This how we start the weekend in the Carolinas….

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An empty container ship from Norway, making it’s way up the Cape Fear River to the port.

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A funky picture of the ADM dock in the Cape Fear River.

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If you look real close at the ripples in the water, you’ll see the head of an alligator!

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Why I will never, ever enter a surf contest

Beyond the fact that I surf for sheer enjoyment, it just doesn’t seem right.

Take my friend Charlotte, for example.  She is a champion napper.  This girl can fall asleep just about anywhere and sleep soundly all the time.

I love napping, but I would never challenge Charlotte to a nap-off because a) she’d win and I have a bit of a competitive streak and b) why would I take something I use to relax, enjoy, and unwind and turn it into a contest?

I know it’s for some, and that’s totally cool, but for me — I’m with Laird Hamilton — it’s never appealed to me.  It’s more of an art form than anything.

Beauty in the Sea

Many moons ago I was in this Bible study that spoke of beauty.  While this really didn’t touch my heart all that much (I’m a tomboy at heart), they asked a question during one of the sessions that has resonated with me through the years.

“When do you feel the most beautiful?”

I struggled with this question.  I oscillate between “Why am I in the medical field when I should be modeling swimwear” and “When is it socially appropriate to put a bag over one’s head in public?”  But realistically, I’m somewhere in between.

Even when I get all dolled up, I always manage to find flaws in myself upon reviewing the pictures. It’s the perpetual let-down of, “Oh, I look fantastic, except for the fact I look bloated and my eye-make up smudged….”

Then it hit me: I know where I feel the most beautiful.

In the ocean, with hair down, bikini on, and nearly 8 feet of plastic strapped to my right ankle.  I feel even more beautiful with those big powerful waves with clean faces are headed my way – or as I like to put it – the Lord put the tokens in the wave machine.

Here there are no cameras, any make up would be washed away after taking a wave on the head.  My hair is perfect because it’s covered in salt water and my skin turns a beautiful shade of pink under the sun.  I was made for summer days.

After a bit more digging in my genealogical past, I found my ancestors on my mother’s side originated from what is now northern Poland, on the Baltic Sea – my father’s mother’s family is from the shores of Normandy, France – the sea is in my blood.

And that’s as beautiful as it gets.

My mom snapped this picture of me last summer, heading back out to where the waves are breaking.

My mom snapped this picture of me last summer, heading back out to where the waves are breaking.

The General’s Bed & Breakfast – Welcoming Friends, Family, and Tropical Cyclones since 2010

In the past week, we have had quite the roster of visitors to our humble abode.   They include: an old friend from my university days, my mom, and what’s forecasted to be a Category 1 Hurricane, named Arthur.

My friend J came this past weekend for beach and merriment.  It was a fun weekend of dodging rain showers, ice cream, drinking rum, and the nightlife downtown (we were out so late….we rolled up the drive 1 minute before midnight – not sure when we got old and lame – if only the 22 year old us could see us now!).  It was good to spend some girl time with J and chat over the curveballs life has thrown us and how to deal.  I have a kindred spirit in regards to that pesky thorn in my side.

My mother, born and raised in the midwest, is about to experience her 1st hurricane.  She was coming this week for the 4th of July festivities.  In the past, the 4th of July was always a big party at our house, and she was very excited about the fact that she didn’t have to cook or clean for this one.  I’m pretty sure we’re going to be hunkered down with rum as the storm rolls into the coast.  Both of us love storms – at my cousin’s cottage on Lake Huron, we used to watch the storms roll across the lake at night on the porch.  Such an amazing show!

Actual phone conversation with my mom

Actual text conversation with my mom.

For what it’s worth, I’m still a hurricane virgin.  Chances are this won’t be anything more than a tropical storm.  The storm-loving kid in me wants a direct hit – the adult homeowner in me hopes it’ll bypass our area – the surfer in me can’t wait to hit the waves before and after the storm.

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Nice rotation, Arthur.

Summertime Book Adventures

I love reading and since I got a Kindle last year, I’ve been devouring books.  Just like last year, I’m all over the board with random topics.

  • Vixen 03 by Clive Cussler – my favorite author – as my father-in-law said it was a good read (he’s a Cussler fan as well, we’re constantly trading books).  I’m switching things up with a paperback.  The book is a little choppy with the story line, but I’m interested to see how they will intersect.  And it has a very young Dirk Pitt in it!
  • One up on Wall Street: How to Use What You Already Know to Make Money in the Market by Peter Lynch.  Something I know very little about is investing.  As a conservative risk taker when it comes to money, I’m very leery about investing simply because I don’t know how it all works.  The guy is a big name on Wall Street and the reviews about this book jived with what I’m looking for in an investment book: nothing with too much jargon or something I need millions to do – some reviews said it was a “fun read.”  I’m hoping this will be a jumping off point for the future me in terms of finances.
  • The Host by Stepenie Meyer.  She wrote the Twilight series; The General and I watched the movie last night and while I was reluctant about it, I got sucked into the storyline.  I downloaded this book while the credits were rolling.
  • The Confessions of St. Augustine.  I have heard of this book, but do not know much about it or the author.  I’m looking forward to learning more about this relic wordsmith and his relationship with God.  Bonus: It was free on Kindle.
  • The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth. I’ve ready good reviews about this series from Facebook friends and I hope it’ll be a good beach read.  I read all 3 Hunger Games book and loved them.
  • HeavenWord Daily by David Servant.  This is also free on Kindle.  For reasons unknown, even to me, every 18 July I change my daily devotional.  This year I’m going to try this one – it leads you through the entire New Testament for a year.  I like how it’s the equivalent to spiritual steak. After reading “My Utmost for his Highest,” (Oswald Chambers), I need something heavy.  I like my coffee and devotionals strong.

This should keep me busy until the winter chill rushes in.

Wild & Wonderful

That about sums up West Virginia.

While we were in Cracker Barrel, Alice and I felt the need to get an “Ebenezer” – a memento of the Lord’s provision as He saw us through our crazy adventure. This is what we found:

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ " (1 Samuel 7:12)

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12)

This magnet now graces my refrigerator.  It’s a great reminder of the Lord’s provision.  His Hands were all over our adventure: from the preemptive tire changes to Alice’s new hand-me-down iPhone from her Father-in-Law (without it we wouldn’t have had GPS or a way to alert the authorities of our situation), the calmness we exuded to get us through that situation, not to mention no serious damage to the car (as far as I know….).

Despite my near-death experience, I am looking forward to returning to West Virginia.  I kinda sorta fell in love with the beauty of that state.  I think I could move there, living in the mountains.  Alice and I hope to return in the Autumn with our husbands and see all the leaves change color.

And, of course, stay on the paved roads.

We’re already looking ahead to 2024; we’ve decided not to try and top 2014.  But this is probably a good thing: our adventures are so epic, we need a decade in between them.

The Ugly

The road started to get pretty treacherous.  As we were deciding whether to turn back or not, we stumbled upon a Nissan Maxima stopped in the road (we, by the way, are traveling in a GM sedan with a manual transmission).  There were 5 guys – all of middle eastern decent, mid to late 20’s – who spoke heavily accented English.  They approached our car with the bewildered traveler look and a map.  “Do you know anything about this road?”  “Nope, this is our 1st time to the park.”  We were a bit nervous, just because of the numbers game: 5 guys vs. 2 girls with no martial arts experience wasn’t a good combination.  We had mace, but these guys seemed like they were on the up and up.  “The park ranger told us to take this road, we’re going to the falls,” said one.  So were we! We decided to carry on.

The dirt road got worse.  There were puddles that could have swallowed our whole car.  The guys kept getting out of the vehicle to see how deep the puddles were and if we could navigate them.  They were kind enough to wave us through — being on the mountain, there were numerous rocks (read: boulders).  I bottomed out a few times – I was driving – and every time we thought the worst was over, the next obstacle was even more dangerous.  After about an hour – it was nearing 6pm at this point – we were chasing daylight – we decided to call the park service.  Alice not only had a working cellphone, but had the foresight to take a picture of the park emergency numbers on the map by the trail.  We told the park service where we were: McKendree Road.  Or at least that’s where the GPS told us we were.  It was the road I was intending to find, but it was so bad, I wasn’t sure if I was on the right road or not.  “You shouldn’t be out there in those vehicles,” said Ranger Obvious.  “My suggestion is to turn around.”

Turn around?!  We barely made it through some of the puddles ponds and rocks; there was no way we could do that again.  Also, this road was not conducive to turning around.  Not only was it narrow, but most of the time there was a rock wall on our left, and a 30+ foot drop on our right.  The fishtailing we were doing was dangerous in itself: one false move and we were going down the ravine.

We stopped to rest from the driving conditions; I killed the engine and opened the hood to let it cool off.  There was a real fear of spending the night on the mountain.  Luckily, we had food, water, and blankets; but still, that was not in the game plan.  We got back in the cars and kept moving.

This is a shot from Alice's iPhone on McKendree Road during one of the less intense parts.  One of the guys is sticking out of the sunroof to navigate the obstacles.

This is a shot from Alice’s iPhone on McKendree Road during one of the less intense parts. One of the guys is sticking out of the sunroof to navigate the obstacles.

As you can see from the picture, we were basically on an old mining road.  The stress was starting to get to both of us, but we kept it together, as we joked about our college days and tried to cope as well as we could.  Meanwhile, the Ranger Obvious called back to check on us.  We were still in the thick of it.  “It will get real, real steep and the road will get worse as you keep going before you hit the main road,” he said.  Get worse?!  How could it get worse?!  But oh, it did. Bigger puddles lakes and larger boulders; it got steep.  Like really steep.  While the road got scarier, it was also comforting to know that as the road got steeper, pavement was ahead; civilization was close by.  Alice spotted a stoplight from our perch and it was such a relief.  I had never been so excited to see a stoplight in my life.

We basically went 15 miles on this road in 2 hours.

Right at the end, a pickup truck appeared from behind us.  We thought it may be the park service, but it was unmarked.  We shifted over as far as we could and this guy, who could only be described as an “Old Bubba from the backhills of West Virginia” who was missing most of his teeth and smoking a cigarette.

“What der hell are y’all doing on this road?” He declared.
“We took a wrong turn.”
“When didja get on dis road?” he asked.
“Back in Thurmond.”
“THURMOND?  Y’ALL WENT THROUGH THAT SH!T IN THOSE CARS?”
“Yes, sir, we did.”

We still can’t tell if he was impressed or thought we were clinically insane.  Perhaps it was a little of both.

As we made it back to the paved road, the boys’ car popped their front tire.  We were able to get to a pull off just off the road.  I wanted to make sure they had everything they needed to change the tire; afterall, they were kind enough to help us through that mess and it didn’t feel right to leave them.  Luckily, they had everything they needed (I was ready to give them my spare).  After letting the engine/nerves cool down, we called the park service to let them know we made it out alive and said our good-byes to what we called “Our angels in the Maxima” – this made them smile.  We then hightailed it to the interstate.

We stopped at the nearest Cracker Barrel for a meal fit for a king.  After fighting for our lives, a good hearty meal was in order.  One of the greeters saw us and asked how our day was going.  We gave her a quick rundown of our adventure.  She was a native lady and her eyes went wide when we said we were on McKendree Road in cars.  We were lucky to be alive.

We made it back to the hotel in Charleston and I have never been so thankful for a hot shower, a warm bed, and glass of wine.

The Bad

On our way back to the main road, we stopped for ice cream in the sleepy little town of Fayetteville, West Virginia.  On the way back to the car, we noticed the front driver’s side tire was low.  Like, really low.  We programmed our GPS and found a gas station – it turns out I had a nail in my tire.  Not good.  Luckily, there was a Wal-Mart just a few stoplights ahead.  We pulled into the service center and the country dude said they’d have it patched within the hour.  Perfect!

Alice and I grabbed sweet tea and sauntered through a clothing store until I got the call: “Uh, Mrs General?  That nail hit sidewall of the tire.  Can’t patch that.”  Crap.  So I bough a new tire.  Yee haw.  15 minutes later they call back and say that my other front tire is looking pretty bad and may blow.  Replaced that one too.  I had a 7 hour trip home, I didn’t want to take the chance of having a problem.

Just like an incredibly slow NASCAR race, I took 2 tires and got back on the road.

Now to get to Sandstone Falls, one could take the interstates (looooong)….or the backroads through the park (shortcut!).  There was one road marked quite clearly on the map we got at the visitor’s center; as someone who grew up in rural Illinois, backroads do not deter me.

The road went from blacktop, to gravel, to pitch, to dirt.  All while going up a mountain.

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Look out ahead!

Just like these people about to hit the rapids, our rapid decline was just starting….

 

The Good

10 years ago, Alice and I went on a whirlwind tour of southern England.  It solidified our friendship and despite the physical distance between us, we’ve kept in touch quite well through the years.  Since Europe, we always said we’d do a reunion tour in 2014, something just as epic and fun.  2014 became a running line with us: “Ohhh, maybe we can do that in 2014!”  “X more years til 2014!”

Well, 2014 is here.  While we didn’t have the money to hop across the pond or go international, we decided to meet halfway in between our home cities.  Our plan was to meet in Charleston, West Virginia and hike New River Gorge (it’s that place with the big arched bridge that’s famous).  We’re both outdoorsy people with a flair for adventure.  It was perfect!

Now, I’ve only driven through West Virginia.  We figured it would boring, but downtown Charleston was quite fun.  We spent the day wandering around; it was a beautiful, scenic, and well kept city.  We had an amazing (and affordable!) dinner here and then got dessert here, which just made the night.  We had a bit of map adventure trying to reach these places, but as it always is with Alice and I, the journey is more important than the destination.  We also stayed at a semi-posh hotel right in the heart of the city with a beautiful view of the river.

The next day, we headed to the gorge to hike the mountains.

The New River Gorge Bridge (its on the back of the West Virginia quarter)

The New River Gorge Bridge (its on the back of the West Virginia quarter)

A secret waterfall off the beaten path

A secret waterfall off the beaten path

We hiked up the mountain, down the mountain, and around the mountains.  It was so gorgeous, a vastly different environment from my sea level home.  Off one of the trails we found this waterfall – if you look closely you’ll see a woman in a pink top – that’s me! – I decided to be crazy and climb up this waterfall.  It felt so good to be on the rocks again!

We had a picnic lunch of Kind Bars, Cliff Bars, and water here, with the river far down below us:

"The Lord provided this rock," said Alice of our lunch spot.

“The Lord provided this rock,” said Alice of our lunch spot.

Overall, it was such a wonderful experience to share with a dear friend.  We decided after this hike, we’d go see Sandstone Falls on the other side of the park.

And that’s when the real adventure began.

An Update!

* We didn’t officially “cut the cord” on our cable….we just made the cord shorter.  We downgraded to the basic of the basic cable which is ~20 channels, all of them broadcast except for the home shopping and government in action channels.  We went this route because it was cheaper when bundling it with our internet.  Crazy.  It would have been more expensive to drop the TV and just have the internet – which I think is just plain nuts.  And Highway to Heaven is not among the shows.  I did get a streaming subscription to Netflix.  Dragnet, here I come!

* I still haven’t found my keys.

* Theodore and I are still seeing each other (aka Mr. Roosevelt).  It usually doesn’t take me so long to go through a book; its long and heavy and I wish I could talk to someone who was around when he was President – like one of my ancestors – to see what they thought of it all.  He sounds great!  But it’s also his point of view.  And I’m not much into politics.  I’m ready for it to be over.

* Summer is here!!!!  I spent all weekend at the beach and otherwise being warm.  Amazing.  I have waited so long fort his.

* I celebrated 10 years in my career over fondue with The General. 10 down, 35 more to go!

* The General and I ordered a stuffed-crust pizza from Pizza Hut.  The General had never had one, I hadn’t had one since the 90’s.  It was so worth it the calorie bomb.  I also made those “peel and bake” chocolate chip peanut butter cookies.  Those little buggers are evil at 80 calories/cookie (especially when you eat nearly a dozen).  I did all of this on the same night.  Luckily, they came with this little AED device….

And that about sums it up.

Chopping the coaxial

Now that I have returned to regularly scheduled updates, I’ll have to tell you about our latest adventure: we cut the cord on cable.

It’s not that I hate Time Warner Cable – I understand they’re in the business to make money and us Americans will pay out the nose for TV.  Our cable bill, mind you we have decently fast internet and basic non-digital cable (read: no box), was $112 per month and all of sudden it jumped to $140.

Why the jump?  Our contract expired.  Nice way to let us know.

We could re-up and start paying the old price, but the more we started talking about it, the more we considered canceling our cable altogether.  We watch only a handful channels on it – more when there’s a good football game on.  The past year or so more and more stations have been cut from our lineup because they belong to the digital cable tier, which would cost us upwards of $160 per month.  That’s not happening; just like we didn’t get a rebate on fewer channels.

So The General went out to Best Buy and bought a fancy antennae that now graces the table in our living room.  We tried it out and we get a decent amount of channels.  We were pleased.  This will mark the first time in my adult life that I did not have cable.  I grew up with 5 channels that came in clearly (my parents refused to get cable and still don’t have it), so this is not completely new territory for me.  We are, however, keeping our internet, but getting a slow speed.

While I will miss some stations, I find myself getting slightly excited about watching Perry Mason and Highway to Heaven again and perhaps some late night talk shows.   But really, I think I will find myself reading more and watching German TV.  The $ we save will go towards another epic adventure.

And…..action!

Wilmywood (as Wilmington is sometimes called) has struck again.

It’s always a good time when they film a pilot for a TV series….in your backyard.  The huge lights they used shined into our bedroom, it was lit like a stage.  At first I was really excited about it – so excited that I made The General accompany me through the woods to get a closer look at their rig.  We sat and watch for a couple of takes and then headed back home to bed.

And that’s when it started.  The screaming.  Apparently the script called for the crowd to go wild because I spent the entire night waking up every so often to the roar of people.  It was a near sleepless night, to say the least. But all in the name of film!

This was the source of my sleeping problems.

This was the source of my sleeping problems.

 

Teddy & Me

One of the things I am fascinated by are people.  I love reading autobiographies, something I haven’t done in awhile, and so without much thought I decided to read one of someone who I know so very little about: Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States.  He was President from  1901-1909.  His penned his autobiography in 1913.  He goes on and on about things (it’s nearly 400 pages), but in some cases, I can see a bit of my own writing style in his chapters – and we even have a few things in common.

It’s an interesting read.  Also on the docket are the newest Clive Cussler novel and other eclectic reads I find on Amazon.

Winter Blues

I think, finally, this long cold winter has caught up with me.  I am so ready for those hot days off summer it’s not even funny.  Even the few warm days we’ve had are glazed with cool winter breezes.  I am desperate for some beach time and relaxing the in hammock without wearing layers of sweatshirts.  And a good session of surfing.

I am also ready for the next thing in life.

The water is 50F/10C/283K.  This is unacceptable for not only me, but me in a wetsuit.

The water is 50F/10C/283K. This is unacceptable for not only me, but me in a wetsuit.