Monthly Archives: June 2014

Road Trip Part II: NH & ME

Last weekend I drove to my friend Merrill’s house in New Hampshire. This was the first time we’d seen each other since December — a total of 192 days, or six months, depending how you look at it — and the first time I’ve been in the state where you “live free or die.”

ImageIt was so nice to finally see Merrill again, and to hug her, since she studied abroad in Ireland last semester and could only correspond via text, Facebook or a phone call. Merrill got me this super cool turquoise bag from Poland that has a bike on it. I love it!

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Almost immediately after arriving at her house, we were back in the car and heading to her family’s summer rental house in Maine. Immediately after getting on the road, our mouths started moving a mile a minute as we tried to fill each other in on everything we haven’t already told each other.

Along the way, we crossed into Maine, my first time in the state, and stopped for church. I really enjoyed how the church was set-up and run, and that they had actual singers to lead us in song, since my church at home often lacks in that department.

Once on the island, Merrill showed me around, providing a gorgeous view of the ocean, and we made dinner (Merrill’s delicious homemade mac and cheese!), sat on her deck and continued our chat.

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Sunday afternoon we headed to the beach and basked in the sun for a few hours. This was only the third time I’ve been to a beach on the ocean and I loved how clear and perfectly blue the sky was. There weren’t that many beach-goers, and although the water was a little colder than I’d prefer, we still had a great time.

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After a little longer in Maine, we headed back to New Hampshire. Once there, I partook in helping Merrill doctor up a frozen pizza and tried a piece for myself — we even ate at typical Merrill time, aka after 8 p.m. The pizza tasted great, and was quite photogenic, if I do say so myself.

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Monday morning I went with Merrill to work, which involved taking the two girls she babysits to swim practice. Again, we sat poolside and watched as our mouths took over, filling each other in, yet again, on more happenings in our lives.

That afternoon we went hiking. We trekked through the woods until we found a waterfall and tried to avoid all of the bugs; even though we had applied bug spray, they were still buzzing all around us.

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Tuesday morning I put all of the music we shared the night before on my iPod and puttered around while Merrill worked at camp. I was eagerly anticipating her return home, because we had a concert to get ready for!

That afternoon we met up with Merrill’s best friend Paige and drove to Boston. We had tickets to see American Authors, The Script and OneRepublic in concert.

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It was an awesome show and I’m so glad I was able to make it! Merrill and Paige were most excited to see The Script, while I was pumped to see OneRepublic again. Even though their set had some of the same parts as last year’s show, I was pretty excited to re-live the concert experience again.

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Above: OneRepublic’s opening song and (a blurry) Ryan Tedder performing on stage.

After the show we drove back to New Hampshire and tried to get as much sleep as we could. Wednesday morning Merrill went to work and I trekked back home, to New York.

I managed to visit four states in five days, which involved around 17 hours in the car (luckily I only have to drive 8 of those hours!).

It was a great mini-vacation, and definitely more relaxing than my first road trip. I am so glad I got to reunite with Merrill and spend a few days catching up and chilling with her! I can’t wait to see her again!

The Mid-Hudson Bridge: Heights & Sights

I know I talk about the Walkway — the old railroad bridge in my town that was transformed into the world’s longest pedestrian walkway — far too often. So this week’s post is dedicated to the Mid-Hudson Bridge, the one parallel to the Walkway, used primarily by cars. 

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A view of the Mid-Hudson Bridge from the ground.

The Mid-Hudson Bridge, formerly called the Franklin D. Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge, connects Ulster and Dutchess Counties, 315 feet above the Hudson River.

I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve driven across it (we’re talking thousands of times here), but I can tell you that I walked across it for the first time a few weeks ago.

Pedestrians have been allowed to walk across the Mid-Hudson (when it’s open, during daylight hours) since 1970, but I have never had a reason to; now that the Walkway has become so popular, many people choose to walk that instead.

I wanted to walk across it to see how different it is from the Walkway. My mom claimed that you can feel the suspension bridge sway, especially with all of cars whizzing past you, which isn’t the most pleasant sensation.

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I have to admit that I don’t like heights. At all. And being on that bridge freaked me out at first. The narrow path also gave rise to some unsettling feelings. 

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As soon as you get past the part above land and walk above the water, you can see spaces in the grates. That made me feel a little queasy. If I were to drop my car keys, there was a good chance they’d skirt their way down between the cracks and fall into the Hudson to be lost forever.

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Through the grates you can see the muddy Hudson River.

I held my belongings as tight as I could between my sweaty palms. (Not only from nerves — it was freakin’ hot that afternoon!)

The bridge is known for its famous Bridge Music, which is a compilation of tunes you can jam to on the bridge. Joseph Bertolozzi had the idea back in 2009, and it’s been an attraction ever since. Basically, he turns the bridge into an instrument and composes music by tapping and hitting the bridge with other objects to create different sounds. 

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The bridge is also quite famous for it’s peregrine falcon nest. Unfortunately I didn’t see any the day I went, but I did hear on the news that this is the twenty-something year these birds have returned here.

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I walked the half-mile length bridge with ease, but never got too close to the side overlooking the water. If anything, I enjoyed seeing the walkway from eye-level and looking at the perfect puffs of clouds floating in the sky. 

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A view of the Walkway from the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

 

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Smug About Smuggs: A Nature Appreciation Moment

While on my mini-vacation in Vermont last weekend, I was able to hike a section of Smugglers’ Notch.

When I graduated a month ago, still never having tried to ski or snowboard, I figured my days of seeing the mountain were over. Oh, how wrong I was.

My friend Amber, her roommate Laura, and their friend Christine all invited me to partake in their summer challenge to hike a new mountain every weekend. I love hiking — back home I used to go every Sunday with my high school French teacher — so I quickly agreed to join in on the adventure.

We got a fairly late start, leaving campus around 12:30 in the afternoon, when the sun was already beating down on us, making the 85-degree heat feel like it was well over 90 out.

We spent the 45-minute drive to the mountain jamming to music and getting to know each other better. Soon, we reached the entrance to the section of The Long Trail that we’d be hiking; we laced up our shoes, grabbed our water bottles and began our ascent.

The beginning section of the trail was very rocky. The entire time I couldn’t help but think back to freshman year when I hiked up Mount Camel’s Hump and felt like I was rock climbing because of how steep it is. In comparison, this was easy.

Along the way we saw many other hikers, several beautiful waterfalls and took frequent water breaks, or what Christine called “Nature Appreciation Moments.”

It only took us a little more than an hour and a half to reach the top, just less than two miles from where we began. There, we were greeted with a picturesque lake. We decided to continue climbing up to find the chairlifts and take in the view from up there.

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Seeing the chairlifts gave me a better idea of what it would feel like to ski down a mountain. At the top, we ate our snacks, sipped our water and enjoyed being in nature.

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Eventually we peeled ourselves away from the sight and headed back down. It only took an hour to reach the parking lot, even though the rocks were slippery and we had to be careful not to completely slip down them.

On the ride back to campus, we stopped to reward ourselves with ice cream. It truly was a beautiful day for a hike with beautiful people.

Road Trip 2014

So many new things have happened this week. In case you missed it, last Friday I flew from New York to Illinois to road trip back to Vermont with Monica.

Saturday was her sister’s graduation party, so I got to meet half of her family. I have never met so many of a college friend’s family and friends before. I also had never had eggs and hot dogs for breakfast, either. I’m still unsure if that’s a mid-west thing, or just a Monica-family tradition, but I do know I’m gonna stick with the more common breakfast choice of eggs and cereal.

eggs and dogs

On Sunday we adventured to Wisconsin to check out the Mars’ Cheese Castle.

Mars afar

Mars castle

Yes, it’s an actual castle. I’ve loved cheese for as long as I can remember, so I was pretty excited to taste my first authentic cheese curd. However, when I did, I was less than impressed. It was rubbery and squishy in my mouth, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

However, we did get to sample lots of other great cheese — the lemon zest flavored block was pretty tasty — and I even tried on a cheese-head hat.

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On the way back home, we spontaneously decided to stop at the Jelly Belly factory for a tour.

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Our tour guide, Craig, was less than enthused to be driving us around the facility, but he did manage to tell us everything we needed to know. At the end, I sampled a “barf” flavored jelly bean, which was utterly disgusting.

factory hats

Prior to this trip, my only image of Wisconsin consisted of what is depicted in That 70’s Show, but now I know it’s a little bit more than that.

Sunday night Monica took me out for my first taste of custard. I liked it a lot, even though it is pretty much a thicker version of ice cream.

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Monday morning we woke up bright and early to begin our trek back to the east coast. I was pretty excited to get my feet into other states. I saw the Chicago skyline and we were fortunate enough to watch the sunrise.

chicago skyline

chicago sunrise

Soon enough we were cruising into Indiana. As we passed through South Bend, I couldn’t help but think of Notre Dame and feel sorry for all of the kids surrounded by fields and flat land. Here we also crossed from the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone.

I have a collection of post cards from every place I’ve ever been, so we made sure to stop in every state so I could get one to add to the collection. Indiana wasn’t very exciting, so I was happy when we reached Ohio.

I was looking forward to our lunch stop in Cleveland, but that never quite happened. There was a lot of construction on highway 80-90, and we somehow ended up on 80 instead of 90 when the two split. When we pulled into a rest stop, we looked at a map and realized we were pretty far south in the state.

Luckily, we met a very nice man, William, who told us how to get back on track. (William is also very familiar with the “selfie” and happily agreed to take a photo with me.)

ohio friend willy

He was very friendly and told us that our excursion would allow us to pass through the “center of the world.” Now, I’m not sure how middle-of-nowhere, Ohio is the exact midpoint of the world, but there is a sign claiming it is.

After our escapade on the scenic route, we made it back on 90 and headed into Pennsylvania, which brought the end of new states for me. We were only in the keystone state for a short while (literally only one town) before I was reunited with my home state of New York.

Even though I have lived in the state my entire life, I have never explored the western part of the state. I was very excited for this opportunity, although I would have to wait a bit more to do so.

Monica and I had dinner at Koz’s, a cool place that has license plates all along the wall. We loved it because we were counting all of the different plates we’d seen along our journey.

koz's plates

After spending the night in Buffalo, we began afresh Tuesday morning in search of our real destination: Vermont. As much as I complain about New York (with it’s low minimum wage and high taxes), it does have a lot of great history, especially in terms of what women have done here; we passed Seneca Falls, where the fight for women’s rights began.

Because of this trip, I can now say I’ve driven on the entire New York State Thruway, which starts in New York City and goes north to Plattsburgh and west to Buffalo.

Once we got to Lake George, we had lunch with one of Monica’s rugby friends. Then I drove the all-too-familiar route back to campus. After two days in the car and 1,050 miles, we had finally arrived at our destination.

This was the first time I’ve been on campus as an alumna. It felt weird to be back. Even though I know a lot of people who are here for the summer, the place seems empty. And it’s strange being here without having a room to call my own. And that’s not to mention that we’re staying in the freshman dorms, which really brings back memories.

Tuesday I spent the night with Monica at her grandma’s house for the first time. Wednesday I helped her move in, since she can’t do too much with her broken toe. Later that night, I went with Cait to Cheese Traders for the first time.

On Thursday, Monica took me to her family’s summer camp in Charlotte, which is right on Lake Champlain. The sight was breathtakingly beautiful.

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lake ripples

It’s kind of nice to have some downtime on campus, but since everyone else has work and class commitments, it feels even stranger to be here alone. I’ve still got two more days on campus before I head back to the homeland.

Back in April, I couldn’t believe I was committing to driving cross-country with Monica, but we did it. Although it was stressful at times, we had many stories to tell each other and we made sure to have good, long playlists of music.

By the end of the trip, we spotted a total of 34 different U.S. license plates and an additional two Canadian ones! I believe this was the first time I’ve seen a plate from Washington. We also had a “cop count” and tallied how many waves we could get from other drivers.

This summer I’ve been fortunate enough to get a taste of the west, but my travels are not over just yet. In two weeks I’ll be visiting a few other states for the first time, too.