Category Archives: travel

2009: A Year in Review

I had planned on breaking this into two separate posts, but time got away from me.  Here’s what I’ve been up to the last 12 months:


  • 30 days of 30
  • First ski/snowboard trip
  • Neil Clennon Reffett was born




  • Work trip to San Francisco (two posts… here and here)

yep, that's a CRUISE ship on the right


Clennon and I post-race


The girls of Hewett 6 (minus Jo)


  • Ohio for Reds/Cubs game
  • Ryan Joseph Lingas was born
  • Started the Great Paint Project

Self-portrait attempt #2. This pic is horrible, but I LOVE it 'cuz it's so real!


  • Infamous Rural King incident
  • Cubs/Cardinals game
  • Stephanie’s bachelorette party
  • Hayden Michael Bates was born



Highlight of the trip: Getting up on waterskiis for the first time!

the entire bridal party!


  • 4th 5K
  • Surprise birthday tailgate


The bigger the hair, the closer to God



  • Kim’s surprise birthday party
  • Christmas with my dad’s side
  • Oak Ridge Boys concert
  • First Christmas with my new niece

Birthday girl doing shots

My 92 year old Grannie and my newborn GREAT niece

In addition, there were countless nights out, NUMEROUS trips to Chicago and plenty of downtime.  All in all it was a pretty good year.  I can’t wait to see what 2010 has in store for me.

Philadelphia Fun

I was in Philly last week/weekend for work.   As always, it was a lot of WORK… but I managed to squeeze in some fun.  

Some things on my to-do list:

1. Run the “Rocky” steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art–check!

I ran the mile and a half from my hotel to the steps… and then ALL the way to the top… it was quite a feat.   I even had the Rocky theme song playing as I ran up the steps.   A nice man who was in town for the English teacher convention (i.e. OUR convention) took this picture.   It’s a little embarrassing, but I was sooooo happy to have “proof.”

Afterwards, I tried running back to my hotel… and got lost (shocker!).   I probably got an extra 2 miles of running in + an extra 3 or 4 walking.   Navigational FAIL!

2.  See the Liberty Bell–check!

Through glass.  At night.  It wasn’t that impressive.   But I got one viable photo:

3.  Sample an authentic Philly cheesesteak– check!

You’ve probably heard of the famous rivalry between Genos and Pat’s– two steak stands in South Philly who vie for the title of “best” cheesesteak.    After our work was done, a colleague and I took a cab to sample the goods.  She got a *very* plain sandwich–steak and provolone only–from Genos and I got a pepper steak “with” + Whiz from Pat’s (that’s cheesesteak lingo for a cheesesteak with peppers and onions and, yes, Cheese Whiz).     Mine was better.  Not only did mine have the delicious goodness of the peppers, onions, and cheese whiz, the meat and bread of mine was tastier.  Pat’s wins… hands down.

Geno's on the left, Pat's on the right

 4.  Participate in the Philadelphia Marathon– FAIL (sorta!)

I had originally planned on running the 8K as part of the Philly marathon, but it sold out too quickly.  Then I thought about going down and spectating the beginning of the race.  But it was entirely too crazy down there.    I did, however, “crash” the marathon expo… and bought a couple of  shirts (one of which I’m wearing in my Rocky picture… it says “Will Run for Beer,” but you really can’t read it). Spending money counts as supporting the running community, right?  :)

entrance to the Philly Marathon expo--literally steps from our own exhibit hall entrance!

I also shared many dinners, laughs, drinks, and good times with my work buddies.   Putting on these shows is kinda like camp– you bond instantly with your co-workers.  Except it’s really hard work and we’re all tired and cranky.  But at the end of the day, it’s nice to have a good group of people to commiserate with!


Foto Friday: New York, New York

These pictures were taken on my first trip to NYC in March 2002, almost 6 months to the day after 9/11/01.   (and, yes, were taken with a film camera!)

We landed in New York the day that President Bush declared war and the mood in the City was understandably somber.   Although it was a work trip, we managed to hop a subway and go down to Ground Zero one afternoon.

Ground Zero: big open hole

Ground Zero: big open hole

A memorial wall near the site

A memorial wall near the site

memorial plaque for those who lost their lives

memorial plaque for those who lost their lives

close up of some of the photos/notes left by visitors

close up of some of the photos/notes left by visitors

Eight years later, these events are starting to feel like “history” to some of us.  Let’s not forget what it felt like then, in hopes that we never have to go through it again.

I dusted off my old Tribute to Heroes CD this morning.  I still like this Alan Jackson song.  The part about watching I Love Lucy re-runs gets me every time.  I don’t know why, but that’s the saddest part for me.

Foto Friday: Automotive FAIL!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Getting tire fixed in Grand Rapids

True, but blog posts are supposed to be concise…. So, here’s the story, in 500 words or less:

On the way to Minnesota for vacation last month my “check tire pressure” light turned on.  I got off at the next exit, checked my tire pressure, aired up the tires for good measure and proceeded to drive the ~700 miles to my destination.  We continued to monitor the tire pressure, but everything looked fine, so we didn’t worry about it much.  I had my brakes replaced a few days before and figured the light was just a malfunction and carried on with vacation.

By the time we were ready to head back home I had all but forgotten about my tire issue.  We got on the road and prepared for the 12-hour trek.   About an hour into our journey, we stopped to re-fuel on healthy stuff like powdered donuts and chocolate milk.

I got behind the wheel, Ryan climbed in the back seat with his pillow and blanked and Jo assumed donut duty in the passenger seat.   A couple miles after our first pit stop, I heard a noise.

Ryan:  What was that?

Me:  I dunno

Ryan:  I think it might be your muffler or something.

Me:  Oh, I doubt it. I’m sure there’s just something in the trunk.  Do you think I should pull over?

Ryan:  Uh…yeah.

Me (rolling down the window and sticking my head out):  Maybe there’s a helicopter* flying over or something.

Ryan: No, you need to pull over… NOW!

I pulled over and Ryan got out of the car to check things out. Sure enough, I had a flat tire.  And over 600 miles to drive.   CRAP!

We had to unload ALL of our stuff on the side of the road so that we could get out the jack and the spare tire (ironically called… a donut! )– All of our luggage and vacation supplies for THREE people plus some random stuff,  including my boyfriend’s “artwork” that’s been riding around in my trunk for months.

While Ryan was working on changing the tire, lots of nice Minnesotans stopped to ask us if we needed help.  “No,” we’d say. “We’ve got it.”   

We asked one woman if there was a tire shop in Grand Rapids or if we’d need to go further down the road.  She told us that there were two in town, so we started re-packing our gear back in the trunk.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, the nice woman came back (she had been going the opposite direction).  She said she knew a guy who would help us out.    We followed her to the tire shop where we had to unload all of our stuff yet again, where they quickly changed the tire and sent us on our merry way.

you can't see the "velvet Elvis" artwork because it's hiding behind the muted abstract print

You can't see the "velvet Elvis" artwork because it's hiding behind the muted abstract print

An hour later and only $35 poorer, we were back on the road.  A big shout out to my brother for not only knowing how to change a flat but also for asking them to put on a used tire.

* We couldn’t stop laughing about this afterwards. There aren’t any airports, air bases, or anything else in that part of Minnesota to make me think there was a  helicopter flying overhead. So naturally that was the first thing I thought of. Naturally.

Long Time, No Blog: Bonus Features

Lisa was kind enough to post some photos of our Minneapolis trip, so I’ve decided to do like they do with DVDs and offer some “never before seen” bonus features:

Ate some killer Malaysian food in MPLS.  Heard a great (albeit very broken) story about a fire in a Malaysian place in Chicago.

Drinking a pomegranate concoction at the Malaysian place; Lisa got a Woo-Woo

Drinking a pomegranate concoction at the Malaysian place. Lisa got a Woo-Woo

Witnessed and responded to an on-the-job accident. Not real common in my line of work.

Sign warning us that such accidents may occur.  Taken well after said accident

Sign warning us that such accidents may occur. Taken well after said accident

Took a photo next to a statue of Mary Tyler Moore.

She turns the world on with her smile

She turns the world on with her smile--post tipsy shopping and wine-fueled dinner.

Met (and held!) another newborn baby

Me holding Rush

Me holding Rush

Attended a baby shower and graduation party.

Check out the cute little flip-flops I got him...

Check out the cute little flip-flops I got for Rush...

Lisa and I at the graduation party

Lisa and I at the graduation party

I wish I had taken pix of the teacher freebie pandemonium and the Mexican wrestling.  However, some things are better left to the imagination.  A couple more points:

  • The cucumber-flavored candy was unintentional.  It was green, so I assumed it would be sour apple, or (at the worst) lime.  It was only after the candy had been POURED into my mouth that I realized it was cucumber-flavored. I’d love to have a reaction shot of my face when I tasted it.
  • The nickname story will have to be shared privately.  Mostly because I really, really, really do not want it to stick!

Long time, no blog

I know the “too busy to blog” excuse is getting lame.  But it’s true.  I was hoping to write some proper blog posts, but since some of you like lists (shout out to Harley Quinn— I loved your last comment!), I figured I’d save myself the trouble of actually having to write anything.

In the last week and a half or so I:

  • Witnessed masked Mexican wrestling in Chicago.  It was awesome.
  • Tasted cucumber-flavored candy.  It was awful.
  • Learned that you really can’t just miss your connecting flight or your entire ticket is invalidated.
  • Re-booked my ticket.  Twice.
  • Got hit on by a Greek waiter in Chicago and a Mexican bar patron in Minneapolis.
  • Spent entirely too much time on Sporcle.  Finally learned the correct spelling of Kazakhstan.  It comes in handy.
  • Ate some killer Malaysian food in MPLS.  Heard a great (albeit very broken) story about a fire in a Malaysian place in Chicago.
  • Witnessed and responded to an on-the-job accident. Not real common in my line of work.
  • Learned I like tamales.
  • Congratulated a friend on her recent engagement. Yay Keem!
  • Almost forgot, and then lost, and then found my journal/notebook.
  • Saw Star Trek. Loved it, despite zero familiarity with the original.  Reminded me a lot of Star Wars, actually.  And Lost.
  • Met (and held!) another newborn baby.
  • Picked up a new nickname (which I’m trying HARD to not let stick).
  • Ran my second 5K, less than a month after my first, with no iPod. After being gone for a week and out drinking the night before.
  • Mowed my lawn immediately after the 5K.  Bad idea.
  • Learned that I was selected to be a Nielsen “family.”  I can’t wait to report my 2.5 hours of TV watching a week.
  • Improved my ability to ride public transportation.
  • Received a comped dessert because dinner took so long.  Waited about 20 mins for said dessert.
  • Had multiple weird conversations about weight loss.  Including one that started with “I hope you’re not offended, but…”  Um, no, not offended!
  • Took a photo next to a statue of Mary Tyler Moore.
  • Met a friend’s new boyf.
  • Spent Mother’s Day with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law. Against our advice, my mom insisted on having it at her house and making all the food.
  • Ran in Chicago.  Gave unsuspecting motorist directional advice.  Felt really bad afterward.
  • Attended a baby shower and graduation party.
  • Received invitations to two other baby showers.
  • Witnessed teachers literally FIGHTING over free books.
  • Engaged in some tipsy shopping.  Bought books and a belt between happy hour and an awesome wine-fueled dinner.

Things I haven’t done

  • unpacked
  • watched last week’s Lost
  • slept, at least not much

A peek inside my journal

It’s probably not a surprise to most of you that I’m a journaler…  I’ve been keeping a journal, in some form or other, since I was a kid.

It also probably won’t come as a surprise that my journaling isn’t exactly structured or organized. In fact, I don’t even keep it in a consistent place. I have several notebooks, which are used not only as notebooks, but as receptacles for EVERYTHING– grocery lists, notes to myself, doodles, etc.  I even have a HORRIBLE habit of mixing my personal and work notebooks.  In fact, I found my bets from last year’s Vegas trip during a meeting at work today.  Ugh.

I thought it might be interesting to let y’all take a little peek into one of my journals…   I wrote this on the way back from San Fransisco.  I’m keeping the original post pretty much intact, but I couldn’t resist fixing a few style/grammar issues.  But I kept most of them in.  You’ll also see some “notes” in brackets.  These are after-the-fact explanations and were not part of the original ramblings.



There’s something about travelling that brings out the reflective/introspective side of me.  Maybe it’s being in another place.  Surrounded by other people and places.

Maybe it’s the lack of the clutter of everyday life– bills to pay, chores to do, people to  to connect with.  A hotel room with just a bed and a clock.  No to-do list except the one you bring with you.

I got up early an ran 2x this trip.  Not because I was dedicated, but because I had nothing else to do.  My brain woke my body up and there was simply nothing else to do in the 2+ hour before work than hit the hotel gym.

Granted, the lack of clutter and schedule can also work against progress.  Sat. was my last day in SF.  We got done with work early so it was my only free afternoon to do daytime “stuff”.  Unfortunately, the stuff I really wanted to do didn’t work into my time schedule so I ended up taking a much needed nap in the hotel instead.

Although this worked well for me physically, my to-do list suffered.  I didn’t get to the museum store (which I love) and didn’t buy gifts for family and friends, which I needed to do.

Travelling also allows for lots of profound thoughts.  Maybe its being “stuck” on a plane or a train but I often find myself thinking profound thoughts on planes and trains.

[Editor’s Note: the previous sentence was clearly not edited for style… just to prove this is really a journal entry.]

I think about people.  How they got here.  Where they’re going.  And about myself.  How I got here and where I’m going.  Where am I going, anyway?

I find myself making plans to make plans when I travel– changes I need to make.  Meditations I need to do [Editor’s note: I’ve never meditated a day in my life. I must’ve read this in a book or something.]

I get back to the hustle-bustle [Editor’s Note: originally spelled “hussle-bussle”] of my “real” life.  The laundry, the bills are still there.  The day-to-day routine that makes up the majority of life.  And I forget to retreat.  To think. To reflect.

I often think I need to take a trip all by myself.  To the beach maybe. Or the mountains.  Somewhere with natural beauty that can inspire me to think about my life and to make real plans to do something with it.  Something meaningful. Something significant.  Something with purpose.  But then I think what would I do?  Would I get lonely?

I even thought about extending this trip for a couple of days– staying over in SF so I could do some stuff I knew I wouldn’t get to do.  But I didn’t have anyone to come out here with me.  Well, that’s not really true.  I didn’t actually ask anyone.

[Editor’s note: Names of friends and family I could’ve asked.  I’m leaving this out to protect the innocent. It’s not their fault I never asked them!]

Even if I didn’t find anyone to come, I should’ve done it.  As I sit here on the plane thinking about it, I have these romantic visions of sitting on the Wharf with my laptop writing.  Or doing the touristy stuff I didn’t do.  Or spending time hiking Muir Woods and “connecting” with the city.  I should’ve done it.

As it turns out, I did extend my trip a bit.  Instead of staying over a couple days in SF, I’m gonna hang in Chicago.  Maybe we can do some off-the-beaten path Chicago stuff.  I just read about a couple places and I’ll have some time to write.

[Editor’s note: As you probably already know, I ended up pretty much crashing in Chicago… and am just now getting around to writing]

I have a lot I want to write:

  • Some version of this journal entry [EN: done!]
  • Private post I want to write.  [EN: Hey, it’s a peek into my journal, not my soul!]
  • SF wrap-up– food/drink, what I did/didn’t do  [EN: done!]
  • Review/response to what I’ve been reading:  Malcolm Galdwell piece/Same Kind of Different as Me [EN: forthcoming]
  • Story for class [EN: done!]
  • Revision of 1st story [EN: forgot about this completely until right now]


So, there you have it.  My journal reads a lot like my blog posts.  But I usually try to edit my blog posts.  At least once!