TWIN

California Adventures, Part 1: Bruises & pearls, scenic drives, charity & all the squealing.

The day after I ran the Warrior Dash, I flew to California.

California is a land far, far away from Virginialand, and, when the opportunity to go, courtesy of my involvement in the Toyota Women’s Influencer Network, came up, I hesitated. I was flying to Atlanta, then driving to Alabama, on Friday, and there I was thinking about boarding a plane to head west on Sunday and returning late Wednesday night, leaving me just one day at home. Andrew told me to do it, because really, when someone offers to fly you to California, gives you a car and a road trip buddy with which to explore the Pacific Coast Highway, a chance to donate to a local food bank, a fabulous night at a winery and a foray into glamping, you go. You say YES, and not just because you said you’d said yes to more things, but because really, saying no to fabulous things is a sign of poor judgement and stupidity. So I said yes, added my name to the lists and commenced a forehead-scrunched stressfest about THE OCTOBER WITH ALL THE THINGS.

First things first. I flew to California on Sunday, the day after Warrior Dash, slightly bruised and a little exhausted, mildly terrified and mostly excited. Having missed a handful of other full group events, I was anxious to meet the other women in the group, and I got my chance at the airport and on the shuttle as we headed to the Loews Santa Monica Hotel. The bits of anxiety I was feeling faded away pretty quickly, check in was stupid easy, my room was amazing, with a view of the ocean, and I was even able to get in a quick call with Andrew before getting myself pretty for dinner.

Heels, pearls & knees bruised from Warrior Dash.

I felt more than a little ridiculous putting on a dress and heels with my bruised Warrior Dash knees and the handful of random cuts on my arms from various mud puddle wiggling and obstacle climbing, but really, that’s the girl I am. I’m the girl who can run through three miles of mud one day and fancy myself up the next, pearls and all.

Dinner the first night in California was at the Penthouse, nestled on top of the Huntley Hotel. It was amazing, complete with panoramic ocean and city views that took my breath away. I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean only sparingly in my life, and couldn’t stop squealing at the fact that I was sitting at a table full of bloggers, looking out across the ocean, dining on stupid delicious food stuffs and sipping on stupid amazing wines.

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Monday’s first task was breakfast and then we got to partner up and select a car from the literal fleet of vehicles Toyota had arranged for us. Kate and I snagged a Toyota Corolla and we were off.

Kate drove so I could gawk at the amazing scenery and she was a perfect road trip buddy, indulging me each time I wanted to stop and marvel at the views as we headed north to Santa Barbara.

And really, it was amazing. I’ve wanted to drive up the PCH for as long as I’ve known there was a PCH and it didn’t disappoint. The Pacific Coast is so different from the beaches of Virginia or North Carolina that I’ve grown up visiting and I probably spent 70% of the drive gasping at the view, remarking on the waves and the blue of the ocean and the HOLY SHIT THIS IS HAPPENING factor. It was a humbling experience, to be there doing such amazing and fabulous things and it seems ridiculous, when I think about it, that I was able to go on such an amazing trip courtesy of Toyota and the Clever Girls and I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for a chance to see and do all the things I did on this amazing and whirlwind adventure.

Our first stop in Santa Barbara was at a Target, to gather food stuffs for the local food bank, which we were able to hand deliver. Toyota furnished us with $25 gift cards to gather diapers and food items from a list of much needed items supplied by the food bank, and Target generously agreed to give us another $10 on top of that, meaning we were able to donate nearly $1,000 worth of goods to the food bank.

24 or so hours in, and we’d already done so much, and yet the adventure was only just beginning. There was still so much to do and see and I, still solidly on East Coast time, was determined to take advantage of every single minute. There was a fabulous winery dinner, running next to the ocean, llamas and a very handsome miniature donkey, all of which I promise to tell you more about next week.

Also, PS, thanks for all the tweets and emails and Facebook messages from my last post. I’m okay, I guess, still weepy and angry, but it’s better knowing I’ve got people rooting for me.

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.

That time they gave me a Prius.

Remember that one time Toyota and Clever Girls gave me a Camry for the weekend? Last week they gave me a Prius.

I named her Eleanor, picked her up on Wednesday and dropped her off on Friday and drove all around the city with her. I yelled at the voice activation thing and asked the power button how it liked being a button and I talked to the park button too about how it’s a button  as well. I mumbled at the navigation system and told my iPhone that having directions told to me by a car rocks far harder than having to look down at whatever madness google maps suggests I do on the iPhone.

I pondered my feelings (out loud, of course) on all the windows and tried to get used to being so low to the ground. When you only ever drive an SUV, even a little SUV like my RAV4, it’s really difficult to not get a little freaked out when giant trucks rumble past.

I told the Prius that I liked it, that it’s a cute little car, but that my heart will always lie with something bigger and more substantial. I’d love a little car for city driving, but on the interstate, I need something with a little more substance. And it’s not that I didn’t feel safe in the Prius, it’s just that it’s really little and I felt like maybe a giant gust of wind could blow me off the interstate or that maybe a giant eagle would mistake my little white Prius for a little baby mouse and I’d be carted off to some crazy, mutant eagle lair.

I was at work all week and had some coworkers take me to get the Prius and to drop it off and they were shocked and awed that I was getting a Prius – for free – to drive around for a few days. I tried to explain the why of it, that I’m in a program called the Toyota Women’s Influencer Network and how it’s Toyota’s way of reaching out to lady bloggers and getting their voices heard on things like driving and car shopping because women are awesome and amazing and brilliant and we have more buying power than ever, but I’m not sure I really made any sense. I didn’t used to be out as a blogger at work but made the decision a few months ago to honey badger it up and let my blogger freak flag fly and I’ve been overwhelmed with how positive the response has been. It’s nice to not have to hide this part of my life, especially when it’s become such a huge part. So many of my best friends are people I’ve met through blogging and so many of the adventures I send myself are to visit bloggers or for blogging related adventures like Bloggers in Sin City or Wanderlust.

Basically, I’m just really thankful. I’m thankful of all that blogging has given me, from the closest of friends to a Prius named Eleanor to drive around for a few days.

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the Toyota Women’s Influencer Network (TWIN) community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.

The Wanderlust Experience: Handstands at 9,000 ft., heart swells, & that time I danced until 2am.

I’ve lived my whole life in and around the Blue Ridge mountains, but the soft rolls of America’s oldest mountain range did nothing to prepare me for the enormity of the Rockies.

I arrived in Colorado the evening of the 4th, almost immediately boarded a shuttle and then, for an hour and half, headed up. And up and up and up and up. My ears popped along the way, and I found myself in absolute awe of the landscape that rose around us. It was breathtaking. Just like the movies, only more beautiful.

I made friends with a woman who shared my shuttle on the way up to Copper Mountain, home to Wanderlust Colorado and us for the next few days (read of her Wanderlust experience here). Having officially met another Wanderluster, I immediately felt better and her infectious energy and friendly spirit made me far less apprehensive about this whole going to Colorado to a yoga and music festival all by my lonesome with three other bloggers I’d never, ever met before.

Going in, this seemed like a big thing. Traveling alone to a festival filled with people I’d never met, going at a time when I couldn’t even call or text Andrew for moral support and going into an environment I wasn’t sure I’d fit into seemed like a big deal, like the sort of solo adventure I’d been aching for. It was a lot and I approached it with a promise to push myself beyond my comfort zone, to talk to people, to try new things, to experience all that I could in the few days I had in Colorado.

THURSDAY || DAY 1.

(this photo courtesy Chelsey @ The Paper Mama)

 

I learned the basics of slackline yoga, hiked further into and up the mountains, and took an intro to vinyasa yoga class.  I met Chelsey Wednesday night after getting to Copper and I met the other two Toyota affiliated bloggers, Suebob and Kate, right before my hike on Thursday. I made friends on mountain trails and marveled at the mountain wildflowers and the little blue butterflies that swarmed around us as we hiked. I got winded too easily from the altitude, which was nearly 9,000 at base camp, and felt more okay than I’ve felt in a really long time. There’s just something magical about that first day of a long weekend away, like you’ve got all the time in the world stretched out in front of you, just waiting for you to explore and discover all the things hidden in the world around you.

FRIDAY || DAY 2

A talk on festivals, from Woodstock to Wanderlust, and the roles of music and yoga at both, started my day. I skipped my midday hike to lunch with Kate instead, mostly because of some big, dark and scary thunderclouds that came into view and because the thought of hiking up a mountain in the rain just didn’t seem like a fun way to spend part of my afternoon. We drank beers, ate delicious truffle chips and watched the rain roll in. I took a class on handstands and while I didn’t master doing a handstand unassisted at 9,000 feet, I had a whole hell of a lot of fun learning how to do them, even if they were assisted.

The other bloggers and I visited the Toyota Retreat, a big tent set up by Toyota with a tea room, a hair braiding station, a trail mix station, a craft station and a whole mess of other things. I was curious to see what sort of thing Toyota would set up at an event like Wanderlust and was pleasantly surprised by how well they pulled of their area. It was a much visited spot and it was clear that the organizers put some solid thought into creating a unique Toyota-related space that would make sense to and appeal to the attendees of Wanderlust.

Our Toyota connections scored us a tour with one of the Wanderlust founders, Jeff Krasno, and we all had the chance to candidly ask him some questions about how Wanderlust came about, the goal of creating an event like Wanderlust, and the direction the event is headed in.

That night we escaped Copper Mountain and took the free shuttle into Frisco for Suebob‘s birthday dinner at a place called Vinny’s. I didn’t take a single picture of any of the food, mostly because I was in too much of a hurry to stuff it in my face. The menu is seasonal, mostly locally sourced and organic and the food is stupid good.

DAY 3 || SATURDAY

Saturday was my last full day in Colorado and my last day at Wanderlust. I started the day with a CorePower Yoga class, listened to Aron Ralston tell his story, the one that was nominated for a few Oscars when it appeared in the film 127 Hours. I skipped my hike, again, because of rain, and lunched with the girls instead and then we went up the ski lift to the top of the mountain, took a photo at 12,000 feet and came right back down to avoid the rain that was rolling in.

There was wine tasting and a farm to table dinner and watching dogs run and play outside my windows. There were a few hot cups of tea, some new friends and a lot of shuttle bus trips back and forth.

Finally, it was time for Ziggy Marley. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t dance, but I danced through the Ziggy show and then I danced through most of the Gramatik show too, with Chelsey, and then, suddenly it was past 2 am. We found our way back to the condo and I collapsed in bed, exhausted.

Sunday I came home, hungover and dizzy from a wonderful weekend, and that was it. I’m forever grateful to Toyota and the Clever Girls for this opportunity because I’m pretty sure it was life changing in ways I haven’t quite figured out just yet.

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.

Colorado Wanderlust, my first solo travel, & a chance to cuddle my crunchy side.

Right before Andrew left, the Clever Girls who run the Toyota Women’s Influencer Network posted about an opportunity for a few of us TWIN ladies to go to Wanderlust. Wanderlust, in case you’re unfamiliar, as I was, is this:

Wanderlust is a one-of-a-kind festival bringing together the world’s leading yoga teachers, top musical acts and DJs, renowned speakers, top chefs and winemakers, and much, much more — all in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty.

There were spots available for both the Colorado Wanderlust, happening this weekend, or the California Wanderlust, taking place later this July. The opportunity was a limited one, with only a few slots for us at each event and so we were instructed to fill out a form with our preferred Wanderlust if we were interested in attending and then we mostly had to just keep our fingers crossed that we’d get picked to go.

I did the math. It’d be three weeks after Andrew left home.

I thought about it. I like yoga. I’ve done yoga before and enjoy it, but the thought of going to a four day yoga fest seemed a little terrifying at first.

I bit my nails.

I asked Andrew what he thought.

I asked the Swedes what they thought.

And then I realized something: Life gives you opportunities. The rest is up to you. You can either take it by the throat and run with it, or not. It’s that simple. You can say yes, or no. You can go out, or stay in. You can take a chance, or play it safe. That’s it. It’s all you. Once the Universe does its part, the ball’s in your court.

So here was this big and beautiful opportunity to visit the Colorado mountains, a state I’ve never eaten mac & cheese in or even visited, and there I was biting my nails over whether or not to put my name into the pot for consideration. Someone wanted to fly me to Colorado, let me run around in the woods and practice yoga at 9,000 feet, and there I was, smushed in the back seat of the Swede’s rental car (a Toyota Camry, incidentally) pondering whether it was something I really wanted to do.

And then I said to myself, “I’M SORRY, WHAT? YOU’RE NOT SURE YOU WANT TO GO TO ON AN AMAZING ADVENTURE IN COLORADO, GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR CRUNCHY SIDE, WANDER THROUGH MOUNTAIN FORESTS AND GET YOUR YOGA ON FOR FREE? IT’S TIME TO HONEY BADGER UP AND GET ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF, BITCH.”

I filled out the form to be considered on the way to the zoo.

The night before Andrew left, right after the dogs harassed an adolescent possum and I spent an inordinate amount of time freaking out because I thought they’d killed or mortally wounded the poor thing, I got the email saying I’d been selected. It was an instant mood booster and I pranced and paraded around the kitchen singing about how I was going to Colorado.

I fly out today and I’m a mixed bag of feelings.I’m excited because HOLY HELL does Wanderlust sound like an incredible and amazing event that fits beautifully in line with my crunchy hippie ways, but I’m still terrified because this seems like sort of a big deal, this sort of solo adventure into the land of super yogis. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated at the thought of rolling out my yoga mat next to people who not only practice yoga each and every day, but who also live it as a way of life. I’m a casual yoga sort of girl, returning to it when I need to get back in touch with myself or after I’ve shredded my muscles with Body Pump or some sort of Jillian-induced torture.

In my heart of hearts, there’s this anxious, nervous little bubble of crazy joy. I’ve never gone on any sort of solo trip where I didn’t know anyone. Hell, I’ve never gone on a solo trip where I wasn’t visiting someone and yet, here I go. Here I go, to Colorado, to practice yoga at 9,000 feet, to nosh on local foods and sip local wines. Here I go.

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.

The New Commute.

The hardest part about Andrew being gone is getting used to all my new routines. My mornings and nights are shadows of what they were before. At work, it’s the same thing. Andrew was the primary producer of print media in our office, while I usually focused on video content. But then he left and another coworker tore his Achilles tendon, rendering him absolutely useless in the going out to cover stuff arena, and suddenly our little staff of four was down to two and I got thrown into the wonderful world of print journalism, an arena I haven’t visited since I had my own column in my high school’s paper called “Artificial Candy Coating.”

Last week I spent four days out of six driving to training sites around the state, taking pictures and gathering the information needed to write a few stories. It was a lot of car time, a lot of car time I’m not really used to spending by myself.

Andrew and I used to operate as a team, going out to cover training and events together, with one of us focused on capturing print content, and the other focused on video. He’d do the driving, I’d do the napping, and, after last week, it seems my natural inclination upon getting into the van, our work vehicle, is to go to sleep. This works fine and well when I’ve got someone to drive me around, but when I’m doing the driving it’s conclusively ineffective.

The weird thing is I’m only like this in the van. In my own car, I’m fine. I can drive for days without caffeine or an insatiable napping desire. In fact, a few Saturdays ago I drove back and forth from Lynchburg, Va., about two hours away, and felt alert and awake the entire trip, there and back. A few days later I get in the van to drive the two hours to Virginia Beach and I’ve got to stop to get a giant cup of tea before even getting on the interstate. It’s Pavlovian, I suppose, as if there’s some weird trigger in my brain that pulls the sleepy time lever when I get in the van.

The more basic part of my daily driving experience that has been altered by Andrew’s absence is my drive to work. It’s nice, in some ways, only having to worry about getting myself out the door and only ever having to wait on myself to hurry up and brush my teeth, but it’s oddly quiet. Our morning car rides to work used to be spent talking about upcoming work events, weekend plans, dog and cat shenanigans and now it’s spent in silence. Sure, I could turn the radio on, but there’s something nice about the quiet.

So much solo driving has also meant a lot of time spent inside my own head, processing everything that’s going on. Driving has always been the time when I do the best of my thinking and that hasn’t seemed to change. There’s something therapeutic about an open road.

4 Musts for Maximum Enjoyment of Solo Road Tripping

1. Wind. I don’t know what it is, but I find I enjoy road trips far better when I’m able to have the windows down, wind blowing my hair up and around and out the windows.

2. Road Music. What I define as road music depends on my mood – sometimes I want something folksy to guide me down country roads, but other times I need something loud and fast and easy to sing along to.

3. Hydration. I’m always thirsty and can’t hit the road without a few giant water bottles.

4. Snacks. I’m a grazer by nature, generally opting to graze around my kitchen than partake in the eating of actual meals and road tripping is suited quite well to a grazer lifestyle.

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.