Meet: Traverse City MI

Summer in Northern MI is was one of those places where you easily convince yourself the brutal winters and endless snow would be a small sacrifice for springs and summers like this.

It is a place where grand ideas of yoga studios located in the hearts of vineyards aren’t so impossible,  because buzzed yoga would be the ultimate outer body experience. It is where cherry flavored anything is better, especially with a body of water framing the sun’s good morning and good night. Basically Tim Allen nails it every time, Traverse City MI really is a little slice of northern heaven.

green path

 

lakefront2

 

lighthouse

This little light house where who knows how many weddings are held each year (because look at that it!!) is extra special because it is on the 45th parallel. What’s so cool about the 45th parallel?  Just when you feel like you are as far North as you can get (aka ice water for miles) in the “True North” state, plot twist,  you are only half way to the north pole from the equator. I’ll stay here on this steamy 70 degree day thx.

 

dune hill

While this giant mound of sand picture has the photographic sophistication of a pre-schooler (No Nikon 3500 sharp shooter for this girl), it is actually really magical because that couple in view had just asked us to take their picture. It is one of my favorite tourist moments, taking pictures for other tourists. The mixed emotions towards this picture continue because it does not explain how steep this bad boy was.

 

dunes

The dunes wound through brush and beach grass filled with hilarious people on the verge of heart attacks, cursing the distance of the path to the lake. By this point my gym shoes were filled with about 2 pounds of scalding sand, the lengths necessary to avoid a blister. I know it really doesn’t get more extreme than sand filled sneakers.

 

swans

After a 2.5 hour hike through sand mountains we thought it was a great plan to bike 5 miles to the top of a damn, where we waited Huckelberry Fin style in the forest for someone, who we would “know when we saw”, to drop of kayaks so we could journey back by water into Traverse Bay.

This marathon kayak adventure took us from the top of the dam through 8 miles of two rivers and one hot dog shaped lake. I managed to get excessive amounts of water shots from this leg of the journey during excessive breaks due to my toothpick arms threatening to fall off while conquering the hot dog.

These swans (they mate for life you know!) were so exciting to see at eye level after the couple at the dunes , love is all over Michigan, except for that poor guy bringing up the rear.

 

lake kayak

 

lake kayak city

 

vineyard

The vineyards, wineries, and cellars were sprawling and everywhere had the “best blend around!”

wine barrels

From the trails to the coastal bay views it was the closest to a perfect day that I could possibly imagine. The temperature forced us to stay in the sun drawing everyone into the light, what a true north summer is all about.

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Meet: Augusta KY

solid barnThe weekend was spent strolling through this quaint little Kentucky riverside town. What is strolling? I can’t even remember the last time I strolled. With about two blocks of solid city there was a lot of time to walk…the long way…around the block. If there is one thing that is known about Augusta KY it is that the Clooneys rule this town, which means the city is frequented with George (who Cincinnati tries to claim as their own) homecoming events every few years.  I realized they were like any small town family as Nina Clooney came over while we shopped in her antique store and complimented my (resale) dress, and I pretend to not be dying of excitement. It was a weekend of full fat eating and absolute simplicity.

better benchIt’s the type of town you picture to have patios like this. Vintage furniture and perfectly accented brick weathered by river air.

coffee

resale shopThe stores were filled to the brim with disturbingly adorable things. Displays that convey without a doubt of the necessity of Siamese cat creamers in your life.

cellarHome to the oldest winery in the USA, I wasn’t surprised to see that the view from the cellar into the winery is exactly what heaven looks like.

wine

…and what heavenly beverages looks like.

james dean

Dina at the heaven winery lived up to expectations when she likened us to Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, a compliment I am sure to never receive again, but will be sure to repeat whenever possible. Being Marilyn for the day combined with Nina’s praise claims this my first ever A-lister weekend. The next day we saw this poster at the cafe which was all the affirmation we needed.

untitled

Sunsets in Augusta are slower and warmer. The end of day warmth fills the town that has been shut down for hours. No one works past 5 and everyone knows how to take a step back and slow down.

river

-RV

Crashes and Burns

bike

Learning how to ride a bike was a life changing experience for me, probably in the same way it is for most buck toothed little kids just trying to shed those burdensome training wheels. I would get so frustrated with them, knowing they were just getting in the way, totally slowing my roll (Ha!). They would cause you to teeter back and forth eventually hurdling you against every effort into the inevitable ditch filled with jagged rocks and mystery road sludge. The calamity dust would clear and the toppled bike wheels were left awkwardly rotating in the breeze, it was a daunting site for someone who just smashed their face in a pile of abandoned road garbage.

I learned how to ride on the side of a mountain by the way. When one small mistake would send the awkward bike and I over the edge like a projectile missile over a creek and into vicious two-way traffic. This was a lot of pressure for someone who was still nursing head to toe wounds after days of wallowing in the ditches. Looking back I think the pressure was a good thing, a heavy reminder to think before you act; how to not be an idiot during risky times.

Eventually the feeling was less scary, you learn to balance through the teetering and suddenly it all feels normal. Soon I was buzzing around, ready to hit the open road. The freedom to just go was enough to overcome scary hills and new pavement, the kind of anticipation that keeps you up at night.

Question: Where will you ride tomorrow? Answer: wherever I darn well please!

One day I was feeling exceptionally professional as any new bike rider with a perfect two wheeling record would, zipping around sharp corners only using the back breaks, visualizing Harrison Ford escaping the collapse of the Temple of Doom, or in this case carbon copy houses and slap happy Labrador Retrievers bouncing in the yard.

I had just made it to the bottom of a mountainous hill when a cul-de-sac out of nowhere appeared summoning the ditch diving past as the entire bike spun out in a violent combination of skin grating impact and aqua blue plastic grinding on asphalt.

I laid there sure I was dead, or at least missing a limb. The world came back into focus and there they were, the awkward tires creaking in the wind a reminder of the not so distant past. Just as quickly as it came, my confidence evaporated into thin air. All sense of feeling came flooding back at once as the sting set in, the crumpled bike, my exposed knee caps. This was one of those mistakes during risky times, the ‘omg that just happened’ gulp.

I’m not trying to make this a “get back on the bike tale” because I hate those, obviously I had to get back on the bike I was miles from home. It’s more of a, “it’s absolutely terrifying to get back on the bike, and for good reason” story. This is exactly how transitioning out of school world and into the working world has felt. Endless situations of trying not to be an idiot during risky times.

For a split second all of the freedom in the world is at your finger tips (excessive do life your own way blog posts). A bad day at work, or slight mistake during an interview, and the freedom starts to pull away.

Confidence slowly grows with practice and one small incident causes it to come crashing down challenging you to try it again. Those little moments of failure have a way of building the confidence back up into something stronger than it was before. Next time you avoid the cul-de-sac or take it slow, adjust and make better decisions, get a clearer vision. Rounding the bottom of the hill at full speed will always be nerve-wracking, a reminder that you are trying and attempting a challenge, but mostly it is a sign that you are learning.

Downsizing

Some are kept awake by the stresses of their day, a big presentation at work tomorrow, or a fight with a friend. What am I agonizing over in the late hours of the night you ask? I am losing sleep over pondering a little too obsessively over everything I am not doing. Even though a million things are being done, the pondering always veers in the other direction.

It is what causes projects to be perpetually half finished. It can lead to excessive applications to jobs that aren’t remotely interesting, and other obscene things done during regular sleeping hours over lots and lots of stale coffee. I, like many in this post grad life, am so wrapped up in the vortex of commotion and uncertainty that is the excitement of being busy.

You really can’t even call it excitement, because half the time it isn’t exciting at all, it’s downright miserable. It’s that time when you have to be in three places at once, find yourself working 5 jobs, and answering a phone interview while babysitting 4 screaming kids for a little side cash. Then you’re at home wondering how your life wound up like some B list Katherine Heigl ‘I am woman movie’ and everyone else you know is somehow taking advantage of the novel things in life, like weekend trips and lunch dates. And the last thing on the biblical to-do list is to relax because there simply isn’t time.

It’s basically one of the hardest post grad lessons ever, to try to start focusing on something you actually want to do.

arizona

A few ways to take it down a notch…or 50

Pick the top three: narrow down the commitments that are most interesting and cut the negative ones.

Say no: after years of saying yes to everything it’s finally time to get a little bit more selective and refined. For example… never buying wine from a gas station again…just say no.

Do something unproductive: read the lame magazines, start a new Netflix show, or cook something that didn’t come out of a freezer. Anything but something that contributes to the growth of your future. Preventing burn out and the impulse to turn to self-help books.

Stay focused: pretty shiny enticing opportunities are always going to be there. Spend time on the ones that make sense. How it will this mesh with life right now.

Lack of focus leads you to jobs that don’t make sense, dead ends, anxiety, and worst of all feeling inadequate. You could have all of the success in the world, but if you are too busy multitasking 500 side projects, the success won’t mean anything at all. It sounds like such an over achiever problem to have, and that’s because it is. Trying new things, a social life, taking weird classes, all of it involved you taking interest in something new and all of it was equally exciting.

When the structure of school is gone and the real world starts creeping into focus, the new focus needs to be creating that structure for yourself. Little did I realize college funded my ability to be absolutely spontaneous, to try anything without totally risking it all, and to do it all at once. Life beyond college demands more of a game plan. It goes against the grain of every Tom Petty quoting 20 something and that’s OKAY seriously, Tom Petty wasn’t trying to say you should forever remain a 13-year-old.

It starts the process of growing up//growing into who you came to be these past four years. While letting go of the constantly filled calendar of events may feel as if your vast range of intellectual interests are being discounted, channeling all of these interests towards a more focused objective makes the process of downsizing an adventure within itself.

-RV