Category Archives: Travel
This past weekend I got a more-than-healthy helping of all my favorite things in life: Running, Fresh Air, Beautiful Scenery, Comradery, and Competition, and got to do it with an amazing group. And now I’m back…Reality Bites. I was lucky enough to be asked to be part of an amazing group called The Marathongs to compete in a crazy race called Reach The Beach. Reach The Beach is unique because it’s the LONGEST (in distance) relay race in the whole entire country. Holler!!
The longest relay race in the nation? Yep! 204 miles through the White Mountains in NH, starting at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH, and ending at New England’s Jersey Shore: Hampton Beach. The goal is to complete the 204 miles within 24 hours among your team of 2 – 12 people. Our team, The Marathongs, came in 87th out of 480 teams, averaging about an 8 minute pace. Each team member has three legs along the way, giving a little bit of rest in between, but little to no sleep. Everyone on the team ran somewhere between 15 – 24 miles over their three legs. Basically, it was awesome!
Our team comes from all over: West Haven, Ellington, Vernon, and Glastonbury CT, Buffalo, NY, New York City, Boston, MA, and Newport, RI. There were some (super boring) super serious teams, but many dressed up. Our major competition was “The Kilts”, “The Lumberjacks”, who, by the way, ran in jorts – no kidding, and “The Cropdusters”. Most of the teams had really great names. It was really an awesome experience as all the teams were supportive of each other – all with the same crazy goal of running 204 miles and “reaching the beach”.
I think from here, the best way to show our journey is through pictures and videos.
Goofing around before the race, getting our wiggle on!
The MarathonG boys’ dance. Get it boys!!
Who says white girls can’t dance??
It was the longest 24 hours of my life…but surprisingly to most, I’m saying that in the best way possible. Things that happened on Friday afternoon seemed like they happened 2 weeks ago by Saturday night. I dont know if it was the lack of sleep, the overexertion, or the amount of things that happened, but it was truly an experience I will never forget and I’m already counting down the days until the MarathonGs run Reach the Beach in 2014.
One thing that is very important to me is family. A couple things to know about my family. 1. My family isn’t very big compared to most; 2. That doesn’t make it any easier to see and keep in touch with everyone. My immediate family lives in CT, but my extended family ranges from Ohio, to New York, to Texas and Iowa. I try to see, talk to, and write letters to my family as much as possible because if you dont make the effort to get to know your family while they are around, when will you ever get to know them?! (Slid logic, right?) I was able to make it out to Iowa this past weekend for a long weekend to visit with my grandpa, grandma and uncles, and it was awesome because I also got to celebrate my grandpa’s 83rd Birthday!! My grandpa kept saying he was glad I was there to celebrate his last birthday, but he’s been saying that for about 10 years now. So at this point he’s really not foolin anyone.
When I arrived on his birthday-eve we celebrated with his first cake. Yes, there were multiple cakes. I ate more care this weekend than I have in the past couple years…huh? What diet!? Then,the next morning, on his birthday we got up and left for breakfast at Sunshine. Sunshine is his Cheers…but better. He walks in and everyone knows his name. No, not just his name, also his order, down to the the nitty details of his strict diet and the fact that he drinks cola, not coffee, even at 9AM. We met up with a couple of his friends for breakfast, but even had we gone alone, we wouldn’t be lonely. Just about every table in the joint got up and came over to say hello at some point during the meal. Seriously, the man is a small-town celeb!
After breakfast we came home, watched some old-timey black and white movies and later in the afternoon my uncles braved the ice storm happening outside to come over for a birthday pizza party and, you guessed it, more cake. Having everyone together is a riot. My grandpa brings up for the millionth time “ok just tell me, who stole my car”. He’s talking about something that happened about 45 years ago, FYI,…then cracks himself up while quoting Hillary “after all this time, what difference does it make??” It really is quite entertaining!
From what I’ve been told, there are two places you MUST go to in Austin to get the “night life experience”: 6th Street and Rainy Street. 6th Street is located in downtown and is a one stop areas for live music, clubs, events, dining, lodging, entertainment, art, bands and more! It’s one of the most well known party districts in the county and is a huge hotspot for University of Texas students, vacationers, and Longhorn fans from all over! Rainy Street, on the other hand is a bit more subdued, but not to be mistaken for boring! Rainy Street is SO cool because it’s basically a neighborhood with small Cape Cod homes that have been transformed into intimate bars. These bars have backyards with fireplaces, picnic tables, and small performing stages for live bands in the warmer months. I was lucky enough to get to experience both. Remember both…not so much, but experience both, yes! all the way! But, it is my understanding from my red eyes and tremendous hangover that both were a really great time!
Buffalo Billiards: Located in the heart of 6th Street, Buffalo Billiards (BB) is a one stop shop for food, beer, and games such as skee ball, pool and darts. I do believe at one point I was “playing darts” (as is evident in my picture below), however, for the safety of others that privilege was taken away. We were able to take the city bus right from Carrie & Doug’s apartment to Billiards, which is awesome, and then ended up taking a cab home! That’s one that I don’t have where I live: amazing public transit! It was also at Buffalo Billiards that I got my first taste of the official beer of Texas: Lone Star Beer!
Black Heart: Located on Rainy Street was a lot more under the radar. In fact, when we parked, I actually had to ask “Is this a bar”? Black Heart is set in a small white house built in 1889 and decorated in several pictures of “hard-working women” of Storyville, the red light district of New Orleans, Louisiana from 1897-1917, hence their motto “keep the red light on”. The house was transformed into a bar with all reclaimed wood and materials that were already part of the property. Its a really cool on the inside with all exposed wood and those old light bulbs where you can see all the coils (no, not the coiled energy efficient bulbs, the OLD energy non-efficient ones). You walk into the house and there is a long bar. To the right is 2-ish rooms. Its really one big room, but part of it is a step up. On the raised portion sat a HUGE Great Dane. At first I didn’t even know it was real, but turns out he was! Gentle giant to say the least! He barely moved and didn’t make a peep, but was very handsome to look at! On the lower part sat long couches and high-backed chairs. The lights were dim and the beer was good (I had a local brew: Fireman’s #4). It was a great atmosphere to sit and talk with friends. Out in the backyard there was a bar, multiple tables and a small stage used for live music throughout the spring, summer, and fall. It was cold when I was there so I didn’t get to enjoy any live music, but I still loved the bar! One of Doug’s Habitat coworkers, Katie and her boyfriend, Lucas, met up with us there and it was a lot of fun to sit and chat the night away!
Icenhauser’s: Also on Rainy Street, actually right across the street from Black Heart, is Icenhauser’s. Like Black Heart this is also a renovated home (but this one actually had a family living in it until a couple years ago! The feel to this bar was a bit different that Black Heart. There were leather benches and what appeared to be office chairs to sit in, which were all kind of thrown into a room with no rhyme or reason. Their specialty drink menu featured drinks named after women. Though these drinks were much more expensive that what I normally would get at a bar and closer in size to a shot than an actual mixed drink, I thought “I’m only in Austin once” and decided to go with “The Jennifer”: cucumber-infused Hendrick’s Gin with lime juice. This is partially because I like Gin, and partially because I thought cucumbers don’t taste like anything so I had to try this. Turns out cucumbers actually do have a taste: cucumber. It’s hard to describe, but it was delicious.
Flix Brewhouse: “America’s Cinema Brewery”! CT does not have this, and I really wish they did! Flix is actually a brew house where there is a full dinner menu…the best part is that you order said brews and dinner while you’re watching a movie in the movie theater! We went to see So This is 40, and it was hysterical. I LOVE Paul Rudd, and of course he was a crowd pleaser, per usual. So anyways, back to beers and food: how does it work? OK, well you go in and it looks like a normal movie theater, but the tiers of rows are a little more spread out and higher than a normal theater. Once you sit down, there is a table that you can pull out from in front of you and pull right up to your movie theater seat! In front of the table is a little blue button. In order to order anything from beer and soda to dinner and snacks you just push that blue button and a waitress comes over in a jiff to take your order. But you don’t even have to talk to the waitress, you just hand her a piece of paper with your order and before you know it, she comes back with said items in hand! Think Fancy TV dinner…that is served to you…while you’re watching a movie in a movie theater. I’m sold! After having been once, I will say one thing: be careful what you order because since its obviously dark in the theater, some things may be difficult to eat! At any rate, I really got a kick out of this: movie, service, the whole shabang! Annnddd it was cheaper than movie theaters in CT (to watch the movie anyways)…I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to just a regular old dingy theater!
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Austin Part 3!
I recently took a trip down to Austin to visit my friends Carrie and Doug, and it was pretty exciting because I’ve never been to Texas before and I love exploring new places. They moved down south over the summer so Doug could volunteer for Habitat for Humanity (whata guy!) and I was lucky enough to get to go visit and have them show me around! They live in an awesome area right near the University of Texas, so there is lots of fun stuff to do…especially a lot of cool and unique places to EAT! Pretty much the entire time I was in Austin, Carrie and I joked about how looking at our pictures it looks like all we did was eat. I swear we did other things too, but since it was kind of an ongoing joke, I thought it only appropriate to have my first “Austin Post” be about Texas’ culinary hot-spots
Central Market: Central Market was the first stop for me, Carrie, and Lupe (their new puppy) once my plane got in! We walked right over to it from their apartment and got some great sandwiches! Central Market is located within Central Park and has a cool outdoor seating area where you can eat, play on the play scape, etc. And dogs are allowed, which in my book makes it about 100x better! I got a mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich and Carrie got an Asian chicken sandwich. Both were delicious! Of course we shared some fries and fruit with the lunch…it was very well rounded and delicious!
Pinthouse Pizza: Pinthouse Pizza is not only a pizzeria, but they also brew their own beer, which is awesome! Who doesn’t love pizza and beer?! We got the Man O’ War IPA. I’m not a very good “beer describer”…you ask me how it is I’d tell you what I thought “it tastes like beer…it was great!”, but for you beer connoisseurs out there, here’s a little description right from their website: “Bright tropical fruits and juicy citrus in the nose are followed by a mouthful of resiny citrus and just a wee bit of clean bitterness to balance it all out. Much less bitter than many IPAs out there, yet so much hoppier.” I love IPAs so I thought it was delicious. We got dinner with Carrie’s brother and a couple of their Austin friends, including their friend named Austin…talk about getting confused! The pizza and beer were both great! And even better because both were made in house! Wayyyyy better than a bud light bottle and slice of Dominos!
Carrie and Doug’s Kitchen: Every morning while I was visiting, Doug got up and spoiled us with a delicious homemade breakfast! One day we had bagels with eggs that had chipotle peppers, onions, and cheese on them…it was super delicious, however unfortunately I couldn’t stomach the whole meal thanks to the prior night’s party. The next day we had sausage egg and cheeses made with venison sausage. It was delicious, especially because we know how much Carrie lovvvvvvesss sausage!
Austin Java: We stopped at Austin Java for a mid-afternoon ice coffee located in….you guessed it! Austin! I got a toffee crunch ice coffee, and besides it being probably the most expensive ice coffee I’ve ever purchased, it was delicious. Hey! I was on vacation! But if I lived in Austin I’d probably have to make coffee at home or find a slightly less expensive java-joint!
Chuy’s: Apparently there is a saying “If you see one Chuy’s….You’ve seen one Chuy’s”. And let me tell you…I believe it! This is the kind of place that is decorated with everything from a street signs to sports apparel to even a car sticking out of the wall (which is actually the booth we sat at). And of course is complete with a shrine to the king himself, Elvis that is! This place has some cool history too! Founders Mike Young and John Zapp started the place in 1982 with nothing but an old abandoned BBQ joint and $20. There was a women’s bathroom about the size of a broom closet and a men’s bathroom…uhh in the dirt parking lot, where else?! From there they took their eclectic charm to a new level and came up with their reknown decorating style and some famous dishes that include “Burritos as Big as Yo’ Face”. It was easy to tell this place was going to be a crowd pleaser from the moment we walked in the door because as soon as other customers found out we had never been there before they were eagerly offering their expert opinions on what we just HAD to eat! I got enchiladas, rice, and beans, and it was all delicious. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about it, but unfortunately, it’s too late to eat…and I’m in CT again…damn!
Ruby’s BBQ: We went to Ruby’s for a BBQ lunch my third day in TX. I was left to choose between this and a local taco place, and was having the WORST time deciding. What can I say, I’m a fat kid at heart (and maybe a little on the outside too :P) so I ended up choosing BBQ because I don’t eat it as often and it seemed delicious, and I’m glad I did! Everything at Ruby’s is authentic pit smoked BBQ slow cooked on oak wood in brick and mortar pits. Ruby’s has been family owned and operated since 1988 when they opened and they use only hormone and steroid free beef. I got the spicy chopped BBQ beef sandwich with homemade potato salad. My sandwich definitely had a kick to it and was complimented by the crisp potato salad and fresh ice tea! It was a really cool place to eat too because there was an “indoor-indoor” seating area, an “indoor-outdoor” seating area, and an “outdoor-outdoor” seating area. We sat in the “indoor-outdoor” seating area, where Lupe was able to join us, and we were also joined by the restaurant’s cat. Now, if you know me, you know my feelings on cats…but I am a sucker for businesses that have animals, what can I say!
Sandy’s Frozen Custard: Normally I’m not a huge ice cream or frozen yogurt fan, but in Texas frozen custard is a big thing, and I’m not talking about the “frozen custard” you can get at Rita’s here in New England. This is Real Deal! I opted for chocolate in chocolate dip, which I immediately regretted. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely delicious, but the custard was melting under the dip faster than I could keep up (like it always does with “dips”, yet somehow I never remember this until I’m in the moment!). Whats the difference between Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream and Custard? In addition to ice cream’s cream and sugar, custards also use eggs as one of the main ingredients. It was so creamy and fattening, I’m glad they only make it down there in the south!
Stay tuned for Austin Parts 2 and 3!
So I’ve been in Florida for approximately 36 hours and if I can tell you one thing, I’m not disappointed by the 90 degree heat. Especially when it’s approximately half of that where I’m from. OK, maybe in CT its slightly more than “half” of 90, but basically anything under 75 is too cold for me. Anyways, when I got into my hotel room I looked out back and saw a medium sized pond and I was delighted to see a couple of pretty big turtles swimming around a few more sunning themselves on a partially submerged log. So I did what anyone would do in a situation like this and went outside to take some pics of the cute little reptiles, but pop, pop, pop they were back in the water as soon as I was about 20 feet away. Sheesh, whoever said turtles are slow DEFINITELY has not met FL turtles. I was able to get a pic later of just one of them, but jeeze, those guys are fast! It was cool to seem them up close, but I think it might have been even cooler being able to seem them swimming around in the water from my room.
Anyways, I decided to walk along down the trail a minute and the BEST thing happened! I hear this “plop” into the water and look over and guess what it was…the biggest iguana I’ve ever seen. Truth be told, I’ve never actually seen an iguana in real life before, but this one was definitely a good size – over a foot from what I could tell. I told both my mom and my dad about this creature separately and both of them insisted that I saw an alligator. So, if you were also thinking that, let me tell you – it was NOT an alligator. I watch Swamp People and Call of the Wildman. What I saw was a run of the mill Florida iguana. I never knew those suckers could swim, but then again, I guess I never really thought about it. I looked it up before writing this post and turns out, they actually good swimmers. Who ever knew?
In addition to these first two gems, I have seen a bunch of cool bird, including the “duck” below that basically looks like the offspring of a turkey and a duck. It was white with what looks like the turkey’s “gobbler”. One odd duck if I do say so myself hehe.
I’d have to say that hands down my most favorite thing about Florida, animal-wise anyways, is the little lizards that run around everywhere. I love them so much. I wish I could take a pic for you, but since they are as fast as laser beams and relatively small I can’t really catch them on my stupid camera phone…bummer. I’ll definitely update you with a pic if I do happen to get one before I leave though, don’t worry.
To sum things up, I’m already getting depressed about going back to stupid CT and only seeing stupid New England animals like bunnies and squirrels.
I’m here this afternoon to lay some very important knowledge on you. As a child growing up, I was led to believe that hippos were very nice, friendly, and most important, hungry animals. Slow movers, eaters of small white balls that come in a variety of colors, and that’s about it. My initial beliefs were then confirmed as a young adult when Madagascar came out and I saw just how funny, caring, and fun a Gloria the hippo was. Well It has recently come to my attention that all of this is FALSE. I found out that not only are these games and movies misleading, but they are so far from the truth it’s not even funny. Why are people harboring this important, not to mention life saving, information? Apparently, hippos, who can grow to be weigh over 7,000 lbs. The largest on record was over 9,000…and let me tell you…they’re not using their “big bones” to roll horse around with other jungle animals. No. These animals are apparently viscous and kill more humans each year than any other jungle animal – lions and snakes included. Their jaws, which contain K9’s that can grow up to a foot long can apply the pressure of 8100 N (1821 lb). Which is basically enough to chomp you the hell in half. Seeing as how these animals are apparently “herbivores”, I’m not really sure why they need such large and powerful jaws. Maybe so they can pull off stunts like this:
I understand the desire to make a scary animal less terrifying, but lets be realistic here. Now some poor kid in Africa is going to go up to a hippo thinking things are going to be “cool” not knowing they have met their match. Now, coming from a newly self-proclaimed Hippoexpertamus, my advice to anyone who is in a situation where the may have to encounter this beast you need to do one of two things: Either swim out somewhere deep. Despite the fact that Hippos spend a lot of time in the water, including that they are born in water, they sink like a rock in water deeper than where they can stand. Your other option is to climb a tree. However if you’re like me you wont be able to pull your own body weight up fast enough to escape the Jaws of non-life. Both of these options include serious risks, most of them being other poisonous or otherwise viscous animals, but given the situation, you will really have to weigh your options. The one thing you do NOT want to do is RUN. Don’t let their short stocky stature fool you…these turds can run over 19 mph, and will easily outrun you. So, next time you are in Africa, make sure you remember these points. Hippo = death. See hippo = swim or climb. You’re welcome.
One of my favorite things to do at Cape Cod, which I haven’t gotten to do in years, is to walk out into the Bay on low tide. I used to do it with my dad every year and he taught me tons of things about the bay wildlife. So, one of my very first stops when I got to the cape was down at First Encounter Beach to see what time low tide was. The first day we were there it was 7:50. Perfect! We could go to the beach and then come back to the bay and walk out around 6 with the tide! I love sharing my infinite wisdom with others, so you can only imagine how happy I was that Ben was actually willing, and excited to go on a science adventure with me.
We got to the Bay around 6 and started walking out, of course it was a slow start, but then again, it always is. None of the “good stuff” is around until you’ve walked out into the water at least a half mile. So we kept on walking and walking and ended up seeing everything from razor clams to spider crabs, and most things in between. I will say that although I love seeing and touching all the cool things in the ocean, I do scream from time to time when crabs “chase” me, and I don’t like putting my hands in places where I can’t see them, nor do I like walking through the weeds. I know that’s where lots of cool things hide, but it just kind of creeps me out not knowing what my poor feet are going to land on. I may or may not have basically jumped into Ben’s arms a few times as I got nipped by those feisty crabs, but that’s ok, he probably secretly enjoyed it
The few things we didn’t see that I wanted to see was a horseshoe grab, a huge moon snail, and whelk. Ben has seen a horseshoe crab before, but not a whelk, so it would have been cool to discover one in the wild.
Here’s all the cool stuff we DID see:
A couple of days ago in Cape Cod, Ben and I decided to go mountain biking. We drove about a half hour to Hyannis to the Cape Cod Pathways. We started the ride, and for some reason I was feeling a bit more adventurous than normal. I even recall actually saying to Ben “I’m really keeping up with you a lot better than I was before”. This was my first mistake…overconfidence. I was feeling really good, actually riding on the downhill parts and pedaling through the sandy parts…basically feeling pretty comfortable throughout the whole experience.
It all seemed too good to be true. Probably because it was. I officially counted my eggs before they were hatched. We were on our way back and I decide to go down this hill a little more (ok, a lot more) steep than normally I would. This was my second, and nearly fatal mistake. I thought that since it was a small hill I could totally handle it. I was wrong (shocker, I know). Anyways, so I get half way down the hill, and my left foot and petal catch a rock, causing my handlebars to flip around and ultimately resulting in my bike flipping over my left shoulder bringing me with it. Cool. Luckily, I didn’t break any bones, especially because I have a very important wedding to be at in a couple days, but I do have one badass bruise to show for it…ouch!
Recently Ben and I visited with some of my relatives in the Village of Burdett, and we were able to do a lot during our visit even though we were there for less than 48 hours. Besides visiting with my family, going to Lodi Point State Park, Wagner Vineyards, The Crooked Rooster, and the Seneca Harbor Wine Center, my aunt and uncle took us to Watkins Glen State Park, which was pretty much the highlight of the trip.
As you can tell from past posts, Ben and I love hiking, so already this was right up our alley! Connecticut doesn’t have any cool gorges like Watkins Glen, though, so this really was quite the treat. Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, and it’s easy to see why: throughout the 1.5 mile path there is water flow that drops over 400 feet. Some flows over huge waterfalls, others just over the rocks. It is so cool too because you can see how the water has worn the rocks down over time. My aunt is a nature fanatic and was able to tell us a lots of cool fun facts! Over thousands of years, glaciers originating in Canada drifted down to the US to create these amazing gorges, and they also brought some nonindigenous plants and trees with them. It was also these same glaciers that created the 11 Finger Lakes! Interesting right?! We can’t wait to get back up there and hike some other gorges in the area!
Starting at the top left- water dripping, top right – me drinking from a natural spring (cold and delicious), bottom left- water rushing through the rocks (you can see all the different layers the water has cut through throughout the years- cool!), bottom middle- my family standing on a bridge that was chiseled in the 1800s. At that time, the water poured down under the bridge to a flour and feed mill that was located right about where I stood to take the picture! Bottom right- one of the couple hundred feet tall waterfalls. The picture doesn’t do it justice since the waterfall was so tall I wasn’t able to get the whole thing in one picture!
Top left – Pic with Ben, my cousin Laura, and my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim. Top Right – cool pic of the water. Bottom: Me and my uncle Jim behind the sign. (we both like taking pics of signs haha)
Me and Ben behind one of the waterfalls!
After a week of work, we are ready for our next adventure: Sebago Lake! One of my very good friends is moving to Austin, TX from CT in about a month and since her family has a cabin on Sebago Lake she is having her last big hurrah up there this weekend! There is going to be about 20 of us up there enjoying the lake and good times to come. The group of people going is a mishmash of her and her boyfriends friends from home (NH and CT), college friends, and new friends like me! I’ve met a lot of the people who are gong to be there, but not everyone…I have heard a lot about everyone though so I can’t wait to meet them all. Oh, and I’ve never been to Sebago Lake, so I’m SUPER PUMPED to experience it for the first time!
I’m also excited to spend some QT with my friend before the big move! We haven’t been friends all that long, only about a year, but in that time we have spent a lot of time together working, coaching, running, working out, and OF COURSE eating pizza! Who is ever going to fill these shoes!? At least the move is only supposed to be 11 months (by the way, she originally told me 10…probably to lighten the blow, but its definitely 11…wah!).
From what I hear there will be a lot of eating and drinking, swimming and tubing, game playing (including board games) and I’m sure a lot more that I don’t even know about yet…So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’d have to try really really hard to have a bad time. Though I’m sad to see them go, of course I wish her and her boy nothing but the best, and that being said…lets get this par-tay starrrteddd!!!