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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

It’s officially summertime!  I love longer days, healthy foods, and of course many more bike rides.  But summer cycling can be brutal in the city.  Disgusting heat and smog.   Burning pavement.  And drivers whose minds are at the beach, not on the road.  Fortunately a little preparedness goes a long way– helmet, brakes, lights and water bottle.  And for the times we want to get out of this heat island and hit up the trails running west we bring:

Anti-"rain-on-my-parade" kit

No need to be worried about being stranded with a flat when you have a well-stocked repair kit like this!  I put this together after an unforunate turn of events last spring.  It has everything needed to repair/replace a tube on the go.  Here’s what’s inside: spare tubes, tire irons, tube patch kit (in case it’s not TOO serious), a CO2 pump and CO2 cartridges.  And it all fits neatly into this Clinique “free bonus” tote- tres chic!  When we go on longer rides we also pack our bike multi-tool for any unexpected adjustments.

Thumbs up for preparedness!

I love summer for other reasons though.  Summer always feels like a time of change, probably due to years spent in school when summer is the chance you get to reinvent yourself before the next school year.  Pat’s recent promotion has brought lots of newness to us: a new work schedule for him, new people to meet and get to know, new responsibilities and new resources at our disposal.  My favorite part is having evenings and some weekend days off together again.  Pat has been a grill-master lately, whipping up classics like fiery BBQ chicken and veggie kebab but also tantalizing my taste buds with new creations like a grilled steak and mushroom sandwich (as in the whole sandwich is grilled to heavenly perfection).  Even a little rain won’t stop him!

Rainy day grilling under the cover of the upstairs balcony

New opportunities also mean a chance to re-evaluate our plans and thoughts about the future.  When we first started planning an “around the world” trip nearly 3.5 years ago our lives were A LOT different.  I was fresh out of grad school, Pat was still a little baby barista at Starbucks, we weren’t even engaged and saving tens of thousands of dollars for years to go on a 6-12 month vacation sounded like the best idea we’d ever had.  So I obsessively researched places we could go, put pins on a google map and saved, saved, saved our money.  Now I have a job in my field and am growing as an educator, Pat is on his way to managing his own store, our second wedding anniversary is around the corner and, well, the tens of thousands of dollars is still being worked on.  I will admit that the idea of “getting away from it all” for months, schlepping ourselves and our belongings across Europe to see new and exciting things and setting our lives on an entirely new trajectory still has appeal.  I still spend a lot of time daydreaming about all the many places, people and things we will see one day.  Travel and the allure of the exotic got under my skin after my college experience abroad (or maybe it was all the books set in far-away lands I read as an impressionable youngster).  But other obsessions are emerging, too: children, a house of our own, becoming a school teacher  and helping Pat achieve his goals.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. -John Lennon

How do you decide which of life’s roads to travel down?  We have so many options, opportunities and blessings it’s overwhelming at times.  But one of the biggest gifts I have been given is a partner who understands that it’s really not these future paths that define who we are.  Our life together is in the here and now, the little everyday moments and seemingly mundane.  My dreams, Pat’s dreams, and the dreams we share are fluid and flexible and can be what we make them.  “Giving up” the trip of a lifetime isn’t really giving up anything– it’s adding the potential for many mini-trips, saving money for travel AND family and opening doors to ideas we never considered.  The specifics of the dream may change, but that’s the beauty of the unknown, isn’t it?

Existence would be intolerable if we were never to dream. -Anatole France

So I look forward to continuing to dream big dreams, planning for our future as best we can and drinking in the sweet bliss of our everyday life together.  Here’s to this summer, to a wonderful husband and to being here now!

Things are not what they appear to be; nor are they otherwise.

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Elation, exhaustion and eating.  Those three words pretty much summarize our first official “bicycle tour” for me.  We set out for the Little Red Barn Campground in Quakertown, PA last Friday morning, spent the night and rode back to Philly on Saturday.  So all things considered not much of a tour, but a great practice run for longer trips and overall a good experience.

We loaded our bikes on Thursday night and ate a carb-full dinner in anticipation of the 50+ miles we’d ride each day.  On Friday morning I woke up to cramps and general malaise but I was determined to go.  So after egg sandwiches, coffee and stretching we hit the road.  It was so nice to feel the warm sun and take in the lush green Schuylkill banks, especially after a week of rain.   The Manayunk tow path was looking like a jungle with crazy vines and tunnels of green leaves.  We stopped for a snack at the “wayside bike stop” at the beginning of the Schuylkill path and saw a doe about 20 feet up the path– I was surprised to see one so close to the path and houses!  No picture since digging for it would have scared her 😦

Pat's bike loaded up

Our journey continued until we pulled over just after Valley Forge (about 25 miles) to mow down hoagies and cookies for lunch.  Once back in the saddle we both commented on how awesome you feel after eating… a full tank of gas!  After a few more miles we turned onto the Perkiomen Trail, a first for us.  It’s a very pretty, hard-pack gravel path that winds west through towns and forests.  We spotted cardinals, a bluejay and some super-cute chipmunks.

“Navigation” for this trip was printed google directions– I now admit this was not my best plan ever.  At some point in the directions you are instructed to leave the path and start heading north to Quakertown on country roads.  Somehow we got waaaaay off track.  Luckily Pat’s phone has a decent maps application and we were able to redirect ourselves.  Unluckily we took a wrong turn and ended up many more miles out of the way.

Throughout all of this navigational bumbling we were also tackling some of the biggest hills I’ve encountered.  Philly is pretty flat and the 3 hills I climb each day commuting are just a few blocks long so this was uncharted territory.  These hills felt endless to my screaming legs and I had to get off and walk a few times.  Pat gently reminded me that Europe has WAY more, and bigger, hills so this is good practice.  We had to pull over for a banana break after he said that since I was irrationally yelling “screw Europe! I HATE bicycle touring!” in response.  I felt so defeated by the hills, being off-track and my tired body that I even suggested heading home.  But 15 more miles of hills sounded more manageable than 40 miles back.  No quitting!

I will survive!

Twelve miles and many turns later I ecstatically blew kisses at a road sign that said 3 miles to our campground.  As we churned up one last hill I found a hidden pocket of energy after spying campers and tents in the woods to our right– we had made it!  I checked us in, picked up some hotdogs from the camp store and we got settled into our “home” for the night.  Our tent is a breeze to pitch and we were set up and devouring left-over pizza in about 15 minutes.  We relaxed in the tent, soaking in the beautiful woods around us and breathing in the fresh air.

Trees from inside the tent

REI Quarter Dome T3 tent, love it!

Later we walked the campground’s loops to stretch our legs and check out all the ridiculously large RVs clustered together. I gave Pat a run for his money at the air hockey table in the campground’s game room (they also had a pool but we didn’t have suits, boo)  Dinner was hotdogs roasted on the campfire then stuffed in pita pockets with cheese and mustard.  Trust me, anything is delicious after 6 hours of bike riding so this was gourmet.

Forest surrounding the camp site

Breakfast and map reading

The next morning I woke feeling a little sore but ready to take on the day’s riding.  Knowing that the hills were at the beginning of the ride and that we wouldn’t get lost this time made getting back on my bike a lot easier.  A quick breakfast of PBJ in a pita, trail mix and cookies and we were back on the road.  Our route back to the Perkiomen Trail was more direct (understatement of the year) and carried us through the many small communities and back roads of Upper Bucks county.  Just outside of Collegeville we stopped to gawk as several skydivers landed in a grassy airfield.  Feeling venturesome, we agreed that if we can bicycle tour we can certainly skydive!  SO now that’s on our bucket list…

Although I had pre-made some falafel patties to have with hummus, pita and veggies for lunch we decided to treat ourselves to a diner sitting just a few yards off the trail.  The best part of the meal for me was letting my booty rest on the squishy booth, sweet, sweet relief!  We rode side-by-side for the next 20 miles or so, cracking up at our lame jokes and encouraging each other on.  One more snack break in Norristown and all of a sudden we were in the city again.  The ride home from the trail is a complete blur to me, my mind was focused only on a cold shower and our couch.  The one and only safety incident we had on the trip happened 4 blocks from home when a police officer nearly doored Pat while getting out to talk to a bike cop.  But we made it home in one piece and the rest of the night was spent chillin’ and reducing a large pizza to crumbs.

Here are some things we learned:

1. GPS is an absolute MUST.  We were rewarded for this mistake though because REI had a brief mega-sale on them the day we got home and I picked up a Garmin GPSMAP 62s for 30% off- score!

2. Eat a lot.  I think we learned this last year when we went on our first long haul, but it’s good to keep in mind.  I can get really cranky when my blood sugar dips!  I’m planning on taking a small, soft-side cooler next time we do an overnight.  Also bring more water.  We stopped at CVS on the way there and back for big Gatorades.

3. Our plan for Europe is totally do-able.  Not that I really doubted that… but thinking/writing about it is one thing, actually doing it is another.  So this showed me that we will face some challenges in our trip but that they will be more than worth it.

Lastly, sorry for the lack of pictures– we were pretty focused on biking.  I want our next trip to be a 3-day weekend so we won’t feel so rushed for time.  At the end of the trip we had logged 121 miles and over 10 hours in the saddle!  Not too shabby for two Long Haul Truckers’ first really long haul 🙂

Life is good!

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Rolling through PA

I-80 cuts clear across Pennsylvania, 311 miles of pavement connecting the gently rolling Pocono mountains to the flat prairies of Nebraska and eventually on to the Sierra Nevada range in California.  Pat and I drove nearly all of the PA portion a few weekends ago to join my family for my Nana’s memorial service.  Spring was definitely creeping through the many valleys we passed though.  Some were vibrantly green while others still held on to winter gray.

Spring arriving

As we headed north out of Philadelphia we spotted huge storm clouds ahead. The radio station we were tuned into issued tornado warnings for the county we had just left.  Luckily the storm seemed to pass over without too much adverse effect.

A powerful storm

Driving toward clearer skies

By the time we got hungry for lunch the skies were nearly blue again.  We took a little detour to the Bald Eagle State Park.  It was really nice– lots of benches, a little lake with beach and clean bathrooms.  Sadly no bald eagles were sighted 😦

Tall trees

We had a picnic, snapped a few pictures and then got back on the road.

Us by the lake

The forest smelled really good

It even had a babbling brook!

With many more miles to put behind us Pat set the cruise, I kept the jelly beans flowing and amused myself by taking out-the-car-window pictures.  I can’t wait until we’re touring on our bikes so I can get closer to the beautiful world around me.

Pretty farms

One bright green tree

Fatty cloud

I hung my head out the car window to take this tunnel shot… camera strap on, of course!

zooming down the tunnel

Rocky PA

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It must really be spring now– beautiful sun-shiny days interrupted by days of drizzle and flood-worthy downpours.  Unfortunately today was a bit of the latter, which resulted in an early closure of the “Science Carnival”, kick-off event of the Philadelphia Science Festival.  My museum is the organizing parter and we all put a ton of work into the Carnival so a little bad weather wasn’t going to keep us down!  We saw a surprising number of people and everyone was in really good spirits despite the rain.  It kind of felt like Halloween at Eastern State with all the crowds and lousy weather 😉  I was so proud of my staff and co-workers though, they really know how to get people excited about learning!  I hope all of Philadelphia continues to explore science after the festival ends.

Since I had an abbreviated weekend we made the most of it with a little backyard BBQ on Thursday night and a bike ride yesterday.  P & E brought over their nifty new “Kelly Kettle“, an ingenious little camp stove they plan to take on their upcoming Appalachian Trail hike.

Beer not included
 It is a rocket-shaped stove that you build a little fire under/inside of and can then use with a “burner” or a grill.  The top part also doubles as a water boiler, a very interesting addition.  It took about 3 minutes to boil a quart of water on this sucker– not too shabby!  Then we cooked a sausage on the grill and everyone decided it had a much “woodsier” taste than the ones off our BBQ grill.  Downsides: must be able to start a fire to get it to work (doesn’t help when everyone’s put a nice little dent in the six-packs…) and it did get pretty smokey.  Pat and I are seriously considering one for our trip/camping kit though so if you know any other pro’s/con’s for these let us know!
FIRE!!!

Yesterday Pat and I rode out to REI which is easy to access via the Schuylkill bike path.  We had a much-deserved lunch at Five Guys Burgers and then enjoyed the outdoor shopping wonderland.  Our mission was to exchange the way-too-large sleeping pads we’d ordered online.  Not only did we do that but we were also able to pick up a rain jacket for Pat, biking gloves for both of us, two cases of heavenly Odwalla power bars and some other odds-and-ends all for the same price as our two returned mats!  We decided on the REI lite-core Self-Inflating pad in the shorter version.  They are so tiny when rolled up and felt pretty comfortable on the floor of REI.  Once the Science Festival is over we’re going on our first camping trip!

You know me, so gangsta

On the way out of the city we saw several large birds soaring overhead.  We pulled over, whipped out the telephoto and got a few good snaps before the birds were too far out of view.  I think they may have been turkey vultures, due to the red heads, but there were about 7 hunting together and I thought vultures were pretty solitary birds (?).  I loved watching them glide on the air currents, not once flapping their large wings. 

Hunting party

 

Click, zoom in for a closer look

WordPress is driving me bat sh*t crazy with formatting issues… so hopefully this post looks something close to normal on your computer!

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I can’t believe how remiss I’ve been in my journal!  Nothing much exciting was going on and then I was sick for a week and did nothing but lay on the couch (and go to work, so stupid).  But last week I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the “Science of Art” conference hosted by the National Museum of American History in D.C.  The museum paid for my first night and then after the conference was over Patrick and I made a little holiday of it and stayed an extra day and a half. 

Washington Monument and swirly cloud by Patrick

The conference was actually really interesting and I always enjoy meeting colleagues from other museums.  I liked brainstorming with the other attendees and thinking of ways we can better the leaders of tomorrow.  I was also able to incorporate the enthusiasm for arts-based teaching I gained into a family workshop today at work– very cool!  I did a reprise of my fresco painting class, condensed to 45 minutes.  Everyone had a blast 🙂

Anyway, back to D.C.  Pat wandered around on his lonesome while I soaked up all the art and science goodness.  He took some fabulous photos and is now the house expert at the “shutter priority” setting on our camera.  I was especially impressed with some of his museum shots.

Dancing with the planes @ Air and Space

 

Black and white composition

 

Air and Space

After the conference ended we did a TON of sight-seeing.  One of my co-workers used to live in D.C. so she had a ton of insider tips for us (like how to get the Zoo without walking up the huge hill from the Metro- yessss!).  It was so good to be out of  Philly for a few days, to explore a new city together and to just relax.  I am also very excited that we stayed exactly on our pre-planned budget.  My favorite splurge was definitely our yummy lunch at some Mexican place by the Zoo.  Nothing like a pitcher of sangria to put you in “vacation” mode!

Not as awesome when you're on the bus for 4 hours after...

D.C. is a really interesting town.  We were both surprised by the lack of tall buildings (is there some kind of building code?), but it certainly made it easier to orient yourself to the Capitol!  They seem to have a pretty extensive bicycle lane infrastructure– here’s an example of a “bike boulevard”, so classy.

Bike commuter paradise

There are also racks of bikes all over the city that you can rent by the hour and then return to any other rack station in the city.  Seems like a pretty nifty idea and a good way to encourage people to leave their cars in the suburbs.  We did notice a lot of pedestrians using the bike lanes as their own personal extension of the sidewalk though, so I guess this system is still getting some kinks worked out.

Tidal basin Cherry Trees

We spotted an alarming number of bow ties, many potential undercover agents and the usual kinda crazy/kinda funny bums.  It’s really true, no matter where you go… people are pretty much the same! 

Very wise!

On Friday we trekked to the National Cathedral.  Very beautiful art, amazing stained glass and just a wonderful feeling of immensity.  But beyond that we agreed that it didn’t really feel like a hallowed space.  I wonder if it was the hoards of tourists or the fact that this space really does serve a non-religious purpose at times?  I’m interested to see how this experience compares to centuries-old churches we’ll visit in Europe.

My photographic juxtaposition of church/state

My favorite sculpture

Central nave

We took over 800 pictures yowser!  I can’t post them all here so I put a bunch on my flickr site click here.  I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites:

Panda butt

By Patrick

Botanic Garden

1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Fun trip!

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I rode 100 miles this week!  Impressive… except that I’m going to have to compress that distance into ONE DAY by the end of September.  Yikes!  But considering I usually ride about 45-50 miles a week, this is a good step (pedal stroke?) forward.  Now that we get an extra hour of daylight I know this is something I can easily keep up with.  My work is 2 blocks from the Schuylkill Drive trail and one loop on that is 8 miles.  Do that 3 days a week, add in my daily commute and one long-haul on the weekends and there’s my 100 miles.  I’m getting a little tired just thinking about it…  Today my body is sore, especially my hips and back.  I found this nifty website that has a little animated dude showing you how to do stretches.  Neat!

Pat had to work all weekend so I rode out to Forbidden Drive by myself yesterday.  I took the telephoto lens and got a few good shots of geese and ducks:

Geese!

Lift, I need lift!

I like his red eye... a lil freaky though

After riding around for a while I decided to lock my bike up at Valley Green, a random restaurant on Forbidden Drive, and check out a staircase I had seen earlier.  It led down to a little dam that you could walk out on and, after seeing a couple of 6 year-olds tromp out there, I decided I’d take the risk for some interesting photos:

View from the dam

Stairs leading to the creek

 

More stairs, I love the color of the moss

Hello, green bug!

Monochromatic creek

It was nice to get some fresh, non-exhaust-laden air and to spend some quality time in nature.  My ride home from Forbidden Drive was slow, slow, slow.  Not only was I a little tired but the feng shui of my bike shorts/saddle was NOT working out… let’s hope that doesn’t happen on our one-day century!  My partner-in-crime has to work again this weekend (boo!!) so we’ll see where my solo long-haul takes me.  I have a feeling Plymouth Meeting is in the cards, how can I resist a pit-stop for an Ikea ice cream cone?  Answer: I can’t 🙂

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Hello, real winter

Last week I spent 48 hours in Madison, WI for a work conference on how to create programs for teaching nanotechnology.  Needless to say, a very small amount of that time was spent doing anything non-conference related.  I did get a chance to stroll around one evening and got up early the next day to walk around a little.  I felt like I was in the Wisconsin version of Ann Arbor most of the time– college kids, funky little shops (saw my new favorite t-shirt slogan, “With Great Mustache Comes Great Responsibility”, ha!), friendly vibe and, of course, protesters! 

I kinda wanted to stand up there to take a picture...

On the first night I was there I saw about 200 people just milling about the Capitol, holding signs, chanting and occasionally blowing vuvuzelas at politicians inside the building:

The guy in the front was just chanting "shame!" the whole time

On the next night about 1,000 people marched around the building and had a rally at the entrance.  I guess later that night they found out that the Capitol has to be open during business hours.  Too bad it didn’t reopen until today, it looked really pretty inside!

The building is only 3 feet shorter than our nation's Capitol!

I left the rally early because the conference was buying us dinner at The Great Dane, a pretty yummy brew-pub.  I would definitely recommend the “cheese curds”, basically mini mozzerella sticks dipped in ranch.  Trust me when I say I ate more cheese in 48 hours than is probably recommended.  But what else am I to do in Madison in winter?  I brought home some delicious samples from FromagInation, my new, cheesy heaven on Earth.  Three words: onion-garlic-gouda. 

The diary in WI is definitely solid.

The conference was hosted by University of Wisconsin and we met in their new Engineering Centers building.  I did some poking around the campus before the day started, also reminded me of U of M.  I would love to see this city in springtime.

Old school...

... meet the new school.

Lots of interesting architecture

The Descendant's Fountain

I found this link for the fountain above.  When I saw it in person I just thought it had a really cool design and liked the name.  Now I want to go back when it’s running!  Here are a few more pictures from my trip:

Leaving the gov'na love notes (not)

Yeah dairy state!

Lots of peaceful protesters

Watching the action

..

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