Birthday Weekend, New York Style

When we left Tuxedo on June 9th, my actual birthday, we took the scenic route to Brooklyn, passing through New Jersey and then over the Hudson River. Despite worries about driving through the city with our jam-packed car with the rack on the back, it actually wasn’t that bad!

And we were able to quickly find parking on the street of our Airbnb. New York is expensive, but we found a whole apartment on the first floor (no stairs!) in Greenpoint for only $80 a night. Score for us! Not only were we right near two dog parks, but we were only a 15-20 minute walk to my sister Jenna’s place in Greenpoint.

That night, we walked over to her apartment where we retrieved a ton of mail we had sent there - including birthday gifts from family and Lauren! - and enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal that I specifically requested: baked ziti, salad, and garlic bread. It was exactly what I wanted! And then she surprised me with a chocolate cream pie for dessert!

The next day we woke up early and tried to wear the dogs out because we knew we were going to spend the morning out and about. One of the Airbnb’s neighbors claimed that a dog had been barking “all day” the night before. I’m skeptical of his claims. #1 we didn’t leave the dogs in the apartment until like 6:30 pm. #2 the dogs were exhausted. But we didn’t want him to complain again, so not only did we get the pups tired, but we also hung a blanket up as sound-proofing, and left music AND the TV on to drown out any potential barks. The things we do for dogs!

Then we had a fun Friday! Peter Pan Donuts. The High Line with Jenna and Lauren. Sephora birthday gift. Back to Brooklyn. McCarren Park with the dogs. Xander found a Pomeranian girlfriend. Spritzenhaus. Bar. Nachos and tequila shots and beer. Another bar. And then so tired.

Saturday: Eyebrow threading. Egg sandwich breakfast at Jenna’s. Milk Bar cookies. The Nice Guys at Williamsburg Cinemas. Losing Nick for a few minutes. Classic Specs. Concocting a plan for our next destination. Williamsburg Pizza at Jenna’s. Billy on the Street. Ow my feet hurt.

Sunday: Long walk with the dogs. Beehive Oven Biscuit Cafe with Jenna, Jill, and Eddie. Pimento cheese macaroni and cheese. Creepy waiter who kept wanting to clear our table. Saying goodbye to Jenna. Packing and loading everything up and saying adios New York!

I’m so happy we decided to spend my birthday in New York with my sister! We had planned to be up there for Christmas last year, but Jo had an FCE and the right side of her body was paralyzed so we had to cancel our trip. It’s always fun to see her and hang out and it’s always sad to say goodbye :( But we always know we’ll see each other soon!

Not only was NY a great place spend my birthday and see Jenna, but we also had a bit of a trip epiphany. Nick and I finally decided to kick our trip into high gear, try to cover some ground, and start heading west!

 

Everything Before, After, and In Between Camping

My last blog post talked about our disappointment with camping, but before, after, and in between camping, we have also been some pretty cool places! So let’s do a recap of what else has been going on during this road trip:

Atlanta/Decatur, Georgia

After the wedding in Tuscaloosa, we drove into Atlanta and stayed at a Red Roof Inn in Buckhead. We had high hopes to go see Joe Pug, one of our favorite musicians, play a free show, but alas, we were tired and it was Sunday, which is Game of Thrones night! Plus, we had recently seen Joe Pug play an AWESOME show at Strange Brew in Austin, so we felt like it was okay to skip this one. We gave the dogs a bath, ate a healthy salad for dinner, watched GoT, and fell asleep.

The next day, we spent the afternoon at Park Grounds, a coffee shop and dog park. The dogs played while we attempted to plan more of our trip. Then, we headed over to Christina and Ryan’s place in Decatur. We had such a fun time with them and Ranger! Christina made us an Atlanta welcome basket and we enjoyed hanging out, playing Citadels, taking the dogs for long walks, and 75% of us professing our hate for Radiohead. We wish we lived closer to them!

Roanoke, Virginia

After camping in North Carolina, we headed to Roanoke, Virginia via the curvy Blue Ridge Parkway. Why Roanoke? Why not? We got a room on Sunday at the Red Roof Inn in Troutville where we spent the night, obviously, watching Game of Thrones.

But the next morning, I donned my “Don’t Be Such a Squeef” shirt and we went hiking up Mill Mountain to see the Roanoke Star. While the hike up the mountain is supposedly only 1.2 miles. It felt way longer because it was a “more difficult” trail due to its ridiculously steep incline. By the time we made it to the top, I was huffing and puffing and knew I’d be sore the next day, but the view was awesome. Plus, the Roanoke Star is the largest man-made star in the WORLD. Yes, the world.

Later that night we attempted to eat dinner at a restaurant that was closed for Memorial Day so we ended up at Benny Marconi’s, a pizza place with the biggest slices of pizza. The guy who took and prepared our order immediately told us about all the girls he had at his last birthday (which really only amounted to 3?) and showed us pictures on his iPad. Regardless, the pizza was good.

Chester/Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

On our last day of camping, we decided to wake up early and drive an hour to see Gettysburg. After driving around town and doing the auto tour of the battle, we were trying to figure out what we were going to do for the night. We had booked one more night of camping (ugh!), but it was supposed to rain later that evening and the next morning. So we could a) camp in the rain and be hot and humid in the tent all night with two dogs and deal with mud when we had to pack everything up, or we could b) find somewhere else to spend the night.

Luckily, Nick’s friend Amber totally helped us out with this choice and offered us a weekend room at a senior living facility in Chester, Pennsylvania. How could we turn it down? So we rushed back to our campsite and got busy breaking everything down so we could beat the rain and turn around to drive Chester, which is 20 minutes outside of Philly.

Three and a half hours later, we had a small apartment to ourselves for the next few days. We made friends with the late night security guard after giving him a slice of pizza and grimaced every time we had to take the dogs out because we knew everyone was staring at us, wondering why we were there. But that’s okay! It was nice to be able to relax and spread out after camping and just take it easy for a few days.

We stocked up on food from Trader Joe’s and drove into Delaware to go to a dog park and buy things without sales tax. We went to 2SP Brewing where we chatted with some cool people, enjoyed some good beer, and found out Chester was shit. We drove into Philly on Sunday to see the Rocky Steps and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was pay what you wish day, so we got in for $1! But we lamented the Philly traffic and the weird parking in the middle of the street and on the sidewalk and we got outta there quickly! Of course, we watched Game of Thrones on Sunday before we left. By now, we realize this trip is centered around two things: dogs and Game of Thrones.

Tuxedo Park, New York

Our current stop is in Tuxedo Park, New York where we have spent the past two nights with Amber, Will, Max, and Evita. They have been so welcoming from the moment we got here. We love their fun, laid-back house, hanging out on their deck, eating the awesome food and snacks they continually provide, playing all kinds of card and board games, and walking our dogs on the mile loop around their little neighborhood where we can see really cool 1960’s houses nestled into the woods. We should’ve done more up here, but we’ve enjoyed relaxing and spending time with people we otherwise wouldn’t spend time with.

We will be in Brooklyn this weekend spending my 34th birthday (yikes! Am I really that old?!) with my sister Jenna, but we don’t know where we’ll be next. We’re trying to determine how we want the rest of the trip to go. Do we want to move faster so we can see more in a shorter amount of time? Or do we want to continue to take our time and avoid road trip burnout?

Either way, we need to figure where we will be next Sunday at the least because we need to watch Game of Thrones.

Camping Isn't as Fun as I Want It to Be

When I think of camping, I picture a beautiful, idyllic setting where I can relax and be a part of nature. Delicious cookouts, light breezes, birds chirping, the sound of running water, the smell of campfires and pine.

The reality of camping, however, is nothing like my daydream.

A History of Camping

I went camping once when I was younger. My dad took my sister and I, along with another family, camping at CB Smith Park in Florida. We attempted to pitch a tent and were able to fully pitch it after the campsite next door helped. We brought too much food and enjoyed every bite we took. The next day we loaded everything back up and went home.

A few years ago, Nick and I attempted to go camping with friends. We bought a tent, a sleeping bag, and a couple of styrofoam bed rolls, along with the ingredients to make chicken fajitas. The four of us loaded up a single car and drove two hours from Lubbock to Palo Duro Canyon constantly checking the weather radar as we tried to beat a rainstorm so we could set up before it potentially started pouring.

By the time we got to the canyon - without a reservation - we were told there was a big bike race the next day and there were no campsites available. With no other options, we turned around, drove two hours back to Lubbock and cooked fajitas in my friend’s kitchen.  Turns out it was for the best since a huge West Texas thunderstorm dropped way too much rain on the canyon right about the time we would have been setting up camp!

And then two years ago, my friend Lauren and I went camping for a single night at a Texas state park. We stayed in a shelter instead of a tent and had a grand old time besides the heat and humidity.

So with all of that camping experience under my belt, I thought it would be a great idea to spend the summer camping across America, while also staying with friends and family and hotels in between.

I want to like camping. I want to love camping, but after two experiences so far (yes, only two experiences, but isn’t two enough to know?), I’m pretty sure camping isn’t for me.

Why Isn’t Camping for Me?

Our first camping experience together and with our two great dogs didn’t get off to the best start. We arrived in Candler, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville, after a brief rainstorm. Everything was muddy and we had to park further away from our campsite than we would’ve liked. We took multiple trips back and forth from the car to the site, lugging all of our crap that we thought we needed (why did we bring so much stuff?!). We did get the tent set up despite poor directions and were able to figure out a place for the rest of our stuff.

Even though our campsite was right next to a babbling brook, it couldn’t make up for the poison ivy everywhere. Although I have yet to have a reaction to poison ivy - surprisingly - Nick is highly allergic to it, and we were hyper aware of everything we and the dogs touched and walked on.

Oh yeah, and there’s bugs! And it got freezing at night! And it was humid and everything was wet in the morning and muddy again. And my hair looked awesome.

Cooking is also an ordeal. You have to take everything out, cook, and then hike to go wash all of your dishes. After a lovely, hot meal of black beans and scrambled eggs, we opted for easy-to-make sandwiches the next night.

Although things did get better after the first night, we decided to cancel our last night to move on up the road. Then, of course, you have to break everything down and pack it all back up.

When you daydream about camping, you definitely don’t daydream about all the work that camping requires.

We drove up to Roanoke, Virginia, from North Carolina and spent two nights in a Red Roof Inn contemplating what to do next. Should we throw in the towel on our trip? No! We’re still on the East Coast. Should we throw in the towel on camping? Not yet? Maybe camping will be better in a different location. Maybe a state or national park instead of someone’s organic farm. Maybe in the New England area or out West instead of in the South.

So we decided to try camping again. This time, we chose Cowans Gap State Park in Fort Loudon, Pennsylvania. The park has great reviews and driving up, the landscape was pretty - green, rolling hills, mountains in the distance, cute little houses.

Our campsite looked better. But looks are often deceiving. More bugs than North Carolina. Less of a breeze. Bathrooms are farther away or you can take a shortcut through a small trail that has poison ivy.

Plus, we have two dogs with us. And while we love our dogs, they do limit what we can and can’t do while we’re camping. We can’t go off on a hike without them. We can’t rent a kayak. We have to take turns showering or going to the bathroom or getting water so that someone is always with the dogs. We have to make sure their feet are clean before getting into the tent. And the bugs are bothering them too.

That’s not to say we haven’t had any fun while camping. We’ve definitely had fun. But for us, right now, camping is our way of life.

We’re not going camping for a long weekend with friends and coming home to our own house and bed. We currently don’t have a house or bed. We have this. And we have dog-friendly hotels. And we have awesome friends and family who welcome our whole pack.

But if we don’t like camping and all the work that goes into it, then the focus of our kick-ass road trip is going to have to change. Maybe we ditch our camping gear. Maybe we go quicker around the U.S. than slower. Maybe we see who and what we want to see and then we head home, wherever we decide home is.

We still need to write about our awesome time in Decatur with Christina, Ryan, and Ranger, and our time in Roanoke!

 

A Brief Tour of the SEC: Gainesville & Tuscaloosa

We’ve got to get better about making blog posts!

Trip Resolution: Make more blog posts.

We left my parent’s house in South Florida on Thursday, May 19. Instead of taking the shortest, most direct route to Gainesville we took the longer, non-turnpike route. Even though it added an extra 1-2 hours to the trip, it was way less stressful and way less expensive.

As we headed out of Tamarac and went west to catch I-75N, we drove along the edge of the Everglades where I mentioned that I have never been on an airboat or really ever been to the Everglades at all.

Isn’t that weird considering I grew up in Florida? Why didn’t any of my classes throughout elementary, middle, or high school take a trip out to the Everglades? No clue. So maybe next time I’m in Florida, I’ll check it out.

We also drove along the east side of Lake Okeechobee (where I have also never been) and then made our way north to Gainesville where my friend Tracey from high school and college offered us a lovely place to stay.

Driving through Gainesville to get to Tracey’s house, I noticed how different everything looked. More shopping centers. More apartments. More people. The last time I had been to Gainesville was in 2004 (yikes! Was it really 12 years ago?!) and then I briefly stopped there when I drove out to Texas in 2010 to get gas and a Publix sub, but otherwise, I haven’t been back.

At Tracey’s house, Xander and Jo got to meet Kody, who was a ball of energy and wanted to play, play, play! Then we went to First Magnitude, a brewery that didn’t exist when I was last there.

First Magnitude was awesome! I loved the logo and the beer and the great patio. We enjoyed a flight of beer and a pint and then (after taking a brief break to feed all of our doggies) we went to The Top, a restaurant that also didn’t exist when I was last there.

It was so fun to catch up with Tracey and see the old college town, but the next morning we had to wake up and get ready to take the almost 8-hour drive to Tuscaloosa for Seth and Liz’s wedding.

As soon as we got to Tuscaloosa, we took our dogs to the Will May Memorial Dog Park at Munny Sokol Park to give them some exercise and get them tired. Then, we left them in our La Quinta Inn room while we went out to say eat, drink, and say hello to family the night before the wedding.

The day of the wedding we took the dogs to the dog park AGAIN and then did a few errands, which included checking out Druid City Brewing Company where we had a beer and colored Care Bear Pictures.

After getting dressed all snazzy for the wedding (as snazzy as possible considering we have limited clothes on this trip!), we headed to the University of Alabama Arboretum, which was a lovely setting for a wedding, minus the poison ivy that was all over the ground.

Yikes! Nick is very allergic to poison ivy so we were both hyper aware of everything that may have come into contact with it. What’s funny about this is that Nick - who isn’t allergic to anything - has a horrible reaction to poison ivy whereas I am allergic to everything EXCEPT apparently poison ivy! Yay me?

From the ceremony (CONGRATS SETH & LIZ!!), we were the first people back on the van (yes!) to head on over to the reception. After getting our free drink at the reception and playing a round of Marriage Mad Libs, we were also some of the first people in line for food. Yum. And once we ate and did a champagne toast and secretly took a video of Nick’s mom dancing, we said goodbye to everyone and as soon as we layed down on the bed, both of us passed out shortly after Fred Armisen’s SNL monologue.

Sunday, May 22: Wake up, pack up our hotel room, take dogs to dog park, sneak into Embassy Suites for a free breakfast (omelet station for the win!), get our mail, say goodbye to everyone, pick up the dogs, and hit the road for Atlanta and spending a few days with Christina, my Lubbock roommate, and her husband Ryan!

Leaving Tuscaloosa was a milestone in our road trip. Why? Because now we’re really on our own. We’ve already visited our parents. Now it’s just us and the open road. And two wild and crazy dogs.

20 Things We Have Done Since Last Saturday

The trip has begun, but it doesn’t feel real yet.

We have been going nonstop since before the garage sale and have barely had time to catch our breath.

So I’m going to review 20 things we have done since last Saturday, only 10 days ago:

1. Garage sale! We are garage sale pros by now, having had 3 different sales in 3 different cities. It went okay. Fortunately, we sold most of our big stuff ahead of the sale!

2. Donating everything that wasn’t sold at the garage sale. At that point, since we were willing to part with it, we just needed to get rid of all that stuff.

3. Packing up the remaining loose ends in Austin.

4. Cleaning the Austin duplex so it looked better than when we moved in - we better get our full security deposit back OR ELSE.

5. Packing two cars to the gills. (I thought we got rid of everything?!?!?)

6. Driving to Kemp, Texas, and trying to beat a huge storm near Waco with hail and 60 mph winds.

7. Arriving at Kemp around 9:30 pm, hungry and exhausted because we didn’t stop.

8. Dealing with Jo - a scaredy cat when it comes to thunderstorms - during a Texas thunderstorm.

9. Not getting much sleep due to that well-timed storm!

10. Unpacking two cars and storing (too much) stuff in Kemp.

11. Repacking the new Subaru aka Brienne of Carth.

12. Dammmnnn Jo, back at it again with those Texas thunderstorms!

13. Waking up early and getting on the road at 7 am for the first day of our drive to Florida. We went through Nacogdoches, Natchitoches (where we got a meat pie at Lasyone's), Natchez - none of those cities are the same! - Hattiesburg, Mobile, and finally Pensacola. 5 states in one day!

14. Spending the night in a Pensacola Red Roof Inn - they’re pet-friendly!

15. Pensacola to Tamarac where my parents live - Florida really is a loooong state.

16. Letting our dogs and my parents’ dogs meet for the very first time. It did NOT go well! Their little dogs wanted to attack our dogs. I thought we were going to have to stay in a hotel, but luckily we’ve been working in shifts to keep them separated, and it worked.

17. Unpacking the entire car because we realized we brought WAY too much stuff and we had to get rid of a bunch of crap. We have left a mess in my parent’s house all week - sorry Dad and Sammie!

18. Taking our dogs to a dog park for the first time. We hadn’t done this before but they LOVE it and it will be a big part of our trip. Especially because it will tire them out!  Trip Mantra #1: Tired doggies are good doggies.

19. Driving to and from Miami to experience the brand new Coral Gables Tap 42. Big ups to Toivo, Nick’s Dad, for a job well done!

20. Catching up with friends and family and taking some much-needed relaxation time.

Even though we’ve done a LOT, it doesn’t feel like the trip has started yet. My parent’s house was a nice “safety net” place to get a bit more organized and catch up on some sleep. This place is familiar, comfortable, and home.

But once we leave here tomorrow, we’re on our own. I still don’t think the trip will feel real until we go camping - for the first time together and with dogs! - in Asheville for Memorial Day. Until then, we’re going to make our way through the hot, humid South.