NASHVILLE!

I started this blog post while I sat in a hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida in November 2015, but then I got sidetracked by the ocean… Then once I got home, the holidays exploded.

But come along with me now as I regale of our recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee – Music City, USA!

It was stop 1 of a 3ish part journey. Over the next 7 days, I would spend 2,500+ miles in a Ford Escape (it was a rental… we’re Chevy people) with Travis on yet another one of our adventures! That equated to 43 hours and 19 minutes in the ol’ Escape. (We pronounced that “Escapé” like “café olé”)

Tachometer
This is seriously a pic of our console when we pulled into the driveway!

The company that Travis is an agent for offered to fly him to Jacksonville for a conference. But to be honest, we are not fans of flying and thought a good old fashioned road trip would be more fun, complete with giant bags of leftover Halloween candy, a cooler full of pop (or soda, if you please) and cheesy music playlists I had spent weeks curating!

Besides we haven’t had a really good road trip in over a year. On our last one, we nearly drove all over the entire state of Florida for his old job! We did fly for that one. We landed in Orlando where we got a rental car and drove to Ocala, FL to meet up with one of Travis’ customers. From there we went on to St. Augustine for a few days then we drove to Jacksonville for an afternoon and flew out of the airport there. We had some pretty epic times on that trip! (If you missed that adventure, you can read that post here!)

This time around, we not only trucked through Florida, we covered damn near the entire south east US! We made stops in:

  • Nashville, TN
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Lee, FL (another natural spring!)
  • Gainesville, GA
  • Asheville, NC
  • Jellico, TN

map

But this post is JUST about Nashville!
I’ll get to the other stops in my next post 🙂

So to begin, we stayed at a BEAUTIFUL Historic Inn called The Caroline House in. This house is what I DREAM my someday-house will look like. The front porch and back patio alone were enough to make me ga-ga! The story of this house is awesome. It stayed in the family for generations, until Miss Ashley bought it and renovated it. But the great-grandson of the original owner still lives next door!

CarolineHouseWelcomeChalkbrd

We stayed 2 nights in the Coal Room Studio in the basement of the house, which really was the house’s old coal room from back in the day when they would use coal to power the house’s boiler. It was really one of the neatest places we’ve stayed!

Coal Room Key

Our Nashville run-down:

  • On our first night, we stayed up late in front of a blazing fire on the back porch with our hostess and her two nieces. We laughed and drank probably more than we should have after an 8 hour car ride on a night before we planned to visit ALL OF THE THINGS. But I fell in LOVE with a vodka for the first time in my life! (I’m a rum gal… It’s the pirate in me!) It’s a local distilled vodka called Picker’s that I CANNOT find anywhere… and I could just KICK myself for not buying a bottle while we were in Nashville! The blood-orange was amazing and I can’t wait to try the blueberry!

back porch

  • We woke up the first day to a delicious breakfast served by our hostess and then set out to check out Third Man Records Store where I bought some White Stripes vinyl, made my very own fire-engine red Mold-O-Rama miniature of Jack White’s classic Airline guitar!

MoldORama

  • The Johnny Cash Museum – where we perused the gift shop and had lunch while listening to the Man in Black!

TravisJohnnyCash

  • Big Machine Records – The record label home of Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, et. al.
  • Hatch Show Prints – This letter press has been open since 1879! Chances are pretty good that you have seen at least ONE piece by Hatch Show Prints in your lifetime. (They did all of the iconic band posters back in the day!) Plus, I am a graphic designer by trade, so it was SUPER cool to show Travis how things are printed and to visit the home of one of the oldest still operable letter presses in the world. We got a couple super cool prints that I can’t wait to find frames for to hang up at home! (2015 is the year we vowed to finally find some real artwork for our house, so these will be great starts to our newly established collection!)

HatchShowPrint

  • Travis bought his first acoustic guitar, which we thought was so fitting. He also learned to play his first song on acoustic while we were staying in Music City! Oh, how I love that boy!

TravisGuitar

  • After some serious coaxing, I convinced Travis to finally try Shrimp ‘n Grits with me! In our neck of the woods, grits are a sweet breakfast item, prepared with brown sugar, syrup and/or butter, similarly to oatmeal or cream of wheat. So, we’d never tried them savory before and cringed at the thought of them made with cheese. But finally at the urging of lots of friends, we bit the bullet and ordered some! Lo-and-behold, the grits they used in these shrimp n’ grits is actually more like rice. Good Lord, it was delicious!
TravisBilliards
I also actually beat my husband at pool. This never happens.

Sadly, we didn’t get to visit any of the honky tonks while in town. With it being a Saturday night, the place was a bit crowded for us. But when we loaded up and pointed the car south, we vowed we’d definitely be back!

The majority of our adventures took place in Nashville, but I’ll write a post next about Jacksonville and the rest of our trip later.

But as for now, I’m getting ready to head out the door… I’m driving Travis to a local oral surgeon to have nine (yes, nine) teeth removed. 4 of which are his wisdom teeth he never had removed when he was a teenager. They’re giving him issues now. The other 5 are teeth that have deteriorated to the point of causing him pain almost all of the time. We’ve been dealing with his toothaches for about 10 years now, so as you can imagine, we’re stoked to finally be addressing the situation. The fact that we both have stable income and decent insurance for the first time in our lives is a major blessing and we’re thankful that his toothaches will soon be a thing of the past.

I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of hoping it will result in something like David Goes to the Dentist.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble!

Happy October! My favorite month of the year!

We have several projects in the works at the house right now, all in varying stages of completion. But the good news is we finally got the driveway sealed before the winter sets in and destroys it more than it already is! And to make a good story even better, while the driveway cures, we have to park across the street and piss off the guy across the street! DOUBLE WIN!

That may make us sound like nightmare-neighbors, but really, we tried.

This summer, the final nail in the coffin was when the jerk screamed at Travis in the middle of the street for 45 minutes in broad daylight about parking in “his spots” because he’d “lived there for 40 years and he’d earned the right to park wherever he wanted.” And we were “punk ass kids with no respect.”

Nope.

I didn’t mean to start off on a rant. I apologize… On with the show!

In the spirit of getting ready for the Halloween party, we’re trying to complete a few projects! Admittedly, I have been working on my Bruno scarecrow for a couple years now. I didn’t touch him at all last year due to our neglect of the entire holiday, but this year I really need to light a fire under my ass and finish him up.

I finally have all of the supplies together. His head is nearly done, and I will actually be making a sort of half-breed of Bruno and the Grumble. Both of which are from an amazing Halloween tutorial blog called Spooky Blue that Travis and I read. I have probably read every single post three or four times. I love this guy! His commentary is priceless:

“A scarecrow, hands on hips like he’s waiting for a bus to take him to Olive Garden where he serves nights while he works on his interior design degree at the community college isn’t scary.”

Also… to go in the graveyard in the front of the house, we’ve been working on building a mausoleum! We’ve wanted to build one since we’ve moved into our house and discovered we get a ton of trick or treaters, but we never had the tools to do so. So we’re about 75% done with that… here’s some in-progress photos!

Moby is inspecting Travis' work
Moby is inspecting Travis’ work
Weather-proofing coats on, we'll start
Weather-proofing coats are on, we’ll start “antiquing” it next to make it look aged.

It’s obviously far from done, but we have a little bit of time left before it has to grace the front yard for our party and for Trick or Treat. I won’t divulge all the details yet, but our little mausoleum will host it’s own ghost. We’ve been trying to come up with a name for our lady-ghost… It is hard work! She may remain nameless until she is placed in her home.

This will be a multi-stage project. We ran out of time to do much more than paint it this year, so we’ll get it to a state where it is just “good enough,” and then we’ll add more detail to it next year.

The year before last, we made The Reaper. He was super easy, just a bolt of burlap that we dyed black in our bathtub. Lord, that was a mess! The tutorial calls for mudding him in the end to make him rigid, but we needed to keep him collapsible so we could fold him up and put him away at the end of the season. So we followed the basic idea of the instructions, but really ended up making him our own.

UNHIPDOTCOM REAPER

Here is ours – Admittedly not the best photo, it was taken by a party guest. Plus we had been having trouble with his head collapsing, since it’s just a chicken-wire shape to hold up his heavy burlap hood.

UNHIPDOTCOM HALLOWEEN WREATH

And I did make this wreath last year. I bought several spools of 6 inch wide tulle ribbon, a foam wreath form, some plastic flowers and that adorbs little raven nested in there. I used a large piece of cardboard (about 16 inches square or so) and wrapped the tulle around it over and over again until I had used all of the spool. Then I cut the tulle at the top and at the bottom of the cardboard to make several strips in two quick snips. Then the hardest and most time consuming part from there was wrapping and tying the tulle around the wreath form to create the “ruffled” effect. You really have to cram them in there to make them look full and ruffly. I may make a better tutorial for this later.


On another non-halloween related note: I forgot to mention before, in September we bid farewell to our camper, Hell on Wheels. It was a bittersweet farewell, but I’m glad to have a driveway again. We will have a camper someday when we have the ability to travel more; Once Travis’ new company is sturdy enough to be mobile. When we were getting started, we picked gear that we could travel with so he can visit customers and go to conventions etc. We bought a laptop computer and a completely portable phone line.

We got one of these little gizmos that works on cellular signal, but you can connect a desk phone to it. As long as it has power, and a signal, you have a working phone! It runs for 3 hour in-use or 2.5 days on standby with the built-in battery. For $99 up front, then $20 a month with no contracts, it was a pretty sweet deal!

And in November, we’ll get to take his little operation on the road for the first time! Travis was invited to go to a conference hosted by the company that he works with. This will be our first major road trip of 2015!

We’ll be driving to Jacksonville, Florida for the conference, but on our way there we’ll be stopping at a place that I’ve been DYING to visit for as long as I can remember… NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE!

I’m serious, I’m in near shock at the excitement!! But before you go rolling your eyes at the thought of me Boot-Scoot-n-Boogie’in it up ’til the break of dawn in new pair of Tony Lamas

A queen on her throne! That’s my girl, Miranda!

Nashville isn’t just the place for country and bluegrass music anymore. Amazing musicians like Jack White and the Black Keys call Nashville their home too! We’re talking about the city where Elvis, Johnny Cash and Neil Young all recorded albums. And the home of Jack White’s Third Man Records’ Blue Room! Which is the only venue in the world to record live shows direct-to-acetate, producing a vinyl master in real time!

We enter code-red panic mode for party prep around the week of our birthdays (next week!) and we won’t sleep much from now until the day after the party on the 24th. After that we’ll be getting ready for our trip the beginning of November.

THEN comes the holidays, and we all know that Thanksgiving through the first week of January are usually a black-top blur with the holidays in full tilt! The thought of Christmas right now makes me throw up in my mouth a little. So let’s slow down and take this one day at a time!

P.S. THIS IS MY 50th POST ON MY BLOG! It’s only taken 2+ years, but we did it! Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Happy House Anniversary!

Happy July 1st! And Happy House Anniversary to us! 8 momentous years ago, we took possession of Casa De Awesomesauce. We were 23 years old!

It’s also by far, the longest my husband has lived in the same place! Ha! My small-town ways have rubbed off on his gypsy soul! Plus, moving sucks real bad!

house

We went to a concert that evening and afterwards were supposed to stay the first night in our first home, but when we stopped at the house, the previous occupants were still moving stuff! The place was mostly empty, but every light in the house was on… jerks.

We waited three more days for them to get out. It was the longest wait of our lives! Even after we moved in, they spent two more weeks coming back and forth to get their shit out of our yard and shed. Trampolines, pool, play houses… we probably should have made a stink about it, but that wasn’t going to accomplish anything.

On another note, I have some sad news, folks…

After doing some serious inspecting of the Hell on Wheels camper, we realized the damage is far more extensive than originally anticipated. There is more water damage than we can afford to fix. We’d normally just say whatever and haul it out to our favorite boondocking spot as-is, until it completely falls apart since we don’t really dig campground camping, but we no longer have access to that property where our spot is. 😦 So since it would be really silly to put money into something we’ll never get a return out of, we’re throwing in the towel.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 4.02.58 PM

We hate to be quitters, but this project just doesn’t make any sense for us anymore. After the nightmare that the boat became, (read about that here and here!) we just don’t want this camper to be a repeat of that. We found a charity that will come and haul it away for free, let us write it off for taxes like you would when donating items to a thrift store, and give they’ll give us a voucher for 2 free nights at a bunch of cool destinations across the US. So we’ve decided to do that and focus our time and energy on the house instead. Because you know what? We’re taking the first steps towards moving.

We’re not sure exactly where to, yet but we know we’re over the ‘burbs. Even though we still love our Columbus with the fire of a thousand suns! We love the convenience of it and the fact that we can find something to do virtually 24 hours a day. We love the culture and that it is a community of acceptance and understanding for everyone.

But I also miss the peace of living in the country, it fits too.

So in the meantime, we’re going to start slowly polishing up the house. For instance, we haven’t had electricity in over half of our kitchen since the year we moved in… 8 years ago. Things like that are probably important to future potential home buyers! So we’ll be begrudgingly hiring an electrician to come out and take a look at it since it’s not one of the things we feel comfortable tackling… Because we’d probably kill ourselves.

So to get that whole laundry list of things rolling, over the last month we got started with our spare bedroom. Yeah, kind of a weird place to start, but it was the place that really needed the most help. It had hideous, dirty, stained,  mauve carpet, green paint on the walls (that we slapped up in an hour to cover the vomitous pink paint and ballerina border leftover from the previous occupants) plus we had somehow managed to smear it all over the ceiling. It was one of our first paint jobs, give us a break!

This might be your cup of tea, but pink carpet with pink walls with pink ballerinas wasn’t really our thing! And like I said before it was suuuuper stained. Kids + dogs + carpet = Gross.

I could just slap myself for not getting more “before” photos. But we snapped ONE while things were in progress, where the two greens met (the bottom green was theirs, our darker green that covered the pink was on top) there was a piece of foam chair rail with little cutesy daisies on it. It was cute from afar, but upon close inspection, it was very juvenile looking. Plus we were over it. So it got ripped down.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 4.16.28 PM

We initially planned on painting the subfloor while we waited for the cash to put in new flooring. Sounds scary, but some folks have really done some awesome things with their subfloors!

Like this! This looks awesome! It’s not a long-term plan, but looks way better than kid and dog stained pink carpet!

But then we ripped up the carpet and found laminate parquet flooring underneath! Initially I was thrilled, so now I could just paint the floor a sweet putty color and call it done! But upon taking a good look at the floor we realized how bad of shape it really was in. There were tiles that were cracked and broken. It was just a mess.

Then I remembered we had just bought all that bomb-ass peel & stick vinyl planking for the camper! Bingo!

Before we got started, we used a 5 gallon bucket with 1/2 cup Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface concentrated cleaning solution to scrub the floors. Vinegar would work too, but I love Mrs. Meyer’s!

Soap Box Alert: I freaking love all of Mrs. Meyer’s earth-friendly products and they are now what I use exclusively in my house. Laundry soap, dish detergent, dish soap, everything. They work amazing and smell wonderful. Basil and Lavender are my faves! Grab some at the grocery store next time or order yourself a gift bucket online. This stuff is amazing! I know it’s a little granola-crunching, but I really do care about what our home dumps back into the world. With all of the water problems we’ve been experiencing in Ohio over the last few years, it makes me feel better knowing I’m doing my best not to contribute to that.

Then we just spent an hour or two a night after work peeling and sticking those puppies down! I was really concerned at first about the peel & stick quality. We had used peel & stick once before in a family member’s bathroom and it ended up having to be redone later. This wasn’t really something we were interested in doing. But after we read a lot of reviews about it, we decided this brand had some serious sticky stuff and took a chance! So far, 3 weeks later we’re still really happy. There are a few spots that sort of lift a little bit, but we’re chalking that up to the crappy floor underneath. And if it continues to be an issue, we’ll just grab some sort of adhesive like Liquid Nails and re-peel and stick those suckers back down.

travlastplank

It was a lot of work, but it was easy work. They scored very easily with a knife and then could be snapped by hand to the sizes that we needed. By the time it was all said and done, we were definitely sore for a few days, but we were SUPER happy with the results!

Then after the floor was installed, it took a few more days of rolling around on the floor to measure, cut, paint and install quarter-round throughout the room. My mom had gave us her old air compressor with a brad gun. This was the first time we’d used the gun, and it was a LIFE SAVER. We had the quarter-round nailed down in about 10 minutes!

sparebdrmnew

Here’s the semi-finished product! We still need a headboard and have since got a chest of drawers which we put on the wall at the foot of the bed, but it was a nice starting place and hopefully some fuel to finish up some of the other rooms in the house!

Mainly the master bedroom. Which we’ve been saying we were going to tackle for 8 years now. Blargh!

Well, Happy JULY and to Happy early birthday, ‘Merica! And until next time, stay classy!

You dropped a bomb on me, baby!

Last Friday after a short week that felt like a long week, Travis and I decided to take a ride on the bikes for the first time after I pulled some muscles in my back three weeks ago. I was given anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers to help get me back on the horse a little faster. After two weeks, I felt a lot better and stopped taking them. Mainly because you can’t booze it up while taking them, and well, I wanted to drink.

Ok, so I fully admit, operating a motorcycle still scares the shit out of me. Not like “OMG! I’m going to shit my pants every time I get on this thing“… But I get a healthy, respectful “I fully acknowledge that this thing can kill me if I’m not careful” bout of nerves every time I fire her up. I usually say a prayer as we pull out of our driveway and will my gremlin bell to do its job, and by the time we leave the city limits on our usual route I’m a little more relaxed and all is well and I don’t feel like a total noob.

Well, Friday wasn’t such a good day… It was pretty hot, like 90, so I forwent the usual 5-10 minute warmup sesh m’lady normally gets while I take forever putting on my helmet and synching the intercoms, etc. As we were leaving the driveway, I pushed in the choke because I figured she had warmed up and on the last ride, I accidentally left the choke out for close to 20 miles. Woopsie!

Travis always leads and I follow. He stopped at the yield sign at the end of our street and smoothly sped off up the road. I stopped at the yield sign and attempted to make the left turn. The engine was still cold, I didn’t give it enough gas in the turn, so the bike lurched forward then died. I put my feet down to stop but only made contact with my left foot as the bike was tilting past the point where it’s easy to hold it up. At this point the bike was at a complete stop, thank God, but I was wearing a tank-top and no gloves, so I knew if I went down with it I was going to skin the shit out of my hands and arms on the asphalt. So I kind of hopped up and off to the left side of the bike, still holding the right handlebar and let her go down.

It was more of a slowly, gently, lowering her to the ground. But this is the exact thing I hoped and swore I’d never do. I tried to stop it. But she is a 500 pound monster with a mind of her own. And that bitch is heavy.

She was on the ground for maybe two seconds. I grabbed the right handlebar and deadlifted her back up again.

Our neighbor was on his porch watching and couldn’t even get to his feet in the amount of time she was down and back up again. Travis had gotten to the next street by the time I told him in my helmet “I just dropped my bike.” I already had her back up and was pushing her out of the intersection by the time he turned around and could get back.

He asked if I was ok. I was. I was just really, really pissed. And ashamed… and embarrassed. And a little sick feeling. I hadn’t seen the damage yet.

By this point, the Trashy McTrashertons that live at the end of the street had brought out lawn chairs to set up in their driveway to watch the spectacle.

We stood on the corner while I explained what happened. We looked the bike over for damage, I expected to see the pipes and tank scraped up. I somehow managed to have only scuffed the end of my clutch and a little knick on the metal cover of my mirror. Thank you, lord! Really. But I broke my gremlin bell. 😦

Travis asked if I still wanted to ride. I really didn’t, but I knew if I let this spook me I probably wouldn’t ever get back on again, so I gritted my teeth and got back on and fired her up. Travis made the turn, I started the turn and she lurched and died again. Blarrgh! The third time was the charm. But I had to convince myself not to puke in my helmet for the first 20 minutes of the ride.

I’m still a little nervous in turns, I always have been paranoid of skidding in gravel or popping a wheelie or one of the other thousand terrible things, but I suppose I’m going to have to stop thinking about it. After watching Travis TRY to pop a wheelie in the yard on the dirt bike and only managing to get the front tire off the ground about two inches makes me feel a little better.

So that my friends, is the reason why I have been shuffling around like Ozzy Osbourne for the past few days!

ozzyYou live and you learn.

Like a Bat Out of Hell

March just flew past like a bat out of hell! No… not like the Meat Loaf song.

MeatLoaf

March was crammed full of massive momentous occasions. I loaded up like Ted Nugent on a safari and went out to the hillbilly range at our friend Edd’s and managed to somewhat overcome my skepticism of loaded weapons. Not only did I get over it, I kind of liked it. I still couldn’t shoot a living thing, but I don’t want to pistol whip gun nuts as much. I ended up collecting a somewhat large pile of brass by the end of the day. I even got to fire my friend’s monster 44 magnum. It was a hand cannon, but not as scary as my husband’s pistol grip shot gun, which actually made several of the dudes shake their hands out after firing it!

I’m still skeptical of 98% of people’s capability to handle and operate a loaded weapon.

And I already posted about getting my first dirt bike and riding it for the first time. Also riding my husbands motorcycle for the first time.

In March, I also celebrated the purchase of my first motorcycle! Though, I have yet to ride it, since Ohio’s springs leave much to be desired by way of the lack of dry roads. I don’t really feel like eating pavement my first time in the seat. 😦

We also mentioned that we managed to finally haul our camper Hell on Wheels home. We had to back her in our driveway at 11pm on a Sunday night.*

*Warning! The next few paragraphs contain my rant about inconsiderate neighbors! I try to keep things here as up-beat as possible, so my apologies for the negativity that follows…

However, since we live on a very small street where the neighbor across the street is kind enough to have four of his unused vehicles parked right across from our driveway, we had to drive through the yard (ugh!) while our seriously awesome next-door neighbor watched from his window while grinding his teeth. Not at us, but because we had to do that, since the guy across the street apparently is running a used car lot. (They have 7 vehicles total. Only 3 people live there, which includes the 40+ year old no-job-having son.)

map

Above is a map to illustrate how we got a 27 foot camper into our driveway. Our house is the one with the yellow star. The used car lot automobiles are the blue ones marked 1-7. Note that 5 is in the driveway and 6 and 7 are actually in the garage! They only operate 6 and 5 on a daily basis. The grey cars are my car (left) and the awesome neighbor’s (right).

This would be the same neighbor who came running out of his house last summer when I parked in front of his house (city streets here = public parking) after I had worked a 11 hour day, then made my 1 hour commute home, yelling at me to move my car because “that’s where his son (yes, the one without a job) parked his van.” Too exhausted to argue with him, I moved my car further up the street. When I told my husband what had happened, it took everything I had to keep him from marching across the street and shoving his size 12 Dr. Marten up the old grump’s butt.

Lately, we’ve been entertaining the idea of moving. We seem to be acquiring more things than we have room for. We really need a garage and more parking. Preferably somewhere where I can’t spit and hit my neighbor’s house!

Anyway… back to Happy Town! So yes, we got the camper parked and started on our biggest DIY project to date! We began disassembling the interior. I ordered the new flooring, we went with vinyl “wood” plank flooring. They look amazing, are supposed to survive the apocalypse and be easy to DIY install. I also made a trip to JoAnn Fabric and picked out the curtain fabric. Then we started tearing up the front wall of the camper where there was some water damage and it appears we may have underestimated the severity of the damage… Womp-womp. *Sad Trombone*

Since we don’t have a garage/barn/inside place, we’ll need at least 2-3 consecutive days of good, dry weather to take off the camper’s siding and repair/replace the water damaged studs and rehang the window. Not to mention, we have to pack up everything and put it away each night. And the kicker is… we only can create ONE city trash can size amount of trash once a week. Those things are like 50 gallons maybe? And, that includes the regular trash we create from the house. Our city’s bulk pickup doesn’t take construction or remodeling refuse, so we’d technically have to pay for a dumpster. Blargh!

Even though the the extent of it all is sort of overwhelming, we’re going to keep our Glass-Half-Full-Hats on and keep on keepin’ on! Because what fun is a project if it doesn’t make you cry, rip your hair out or bleed a few times?!

Here are the photos of our progress thus far. It’s pretty scary. The interior is very reminiscent of the set of the Golden Girls.

We’ve found where the leaks were, removed the old insulation, which was soaking up the water like a sponge and keeping all that wood wet all the time. Hopefully we’ll still be able to get this fixed up and come in under budget. Which is pretty tight, due to the fact that there’s zero sense in investing more money into this thing than we’ll be able to get back out if. This is a starter camper and project piece, but eventually we’d like to downsize to something smaller and lighter. And newer.

But that’s where we are now! We’re hoping to get everything cleaned up and in working order by the end of May so we can enjoy the summer camping season. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Sorta-Busy Beaver

Sorta Busy Beaver

We have been sorta busy little beavers at Casa Awesomesauce lately!

With the (hopefully soon) passing of yet another disgusting Ohio winter, Spring is starting to show itself in gradual peeks here and there. The temps have been in the mid to high 50’s for about a week, and today they’re promising a record-breaking 71 degrees! Did I mention this warm snap has come after months of sub-zero temperatures and above average snow falls? Why, just three weeks ago, I slipped and fell on the ice walking across the street to work. That ice patch has been there since early January. But today, I’m wearing flip flops.

As the saying goes, “if you don’t like the weather in Ohio, just wait a week or two.” Ain’t that the truth!

Todays weather
A little screen cap of my “weather station” on my computer today! Hey Melbournians, we’re almost at the same temp right now!

But enough about the boring small-talk. With spring comes the renewal of… motivation. So we have been starting to turn the wheels (literally and figuratively!) on some of our bucket list items.

A few weeks ago, I watched this amazing 1971 documentary called On Any Sunday. It’s mainly about three motorcycle racers in the 1960’s, Mert Lawwill, Malcolm Smith and the famous Steve McQueen. These guys were hard-core. They raced come hell and high water and proved to be amazing athletes!

And I’ve always loved motorcycles! Every summer there were motorcycle races at the county fair. This was my favorite day of the fair (a close second was the Sunday night Demolition Derby!) I always wished I could race like they did. I always thought how cool the younger kids were who competed, and on the rare occasions when they announced a heat with a female rider in it, I was green with envy! How completely bad ass those chicks were!

Photo from http://www.motorcyclistonline.com

I grew up riding four-wheelers. I could ride 125cc when I was 3 or 4. It was an automatic, but you still had to change the gears with a foot peg. I couldn’t reach the gears or foot brake, but I could reach down and change the gears with my hand and use the hand brakes! When I was older, I used to do laps for hours in the field behind our house pretending I was a mini Evel Knievel. I always thought I was so bad-ass when I would manage to ramp the four-wheelers over a hill and get maybe an inch of air. My dad always laughed watching, because after I landed you could hear the tools in the seat compartment clanging around.

Four wheels were fun, but I always wanted a dirt bike! So last Sunday, my childhood dreams were made a reality. HA HA!

Not because I wanted to fulfill my lifelong dream of flat track racing… but because everyone has always told me that in order to get some experience with a clutch and two wheels, (I’d never driven a clutch on anything but a car) I should try out a dirt bike before moving on to a street bike.

I admit it. I’m a pretty big chicken. I drove a motorcycle once about 7 years ago and the person who was “instructing” me pretty much convinced me that I’d kill myself on a bike. They told me “on a motorcycle, it’s not a matter of if you wreck, it’s a matter of when.”

Ok, hold up. Maybe if I were a 16 year old know-it-all-kid starting out, that may be the truth. But I feel like if you respect the machine, stay off the sauce and pay attention to what the hell is going on around you, you are no more likely to bite the dust on two wheels than you would if you were on 4.

So I’ve ridden a few times since last weekend. I feel like I’m making progress. Travis has had the patience of a SAINT! He has been an absolutely amazing help. He took a rider safety course the first year he had his bike, and that has helped him to be a much more confident and capable rider. He’s been using a lot of the stuff he learned there to help me.

My first ride, I was petrified and really shaky, I barely made it into 2nd gear. The next day, we did laps around Travis’ work’s warehouse building for a couple hours and I made it up into 4th gear. One night last week, Travis put me on his Yamaha V Star 650 and I managed to cruise through a parking lot in 1st gear. And just for shits and giggles, Travis felt brave enough to ride on the back seat. I only wobbled a little!

Just like riding a bicycle.

A 500 lb V-twin bicycle.

Every time I look at this I laugh out loud. Braaaap!

Yesterday I took the dirt bike up to my mom’s and took it on grass for the first time. I did laps for a couple of hours just trying to get more comfortable. My mom sat in the driveway hollering “Wheelie! Wheelie! Wheelie!” every time I went past. She’s not right. ❤

It’s not quite as scary as it seemed a week ago. Of course once I get to the point where I’m riding on the street, it will be quite another story! I’ve been studying for the permit test and I’ve managed to get a 100% on a 150 question practice test. (It’s like the first thing I’ve ever gotten a 100% on. I’ve never been a good student.) So Travis too me to take the permit test on Saturday, but the wait was over an hour and I had an appointment to get my hair did in an hour. Boo! We’ll try back again sometime this week on our lunch hour!

Cross your fingers!

I had to leave the bike at my mom’s last night. We had to haul the camper home, and after all was said and done, we spent more time than anticipated getting the camper tow-ready and didn’t want to take the extra 30+ min to unhitch the camper, move all of the crap out of the bed of the truck into the cab of the truck, load the bike and rehitch the camper. So we left her in the garage at my moms. 😦

This picture makes it look like the camper is almost as big as my house.
This picture makes it look like the camper is almost as big as my house.

But the silver lining to that is THE CAMPER IS FINALLY HOME! After I posted almost a whole year ago that we were going to re-do this camper, we had to replace leaky pipes in our basement, had to buy a new washer and dryer and then had to pay for a really expensive surgery for our dog, Carli. Then when we finally went to fetch the camper, we learned that the wiring was bad and couldn’t haul it home with no tail lights. 😦 So last summer was not a good summer as far as finances go.

But we’re going to give ‘er another go this year. We’re going to sit down tonight and figure out all that needs to be done (there’s some water damage, hopefully minor) and what we want to be done. We want to accomplish kind of a lot of stuff on a very small budget. We’re hoping to at least repair the damage, paint the interior and update the curtains and cushions. I’ve already bought some cheap accessories to cutesy things up a smidge!

Last spring, we named her Hell on Wheels! (Hellen for short… get it?) I started a “Smash book” that we’ll keep in the camper and put in fun little things we pick up or do on our trips when we hit the road. We mainly hope to a lot of Boondocking since we like to take one of our dogs with us, and a lot of camp grounds and state parks don’t allow alcohol and enforce “quiet time.” Not that we’re loud-ass drunks, we just enjoy a few beers around the campfire at night with a guitar or music. And to be honest, we’re not totally crazy about camping right next to a bunch of randos. We live in the city practically on top of our neighbors, so camping for us is a chance to get the hell outta Dodge and get some fresh air and peace and quiet! I’m sure as it gets hotter in the summer, I will enjoy the A/C in the camper, so we’ll try to find some more spread out camp grounds with hook ups!

Well that’s it for now! Hope everyone has a great week and is able to get out and enjoy the wonderful weather! And happy early St. Patrick’s day! Don’t forget to wear your green!

A smorgasbord of posts, if you will!

I love the word “smorgasbord.”

It reminds me of Templeton the rat from Charlotte’s Web singing about how a fair is a smorgasbord-orgasbord.

Today is the first day of Lent… which means… 40 BAGS IN 40 DAYS CHALLENGE!!

What is this you ask? Well, let me just tell you! It’s an awesome “challenge” that I discovered last year thanks to Ann Marie over at White House Black Shutters. I even blogged about it in more detail in this post of yore!

The Basics: You get rid of one bag/box/whatever of “junk” every day for the 40 days of the challenge, which just so happen to coincide with Lent. You can trash, donate, give away, or do anything you want with the stuff! The whole point is just to get rid of the crap!

Since we did this last year, I have a really helpful gauge to measure by: If we haven’t used/worn the item since LAST year’s 40 Bags, it’s gettin’ the boot. Last year we were so B.A. (that means bad ass) at this, we ended up getting rid of:

  1. A Desk
  2. A Treadmill
  3. A Drum set
  4. A King size mattress, box springs and frame
  5. A CAR!!!!!
  6. A Lawn mower
  7. A Weed whacker
  8. An older programmable thermostat
  9. Xbox Kinect (we used it a grand total of one time in the year+ we had it.)
  10. 13 JUMBO contractor sized bags of clothing and shoes & coats (donated to Goodwill)
  11. 2 large boxes of misc stuff
  12. 3 pieces of “house ware”
  13. And this HUGE pile of crap that came out of the shed that went to bulk pickup. Coolers, a recliner, vanity mirrors, broke tvs, vacuum, carpet cleaner… etc.

Goodbye Trash

And I’ve done a pretty damn good job of keeping up with the clutter over the year. It feels so damn good to purge! I’ve even minimized the amount of “goo” I keep in my shower! I was so sick of knocking crap onto the floor of the shower, so now I have less product than my husband does. 2 of the 4 shelves in my shower are even completely bare. Gasp!

So long story short, we still have (uuuuugh!!) a master bedroom and a laundry room to whip into shape. And unfortunately, someone *cough*Travis*cough* fell a little behind on the shed again, so these are going to be the main focus over the next 40 days. Squee!

Because you know what?

  1. You don’t need all of this stuff.
  2. It won’t make you happier.
  3. Your home should not make you feel overwhelmed or stressed.
  4. You do not need to be embarrassed.
  5. You can do this. (repeat that)
  6. You are not alone in feeling this way.

Jump on the band wagon! It’s fantastic! (I’m selling the Kool-Aid!)

Get all the juiciest of details at the White House Black Shutters website. She even has a cool little printout so you can keep track of all the decrapifying you’ve done!

GOOD LUCK! And, ahem… May the Force be with you.


Castle Crashers

Landolls Pic
Travis, DJ, Mandi and Me – I’m doing what my family refers to as “bite the apple.” I thought everyone else was doing it, but apparently I was the only one, so that explains why I look kind of like an opera singer.

We got another chance to do a little tiny bit of traveling over the Valentines Day weekend! We ventured about 2 hours north of Columbus to a little place in the middle of the Mohican State Forest, called Landoll’s Mohican Castle.

My sister and her main squeeze joined us, which was fantastic because I think we might have been bored otherwise. With it being winter, there wasn’t a whole lot to do, but we had a lot of fun enjoying each other’s company, playing cards and having some adult beverages and relaxing!

It was about 2 degrees out with wind chills around -10 degrees, plus there was sort of a mini-blizzard while we were there, so we couldn’t really go outside and enjoy nature. Except for the part where I fell down in a cemetery that was on the property. #fail

We enjoyed this toasty little fireplace and being all snuggled up together and warm and safe while being snowed in!

He's misplaced his pipe.
He’s misplaced his pipe.

You can read my Yelp! review of Landoll’s here. There were a few snags, but overall the place was really really cool, but we felt like it was a tad over-priced, especially in the winter when there isn’t as much of a draw to the area. We would most certainly go back sometime, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for specials and discounts or head back when it’s canoeing season, since Mohican is prime for that!

We made friends with one the sweet waitresses at the Stepping Stone Restaurant which was on the grounds of Landoll’s. (HI BECKI!!)

We got a little tip from one of the locals that should come back sometime and check out the Mohican Treehouses! They look so cool (I always wanted a treehouse), AND they have outdoor showers, which is possibly one of my favorite things in the world!

So there’s all of that. We don’t have any more traveling fun planned until Memorial Day weekend, which is our Memorial Day Extravaganza trip. We take a trip every year, but our most “memorable” MDE trip was chronicled here in The Boat From Hell part one AND two!


Honorable Mentions

Some other honorable mentions from my blogging hiatus…

FullSizeRenderMeet Elvis. Travis got this for me for Valentines Day. It is a real freaking stuffed teddy bear. No, we don’t have any idea what we’re going to do with him.

I also got this. Well, one just like this. This photo doesn’t do it any justice.

Which if you’re someone who knows me well, you would probably think that this was a joke.

I’m not “into” guns. I grew up around guns. I’ve used guns, I know how to shoot them, I know about gun safety, I’m actually even a better shot than Travis is and I’m into western movies. Hell, Wyatt Earp is my dude!

But I hate guns.

Not to be all dramatic, but long story-short, I got car-jacked when I was 20. The punk ass stuck a gun in my face. He fired the gun, not at me thank heavens, but it was still a little rattling. I’ve also had several friends who were killed as a result of accidents with guns. Not to mention a few that weren’t accidents. Ugh.

I  also feel like some people use guns (like they do their trucks) as a measuring tape in which to measure their… junk.

Well hubs, my sister and my future-bro-in-law talked me into shooting their shotgun. Lo-and-behold, it was kind of fun. Loud. But fun.

So Travis had hope that he could get me a little more comfortable with the whole gun situation, so he bought me a Ruger 10/22. A rifle with a little less kick, something I can hopefully enjoy without the fear of killing myself or others and/or losing my hearing.

As I mentioned before, it’s been below freezing for weeks here in Ohio, so in order to shoot my new gift, we ventured out to a local shooting range over the weekend. Bad decision. Neither of us had been to a range before, so I guess we didn’t really know what to expect.

It was so… freaking… loud… And crowded. The a-holes a few lanes down had rented a gun from the range. Listening to the staff member talking about it, he exclaimed how it was the largest caliber that they allowed at indoor ranges. Super. The concussion from it was so strong, it actually sucked the breath out of your lungs every time it was fired.

I also stood and watched as each of the 8 dumbasses taking turns firing it kept setting it down on the counter… with the safety off… fully loaded. The staff dude kept asking them over and over if they set the safety. They just laughed and said “Uhh, no. Whoops.”

Whoops my ass.

Aren’t these places supposed to be like the mecca of safety and knowledge?! It was like recess at the gun range. It seems common sense isn’t very common anymore! So after about 15 minutes, we left. Travis was just as frustrated as I was, if not more so.

I won’t let it completely discourage me. I’d just rather set up some tin cans on a fence post like I did when I was a kid and do things the old fashioned way, where I know the people I’m sharing a “range” with aren’t going to shoot me in the face!

Oh spring, come quick!

Honeymoon Part 3: Bermuda

In last week’s post, Part Two of our saga, I over-shared about the Norwegian Breakaway and about our first time sailing with Norwegian. If you missed out on that monster of a post, you can read that here!

And two weeks ago I posted Part One of our adventure, our first time in the Big Apple, which you can read here!

This week, I’m going to wrap up this whole fan-dangled trifecta with the grand finale… Bermuda! I will try to keep it short & sweet, but there’s no guarantees.


Admittedly, neither of us knew much about Bermuda before we decided to cruise there. We knew there were songs about it. We knew that people get lost in the Bermuda Triangle. And that there are things called Bermuda Shorts, which I have a very hard time taking seriously…

Bermuda shorts: “Sorry Smithers, I’m going to be late to the meeting, George Bush is here with me and he can’t run, he’s afraid he’ll fall and skin his knee.”
Here is Bermuda on a map!
The sunset the night before we arrived in Bermuda!
The sunset the night before we arrived in Bermuda!

We did a little bit of reading up beforehand and read Bermuda one of the more quiet islands of the Atlantic/Caribbean. There aren’t any ‘booze cruises’ or all-you-can-drink beach parties. Which honestly sounded good to us, the older we get, the less we like being around drunk strangers.


GEEK FACTS & NUMBERS: Because I like facts!

Population
Bermuda – 64,237
Columbus – 822,553
The entire county (Logan) where I grew up (just for comparison sake!) – 45,858
Land Area:
Bermuda – 20.6 sq mi
Columbus – 217.17 sq mi
Logan County – 458.43 sq mi

Bermuda: Day One

I woke up around 5:00 am the morning we were due in Bermuda. I happened to sit up in bed and saw a huge pilot boat whiz past! I accidentally woke Travis up in my scramble to leap out of bed to run to the door and investigate. So we brewed a few cups of coffee and took up post on our balcony. As we sipped our crappy coffee, we watched as tiny lights started to become visible on the dark horizon. Bermuda!

Bermuda is shaped like a fish hook. We docked on the very tip of the inside of the hook.
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The multi-storied building in the top center of this photo is the old prison. Weird, but now makes for a pretty backdrop to the little town at the dockyard.

By the time we were beginning to dock, it was about 7 am and the sun was up. The dock is located inside the tip of the “hook,” so when our boat finally docked, you could see land surrounding the whole boat. It was really nice since our side of the boat (starboard) was faced away from the dock, so we had a gorgeous view of all of the beautiful homes dotting the hills across the channel/inlet thing instead of just staring at the nothingness of the open sea.

Heritage Wharf, where we docked. When you got off the ship, you went through this building that served as the customs building.
Heritage Wharf, where we docked. When you got off the ship, you went through this building that served as the customs building. It was capable of serving two ships at once, however we were the only ship in port during our three days there.

We were like two kids on Christmas morning as we scarfed our breakfast down to get ready for our first day in Bermuda! We were going to Snorkel Park and spending a day at the beach! Our package included unlimited use of snorkel gear, two loungers, one umbrella and an hour rental for a paddle boat or kayak. The beach was within walking distance of the ship and was kind of in this weird little area right next to the islands old fort walls.

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The water, in all of the literature we read, promised to be “gin clear.” While it was a beautiful turquoise color, I’m not sure what kind of gin they’ve been drinking to compare it to! It wasn’t as clear as some of the other Caribbean locations we’ve been to like Georgetown, Grand Cayman or St. Croix, USVI, but it was still beautiful.

Not quite "gin clear."
Not quite “gin clear.”

So we raced approximately 75 other people for prime real estate on the beach to set up our loungers. Have you ever seen the movie Far and Away, with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, where in the end, the go out west to take part in a land rush? Well this is what it was like to stake a spot of beach.

We quickly discovered the beach was a little over-populated as we chose the last few lounges left whose front legs were actually sitting in the water. At least it was water front, right?

Well, sort of… we tried to grin and bear it as a gaggle of kids playing in the waves splashed water and flung piles of sand into the air and all over us as we tried to settle in and get sunscreen on etc. Before we even left our house several days before, we made a pact that no matter what, we were going to try to remain calm, cool and collected no matter what. This is something we both struggle with on a day-to-day basis as we deal with our menagerie of 2 ferrets, 2 dogs and a cat, our fast-paced jobs, and long commutes in a large city full of people who don’t drive well. Life is a rat-race! Sometimes screaming and tempers happen! But on vacation, we vowed, we would be the damn the Mayors of Happy-Town!

As a lump of sand catapulted off of a little boy’s shovel, who was leaping up and down and stomping in the sand in front of our chairs, flew into my eye, Travis smiled and reminded me… “Happy-Town!”

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The view from our little stake of land. I had to cut this pic far to the right in order to keep little Bobby and his shovel out of the frame.

But the view was still beautiful. And slowly people started going out into the water and the beach didn’t seem quite as congested. So we got our gear and headed out for our own snorkel adventure!

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Here's the view facing the beach from the little rock peninsula that leads out to the reef. You can tell by this photo how small the beach is.
Here’s the view facing the beach from the little rock peninsula that leads out to the reef. You can tell by this photo how small the beach is.

 

This photo is taken from the bath house facing out towards another portion of the beach on the other side of the peninsula which we apparently weren't allowed to access until our side of the beach was completely full.
This photo is taken from the bath house facing out towards another portion of the beach on the other side of the peninsula which we weren’t allowed to access.
The Snorkel Monster
The Snorkel Monster

Bermuda: Day Two

The next day we decided to have another beachy day and go to Horseshoe Bay Beach, which was about a 30 minute bus ride south of the dockyard. It is the most famous of all the pink-sand beaches in Bermuda. It’s listed as a family-friendly beach, since it has a lifeguard on duty, a cafe, shower house, restrooms and water sports equipment rental. It is also fairly large so we assumed it would be the best option at being able to sprawl out and not be on top of hundreds of other vacationers.

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The water here was much clearer than at the snorkel park and was the most incredible shades of teals and blues. The sand had just the slightest hint of pink (you can read why their sand is pink here) and stretched out for quite a distance in a sort-of horse shoe shape. Facing out to sea, you could see different shades of blue which were different reef beds and sand bars and the varying depths. You can see all of those much better in aerial photos. Some of the parts of them stuck up out of the water several hundred feet out from the beach and you could watch as the waves crashed against them. I kept thinking it was some sort of sea creature leaping out of the water at first, but then realized it was just rocks!

 

Horseshoe Bay Aerial

The waves here were surprisingly huge! We swam and played in the waves for a few hours. This place was probably the second closest thing to paradise that I’ve ever experienced. (Our first closest thing to paradise is Rainbow Beach, St. Croix. These pictures don’t do it justice.)

This is my favorite photo of all time. Travis was swimming out for the first time, getting ready to dive into an oncoming wave.
This is my favorite photo of all time. Travis was swimming out for the first time, getting ready to dive into an oncoming wave.

RIMG0182There was even a little cove nearby where some of the families with smaller children could swim, protected from the harsh waves of the open ocean on the main part of the beach. There were lots of little colorful fish here that people were feeding cereal out of their hands.

RIMG0141We snapped this one last pic before we headed back to the bus. It doesn’t do the beach much justice, but we will always remember how gorgeous it was!

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This photo was taken from the dockyard square. But it was crazy to see the hulking cruise ship from miles away as we drove back into the dockyard!

 Bermuda: Day Three

Since we had already done exactly what we had wanted the first two days, we decided to mosey around town the third day and pick up some souvenirs and do some shopping.

Dining in Bermuda was very expensive. It was about $20 for a hamburger on several of the menus that we checked out. So we did all of our dining for free on the ship.

The shopping was very fairly priced and got small trinkets and things for everyone. The people of Bermuda were extremely pleasant (aside from the bar tender named “Tequila” at Snorkel Park who sounded like a catty girl as he preached to people about their bad manners for not saying “good morning” to him first before placing their order. Sigh.)

Even though we only saw about 1/3 of the island, which was MUCH bigger than we anticipated, we couldn’t believe how clean and beautiful it was. And we later found out, we didn’t even go into the higher end area of the island. Even their old bus shelters were covered in murals freshly painted by the school students. There were no “slums,” that we saw anyway. All of the homes were also freshly painted and cared for with well manicured lawns. The roofs of the homes were all cement, painted white, we assume to reflect the sun’s heat and help to keep the home cooler in the warmer months.

Bermuda is a British territory and there are a few reminders of that, like their telephone booths. Although there are no longer phones inside them, they still stand throughout the island. They’re made of cast-iron or some other hard-core metal, so I’d imagine it’d be a task to remove them!

RIMG0132We were a little disappointed there were no free WIFI spots, not even for customers of restaurants or bars. Call us spoiled Americans, but we’re used to free WIFI everywhere in the states. We even found free WIFI in Jamaica and the Grand Caymans on our last vacation. We hadn’t spoken to our family in 5 days, and figured since I had an aunt in the hospital when we left and people were watching our house and animals, we probably should check in. So we found a WIFI station that sold packages (at $10/hour) the connection was slow, but worked well enough to shoot out a few emails.

We walked around for a few hours, but even after a few Gosling’s ginger beers (non-alcoholic soda, kinda like ginger ale), the heat and humidity quickly got the best of us. I hadn’t even had a chance to have a Dark ‘n Stormy or a Rum Swizzle, two of Bermuda’s “national drinks.” 😦 But it was too damn hot and the only bar we went to, Tequila – that bar tender, was a jerk. We were due to be back on-board by 4:30, so we bid farewell to Bermuda as we stood on the pier, admiring the view.

On the pier, we watched as this guy tried his hand at “Coconut Rockets.” They’re jet-powered shoes that are connected to this jet ski. As the driver of the jet ski opens the throttle, the jet ski’s jets are diverted into the black hose connected to the coconut rocket shoes, which then lift the wearer up out of the water, sometimes 10 feet or higher! We winced as we watched this guy and several others before him bite it over and over again and do face-plants into the water again. It looked like it might be fun, albeit painful and tiresome.

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Yes, we took a lot of selfies... it was our honeymoon, give us a break!
Yes, we took a lot of selfies… it was our honeymoon, give us a break! Look, there’s Coconut Rockets over our shoulder!
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The little inlet next to the ship where Coconut Rockets was goin’ down.

After we got back on the ship, a quick afternoon rain blew in and from our balcony we saw not only one rainbow…

RIMG0196But TWO rainbows! You could see both of them from end to end, although they were too close to get in frame on my camera. It was a pretty grand finale!

RIMG0197We set sail at 5 pm that day and 2 short days later we were back in the states where we caught this amazing sunrise in New York City.

RIMG0312We spent the next 11 hours in a car driving home, sick with colds. 😦 But we didn’t turn on the radio one time on that leg of the trip either and just enjoyed our last day of our honeymoon together, even though we were cooped up in a car.

We love new adventures, but I love coming home to my bed and shower too! Travis has more of a gypsy-soul and always craves new horizons, so it will be interesting to see where life takes us next and where we plant our feet one day.

If you made it through all three of these posts, holy cow! Thanks for sticking it out with me! And to think I thought originally I could cram them all into one post! HA! 😉

Honeymoon Part Two: Norwegian Breakaway

In last week’s post, (which you can read here) I told you all about the first part of our trip. This week will be about the ship we sailed on and our first experience with Norwegian Cruise Lines. I apparently have a hard time with over-sharing, so this post ended up being realllllllly looooooooooooong so I will be turning the Honeymoon Adventures posts into a 3 parter… a SAGA, if you will…

Also HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODAY to my hubster Travis!

We picked a 7-day cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda.

The Breakaway made her maiden voyage in May 2013 and is a hulking 146,600 ton beast! As of September 2014, she is the 8th largest ship in the world at 1,068.3 ft long, she can sail 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members through the water at a max speed of 21.5 knots. She boasts 18 decks, which contains more than 27 restaurants and just as many bars, including a real ice bar. The Breakaway features three Broadway shows, a glow party, an 80’s themed dance party and fireworks. There is also a water park, climbing wall, ropes course and a bowling alley. She is the largest ship to call New York City’s port home and the world-famous Rockettes are the godmothers of the mighty Breakaway! In most ports, she takes up the same amount of space as two other traditional cruise ships!

Chart
A reference for past cruise-buddies! I guess I should have mentioned “capacity” is the number of people including crew that they cram on the boat. I’m not very good at charts, I don’t have a “number brain.”

After we checked out of our hotel Sunday morning, Travis got to flag down his very first cab hahaha! Which proved to be more difficult than we thought, since we were competing with roughly 100 other people in front of our hotel. But we eventually kind-of got there… the cabby dropped us off a block away, so we had to hoof it across 6 lanes of traffic, and after asking around (there wasn’t much signage or directions as to where to go…) but we eventually got there! The check-in process was frighteningly fast! I’d say maybe 15 minutes? On previous cruises we’ve been on, sometimes the check-in/waiting to check in process has taken 1-2 hours!

Once we boarded the ship we were allowed to go directly to our room so we could drop our carry-on bags and sit and just relax for a few minutes since we had been in what felt like a high-speed car chase for 24 hours at that point! The state rooms were a little smaller than other rooms we’ve had. But they were very modern, tasteful and our room was really clean!

This was the exact layout of our room. Photo from beyondships.com because Travis forgot to remind me to resize photos for this post…

We weren’t huge fans of the location of the closet because you only had maybe 8 inches of clearance between the bed and the closet doors. There was still plenty of space for two people who don’t over-pack. But we preferred Carnival’s locker-style closets right inside the stateroom doors across from the bathroom. Our biggest question was where do they put the two twin beds when they separate them? The smallest of the two night stands was only maybe 6 inches wide!

Norwegian-Breakaway-Balcony-Schematic1
Norwegian’s bed-side closets

The bathroom; Although we liked having an actual glass shower stall on NCL, instead of the crazy fly-all-over-the-place-stick-to-your-wet-naked-body shower curtains, we didn’t like the placement of the toilet right between the shelves in the bathroom and the shower wall.

NCL Bath

This photo doesn’t convey the size (to set some scale, the sink bowl is the size of a medium sized mixing bowl) the toilets were really small and the toilet in between the shelves and the glass shower wall was a very tight space. I don’t know how people any bigger than us would have fit in there comfortably.

We wouldn’t have minded the down-sizing of the room had the balcony not been the size of a postage stamp. Ok, maybe two postage stamps 😦

NCL balcony

Which, smaller isn’t always worse, but sadly, there wasn’t even enough room to sit facing straight out in your chair. We had to turn them sideways so we didn’t smash our knees against the glass 😦 Travis is kind of ‘Squatchy at 6 foot 2, so even sideways was a bit cramped for him. Carnival’s balconies were deep enough for me and my sisters to sit with our legs straight out with our feet flat against the glass.

And, we wouldn’t have been terribly disappointed with the size of the balcony if it would have been a little more… private. Our balcony view was mostly of the edge of the roof of the dining area below us. Beside that and two decks down, was the shuffleboard deck where people congregated at night time to lean over the railing and scream… So it was always pretty loud (luckily the balcony door did completely drown out the sound when closed!) but any desire to sit on our balcony naked in our pajamas in the morning with our coffee was pretty quickly squashed.

Room Deck Restaurant Point Out

The view from our balcony. The waves (which reached 18.5 foot the first day) would splash up and spray people - causing them to scream at the top of their lungs.
The view from our balcony. The waves (which reached 18.5 foot the first day) would splash up and spray people – causing them to scream at the top of their lungs.

We also preferred that on the Carnival that we had zero blockage of the view in any direction you looked off your balcony. We could look straight up, down, aft and forward and nothing stuck out. Which made everything extra private and we could sit on our balcony and look straight down at the water, (in our under-britches if we wanted and the only people who would have been able to see would have had to rappel down the side of the ship!) which was awesome because we saw some some sort of wild-life every day, including flying fish and dolphins!

But with all of these mini bummers, don’t get me wrong, we really did have fun! The ability to completely unplug for a few days and unwind and do things at our own pace and log some serious nap time was amazing!

NCL stuff we loved:

We loved the Broadway shows! Cruise entertainment can sometimes be a little campy, but we were really into all the shows we got to see:

  • Burn the Floor – A hot dance show… kind of like a full hour of just the dirty dancing from Dirty Dancing! The music was really cool and they performed several different generation’s styles of dance, including swing dancing which I’ve always been fascinated with! And the show was free!
  • Rock of Ages – Also free, but I was a little skeptical about this show because, let’s be honest… I’m not a huge fan of the 80’s… (sorry Jo!) The best thing that came out of the 80’s was the Goonies. Gimme the 90’s any day! But this show was actually really awesome. It was funny and the music that they performed wasn’t all hair-band. This show is 18+ and actually had some of the older adults walking out. There was some suggestive dancing, which may have involved metal poles. I was a little mortified that people were bringing their preschool aged children to this show. NCL’s enforcement of age restricted things was kind of sucky…
  • Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy – This was a kind of homage to Cirque du Soleil in a dinner show. It was extra, but we thought it was worth it! The tenderloin steak they served with the meal was the best steak we’ve ever had! The whole thing is in a “tent!” There was lots of acrobatics and the cast members ran through the crowd dressed as jungle animals. Our only gripe with this was that you had to share a table for 8 with 12 people. They really crammed them in… Travis was annoyed with the seating arrangement and asked if we could be re-seated. He pulled the honeymoon card and we ended up getting a booth all to ourselves which was way better!

ALSO:

  • Carlo’s Bakery – Yep, the guy from Cake Boss has a bakery right on board the Breakaway! Since, as I mentioned before, we didn’t get a traditional wedding, we never got a wedding cake either. So about a month before we set sail, I ordered a cake online to be delivered to our stateroom when we got on-board. So as soon as we stepped into our room, we got to enjoy a fo’ real Cake Boss cake as our wedding/honeymoon cake!

    Our Honeymoon cake from Carlo's Bakery
    Our Honeymoon cake from Carlo’s Bakery
  • Spice H20 – which was the adults-only area (during certain hours) was much nicer on NCL. There was a wading pool with “waterfalls” and a bar. However, NCL as I mentioned before, was not very active in enforcing age restrictions. Spice H20 was supposed to be 18+ during the day, but there were a few instances when there were people with their young kids hanging out in the wading pool. Normally not a huge ordeal, but this was the ONLY adults-only spot on the ship, and there were several kids-only spots, including an entire splash zone and multiple kid/teen clubs.
  • The iTV – The tvs in your stateroom were super convenient- you could check the menus, make reservations, buy excursions, check your account balances and order pizza and room service.
  • iConcierge – The free app you can download for your mobile devices that is essentially the same as the iTV, but also features a text and calling function (for an additional $7.99) to/from other passengers and staterooms. This would have been really nice for a larger group, but for just the two of us, we didn’t need the texting function, so the free version worked just fine!
  • Our Cruise Director, Julie Valeriote – This chick was everywhere all the time! We joked that there were probably trap doors and secret passageways throughout the ship for her to come and go to all of the events. Her off-the-cuff sense of humor was refreshing and didn’t feel forced or hokey. She was also incredibly (and surprisingly!) talented! She danced with the Burn the Floor cast during their show, and was in the closing number of Rock of Ages, she represented at the 80’s party, performed the Thriller dance moves… and she can walk on stilts. Hell! She even shakes her groove thang and lip syncs to Pharrel’s “Happy” in Norwegian’s own homage video! Which they played no less than 300 times per day. (She’s the brunette with the curly hair on the right at the 00:43 mark!) This song will forever remind us of our honeymoon!

NCL stuff we didn’t love:

  • Freestyle CruisingBoo! We missed knowing that every night at 8pm (or whenever) we were going to dinner, sitting at the same table, with the same wait-staff. We also really missed the relationship you build with your waiters and all the fun dancing and singing they do. We had particularly fun waiters on the Sister Cruise, sweet Julian took such good care of us. We also hated that we had to wait 30+ minutes to be seated for dinner because the other 4,000 passengers on the ship wanted to eat dinner at the same time we did. It also took a lot longer to be served for some reason. It was impossible to do dinner in less than 90 minutes.
  • The Layout of the Ship – The only way to/from anything was to go right through the middle of everything, including the stinky smoky 2 open storied casino. OR you could hoof it from the forward bank of elevators right outside our state room, down the state room hallways non-stop (with no other possible exit) to the aft bank of elevators where everything was. I’m not kidding, it was a straight hallway for probably 900 feet, no option of turning anywhere, just forward or aft until you got to the elevators. So needless to say, we made that trip probably 8 times or more per day! We definitely got our exercise!
  • The Amount of People on the Ship – We sailed at full capacity, and we could really tell the difference in number of people on that ship. It felt like everything was like shopping on Black Friday all the time. The buffets were like a hog trough… people had little-to-no manners and the mongoloids had absolutely no problems with just sloshing their plate down in front of yours after you’d waited patiently in line for 5 minutes and snatching up the last piece of french toast. But I will say there were far less children on this cruise than our past Carnival cruise. But we expect that is due to the Carnival cruise being in June the week after school let out. Again, we have nothing against kids… we just don’t like the kind where their parents give zero shits and just set them loose so they act like junior mongoloids.
  • Onboard Shopping – Long story short, we bought a couple “deeply discounted duty-free” items that we researched when we got home and ends up we could have gotten them on Amazon for the same price or cheaper. We didn’t make any big purchases, luckily, but when I bought Travis a $100 Invicta watch for our anniversary, they made it out like I was saving $500 on this watch. Not really. Also when we had the aforementioned watch resized on-board for free, they lost one of the links and then blatantly lied to us about it. It was a huge ordeal, and they basically told us they weren’t going to do anything about it. Not cool.
  • Forced Gratuities – On NCL your account is charged $12 per day, which isn’t expensive. But because the staff knows they’re definitely getting pre-paid gratuities, it felt like they didn’t really have anything to work for. So we felt like the staff wasn’t as pleasant as they have been on previous cruises. Example: We had the endless soda package and upon going to the bars to get soda, as soon as we asked for pop, the smiles immediately disappeared from their faces and it was pretty clear we were an annoyance.
  • NCL’s Disembarkation – They allow each passenger to pick their own disembarkation time. Also, if you’re feeling particularly saucy, you can choose to do the “Easy walk-off disembarkation,” which just means you carry your own bags and walk off the ship. It was suggested that if you’re going to do the easy walk off, you do it before the other sections were called at 8am. Well, I don’t know if this was just a bad day or what, but this was the biggest disaster on the face of the planet. I think everyone on the ship chose to do easy walk off at the exact same time. It took us TWO HOURS (!!!!!) to get off the ship and through customs. There were 12 (I think) customs counters and a total of four people were working them. Also the disembarkation area under where you check in was a little like the set of a horror movie. It was dark and crusty and felt a little like a scene from The Bone Collector.

All in all everything was really nice! I thought Norwegian was the most beautifully decorated of all the ships I’ve been on. I think we preferred the main dining room food better on the Carnival. But I can’t remember vivid details about the food on Royal Caribbean. The buffet was better on NCL. The staff was the nicest on Carnival. But really it’s all about preference. And the big kicker for us was Freestyle Cruising… we’re not total fans and would probably prefer to go with RC or Carnival over NCL because of that. Either way, we’re so glad we got to check it out.

Stay tuned for next week’s post – Honeymoon Part 3: Bermuda!

 

This post is in loving memory of our travel companion Overton Prime. He has served as our travel mascot for the past year, posing with us on our other adventures. Apparently when I left a sign saying “goodbye” to our stateroom steward in O.P.’s hands, our steward thought it was a gift for him. Sigh…

This is the last photo we have of our dear friend. May he forever rest in peace aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.
This is the last photo we have of our dear friend. May he forever rest in peace aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

Honeymoon Part One: NYC

September 20, 2014 was the hersbernd’s & my first wedding anniversary!

Long story short… we were supposed to get married in 2007 but didn’t. After 6 years and multiple attempts to re-plan a wedding, we realized financially that a big wedding wasn’t in our cards. We’ve always been a paycheck-to-paycheck household, saving what we could for emergencies or very special occasions. Spending our nest egg just so I could smash cake in Travis’ face wasn’t worth it to us.  So we decided after much discussion that we didn’t want to turn 30 (which we did in October 2013) and not be married. So we went to a little wedding chapel in downtown Columbus and had a private ceremony with just the two of us and finally “sealed the deal.” Our officiant looked like Kenny Rogers and couldn’t have been sweeter!

Much to Travis’ surprise, (because he thinks I’m cold-hearted and emotionally retarded) I cried when I began my vows. He thought I was crying because I didn’t want to go through with it, so he immediately began panicking and had to have Kenny Rogers repeat the part he was supposed to say. I felt bad for him at the time, but in hindsight it was hilarious!

We enjoyed our wedding dinner at our beloved Columbus Brewing Company! And since it was late afternoon/early evening on a week day, we almost had the place completely to ourselves!

CBC-Business-Photo

We didn’t have the time or the money to go on a honeymoon when we got married, so we saved up over the course of the year and began planning one. After a very expensive spring and summer (new washer & dryer purchase and eye surgery for our Boston Terrier, Carli) we were afraid that it wasn’t going to happen. But then Travis had a freaking amazing couple of months at work and his commission checks put us back in the black and we were able to book a cruise!

We’ve both been on cruises before and have had a blast on them in the past! They’re very affordable when you take into consideration that you generally get to visit multiple destinations while only unpacking your bag once! And your food, which is usually 4/5 star quality, is included! Not to mention there is a ton of other really great free stuff you can do on-board as well.

This time around, we decided we did NOT want to fly. The idea of being crammed into a seat that feels like it was meant for a 10 year old and being catapulted magically through the air in a metal tube filled with hundreds of other passengers at the beginning of cold/flu season just didn’t sound like a romantic blasty-blast to us. So we picked out a few options… I think the choices were between:

  • The Bahamas – Which I’ve been to twice before, it’s a fun place but I didn’t want to go a third time when there were other unseen options!
  • Grand Cayman and Jamaica – Again, lovely but was the locations we did with my sisters last summer AND where I went on a cruise with my mom in 2005.
  • Bermuda – Where neither of us have ever been!

So we chose Bermuda on the Norwegian Breakaway leaving out of the Port of Manhattan in New York City, New York.

So let me preface the beginning of our journey by saying this: For both of us, it was our first trip to NYC!

We rented a car to drive. Both of our cars experienced last-minute minor mechanical issues so we didn’t want to risk getting stranded anywhere. We left at around 6 am Saturday morning and started the 8+ hour journey east in a 2014 Hyundai Sonata with only like 300 miles on it. It was actually a really nice car! We completed the drive in about 10 hours after stopping for lunch, 2 bathroom breaks and traffic jams. We didn’t turn on the radio once. We gabbed and giggled like school girls out of sheer excitement the whole way there!

We even made the mistake of stopping to pee in Newark, NJ. Which I don’t know if the whole city of Newark is like this, but whatever part it was that we stopped was frightening. Travis is a brave man, and he was even a little concerned to get out and go to the bathroom that was 8 feet from the car. I’m even 99% sure they were chopping a car that was parked right next to us at the “gas station” we stopped at. I’m not shitting you. Yikes.

We are by no means world-class travelers like my dearest friends Jenny and Steve… I’ve been to some “bigger” cities like Atlanta, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Miami, Pittsburgh etc… I loved all of them! But these places are like flecks of dust compared to New York! Some of the foreign countries we’ve been to were less foreign than NYC.

Travis loved it. I found it to be a little… overwhelming.

Loud, busy places are sort of over-stimulating to me. For lack of a better way to explain it, they generally cause me to have sort of like a mini anxiety attack. I hate malls, busy grocery stores and rowdy bars (without me previously having consumed copious amounts of liquor). I can’t even go to concerts anymore without wanting to start flailing and punching people in the face who touch me or enter my “personal space bubble.”

Well, New York City was loud, crowded, dirty and expensive. I was shitting my pants before we even got through the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan.

NYC Holland Tunnel

There was no parking for anything, not even at most hotels. Finding a hotel room under $300 on a weekend was impossible unless you wanted to stay in something similar to the Bates Motel. Due to traffic, it took Travis nearly 2 hours to get back to Manhattan from LaGuardia airport after dropping off our rental car. However, when the Budget guys threatened to charge him a late fee for the car, he told them he was on his honeymoon and had run into traffic. They immediately dropped the charge and called a “cab” for him. A few minutes later a blacked-out sedan rolled up and took him back to the hotel. He said he felt like a mobster. Haha!

So unfortunately, while we had planned to arrive in NYC at around 4pm, and sight-see and get dinner in the city… we didn’t get to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt until after 6pm, due to traffic, and then didn’t get to venture out until close to 9, after Travis came back from the airport.

Grand-Hyatt-New-York-King-Guestroom
Our room was surprisingly large with wood floors and a huge walk-in shower. The windows actually opened, which I found kind of odd.

By then we were so exhausted all we really had time to check out was Grand Central Station, the Central Cafe, a restaurant from the end of one of my favorite movies Friends with Benefits and a “24 hour” sushi restaurant that was closed when we got there at like 9:30. So we ended up just walking around for a bit and then getting crappy $15 sandwiches at the hotel and watching Hell on Wheels and going to bed.

We didn’t even get street food… No NY Pizza, Gyros or Street Weiners 😦

This was seriously  under an over-pass, right across the street from Grand Central Station!
This was seriously under an over-pass, right across the street from Grand Central Station!
The entrance to Grand Central Station was directly connected to our hotel. It was probably the most beautiful building I saw in NYC.
The entrance to Grand Central Station was directly connected to our hotel. It was probably the most beautiful building I saw in NYC.
Grand Central Station was surprisingly beautiful! It felt like I was stepping back into the 40's.
Grand Central Station was surprisingly beautiful! It felt like I was stepping back into 1913.
The ceiling of the main terminal was incredible with beautiful ornate sculptures and fantastic (although inaccurate) astronomical paintings originally done in 1912, but covered over in 1930, but restored again in 1998!
The ceiling of the main terminal was incredible with beautiful ornate sculptures and fantastic (although inaccurate) back-lit astronomical paintings originally done in 1912, which were covered over in 1930, but restored again in 1998!

The hotel we stayed at charged extra for WiFi and didn’t even have complimentary coffee. For breakfast we ended up paying $8 for a plain bagel that we had to toast and cream cheese ourselves. It was a very beautiful, modern and clean, but a bit of a price gouge. Also none of the hotels in NYC have pools, which I thought was weird.

The customer service was a 3 out of 5. I dealt with some jerks, but had an awesome door-man who helped me man-handle my bags, and jockey my way New Yorker-style into an elevator with our luggage trolley, since for the first 2+ hours I was in NYC I was completely alone, while Travis was returning the car!

We were on the 35th (top) floor. Our ears actually popped while going up and down in the elevator. And the view out our window was amazing. Since Travis didn’t get back to the hotel until after dark, he didn’t get to marvel over the view until first thing the next morning… And this truly is the “city that never sleeps” probably because these people honk their horns so much, it sounded like a traffic jam outside our window all night. There are actually signs posted around Manhattan that say “No Honking – $500 fine!”

Buildings
From the top floor, you couldn’t even see the street below unless you smashed your face sideways against the glass. The white building with the brown roof across the street was so tall you had to smash your face against the window to see the top of it as well. And these were nowhere near being some of the tallest buildings in NYC!

The sheer immenseness of NYC is unimaginable. I knew this place was big, but had no idea it was THAT big. I love city life but could not fathom it in such huge proportions! Driving is near impossible. We didn’t get to experience the subway, but I’ve always been told to avoid the subway if possible, and I would think relying on cabs would become a nuisance very quickly. None of the cabbies knew where we were asking them to take us, and although one location was just a few blocks away and the other was the airport, we had to look up directions for them on our phones. At $22 for a 10 minute ride and $35 for a 20 minute ride, it can get expensive rather quickly.

I guess I take my car for granted! Living in a non “walkable” city, and a mostly rural state such as Ohio, being vehicle-less is considered a hindrance. I drive 45+ minutes to/from work every day. Columbus doesn’t offer any sort of rail or mass-transit system and riding a city bus is not possible for me because I live and work miles away from the nearest bus stops. I never realized how dependent we really are on our cars!

Even in two comparable rental cars, the rental going out of NYC was twice the price it was renting out of Columbus. We later realized it would have been cheaper to rent one car in Columbus and pay the $300/week to park it at the cruise terminal than to have returned it, pay cab fares and rented a separate car in NYC for our return. Sigh. You live you learn, right?

And speaking of cars… Travis loved driving in NYC. Which thoroughly surprised me. We both have what I previously considered to be “moderately-severe road rage.” Also known as “defensive driving!” I’ve even been known to run a car or two off the road for not letting me merge into the flow of traffic when I had the right-of-way. I’ve always driven smaller cars and larger cars/trucks tend to think they can “bully” you out of the way. Haha! Enjoy that ditch, jerk-face!

Well we quickly realized that we drive like old women compared to New Yorker’s standards. These people were on their horn the moment the light turned green, they cut you off at every turn, they used parking and fire lanes to pass you, they would pull u-turns without blinking an eye, they ran lights and then just stopped in the middle of intersections blocking all 4 directions of traffic. That’s not even throwing in the fact that the pedestrians just walked right out in front of your car no matter how fast you were going through a green light (with the “no-walky hand” for them!) or even just to jay-walk in the middle of the street. It was seriously like playing Grand Theft Auto… if all of the other cars and pedestrians were controlled by 2 year olds…

So that was our whirlwind 24 hours in the Big Apple! Don’t get me wrong, I am SO glad I got to experience it! I am blessed that I even had the opportunity! Most of all, I am blessed that I had an amazing human-being like Travis with me to tell me to stop freaking out in the most loving way possible, when all I wanted to do was get out of the car and curl into the fetal position in the middle of the street with my hands over my ears! Or beat the shit out of people honking their horn.

Would I travel to NYC again? Maybe. It would depend on the circumstances. Travis may go back again next year on business, and I think if I had a little more time to get in and chill out before venturing out, it might be better. I think the next time would be a lot easier now that we know what to do/not to do. I think it’s a place everyone should check out at least once in their life!

Stay tuned for next week’s post – Honeymoon Part 2: Life aboard the Norwegian Breakaway!