Island Weekend

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We just got back from a long weekend in Put-in-Bay. It was my husband’s first time visiting Lake Erie, and he loved it. I haven’t been to Put-in-Bay in more than 20 years, so it was nice to go back.

We decided to take the Casita and camp at South Bass Island State Park. In hindsight, it would have been easier and far less expensive to camp at East Harbor State Park (on the mainland) because the ferry can be expensive. Plus, we had to rent a golf cart for three days. But we had a great time regardless.

It was shortly after noon when we got to Port Clinton, where the ferry terminal is located. I knew we’d pass Cheese Haven, which was a place I always visited when I was in the area. But it wasn’t nearly as great as I remembered it. I remember there being a lot more samples. They only had some cheese dips to taste (one sample per customer), and I tried one marked “bacon” that evidently had ghost pepper in it. I prayed for death for probably a good 10 minutes until the burning stopped.

So yes, I’m probably done with Cheese Haven for life. We bought a couple cheeses and some fudge, but I have no desire to go back.

Surprisingly enough, there was not a long wait at the ferry terminal. A ferry was leaving just as we got there, but we got on the next one.

And then …

SURPRISE CELEBRITY ENCOUNTER.

Kid Rock performed the night before on Put-in-Bay at their annual Bay Bash. He apparently took the ferry we were about to get on. He walked past our truck (on the driver’s side), putting us between him and the line of walk-on passengers, many of whom clearly recognized him and started taking pictures. I couldn’t even believe it was him at first because why on Earth would he take the ferry? Put-in-Bay has an airport, or he could have taken a private boat. To see him get off the Miller Ferry was unexpected.

Anyway, I am not a fan of Kid Rock, but it’s now a story I can tell people.

So, the ferry ride was easy. We were the second vehicle to get off, and we found the campground easily. In no time, we were set up.

It was very woody and buggy. We are covered in the mosquito bites to prove it. (Yes, we have insect repellent. No, we didn’t use it. I don’t know why.)

Rather than bore you with the details, I’ll give some highlights:

  • Breakfast at Pasquale’s Café. We did this twice. Highly recommended.
  • Pizza at Frosty Bar. Yes, yes, yes!
  • Tasting at Put-in-Bay Winery.
  • Visit to Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. We could see mainland Canada from the top. (I’ve visited at least twice before, but we have an America the Beautiful Pass, so it’s free and the views are great.)

It’s a party island basically (and we’re not partiers), so you have your pick of bars. We mostly took drives around the island in the golf cart to explore the natural beauty, people watch a little, and look at real estate. (We’re not buying, just curious.)

Oh, and if you go on a holiday weekend, RESERVE A GOLF CART IN ADVANCE! We did (you can reserve online), and everywhere was sold out. We saw many tourists walking around the island because they couldn’t get a golf cart. There are also bikes for rent, and mopeds, too, I think. We had someone ask us for a ride, in fact, but we had a two-seater, so we couldn’t help out.

Our island weekend is now over. We’re home and we have the dogs, and we are trying to ease back into our routine and get ready for the work week. Sad that it ended, but we’ll be back.

Tomatoes, Cheese, and Memories

It’s finally tomato season. This year, I’m growing a variety called Cherokee Purple, which become a deep rose color when ripe. They are glorious. Juicy and delicious. (They have also been resistant to pests and rot, unlike the Better Boys I grew for the past two summers.)

I’m eating a lot of tomato and cheese sandwiches. It’s one of my favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes.

I usually only have the standard sandwich loaf for bread, but I think a sandwich like this probably needs some really good quality bread to be phenomenal. I love to use Cheddar cheese. And a grainy mustard preferably, though Dijon works in a pinch. And that’s it. Just layer a couple thick tomato slices and your cheese between slices of bread (one slice spread with mustard) and consume. Easy and delicious.

Every time I eat one of these sandwiches, I think of a camping trip I took in August 2006 with friends in England. We were staying at a campground in North Yorkshire, near Robin Hood’s Bay, Whitby, etc. We had an RV and a tent set up on our site. I was staying in the tent. The RV belonged to the parents of a friend of my friends’, who was also with us. In fact, her parents were staying in it up until the day we arrived.

I remember it well. We showed up at the campsite, and immediately, her mum put on a kettle for tea. She made us sandwiches. She made me a cheese and tomato sandwich, and she kept calling me “Petal.”

Every time I eat a tomato and cheese sandwich, I can almost envision sitting in that little camper, drinking that cup of hot tea, and enjoying the mothering from this total stranger who called me “Petal” as she made me a sandwich.

My First Summer as a Grown-up

 

Twenty years ago at this time, I was in England, studying abroad for the summer in Bath. It was my first time outside the U.S. My flight from Columbus to St. Louis (and then to London) was the first time in my life I’d even flown on a plane. (TWA, and that airline hasn’t been around for how long now?)

A lifetime ago, and yet it also seems like only yesterday.

For me, this study abroad experience was an adventure of a lifetime. We visited London, Glastonbury Abbey, Stonehenge, Stratford-upon-Avon; saw Shakespeare plays at the Globe and Royal Shakespeare Theatre; spent a weekend in Dublin, Ireland. I had no idea that four years later, I’d move to Germany to live for four years – an even bigger adventure.

The trip was life-changing, as any study abroad trip should be. Not only because I was living and studying in a different country and experiencing another culture, but because I proved to myself that I could actually make my dreams come true. Until that point in time, I doubted myself constantly. I had poor self-esteem, and this went a long way toward changing that.

I was the one who applied for the program and somehow found the funds to pay for it, once I was accepted. I went through all the steps to get the travel arrangements made, get my international student ID card (which I still have), my passport, and all the other things required for this trip. I needed to prove to myself I was capable of making this happen. There was always that voice of doubt in my mind telling me this wouldn’t work out, that something would go wrong. I ignored it.

Another reason this trip was life-changing: My beloved Grandpa died less than two weeks after my arrival in England (that anniversary is coming in a couple days). I had to quickly shift gears and make arrangements to get home for the funeral and back to England afterwards to finish the program. I had a lot of help from my classmates, professors, and an English friend to get me through that time, and I am tremendously grateful, still, for their support.

(Aside: Tea really is a tremendous comfort in a time of sorrow, so the English definitely are on to something here.)

I came back after a week or so, incredibly sad, exhausted and with food poisoning. I spent nearly the entire flight from Cleveland to London so sick I wanted to die. (No hyperbole here – there are few things worse than having food poisoning on an international flight, I think.) And yet when I arrived at Gatwick in a weakened state (but no longer throwing up), I managed to find my way to the right train. I had enough presence of mind to switch trains at the right station. And I made it back to Bath. I got a cab at the train station and collapsed in a heap when I finally got back to my dorm.

The remainder of that summer helped me overcome my grief, probably more so than if I had stayed in Ohio. Grandpa was never far from my thoughts (I lit a candle for him in every cathedral we visited), but I was distracted enough by everything I was experiencing that it lessened my sadness significantly. He would have wanted me to enjoy it, so I did.

It was both the best and worst summer of my life up to that point. (That sounds a bit Dickensian, but it’s true.)

My takeaway from that experience was that I had way more mental fortitude than I ever gave myself credit for. I think that summer, 20 years ago, was the first time I felt like an actual grown-up.

Grit and Determination: On Ultrarunning and Life

My brother, Marcus, is an ultrarunner. He has finished (and not finished) several long-distance trail runs over the past decade or so, with the maximum distance being 100 miles.

Two weeks ago, he came back to Ohio to run the Mohican Trail 100. Mohican is a special place for us. We went there frequently as kids. So, I understood why this run was important to him. He attempted it in 2015 and didn’t finish. The weather conditions made the trails treacherous, and he was concerned about injuring himself and being unable to do another 100-mile race later the summer.

So, why am I writing about this? Well, it has some applications to life outside of running.

I was part of his crew for this most recent run. It was me, our mom, our aunt, and my husband. I have never crewed before. None of us had, except my Mom (Mohican 2015). My sister-in-law, Marcus’ wife, was also on the crew during the daytime hours, but she paced him at night during the worst part of things. Just calling her crew really does her a disservice, but she was there. And she is experienced at crewing, which helped us a lot.

Let me tell you, it’s WORK. If you have never crewed an ultrarunner, well, here’s a brief summary of how that works:

You haul the runner’s gear to every aid station you have access to. This means a cooler filled with whatever they choose for nourishment, and a bag filled with extra shoes, clothes, anti-chafe products, etc. You do this AROUND THE CLOCK. The runners don’t stop, so neither do you. You check at each aid station to see what food they have available there, in case your runner wants pizza or a cup of hot broth.

There is a lot of waiting at the aid stations. You watch runners get medical treatment (and sometimes leave in ambulances). You cheer for other runners as they come in. And when your runner comes in, you get them whatever they need to keep going – a bottle of Ensure, a grilled cheese sandwich, a leg massage. And above all, you stay positive and encouraging. It’s a mental game even more than a physical one.

And because things aren’t hard enough, we got torrential rain overnight. Bad for the runners. Bad for the crew (because parking wasn’t always right by the aid station, flooding was widespread, and keeping his gear dry was a challenge). Bad for everyone.

To make a long story short, he finished. The rain made the trails slick and muddy. There was poor visibility throughout the night. He told us that he could hear trees falling somewhere in the forest during the night, so conditions were even dangerous. His clothes and shoes were soaked through. Hypothermia was a very real possibility. The conditions slowed him down enough to where we were concerned he wouldn’t finish by the cut-off time (32 hours). But he pushed through, and he picked up the pace when daylight came. He needed that finish.

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Pure grit and determination.

That’s the takeaway from this.

I’m not a runner. I couldn’t even run around the block unless I was being chased by a machete-wielding maniac. But watching him finish was a victory for us, his crew, as much as it was for him. We were all invested.

And now I have my own long-distance run (metaphorically speaking) to finish. I’m starting grad school in the fall. This is my second attempt at grad school. I didn’t finish the first. I’m not going to get into the reasons for that – a lot of it was beyond my control.

But this time, I will finish. And I have a support system to cheer me on and push me forward. I can even visualize my graduation day. I need to keep that vision in my head. Eyes on the prize.

I wonder, at this point in my life, if I’m too tired to do this. If I’m too busy to do this. I feel overwhelmed a lot of the time with adult responsibilities, and now I’m piling on another one.

Grit and determination. If ultrarunners can get through what seem like insurmountable obstacles to get to the finish line, I can surely do this.

Meet The Eggscape Pod!

We picked it up Monday morning in Texas and spent three days/two nights driving it back to Ohio.

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The first night was at Sunrise RV Park in Texarkana, Arkansas. It’s next to  a truck stop and literally right off the freeway, so it’s a great place to spend a night. We had full hook-up and it was a pull-through site.

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Our second night was at Spring Creek Campground in Clarksville, Tennessee.  We had electric and water, but no sewer (though there was a dump station). Also a pull-through site.

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We’ll be spending this weekend making mods to it. First official camping trip is next weekend!

The Nest

For me, one of the great joys of spring is when birds choose to nest in my yard. We had robins and mourning doves last year, and we did again this year.

The robins decided to nest in my weeping cherry tree, low enough that I could photograph it fairly easily. The babies just left the nest earlier this week (bittersweet!), but it was a fun two weeks watching them.

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The dove nest appears to only have one baby. Got my first glimpse of it today.

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Evolution

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I’ve been keeping some form of a journal or diary since elementary school. It all started with a little diary that locked with a key – perfect for writing third grade secrets. As I got older, I would use spiral-bound notebooks or the nice journals you buy at Barnes & Noble. (I often got them as gifts because it seems an obvious thing to give to a person who likes to write.) As I got older and carpal tunnel set in, I posted on Live Journal instead. The primary difference, aside from the medium, is that I no longer wrote for myself. I had an audience.

I still try to hand write in a journal on occasion, though it often causes a carpal tunnel flare-up. And my handwriting is much worse than it used to be.

For years, I kept every diary/journal I wrote in. A few years back, I looked at my very first one. I believe I was eight or nine when I got it. As you might imagine, it contained no deep thoughts – just a brief summary of my day and escapades with friends I can no longer remember. My entire world was home, school, church, and Girl Scouts, more or less. I didn’t feel the diary was worth keeping.

Recently, I pulled the remaining journals out of a storage container to arrange them on a new shelf. I thought it might be time to revisit them. I haven’t read most of them since I filled out their pages.

Last Saturday, I started reading through the journal I kept from 1991-1993, covering most of my junior year up through a few weeks after my high school graduation. I cringed in mortification at much of it. I had a certain obsession with an unrequited crush. Days alternated between the best day ever or the worst day of my life. My world seemed to be ending at every bad thing that happened. I clearly only saw the world in black and white. And I was so unrealistic about romantic love, clearly falling for the fantasy you only see in fairy tales and Disney movies. (And cheap romance novels, too, but I wouldn’t have known a thing about that at the time.)

So much teenage angst. I was embarrassed at myself after reading my journal, but I also had to forgive myself. What did I know of life from age 16 to 18? Hell, I’m almost 44 now and I still don’t understand anything about life.

I destroyed the notebook. It was spiral bound with pink-lined paper. It had bright pastel geometric designs on the cover. Very ‘90s. It was easy enough to rip out the pages and run them through the shredder. The thought of it outliving me and anyone finding it and reading it – it’s unthinkable.

I’m glad I read it, though. As cringeworthy as it was, it reminds me that I’ve come a long way from that awkward teenager. I have a much thicker skin, for a start. I have the strength and experience to handle adversity. I have more realistic expectations about the way life is – the way love is.

My life certainly didn’t turn out the way I thought it would at that age, but I’m so very glad it didn’t. I’ve had more adventure in my life than I ever dreamed possible.

And now I have other journals to read. The next one picked up where my last one left off in the summer of 1993 and finished up just before I started classes at Ohio State in 1997. That will, no doubt, cover a lot, as I attended community college, dropped out to go to travel agent school, failed as a travel agent, then went back to college (Bowling Green State University).

I may have more to say about this topic after reading that. It’s interesting to look at the evolution of my life.