Sunday, October 31, 2010

Week 21 of Unemployment

So ... obviously I was out and about for week 21. I was in CT, NJ, NY & PA. Even with all the fun I was having (more photos and stories about my travels will follow), I applied for jobs! I promise!

J, meanwhile, was in CT, NJ, MN, & VA this week (as well as many other states he passed through). One of his famous Rec Director conferences took place in Minneapolis. He came home with viking helmets. If anyone can tell me how this fits in with recreation, please do. I'm intrigued, yet worried.

Then, there was a concert in VA with UncleSlickG. Actually, there was also a concert while he was in Minneapolis. Are you surprised?

Tomorrow, we head back to NH. In October, I have spent a total of 10 days in NH. The Mister is not a happy cat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

4 Years!

Today is our anniversary ... and of course we are not together! J is in Minneapolis (for work) and I am in NJ. Makes me laugh that we've spent more anniversaries apart than together!

We did celebrate on Sunday a little before J left. We dined at The Black Forest Inn, where we held our rehearsal dinner. And, I ordered a 10-inch replica of our pumpkin spice wedding cake for dessert!And no, a private message to my hubby ... everyone else stop reading ... no really, stop reading ... oh nevermind ... can't get any privacy on the web! Love you babe! See you soon!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Big Apple

Three guesses where I was today?

My sister and I met up in NYC on this rainy, yet humid, fall day. Growing up a stone's throw from the city still means you can play tourist, which we try to do together every once in awhile. And we did what most NYC tourists would do.

We saw a play, "In the Heights." Loved, loved, loved it. Lots of Latin dancing and music! While most people were excited that Jordin Sparks, American Idol winner, starred in the play, my sister was most excited that former High-5 (a children's program that I found very odd) star Shaun Taylor-Corbett had a role. We tried to wait around to take his picture after the play let out, but it was raining pretty steadily by then. Not worth it.
Tourists also eat yummy Italian food. We ate at Bice (pronounced Beee-C). Highly recommend it.

Tourists are also vulnerable to being ripped off in NYC. So when the server at Bice asked us if we wanted "sparkling" or "flat" water, we should have known better and responded "tap" water instead. But no, we said "flat." And paid $10 for bottled water. Not much better than the $14 glass of wine QuickQuestion ordered!

Tourists also get lost. We got a little lost. But not too bad. I still think NYC is an easier city to get around than Boston!

Monday, October 25, 2010

High School Friends

J had a very different experience in high school than I did. It's no wonder since he went to an all boys' school. I can't even imagine what my experience would be like if I went to an all boys' school, but I digress ...

Anyways, J is now 15 years out of high school, but still keeps in touch with 15 of his closest friends. I use the term "keep in touch" lightly because guys don't really keep in touch the same way gals do. But in any case, he has a lot of friends. This weekend, we got to reunite with them (minus Beef-we missed you!).As for me, I keep in touch with a grand total of 4 people from high school. Two of them are regular, while the other 2 are sporadic. I'd like to say I'm more for "quality" than "quantity," but that would be saying that J's friendships are not quality, and that's not true. We reunited with 2 of my friends this weekend as well.
The reason for the reunions? Some belated wedding celebrations!

First, we met up with theAccountant, Holden Caulfield, Hallmark4Ever and GoodEgg for lunch on Saturday. TheAccountant and Holden Caulfield eloped in June. Hallmark4Ever wanted to wear matching outfits to lunch so we could feel like bridesmaids, but that didn't fly. We did make theAccountant and Holden Caulfield eat cake like a newly married couple (and theAccountant is going to have my head for posting this picture, but we did take a vote and she lost. Smooch!)
Next, we attended theBachelor (clearly, this is not an appropriate nickname anymore) and theSuperModel's wedding. They wed in September last year in Canada and being jobless meant no trip to Canada.
Also, the high school friends have been reproducing by the dozen. And once again, I do believe our friends have the best gene pool in the country. Such cute kids! I think you would agree!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Week 20 of Unemployment

It's a little depressing to think I've been unemployed for 20 weeks. I'm just about halfway through my maximum unemployment benefits, so I've started thinking about my game plan post-UE. Right now, I apply for most jobs I see, which are still few and far between. Many times, though, it pays more (literally) to collect UE benefits than to try for an actual job. I'm all for taking a pay cut and I clearly WANT to work, but I do not accept pennies. And I kid you not, there are writing jobs out there that pay pennies.

However, once UE benefits run out, I may have no choice. I did hear our local HALLMARK was hiring. Use of caps is my attempt to convey my excitement. I'm a little fond of Hallmark. It was my first job. I kept it for 6 years (alongside theAccountant and Hallmark4Ever). I still flip over cards I receive to see if they are from Hallmark. Because if you don't get me a Hallmark card, you don't really love me. One time, theAccountant got me a non-Hallmark card and we had a lengthy discussion as to why she would turn on Hallmark. Not that I'm being dramatic or anything. But, Hallmark=love.

Anyways, I don't even know if the NH-based Hallmark would hire me, but it's a possibility I am keeping on my radar for post-UE times.

Onto happier things. MamaFashion was in town this week! She had an interview in the Boston area (fingers and toes crossed), so she came for one night. We fit in some walking amongst the beautiful fall colors, a nice dinner & breakfast at home, including cupcakes for J's belated bday, and SCRABBLE (I love Scrabble almost as much as HALLMARK). Of course, J still beat both of us—the 2 writers in the family—in Scrabble. Just proves again that you don't need to know how to spell to win, you just need to have the right strategy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week 19 of Unemployment

I wasn't really unemployed this week ... My old company hired me as a freelancer to cover a conference. Working is good for the soul ... or maybe just the ego ... or the pocketbook. Anywho, yeah for me!

The conference was in St. Louis. I've driven through the city on my cross-country trips before, but I was excited to see a little more of it. That didn't really happen for a couple of reasons.

1) We were staying in a little bit of a sketchy area. This was confirmed when the hotel staff handed me and Ms. Picky (old coworker & she sort of picked her nickname!) the map and highlighted a large portion just a block from the hotel. "You'll be fine if you don't go here."

2) Conference coverage is busy and we were only there for 2.5 days. That time is filled with meetings and the rest of the time is spent writing!

3) There is so much construction going on downtown. We had a hard time finding restaurants. I guess they are in the process of a big city revitalization, so we were 1 year too early.

So this is as close as I got to the arch: During my shuttle bus drive on Saturday from the hotel to the airport, I "explored." We passed Forest Park, where the 1904 Wordl's Fair took place. We passed the 630-foot arch (up closer). We passed the Old Courthouse. So I guess I could say I saw a lot of the Gateway City afterall.

My impression is that St. Louis is more "South" than "Midwest." I know the arch represents the "gateway to the West," but we ate a lot of foods associated with the South. Lots of fried foods (Ms. Picky & I split a FRYBURGER one day). Biscuits and gravy. Sweet Tea. BBQ Ribs (although, Ms. Picky argues that there are 3 style of BBQ: Southern, Midwest and Texas). I definitely ate back all those calories I burned from my 100-mile walk.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The ABCs of The Rugged, Wet, VerMUD, I mean VerMONT, Long Trail

I really wanted to be brief. I did. But it's just not me. You should know that by now. So you can skim or skip this entry. Totally up to you. I did try to make it fun to read ... And, if you want even more, I gave a FULL FULL day-to-day report on Trail Journals, a site for the long-distance hiking community.

Agendas: We had this whole big agenda before the trip. 10 miles or so the first 2 days, then we would get our trail legs and be up to 15-17 miles by day 3. Pssssh. One of the biggest lessons we learned about long-distance hiking is that you don't make too many plans. You can MAYBE make a goal your day, but not the week ahead. Weather and terrain were definitely a factor for us. Day 2 we only did 3.1 miles, which was pretty depressing for us. But it was up and over this wicked high peak and the trail was seriously a complete waterfall because of the insane rain we got.

Breakfast: We ate oatmeal, pop tarts or bagels for breakfast.

Canada: That's where we started. Our friends dropped us off Wednesday evening and we hiked into a shelter right on the border of Canada. The next day, we started the hike.Dinners: They were delicious. We are BIG fans of the semi-expensive dehydrated meals made by Backpacker Pantry, Mountain House and other companies. We dined on Pad Thai, Chicken with Stuffing and Potatoes, Primavera Pasta, Buffalo Style Beef, Mexican Beef ... yum num yum.Elevation: We gained 26,545 feet and lost 26,585 feet. That's a lot of ups and downs! One day, we started at 300 feet. And climbed all day to 4,000 feet. In 6 miles.

Emotions: I am the female, so of course I am going to say that sure I got down on the trail. We had rain on days 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then again on days 6 and 8. We were wet and cold most of the time. However, I did love it overall. There were approximately 10 hours of sunshine the whole trip and those hours were great. Plus, I felt so rewarded by what we were doing. We saw some spectacular views and things in nature. You truly have to be committed to the idea of hiking day in and day out, that's for sure.

Falls: 8 for P (with a humungo bruise to show for it) and 3 for J. I know that makes me sound like an extremely clumsy person ... I blame the ridiculously slick rocks and mud puddles that ate me alive. Plus, I did not take J's advice and use hiking poles like him. I've always found poles cumbersome when hiking ... I believe I am a changed woman now. Poles are my new friend.

Foliage: Oh my beautiful. I will say that in most cases our eyes were on the ground (for fear that we would get swallowed by the puddles), but the ground was covered in leaves and that was just spectacular. And of course when there were views, there were views!Going the Distance: 104.9 miles. Some of these miles were not on the LT, but we did complete just about 100 miles of the LT. Less than the 175 miles we originally planned, but we will be back LT, we will be back!Hygiene: Being a long-distance hiker definitely tests your hygiene limits. We did shower on day 5, then again on day 10 (at home). We used wet ones to clean up every few days. J was better about brushing his teeth just about every day, but I was just plain lazy with that. Resin-Q became our favorite item on the trip because of chafing. We own Body Glide (given to us once by Quick Question) and I think that will be an even better solution on the next trip.

Hostile/Hostel: We stayed in a hostel to get a shower and get dry on day 5. Hostels are not generally dangerous. And this one certainly wasn't. This nice couple in their 70s have opened their basement (complete with cockroaches) to LT hikers for a hot shower and bed for the last 16 years. It is one of the few towns you go through in the northern section of the trail.Injuries: None. The LT is infamous for torquing ankles and tearing ACLs. But, we survived 100 miles without anything big. Except for my 9 million blisters (J got NONE) and the bruise the size of Texas on my right butt cheek.
J's Bday: We spent J's bday (Oct. 6) on the trail. It was supposed to rain (of course), but it held out all day! It was still cloudy and that's the day we went over Mt. Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont (4,393 ft). It was super windy! It rained like crazy as soon as we hit the shelter, all night and next day. But at least it didn't rain on his bday!

Killer: That would be the .4 miles down from Whiteface peak to Whiteface Shelter. It was insane! Actually, J & I have an ongoing joke about the last .4 miles of all legs of the trip. It's always MUCH LONGER than it seems to be.

Lodging: The LT is unique because there is a shelter every 5 miles or so. Some have 3 walls, some have 4. All of them were pretty nice (by our standards)! And we were often by ourself (except for the one night we rolled up at 5:30 and the shelter only had 2 spots left!). We brought the tent just in case and were determined to use it since J carried the extra weight. We used it the one night we thought it wouldn't rain ... and it rained (of course).Lunch: Snacked all day and sometimes ate a full lunch, like tuna on tortillas.

Mail Drops: Typically with long-distance hiking, you carry food for 5 days or so. You can either resupply in a town or mail yourself food to pickup. We ended up deciding to resupply in a town 5 days in (the same one where we stayed in the "hostile"), but we also sent ourselves a mail drop. We thought we'd get there on day 7. We got there on day 9 (remember no agendas!). So we sent basically the whole package back home since we got off the trail on day 10!

Northbounders: We were going Southbound, so we passed/met about 15 other NBers. These peeps were just about done with the whole 273 miles of the trail! All of them told us that the southern portion was so much easier than the northern portion.

Nighttime Routine: Get to camp. Get dry, warm clothes on. Put out sleeping bags/mats. Someone gets water from the river/stream/puddle to purify. Someone gets dinner ready. Eat. Clean up dinner. Hang food bag (so the mice, bears and other animals don't eat our stash). Journal. Go to sleep between 7pm and 8:30pm.Outhouses: I only had to dig a hole once! There were established privies pretty much every 5 miles.

Puddles: The size of Alaska. Usually you have to find a way to navigate around them (like walking a tightrope). Sometimes there were bog bridges, but even then, it's iffy.
Porcupines: One chased us down on the trail. We were coming up the hill and he/she was coming up the other side. I thought it was a baby cub and when J said it was porcupine, I said what should I do. He said "GET OUT OF ITS WAY!" I was too startled to take a picture though!

Quartz: I never realized there was so much quartz in Vermont. There definitely is!

River Crossings: We crossed more brooks, streams and rivers than I can remember. I did slip on a beaver dam, but did not submerge fully. The largest river crossing we had to make was Lamoille River. It was flooded because of the RAIN (did I mention it rained?). Just up to our knees and we went across in our Crocs. It actually felt refreshing (this was pre-shower).

Smell: Yes, we smelled. But you get used to the hiker stench. And, when our friends picked us up, they INSISTED we still go out to a restaurant together. I'm sure the other diners were not happy.

Temperatures: High was 65 degrees, low was 29 degrees (frost on the spruce trees one day!)Unused Gear: Sunglasses, cards, books, extra fuel, bear bag and we brought way too many snacks!Views: Like I said, we did see some. We even saw a great sunrise from one of our shelters.Weather: Our first real day on the trail was Thursday and it rained all day. Pretty steady. We got wet. Set the tone for the trip. Wet, clothing, wet trail, wet, wet, wet. That first Thursday night, the crazy tropical storm hit. We stayed in a 3-walled shelter with 3 other hikers and we were all a little unnerved by the trees swaying back and forth from the 60 MPH wind gusts! The rain continued the next day. And the day after. And so on.
Wildlife: We saw tons of moose tracks (and poop). Lots of grouse. A cute frog. The infamous porcupine. Mice are often shelter habitants, but we didn't really have a bad experience. J only had one mouse run over his sleeping bag! That's actually considered a success!White Blazes: This is what we were following. I know this is going to shock most of you, but I was often leading the way, except when J had to navigate the mud with his poles. I know, I know, the one who got lost in the Grand Canyon. But anyways, I followed the white blazes. And sometimes, they were missing. When they were non-existent, we would look at each other puzzled and think, do they seriously want us to climb up this waterfall? Really? Really? Is this the trail?

Yikes!!! We said this many times as we were swallowed by the mud puddles.

ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...... How much we slept when we got home.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We are home safe!

First of all, thank you Quick Question for updating the blog while we were on our "vacation." I think she had too much fun doing so, wouldn't you say?

Overall, we had a great and rewarding time on the LT! We hiked over 100 miles in 10 days, which is amazing to me, but less than our goal of 150-175 ... more on that later. We came home earlier than planned because there is only a road crossing every 25-30 miles and we didn't know if we would make it to the next one by Tuesday, so we made a quick decision to arrange for our pickup earlier.

I plan to give a full report in time, but for now, we are taking 3-hour showers, doing 19 loads of laundry, watching football and trying to convince Mr. McKinley we are not bad parents for leaving him for 10 days.

And I will say, in response to Quick Question's post, that before I got laid off, J & I were planning to take a cruise to Nova Scotia in September/October. That's probably closer to the "vacation" everyone else would take. But, it would have cost us over $2K. We still wanted to take a "vacation," so we got creative. This cost us a little over $250 with gas, food and lodging! Plus, we wanted to test our limits and prepare a little more for the 180-day backpacking trip we plan to take on the AT.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"It's kicking our butts!"

Hi all!
This blog entry is written by P's sister, Quick Question. She asked me to update her blog for her while she has a momentary lapse of sanity, er, I mean while she and J explore the wonders that nature has to offer while camping for 12 days. J and P are quite the adventurious couple, whereas my idea of roughing it is staying at a Super 8 Motel. Note the differences between us as you read my blog! Anyways, here is what she told our Mom, who told me- Enjoy!
As of Monday 10/4, P and J have hiked 50 miles since they started (last Wednesday, so in the past 5 days). I, on the other hand, have traveled at least 250 miles over the past 5 days (in my car, of course!). P stated that the first 3 days were rainy, with mudslides, high winds and wet/muddy trails. That was just like my backyard last week after our rainstorm! She also complained, oh, I mean stated that they had to wear wet clothing a lot that never quite dried and got lots of blisters on their feet, as their shoes were soaking wet. My clothing is always dry and I do get blisters on my feet too (when I occasionally go roller skating with my kids). To sum up, they stated that the rain is "kicking our butts"! Really? Did we check the forecast before we left the comforts of our home? They did state that they are having a good time when the weather is good, as I do when I sit on a warm beach with a cold drink in my hands during the summertime. Lastly, P and J reported that they were staying in a hostile last night, in a warm bed with a hot shower to boot. I thought that I smelled something bad even here in CT, only to find out that it was their BO! My idea of roughing it is not washing my hair one day or not showering for one day, not 5 days! PU! Don't mind me, I am temporarily gagging.
I am glad that I am not the one who is going to pick them up at the end of this trip. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that a trip consisted of a nice hotel, riding in a plane or a car to get to your destination, A/C, hot food, cold drinks, hot showers... you get the picture! P and I have quite different views on camping or vacationing in general. But, I respect her way of life and she respects my way of life. We are alike in many ways and different too. Nonetheless, I love her and hope that she survives hell, oh I meant to say this adventure!
By the way, since I have free access to her blog, is there anything that you wanted to know about her or J? Just kidding! I would do that to her or maybe I would!