Road Trip

For the last few years, The First Day of Summer, June 21st, has confused me. I’m going to blame college for this. In high school and prior, this date coincided relatively well with the last day of school. In college, on the other hand, my summer vacation tended to start in the middle of May, but somehow Summer officially didn’t start for another month. This just didn’t line up in my head. In my current life, Memorial Day is the much more logical choice. Sure, there is still that couple-week gap between when the college year ends and summer starts, but two weeks is significantly better than a whole month! It also applies better for my full-time job, where I don’t get a summer vacation, but I do get Memorial Day off. No such luck with June 21st. Apparently The First Day of Summer warrants no celebration in the corporate world!

I took this opportunity to cross my biggest goal of the summer off my list – Road Trip. I felt like I was cheating when I added road trip to my list, because when I made this list the tickets were already booked and the trip was already happening. That being said, when I planned the road trip it was in order to fulfill this goal. It seems unfair to me that I wouldn’t get credit for it just because I didn’t have the foresight to create a list of goals in December! This point seems moot (or moo as Joey would say) so I’ll just move on.

Map

This is the route we ended up taking. We all got on airplanes in our varying cities and landed in Boise. On my layover in Denver my brother laughed and laughed at the prospects that I was choosing to fly to Boise, Idaho. He likes to mock me, even in his thirties, it’s just who he is. After the mockery, which couldn’t sour my mood, I boarded my flight to Boise where I met up with my two good friends from college. All we had booked at this point in our trip was our hotel for the first night in Boise, a rental car, and a hotel for our last night in Vegas. If you ask me, this was the perfect amount of planning for this trip. We had a general outline of what we wanted to do and when we thought we would do it, but no set schedule. I think for us this led to a lot less stress. I think we’re all very deadline oriented people, and having no deadlines in the middle, meant we could be much more flexible with our trip!

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From Boise we drove to Driggs, the small town where we spent three nights during the Yellowstone/Grand Teton phase of our trip. The town was quaint, much quainter than anywhere any of us had lived. Upon our arrival we found that our hosts had left us a note informing us that if we plan to hike we can get Bear Spray from them. They were also happy to explain to us how to use said Bear Spray. We had taken on more than we could chew. We were also too delirious and hungry at this point to realize that. So after laughing hysterically and devouring our dinner, we headed straight to bed.

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Luckily for us, in our two days of exploring Yellowstone, we had no run-ins with any bears. The closest we got to any wild animals were Bison and Elk, and we got pretty close. The park rangers assured us that these animals could do quite a bit of harm as they are large and can move at incredible speeds. It was hard, after facing the prospects of bears and wolves, to be scared of Elk and Bison. Apparently we weren’t alone as while rangers suggested keeping about 20 yards between yourself and these creatures, most people were just a couple yards away, snapping as many pictures as their cameras could hold.

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Our two days at Yellowstone seemed like days in two separate places. The first day we went to see Old Faithful and the other geothermal attractions – beautiful hot springs, geysers, and paint pots pictured above. Pretty they were, but smelly too. So on our second day we decided to explore the part of the park less offensive to our noses – the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. This was one of our big hiking days. Though these hikes weren’t nearly as strenuous as those we would face later on in the trip, we did get lost at one point and were fairly convinced that our bear-mauled bodies would be found a few days later by someone who would, as a result, be scarred for life and never step in woods again (why didn’t we just get some Bear Spray?!). We finished off this second day by driving through the Grand Tetons and going to a drive-in movie, another first for me!

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Then we were headed to Salt Lake City. Due to our lack of bear-sightings we chose to make a stop at a drive-through bear experience where I fell madly in love with six bear cubs and decided that some day I would become one of the lucky people to work there. Living in the middle-of-nowhere-Idaho would suddenly be feasible when my prospects were to feed baby bears every day. That was the acme of the day (ever since I learned the definition of that word I’ve wanted to use it, and now I have! Another goal?) as every other attraction we had marked turned out to be a disappointment. My good friend explained that every trip has its bad day, usually in the middle, and this would just be ours. It seemed only fitting that it fell on hump day, and it gave us plenty of time to rest and prepare for the next two grueling days: Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

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Bryce Canyon was a late addition to our trip thanks to a very helpful Facebook comment from an acquaintance of mine (see, there is benefit to being Facebook friends with people you never actually talk to any more). It is a red rock canyon famous for formations called hoodoos. As I am no geologist, I cannot begin to fathom how these formations came to be, and how they still stand today. The native people of that area believed that the hoodoos were actually legend people that had upset a wolf who turned them into stone. Regardless of how they came to be, they were beautiful, and I think the most unique natural formation I have ever laid my eyes on.

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The next day we faced Zion National Park. We had decided earlier on in the week to face the Angel’s Landing trail, based on a friend’s recommendation. He assured us that while it was challenging it was completely doable. Upon first googling the hike, because that’s the first thing people of our generation do, we discovered it was not recommended for those with a fear of heights, which we all had to some level, but I suffered from the most. Still we decided to be bold and face our fears head on. The first and last two miles of the hike were no problem. I mean there were steep switch backs that seemed like they would never end, but fear did not come into play yet. When we reached the base of Angel’s Landing, we decided to take a little breather and fully recover for the grueling climb ahead. You have to understand that by this point we had heard several times that those with a fear of heights  should not go on this hike. Six people had died, and any sign of discomfort felt was a warning to stop. But we climbed on. A little too excitedly as we started on the wrong side of the path and made our lives much more challenging than they needed to be. Getting down so we could restart pretty much did me in. But, face my fears, I yelled at myself silently. And so I did, until the chain I was clinging onto for dear life suddenly was no more. Then I hit the wall I would not return from and told my friends to go ahead without me, I would find my way back down with one of the returning groups. I sat at this spot for about 20 minutes. Half the time I willed myself to move forward, and every time the prospect of having to make that return trip weighed me down. I murmured some words to my grandfather, which I rarely do. I don’t think I was so much asking him for encouragement, as for acceptance that not accomplishing this one task that seemed wholly insurmountable to me would not render the whole week ruined. A few people making their way up the face of this mountain were startled when seeing me. I kept worrying that I would surprise someone so much that they would fall to the abyss. So finally, when a kind woman asked me if I wanted to head back down the mountain with her, I complied. Didn’t need the weight of that on my shoulders.

As I sat at the base of the mountain with those just starting their climb, those that had been too scared to go up, and those returning I couldn’t help but smile. While no one was shaming the scared for not going, there were those cocky few, yet to face the climb, that loudly exclaimed that it would be nothing. There were those respectful ones that understood that it is impossible to understand a fear which you yourself don’t have. Those people were so happy to share the sights they saw and the experience they had. So I slowly tuned out those cocky people, stared at the very friendly chipmunks (like actually Chip and Dale friendly), and listened to people’s stories. Afterward, I spent a good part of that day nagging myself for being too scared to go all the way. Then I realized how much better I felt praising my friends’ accomplishment instead of being angry with myself. Maybe some day if I am back in Zion I will try to face Angel’s Landing again, but there is much much more to see there, and many other places we missed all together.

I wonder if my feelings toward travel will be like my feelings towards books. I’ve only ever reread two books in my life, George Orwell’s 1984 and William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Both I reread for school, not by choice. It seems to me that with so many books out there, I can’t reason reading one that I already know. I have been this way for as long as I remember, but I can feel it changing. I hope I manage to keep this attitude away from travel. It seems to me that every time I revisit a place, I’ll be seeing a different part of it. That’s probably how rereaders feel about their favorite, worn books. Maybe I’ll have to give it a try!

Until the next adventure!

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Adventures in Kayaking

One of the things I’m truly brilliant at is finding excuses to not do things. It’s really an under-appreciated talent. And by under-appreciated I mean I’ve come to be so good at it that no one, myself included, notices when I do it. You see, when I’m faced with the possibility of doing something that will put me out of my comfort zone, I make a quick pros and cons list in my head (I don’t want to hear your thoughts on this behavior, it just happens) for which the cons will always outweigh the pros because I can always (as mentioned) reason anything to tragic consequences.

By making this blog and my list of things I’ve added another couple of items to that pros like, ie “I get to cross it off my list,” “I get to write about it,” “If I don’t do it, the people who may end up reading this blog may give me shit about it.” The only thing that sometimes scares me in and out of things more than tragic ends is peoples’ low opinions of me. That’s another thing I’m working on. Not for this blog.

Another thing I’m truly brilliant at is signing myself up for things, paying for them, and then backing out. I’m all in, until it actually comes to doing things, then I’m probably in bed. You see, one day when I had already paid for something that I didn’t want to do, I called my parents in agony. My dad explained the concept of a sunk cost to me and has unknowingly regretted it ever since. I’m getting off topic again.

When the Young Professional’s organization at work e-mailed about a kayaking trip I was wary, but remembered this little projects of mine. After a few days of internal debate, I clicked the link and signed up to go on a 4 hour kayak trip on a lake. I hadn’t been kayaking since I was 11, when my dad threw out his back our first winter in Massachusetts. I used to love going kayaking and figured if I loved it then why not love it now.

A couple of weeks passed and the day before the trip arrived. I knew three other people going on the trip, one well, and the others just as acquaintances. The evening before the trip one of my good friends said she wanted to go shopping the next day and would anyone wanna come with her. That light-bulb in my head lit up. This was it. The excuse I needed. It didn’t need to be reasonable, but obviously my friend was in need of some assistance on her shopping trip, and I cannot leave a friend in need for a selfish reason such as a kayak trip.

I lay the foundations of my excuse, mentioning to all parties that hopefully I can work my schedule to both go shopping and go kayaking. Kayaking couldn’t possibly take that long, right? I was all set to wake up the next morning and just tell my friends that I wouldn’t make it to kayaking. But when I woke up it was like the cloud of bullshit had lifted. What was wrong with me?! Did I really want to go shopping over kayaking?! I don’t even like shopping that much. Well I do, but I certainly didn’t need to buy anything. And my friend had already gotten another girl to tag along and help her find stuff. So I put on my waterproof attire (aka swimsuit and running clothes) and waited for my ride to kayaking. Of course he was a half hour late, which gave me another half an hour of internal struggle.

You’ve already read a lot and are probably wondering when the heck I’m gonna talk about kayaking, but I’m not. The trip was really fun. And as is usually the case, I’m really happy that I went. I got stuck a few times, but got myself out of those corners. I even yelled at a guy that I could save myself cause I’m an independent woman. That’s really not something I’m super proud of, mostly cause it came off as obnoxious, and I do want a man in my life, but hey it might make you laugh. I love making people laugh. Not once did I capsize, and I’m not sure how I would have felt if I had. The real beauty of this trip though is that I couldn’t just quit. This company dropped us off at one point and met us at another. So I couldn’t just get out of my kayak, carry it to shore, and call it a day when things weren’t going my way. I had to suck it up and get through it. And, for me anyway, when I have to do something I try very much to enjoy it. It usually makes it go by faster.

Let Me Explain

For as far back as I can remember, I have mostly been a wallflower – not in the sense that I blend in, but in the sense that I rarely participate in life. Much like Charlie’s teacher tells him in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.” I remember when I studied Hamlet my senior year of high school, my teacher used the phrase “paralysis by analysis” to describe how Hamlet was driven to inaction. And man could I relate. I could analyze any choice to death – as in find a way to turn any decision into something that was bound to be tragic. My brother was this way too, but he changed. When I visited him once a few years ago he wanted us all to ride bikes to a restaurant together. I refused because I had never ridden on the street among cars and was scared. He got mad at me, which caught me very off guard, and told me to stop letting my fears hold me back from living. That was a few years ago. I’ve been taking baby steps. I started pushing myself to do new things. Things that made me uncomfortable, but it was a discomfort I knew to be temporary, and I knew once it passed I would feel accomplished. I took risks, and learned to enjoy the moment. I spoke what was on my mind. Not in the mean, brutally honest way I had in high school, but in the genuine, I’m-risking-myself-but-it’s-worth-it kind of way. In that time I traveled to new places, I learned to snowboard, I took up crafts, and I started training for my first race ever, a marathon. In that time I signed up for a Tough Mudder, celebrated my first happy Valentine’s Day, told a boy I really liked him (as childish as that was, it was true, and unfortunately the first time in a while I had said that to someone stone cold sober), and for once was carefree and myself with him. Eventually I got hurt, and I got scared back into being a wallflower. I don’t want to dwell on it, because that is not the point of this blog. The point is, it’s time to participate again. It’s time for all the things I always write about wanting to do to actually happen. So for various reasons and through various activities, I compiled the following list of things I want to accomplish this summer. Every time I accomplish something off the list, I will cross it off and put a date (when accomplished) and link (to its article) next to it. Hopefully this will help keep me accountable, get me writing again, and inspire some other people to just get up and do things! Because really, at the end of the day, we choose whether to stay on the couch watching TV or go on an adventure! So let your actions speak for themselves. Stop just talking about all the things you just want to do, and start doing them!

  • Drive around with the roof down
  • Lay out in the sun and relax after work
  • Go kayaking (6/8/14)
  • Go hiking
  • Visit one of the Great Lakes (6/28/14)
  • Go on a road trip (5/24/14-6/4/14)
  • Run to the beach
  • Explore an outdoor festival
  • Go camping
  • Do something that I was too scared to do last summer (7/5/14)
  • Attend the Dream Cruise
  • Do a pub crawl
  • Go back to Put-In-Bay
  • Go to Cedar Point
  • Visit a National Park
  • Go on an unplanned weekend trip
  • Go to an outdoor concert
  • Do handstands on the beach
  • Go off-roading
  • Develop an appreciation for red wine
  • Wear high-heels out (once a month)
  • Have monthly girl outings
  • Enjoy some sangria by the pool
  • Go on a blind date
  • Go paddle boarding (6/28/14)
  • Do a Painting with a Twist event
  • Create at least one thing off my summer Pinterest baord
  • Go out in downtown Detroit
  • Attend a Tigers game
  • Take Megan to Slow’s
  • Go to a Lions preseason game
  • Attend a book reading/signing