Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Motivation

Get to living life on your terms friends. Dream big, go big, believe in yourself. Ready, go. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quick Hits

Few quick hits for today. Finally catching up on freelance work, which always gives me ideas and makes me want to book plane tickets.

Places to go:
Istabul. New Years girls trip is a very real possibility.
Estonia. It will happen.
More ideas? Take a walk.
Glacier National Park. Headed back this week, more adventures and photos coming your way. I'll also be doing work events and meeting with more veterans while I'm there, so many stories.

Things to listen to:
Matt Nathanson
Mumford and Sons
Carbon Leaf

Recipe from last international dinner night, South American theme:
Peruvian-style corn, pepper and chicken soup. Delicious and easy!

Blogs to read:
Yes and Yes
The DC Ladies

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Old Dominion

Honestly don't know how it got to be September. And half way through already!

August continued to be madness, of the awesome variety.

The week after the last blog was busy, but Mark flew in that Thursday evening and I picked him up at Reagan after a trivia night with co-workers. That night was the summer tournament quarter finals and we were in second place until the last round, where we tanked. That was sort of our thing until last week, when we rocked it out and won! Trivia is kind of a big deal in D.C. If I remember right we had trouble with potatoes and Super Grover. The things you learn at trivia.

Friday involved a frenzy of work emails, blog issues, social media craziness and website work before heading to Yorktown. If you've read this blog before, you are aware of my love for Yorktown. If you haven't, well, I love Yorktown. The place I consider my hometown (meaning, we lived there the longest, and my parents still live there). It's also the site of a major Revolutionary War battle. I used to say it was the turning point of the war, but my mom tells me it's where we won the war. Either way, major town in colonial times. And I just love it.

Hitting I-95 on the Friday of Labor Day weekend was a bit ill-fated, as I knew it would be. We left later than I wanted to, but still early enough we should have beat traffic, but no such luck. Sitting in traffic makes me crazy. Probably because I've spent so much of my time in D.C. in parking lot style traffic and it's taken more than two hours to go 30 miles on far too many days when I used to work in Maryland. But, I get through it because my commute generally includes driving by the Capitol, Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington monuments, the White House and so forth. It's like a daily reminder of the founding fathers and all the great things this nation stands for and helps motivate me every morning. But, traffic still makes me nuts. Mark, on the other hand, is cool and calm. Maybe I should have made him drive.

Hours later, we made it to Fredericksburg, where I used to live/work, so I did my go-to back way to hit the road that goes straight to my parents house, through the Virginia countryside, along the water in some spots and it's just beautiful.

Finally, we made it to Yorktown. Since we we're hitting rush hour traffic there, Mom suggested we stop at Colonial Yorktown for a walk before heading home. I'm never opposed to a walk along the riverfront. Most of it's been rebuilt since Hurricane Isabel crushed us in 2003. I don't know what it is about that area, but I just love it. To me, it's home. As close to a home as a military brat can have and it's just such a great community that I think I'll always go back there to feel at home, to find my center, to regroup. It works every time.

It was fun to take Mark around my hometown for the first time and even though it was ridiculously hot, we walked the path past the Watermens Museum and up to the Victory Center, where I worked in college. Grover came too and took a quick splash in the river. Mark had him out further than he's used to and he kept turning around to look at me, but I think he loved his guy time and cooling off in the water.

The heat made it a quicker trip, even though I could spend hours on that path and looking out at the river and it was about time for dinner. A seat at the Rowell family dinner table is always an adventure and Mark survived.

We, make that I, thought it would be a good idea to leave after dinner, drive to Shenandoah National Park and camp for the night. In theory, it was a perfect plan. We made it about an hour before I was so sleepy. Mark was pretty tired too, so we decided to stop at a hotel on the north side of Richmond for the night. Grover did surprisingly well in the hotel and I passed out about five minutes after walking in the door. Driving doesn't just make me crazy, it exhausts me. Seems reasonable considering how much time I spend in my car these days.

Next morning, we repacked, grabbed coffee for me, snack for Mark and hit the road to the mountains. We drove through Charlottesville and entered the south end of the park and then cruised up Skyline Drive to check out hiking and camping areas. Most of the campgrounds were full or just not what we wanted, being Labor Day weekend and all, so we found the area we wanted to hike and decided to do that and go from there. We hiked about a mile, back down to a bigger area we had already passed for a bathroom break and then jumped on the Appalachian Trail for a few miles. I thought that would be awesome, since hiking the AT is on many a Virginian's to-do list, but I don't foresee having time to do the entire trail anytime soon. It's been years since I've been to Shenandoah and since we're there, might as well!

The humidity was downright oppressive that day and it had rained on the way in, but thankfully, the storm held off from our hike. We had Grover carrying his own water in his new harness, that he was less than thrilled about, but he got the hang of it. I'm reasonably sure I drank a bottle of water for every mile hiked it was so humid. Shenandoah is beautiful, but I'm in awe of the people who do this for weeks on end. In the Virginia summer. You're braver than I.

Most of the section of trail we picked was up hill. And rocky. I haven't felt some of those muscles in awhile. On the downhill, with Grover, my legs were shaking, but we managed. We did have a run-in with a park ranger who asked if Grover was a service dog. (Please, have you met this dog?) Apparently, dogs weren't allowed on that little stretch of trail, after we'd left the AT and were headed back to the car. But the signs are only on the one entrance to the trail, so you'd never see them from the AT. Grover didn't care for that group and growled and barked. They made comments about not all dogs being nice (again, have you met Grover?! He's the most friendly dog I've ever met. If he doesn't like you, well, that's on you).

Few minutes later, we were at the car, swapping hiking boots for flip flops and Grover fell asleep right there on the asphalt.

There was a wrong turn involved on the way home, which turned into us driving on a windy, dark, country road that evolved into Mark mocking my nervousness and me explaining that it reminded me of creepy, haunted roads my friends tortured me with in high school. I hate scary stuff and well, Virginia is full of haunted things and ghost stories. Not a good combo.

Then the storm hit and there was some massive flooding and driving through standing water. Always a win in a small car. I was so glad to be home. When we walked in the door, the roommate and her boyfriend were watching the Goonies.

Perfect end to that day. (Photos coming tomorrow.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Motivation

Because I generally run my life with the thought of "Watch Me" in my head.

Fall Rush

After a great trip to Montana, got back to total chaos.

My flight got in super late at Dulles and I was almost home, after midnight, when I realized I didn't have my house keys because I'd left them with my sister for puppy sitting. 

My friend had just arrived in D.C. that day and was staying with us that week as she was starting a new job with me at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. I was excited to see her, but exhausted from the trip and everyone was asleep when I got there. Good to know it's not easy to break into our house and I had to wake up my roommate to get in. 

The next morning, Ally and I caught up while getting ready for work and headed to the office, running late. Of course, I got in the car and promptly dumped coffee all over myself and the car. Good thing I was wearing black pants. 

First day back in the office was madness getting everyone settled, getting myself caught up and trying not to spill more hot beverages all over myself. And a staff meeting, where my department was presenting, much to my surprise, I had a few hours to prepare since my boss was out of town.

That night Ally and I made cupcakes in ice cream cones to take to work for my birthday and they were amazing. That idea was a definite win. Drinks for my birthday and the rest of the week was kind of a whirlwind.

Saturday we took Grover for puppy ice cream at a fancy pet store in Old Town. Of course Grover would reject the ice cream, making me feel bad, so we bought new toys, including one coated in kevlar. He hasn't managed to eat that one yet, but probably more because it's been on top of the bookshelf for a week. 

Ally, Grover and I headed to Eastern Market for the afternoon to explore and it was warm, but storms threatened. I knew the market would be Ally's kind of thing, after our adventures in Rome, but sure enough, it poured. At least we got to do a full lap around the market first. We'll go back when it's cooler. 

We went home and decided that National Treasure: Book of Secrets was a good first weekend in D.C. kind of movie, with popcorn and wine of course. 

Sunday we did better and accomplished a number of errands before heading to the National Mall. We thought we might do a few museums, but only made it through Natural History and didn't even see it all despite spending several hours in the massive museum. There is just so much to see! We started in the Oceans Hall, which was new since I'd last been there (clearly, it's been awhile). We also checked out the mummies, which honestly, aren't as impressive as the ones in the British Museum or the Vatican Museum, in my opinion. We also checked out an exhibit about the Chilean mine rescue, where irritating tourists were talking very loudly and proclaiming bad information. So it goes. The Hope Diamond was, as usual, anticlimactic, and we got tired of the gems after awhile. But there was a little boy in that exhibit going on and on about the gems and which ones were pretty and which ones he wanted and that was amusing. The dinosaurs are still pretty cool, as our the mammal skeletons, but after a few hours we were just running out of energy.

And so many more Smithsonian museums to visit! D.C. is a great place to live, always so much to do!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Day on the Lake

Meant to do this weeks ago, but I just cannot keep up with my life lately!

So, after an amazing week in Missoula with The Wall That Heals, Mark met me there and we stopped by the site one more time before heading to Glacier National Park for the weekend. I had promised a few area veterans to take items back to D.C. and place them at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I also wanted to make sure I'd collected all the name rubbing requests and I would take them back with me to do personally and mail to the area vets. The town made an impression on me and I had worked hard to send TWTH there. In just a few days, the town had welcomed me, veterans had opened their hearts to me and many tears had been shed and hugs exchanged. The healing had begun for some of these Vietnam veterans and I would do my small part in helping that process.

I was a little sad to leave the site and the people I had shared every waking hour with for the week, but we were off to the mountains and I was ready for some hiking and kayaking.

The view from our campsite. 
We got a late start on the drive and so it would be tough to hike in and camp like we'd originally planned and some of the sites were filling up. We found one car camping site near Bowman Lake, but Mark wanted to check some of the sites further up, so after some exploring and checking out the water, we got back on the windy, dirt road. I think we ended up in a site near Quartz Creek, but I'm not positive. Either way, we had a camp site right next to a creek and it was a clear, starry night.

The next morning, we decided to kayak instead of hike since we only had the day. The inflatable kayak is one of the most brilliant inventions since it's much easier to cart around. We got the kayak put together and packed up the snacks, water and camera and hit the water. The lakes in Glacier are amazing and incredibly clear. We could see the bottom for a few minutes off the shore, and even the deeper water was amazingly clear and refreshing. Some sort of fish were popping around, but they were pretty small.

I have a tendency to favor my left when paddling apparently and eventually, we switched paddles to see if that helped. My paddle was shorter than Mark's, which made sense, but oddly, we both did better when we switched. It was more of a workout that way, but I went a little straighter and faster, even when Mark wasn't paddling.

The weather was amazing, but pretty warm with the new skirt that kept more water out of the kayak and more sun. The last time we kayaked, the sun had started going down on our way back in and the temperature dropped considerably. Not the case this time. And despite tons of sunscreen, I was still pretty rosy and Mark had missed a spot so he was sporting a lobster look as well. I'd managed a pretty serious roast while in Missoula so I was struggling with that pain and still went back to pale with not much in the way of a tan. Such is the life of a redhead.

On our way out, we stopped in Polebridge, a tiny town outside Glacier. We poked around the Polebridge Merchantile for snacks and gifts. Mark found the coolest jar that was local pottery as a gift for my roommate and I picked up some local coffee, which was delicious. I was very curious about the local wines and considered bringing a few home, but decided I was racking up the breakables and it was unlikely they'd all make it back intact.

The drive back to Great Falls was beautiful. We took Route 2 along the bottom of the park since it's quicker than driving all the way through the park, but the views are equally spectacular. We considered a route through Flathead National Forest, but the road was so rough that it took 20 minutes to go two miles so we decided to double back and get back on the paved road. Maybe next time.