Friday, May 27, 2011

Camping in Georgia - Part Deux

So, where did I leave off with my camping story? Oh right, we almost drove straight into a tornado. With all the tornado activity lately, I am certainly thanking my lucky stars on that one.

Let's back up to our trip to South Carolina. We arrived at Dave & Kelly's in Mount Pleasant, SC late morning on day two of travel. We had pulled over at a marina not far from their house to brush our teeth and hair. We had been in the car for two days and were not at our finest. When we pulled up, Dave & Kelly were sitting on their beautiful porch rocking in their chairs...it was a very wecome site, especially since we haven't seen them in almost a year. Tim and Dave met at Fidelity 20+ years ago and our paths crossed many times over the years. What feels like ages ago, Tim and I lived in Wakefield and just as we were moving to Hopkinton to start our married life, Dave & Kelly moved to Wakefield. Then they moved to Westborough years later and then after a stint in Ohio, they moved to Hopkinton right down the street from us. Yes, I DO think they were following us.

They are the kind of friends that we never have a lull in conversation...we can talk about anything...and do at length and with great passion, excitement, and laughter. Perhaps one of our favorite things about them is their love of friends and family. The more the merrier, in their opinion. Somewhere along the way, we informally started stopping by at the last minute for impromptu get togethers. We would be out to dinner and just call them on the way home and say "What are you doing? We are coming by in 5 minutes..." and they would always welcome us in for a glass or two of wine and great conversation. Then when they were out they would do the same. We absolutely loved our impromptu, spur of the moment get togethers. I'm a big fan of taking advantage of the moment and what better way then to spend it with friends who also love that sort of thing. Recently we had a virtual impromptu get together...over Skype! We "called" them and had our glasses of wine in hand. They grabbed their wine and we caught up. It was so fun!

Well, back to our trip....After taking our first shower in two days, we felt like a million bucks, and headed out to Charleston with the Ranney family. I love, love, loved Charleston. So adorable. So much history. Great restaurants. I think it would be a great place for a girl's or couples weekend. We went to a hotel that had a bar/restaurant on the top floor with a pool....absolutely beautiful views and such a fun place. I was also able to buy my hat for the Kentucky Derby there...lots o' hat shops.

Some other friends from Hopkinton arrived that night and we had great fun with everyone. After our visit, we really felt we could move there...the weather was beautiful, so much outdoor living, very relaxing pace of life. However, it was the bugs that almost took me down to my knees. You end up walking around with a pig pen cloud of bugs around your head. I'm not good with the bugs...so this was a "game ender" for me. Love to visit...and we'll be back...but you can keep yo' bugs.

The next day we were off to Savannah...and I think you know how that shook out when we arrived at our "campground". Let's just skip to our first day in the city....we drove in and spent the afternoon on the Riverfront. We ended up at The Bohemian Hotel where they had yet another roof top restaurant. Absolutely beautiful view right along the river - we had such a nice lunch with the kids - they loved watching the tankers going through the river. If you are in the area...you must stop by.

The next day we were off to Tybee Island about 20 minutes away. It sounded like it would be like Cape Cod...well, it was cute, but more like a very small Jersey shore town than Cape Cod...tons of tshirt shops, greasy roadside food stops, but very fun nonetheless. We spent the day at the beach, which was beautiful and the water was warm.

The next day we were off to Tybee Island...about 1 1/2 hrs away. I had arranged for a behind the scenes tour at the George Sea Turtle Center which was a suprise for the kids. Tybee was more like Cape Cod...quiet, less populated, a true beach town. We spent the morning at the beach and then headed out for our tour. It was supposed to be an hour but ended up being almost 2 hours...we got to go into the hospital room where they were working on several rescued sea turtles. We talked to the doctors, learned about each of the turtles' history, and watched as they worked on them. We also went behind the scenes to see all of the turtles they are currently caring for, including about 50 baby diamond back terrapins. If you are ever in the area, we highly recommend this!

After our tour, we went to Driftwood Beach, which is essentially a forest that, for whatever reason, was submerged by the ocean at one point, leaving a forest of driftwood. One of my favorite places ever! While on the island we also discovered a great campground and we decided that we will go back next year for April vacation! There are many other coastal Georgia islands that we didn't get to explore and it is also only a few hours from Disney so we thought we might combine the two for next year. Dave and Kelly...get ready for us again!

On our last full day in Georgia, we spent it in Savannah. We took a trolley tour to really get a sense of the city and then spent the day exploring. We fully enjoyed our trip to Georgia and the coastal islands and would go back in a heart beat! And it turns out, April was "dead" according to the locals. We had almost every beach to ourselves, the weather was in the mid 80's, and the water was warm. I'm not sure why more people weren't there.

Our ride home was just about as bad as our ride there. Let me paint the picture...Easter weekend, rain, end of April vacation...of course there was traffic. We spent a good part of the second travel day on the Jersey turnpike...nuf said. Needless to say, we made it home safe and sound and had a great trip.

And once again, I had the same feeling as soon as I got home...I just wanted to get back in the camper and go someplace else to explore. We won't be able to camp as much as last year (that was a gift), but we will try and camp as much as we possibly can.

In fact, we camped locally last weekend....more to come on that soon!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Zumba, Boot Camp, 5K's, Oh My!

I forgot to mention that my trip to the Kentucky Derby started with a near fatal heart attack. I was on the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles plan. I had planned to take the train to Boston, hop on the subway to the airport, and then grab 2 flights until I arrived in Louisville. I had it timed perfectly, or so I thought. Turns out my train left at 7:03 not 7:08 so as I got out of my car, I heard the signal for the oncoming train. I ran with my luggage and carry on bag...with my big Kentucky Derby hat on my head. Have you ever tried to run with 2 pieces of luggage up AND down 3 flights of stairs? With a giant hat on. Just take a minute to visualize that. I found myself yelling "Wait!" in this crazy, lunatic whisper voice. If I didn't get this train I wasn't going to make my flight...plain and simple. I could have kissed the conductor when I finally reached the train. Could have in theory...if I wasn't so busy coughing up my lungs. I'm pretty sure I came down with activity induced asthma as a result. I literally spent the entire train ride coughing. It was pathetic.

I don't think I am that out of shape...especially since lately I have been training for my first 5K. If you know me at all, you know this is shocking. I HATE running. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. Let me say it again. I HATE HATE HATE running. I don't like hearing myself breathe hard, I don't like feeling my parts jiggle. I tend to run as fast as I can to get it over with and then run out of steam early on. I, plain and simple, don't like it.

On the flip side, I love to exercise with friends. When you know someone is waiting for you, you will meet them because you don't want to let them down. I need this type of motivation, especially when it is dark, cold, night, rainy, sprinkling, or any other non-perfect condition.

I started out going to yoga with my friend Ann. This was when I was working at Fidelity and I was too stressed to enjoy yoga. Instead of relaxing, I thought of all the things I should be doing instead of trying to relax. It just wasn't right for me at that time.

Then we moved on to Zumba. OMG...if you haven't taken a Zumba class you need to. It's a latin dance/exercise class. Ann and I spent the whole time giggling at the instructor. She had a love for Carlos Santana and there was one song in particular she played each time...and the minute the beat started, she was transported to a special, private place with Carlos. Because we spent so much time watching her, we were usually bumping into people which would make us laugh even harder.

My friend Melissa and I took a boot camp class 2x a week. During the first class I not only coughed up my lungs but also my liver and spleen. There were 8 of us in the first class...by the second class there were only 4. We spent the first night "frog hopping" around the gym. In this tortorous activity, we all got in a line around the perimeter of the gym and got into a squat position. When it was your turn, you would hop out of line and then hop in a squat position all the way to the front of the line...where you would continue in your squat until it was your turn again. We did this around the entire perimeter of the gym. Go ahead...just try sitting in a squat for 10 minutes. Two words for you...Spaghetti Legs. Oh..you know what else was "fun"? We would stand on one side of the gym and the teacher would huck a tennis ball off the wall. We had to run and catch it before it bounced and if you missed, then everyone in the class had to do 20 sit ups. If you were one of the first people that missed, the class would say "Oh good try!" and do their 20 sit ups. By the end of the line, they were killing you with their daggar eyes. Although my favorite might have been the night when we had to carry folded up gym mats over our heads for the length of the gym and back. I was convinced my neck was going to snap like a pretzel. Suprisingly enough, we went back for more and took the class AGAIN. It did get us in great shape, however we pretty much spent every Tuesday and Thursday throwing up our water while doing bear crawls and suicides.

You heard about my adventures walking 26.2 miles for the Jimmy Fund Walk. Very inspirational and an incredible challenge but again...I walked the marathon route after only walking about 3 miles a day. I can still vividly remember trying to swing myself over the side of the tub to get some relief...but I couldn't even lift my legs. It hurt just to lie still that night.

And now, here I am sucked into yet another "This will be great!" idea. My friend Cori convinced me it would make me feel great. Let me lay it out for you. We get up at 5:15, are on the road by 5:45, and home by 6:30. Oh, yeah, and in between we meet 2 other ladies and a personal trainer who has us on a program of walking and running at various intervals. Class 2, we came around the corner and one of the ladies was hurling in the bushes. I'm not kidding you. Full on throwing up in the bushes. Jesus. What did I get myself into again?!

I have to admit, I do feel good by the time I finish. And although I'm not looking to run a marathon anytime soon, I don't mind running as much anymore. By the time I get on the train in the morning, I have already been up for 3 hours. Of course I now go to the bed with the kids because I can't keep my eyes open.

Bottom line, the power of friendship is tremendous. It can make you do things you never would have otherwise. And for some, myself included, it's just the motivation you need to challenge yourself. After this I'm pretty sure I am out of things to try so don't even think about asking me to do another thing.

Oh, and if you are in town on June 18th, come congratulate Cori and I when we cross the finish line of the Timlin Race!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bucket List

When the movie "The Bucket List" came out in 2007, I went to see it with a bunch of my friends. My friend Margaret created an actual Bucket List notebook for each of us and after the movie we went to dinner to share our "life lists" with each other. It was fascinating to hear what people had on their lists and it even inspired me to add other things to the list that I had been building in my head over the years.

I pulled it out the list yesterday to see what was on it...it's been quite awhile since I looked at it. I was happy to see two things crossed off: "Take a summer off to spend with my kids" and "paint a picture". There is a lot of travel listed on there...I want to visit places like Australia, Paris, Italy, and go on a safari in Africa. There are a few things on there I don't want to do anymore too, like "go on a hot air balloon ride" (after the Balloon Boy incident, I'm all set) and "go sky diving" (I'm not feeling that adventerous anymore). Yesterday, I was prompted to pull it out because this past weekend I had a "life list" experience.

Several months ago my cousin Jill texted me asking "Any interest in going to the Kentucky Derby?" It took me about 1 second to think about it and respond with a resounding "yes!" I rode horses for most of my childhood and even took it up a few years ago to get more exercise (this experience will have to be its own blog post..I will call it something like "The Sad Realities of Getting Older"). Bottom line, I love horses and couldn't turn down the opportunity to go. Although attending the Kentucky Derby wasn't on my bucket list originally, I can now say it is on there and crossed off. And I would encourage everyone to go once in their life just to experience it.

I was also able to combine my trip to the Derby with visiting my cousin Karen who recently moved to Louisville, seeing my cousin Jill, and giving myself an awesome Mother's Day Gift. It was the trifecta of trips!

I had imagined the Derby experience to be something like this: The day would be a glorious, sunny warm day. I would wear a fantastic hat...and outfit in general. I would bump into celebrities left and right while sipping my mint julep. Oh, and I would be busy collecting my incredible windfall from my Derby bet.

Well, the day started off overcast and was actually a little chilly. It was more 60 degrees than the 80 degrees I had imagined. Thankfully, my cousin Jill had scored incredible seats....covered seats....in a box right past the finish line so the weather didn't really affect us. We shook our heads at those wearing see through ponchos over their cute outfits....Ponchos + Derby hats = a fashion don't.

Karen, Jill, and I DID indeed look fantastic and we had fabulous hats. Here's the thing about hats tho.....if they are big, like mine was, it is hard to see and it also affects your hearing. I was whacked around like a pinball wherever I walked...and that was before the mint juleps. And I couldn't hear very well because the hat was covering my ears. Probably was for the best since the crowd was roaring with excitement for most of the day.

As far as celebrities, I did catch a glimpse of Erin Andrews from ESPN at the airport, but only after my cousin pointed her out. She also pointed out an ex-Dolphins coach that was near us and some other ESPN guy that I had never heard of. Although I'm sure they are all nice people, they weren't quite the celebrities I was hoping to see. I was envisioning myself having my picture taken with Jack Nicholson or Beyonce while clinking mint julep glasses. No such luck.

However, the place was filled with beautiful people, that is for sure. As well as filled with people who thought they were beautiful because of their plumped lips and over-inflated boobs. I often found myself with my mouth hanging open staring like I was watching a t.v show. On one side of us we had a 70-ish year old woman who had permanent "surprised eyes" and distorted lips that didn't move. You know when you go to the hospital to visit someone and you can't stop yourself from looking in each room, even though you don't really want to see what is going on inside? Well, that was how I felt with this lady. I couldn't stop sneaking a peek at her but each time I did, I quickly looked away because it was disturbing.

On the other side we had a blonde cougar with Lisa Rinna lips and beach ball boobs that started under her chin. She was greased into an incredibly tight, low cut dress that showed off her girls and the edges of her nipples. Again, hard to look away, yet hard to believe someone would go out in public like that.

We did have a mint julep...or two. The first one was tough to get down....I don't normally slug down bourbon...but after two, they slide right down. They had vendors selling them like beers at a ball game. So convenient...and in hindsight, a bit too convenient. See, the drinks were sold in glass souvenier glasses that listed every Derby winner in the last 137 years....and I needed four so everyone at home could have one. And my cousin needed some to take home....'nuff said.

I didn't realize there were races all day long. They run about every half hour. We watched the first race and then decided to bet. We went to the wager area and were educated by a very nice lady behind the counter. A few races later we felt like pros... "Race 7, $20 to win, on number 4". Out of the 5 races we bet on, we won 3 between the two of us. I placed my first bet with $5 and then used my winnings for the rest of the day! Unfortunately, we didn't see the horse with 20-1 odds coming in first. We seriously couldn't believe it...we were sure "our" horses were going to win...Mucho Macho Man and Pants on Fire. In the end, it didn't matter, we had a great time regardless.

For anyone who has ever thought of going to the Kentucky Derby, I highly recommend it. Put it on your bucket list.

Thanks Jill for the fantastic tickets! Thanks to Tony for all the great cooking! And thanks Karen for opening your beautiful house and taking such great care of me all weekend!