We left Philadelphia in the morning and headed South. Signs that we were leaving the NE – Chick-fil-a billboards and state borders spread more than an hour apart! I had to get used to being in Virginia for quite a while. I kept myself entertained during my passenger time with the Waze app…
I also saw this gem of a bumper sticker at a gas station stop… just a little reminder that this was originally a running blog! We stopped near Monticello to have lunch at Which Wich, a make-your-own sandwich shop that I have always wanted to go to! You can seriously get like a million ingredients, and your sandwich will still be neat and tidy! Definitely go for the caramelized onions if you go there.
We went to Monticello, the house that Thomas Jefferson designed and built, but we didn’t go to the actual house because we were short on time and it costs like a million dollars. So we looked through the exhibits and walked around. No pictures… boo.
Next we drove to Richmond and hit up Hollywood Cemetery before it closed. It was gorgeous, and the weather was excellent. Hollywood is considered the Arlington of the South. There are three presidents and lots of confederate generals buried there.
Brendan took the experience very seriously.
We checked into our hotel in Downtown Richmond and then headed to the shooting range, which is one of the things I was most excited and anxious about going into the trip. My great grandpa had long old antique rifles in his closet when I was growing up, but otherwise I’ve never even really seen a gun. Brendan was going to show me how to shoot a gun, which seemed fitting for a trip to Virginia, and I thought it was a cool idea…
We went in and watched the safety video and saw the guns available to rent, and I started to feel pretty uneasy. Suddenly, everything felt really serious… which it should be. But it got really real for me! The guy brought two handguns out of the case for me to hold to see “which I preferred”. HA – neither?! I picked one, and then we put on earmuffs and safety glasses before heading into the range. IT WAS SO LOUD. OMG. I did not like it. I was dealing with it ok… just jumpy… Brendan set everything up, and there was an employee there with us. Then Brendan shot a bullet… and another… and tears streamed down my face. It was the most shocking thing I have ever experienced. I could not stop sobbing, so I left the range… no shooting for me this time. Also, no after picture for the blog. Those of you on snapchat know that my crying face picture outside the range is not exactly internet worthy.
So when Brendan was done, we headed back into Richmond to walk around.
George Washington Statue –
Old Train Station at night –
It only gets more Southern from here!
Brendan and I recently returned from Spring Break in Puerto Rico. My 5 months of traveling back and forth to New York last year finally paid off. We flew to San Juan and spent three nights in the Sheraton in Old San Juan and then three nights West of San Juan at the St. Regis Bahia Beach!
I’m all about the whole “you’re in Puerto Rico… you have to try Puerto Rican (enter something I would rather not be eating/doing”. I get it. I also get being on vacation. I have a whole new outlook on vacation these days. It’s more like… I’m a young professional. Sometimes, I hate my job. Sometimes is right now. I would like to take some PTO, and that is valuable PTO, thank you. So f*ck your Puerto Rican (enter black coffee with creamer)… I’m going to Starbucks on my vacation. And that, my friends, I get from my mama.
But seriously now. This was the first time I truly needed a vacation in my life and really felt like it was something I was able to gift to myself. So we went from this…
We toured old Spanish forts…
Wandered the streets of Old San Juan…
Hiked to caves and cliffs…
Watched the San Juan Half Ironman!
If you know me at all, you know I immediately started researching sprint triathlons and bike prices. It was so inspiring. So exciting!
And then we went to the St. Regis…
…which was a stunning plantation-style resort. We stayed in a suite!
We went to the beach…
Hiked in the rainforest…
snorkeled and kayaked…
And played with iguanas!
It was really great! Then I flew home to Portland and did this!!!!!! Hop Hop Half Marathon…
A HALF MARATHON PR by 3 minutes!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AND… this is the first time I’ve placed in my division!!!
Unfortunately, I put blogging aside while I was in NY, so I don’t really have a lot to share. Basically, here is what I did. Every Sunday night, I packed work clothes in a suitcase (I got REALLY good at this), said goodbye to Brendan, and called a cab to take me to the airport. I flew to NY on JetBlue every time, even though I had to go to JFK, because I LOVE the terminal at JFK! Try it. I stayed in hotels every week. I had a budget, but I could basically stay anywhere I wanted as long as I could get to work on time in the morning. The picture of me above is on the Brooklyn Bridge. I worked in Brooklyn right at the base of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.
My food was free up to $50 a day. My hotel was free. My subway pass, free. Up to $40/week to spend on health and fitness, free. Ummmm… need anything else? So that was me… a West Coast girl transplanted to the East Coast and then spending 5 months exploring NYC for FREE!!!
Then on the weekends I could either fly home to see Brendan or use the money I would have spent to go to the airport and fly home to go somewhere else… OR… stay in NYC for FREEEEEEE…
I got to explore so much of NY because I stayed at different hotels in different neighborhoods all the time. My first week there, I cried because it was so dirty and scary and lonely. My last week there, I cried because I had fallen in love with my favorite places in the city and I had a million new friends that I was saying bye to.
I mean… a city famous for pizza, hot dogs, cupcakes, cookies, and huge parks full of runner…. what’s not to love?
It wasn’t all perfect. I did work 55 hour minimum weeks the entire time. Including some weeks where I literally didn’t know I was in NY… 8:30am to 11pm = who the F cares… but I definitely fell in love with a city in a way I never thought possible… here are the basics for your next free trip to NY…
Favorite hotel: the W in Union Square for the great central location and huge cheery rooms.
Second favorite: The Sheraton on Canal Street for their great Club Lounge for Platinum members. It is an outdoor terrace on the 21st floor with free breakfast and drinks.
Favorite restaurant: Dos Caminos on Houston for their seared tuna tacos and blood orange margaritas… I know this is a chain, but I fell in love with it so shove it.
Second Favorite: Westville in Chelsea for their fresh market sides. You can order a HUGE plate of maple brussel sprouts, parmesan artichoke hearts, roasted zucchini, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, and butternut squash for $14!!! In NYC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Favorite Workout: Soulcycle for the biggest grin I have ever had on my face for 45 minutes straight every week. It is a dance club on a spinning bike, and I have never enjoyed myself more. Plus, the instructor was AMAZING… go to soulcycle union square with Marvin before you die. You must.
Second Favorite: Yoga to the People for their amazing culture. I raved about this already when I went to the classes in Berkeley, but in NY it is something else. They fill 3 floors of 50 people each for each class! The donation-based part helps, too.
Favorite Subway Line: the Q! It only stops like 3 times… ever. If you want to go somewhere that isn’t on the Q… don’t go. If you stay in a hotel on the Q line… amazing!!!
Second Favorite: Just take the Q. Otherwise, look at the map… I guess. You really can go anywhere in NY on the subway. It just might take a little longer than it would on the Q.
Favorite Cupcake: Apple Cobbler cupcake from Crumbs. It is HUGE and there are fresh apples in there! It is like apple pie and spice cake on crack… with frosting on top.
Second Favorite: this is cheating, but I choose the Banana pudding at Magnolia. Apparently, people in NY have been tricking us tourists into just ordering cupcakes at Magnolia. They’re amazing, but you really must try the banana pudding. Homemade banana pudding, tons of fresh sliced bananas, and cubes of banana cake all in one!!
Favorite view: Brooklyn Heights Promenade for the view of the sunset behind the financial district. I think this is the only way to fully appreciate how big those buildings are on that little island! Check it out when the Freedom Tower is lit up red, white, and blue and you will be a patriotic American forever.
Second Favorite: It is perhaps a little more spectacular from Brooklyn Bridge Park, where you are closer to the water, so everything really looks HUGE. Plus, the view of the bridges all lit up is amazing. I’ll call this one a tie. Either way, you need to get your butt over to Brooklyn.
This is making me tooooo sad. I feel like I did SO MUCH, but there was still so much left to do, as well. Of course, I could probably go on and on forever about my least favorites of NY…
I think about you all the time. Then I think, “no, I can’t write a post because I might not be able to blog consistently.” So then I never write. But it always creeps up on me… do I want to write a post? Well, the answer is yes! Duh… I’m not saying I’m going to be all consistent. In fact, I’m saying I won’t be consistent at all, but I am trying to overcome this all-or-nothing personality problem and get the F over it. So here I am 1,000,000 months later. Don’t ask where I’ve been… audit hell… dun dun dun… JK I like my job fine and it is far far from Hell. Believe me!! I’ve seen where my parents work!!! bahaha. But I am not going to talk about work today… because I don’t want to. I am also not going to talk about running today… but you know that will come soon enough. I know you aren’t worried.
Brendan says that writing “…” means I am a lazy writer because I can’t link two sentences/ideas together with transitions. Guess what?! I am a lazy writer!!! Guess what else!? Brendan and I just got back from the Dominican Republic, and I used my camera for the first time since my last post. Oh wait. I didn’t take any pictured for my bratty blog post asking for Christmas presents.
We went to a small boutique hotel about an hour from Puerto Plata, DR, the Palace at Playa Grande. Brendan gave me this trip for Christmas!! We didn’t take too many pictures because it was a private romantic getaway I didn’t wash my hair for the entire four-day trip, but here are some fun pics.
Look who we found in the garden!! You can either think of this hotel as a really small hotel or a really HUGE house. It’s both! The super rich Indian guy who built it decided to use it as a hotel when he got bored of living there… yawn…
The view from the garden on our first day…
But seriously, the highlight of the week was the fact that I slipped a friend into my suitcase and snuck him on the plane!! SILKY!!! Yes, I brought my blanket on the trip. I told you this shit was romantic!! Anyways… Brendan thought it was so funny that the hotel maid tried super hard to make silky look grownup and suitable in the hotel room every time they cleaned our room.
Wah wah… after that they just started folding it… I guess after they met me, they knew I really was a child.
Here I am on the balcony… nice hair… so clean.
And here is my only proof that Brendan came on this trip with me… his foot with his new best friend.
So pretty much, just wanted to say that I am still alive… and share these vacation pics with you. I’m not holding out on you… I really didn’t take any more pictures. Sorry! This was my Christmas present, not yours. Look forward to posts coming with a little more frequency… maybe.
Fall is just the BEST! It always reminds me how much I love running because the weather is perfect, and it is so entertaining to watch the world around you transform in a matter of days. I think I have been especially observant this year because I’ve been so excited to experience my first New England fall. Brendan and I have been wanting to go apple picking for a few weeks now, but this weekend was the first time we actually had some time for it! On our way out the door, I was pleasantly surprised to find this lovely gem in the mailbox…
YAY! I have become a SUPER loyal Starbucks drinker on my walk to work every morning, and I use my gold card every time! I think this is my third free drink. I get SO excited!
We drove an hour outside Boston to Honey Pot Orchards in Stow, MA. The drive was wonderful because we drove through a bunch of smaller old towns with gorgeous old churches and wonderful foliage.
I’m not sure we really became expert apple pickers. We definitely decided that we had gotten our money’s worth by the time we left because we dropped/threw a lot of apples. OOPS.
We didn’t throw ALL of those apples on the ground… lol I swear!
It was such a beautiful crisp fall day…
The ladders were super sketch just leaning on the branches, but I was pumped… until I got a few steps up… and then I was shaking.
Of course, the apples at the top, just a few feet away from the ladder always looked better than the ones we could reach…
We ended up with 19 apples in a bag + 1 apple eaten on the job = 20 apples (the accounting literature says we don’t count the apples we threw on the ground) and a fun fall outing for only $15. Great deal!
What a beautiful place! I can’t wait to come back next year, but right now I have to go figure out what to do with all these apples!!!! Any great EASY ideas?
Day 10 (August 24, 2011): Grand Rapids, MI to Niagara, NY
Today was a big day because we became international road trippers! Canada is so trippy because you feel like you are still in a pretty similar place, but then there are super weird things that stick out.
For example, the chip flavors are CRAZY: dill pickle, roasted chicken, gravy, or ketchup potato chips?
I tried the ketchup ones since I love ketchup… but then I almost barfed, so I went and bought some sun chips. Plus, at Subway, they have ketchup as one of the topping choices, but they didn’t have dijon mustard!!!!!! grrrrr… LOL my stupid fake smile as I tried not to barf!
After lunch we headed to Niagara Falls. This was another first for both of us!
Honestly, I am kind of a bad person because I usually get pretty drowsy when I’m just looking at cool/interesting/pretty/historic things, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go for me. But it was absolutely amazing. I could have walked around the park for a long time. There was also a lot to do and see in the area, in general, but I was really just mesmerized by the falls.
The US-Canada border is in the middle of the river. You cross this bridge to go back and forth between countries. We parked our car in the US and then later walked over the bridge to Canada.
We decided to go on a boat ride, the “Maid of the Mist,” which takes you under all of the mist at the bottom of the falls. It was crazy…. and REALLY windy.
From the boat… the American side, which accounts for only 10% of the total water flow!
It got kind of crazy and unsafe for the camera to be exposed on the Canada side because the falls there are shaped like a horseshoe and we went in the middle. At one point I felt like I was underwater…
I only took a couple pictures because I really wanted to just be present on the boat ride. There were so many people on the boat that were so concerned with their cameras and the pictures they were taking; I don’t think they even saw the waterfall.
After exploring the falls for a while, we went to dinner at a Brazilian Churrascaria, which is one of the places where the guys walk around, each with a skewer of a different kind of meat. My favorite parts were the cinnamon and brown sugar glazed pineapple, the parmesan-crusted pork loin, and the salad bar that has “over 70 choices” including roasted red potatoes, fresh mozzarella, grilled asparagus and zucchini, and all the usual fresh veggies. OMG.
It was really great food. But then… the night wasn’t over because when we walked outside, the falls had been lit up for the night!
And then we had a little play time in some of the souvenir stores…
I really loved Niagara Falls! and we seriously had such a great day together.
Goodbye, Canada! Next stop: home… our new home!
Day 9 (August 23, 2011): Madison, WI to Chicago, IL to Grand Rapids, MI
My plan was to go for a run in this huge Arboretum at University of Wisconsin, but I woke up one minute before my alarm went off to a HUGE thunderstorm with pouring rain. It definitely got me up since I remembered at that point that we had left our car windows cracked open… in the POURING rain. Of course I ran outside the hotel in my PJs, leaving my leather flip flops in the lobby to keep them dry. Luckily, only the front windows were cracked open, so all of our stuff wasn’t soaked, but the whole front of the car was wet. I dried it with our towels and ran the air for a few minutes, and then I vetoed the run and went back to bed.
A few hours later we were on our way to Chicago!
We got really excited as we were approaching the Windy City…
I was really surprised by how much I liked Chicago. It had a lot of the fresh fast food trendiness that I LOVE! There were so many cool places to pick from for lunch in the financial district. We chose Pret a Manger…
mostly because it was close to the parking garage where I was paying $12/hour…definitely a big city!
We drove to a less busy area and found some street parking… still expensive, but less… and then we went for a walk through the city!
… and then we had ANOTHER thunderstorm, so we hid out in the park under cover for a while…
Gorgeous river through the city…
And then it was time for PIZZA!!! I read an article from Chicago Magazine with the 10 best pizzas in the city, and I just searched for the location of the first deep-dish on the list. Lou Malnati’s.
We went to their location in this SUPER cute restaurant area downtown… and started with bruschetta
Nice lighting, right!? and then salad!!!!!!!
I am getting a little obsessed with vegetables. I think I was having withdrawals.
It was definitely good, but it was pretty greasy, so it wasn’t really our thing. It was SO FUN to be having Chicago deep-dish pizza in Chicago at this great pizza place in an awesome part of the city.
This street was set up to look like a cute neighborhood in Italy with big patio areas in front of every restaurant and gelato places in kiosks in the middle of the plaza. It was so charming!! We got some gelato before getting back into the car and starting the late drive through more thunderstorms for Michigan.
Ok this post is getting long, but check this out: we paid THREE tolls within ten minutes as we drove from Chicago to Grand Rapids! WHAT!? AND… one of them was only 60 cents… WHY are you making me stop for this stupid thing!? Oh well… Chicago was pretty awesome.