Big Skies and Long Beaches

‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ -Henry Miller

A series of changes over the past couple months led to many small adventures throughout the spring months instead of my usual lengthy travels.

short15There were several factors. I quit both my jobs and started two new ones (general happiness level = 100000x greater). I had plenty of saved Delta SkyMiles which allowed me to fly farther & faster, as opposed to driving. I decided to lease my horse and wanted to say goodbye, for now. In addition, Seattle had the longest, dreariest, cloudiest winter on record. January, February & March had a total of four sunny days–I needed some sunlight in my life.

When I realized my besties Allison and Elias crossed paths in Bozeman (aka paradise on earth) for only two semesters, I knew I had to get out there at some point. I had hoped for the fall, but February works too. I saw their campus, met their fellow students, stayed in their apartments, played trivia with their teams, danced with their friends.

short2When keeping up with old friends, it is important to me to see their lives with my own eyes. I want to experience what they experience. Every individual is a complex masterpiece of facets and angles, and I want to see and understand every face.

Impossible? Of course.

No harm in trying.

February was just as good a time to visit as October, though perhaps a tad colder. I wouldn’t have minded the snow, but running on a sheet of ice proved to be poor exercise (but I was still sore the next day). My first run through the woods south of town on my old trails was a peaceful experience. Bozeman creates some of my best memories. Though running on the ice in town was a bit treacherous, passing all my old haunts was a great way to reminisce on scattered memories, like looking at a timeline of my own life: that one park, that one coffee shop, that one Thursday at Music on Main when we danced… oh Bozeman.

Another important factor led to a third short trip: my favorite band Journey was playing in Bozeman in March.

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Journey concert

This trip spanned the locations of the first two in the same amount of time: I flew into Missoula and headed straight to Bozeman. I was raised on rock & roll, and that legacy is slipping away as the band members age. I want to see as many of my favorite 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s bands in concert before they quit touring. There is a certain kind of exhilaration, sitting in the second row and singing your lungs out with your parents and a few thousand other 50-year-olds. Arnel Pineda makes for a highly energetic Steve Perry, and brought plenty of his own charm as well as imitating that of his predecessor.

Then it was back to the Home Place in Hamilton to visit my equine son and check in with him at his new home, and spend some time with the family, of course.

I had booked a short trip to San Diego in April before I knew I would be quitting the restaurant in the same week. They were going to have to do without me permanently soon enough, so I figured they could spare me four days so I could visit my Empress.

And anyway, #priorities.

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Miguel, Caslene, Empress and I hiking

Empress, my Italy-roommate, Hawaii-tour guide, Seattle-roadtrip-buddy, recently moved to southern California. I needed Empress, and I needed sunlight. I had not been to San Diego since I was very young, so Empress showed me around the Gaslamp Quarter and the hiking trails of Torrey Pines.

short14We made a day trip to Los Angeles to visit the ArtCenter College of Design high in the Pasadena hills. It looked like an old train bridge with no connecting tracks and felt like an ancient monastery with a modern twist. I napped outside on a giant bean bag while Empress went to interviews.

My roommate happened to be in Long Beach on the same day, so we spent the evening with him at the Beachwood Blendery. On days Empress had to work, I explored the Old Town of San Diego and went for a run on the Mission Trails.

Runner’s Note: Definitely a lifetime Top Ten. If you are in the San Diego area, Mission Trails Regional Park is a must. In six miles I ran up and down a lovely trail to one of the highest peaks in the area, North Fortuna, where I found an old ammunition box with a notebook registry inside. The views were breathtaking.

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Kevin took us to the Miller factory to sample a bit of Wisconsin beer. Note: the samples at the end of the tour were not this big.

In May I flew to Wisconsin to congratulate my brother and celebrate with him. I have visited him at his Concordia-Mequon campus several times, and it was strange to think that this would be my last visit to that beautiful cliff-side campus. Nonetheless I think Kevin was ready to be done, anyway. Being in Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to visit my other Italy-travel-buddy Anthony, and congratulate him on his graduation, as well.

There were several fractured pieces to my winter & spring 2017, but the travels and the jobs and all else worked out in the end and I was able to spend time with people I love.

These days I am currently in a mountain castle in Santa Barbara… but how I ended up here is a story for another time. Cheers!

 

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Dance Until Dawn…(and then some)

‘A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.’ –V for Vendetta

I first heard about massive morning dance parties about a year ago. My favorite travel blogger, Adventurous Kate, attended a Daybreaker event on the east coast and recorded it live on Snapchat.

A sober, morning rave to jump-start your day? My interest was immediately piqued.

Daybreakers take place in over a dozen cities in the US and in Europe, with more to open up in the coming year. I signed up for emails for the New York City and Boston events, hoping I might be in the area during a Daybreaker, but we never coincided.

dybrkr4When I received an email at the end of September about Seattle’s inaugural event the following Wednesday, I bought my ticket within 10 minutes and decided I would figure out the details later. I picked out my outfit the night before–mostly brightly-colored workout gear. Some Daybreakers have themes, but Seattle’s first was just loud and vibrant.

Not only on-time, but early? You can say I was a little excited. The event staff was fun and energetic, and gave us glitter makeup to put on our faces on the way in if we wanted to. Of course I wanted to!

dbrkr1We began our morning at 6:00 a.m. in the auditorium of the EMP museum with an hour of yoga led by an instructor. It tended to stay more exercise-focused rather than spiritually-focused, which I appreciated because I use yoga as a workout anyway. At 7:00 we rolled our mats off the dance floor and waited for the music to start a few minutes later.

Two hours of dancing in wild abandon ensued. The NYC Daybreaker crew led the event, with a DJ, a drum line, a live band, and a dance team. We all soaked up the music and the energy and let the crazy out!

If you know me, you know I dance all the time (or try to. OK, so I really just move around a lot) and you know I rarely care what people think of me in public settings. Having no shame can be both a blessing and a curse, but I try to see it mostly in the former light. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by so many hundreds of like-minded people. There were no rules and no standards. Everyone was there just to have fun and burn some energy before our work day began.

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As I left the event in high spirits, a Space Needle sprouted from my head.

Speaking of work day, I planned mine just perfectly. I left a few minutes early, grabbed my duffel from the event’s convenient bag check, and scored a few breakfast bars and Greek yogurt on my way out–Daybreaker also had tables offering coffee drinks and other energizers for those who drink them. I ate as I walked, showered at my gym, and still made it to work exactly on time at 10:00 a.m.

 

As we were slowing down near 8:45 a.m., one of the NYC event crew came over the mic and said, ‘No one will ever know what you did before work today, that you danced your heart out before they even woke up this morning.’ And that’s exactly it. As I left the EMP I caught a few stares, but I just smiled and kept my little secret to myself. I bet I had more fun waking up this morning than they did, I thought, my face glowing and my step lighter than normal.

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I snapped only one photo, on my way out as the party was winding down.

Daybreakers are often held monthly. I was grateful to hear about these events through a travel blogger and decided to pass along the favor. If there is not an event in your city yet, look it up for next time you are on the road! (That’s my plan.) Seattle’s next event will be at Foundation Nightclub on October 26. Join us!

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.