Monthly Archives: July 2011

Shout Out to Penny

Penny, as I affectionately refer to my vehicle, is my trusty sidekick. Penelope when something significant happens – like that time she was assaulted by an oblivious truck, or when she miraculously made it to Knoxville on one tank of gas, or when she refused to let me inside the car despite the fact that my keys were in the ignition, my cell phone was in the cup holder, and I had to be at work in less than ten minutes (how rude!). Despite that isolated incident, she is loyal and faithful, and I have her efficiency to thank for the multitude of road trips she has fostered. My active lifestyle wouldn’t be possible without her.

Penny and I have spent countless hours together, and I owe her deep gratitude for putting up with my many faults. She doesn’t complain that maintaining an immaculate car isn’t very high on my priority list; I think she’s even come to prefer the lived-in conditions I subject her to. Makes her feel useful. She transports all of my gear to and fro without complaint, and she graciously welcomes passengers (and if you’ve ever ridden in my car, you know she’s a stickler about wearing seatbelts). She appreciates my dreadful attempts at singing along to my favorite songs, and she thinks it’s normal that I shamelessly talk to myself while driving. She doesn’t mind going several months between baths, she loves the open road, and she really enjoys camping (she told me so).

I know Penny will not feasibly be in my life forever, but I want her to be a part of it as long as possible. I love having a vehicle with such low gas mileage, and I love that I paid off my car years ago. If we can support this fruitful friendship (and no car note) another 5 years, I will be none the happier. Thus, I had zero qualms with recently forking over several hundred dollars on her 75,000 mile checkup, her fuel injection system, and her power steering flush. Gotta pamper my little lady if I want her to stick around for all the upcoming fun, right?

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A Portlanding We Go

Our first day in Portland was spent aimlessly wandering around with no real destination. We had fun exploring the city and going wherever the road might lead us (15+ miles of walking, fried egg burgers for lunch, and a techno dance party in the city square) , but decided to embark on our second day with a little more direction.

 

So, we made a rough plan. We started the morning at Mother’s Bistro and enjoyed the most delightful breakfast experience. While we were waiting for our table, we walked a couple blocks to pick up my race packet, and by the time we returned, we were seated at a table for two. The restaurant was cozy and adorned with chandeliers, gilded mirrors,  and a soundtrack shuffling out tunes from Band of Horses and other favorites. It was the perfect setting to complement our delicious meal. That’s one thing we noticed about Portland – everywhere we went, we were greeted by good music. It’s as if somebody had gotten ahold of my ideal iPod playlist and was playing it over the city’s loud speakers.

With tummies satisfied, we decided to check out Portland’s famed Saturday Market. One handmade purse and a winter hat later, we continued onwards in search of Stumptown Coffee, which we had heard serves the most delicious cup of coffee you will ever taste. That’s a pretty heavy statement, and one I don’t have sufficient knowledge to confirm, but I can say it was pretty darn tasty. Piping hot coffee in hand, we hopped on Portland’s ever-convenient extensive public transit network in search of Washington Park.

Our first stop was the Japanese Garden. We had been told this was a must-see attraction, and although it earned a spot on our itinerary, we were unsure. Once we finished strolling through the five acres of gardens, we both agreed it was much more impressive than expected. We nosed our way into a guided tour, and I would say that made all the difference. The plethora of information that was shared really gave the scenery much more purpose and depth than I could have imagined. We viewed the five different garden styles – the Strolling Pond Garden, Tea Garden, Natural Garden, Flat Garden, and Sand & Stone Garden, and learned that every detail is intentional and serene.

 

Next up was the International Rose Test Garden, which features over 8,000 rose bushes, and it was just lovely. It was a beautiful day, so I kicked off my shoes and enjoyed the grass beneath my feet as we strolled among the rainbow of roses.

From there, we spent some time along the waterfront, visited a couple miscellaneous locations, enjoyed a tasty meal at produce row café, and then called it a night, seeing that my half marathon imposed a strict 4am wakeup call on us.

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Books and Bikes

I’ve got another day of Portland stories for you!

Tuesday morning began bright and early with a trip to Powell’s City of Books, the largest used and new bookstore in the world. It occupies an entire city block in downtown Portland, and I nearly fainted as we walked through the doors. There are rooms upon rooms and floors upon floors filled with rows and rows of books; it is absolutely the mecca of all bookstores, a bibliophile’s dream. We grabbed a scone and a couple cups of coffee and ambled through the bookstore to my heart’s content. It was totally overwhelming (Jax even described it as dizzying), but so much fun browsing through the multitudes of books. We didn’t buy anything, purely because there were too many titles to choose from. I wanted them all, but since that was slightly unrealistic, I settled for none. But oh, my heart rejoiced in the presence of all those words.

Jax had to drag me out of there, and he succeeded only because we needed to get lunch before our bike tour started.

Insert delicious deli sandwiches and potato salad from Kenny & Zuke’s.

A bit later, we found ourselves cruising around Portland on rented bicycles. Portland is great because biking is such a common part of the culture there that drivers are extremely courteous and totally willing to share the road. We had covered a lot of the same ground while exploring on foot earlier in the week, but we also saw some new areas and learned some new facts. Plus, it’s always nice to get a fresh perspective on things. We cruised around town for several hours and miles, occasionally stopping to tour this or that interesting landmark.

The weather was perfect for being outdoors, as we were delighted to find was the case each day we were there. I’m told that we (unintentionally) chose the single most perfect week of the year to visit Portland. The skies were warm and sunny, yet refreshing in a way Memphis doesn’t offer, and there was not a drop of their characteristic rain to interfere with our many activities.  

Books, bikes, and beautiful weather with the boyfriend. Doesn’t get too much better than that.

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A Brief Jaunt to Cannon Beach

We decided to celebrate our independence by spending Fourth of July on the west coast, so we rented a car and drove the scenic route to Cannon Beach. The 1.5 hour journey over was just lovely; Highway 26 is a gift from God. The sun was shining bright, and the trees formed such a gorgeous canopy over the road that I was practically drooling. It’s official – I am malnourished in the tree department; I need more stately trees in my life.

Upon arrival to the quaint coastal town, we ate a seafood lunch, then kicked off our flops to walk along the beach. I’m not sure what I expected, but the wind was cool and the sand was surprisingly soft. We frolicked on the beach for a while, taking in our first ever encounter with the west coast. The water was too cold to swim (notice the hoodies), but we did dip our feet in just for the sake of touching the Pacific Ocean.

The most significant landmark on the shore was Haystack Rock, which towered 235 feet above the shoreline.

After we fulfilled our beach fix, we walked through town sharing ice cream cones, when we came across this precious canine, of which I am now obsessed. I want him. I need him. I can’t go on without him. I’ve already picked out a name.

(The dog, not the ferret, in case there was any question.) 

Eventually we headed back towards Portland, stopping on the side of the road to admire the view of Mt. St. Helens in the distance. This is one of the many things I loved about Portland – in almost any direction you look at any given time, you are surrounded by gorgeous landscapes and topography. Yes, please.

We rounded out the evening by meeting a friend for dinner and fireworks at the Waterfront, then called it a (wonderful) night.

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Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon

Our third day in Portland, the morning of my half marathon, started with a 4am wakeup call. I know I haven’t shared days one and two with you yet, but for reasons unknown this is the first one I started writing about, so we’ll just pick up smack dab in the middle of our trip.

We shuttled 15 minutes north of Portland to Sauvie Island, then entertained ourselves with various island attractions until the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon started. At 6:45am, the race began, and I was off. The course followed a two-lane country road looping around the island’s picturesque farmland, and I lost myself in the scenery. About halfway through the race, it occurred to me that I might have a shot at running a personal best. I wasn’t positive, but I knew that if it was going to happen, I’d need to kick it up a notch. I hate it when I get ideas like this in my head.

But run harder, I did. I continued along sans headphones until mile 10 (poor planning, lack of battery), and the course was secluded and laid out in such a way that there were virtually no cheerleaders along the route. Luckily, I had Jax texting me a steady stream of encouragement to carry me through. Our conversation went as follows:

Jax @ 7:18am: How are you feeling? About 3 in?

Mel @ 7:20am: Feeling all right, hoping to get into my groove soon. 26 minutes in. Not sure where. You having a dance party?

Jax @ 7:23am: Solo ravin to some Daft Punk. You’re doing great babe, love you. You’ll get that groove.

Mel @ 7:31am: 36.43, 4 miles

Jax @ 7:49am: Awesome babe. Go you!

Mel @ 7:50am: 55 min 6 miles

Jax @ 7:51am: You’re doing it! Almost half there!

Mel @ 8:08am: 5 miles to go

Jax @ 8:09am: Do it for America!

Jax @8:09am: Keep it up!

Jax @ 8:25am: Almost there baby! Doing great!

Mel @ 8:26am: Ten

Jax @ 8:38am: Finish strong babe! You got this!

We had a good laugh over the fact that my texts got shorter and more cryptic the further I got into the race. I chalk it up to numb fingers, and to the reality that I was doing everything I could to simply stay upright and keep moving forward, let alone type detailed messages on a small keypad. While I got the PR I was looking for, the increased effort made the second half of my run a lot more uncomfortable than I would have liked. I’ve decided that running with a specific time goal is my least favorite way to run; I’d much prefer to just run naturally and enjoy the event and let the numbers work themselves out. Unfortunately, now that I’ve earned a 2:00:12, I have a feeling the achiever in me is going to attempt to shave 13 seconds off my next half marathon finishing time….

Though I must say, once I got over the dizziness, finishing with a personal best felt nice, and I got my first official race picture with the boyfriend:

That, and the finisher medals were made from recycled bicycle chains in Oregon and almost as sweet as the island-fresh homemade strawberry shortcake we chowed down on as a post-race treat.

Once we shuttled back, Jax and I located a carton of chocolate milk (like the kind you drank in elementary school) to tide me over until lunch, and then we took a nice stroll through Portland’s Alphabet District. Because more time on my feet was exactly what I needed at this point. After a short power nap, we decided that we wanted to spend our Fourth of July on the west coast, and that is exactly what we did.

Stay tuned for some Cannon Beach action!

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Portland is Amazing

Portland was good to us. Like really, really good.

Over the next couple weeks, I plan on sharing several posts about our trip and all of the wonderful activities we enjoyed, but in order to do so I must first collect my thoughts, reflect on the hustle and bustle of the vacation, and sift through the multitudes of pictures we took. I probably took 30 of trees alone. I adore trees, and Portland is covered in them. 

I meant to start this whole process yesterday, but there’s something about catching the red-eye out of Portland at 11:00pm, “sleeping” in an upright position, arriving in Memphis at 7:44am, and then heading directly to a full day at the office that makes you want to nap after work, wake up for a run, and then fall back asleep for the rest of the night. I plan on delving into my little project this weekend, but between house sitting, my Mema’s funeral (she’s no longer suffering, she is restored, and she gets to join my grandfather in Heaven), and the other activities (and non-activities, like resting and lounging poolside) on my calendar, things might be a bit slow-moving.

Just a heads up that our Oregon travel stories are in the works and will be forthcoming at my earliest convenience.

Have a great weekend, folks!

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June Taught Me

  1. Running 9 miles on the treadmill is feasible, and surprisingly not as bad as it sounds.
  2. Lucero does not belong indoors at the Peabody Rooftop.
  3. Amoxicillin is included in Shnucks Free Prescription Antibiotics Program. Goodbye, strep throat!
  4. Perusing a fabric store instantly makes me want to create a new do-it-yourself project.
  5. The extent to which a single fly in my office can disrupt my peace is truly astounding.
  6. Today, the year is exactly half over.
  7. It wouldn’t be a trip to the grocery store if I didn’t leave with sushi.
  8. 7:15pm is my preference of time for kickball games to start.
  9. Sometimes you just need to stay in and watch The Goonies on a Friday night.
  10. Mark my words, I’m making these next year for Fourth of July.

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