons I am in Seattle is because of a conversation I had with a journalist while roadtripping through the South last May. When I had only lived in Seattle a few weeks, he looked me up and said he was coming to the city to cover the Seahawks game and asked if I was in town. It was a God-moment in May, and it was a God-moment in November as well; both times were confirmation that I was on the right path. The journalist had no idea that his words in Jackson MS had such an impact on my life, and having the ability to share that news with him was such a blessing. In addition my words to him in Jackson had also, unknowingly, convinced him to take up running, and now I am proud to say he is a positive, enthusiastic, healthy half-marathon addict.

We have more impact on people than we think. Even if you only meet once you change lives and your life is changed. I was thankful to have the opportunity to see one of those moments come full-circle; the majority of the time we do not have that opportunity, but it still happens.

seattle5

She punched me while we were trying to selfie.

After years of travelling off and on, I am taking a step back and keeping the same address for at least six months… which allows friends to track me down, unlike the previous year when ‘What state are you in now?’ was a common good-morning text from a number of people. Currently I have a roof and four walls, and starting tomorrow I will have a couch for visitors, which means–it’s your turn, folks! I have driven all over the country to see you all, so if your heart desires a visit to the pacific Northwest, hit me up for a good time (and free lodging).

 

As for myself, I have yet to visit Oregon or Canada, ever! So those are next on the bucket list.

seattle8

The Last Hurrah–Massachusetts, Manhattan, Milwaukee

Well, not my last hurrah, if I can help it. But the last for now.

Times Square

Times Square

Perhaps this was unwise, but I knew I would be pinching pennies toward the end of my time at home… so I planned ahead and bought these flights back in July to make sure I went on the trip.

Could I have used that money to think about putting in a deposit for an apartment in Seattle? Perhaps.

Would I have spent that money on something else between then and now? Most likely.

Besides, by ‘planning ahead’ I was able to get three one-way tickets for $400. I knew the flights would be the most expensive part of the trip, since I was staying with friends for two weeks, so I just tried to watch my costs for food and fun–and I was quite successful, I might add.

newsconsin7In Massachusetts my friend Randall lives just off Cape Cod in the small town of Wareham. His neighborhood was a couple blocks from a small rocky beach and backed up to a random forest, where pine trees grew thickly out of sandy hills. While Randall was at work I ran through the forest every morning and laid on the beach/waded in the water in the afternoons.

One evening we drove out to Plymouth, where Randall showed me around his childhood haunts as well as a few historical points of interest, old churches and courthouses, etc. There was the rock, of course, inscribed with ‘1620’ on the top. Mayflower II was docked nearby, a life-size replica of the original, although it was too late in the afternoon to go aboard.

newsconsin1We spent the weekend in the setting for books, the background for movies, the skyline burned in every mind: Manhattan. We splurged on a hotel just a few blocks away from Times Square, Pod 39. It had a on-the-move/thrifty-traveller/wired-millennial feel to it, somewhat like a hostel but still with private bedrooms and bathrooms. I loved it, and would definitely look into it again next time I’m in Manhattan.

Since we only had two days, we made the most of it, walking until we nearly had blisters on our feet each day, but seeing as much of the island as possible: the first day we headed south to climb the Empire State Building and take in the view of the city. I could see the Statue of Liberty from a distance, but tickets to go in sell out months in advance. Next time, Manhattan.

Ground Zero

Names engraved around fountains at Ground Zero

Further south was Ground Zero, a full hour-long walk from the ESB. The fountains in place of the foundations of the twin towers were beautifully designed, pulling the water away out of sight into the center of each memorial.

newsconsin5Sunday morning we strolled through Central Park. I was amazed at how deep into the park one must go in order to be free of the city sounds. It took even longer to be free of the crowds: the main roads going through the park were packed with runners and bicyclists, and some horse-drawn carriages. Nonetheless, I enjoyed exploring the smaller paths: I felt almost at home in the natural-growth landscapes. I was a little jealous of all the runners: next time I’ll stay long enough to go for a run.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was extraordinary. I appreciated the local New York modern and historical art as well as the ancient collections. One room was dedicated to the rebuilding of an Egyptian temple that was taken piece by piece from the Aswan valley. When the Egyptian government built the Aswan dam, the US government donated money to the project, and as a token of thanks they allowed us to choose which of five temples we wanted to take, since all five would be under water once the dam was built.

newsconsin6We spent a lot of time in the rooms and rooms of paintings, and almost missed some classics: only as we were searching for the exit did we come upon Monet, Picasso, Manet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh.

Of course we didn’t make it to everything in the Met, and we never set foot in the Museum of Modern Art, but…next time.

I’ve just decided there’s always a next time. I’ll always see someone again, I’ll always go somewhere again, I’ll always travel again. Telling myself this keeps me on my toes, but also keeps me from bemoaning anything I might have missed the first time around. Although I never experience everything I would like to, I saw some things I didn’t expect, like a street dance performance or a Hispanic parade of all Latin American countries dancing and singing down 5th Avenue.newsconsin9

newsconsin10The second week of the trip was spent in Wisconsin, mostly in Oshkosh and Milwaukee. However I did have the chance to explore some of the other cities and towns, because for me, this was the ‘next time’: I spent a day in Green Bay, and an afternoon in Port Washington, Grafton and Cedarburg with Jacqui, a Concordia friend.

Anthony at his internship at the radio station

Anthony at his internship at the radio station

After I attended a wedding with my ongoing travel buddy Anthony, we stayed at the Tundra Lodge in Green Bay. He had scored a deal in both the stay and tickets to the indoor waterpark, of which we definitely took advantage! The lodge sported woodsy décor and flair, with animal heads staring down from every wall, and the structure reflected a classic log-home style.

Although I spent a lot of time seeing friends on this trip, I had some enjoyable alone-time. I found the Sand Pond behind Randall’s house in Wareham during one of my morning runs. I got lost in the Downtown Bookstore in Milwaukee and walked out with four “unnecessary”/but-clearly-necessary purchases. I found Riverside Park about three miles north of the Milwaukee city center, and I explored the paths by the water.newsconsin13

newsconsin12Near the park was the Urban Ecology Center. I originally walked in because I wanted to climb their tower to see the Milwaukee skyline. I figured it was a government building of some type. What I found, however, was a community center focused on educating the public on ecological awareness: they hold classes in some of their rooms, they have free coffee and wifi for anyone who wants to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere (as I did), and they have information posted all over the building about how their toilets flush solely on rainwater and the furniture is all made from local wood. They also host a plethora of activities that encourage people to spend more time out-of-doors. The volunteers working that day were overly kind and gracious, and gave me a short history lesson on how and why the center began. It was one of those moments that renewed my hope in humanity.

Kevin and I had lunch one afternoon in Milwaukee at Uncanny Soup. Russian borscht soup was their special of the day–fantastic! It brought back memories of my Italian host dad Rosario spending all afternoon making it for us in Florence. I think Rosario did it better, but Uncanny Soup was a close runner-up!

newsconsin14On the final day of the trip I returned to Milwaukee’s now-somewhat-familiar Third Ward to kill a few hours before my flights, and I spent some time in the Public Market, which reminded me of Florence’s Mercato Centrale in shape and atmosphere (although the Italian one is far larger). I was not expecting Milwaukee to provide so many nostalgic Florentine experiences!

After New York I have only 10 states left of 50. And now I have been to Boston in the fall (for those of you who know the song..?).

Now, off to Seattle.

Travelling Has Two L’s

A wise traveller never despises his own country. -Carlo Goldoni

home1In the past I may have frustrated fellow language nerds with my spellings of ‘travelling/travelled/traveller,’ using two L’s. This is a purposeful decision, though that explanation alone may not calm the most extreme logophiles.

It has taken a while to teach my iPhone to add an extra L; hopefully it won’t take quite as long to explain to you. Then perhaps you will join hands with me, and we will become activists of language, and we will convince Mr. Webster himself or his descendants or whoever runs the dictionary now and we will convert our nation to the Double-L System.

home4I like to dream big.

Here’s my short reason: uhh…it’s just better.

Now join me! Let’s change the world! You may have to do some travelling to get to the DLS National Convention in the boonies of Montana. Since I’m head of the project I get to choose the location.

Travelling.

There’s something thicker and bolder about ‘travelling,’ as though it is capable of holding more experience. It’s courageous in a hardy, rugged, Go-West-Young-Man kind of way.

It also seems to be an older form of the word (probably just because it’s a British spelling. Don’t judge; I like British English. And all things old.)

I am currently writing from Wareham MA (more on that later) but before two days ago I hadn’t done much travelling in about six weeks. I was ‘in limbo,’ chillaxing at home and preparing for the next major transition of my life: THE REAL WORLD (queue music which expresses hardship and impending doom).

home3However, if you know me, I refuse to give in to the norms of what life is ‘supposed to be,’ so to spice up my transition into THE REAL WORLD, at which everyone from random person on the phone from tech support to the UPS delivery guy have been not-so-subtly hinting at for many months now, … I am moving to a place I have never been before. That way, I can ‘settle down’ (for a bit) and ‘travel’ all at the same time: new sights, new people, new coffee shops to test new chai, new parks to run new routes.

I’m still on the job hunt, so hit me up if you know anyone in the greater Seattle area who needs help with words. Or anything related to words.

home2I like words.

Travelled.

.past tense//a state of being.

.I travelled//I am travelled.

I had three goals during my six weeks at home: sleep, ride horses, spend time with family and friends because Seattle may or may not eat me alive and maybe I will never come back and then at least they will have fresh memories of times we spent together.

I doubt that, but really, who knows when I’ll be back in the 406. (That’s Montana, for you Out-of-Staters. There are few states in the Union that use one area code for all their inhabitants, and we’re proud to be one of them.)

Fact of the Day: According to the 2013 US Census, Montana has approx. 29,000 less people than Rhode Island, the smallest state.

I would like to announce that I am fully caught up on sleep. If you are curious about yourself, use the car test: if you can stay awake in the passenger seat for more than 10 minutes in ideal temperatures with a warm fall sun on your face, then you have successfully recovered from all those college all-nighters.

Mom and I found our old horse trails and biked our way up and down the valley, and Dad and I ‘took our guns out for a walk.’ We also attended a number of rodeos.

home7Routine. That thing I have not had since April. That mysterious thing that is so peaceful and so suffocating at the same time. It is a benefit of staying in the same city for more than four nights in a row, which I did not do from the middle of May to the end of August, except a short stint in Haiti. Routine is a benefit of being home.

Home routine is: wake up at the same time every day, so my body can be on a normal sleeping and eating schedule. Workout six times a week. Feed the horses and chickens twice each day. Relax in the evenings.

Traveller.

A traveller can find joy in rest, and peace in routine.

And then there’s the stranger routines that develop: Mom and I decided to test our workout progress by hiking Goat Mountain once a week four weeks in a row. I discovered if I jog the flatter parts I can shave my time down almost to 35 minutes.

home6A traveller has more blood than a traveler. More music. Like the troubadours of old.

A traveller has more focus on the journey: the 35 minutes instead of just the peak.

The Compromise of 2015

‘I just won’t sleep,’ I decided. There were so many other interesting things to do.         -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

flash3

Sushi with the girls

‘Compromise’ carries a negative connotation, but it shouldn’t. Compromise is often thought of as losing something; as not winning the whole thing; as giving up a part of what you have or want.

But there is a beautiful side to compromise, too, which I recently spent two and a half weeks rediscovering.

flash2My last roadtrip was one of the pinnacles of independence so far in my life. It was not uncommon to receive texts or calls asking, ‘What state are you in?’ I ran my days by my own schedule, or no schedule, whichever I pleased. I drove when I wanted to drive, napped when I wanted to nap.

While there is nothing wrong with being on my own, we are created to be communal beings, and independence can go overboard. So I compromised the things to which I was accustomed in order to gain something I had not had before: companionship on the road.

flash5

Egret…?

After three days in Pierce NE for my roommate’s wedding, I drove to Seward and joined four other young ladies–Hannah, Erika, Kristin, and Ellie–for the 27.5-hour trek to Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Hannah’s grandparents gave us a week in their condo, a very kind gift. The drive down had a few hangups with varying routes on GPS’s, etc. We were driving through the night in two cars, trying to keep drivers awake, stopping more than usual and sometimes not in the best gas stations…

But as I said: if I have the privilege of driving through the night with friends, I have to learn to be patient with hour-long rest stops & refuelings.flash4

The condo made everything worth it. Five days on the beach, swimming multiple times each day and runs in the sand in the mornings. The condo itself was almost completely decorated in white, accentuating the feeling of renewal and cleanliness that matched my mental and emotional restoration taking place throughout the week. The spacious porch allowed us a delightful view of the sunset over the water (and sometimes dolphins jumping in the distance!) during supper. A few nights we grilled lobster and shrimp kabobs.

flash1Indian Rocks Beach, a quaint resort town, lies on a small island on the gulf side of the Tampa Bay peninsula. Sometimes in the afternoons we took walks to get ice cream or sushi. We also visited an outdoor mall to look around the tourist shops and participate in a ‘free’ wine tasting–but they convinced us to buy a few bottles, so was it really free… oh well.

The girls had to drive out Friday to make it back in time for work. My friend Anthony had flown in that morning. We stayed an extra day at the condo, and continued the trend of spending the majority of our time on the beach or in the ‘dolphy’ water (‘salty’ water just after a conversation about dolphins). I told Anthony he wouldn’t live that one down.

flash9

One of my favorites of Dali’s works

flash8

Lincoln/woman at a window, Dali

flash7

Also a favorite, note the patterns & hidden faces, Dali

flash6

Dali & da Vinci & me

Saturday began the three-day roadtrip to Nashville. In St. Petersburg on the peninsula, we visited the Salvador Dali museum. The only painting I knew of his was the ‘melting clocks’ piece, so I was astounded at the multiple floor-ceiling pieces containing hidden patterns and classical images and sculptures inside the paintings as a whole.

Dali’s mustache was a theme throughout the museum and the garden behind it, which contained a labyrinth.

flash10

Bird with Dali stache

flash11

Zoo Atlanta

In Atlanta and walked around downtown, paying a visit to World of Beer and people-watching while sitting at a table on the street outside. Father’s Day we walked around Zoo Atlanta through the scorching heat and oppressive humidity then went and saw ‘Love & Mercy’ at the movie theater to cool down. Just before sunset we took a ride on the SkyView Ferris wheel near Centennial Park, which is dedicated to the Olympics.

Don’t go to Birmingham on a Monday. Everything is closed.

Museums, theaters, hall of fame, even the churches. All closed on Mondays.

flash12

Statue in Birmingham in Kelly Ingram Park

flash13

16th Street Baptist Church, bombed in 1963, four girls killed

Also it was hot.

So we walked around the park and ate at Jim ‘n Nick’s. Definitely a thumbs up for that, at least.

Then seven days in Nashville TN. You might think of Nashville as a music city, and that aspect can’t be overstated. Everyone I met seemed to be in multiple bands, with past involvement in at least half a dozen others, and had the ability to play at least seven different instruments. At the same time. (Just kidding–but sometimes it felt that way!) Having so much talent condensed into such a small area was astonishing. The air radiated with a sheer love for making music.

Anthony and I were staying with his friends Dave and Jenny and their family, who were hosting the music festival. Dave’s daughter Charlotte passed away four years ago, and the family hosts ‘Charleyville’ each year to raise money for scholarships for music camps, free and reduced music lessons, and purchasing instruments for kids, as well as making a donation to the creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, which Charlotte had been studying, learning to write lyrics. Every year Anthony and his friends from Oshkosh roadtrip down to Nashville to support Charleyville.

flash20

Johnny Cash museum, Nashville TN

Charleyville lasted three nights, featuring 22 bands, a silent auction, a raffle, good food, and a lot a great people: the kind of great people with whom you want to stay up all night around a bonfire while they improvise on random instruments. I’m no musician but I lent my listening ears (those are needed too; at least I like to think so) and felt a part of the Nashville culture for a week, and it was beautiful.

During the day time before the music started, Anthony and I spent our time walking around the city as he showed me his favorite spots and we explored a few more. I hit up a few museums of course, including the TN State Museum across from the capitol building and the Johnny Cash museum which opened two years ago.

flash15

…and the Nebraska jacket

flash14

Modeling the Montana jacket….

We also met Manuel, a friend of Jenny’s, at his shop, where he designs and makes clothes for celebrities, including Elvis’ famous gold suit. Manuel let me try on some of his state jackets.

flash16

Parthenon

Nashville has a to-scale Parthenon, left over from the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, complete with a statue of Athena inside which precisely follows the historical measurements of the statue which once stood in the original Parthenon in Athens.

Dave and Jenny lived about 15 minutes north of Nashville, which offered some great running territory in the mornings through forested lanes and around duck ponds and parks.

flash19

Shy’s Hill

I hiked Shy’s Hill, where the decisive Battle of Nashville took place during the Civil War–Dave happened to be a history buff as well and directed me to all the right places. The hike up the hill only took about 10 minutes but it was a steep drop on all sides. I cannot fathom how the Union army fought its way up and took the hill, all but wiping out the western Confederate forces.

While independence is a handy tool to have around, there are some things you can’t have without compromise. Like friends, for instance.flash18

Hawaii: Not-So-Typical Typical Spring Break

“Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free; man, I’m just livin’ my life, there’s nothing crazy ’bout me.” -Dizzee Rascal, Bonkers

hi15I feel like ‘that college student.’ But after spending the last three years’ spring breaks in Michigan, Idaho, and Wisconsin, I figured it was about time for me to go somewhere with less snow than Nebraska. None, in fact.

I spent Spring Break 2015 on Oahu, splitting my time between Kapolei, Honolulu, and the mountains and highways and restaurants. Empress, my roommate from Italy, gave me the grand tour of her homeland, which included everything from beaches and shrimp on North Shore to karaoke and bonfires with her friends.

hi6I’ve always found it interesting to see a person’s past life. A professor said recently, ‘When you shake hands with a person, you are meeting years and years of experiences and memories.’ Throughout the past four years I have done my best to visit many close friends’ hometowns with them to understand them on a deeper level. I am always amazed by the new side of them I see: how they act around their childhood friends and around their parents, where their high school hangouts were, how their landscape shaped their thoughts and activities.

hi7

Erika and I at the USS Missouri

We spent a day at Pearl Harbor, my one request as a history major. I didn’t know much about Hawaii, so I said, ‘take me wherever, I’ll follow,’ but Pearl Harbor was the one must-see item on my list. We toured the USS Missouri and took a shuttle boat out to the memorial over the sunken USS Arizona.

hi10Over 30,000 men served on the USS Missouri throughout World War II; yet not one man was lost to combat in WWII, nor in Korea or Desert Storm, in which the ship was also used. Twenty-one ships sank in the first attack on Pearl Harbor, and 18 were put back into commission: the USS Arizona was one of the three that did not survive.

hi8 hi9There is something beautiful and free about the island and its residents. Recently I have made it a goal to relax in the little things: to walk slower, to look at the sky sometimes, to dance when I feel like it, to leave parts of my day open and just see what adventures fill those moments. Hawaii was this to an extreme. I slept in, awoke in Kapolei every morning to the sun on my face, and laid in the park to read textbooks or took leisurely long runs through neighborhoods whenever Empress had to work.

hi5One morning we awoke before dawn and hiked up to the old WWII pillboxes in Kailua to watch the sunrise. It was gorgeous, and we weren’t the only ones with this idea. It started to rain but it felt good and warm as we sat on the concrete roof of the graffiti-coated bunker. Later that day we drove around the entire island, stopping a few times to swim at a beach and to eat pineapple ice cream at the Dole Plantation. Somehow they knew I like the core because they stuck an entire pineapple core in my ice cream cone! I was ecstatic. Empress, Hector, and Erika just laughed.hi4

hi14

Tidepools

In addition to pillboxes, Empress and I also hiked to the tidepools below Makapu’u, which she had never done before, so we explored together! We found two tidepools and swam in them both, watching the waves crash on the rocks near us in the growing storm. We also found a cave at the very end of the hike. It took almost four hours due to the jagged rocks and sea urchins.

hi13Empress met up with different friends every night as we tried every kind of restaurant the island has to offer, I think. We ate Korean BBQ where you cook the meat yourself on a grill built into the table; I ate a lot of things I didn’t recognize when Empress took me to sushi (even eel, I found out later!); I sampled the famous honey toast at Shokudo; I split an acai bowl with Empress during a trip to Ko Olina, where we waded in the lagoons. And the coconut. Can’t forget drinking out of a coconut at the swap meet.hi11

hi3

Feeding the birds and koi at Byodo-in

hi2

Byodo-in Temple

Sometimes I went to Empress’s work and bothered her while she was finishing up photo shoots of tourists in Waikiki or running festivals at the Honolulu Museum of Art. I ate Mediterranean food at the Jewish Film Festival and watched an Indian dance routine, a retelling of the story of Mehrunissa, an orphaned girl in 16th-century Mughal India who became the empress of India when she married Prince Khurrum.

The final day my Empress had to work all day so I took my homework to the beaches in Waikiki and allowed my tourist side to come out a little bit as I burned in the sun and talked to the random older couples relaxing in retirement on the beach.hi12

Running Compass Says: Athens Marathon 2014

Spring Break 2014. Plane was delayed. Pro: free night in Minneapolis. Con: missed Greek IV class the following morning.

My bag was a flight or two behind me, so I parked near an outlet to charge my phone and pass time by flipping through my newest issue of Runner’s World magazine. I scanned through the list of upcoming races in the back as is my habit: Vegas at Night, RunDisney, maybe Boston someday… I’ll just have to keep running my whole life so I can do all these fun races.

Then my finger landed on something unexpected: Athens Marathon. November 9. Original course of Pheidippides. The Athenian herald collapsed and died after sprinting 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens to give word of the Athenians’ surprising victory over the Persians. Hence the marathon was born.

History Me began to wind up as it united with Runner Me and became a whooping, hollering, skipping fool in an airport basement around a lot of grumpy people without their luggage. Few would have understood my ecstasy, so I didn’t pause to explain.

In three days I had my registration confirmation in my email inbox.

But the email was in Greek. So I hope it was the confirmation anyway…

Since then I have run two half marathons to keep me in shape but still rest my knees after 2013’s crazed marathoning rampage. Feeling sufficiently rested, I began training a week before I flew out for Italy this August.clv3

I didn’t know how training would be in a place with which I was not familiar. Even in places I know well, it can be difficult to find 24+-mile routes with proper hills and little vehicular traffic. What if everyone thought I was crazy? What if I was the only runner? What if the streets were dangerous at night?

Whatif whatif whatif.

I refuse to let ‘whatif’ control my life. So I set my sights on re-entering a strict training regimen.

I ran the Corri la Vita (Race for Life) last Sunday: a fundraiser for cancer research. Thousands of runners gathered between the duomo and the baptistery. I didn’t know where to line up for the 13K as opposed to the 5K, so I followed the crowd and kept my fingers crossed.

Note: a race of any length is called a ‘marathon’ in Italy, so things got a bit confusing when my host mom asked me if I wanted to run this race.

There were so many runners that I walked for parts of the first three miles. The course was beautiful: we ran up into the hills behind the Piazzale Michelangelo, which has great views of the city.

There was a man in a gray shirt and shorts, a bit shorter than myself, with a distinctive running style and a large vein on the left side of his forehead that I could see from my vantage point of…behind him, for most of the race. We passed one another several times on the 8-mile course.

The roads were narrow and had two-meter stone walls on each side, so when the crowd got tight, there was no way to get around the mob. It was a fun run for me, so I didn’t worry about it. I cruised up the last two hills and back down along the Arno into the city center. We ran through the Piazza della Repubblica and ended in the Piazza della Signoria, in front of my favorite castle tower (which, I learned in Medici class, is where Cosimo the Elder was imprisoned in 1433). A band played and there was free water (a big deal in Florence–almost as big as free bathrooms), and thousands of people milled about the square, mostly happy, friendly runners.

The man in gray had passed me with half of a kilometer left, and turning a corner I suddenly found myself stuck behind three walkers. ‘No–I can’t let him leave me behind after all this–‘ and I leapt around the runners and caught up to the man. We crossed the line in stride together, and he laughed and gave me a slap on the back–he knows what’s up. I wasn’t imagining our friendly competition.

It has been encouraging to find that Italians are quite active people. I knew they were famous for soccer and such (I’m trying to catch a home game for Florence’s team sometime this semester) but I didn’t realize athletics so permeated the daily lives of the people.

clv2

I am certainly not alone in running. In fact on some mornings, if I sleep in a little and let the Italians and the daylight catch up with me (Florentines are not morning people in general), it’s so crowded on the paths along the Arno that I feel as though I am in a race already. There are just as many female runners as male, and scores of walkers, many with dogs.

Gyms here are expensive, probably due to lack of space in a city where the buildings are hundreds of years old and difficult to renovate to fit large equipment. Despite the expense, however, many Italians are members of one gym or another. I have been intimidated by the apparent fitness of many of the Florentines with whom I rub shoulders on a daily basis. My Pilates instructor looks like he could punch through a brick wall.

Athletics and active lifestyles are greatly promoted through ads, classes for activities outside the gym, and the presence of athletic stores. Yet I am still surprised at the number of people who light up a cigarette before or after a run.

Cristina, my host mom, religiously uses Virgin Active a couple miles away. Friends of members get one free trial day, so I made the most of mine, staying for over four hours! I could have lived there–after lifting for over an hour, I swam in two of the three pools and tanned on the lawn for a while. I finished off my day with a salad from the cafeteria. If I had $450 just lying around, I would definitely sign up for a semester’s worth of this bliss.

But since I don’t, I have been ‘forced’ to find other ways of keeping in shape. I brought a jump rope with me, and that has saved me many mornings when I have already maxed my weekly mileage but my muscles are still zinging from inactivity.

You know. Zinging.

I’ve also taken up yoga and Pilates with classes through the school. Although they are not a fair replacement for my regular lifting sessions, which I miss dearly, I have noticed great improvement in my micro muscles, stability, and flexibility.

My newest workout craze is pushups: I took on the ‘100 pushups/day’ challenge for the month of October. I just heard about it this morning: I’m only 40 into my 100 as I write late at night, but I’ll get them in! Who’s with me?