Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trip to paradise

So, we are on the road again, but there is considerable less running around from place to place to place. Currently, we find ourselves in Boulder, CO. This is our annual or semi-annual trek to what is a paradise for many people. At the very least, people who are "into" the active lifestyle would describe Boulder as something of a Mecca. While I would be loath to put myself in the same category as anyone here in Boulder, I do understand and appreciate how friendly the town/city is to people who are into running, biking, hiking, climbing and other outdoor adventure activities. So, just like every time that we come to visit, a twinge of envy makes me want to leave my half-way decent job and all of that responsibility stuff and just move out to Boulder to become a really awesome biker, climber, hiker while I work at REI and/or a coffeehouse. Never mind the fact that I am pushing the big FOUR ZERO. I am absolutely certain that with time a company - or several companies - would sponsor me once I became super awesome. And I would definitely ride with this team:

This is, of course, Team Garmin Cervélo, only the 2011 Tour de France Team Champions. They are based in Boulder, CO, as are a plethora of other teams and groups. I think that I saw one of their riders out today. Or it was just some dweeb attired head-to-toe in Garmin slogans riding a Cervélo bike.
Not only do I envy the people for their total bad-ass factor and their amazing lungs and legs, I have major road envy. Just this week alone I've put in around 40+ miles on the bike and might even put in another 20+ tomorrow. I consider it a good week in the LA area if I get 20+ miles on the bike! But it is so EASY here - the drivers are bike-friendly, as are the roads, with their super nice wide shoulders and bike lanes, as they ondulate through the countryside just outside of the town limits, offering great scenery that I can drink in for hours.
Michael asked me today on our ride, "Would you move just for this?"
Hell, yes, if I didn't have to worry about things like money.
In the meantime, I will pretend that I'm almost as cool as all these über-fit, active people, and maybe I'll appreciate my trips to this outdoor Mecca even more than all those geeks who just live here!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Celebrating a milestone

So, Michael and I have crossed the five-year threshold of marriage! Exciting, I know! We've definitely had some excellent times in those five years and plenty of perfect days, and we've weathered a few trials with grace, on the whole. Michael now fully understands that he needs to feed me and walk me if I'm in a terribly grumpy mood. See, I'm just like our dogs!
We ditched notion of the romantic presents a few years back, settling a more pragmatic approach - joint presents. The bike rack for our 2nd wedding anniversary marked the beginning of that trend, and in the following years we've bought a tent and also taken a major trip (that was last year!). This year, our major purchase was FAR more exciting:

In case you were wondering what it is, we bought covers for our bikes. We will be taking them out to Colorado, and we thought that it might be nice to cover them for the drive. This way, they won't be completely covered in bugs! I know, isn't very romantic, but we're pretty excited about the 'bike defender', as it's marketed. I also cheated and did buy Mike an actual present - new cycling shorts! He's been wearing these really gross ones and hadn't experienced the wonder of a good biking short. He is now hooked!
In terms of celebration, we returned to our new favorite burger place in Hollywood on Thursday night. For a moment, I worried that it wouldn't have that "OH WOW" factor like we experienced the first time that we ate there. That, however, was not the case - we enjoyed every single morsel of the burgers and fries that we split (2 burgers, 1 order of fries). After dinner, we returned home and then these guys showed up:

If you've seen the musical Avenue Q, then you are familiar with "The Bad Idea Bears". They are little beings that come and fill your brain with bad ideas by making them sound like excellent life choices. They usually attack younger people, adolescents, for example, who decide to throw a huge-ass party while their parents are out of town and they are convinced that their parents will never, ever find out. So, in our own case, we didn't throw a massive party, but we returned home, opened up a bottle of cabernet and proceded to drink almost all of it. That kind of killed all of my motivation when I woke up on Friday, not with a rager of a hangover, but just low-energy enough that I didn't want to do anything all day except nap.
Fortunately, we did recover and bounced up early on Saturday morning - our actual anniversary day! We had a jam-packed schedule - morning hike with work friends and then head south to Corona del Mar to visit family for the evening. At a certain point in the day, I feared that we were trying to be too ambitious, but we managed to hike the 10 miles to the "Bridge to Nowehere", despite numerous river crossings thanks to the (it has been a VERY wet year). The hike took us here, the renowned "Bridge to Nowhere". More on that hike to come...

After the hike, we sped home, showered, changed and headed south. We spent a lovely evening catching up with family whom we hadn't seen in over two years, and then Michael and I slept like the proverbial logs at their place in Corona del Mar. We woke up at a decent hour and headed out for a 25+ mile ride, from Corona del Mar down to Dana Point. Parts of the ride looked like this:

The ride was great with the exception of riding through Laguna Beach - total nightmare on weekends, apparently! We experienced tons of traffic, jerks driving cars that acted as though cyclists shouldn't be in a lane, plus lots of pedestrians and tons of traffic lights. At one point, I actually thought that I was going to not clip out and, therefore, fall to one side because there was a red light and we had to stop on an uphill incline. It sucked! With the exception of Laguna, we enjoyed the ride - lots of nice hills but stretches where you could go pretty fast and a good road to be on. Parts of the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) even had bike lanes which was a total treat!
Although we didn't have a romantic weekend to commemorate five years of wedded bliss, spending time with friends and family and being so active that our bodies are in full protest mode (my arms hurt from hiking?!) seemed like the perfect way to celebrate this anniversary. The only thing that really could have improved the weekend is if the US Women's team had actually won the f-ing World Cup!
Well, cheers to us, and better luck next time to Team USA!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

East Coast photo tour

So, most of our time was spent walking, eating and museuming. Here are a few highlights that we were lucky enough to record:

Here we are in the National Gallery, posing for a couple's photo - I think that we managed to get more photos of the two of us together than usual! There is a trend to the National Gallery photos - Calder! They had the most wonderful Calder ROOM! That's right, an entire room dedicated to Calder. It was bliss - and so much fun! I was pretending to be one of his animals - a bull, to be exact.

After DC, we took the train up to NYC. Upon our arrival, a very unfortunate occurrance happened that made me feel like a total urban rookie. I left my laptop on the train, and when we went back for it (5 minutes later), someone had taken off with it. I cursed myself for the rest of the trip. Actually, I'm still kicking myself.

Anyway, we cancelled all of my credit cards, just in case, and I changed my account information for all of my on-line stuff, just in case. It was crazy - I was completely dependent on Michael for all of our expenses. Not that I had planned to go off on a spending spree without him, but the knowledge that I had ZERO purchasing power was strange!

After dealing with that, we wandered around the West Village which seems to have been populated by rather trendy stores like Polo, Juicy, Marc Jacobs over the past 4-5 years. Where did all of the cool, unique stores go? Ugh! We did, however, like this promotion for the New York Sports Club, a gym, obviously. If you can't read it, it says "Politicians, get in shape for your next scandalous photo". Too funny!

The first night in the city, we actually left the city, sort of, for dinner, meeting up with a friend of Michael's in Brooklyn at this amazing restaurant called "Vinegar Hill House". I want to go back - the food was so terrific! We enjoyed being in Brooklyn and experiencing first-hand some of the hype. I will say that this restaurant does deserve the rave reviews for its fresh, local food. Yum, yum. I'm still thinking about the pork chop and the salted carmel custard that we shared.
The next day, Wednesday, we spent walking all over Tribeca and Soho. I actually ventured out for a sweaty, sticky run along the Hudson River. It was kind of gross but felt good. Once we/I cleaned up, we headed out for coffee at one of my favorite haunts from my Philadelphia days: La Colombe, an incredible coffee place. They still serve their coffee in these wonderful ceramic cups, just as I remebered it, and my only regret was that we shared the croissant. I definitely could have devoured my own!

Post-coffee and croissant, we wandered around Soho, stopping in the Camper store, the Patagonia store as seen below (my dress was Patagonia too!). The most drool-worthy store of all, however, was the Soho Icebreaker store - or "Lab", as they call it. Talk about coveting absolutely everything they had in that store! No pics and no purchases, but that's the way it goes. I think that the loss of the computer was hanging over me, since I will probably have to replace it, sooner or later.

After a few more days of walking, eating, visiting with friends, going to musuems, we headed to Rhode Island on Friday for a low-key weekend that consisted of more walking, eating and visiting! The scenery was quite different from that of the big city, however. We both managed to get sunburned, but it was too bad, lucky for us. We/Michael also went fishing early on Sunday morning and managed to catch a blob of seaweed!

All in all, very good times. These photos don't really complete the trip, but they capture snippets of specific moments and memories. For Michael, who lived in NYC for 13 years, the trip definitely took him back, but it is good to know that he doesn't miss the city. And as much as I loved being there, the West Coast feels much more like home to us, and as I said in my last post, boy, were we ever happy to return!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Home sweet home!

It seems that I have 'travel fatigue'.
So much for being worldly and "peripatetic". After getting up at 4:50 am to catch a train in Rhode Island into Boston and then taking the T to the airport and then flying from Boston to LA via Kansas City and finally fighting with traffic for about 45 minutes (not that bad, I suppose, considering that "Carmaggedon" is coming!), we were both MORE than ready to walk into our home, greeted by two ecstatically wagging tails. The trip was great but exhausting because we were on the move so much - DC, Delaware for me, NYC and Rhode Island in just under 2 weeks. It didn't seem overly ambitious when we originally set the schedule, but by the time Friday morning rolled around and we were on yet another train, this time headed to Westerly, RI, we both felt slightly frayed around the edges.
It wasn't just feeling that we were constantly on the move that exhausted us. When we returned last night, Michael identified that he was tired of visiting with people with his statement that he was looking forward to not socializing. I hadn't given much thought to it, but then I realized that he was right - for every single night of the trip, we spent time with friends and family (or I spent it with workshop colleagues). Don't get me wrong, it was lovely to see people and catch up - especially for Michael who was able to see friends from his New York days.
I think, however, that we both enjoyed a night to sit in front of the TV and watch mindless crap, eat a huge homemade salad, and talk about and to the dogs.
I also jumped for joy when we looked at the temperature as we landed at LAX - low 70's! I walked outside and almost kissed the dirty sidewalk because I didn't break out into an immediate sweat even though I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt.
Oh, California, it is so good to be back! Maybe I'll even consider myself a true Californian one of these days.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Travels and a new bag!

Greetings from the East Coast and happy July 4th to all!
Shew, it is HOT and HUMID! People said that it wasn't quite so bad early in the week, but today, around the DC area, the heat has picked up. I can certainly feel it, being that the LA area experiences such low humidity. Fortunately, there is plenty of air-conditioning too, at least where we've been so far. We will be in Rhode Island at the end of this week, so I have no idea how the heat and humidity at a quaint beach town will play out.
In the meantime, a quick run-down of the trip:
We left at an ungodly hour on Tuesday morning, waking up at 3:45 am. The trip was painless, however, and we arrived in DC's Reagan Airport which was a great place to fly into - smaller than Dulles and it offered great views of the DC monuments. My first thought as we arrived in the DC-area was "Everything is so green!". I forget that it does rain in many places during the summer months.
On Wednesday, I actually took the train to Wilmington, DE. I must admit that I love, love, love traveling by train, and I would say that the lack of trains in CA (and the West in general) is one of the major flaws of the area when compared to the East Coast. The train experience takes me back to my 20's when I lived in Philly, had no car, and went almost everywhere that I wanted to go by train.
As for Wilmington, DE, I spent 3 days, more or less, sequestered in a Doubletree Hotel at a conference for my annual dose of professional development. The hotel was fairly nice, but it was in the most random place - on the side of some crazy highway with nothing much around it. The conference/workshop, however, delivered the goods! I learned so much and had so much to think about and chew over thanks to the information and the discussions that we had. Before leaving for Delaware, I felt totally disgruntled about this conference that was going to interrupt my summer experience. However, it was AWESOME! I feel that it gave me specific tools as I begin to manage adults next year, and it also raised my awareness about current trends and ideas in education. It was also fantastic to talk to different people about their experience/s and schools.
Now, I'm back in the DC area, doing a bit of touring and a lot of hanging out with family. We've been to the National Gallery and the Phillips Collection, and tonight we'll go to the Mall area and watch the fireworks. I loved visiting both the National Gallery and the Phillips Collection - it had been at least 11 years since I'd visited either one of those museums. I was also happy to introduce Michael and his family to the Phillips Collection - they'd never even heard of the museum, and it really is one of my favorite museums of all times and places. It has a fabulous collection of art but also offers an intimate experience that is SO different from the usual experience of a major museum.
Finally, I must talk about my BAG! I decided that a new bag was in order for the trip. As much as I love the Patagonia bag that I've used for everyday purposes the past 4 years or so, I wanted something that less "sporty". So, I invested in this Orla Kiely bag that I found on sale:

Michael's snarky comment was "That looks perfect! You can lose lots of things in there." I did not hear him complain a bit, however, when I carried his sunglasses, wallet and our bigger camera all in this bag, along with two books, my own sunglasses and my wallet. Who's laughing now?
So far, the bag has served me well, and I am completely happy with the investment!