#tbt – My old passport

Today I started the process of changing my name on my passport so that I will be prepared for my cruise to the Bahamas in February. (I probably should have sent it in before now, but as usual hindsight is 20/20.) So I pulled my old passport out of a box this evening and flipped through it. I’ve had three passports in my life (check out some of the stamps from my old passports here), and I got the latest one back in 2008 before I went to New Zealand with my ex-husband for Christmas. I’d renewed my passport for our honeymoon in 2007 when my last name was still Gleason, but a year later I needed a new one with my married name on it. It’s a shame this passport was only used to leave the country once. (I’ve used it for several trips within the United States when I accidentally booked plane tickets under my married name…after I reverted back to my maiden name last year. Oops.) Not that New Zealand is anything other than a sensational destination, but I’d like to see more of the world! The good news is that the new passport that I’m applying for now will be used to visit the Bahamas in just over two months. I can’t wait!

Less than a week

Less than a week is all that it took for me to be a NaBloPoMo failure this year. Oh well. I was on vacation so I knew it would be a challenge. November seems to be a generally crazy month every year. On Friday I simply posted a picture (although my mom and I look amazing in it!), and on Saturday and Sunday I was far to busy and far too tired to devote precious time to writing anything. I will endeavor to do better for the rest of the month! Right now I’m sitting in the Austin airport waiting for my flight to Long Beach. Although I had a wonderful time at Disney World I am looking forward to getting home this evening. Orlando was unseasonably hot this week, and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was delayed and then shortened due to inclement weather. It was a bit of a mess! More on that in another post. But we still had fun. Even so, I can’t wait to get back to the fall weather that has finally started in Southern California. I might actually need to use my space heater tonight. After our scorching summer that will be a welcome change. I have so much going on this week. Besides trying to make up a few extra hours at work, I’m meeting friends at Disneyland for dinner tomorrow night, and then the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland will be here a few days afterwards. It might have been a blessing in disguise that the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was shortened because I’ll be running both a 10K and half marathon this weekend at Disneyland. Yikes! Even with all of these activities on my calendar, I still want to write as much as possible so I can document this Disney World vacation before it gets lost in my memories. (This will be New Year’s Resolution #4 in action!) I will probably get started on that during my flight to Long Beach. Free inflight wifi is great!

Goodbye Schlotzsky’s

I am at Disney World for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon on Saturday, so I might have difficulty updating my webpage everyday while I’m on vacation. But I’m going to do my best for the sake of NaBloPoMo! I started this post on my flight from Austin to Orlando yesterday, but I didn’t finish it before we landed. You’ll see that I was unhappy with the meal I got in the Austin airport!

Schlotzsky’s Deli used to be my favorite place to eat when I was in college. I’d go there every Friday night for a turkey sandwich or a pepperoni pizza and a Cherry Coke to celebrate the impending weekend. It was delicious. So when I went Los Angeles for my first Boeing internship I was happy to discover a Schlotzsky’s not to far from work in Huntington Beach. I didn’t go there nearly as often as when I lived in Gainesville (there were other restaurants to sample instead), but I still liked being able to get a familiar meal from time to time. But then one day I drove over there, anticipating a tasty sandwich for lunch, only to discover that Schlotzsky’s was out of business. How upsetting! So when I arrived at the Austin airport last January on my way to Orlando for the Disney World 10K and half marathon I was so excited to see that there was a Schlotzsky’s in the airport! I was really looking forward to having one of their sandwiches for old time’s sake. The menu was understandably small (no pizzas!) and I can’t remember what I ordered, but it was awful. It was incredibly bland! Not at all what I remember from my college days. What a disappointment. Since then I’ve tried the Austin airport Schlotzsky’s two more times (including yesterday when I was on my way to Orlando) and the quality of the fare hasn’t improved at all. My sandwiches were dry and had very little flavor. How does that even happen? Three strikes and you’re out, Schlotzsky’s. On my way back to Los Angeles next week I will patronize another airport food spot during my stopover. We had a good run, but I’m afraid our love affair is over. Goodbye, Schlotzsky’s!

Disney World (January 2015) – Part 2

The morning of January 10th we were once again waiting in line for a bus at about 3 AM. It was 45 deg that morning too, but we had a harder time finding place to stay warm before the half marathon started at 5:30 AM. It was pretty miserable. My mom had loaned me an old jacket and I brought a pair of gloves, but they weren’t enough to keep me from shivering for hours before the race started. Unfortunately my knee was hurting before the race started too. It hadn’t bothered me at all during the 10K the day but I think the combination of the cold and standing for hours prior to the race really screwed something up. (A few months and quite a lot of frustration later, and after a doctor’s appointment and several visits to a sports chiropractor, I discovered that the problem was not actually my knee at all. It was my IT band. That knowledge helped me get back into running and manage the symptoms better. But that’s a story for another time!) The half marathon was rough. Not only was I freezing most of the time (I could not wait for the sun to come up) and I was in a lot of pain. But I still enjoyed running through the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, and my time wasn’t that bad either. I can only imagine how much faster I would have been if I hadn’t walked so much due to my knee. After the race was over my parents and I dragged ourselves back to the Coronado Springs Resort to shower, change, and grab a very late breakfast. We barely made it to the food court before they shut down to prepare for lunch. That egg sandwich tasted amazing after my half marathon! The three of us didn’t do much else that day because we were completely exhausted from two way too early mornings, but we did have a delicious dinner at Maya Grill that night to celebrate my birthday.

The 11th was my last full day in Orlando so we decided to spend it at Universal Studios. Back in 2011 we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time and absolutely loved it. Since then Universal has added a whole new themed section in their Islands of Adventure park so my parents and I absolutely had to go see it. It was raining that morning as we got to the parks so we bought some ponchos and made the best of it. (One of my friends was running the Disney World marathon that morning so it was a lot tougher for her!) The parks weren’t crowded so we really got to see everything in both of the Harry Potter areas, including the Hogwarts Express train which transports guests between them. It was so much fun. I particularly enjoyed the giant dragon on top of Gringotts Bank that breathes fire every 10 minutes. Everything about it was so well done that you feel like you’re in the movies. Pretty amazing. Besides the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, not much else at Universal Studios is worth seeing these days. A lot of the rides are really dated, the tickets are outrageously expensive, and the merchandise leaves something to be desired. I think I’ve been spoiled by years of Disneyland on my annual pass! On January 12th I had to fly back to Los Angeles, but I took two new medals and a sense of accomplishment home with me. Despite my injured knee I had successfully completed two races at Disney World. It was the perfect birthday vacation.

Disney World (January 2015) – Part 1

In an effort to catch up with all of the major things that have happened in 2015 (and to try and satisfy my New Year’s resolution #4), I’m going all the way back to the beginning of the year to write about my trip to Orlando in January. I figured I really needed to finally document that trip before I head back there for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World next month!

My parents joined me in Orlando for the 2015 Disney World Marathon Weekend (1/7-1/11) when I was running the 10K and half marathon. We stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort which turned out to be pretty nice. The room was basic enough, but all of the buildings are situated around a lake. We had a little bit of a walk to get breakfast at the food court every morning, but at least the lake made for a lovely route. And it was a bit chilly in Orlando that week which was both good and bad. The day before the 10K we went to the race expo at the Wide World of Sports complex and picked up my shirts and bibs for the two events. I was distressed to discover that the race pins I thought I’d ordered (and even had email receipts for) had gone awry during the registration process. Luckily I was able to buy them at the expo, but only after looking in three different places. We spent the afternoon wandering around Downtown Disney (which has been renamed to Disney Springs since then) and had dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Café. A nice pasta dinner before my first race.

The next day was my 36th birthday and we started the celebration by getting up at 2:30 AM to catch the bus to the 10K start line. Doesn’t that sound fun? Believe it or not, I was thrilled to be running a race on my birthday. And despite the fact that it was 45 deg that morning (we hunkered down in one of the event tents to stay warm before the race started), the experience was fantastic. Running through EPCOT was so much fun. My time was nothing to brag about, but I felt great. It was one of those runs that was almost effortless. That doesn’t happen to me very often so I was grateful for such a memorable run on my birthday. After I crossed the finish line my parents and I took the bus back to our hotel, showered and changed, and grabbed a late breakfast. To finish my birthday celebration we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park since I’d never been there before. It was cold and there was a lot of construction going on at the park, but we still had a good time. The Expedition Everest ride is so awesome! I’d go back just for that. And we had a surprisingly good dinner at the Yak & Yeti restaurant. That night we were all tired from getting up way before the crack of dawn so we went to bed early – especially since we had to repeat the same process again the next morning for my second race.

To be continued!

PJJ Maui (Part 3)

The last few days I spent in Hawaii were a bit less structured than the beginning of the trip. The morning of June 26th we all woke up to the news that the US Supreme Court had struck down all bans on same-sex marriage. We were all thrilled! It was really funny sitting around the breakfast table with everyone on their phones, reading about the historic decision, adding the rainbow overlay to our Facebook profile photos, and blocking or unfriending anyone who posted anything disparaging about it. It was so nice to be in a group of like-minded people that morning. We spent most of the day relaxing in our amazing beachside mansion. Some of the ladies unfortunately had to fly home that night so we seized the opportunity to take a bunch of group photos before anyone left. As you can see in the above photo, we even had matching PJJ Maui t-shirts! (I guess I should take a moment to explain that “PJJ” stands for “Pajama Jammy Jam.” We just moved our pajama party to Hawaii and extended it into a week!)

On my last full day on Maui a few of us decided to try to catch the sunrise at Haleakala again, hopefully without the truck convoy (or the associated observatory construction protest) getting in our way this time. (See PJJ Maui (Part 2) for more details.) So we got up at 2 AM to drive to the summit for the festivities. Fortunately the trip was uneventful that morning and our quest was successful! It felt a little strange wearing pants and jackets and packing a bunch of blankets for anything in Hawaii, but it was worth it in the 40 deg weather at the top of Haleakala. And the sunrise was indeed beautiful. I didn’t get any good photos myself, but I loved seeing it in person. On our way back to the house we stopped at a French bakery that’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere and had an absolutely delicious breakfast of quiche and pastries. It was amazing. After that we spent the majority of our day swimming in the ocean and the mansion’s swimming pool. Ladies of leisure! Our numbers dwindled even more that afternoon/evening as more folks hopped flights back to their hometowns. In conjunction with a few airport drop-offs that day we indulged in some Hawaiian shave ice, visited a sugar museum, and stopped briefly at McDonald’s to take pictures of their “Aloha” and “Mahalo” signs. We are classy broads.

I reluctantly flew back to Los Angeles on the morning of the 28th, but I had a three-hour layover in Honolulu first. That gave me a chance to wander through all of the airport shops (and eat a terrible Burger King breakfast) and savor Hawaii for just a little bit longer. I was sad to get home that night. PJJ Maui had turned out so much better than I ever imagined. I loved spending time in a tropical paradise with such an amazing group of women. This was the sorority experience I should have had in college. Several of us made similar comments during the week. It’s rare that you find people that you connect with like that and by some miracle we had all met each other through a Craigslist wedding forum almost a decade ago. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I’ll always be grateful.

PJJ Maui (Part 2)

So what did I do on my Hawaiian vacation with a bunch of women I’d been conversing with online for nearly a decade but had just met in person? Everything! The day I arrived on Maui was pretty uneventful. We had lunch at Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea (I highly recommend it) and then bought a whole lot of groceries at Costco. Can you believe that’s the first time I’d ever been inside a Costco? It was quite an eye-opener! We got food for several different meals to cook in the huge kitchen of the enormous beachside mansion where we were staying for the next week. (It was something like 15,000 square feet with 10 bedrooms and a swimming pool! I never wanted to leave!) The next morning eight of us decided to drive the Road to Hana, which is practically required for visitors. After about an hour we stopped at a winery to wait out some rain and some of the folks in our group had a change of heart. The winding road had caused three people to develop motion sickness so one of the two cars on our journey turned back. Luckily I was in the car that kept going. To avoid traffic we went the opposite direction on the Road to Hana than most tourists because we had a sturdy Jeep that could handle the rough, unpaved southern portion of the road (the part that rental car companies highly discourage their patrons from taking). It was a beautiful drive, but it took us nearly 12 hours! And it rained on us just about every time we got stopped, especially at Ohe’o Gulch (aka Seven Sacred Pools). We had a nice lunch there, but we got soaked when we tried to hike to the pools. It was a good time, though. That evening we played Cards Against Humanity with everyone in the house and it was a blast.

The next morning was a bit of a mess. A group of us decided to get up at 2 AM and drive up to the peak of Haleakala to see the sunrise. It’s a very popular activity. About 10 miles from the house as we were all yawning and missing our comfy beds we noticed a group of protestors next to the road. We all wondered what that was about, but none of us thought to look it up on our phones (while we still had cell service) and see what was up. About two hours later when we got to the gate of Haleakala National Park we figured out what was going on. The peak was closed for sunrise viewing that morning due to a truck convoy that was scheduled to deliver equipment to the solar observatory at the top of the mountain. The demonstration on the highway was protesting additional construction on the telescope due to desecration of sacred lands. Apparently there’s a case before the Hawaiian Supreme Court that hasn’t been settled yet. The funny thing is that the protest was actually successful in preventing the convoy from making it’s journey up to Haleakala that day. I’m not sure if we could have seen the sunrise that morning either way because we turned around and drove back to the house before finding out. The rest of my day was spent relaxing (reading by the pool), eating Hawaiian shave ice (passionfruit, mango, and coconut), and driving to Lahaina for a submarine tour with three of other housemates. It was a great day.

To be concluded in Part 3!

PJJ Maui (Part 1)

In June I went to Hawaii on vacation, but the premise of this trip was a little unorthodox. It all started back in early 2006 when Dan and I had just gotten engaged. In the beginning stages of planning our nuptials I discovered a Craigslist forum devoted to weddings. It was full of brides-to-be who were all getting married around the same time I was. A few of us from that group created a smaller forum where we discussed our dresses, rings, flowers, cakes, etc. We helped each other plan our big days. And then after the weddings were over we posted photos to show the group how everything turned out. In short, we bonded over this rite of passage. A few years later this group of ladies reconvened in a private Facebook group where we could share the joys and struggles of our lives after saying “I do.” For one reason or another not all of the brides made it down the aisle with their intended grooms, and others hadn’t stayed in their original marriages (like me). As a group we celebrated the births of children, supported each other through painful divorces, and everything in between. We asked for and gave advice on fashion choices, career paths, medical problems, family conflicts, weight loss, and anything else you could possibly think of. Although most of us had never met in person since we live all over the country (and some abroad) we had still formed a really close relationship through our virtual interactions. So when one of these lovely ladies suggested a trip to Hawaii I was really excited. She works for a wealthy entrepreneur who owns multiple beachfront houses on Maui, and she negotiated a vacation at one of them as part of her annual bonus. And she invited us to join her there! Isn’t that incredible? In the end ten women from our Facebook group (and two boyfriends/fiancées) made the trip to Hawaii and we had an absolutely amazing time. The funny thing is that I hadn’t met any of them before arriving on the island! How do I explain that I flew all the way to Maui to vacation with a bunch of women that I only knew from the internet? I am completely aware of how crazy that sounds, but I can easily say that I couldn’t have made a better decision.