Monday, June 30, 2014

My Paradise

OBX at Dusk
Vacation started Friday evening, but not before the work frenzy.  The week leading up to vacation is typically packed with meetings and last minute requests.  The dread of leaving work for a week slowly seeps into my blood stream as the days progress.  By Thursday or so, I'm emotionally sweating as thoughts of bombed projects and missed deadlines swim between my ears.  I weathered the storm as best as possible; Friday, 4:45 pm I jumped ship and swam for shore.

Ah.  Vacation.

We piled the excited, snoozy girls into the car at 3 am on Saturday, filled up with gas and buzzed through Dunkin' for hot beverages.  As the sun started to peek over the landscape, the girls woke to the excitement of a trip to the beach.  "How much longer?"  Really?  I was better prepared this year for the 7-ish hour road trip with magnets, crayons, road bingo and nirvana's kid playlist.  We sailed south navigating minimal traffic and the highway patrol.

I packed enough snacks to keep the crew satisfied.  The usually forbidden Lucky Charms push the girls to a whole new level of excitement; I thought for a moment that the sight of another 'tasty red balloon' would result in a spontaneous collapse.  My dietary constraints challenge me to be creative when traveling; I held on to hope for a delicious breakfast at Digger's Diner in North Carolina, just 30 or so miles outside OBX.  Thankfully, we were able to make the pit stop.

We entered the small diner only to be directed to the picnic tables under a pavilion.  We were thankful to be seated outside...the warm Carolina breeze breathed new life into our road trip tired bones.  While waiting for breakfast, Ava and I took a few silly pictures to pass the time.
Passing Time w/ My Little Love
We ate and stalled for about an hour, which didn't help our travel situation.  We sat in ridiculous traffic once we hit the Wright Memorial Bridge.  Instead of cruising across the Albemarle with the windows down, Sweet Dee coasted at 2 miles an hour every 30 seconds before being forced to a complete stop.  The remainder of the drive took well over an hour, but I didn't really care.  Too early for check-in, we still stopped by the realtor only to find out the house was ready!

The rest of the afternoon consisted of a rapid car unloading, a grocery store trip for the 'necessities', pool time, pulled pork tacos and a stroll on the beach.  Not a bad agenda in light of the heavy traveling.

Good times this week.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Too Much Action

Time flies.
I'm finding it more difficult to recall the past few weeks - lots has been going on in both the work and personal arena.  Last week Ava finished up Kindergarten with a giant smile on her face.

Last Day of Kindergarten Excitement
We celebrated quietly as a family and rounded out the weekend with a Father's Day BBQ and happy birthday wishes for my Mom.

Work wiggled it's way into my personal life with a trip to Wisconsin for a conference held at the Mothership.  Thankfully, I traveled with a great group.

Our flight left Newark mid afternoon on Monday necessitating a van ride to Jersey.  Within a little more than an hour, we arrived to check in and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Our carrier, United, stunk at the frequency and accuracy of updating their passengers on the delays and ever changing departure time.  Based on our delayed status, we grabbed a table at the Sandwich of Earl (oddly, I find this name for the restaurant absolutely giggle-worthy) for a few pre-flight libations.  The table was situated just about catty-corner from our gate (this is a noteworthy detail).  Two strong beverages later, our appointed leader (who will be referred to as Clark for the remainder of this post) faintly heard our last names being announced overhead.  The plane had already boarded and this was our last call before the door would close.  The realization of the situation scared us out of our seats.  Clark paid the bill while we ran to the gate.  Well...maybe the gate wasn't that far away.  We stumbled up the aisle in an attempt to locate our seats for what would be a successful take off to/land in Wisconsin.

The departure delays resulted in a later dinner with a focus on local food fare.  We mounted up in Clark's rented Yukon for a five minute drive to an alluring dive called Club Tavern.  I'd like to clarify something - although the name Club Tavern may seem to suggest an elite dining experience, it's quite the contrary.  Club Tavern is a shit hole with worn paper pamphlet menus, sticky table tops, 'pants-free' karaoke and a full sized beach volleyball court off the back of the building.  This place was worth approximately six hoots on a scale of 0 - 10.  Our draw to Club Tavern was not the karaoke, rather, the highly acclaimed Moose Balls listed on their appetizer menu (not to be confused with Sheep Balls).  The Moose Balls were, well, Amaze Balls.  I'll try my hand at recreating these on vacation in OBX (1 WEEK!!!!).

OBX Excitement

We met up with Charlie and Bosley, new comers to the traveling party, in the lobby for a round of chit-chat before retiring to our respective rooms.

The next morning I got up in time to go to the pool.  Thankfully, no one else was camping out in the whirlpool.  I took up the entire space for thirty minutes of stretching.  I sat back to extend my legs along the bench when the strangest tunes pumped through the sound system.  I giggled when hearing Styx's Lady and immediately became uncomfortable when Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing kicked in.  I refrained from waiting out the song; instead, I grabbed a towel and went back to the room.

Insert work stuff here.

We dined at a lovely Italian restaurant, cared after by an over enthusiastic twenty-something male server.  What I remember most is the trough of salad Bosley ordered.  Most of us grabbed a few bites to eat at the Mothership's post-conference reception — who can turn down lobster rolls?  Precisely.  Apparently, Bosley ate more than we.  His decision to order a 'Big Salad' for his main meal seemed silly at first, but when the cavernous vessel landed on his place setting with a thud and a small sand shovel we all were stunned.   The rest of us pigged out on rich dishes aimed at sinking us further into our chairs.  We walked to the hotel entrance mesmerized by the intense lightning.  With the TV on low, I followed the increasing urgency of weather alerts.  Hypnotized by the activity in the sky, I opened my shades and laid in bed watching the show.  Just before passing out, I thought I heard a news anchor recommend that the people of Madison, Wisconsin take shelter.  I silently chuckled while passing out...I'm in a hotel.  Where the hell am I supposed to find shelter?  

The above warning turned into an actual tornado that touched down.  My emergency response notification had sounded, but I slept right through it.  

This is really no joke.
Whoops.  Guess I was lucky.
After listening to the news and the anecdotes from other people, this tornado was a big deal.  It ripped through the town leaving millions of dollars in damage and affected the campus where our conference was being held.  Goosebumps covered my body just imagining what could have happened.

As usual, crazy Muff strikes again - I brought my running gear because, damn it, I would be running. When I'm away from home, I do not run outside solo.  Not a bad practice.  Thankfully, Clark likes to run, too.  Well, maybe he doesn't really like to run, but he comes along anyway.  He'd checked out the paved trail by the hotel on previous visits.  We had a 7 AM (!?!?!?!) meeting scheduled at the Mothership which was a twenty-ish minute drive.  Estimated start time for a run: 4:45 am.  That's pretty much the 'USHE' (pronounced - YOUGE) for me and the Rainbow Runners, but I suspected it'd be early for Clark.  Never one to disappoint, he met me in the lobby on time and we walked out the double sliding doors before stepping into a cauldron of soup.  The restless weather continued to hang over the town of Middleton/Madison, but the heavy clouds didn't deter us from 4 1/2 miles through the wetlands.  I didn't realize how much I had sweat until we stopped to cross traffic (if you consider two cars at 5:15 am traffic).  On our way back we continued on the trail positioned behind our hotel.  We looped around the front to enter through the double sliding doors into the air conditioned lobby.  I politely asked the barista in the hotel 'Starbucks'* if she'd get coffee for me and Clark even thou they didn't open for another 45 minutes.  Must'ev charmed her cause we both walked away with medium coffees and enough space for cream.

Insert work stuff here.  

That evening we went to my favorite restaurant in Madison, Eno Vino.  In my experiences thus far, Eno Vino is the best tapas (no...not topless) establishment I've ever dined.  If you've been there and you disagree with my statement, don't tell me; show me.  I found (as I did my first time) that our table at first didn't appear to be conducive to dinner conversation.  That vibe did change after a drink and the sharing of food commenced.  I was more than pleased with every person's tastes; Bosley suggested starting the evening with a nice glass of tequila to warm our bodies while Charlie, the Angles and Clark perused the menu.  As if a cosmic force brought us together for the sole purpose of organizing the perfect meal, we tuned our voices together to create the ultimate symphony of culinary selections.  Like a Thanksgiving meal, dishes filled the table — full plates of tasty cuisine continued to arrive while we shared the offerings to our immediate neighbor.  Empty plates replaced with full; dirty plates replaced with clean.  The culinary extravaganza seemed to take hours, but we were only there for about two and a half.  Our dining experience wrapped up with a small sampling of shared sweets.  We retired to the hotel patio for some drinks, stories and giggles before parting ways.  I washed my face and brushed my teeth before drowning in the abyss of my king sized bed.

Thursday morning I first got out of bed just after 4 am.  Back at the ranch, a team at work kicked off a planned disaster drill at 5 am.  THAT'S 5 AM EASTERN STANDARD TIME, or as one of the Angels referenced: It's Vermont time. No disrespect to monkeys OR that team.  We all look like that in the office.  When the drill starts, an automatic call tree is initiated.  My phone rang just after 4.  I accepted the call, half listened to the instructions then went to the bathroom.  I fell back asleep for another forty-five minutes before getting dressed to run.  Clark wouldn't be joining me, so I opted to stay in the hotel fitness room.  I ran a fast 3 miles, uphill most of the way while dreaming of those Quadzilla hills.  Just as I stepped off the treadmill, I noticed creepy hotel fitness center guy rip off his shirt to begin an intense set of bicep curls in the mirror.  Really dude?  Really?  I hurriedly left the room to get away from him and to start the frenzy that's called packing.

Everything fit wonderfully into my bag almost as well as it had been positioned the first time around. I finished getting ready and double checked the space (well, maybe triple checked) before letting the door click shut behind me one last time.

Insert final work stuff here.

After lunch, the gang pulled together for a photo with the camp-esque scene in the background.  Don't be alarmed when you see people without faces; they actually have a face, but I removed it for the sake of their privacy.  I did, however, keep Clark enact.  You must see the resemblance.  Oh, and of course, me wearing a 'coon skin hat.

The Angels +1, Bosley, Charlie and...Clark
Bosley and Charlie left for the airport and the rest of the gang got a tour of the Mothership.

I can't begin to describe, in all my required detail, the things I saw on the tour.  Here's the brief recap:

  • I walked through a bat cave to get to Deep Space.
  • I rode a saddle and Rockin' Ralph (like a boss).
  • I slid from the second to first floor in Heaven.  
  • I tried to get into Hell, but walked to Andromeda instead.  
  • I slay a dragon after navigating the moat.

Two hours AFTER the tour we finally made it to the airport where we ran into Bosley and Charlie.  Bosley changed his flight (anticipating a delay, or worse, cancelation, in Detriot) to ours which was a direct to Newark.  Charlie stayed on his original flight and got stuck in Detroit overnight.
Bosley, the Angles and Clark assumed the all-too-familiar position at the airport bar for drinks and food which we waited for our departure.  And waited.  And waited.  Almost two hours after our original departure time, lots of beers, two ciders, three cheeseburgers, two orders of cheese curds, one order of fries, one brat with fries, a great game of 'Guess Who is Singing This Song' and one 3D Tornado Magnet we boarded our plane to arrive in Newark after midnight.  The van ride back to our cars turned out to be uneventful.  Well, for all I know there was a rockin' party, but I passed the hell out.  I crawled into my bed, not king sized, around 2 am.  Good night, Angel.

*Although the 'Starbucks' in the hotel is a 'real' 'Starbucks' (can I do that grammatically??) it doesn't support the use of the Gold Card and/or the application.  That's crap in my book.  I want my stars.  #coffeesnob

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Eight and a half mile trail run followed by an amazing pork taco omelette and coffee.

I practiced a few handstands (and figured out how to fall gracefully) before a hot shower washed the filth from my legs.

The bench that's firmly supporting my body makes a great perch for watching...

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