I have never claimed to be a travel expert – in fact, more often than not I’ve made it very clear that despite all my advice, I’m one who makes consistent rookie mistakes.
Well, we are back on the road exploring my old haunts but this time flanked by my baby sister (yes, baby at 22) and grandma. My grandma was really on top of everything; she fleshed out the sleeping arrangements, organized with the family we’re staying with, bought the snacks and waters, and made sure the car we were driving was completely checked out before we set out early yesterday morning (an important step in road-tripping I always forget to mention!).
So, with all of that taken care of, and what could possibly have gone wrong to warrant my non-expert warning in the opening of this post?
Sometimes real life messes with you and that is all there is to it. We started our trip on Boxing Day (December 26) after spending the week leading up to Christmas running around on errand after errand and from family to family. School only let out on the Wednesday leading up to Christmas and running around trying to perp for that distracted me from one of my big trip steps: Christmas evening became laundry time.
To clarify, I had three loads and a washing machine that is pretty good at it’s job (normally). However, when I went to move load two from washer to dryer, the clothes were still dry – something went very wrong. I restarted the cycle but suddenly three loads, which to wash and dry would normally take me 4 hours, weren’t finished for seven and a half hours. With packing, I finally climbed into bed at 2 am (with a wake up time of 6.30).
Still, tired and cold, I got up in good spirits and headed out.
Usually, when I make the trip from my house to Sonoma, I drive straight through and get up here in about six and a half hours. But remember when I talked about knowing who you are traveling with as much as the when? Yes, six and a half hours was a pipe dream.
We were 2 hours into the drive when grandma asked if we were ready for breakfast (seeming to imply that she was). When we settled on a restaurant with a reasonable wait time, I never imagined us eating and talking for an hour and a half (we did) so by the time we got back on the road, holiday traffic had caught up to us.
When I’ve road tripped in the past, one way I always saved time by timing a quick bite to coincide with stopping for gas; now, however, we were definitely not timing anything.
Which leads to one event no one could predict – an accident 20 miles up that took 2 hours to get through. Add in one more bathroom stop wth a gas-up and driving through the unlit woods above Sonoma in the dark, and out 7 hour drive was an all day event; totaling closer to 10 hours and some change.
Still, we made it and are ready and able to go. So, until next time:
By the lovely guest writer, Libby. You should remember our contributing writer Libby who covers our Runcation series. Whether you are reading her for the first time or here for another adventure, we love hearing about how we can use our time off for double-duty travel and fitness. So here we go:
Thanks to runcations (running + vacations), I’ve been able to travel to New York three times in the last two years. I ran the New York City half marathon in March of both 2015 and 2016, and I ran the New York City Marathon in 2015.
There are so many parts of being a runner that I absolutely love, but one of my favorites is the excuse it has given me to travel. Prior to being a runner, I had always wanted to visit New York City but never had the courage to spend the money and time to fly there. However, once two close friends of mine moved there and I started running, I knew I finally found enough of an incentive to go over there.
While in New York I’ve done a lot of the tourist-y stuff: Central Park, seeing two shows on Broadway (Mama Mia & The Lion King); Times Square; Rockefeller Center; Top of the Rock; Statue of Liberty; Grand Central Station; The MET; and the 9-11 Memorial.
But my favorite thing I’ve done in New York is run the marathon.
Running the NYC Marathon has been the single greatest experience of my life thus far. I was able to gain entry into the race by running with the charity group, Fred’s Team, which raises money to help create a world without cancer. I raised $6000 for ovarian cancer research and care – to honor my friend Christy who passed away from that – and this is the main reason why this race will always hold a special place in my heart.
Now let me tell you all about the race. It starts on Staten Island, and, even though it’s early in the morning and it’s cold, there’s this energy and excitement you can feel in the air as you sit around waiting for the race to start. You get into your starting corral and you walk towards the start line. The energy is now palatable. You finally get to the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and, before you know it, the National Anthem is sung. Then a large BOOM goes off and it’s time to run.
The first two miles are spent on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It is so crammed with runners that you aren’t really able to run at any kind of speed. I didn’t mind this because it ensured that I didn’t start too quickly and burn out, and it allowed me to check out the views. The NYC marathon is the only day of the year people are allowed to run on this bridge, so I wanted to make sure to take in everything while I had the chance. To the left, I could see the Manhattan skyline and I remember thinking “I’ll see you in a few hours.” My view to the right was mostly blocked by runners, but I was able to catch glimpses of Coney Island.
Miles 2.5 to 13 are spent in Brooklyn.
The second you begin to exit the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge you can start to hear the cheering of the spectators lining the streets. It is from this point in the race that you have the energy of the crowd to help carry you through. Around mile three, I veered off to the left side of the street so I could high five as many spectators as possible. Not only were members of the crowd yearning for a high five, they also were cheering my name (which was written on the front of my shirt). It honestly made me feel a celebrity. I then started to play the song “New York” in my head by Alicia Keys. The lyrics from the refrain kept playing on a loop in my mind:
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new, Big lights will inspire you, Hear it from New York, New York, New York!”
~New York, Alicia Keys
I continued to think about this song as I raced along (perhaps I thought of it because Alicia Keys was running the marathon that day so I was keeping an eye out for her).
At mile 13, I hit the Pulaski Bridge, which connect Brooklyn and Queens. At this point in the race, I pulled my phone out to take a Snapchat video of me singing “Living on a Prayer.”
“OOOOOHHHHHH WE’RE HALF WAY THERE….OOOHHHHWOOAAHH LIVING ON A PRAYYERR.”
What I didn’t notice was the photographer standing on the bridge. I had told myself prior to the race to try to pose for every photographer but I missed this one.
It was also at this point that I checked my text messages and saw that my brother told me that he was waiting for me around mile 17 of the race. I had to hold back tears when I read that. My brother is my best friend on the entire planet and he’s in the military, so I don’t get to see him very often. So to see that he went out of his way to attend the biggest race of my life made me emotional. Still, I took a deep breath and kept moving along.
Only a couple of miles are spent in Queens and I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about it. The only things I remember are seeing a guy holding a “Free Kisses” sign and the dread that filled me as I approached the Queensboro Bridge.
There is a pretty big climb I had to face, and, at this point in the race, I’m already 16 miles in so some fatigue is starting to creep in. In addition, you run through the bottom level of the bridge, which feels very dark, crammed, and quiet (since there are no spectators). All I could think is: “Hurry up and get out of this dark and hilly bridge so you can make it to Manhattan.” I finally made it to the other side of the bridge and the volume grew from a faint roar to an explosion of noise and cheering.
The source of all the noise is Manhattan.
I felt overwhelmed coming off of the bridge into this massive agglomerate of cheering. I had to keep checking the pace on my watch to make sure that the adrenaline forming from this wasn’t making me run too fast on the downhill portion. After a turn or two, I found myself in the Upper East Side, which felt like a parade or a massive block party. I don’t think I can fully express in words how electric the cheering was. It definitely helped carry me through the race as I was slowing down.
Miles 16 through 19 are spent running down First Avenue and I don’t think I’ve ever given so many high fives in my entire life. I especially gave a whole row of high fives to the Fred’s Team cheering section at mile 17. Shortly after passing the cheering section, I spotted my brother and his fiancé who were waiting for me. As soon as I saw my brother I broke down into tears and hugged him for what felt like forever (I just remember saying over and over again: “You came! You came!”). I couldn’t believe that my brother joined 2 million other spectators just to watch me pass him. After that emotional moment, I took a deep breath and continued on my journey where the next stop was The Bronx.
I’ll be honest with you here: After the electric block party in Manhattan, the Bronx was a bit anticlimactic. I found myself thinking: “I can’t wait to get back to Manhattan,” so I spent the next two miles or so pushing myself through. Don’t get me wrong, there was still great crowd support there but there was just a whole different vibe. After many zig-zags and turns, I found myself back on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan – the final borough of the race.
There were some nice sights along mile 22, including the Harlem Meer, El Museo del Barrio and the Museum of the City of New York and, by mile 23, I thought to myself: “Only a 5k remains between me and the finish line.” Despite the short distance, I did walk a bit during these miles – there were quite a few hills on that stretch. Nothing too steep, but, when you have already run 20+ miles, they seem like a mountain climb. Before I knew it, I found myself at the MET and then in Central Park.
Once I entered Central Park, I knew I had hit the final stretch of the race. There were only 2.2 miles to go, but instead of trying to go fast, I took it pretty easy so I could take in the scenery of Central Park in the Fall. You run along the east side of the park, before turning right at the bottom of the park and you find yourself passing through Columbus Circle. At this point in the race, the crowd’s cheering is practically deafening (in a good way). They know you only have about a mile left, so they cheer with everything they got.
Before I knew it, I was running back in Central Park and I spotted the finish line off in the distance. I will never forget what it felt like to see the finish line. I immediately began to tear up, so I then had to spend the last 0.2 miles trying to hold back tears. Then, I finally crossed the finish line and I burst out into tears.
I had just finished one of the biggest races in the world to honor my best friend that had passed away from cancer. As you may recall, it was her death that pushed me into running, so finishing the race made my whole running journey feel like it had come full circle. I had never felt so proud of myself in my entire life.
I hope you all felt like you were running the race with me as you read this. And I hope this inspires you to enter the NYC Marathon Lottery coming up in January. Trust me, there is NO better way to experience New York.
This is Libby writing for Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.
Running through Brooklyn (I’m on the bottom in orange with my arms raised out)
Singing “Living on a Prayer” at the mile 13 marker
Finishing the Race
Holding back tears on the final stretch of the race
Running down First Avenue
Selfie on the Queensboro Bridge
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember where this picture was taken
As in Australia, actual tips from my friend Landon.
This week, I’ve been thinking about Australia and I realized that my trip out was nearly half a lifetime ago. While I still remember plenty from this trip, I figure that my friend, Landon (who may or may not be reading this), who grew up and is currently visiting this city – hence Sydney on the brain – could probably give a more expert list of ‘must see’s.
Now, I won’t lie: I made this a bit harder for him than usual. You see, unlike my other guests, I didn’t tell him what this list was for; so unlike the times where my mom, Libby, or Bex helped me, Landon had no frame of reference to go by. All I asked for was a list of places or things to do and/or see that someone shouldn’t miss when visiting the Sydney area.
Looking at the list below, I’m rather glad he didn’t have said frame of reference – this gives me more room to play and explore between what I remember and his offerings. Plus, I’m a nerd who likes research.
With that out of the way, let get to our list:
1. Sydney city- there’s so much to do and see: The Rocks, Darling Harbor, and the bridge.
I remember being in Sydney – we hit the Opera House for a special tour and did some wandering, but, other than wanting more time because it was the end of our 21 days, it’s all pretty hazy. I would never be able to tell you what districts we were in or where we were saying, but I do remembering thinking it was beautiful (and having my group of friends obsessed with the relationship between our chaperone and the coach driver – oh, the scandal for 13 and 14 year olds! We did a whole group shopping trip – that could have been filmed for a movie montage – to get ready for our farewell party with her and everything. Yep.).
Since I’m less than helpful here, let’s go with the options Landon gave us:
The Rocks is a one of Sydney’s localities near city center which holds a mix of historic and tourist attractions. This area lays claim to all kind of entertainment from shops to pubs to markets to history walks, and, looking through the official website, there is always something going on – I mean, look at the New Year’s Eve shot! Whether you pick a specific event from the site or swing by on the fly, this is definitely an active spot you can spend hours roaming through.
Of course, this locality is also a hop, skip, and a jump – about a thirty minute walk according to online maps – to Darling Harbor (another suggested stop). Every picture has me ready to pack my bags, even if I am broke! With more events, picturesque views, and a heavily advertised nightlife, this is simply one more fabulous reason Sydney should be on all of our bucket lists.
This was an experience we were not given as student ambassadors, but one I want to do desperately. As Landon cautioned, think twice if you are afraid of heights – I love to push you all to stretch your boundaries, but if you have a height issue and you are mid-climb, you can’t turn back. The only way off is up!
Seriously, look through the tour website if you have questions or concerns; it has instructor bios, pictures, video, pricing, and pretty much whatever else you may need when planning this adventure. However, this can also torture you if you want to go really badly and can’t yet: you have been warned!
3. Eat a meat pie – it’s delicious
So, I had to check back with the boy on this one, because how is a meat pie different in Sydney? Or was he just offering meat pies as an amazing choice generally?
Apparently, Landon recommends Garlo’s Pies, whose tagline reads: We’re thin on pastry, We’re BIG on meat. Looking at the images, they are not lying. These are meaty pies (Landon really emphasized the beef and steak) with gravy and must be fantastic if they’ve made a locals ‘must do’ list. They seem to be trying to reach a ton of markets (meaning official venues and world-wide locals) at once, so keep a sharp eye out and a pie may be closer than you think.
4. Do the Clovelly Beach walk on a warm afternoon, or, if it’s raining, watch the storms off the coast.
The Clovelly Beach is a small but pristine beach that you could easily spend the day at – again, the pictures online are unbelievable. It has clear water for snorkeling and, by all accounts, is protected and safe so perfect for a family outing.
When you google this walk, you’ll get tons of sites that talk about all the connected beaches and bays you can take a long, lovely walk along. Because Sydney has such a huge beach and bay scene (which means you are also always close to food) you can easily stay out near the water all day long. As a southern California beach lover, I am all over this! However, since it’s a bit of a drive to the beach where I am, I’ve never watched a storm on the beach – I’m not driving the forty-five minutes (at least) in LA traffic for this, but out in Sydney: bring it on.
Again, researching this, it seems like there is no end to entertainment in Australia – seaside street sculptures! – so be prepared for a full day (or longer) walking and/or relaxing. If you are in the former category, think about your shoes – I can’t handle saddles on long walks, but socks and sand are a bad combination, so take all your personal feelings into account before setting out.
5. See the animals- there is nothing in the world like what we have.
We had full lectures on this fact before setting off in 2004. While we covered many of the venomous variety (I mean super aggressive spiders that will chase you down if you stumble into their territory – BAD!), I don’t think this is what Landon is talking about.
There are tons of ways you can see wildlife in Sydney – again, as a quick google search will show you. Whether you go to the zoo (whose standards are legendary – LA only recently got animals back because Australia is very selective), go snorkeling, hit a museum or wildlife sanctuary; basically, you can’t get too far without something animal related crossing your path.
Looking at some of the zoo offerings makes me super jealous as well. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know I’ve loved watching the improvements being made at the LA zoo, but this is nothing compared to what I’ve seen on the Sydney webpages – rope courses!?
The best thing about Sydney is that everything we covered is just scratching the surface. This city is amazing with so much to offer visitors and locals, single travelers and families, and people of all interests and backgrounds. Not to mention, as the winter weather has arrived here in Southern California, it’s fully summer in Australia. Does it get better than that? I doubt it.
This is Leave on the Wind (with a little help from Landon), helping you soar.
As I have sated a fair amount recently, I’m traveling very rarely right now (though there are a few plans in the works); instead, I’ve been getting organized.
My dad found and share the app Travel Story (the icon has a red location bubble over a pair of footprints) with me and I am loving it.
This app is free and really simple to use. There are multiple ways of looking through your log and tons of space for notes all about your travels and dates.
To start out (after creating your login), search whatever city you want to mark out and a pin will appear. Tap the pin and you can add pictures and notes. Hit the list icon along the bottom bar and you can change the date (I like to make it the arrival date for that city) by tapping on the calendar icon – if you just tap the bar, you will end up in your note section for the city.
Right now – again, not traveling! – I’m just working on my backlog from 1992 to 2016 and that’s a lot of travel. I’ve been around the world a few times with multiple visits to quite a few of those cities, and around the US more than that. Working on a backlog spanning across 24 years is quite an ordeal, but there are plenty of reasons to do this.
Before I moved to London back in September of 2014, I had to do a lot of digging for a decade’s worth of international travel – locations and dates of said travel. A decade ago, I wasn’t on Facebook or any other social media – did they even exist back then? – so it was a lot of digging through old pictures and journals. Having this app with a data log at my fingertips will be so much easier if I need to get away (which plenty of us have reason to do currently!).
I’m also hoping that getting my travels in order in this app (and in my brain!) will help me recall stories and give me more to talk to all of you about here (I feel like I’ve barely hit on Australia or Japan and those were so long ago!).
If you are not backlogging but using the app while out traveling, you can take pictures as you go with notes to go along with it. Everything will still fresh and your dates will already line up without all the extra work.
Mostly, I’ve been loving this app because, looking at my list, it feels like I am looking at the story of my life. Travel teaches you so much about the world and about yourself so seeing where you were when you did something (I got rid of my bottle and crib in London, October of 1992!) can show you a lot about yourself.
Finally, I like that this is private. Unlike posting on Instagram or Facebook, these notes are all for you (at least, I’ve yet to see where you can link your profile with anyone else), so you don’t have to worry about showing the best highs and lows or what you think will interest people the most. Instead, you can write down the most mundane or personal parts of your trip without feeling like you have anything to prove or anyone to entertain.