Adventures in Zip Lining

 

I had known it was coming. It was on the invitation for the weekend away in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In my excitement to celebrate my friend and help with any and all of the set up, I had blocked out the whole “zip-lining adventure park” thing. I just figured when it came down to it I would opt out and read contentedly while my highly adventurous best friend had a delightful day scaring herself. Alas, this was not to be. On the ride up with the Maid of Honor I was informed that the excursion was already paid for and I had no choice but to participate. It wasn’t the news I was expecting to hear, and I was not allowed to chicken out or do my own thing.

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On the morning of the event I found myself being overly helpful when we got to Attitash Mt. making sure every one’s valuables were secured in our car. I was being so slow and deliberate that I was one of the last people to sign in, making it impossible to run to the bathroom before we were strapped into our gear.

There were ten of us all intent on the training video that blared in the back ground. Telling us all the fun facts about the longest zip line in New England and how there were actually three zip lines we would be going down, two on the mountain and one in training. The anticipation was not very good for my bladder. It was a bright sunny day with the air warming slowly which would have been perfect to sit in the shade and read, but no, here I was being stuffed into a harness that was tightened around my body like a boa constrictor ready for its meal. We took pictures in our helmets and gear packs while a nervous anticipation swept through our group. We headed out into the sunshine where we would take part in the training zip.

I ended up being last for this as well. My partner and I would be last to zip everywhere on the mountain and that wasn’t a bad thing. We were able to see that everyone survived and that we could do it too. Our practice zip went well with the instructors giving everyone pointers and help. Making sure we all understood what our responsibilities were and how to be safe while zipping. We paused for a photo and then we were in a bus heading to a chair lift where we would be taken to the top of the mountain.

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Here I would just like to pause and say that I had never been on a chair lift before. Whenever I have gone skiing I have always stuck to the bunny slopes or the face of the mountain, if I have been on a ski lift before, then I can only imagine that I blocked it out.  That being said, the ride was beautiful. I could see the presidential range off to my right and all the flora and fauna below us as we rose ever higher was lovely.

At the top there was an amazing view, until you realized that you would soon be hurtling through it at a top speed of 65 miles an hour. With the added bonus of not slowing down, because you might get stuck hanging in the middle of the line.  The Bride and her Maid of Honor were first being the two most adventurous (read reckless) of us. They waved good bye and were gone on a wind of screams and laughter. Slowly in teams the group dwindled until it was just me and my partner looking down the longest zip line in New England.

There was no turning back or chickening out now. There was only being strapped to the line, being cinched in, and falling. We counted to three and were gone screaming, laughing, and crying through the air. I wanted to slow it all down and look at everything, and I had to continually remind myself to breath and not slow down until the guides at the platform told me to. At first it felt like my heart was in my throat, but then I had the thought that I needed to take everything in and enjoy the ride. When was I ever going to be stupid enough to do this again? So, I did. I took all my nervous energy and put it into holding on and looking around experiencing as much of the ride as I could.

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The last zip line felt like a letdown after such a long first ride. Again, we were the last in our group, but this time I didn’t even consider slowing down. I knew that the faster I went the sooner it would be done. When we both got to the bottom everyone clapped and headed for the shop to have our gear taken off. My need to pee came back magically as if my body had put the need on hold while I was risking my life. (Thanks body!) The rest of our day was full of more hurtling down the mountain, first in a giant slide and then on an alpine rollercoaster.

In the end I am very glad that I participated. Even if I did complain and worry and do a bunch of stuff I wasn’t truly comfortable with. It is true what they say about getting out of your comfort zone. You need to do it every once in a while, to really be able to enjoy and appreciate the every day.

Special thanks to the Bride, Maid of Honor, and their Sister for always putting up with me and loving me anyway.

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The 3rd

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Every year I take a trip home for the 4th of July. I say the 4th but really, I travel home for the 3rd. On the 3rd in Rhode Island almost every town in the state has a firework display. My family always has a watch party, because from our house we can see the fireworks up and down the bay. Because of this tradition, I make the trek home every year for my favorite holiday.

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Usually I drive up with friends to share the RI experience, but this year I did a solo trip and I am so glad that I did. I spent much less time on touristy things and more time with family and friends. It was the first time in a long time where I did everything I set out to do. I met and spent time with friends that I usually don’t hear from. I met several new babies and played with them as their harried parents were just happy to have some semi adult time. I helped one of my mentors in her garden, although I’m never sure that I am actually helping, but I learn so much from her. I think she enjoys my company more than anything and she is one of my favorite people.

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Arguably the best part of my visit was getting to go on a boat ride and a swim with my parents. The bay was hazy from the heat and pollen. RI was in the middle of a heat wave, but the water was perfect. My father and I cheerfully fell into the water like selkies too long on land. My mother declared that the water was too cold for her. My father and I thought it was almost perfect, but it could have been colder, hence the thought of being part selkie.

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The 3rd is a day that I usually spend partially at the beach. Enjoying the sound of the waves and swimming in the cold Atlantic water. At about 1pm I head home to help set up for the cook out we have. This year I didn’t go to the beach because the conditions weren’t ideal. Instead I went to brunch at my favorite restaurant in Providence with a good friend. Still heading home at 1 to help my parents. My father has already put out the flag and the bunting at this point. My parents have red white and blue Adirondack chairs set out in front of the porch. The whole house explodes in holiday regalia. I’m never sure if my parents actually invite people over or if people just naturally show up at our house knowing that they will be fed and have the best seat in town. This year the party was a little different for which we blamed the middle of the week holiday. Still, the same people who always come to our porch found their way there again this year.

 

At the end of my trip this year I found it very hard to head back to DC. Even with my brand-new apartment waiting for me, I was incredibly sad to have to leave. There is no such thing as the “perfect summer” but when I’m home I think it’s possible.

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Moving

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It can be extremely annoying to move house, and anyone I have spoken to always takes a deep sigh before reminiscing about their horrible moves. This reaction has always puzzled me because I like moving. It’s the opportunity to put your mark on another property, learn a new neighborhood and change a little bit. That being said, for the past three moves over three years I have lived in the same building, so maybe that’s why I like moving.

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This move was a bit different for me. Usually I can wrangle some people to help me and I have always had roommates that would help just to speed up the process for all of us. This time it was just me and a few hours of a friend helping with the bigger things. This meant that instead of a few hours of moving it took all weekend to get me settled. That was a new experience for me. I don’t like being unsettled or living out of boxes. On Sunday evening when I was finally able to sit back and relax it was wonderful to have thrown out all the boxes I no longer needed.

I have been so worried that my move wouldn’t happen or that I would get screwed over in some way and be forced to move into another shared apartment. I can’t begin to explain the anxiety I have felt about my move. Would I be able to do this on my own? Can I afford what I want? Will I have life after my apartment? I would have visions of sitting alone in my tiny studio apartment with only a radio to keep me company, because I could no longer afford cable or internet. While my apartment is large for a studio and I will still be able to afford internet (thank goodness!), I still don’t have any kitchen utensils or pots and pans.

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It still seems like a fantasy after four days of living full time in my apartment. There have already been repairs that needed to be done. I have to get used to the rate at which my shower warms up, because it is much slower than it was in my other apartment.  I have pictures to hang on the walls and a few things that are waiting to be donated, but for all intents and purposes I am perfectly set up in my new place.

The joy of moving yourself into your own apartment is immeasurable.  I feel simultaneously independent and scared, but I know that nothing good ever happens if you don’t take at least a small risk. My goals for this year included getting a better paying job and having my own apartment. If I’m honest those have been my goals for most of my life, but actually achieving them is amazing and leaves me at a bit of a loss. What should my next goal be? Should it be personal or professional? Either way I know that I will be contemplating my next move from my very own apartment.

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Mountain Climbing

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Last weekend I hiked up a mountain. I had the pleasure of flying to New Hampshire to visit friend and we decided that hiking a 4,000 ft mountain would be an excellent activity for my visit. My friend has a goal to climb all the mountains over 4,000 feet in New Hampshire. We started planning the hike in January when it was cold and snowy.  At the time, the idea of climbing a mountain made winter a little bit easier to bare. I readily agreed to go with her. In the end four of us ended up hiking the mountain.

Originally, it was supposed to be a double peak hike. Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Passcaway an eight-hour trek up and down two mountains. Unfortunately, I only made it up one mountain. It isn’t as bad as it seems. I am not as physically fit as my friends and as the slowest hiker I was forced to continue moving to keep up, where my friends would stop and wait for me. When we got to the second peak’s trail head I decided it was time for me to take a break and I waited while the others climbed Mt. Passcoway.  It was a good thing I waited for them because the climb was pretty steep and was hard for them to do.

That being said, I enjoyed every moment on that mountain. It was challenging and beautiful. It reminded me how much I love to hike and be out in nature. There were wild flowers and lovely glens that we walked through. At one point we had to cross a river using a log.  We came across some other hikers who were going to camp on the mountain for the night. I felt so jealous that they got to stay and soak up more mountain time. But, on the other hand their packs were huge and looked pretty heavy. I would have to do a lot more training to get to that point.

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View from the top!

The adventure of being out in the woods has always made me so happy. I can’t really explain the calm that it brings me.  I think the perfect smell is between the ocean and a pine wood forest. Both scents are so fresh and clean. I doubt they would go well at once, but wouldn’t it be great to find a place where I could find out?

My hope is that over the summer I get to do a lot more hiking. I’m not sure how many national forests I will get to walk through, but here’s hoping! Enjoy the beautiful photos. I tried to take a picture of every stage of our hike. It was such a beautiful day.

Austin

People have always said that I would love Austin. So, when I found out I would be visiting I was super excited. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of the city because I was on a work trip. I’m finding it really hard to write something engaging about Austin. It seemed like a nice place, but I was stuck in a convention for the three days, so I can really only comment on one or two things.

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The birds there make it sound like you are in another world. It isn’t just the doves it’s the pipers and other weird Texas birds. I was sitting in a café and they were very loud and happy. They were also stealing food like it was their job. Maybe it was their job, who is to say in Austin. I found the birds, or they found me on my first morning and from then on out all I wanted to do was hear more of them. I tried to get up early and walk outside the hotel, but with such early call times and such late nights I was really only able to walk around in the morning twice.

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The other thing I can say about Austin is that the music is REAL. I was able to go to the Elephant Room one night kind of late, and it was the best thing I did all week. It is a basement jazz club that feels like a jazz club. It isn’t for tourists although it is a bit. It had fantastic beer and better music. I only wish I was able to share it with someone. I’m sure the bartender didn’t mind talking to me, but it would have been better with someone there just as enthusiastic about the music as I was. They played a few jazz standards that I haven’t heard live since I watched my high school jazz band preform. It surprised me at first how many of the standards I remembered, but this was no high school jazz band. These were professional musicians and it was marvelous.

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This might be a short post, but it should be noted that at some point in the future I am going back to Austin and I am seeing everything and listening to all the music.

Where I stayed

The Elephantroom

My Farmer’s Market

One of the things I love not only about my neighborhood, but DC in general, is the prevalence of Farmers markets! The city only started to have markets in the late 90s. It had always had Eastern Market, but small farmers markets were non-existent. This past Saturday I was able to get to mine early enough to watch everyone set up. The flowers are the freshest, and the meats and cheeses are out on display. Every vender is excited to get ready for the day. Not many people think of our farmers market here in Silver Spring. Which makes it a very local experience. Unlike the market in Dupont Circle, all of DC does not converge on Silver Spring.

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I like to venture out before the market opens because the vendors have time to chat and you learn much more about what they are selling or just them individually. Many of the vendors travel at least two hours to come to our market. Bigger farms send people to more than one market in a day. Then there are those vendors that are only in Silver Spring once a month or every other week. These vendors are usually wineries or have small handmade goods.

 

Slowly the market has become a year-round farmers market. In the coldest months of the year it moves inside the community center nearby. They may have less people attend in the winter, but there are still enough people going that it is worth the vendors time. The winter is when you will meet the small business owners. They are not going to pay people to be out in the cold when they could save that money and be there themselves. In the summer you will rarely meet an owner, just because it is busy season. The seasonality of the market is one of the reasons it is so popular here. Getting the food you want in season makes it taste so much better.

The market accepts SNAP benefits and in this neighborhood that means you see everyone at every walk of life engaged in the market. Not just the hipsters or the affluent.  There is a Whole Foods about a block away, but it doesn’t seem to impact people’s enthusiasm for our market. Also, I find that wholefoods can be over crowded on Saturdays and the ability to be outside in fresh air is very preferable, and people are just nicer at the farmers market.

 

My favorite vendors at the market are the flower and plant vendors. There are so many colors and types of flowers. It’s like walking through an urban field. I also really enjoy all the different smells. I must look weird reaching over and smelling everything, but I don’t care. The farmers market is one place where all of your senses should be used to explore. Every Saturday I am reminded that our farmers market is just another reason why I enjoy living in the Silver Spring area.

For more information you can visit Here

The National Arboretum

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I’ve been wanting to take this trip for a while. When I found out that it would only take an hour to ride my bike down to the National Arboretum I was way too excited. I love trees and flowers. There is something that I find very peaceful about spending a day in nature. I’m no Thoreau, but the man had a point about nature.

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Most of the ride was on my old friend the Sligo Creek trail which then turned into the Anacostia water ways trail.  Unfortunately, there is a section of route 1 that you have to ride down and that is scary. I try not to ride on the sidewalk, but on route 1, I really had no choice. It is a four lane commercial highway into and out of DC. There are no bike lanes in that area of DC. Once off route 1 you ride through a cute little neighborhood and you are there.

The National Arboretum was established in 1927 and is administered by the US Department of Agriculture, research division. This means that they experiment with growth patterns of trees and other plants and that they actually have a few patents for bio-pesticides.  You forget that much of the reason the Arboretum functions the way it does is due to research. This 400-acre garden is like nothing you have ever seen. From the old capital columns which stand tall in the middle of the visiting area, to the Chinese Bonsai collection it is a fantasy of every garden you have ever wanted to walk through.

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The Arboretum has 9 plus miles of road, so that you can just cruise around and look at the blooms if you would like. I’m not a big fan of this. It makes more sense to have hiking and biking trails than allowing a bunch of cars to wind their way through. There are no sidewalks, so you either walk on the road or through paths that you aren’t completely sure you are allowed on. Mostly the reason I don’t like the cars being there, is because people don’t heed the speed limit and there are several areas where a car can’t see what is up around the next corner. All that being said, I decided to chain my bike and take a walk.

I walked through the Bonsai garden and it was beautiful, I didn’t realize how lovely tiny trees could be. There was also an exhibit on Chinese flower arranging which was fascinating. I didn’t find it esthetically pleasing, but I like the idea behind it. Just another way to meditate and center yourself.

After that I decided to walk out to where the Dogwood trees were in bloom. It struck me that while being an open space and a lovely walk through nature, I was also sharing my moments with numerous other people. People walk their dogs and children through the Arboretum and it is very hard to find a space where you are alone. I am starting to learn that if I want to see anything in DC I have to do it either early in the morning or in the winter when the tourists aren’t so thick on the ground.

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Such a lovely name!

There isn’t much to eat at the Arboretum and I understand the need to keep the place as litter free as possible, but I felt they could have done better than having one Pacific Island food truck. So, when I got hungry enough I hopped back on my bike and took the 20-minute ride over to Union Market. It was a lovely way to end a long day in nature.

I can’t wait for my next trip to the National Arboretum and I encourage anyone who visits DC to make a point to see such a lovely place.

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This tree is giant and beautiful! 

For more information on the National Arboretum, and to check my facts Click Here 

Sligo Creek Trail

I thought I had written about my bike ride up the Sligo creek trail in March, but I can’t find it. The story goes that it was a lovely March day and I had just had my bike tuned up. I decided to take what I thought would be a much longer ride up the Sligo Creek trail to Wheaton. Surprisingly, instead if the hour that I assumed it would take to get to the end of the trail, it only took me about a half hour. It was such a lovely trail though that I decided to take another trip and complete the entire length of it. As it turns out Silver Spring, or at least where my neighborhood joins the trail, is about right smack in the middle.

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So, last Saturday I was finally able to complete the trail.  It was such a beautiful day and I don’t think the smile left my face for the entire ride. I don’t know which end of the trail I like better, but there is a definite uphill side and downhill side. The trail wasn’t too busy, but I think that’s only because it was still early in the season for people to be out and about on it.  It gets very narrow at points and you cross some major highways while on it. I found that in some places it was harder to follow then in others. It was just missing signs where I think there should have been some. At one point I found myself riding off to the back of a gated elementary school. That was odd to say the least. I was just following the paved trail, but I should have been on an unmarked street. I figured it out eventually.

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The highlight of my ride was seeing an actual herd of deer! They showed me their tails before I could get any good photos, but they were very suburban deer coming up super close to the bike trail. I think people may feed them. I don’t agree with that because it takes away the real fear they should have of humans.  I also worry that whatever people feed the deer may not be good for them to eat. Who knew there was an ecologist in here?!

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Anyway, I can’t wait to get on the trail again. My next trip will be a ride to the National Arboretum in DC. The trail takes me most of the ride and I want to see those deer again.

Favorite Places

What makes a place your favorite? Is it your favorite place because it’s your home? Is it how it makes you feel to be there? Is it the look or style, possibly culture of a place that makes it your favorite? I can say with certainty that DC is not a favorite place of mine. It is a current place. A place I find myself because there is no alternative. That being said, I started to think about where my favorite places are and what make them so special for me.  The list isn’t as long as it could be, but in general my favorite places are Rhode Island, Nottingham, and Den Haag. Well that’s what I thought until yesterday. Yesterday I realized that I have a new favorite. A great place to add to the list that I didn’t realize; Old Town Alexandria Virginia.

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I know I’ve done posts on Old Town before. It is an old Revolutionary era town in Northern VA just south of DC. George Washington’s parish was there and is still open for tours with Mt. Vernon down the Potomac a few miles. It is rich with the type a history I grew up with in RI. I think that is why I enjoyed going to old town so much when I first moved down here. It made me less homesick and parts of it reminded me of Newport. When I first got a job in Old Town I was in the middle of all the night life. Working at a wine cellar I was in the thick of it. Everything from elderly tourists to dozens of school bus trips from all over the United States congregated in Old Town looking for history and sometimes ghosts. I found it alternately frustrating and exciting. I didn’t consider it my favorite place just another step toward reaching my goals.

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After two and a half years of commuting into Old Town I have finally gotten another job in DC. It is closer to where I live currently, and it was again another step. I haven’t been to Old Town since I switched jobs. It is just so out of the way for me, being in the opposite direction from anywhere I go on a daily basis.  Because I was in Old Town for so long many of my appointments are still there. One of these appointments came up on Saturday and I dutifully took the hour plus train ride on a cold windy day.

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Following my appointment, I met up with a friend from my old job for brunch. We laughed and talked in a packed diner on Duke. After that I wondered along King St. and went to my favorite shops. My day continued with drinks with another friend followed by some pampering with a Mani Pedi. Walking down the brick sidewalks while looking at colorful houses with beautiful gardens it hit me. I love Old Town. I felt like it was right where I was supposed to be. It’s a feeling that I have only ever gotten at the places I listed above.

Now I’m wondering if I’m allowed to have more than one favorite place. I know part of my enjoyment may have been friends and food, but isn’t that part of anyone’s favorite place? I found myself thinking that I would be living there if it wasn’t so expensive. Even with the flurries and cold I still had a huge smile on my face as I walked from place to place. And while I didn’t make it down to the water, that didn’t diminish my feelings. So, today I add Old Town to the list of my favorite places.

Spring!

It is still cold, and we had a snow storm just last week, but I am so ready for spring.  I went for a walk this weekend and I’ve found some hope. Look at what difference a week makes! So this week my post is going to be photos from my spring walk.

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Some of the flowers were damaged from the snow. But others seem to have thrived!spring2spring3Spring5spring6Spring7Treeblooms