Category Archives: road trip

The Art of the Travel Mate(s)

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***As the road trip has come to an end–there will be a series of posts involving hobbies accomplished; places seen; lessons learned; and an over-encompassing post of it all–but for that post–whew, I’ll need a few days to reflect. For now–here’s a little post about choosing the right Travel Companions.**

As my mom clicks through my photos of the trip, she comes across a picture of David in his red Florence hat staring off into the Badlands.

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She sees me smile as I remember that day silently in my head. She continues to scroll and comes across a photo of Kim standing with her back to a giant tree in the redwood forest, her arms out at her sides. I giggle, again, remembering that moment of the trip.

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My mom turns to me and says, “And you are all still talking?”

A cheerful grin spreads across my face, “Yep. Still talking.”

Prior to leaving on the trip, a lot of people asked me who I thought would be the one to throw off the balance of the squad. I couldn’t come up with an answer so most of the time I joked-“Well..I have a feeling by Seattle Kim and David will be best friends–and I’ll be standing on the side of the street under some big gray sky with two duffle bags holding my thumb out.”

Clearly, that didn’t happen. And although, we had our moments of tiny bits of conflict, we all handled it in a mature – simple – way, by retreating to our cell phones or our books for a few moments of silence before blasting out another song to sing and dance along to.

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Travel companions are the most crucial part of any journey.  Sometimes, when you need alone time–you’ll still need to be in some vicinity of them–including the backseat of the car. It’s important to concern yourself with the travel mates you choose before you worry about what path you’ll take, where you’ll stop, and what mountains you hike–or else the entire trip itself will feel like an uphill battle. If you choose the right people to travel with–then the right path will unfold on it’s own–there won’t be a wrong way.

And the truth is, you’ll know very early on in a trip if it’s going to work out or if you are going to have to turn around after you sit down for your first cup of coffee. I can’t tell you what the signs are of this–because I just know that if you gel, then you gel, and if you don’t gel–well then the trip will start off in hell. Some ways to approach travel mates in general? Avoid selfish words: “My plans,” “My trip,” “It’s my decision.” Remember–if you are going to tackle an adventure with other people–then it’s always “our.”

With that being said: I couldn’t be more grateful for my two travel-mates, David and Kim–who didn’t know one another until a month before we took off. Of course, because they didn’t know one another, I knew that there was a risk involved, but I went along with it anyway–because in my heart of all hearts I had good feelings that it would all work out.

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David is one of my best friends in the city–whom I had met on the side of the street while he working on White Collar a year and a half prior. It wasn’t til 8 months later that we really began hanging out and getting to know one another. What developed was a beautiful friendship that involved many weekends filled with laughter, karaoke, serious chats, and dinner parties. I remember one night even telling David, “Please don’t move away–ever.” A few weekends later, we decided to go sky diving together. That weekend, I invited David to join me on the road trip adventure- and a few weeks later, he texted me to say that he definitely was in–that if he didn’t do it now, he wasn’t sure when he would. I knew David would appreciate this trip just as much as me by that simple statement.

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I met Kim during my acting class last spring. At our first class together, Kim told me she worked in publishing, and I told her that I was working on a book–but that I was hesitant about where the book would go because of the lower number of hits on the site (at that point) and because well I really hadn’t started writing the drafts yet. She asked me if I had read the book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I told her I hadn’t–and then she summed it up quickly for me–telling me that what many projects will see is a steady stream of low numbers–and then suddenly–something will tip the scales and numbers will rise exponentially.

She said, “Don’t worry. You’ll see a tipping point.”

We had only known one another a few moments, but I was grateful for this instant sort of belief in my project–even if she didn’t know very much about it.

In contrast to my friendship with David which involved many weekend movie outings, dinners, and game nights, Kim and I had just a few coffee dates–and taken a flying lesson together– before I invited her to join me on the final hobby of the year–the road trip. Our coffee dates had involved some of the best conversations I had in years–about the world, the way people connect, and life.

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The night before Thanksgiving, Kim called me and said she was 100 percent in for the trip.

Again, at this point the two had never met. Like David, I knew Kim would have a great appreciation for whatever we explored on the trip. I crossed my fingers that their ability to appreciate the world around them would created a trio of triumph by the beginning–and end–of the trip.

Then–as earlier mentioned–one month before take off, we all sat down in David’s apartment, and began plotting out a route. When we tell people about that meeting, we describe it in two ways.

1. Serious: Planning meeting.

2. Slightly Joking: Final Judgement

With my fingers crossed, neither of them came to me to say “I can’t travel with the other.” Phew–I wiped the sweat off my forehead.

And thank goodness they both came along.

We hadn’t even stopped for our first coffee break when I knew it would work out. As we drove over the Virginia state line, we all pointed out that the sun would be rising soon and that we should look up a good spot to catch it. As David drove the second leg of the first route, I began Googling based on the city we were approaching: Fredericksburg. Fortunately, a list of locations and images popped up on my search right away. “On to Fredericksburg Battlefield,” I declared. Collectively, we had made our first agreement on the road.

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And from there everything continued to flow effortlessly.

Buy a pack for the top of the car? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Then agree to never use it after Colorado? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Stop and enjoy all the food we could? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Wake up at the break of dawn in Memphis to catch a stunning sunrise? Duh

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Stop at a field in Carlsbad, NM and breathe in a brilliant sunset? Why wouldn’t we?

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Fed Ex all the books on Tape back to NYC that David and I were so excited about? Probably for the best.

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Pay a little extra for safety in a small town of Arizona? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Spend 6 hours at a place called the Wave and lessen our time at the Grand Canyon? –Of course. To us, it was living in the moment.

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Buy two Bieber CDs and make them two of the most played albums in the car? Yes, Yes, Yes.

And that was just into Los Angeles. We still had half a country (and parts of Canada) to agree on–and for the most part, we did.

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And then– a month and a half into the trip, as we reached Ohio, I came across a 5k that would take place after returning to NYC, that I wanted to sign up for –one in which the racers get to compete on the JFK runway. I tickled with excitement and that excitement carried over as David and Kim decided that they wanted to join as well. With groggy eyes, I smiled. I’m not sure I had the opportunity to really express to them in that moment how happy I was that they wanted to do the run too. I knew up until that point we were all getting along great, but to know that we had already made it through one month and a half of a trip in severely close quarters with one another–and that we were already making plans to spend time together after–well that thrilled me in a little kid kind of way.

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Throughout the journey, Kim and David pushed me to challenge myself–David on the ice at Arches National Park and Kim in her eye opening statements about how the world looks–how home looks; they both challenged their own selves and one another, and they each embraced the trip with as wide of open arms as I did. Our quarrels, though few and far between came only in the moments that I would expect them to: during times of exhaustion; hunger; and too close of quarters for a bit too long. It was very clear along the way that our journey–though, only limited to just under 2 months, could have gone on much longer–and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

Thanks Kim–Thanks David.

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Dog Sledding

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123 Dogs.

That’s more dogs than there have ever been in a Disney movie.

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When we signed up for dog sledding, I had no idea what to expect–and a dog farm with 123 dogs never even crossed my mind. Sled with 12 dogs attached and a musher–maybe, but 123 dogs? No way. What an amazing surprise.

As we drove up a small road to Dog Sled Adventures Montana–just a few miles west of Glacier National Park, I saw a dog peek it’s heads out from behind some trees “There’s a dog!” I yelled.

“There’s a circle of them I continued.” And then I realized we were surrounded my dozens of man’s best friends. In my head I began singing, “Here a dog–there a dog, everywhere a dog, dog, dog.”

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I turned to David–and I could just see his eyes light up, his heart bubbling with excitement. If the doors would have been unlocked, I am positive that he would have jumped out before the car had pulled all the way in.

We were entering dog paradise.

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While making our final turn up the snowy driveway, Jeff, the owner, greeted us with a giant smile. I knew he must take the dogs out a lot –and that his business must be booming–by his wind burnt face which made his smile glow even more.

Before we even got on the sled, Jeff took us around the dog farm and introduced us to ALL of the dogs. Again–David’s face lit up–and even my soul danced a bit too. As we met more and more dogs, I began to get more and more excited–“These guys really want to do this!” I thought to myself as another dog snuggled up to my leg.

Not before long David, Kim and I were cozying up to one another in a three person sled. While we got ourselves in order, we could hear all the dogs howling.

It felt like we were getting ready to take our marks and race–the dogs were lined up like fans at a sporting event.

I imagined the huskie to my left yelling in a deep authoritative voice: “Stay safe out there young ones.”

And the young hound dog barking: “Have fun!”

We watched as the rest of the dogs jumped up and down with as much as excitement as we felt in our now bundled bodies.

And then…WE WERE OFF!

“Woooo,” we all screeched out a bit, before hitting a few bumps on the first couple of turns.

Moments later, after hitting the first few solid bumps– “By the way–it’s a little bumpy at the start,” our young musher told us as I felt my brain hit the top of my head. “But it won’t be like that for long.”

And he was right–sooner rather than later–we were smooth sailing around turns–up hills–down hills–and through the forest, stopping occasionally for a pee or poop break (for the dogs of course–even if sometimes they didn’t want to stop!). Once in a while we’d endure another bump–but more often than not we were giggling gratefully.

“This is amazing,” I thought to myself.

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As we rode right along, I took in the views of the forest, the green that was still poking out from some of these Montana trees. I shielded my eyes from the sun as it ricocheted off the fluffy fresh flakes on the ground. And I took in the fresh smells of winter (even if they were intermingled with wiffs of dog soot). I felt Kims hands on my shoulders–and though I couldn’t see hers or David’s face for most of the ride, I could feel the energy of their smiles bouncing off the barks of the branches. After watching the videos back–I knew my feelings were right on. Each of us had smiles on that could have spread from one side of national forest we were riding through, to the other.

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The ride lasted approximately an hour–and as we approached the dog farm on our return, a chorus of dogs cheering us on, again, could be heard.

It was as if they were all yelling “Go team–go team–go team.” “Get out and play, get out and play.”

While we climbed out of the sled, the dogs continued to call to us.

We exchanged high fives with our musher and then took another tour of the dog farm–making sure to give all the pups a friendly farewell.

After saying our goodbyes, Jeff treated us to hot chocolate, cookies and conversation. I watched his eyes as he told stories about the dogs; as he relived his early sleigh rides; and as he spoke about the dogs as his family–and not just his company. I could see the passion growing as he continued to tell us truthful tales of the past. His eyes twinkled with each detail. He’s the kind of guy that you know wakes up before his alarm each day–and gets excited about it–the king of guy that you know–is genuinely happy. The kind of guy you are grateful to have met. The kind of guy that I know I am grateful to have met.

What an amazing adventure.

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Special Thanks

Dog Sled Adventures Montana

http://www.dogsledadventuresmontana.com

 

Snowmobiling

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“Do one thing every day that scares you,” I whisper this as I slip slide UP a mountain side at Arches National Park on a beautiful afternoon. “Then do one thing every day that terrifies you,” adds my travel mate David.

Arches National Park wasn’t an original stop on our list–in fact, I hadn’t even known it existed. But as David and I reach the top of the mountain side which reveals one of the most beautiful natural arches of the world–I smile. I’m happy to be here. Hiking has always been therapeutic for me–even if I don’t always appear to be the most graceful one scaling the mountain. Something about the way the sun shines off the landscape–and the way the wind blows the dirt–or the leaves on the trees has always had a calming effect on me. Hiking often gives me time to reflect.

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As we take pictures under the arch, that we’ve just masterfully climbed to, I feel like I finally have some time to think about the moments I’ve spent on the trip so far–the moments that were unplanned–and the moments that were planned.
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Snowmobiling had always been planned–but like climbing up a slippery side of a mountain, it also instilled a bit of fear in me. The last time I tried to tackle a ski mountain–it was on a down hill mountain bike–and I had crashed the bike. And the last time I had ridden on anything similar to a snowmobile was in the summer of 2006, when I went jet skiing for the first time. Despite having the opportunity to try and drive the jet ski, I declined and enjoyed the ride as a passenger the entire time.

This time was different. This time I would be taking the driver’s seat first. This time, for the most part, I would be in control and in charge for safely getting us up an 11,000 foot mountain in Colorado–and back down.  As I turn the key, I take a deep breath. I look at David, who is going to start out driving the other mobile, and he grins. He’s ready for a thrill. I ask Kim, who’s on my mobile, if she’s ready–and she is. Our tour guide takes off–I press the throttle with my thumb–and we are off.

Not before long, the sun is brightly shining off the snow, we’re soaring past trees, taking tight turns, and zooming up a valley of hills. The terrain changes from turn to turn going from a two lane snow-way to a narrow steep section bordered by giant trees whose arms seem to reach out to attempt and grab us at times.  And as we reach a clearing–it feels as if we could be flying–without wings attached. My nerves are gone–This is freaking awesome.

After a brief moment of making sure the tour group is all together, I ask Kim if she’d like to take the driver’s seat. We swap positions. But before we even make it around our first curve, we manage to drive the mobile through a three-foot wall of snow sending the snowmobile just feet away from toppling on top of us. Kim and I fall off the mobile and land in a pool of powder. Kim and I look at each other, David rushes over to us, and I begin to giggle. “You okay, Libs?” Kim asks.

I giggle again. “I’m good–but how do we get this snow mobile out of here?”

After a five minute dose of a 7 person effort to dig out a path for the snow mobile–we are back on track. And instead of being scared-I am excited to get back on. This mountain–this trek to the Continental Divide is meant to be conquered–much like the icey trek to the top of Arches National Park just a couple days later.

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It’s now been just a few weeks since both the snowmobiling adventure and the Arches National Park Hike–and again I am having time to reflect as I snow shoe around the side of one of earth’s greatest natural wonders: Crater Lake Park. As I ungracefully hike–falling down once in a while, my friend Adam reminds me that “Fear is a habit.” And he’s right. Fear is only what we let it be and only how controlling we let it get.  Fear is unintentionally-intentional-it becomes a choice. If we let every fall scare us–if we choose to let fear over-ride our courage–then our ability to find out what we are truly capable of will always be fogged. And the earth and life is a lot more beautiful when we can see clearly. And I can safely say that I’m happy to be seeing life so clearly (even if it’s through my yellow sunglasses many of the times 😉  ).


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Welcome Signs

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Millions of white dots

yellow solid lines–and exit signs

Add welcome signs

And suddenly I feel home

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The road winds on and on
Got me blasting my favorite song
Suddenly I don’t feel so alone
Suddenly I feel right at home

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At just three days into the journey, and nearly 1,300 miles of traveling, I’ve found it very comforting to sit idle–(and in motion at the same time)–I’ve found it very comforting not to document everything–even if I am still collecting a magnitude of footage for later. I’ve found it very comforting to get out and dance on the side of the road–sing in the driver’s seat at the top of my lungs–and giggle profusely through the silliness of missing a turn–or exiting too soon.

I’ve found it very comforting to stare out the window and get lost in the mountains. I’ve found it very comforting to watch the clouds move over my head. I’ve found it very comforting to forget what time it  is–even what day it is. I’ve found it very comforting to not know exactly where I am.
I’ve found it very comforting to just be.

It’s only been three days–but it’s very easy to tell what this road trip is meant for–at least for me.

Going on a road trip is meant for losing track of time–“saying oh well,” and getting excited when we get lost. It is meant for experiencing each moment as a new a place. It’s meant for being okay with these meanings–but also being okay if these meanings change. It’s meant for meeting people and having memorable conversations: 

“But you are doing what makes you happy–and that’s all that matters.” – Me to Jewelry Shop Owner
“And that’s worth millions.” — Owner
(Raleigh, NC)

It’s meant for having deep thoughts with close friends.

“You have to believe in your art enough to stand behind it.” — Kimberly Manley
(Raleigh, NC)

Going on a road trip is meant for taking time to enjoy  things I otherwise may take for granted–like watching the sun rise in the middle of a battlefield:

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It’s meant for reminiscing with old friends.

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And making memories with new ones.

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Going on a road trip is meant for having an agenda–and losing that agenda. It’s meant for making plans–but forgetting those plans. It’s meant for having a route in mind–and going off course–often. 

Going on a road trip isn’t meant for worrying. It’s meant for living.

 

This is only just the beginning
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Endless solid golden lines

Miles and miles of Welcome Signs
Gosh it feels good to feel so at home

 

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“No matter how far you travel, the sun is a constant reminder that we all live right here on the same beautiful planet.”
 

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