Category Archives: travel

Outdoor People

Meeting Wood and Luv over the weekend was a real treat for me and Billy. We drove out to their cabin in the woods of Pennsylvania and, although it’s trite to say about people you’ve known on the web for a long time but are just meeting for the first time, they were exactly as I’d imagined them. Only way cooler. Which is saying a lot, because I had high expectations for the weekend!

These are the type of people I want to be when I grow up. We arrived in time for lunch and then headed out to Gettysburg for some history and hiking. Then it was back to the cabin for the much-anticipated dead rats. Dead rats, for the uninitiated, are scooped out jalapenos filled with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, and grilled over an open flame. The fun was trying to figure out whether the bite you took that is burning your face from the inside out is a hot jalapeno or a mild one. They were delicious!

Dinner was likewise delicious, and we followed that up with a game of Five Crowns. I started off really well in both games we played, but I think I finished second place each time. Billy… well, the most we can say is that he gave it his all. I think he may have set a record for the worst score ever, but even that is something to be proud of in some way, right?

We sat in the hot tub under the stars for a while and enjoyed the silence of a fall evening. And then we settled off to sleep in the darkest, quietest room I have been in in a very, very long time. I slept all the way until 9am, which for me these days is absolutely unheard of. There’s something to be said for peaceful, warm, welcoming homes.

We woke up for some NYC bagels and muffins and then we were off to the nearby park to play disc golf. We did pretty well, I think (for us). I threw about 20 over par, which is probably way better than the last time I played when I didn’t even bother to keep score. The one part of the day I’d probably take back was when I threw my hand directly into a nearby tree while making my toss. That one still stings a bit.

After frisbee, we tried our hand at geocaching. I’d always wanted to try this, and it was fun! The first cache was a bit of a challenge to find. We must have looked around for a good 20 minutes for it before we thought of MOVING rocks to look under them. That cache gave us the location of the second one, which held the actual prize. This one was a bit easier to find, and we walked away with a Boy Scout patch. Then it was back home for some amazing tomato soup (yummmm!) and burgers. Somehow, after that, we had to leave.

I think what struck me the most about the trip was how much at home I felt with them. For people I had never met before, they welcomed Billy and me in as if they’d known us their whole lives. What a special treat, and I hope someday to return the favor.


Tubing the Esopus

I have wanted to go tubing down the Esopus Creek ever since I was a pimply teenager. Now that I’m a pimply adult with my own car and a husband to drag along with me, I can finally say that I’ve done it!

On Friday, we headed over to the Town Tinker to rent our tubes and hit the water. We got a nice little speech about tips for tubing the Esopus. It was about 45 seconds long and most of it was spent parked on the bridge pointing out where we would need to exit the creek in order to return the tubes and gear. About five minutes later, we were dumped out at the creek and I think I may have heard the driver laughing evilly under his breath as the tires squealed out of the area.

Ignoring what had surely only been my imagination, we got into the water! Yippee! I was all set for a leisurely float down the creek where we would take pictures and chat about intellectual issues. If only I’d brought my camera, goddamn it! Oh well, I’d have to take pictures with my feeble human memory instead.

I got into my tube and was quickly whisked into the current. Billy got into his tube and quickly got stuck on a rock. The distance between us kept increasing and increasing until we could barely hear each other shouting at the top of our lungs. So, I did what seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to do and I tried to get out of my tube and wait for him.

You guys, the Esopus Creek does not fuck around. I obviously did not respect the creek, because I got out of my tube and the creek knocked me down. And in my surprise and haste to grab my tube, I dropped our car key. Into the rushing flood of water that was knocking me over. And just like that, only two minutes after the bus driver left us for dead, the car key was gone.

At this point, I’m holding onto my tube with one hand and a tree branch with another and my arms are being stretched out like rubber bands by the river current. Billy is still stuck on a rock. So I decide the only logical thing to do is to try to get to calmer water where I can wait for Billy and cry.

Billy finally made it over and reassured me that there was nothing to worry about because he still had his car key! Yes! I asked him where it was and he said it was in the (locked) car. I figured at this point, though, that it didn’t matter where the car key was because our only objective now was to get the hell out of this creek and have a strong drink. And that meant another 2 1/2 miles of tubing.

So we climbed back into our tubes and let the current take us away.

About 10 minutes later, Billy’s tube got flipped over by rocks and strong current, and when I turned around to try to help him out, I saw it. Our car key! Seriously! Right there, floating next to Billy’s butt! I managed to paddle my tube over there and grab the key and I was so happy, people. I think I cried more after finding the car key than I did when I lost it.

We continued bumping and bustling our way down the creek, which wasn’t as fun as it sounds. We both kept getting stuck on rocks because the water level was so low, and because I weigh a lot less than Billy, he got a lot more hung up than I did. So I kept having to paddle my way over into quiet sections to try to stop and wait for him. Otherwise I probably would have finished tubing later that afternoon, and he’d probably still be there, stuck on a rock.

There was one rapid relatively early on that I just wasn’t expecting to be as strong as it was (you’ll see this is a recurring theme), and it knocked me right out of my tube and under the water. I think I took a nice big deep breath of water, not realizing I was underneath it, which understandably made it difficult for me to breathe air. Making my way back above water, I realized, with one hand holding onto my tube for dear life, that the force of the water had not only knocked the wind out of me, but it had also dislodged both my contact lenses. To give an idea of what it’s like for me without my contacts, I’d need to be about three inches away from someone to identify him, which I would still have to do by smell.

I managed to crawl over to the bank (thank god there was actually a bank here, and not just a bunch of tree branches that I would have had to hold onto) so I could catch my breath and try to find my contacts, which thankfully were still in my eyes somewhere and not in the creek. I managed to slide them back into place, and slowly my heartbeat began to fall back into the realm of “moderately terrified.”

After a while, we hit a stretch of calm water. Sensing this was too easy, I looked over at Billy and noticed his wedding ring was missing. I asked whether he’d had the foresight to take it off before we got in the water. You know the answer, don’t you? Some fish in the Esopus Creek is wearing an awfully nice wedding ring right now.

[Aside: Actually, now that I think about it, that’s probably what started the whole idea for The Lord of the Rings, isn’t it? I think it must be.]

By now, we were both destroyed. Emotionally, physically. We just wanted to get back to our campsite, drink a case of beer, and pretend this day had never happened. But we still hadn’t even come upon the first landmark we were told about! We were doomed.

We trudged on, continuing to get thrown and tossed around on our little tubes, and FINALLY, there it was. Our landmark, the first bridge.

I made it through without much incident. Billy was not quite so lucky. He plowed directly into a downed tree with such force that the tree itself was knocked loose and dragged into the next zip code before Billy could even look up. Billy’s tube went out from under him and as he tried to grab it, he slipped on a rock. The tube went one way, he another, and he belly-surfed over the rocks all the way to the bridge. And I’m sitting there in my tube, holding onto my tree branch thinking, OK. Car keys, wedding rings, and pride I am all ok with losing. But we will NOT lose my husband’s tube!

It was pretty heroic, really. I rescued the tube with triumphant valiance! And I only cracked two kneecaps in the process.

After passing somewhat uneventfully by a quaint little hand-painted wooden sign that simply said, “Danger Area,” with a cute little skull and crossbones underneath it, we finally saw it. Our bridge. The one that signaled the end. We started paddling to get downstream faster until… we stopped. We were about 200 yards away from the finish, and the creek at this point had dried up to about 3 inches deep. The Esopus won. We had to walk back, defeated.

People: All I can say is, beer never tasted so good.

A month, really?

OK, so it’s been approximately one month since I last wrote. There is no possible way I could catch up in any detailed way. Some of the highlights of the last month:

– I have worked harder than ever at my job and it has stretched me beyond capacity on several occasions. For some reason, I keep going back. I think I actually like it.
– I went to Maryland to watch all the Twilight movies with my Erica. I realized after watching them all in succession that they are all exactly the same movie. And no matter how much I wish for it to happen, Bella never dies. Bitch.
– I saw my best friend off to Oregon. Since I’ve known her, I’ve seen her off to a high school in a different town and survived, college in Ithaca, grad school in Wisconsin, and two years in the Peace Corps in Namibia, but watching her move to Oregon was the hardest of all. We had a great dinner with her family in honor of her birthday and I am absolutely ashamed to say that I was not sober for that trip. I blame the stress of item one on this list for that, but really that is no excuse.
– I celebrated my 30th birthday, a year late, at a Cyclones game in Brooklyn with some great friends and family. I got to throw out the first pitch, and the whole stadium sang happy birthday to the Caitlinator (I can’t tell you how many people at the stadium thought my nickname was totally awesome).
– I worked until 1am one day so I could get on the road to Maine in time to catch the last ferry to Peaks Island to visit my aunt and uncle for their 50th wedding anniversary. What a special occasion and a wonderful event! So pleased I could be there.
– I went camping at Acadia National Park, and had a blast – hiked 10 miles, biked 20 miles, kayaked 2.5 miles, and nearly killed Billy off in the process.
– I went camping at Woodland Valley State Park in NY, and FINALLY, after 15 years of wanting to, tubed down the Esopus Creek. It was quite an adventure, and one I hope to share with you someday soon, but not tonight, as I don’t have the energy to make it a good story.

I’m sure there are other things in there that I am leaving out, but it’s on my goal list to get enough sleep every night so that I can face my mornings (and the ridiculous stress of my job these days) and that means I am off to bed now. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back online before the end of the month!

A short story from our vacation, which is now a distant, fading memory.

I’m still working on sifting through videos from our trip, and these are even better than the still photos, in my opinion. While you’re waiting (and don’t pretend like you aren’t sitting on the edge of your seat wondering where my vacation video is and what is taking me so long to provide this to you), here is a story from our trip that I didn’t already share.

Since we were going to be spending roughly 12-15 hours in the car, driving through desert, I figured we ought to have some good driving music. And so I compiled a 13-disc playlist of awesome (if I say so myself) music for driving on the open road. About three and a half hours away from the entrance to the South Rim, Billy and I were self-congratulating ourselves due to the awesome music selections, singing loudly with the windows open, and looking forward to an early(ish) check-in at our hotel, where there were showers. With hot water. And soap. That you didn’t have to insert quarters to use.

That’s when we heard the strange noise coming from the back of our extreme-economy rental car. We pulled over to investigate. Sure enough, it was (dum-dum-dum) a flat tire.

We got to work trying to change it for the donut in the trunk (by which I mean Billy got to work trying to change the tire and I used the 15% of battery life left on my cell phone to attempt to call the car rental company to figure out what to do next. This involved a short hike to the nearest mile marker without applying sunscreen or drinking any water, and did I mention that it was 115*F that day? Because it was. And I don’t care what you say about “dry heat.” 115 degrees in full sun is HOT).

Anyway. The word from the rental company was that we were to drive to the nearest rental location so we could switch out the damaged car with a new one to get us the rest of the way to Las Vegas. We arrived to the Kingman, Arizona location and discovered that the location where we’d rented the car (Las Vegas) was owned and operated by an independent franchisee, and as such a car from the fleet from that location could not be switched with a car from the fleet from the corporate location. Therefore, we were stuck with a car with a flat tire, 150 miles from our destination.

Our choices were: fix and/or replace the flat, or have someone from the Las Vegas location drive out with a replacement car and have this one towed back to Vegas – both options at our own expense.

And so we found ourselves at the Superior Tire store in Kingman, Arizona, buying a new tire. Thankfully, my credit card will cover the cost of the tire.

While we were waiting for the tire to be replaced (now nearing 3pm), we happened to notice that Billy’s wallet had gone missing. This isn’t really an unusual occurrence, but when after 45 minutes of fruitless searching through everything we had in the car we hadn’t found it, the tension was starting to truly get tight.

Logical thinking prevailed, however, and we decided it was either at one of two places: on the side of the road where we’d changed the tire, or on the floor of the IMAX theater where we’d gone to see the Grand Canyon IMAX movie that morning, directly outside the entrance to the South Rim, three and a half hours away from where we were. A quick call to the theater confirmed that yes, a wallet had been found, and yes, it did belong to one Billy Regan from Jackson Heights, NY, and what would we like them to do with it?

Faced with nine more hours of driving, after being on the road since 5:00 that morning, we decided to have them mail the wallet back to us in New York, and we’d make do without it for the last two days of the trip. Then we decided we needed to have some lunch, as I was feeling some serious heat exhaustion at that point and we were both starving.

While we were at the restaurant, it occurred to us that we were flying home the following day, and oops! Billy didn’t have ID to get through airport security! So, we used the last fourteen seconds of battery life on my cell phone to call the airline, who assured us that although it wouldn’t be a smooth, easy process, Billy could get through security without ID. He’d just be pulled aside, given a cavity search, and questioned at gunpoint. No big deal. So we sighed a sigh of relief and ate our quesadillas in peace.

We finally were getting back on the road to Vegas around 5pm, and got to our hotel by 8, and can I just say? That shower really was everything we’d worked so hard to get to. Definitely in the top five best showers of my whole life. We probably should have pressed our luck on the slots outside our hotel room door – I mean, at that point it had to have been kicking in in our favor – but we fell asleep before we could think of it.

What can I say? When we travel together, adventure abounds.

Home again, home again, jiggety jog.

We are back from the Grand Canyon and we had a fabulous time. Some photos and stories are here. You’ll have to look at the detail view to get the captions and stories.

This trip has reminded me that as much as I love New York City, a city girl I am not. I think that when our lease is up in April, we’ll be looking for greener pastures – or, really, just pastures. OK. It’ll probably just be half an acre we can barbecue on. But I miss the stars and the smell of fresh air and the sound of crickets at night. Is that so much to want?

Hiking Mount Beacon

Lots going on this week. Can’t keep up!

Sunday we went hiking with my stepsister, her husband, and their daughter up Mount Beacon. I’ve never hiked up Mount Beacon before, and it was awesome! The weather was perfect – overcast and only one intermittent sprinkle and not too hot. We had some lunch at the reservoir, and Jim even pulled out his harmonica, much to little Caroline’s enjoyment. The view at the top of the mountain (if it can really be called a mountain at 1,600 feet?) was incredible. I felt like I could get a real sense of what the Hudson Valley must have looked like to the people who discovered it 400 years ago. I was so enthralled with the views and the smells and the physical exertion that I only took nine photos, and they were all terrible. This almost never happens. By the time we reached the bottom, I was in such a zen-like state, I felt as though I’d just spent four hours at the spa instead of hiking up (and back down) a small mountain. And it was far cheaper.

Billy and I got to break in our new hiking shoes, and I am happy to say they definitely did the job. We should be pretty good when we get to the Grand Canyon. (Which, by the way, we are SOOO excited about. Foaming at the mouth, actually.)

Now I want to hike everywhere. Alas. It is not a very relaxing hike to my office downtown.

All’s well.

Today was a great day! The weather was absolutely perfect. While I would have loved to spend the day at the park, what we did instead was just as fun and far more productive. And, we still got to enjoy a bit of the outdoors.

We woke up late on a rare day off for Billy. And I do mean late. Normally on a weekend I’m up by 7:30 or 8am. Today we were up and at ’em around 12:55pm. This is thanks to a wild night in the city playing hours upon hours of Wii with friends. I think we strolled in as the sun was coming up around 5:45am. I haven’t done that in a LONG time, and with any luck, it will be a long time before I do it again. But it was fun.

Today we managed to get to the post office to ship off a gift for a colleague who is having a baby in July. Her due date is actually on my birthday, which I think is an excellent sign for good things to come. I made her a baby sweater.

Then it was off to the city to have some lunch. We dined in style at the bar at the Blue Room, which is our favorite spot in the city. We know all the bartenders by name and it’s pretty much as homey to us as eating in our own living room. That was nice.

We walked from there down to Barnes and Noble, where we piled up a stack of books about the Grand Canyon, so we could start planning our trip. I’m not much of a trip planner. I much prefer going where the moment takes me and seeing what strikes my fancy once I arrive. But we both agreed that having some general knowledge of what to expect when we were there would be a good idea. We chose a couple to purchase and take along with us, and left quite excited about our upcoming trip.

Then it was downtown to the outdoor store to get ourselves some sleeping pads for the camping trip. Sleeping on rocks probably isn’t much fun. I’m feeling a little skeptical that we are going to be able to get all this gear out to Las Vegas and back on the plane. We decided not to get the backpacking pads, which are smaller, in order to save some money. I wonder if that was a bad idea. At the very least, though, I know we’ll get use out of the ones we got, since we do a lot of car camping anyway. Camping gear is fucking expensive, yo.

Now we’re home, we booked our hotel for the two nights we’ll be in Las Vegas, and we are so stoked to get out there. We’re getting ready for a night of karaoke with friends and looking forward to a full night’s sleep. Please, please, a full night’s sleep would be nice. During the night-time, please.