Being part of history in Boston

Last weekend my love for running and traveling to new places came together with a trip to Boston to cheer on my badass, speedy friend who ran the marathon. It was an experience I’ll never forget!

The 5k
I never realized how much else goes on during the Boston Marathon weekend, including a 5k run that close to 9,000 people participated in. Luckily the weather was great that morning, the spectators were out in full, and I got to experience running across the marathon finish line. There really is something special about running in Boston and I’m so glad I got a chance to do it (and make Massachusetts state #23 I’ve ran in!).

 

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The marathon
I was so excited to witness this historic race in person. Much has been written about the conditions so I won’t waste space here, but I can tell you it didn’t stop spectators from showing up. I can’t imagine what it would look like on a nice day based on how packed the course was in the shittiest of conditions. This city truly embraces this race!

I did a ton of spectator research before the trip. The logistics are a little insane for this point-to-point course, but we had a solid plan and it ended up working out well. I referenced the 2018 spectator guide and MBTA course viewing map a lot and could probably write a whole separate post on spectating tips. Feel free to reach out if you want more details.

My crew took the Green Line B branch to Chestnut Hill around mile 22. Our home base was Mary Ann’s, a cash-only bar we could easily dip in and out of. On a better weather day, I would have stayed outside the whole time. But with the crazy conditions, I popped out to watch the elites, my friends in Wave 1, and the main runner we traveled with who was in Wave 3. The app came in handy here since I could go out right before they hit our section of the course.

 

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We were inside Mary Ann’s when Des crossed the finish line and everyone went wild. Again, this city is all in on the marathon and it was so awesome to be part of it.

 

 

Everything else
I didn’t fit in as much sightseeing as I normally would have, but I had a great time eating and bar hopping my way through Boston. Some of the highlights:

We did have a brief cultural respite at the Museum of Fine Art. Unfortunately the lines were crazy long for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum next door so we skipped it. I also have to give a shout out to the totally clutch, locally owned store Trend on Newbury. I bought rain boots that were so necessary on marathon day and the owner was super nice and helpful.

 

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Flying high in Colorado Springs

It’s been almost six years since I visited Colorado for a destination wedding in Breckenridge. My brother and his girlfriend moved to Colorado Springs in January so I was excited to check out a different part of the state and his new (for the indefinite future) home.

I had some time to explore my first two days while Greg worked. On the first day, I met up with a former coworker in Manitou Springs for a delicious breakfast at Good Karma Cafe before setting off for Garden of the Gods. The rock formations were stunning, but the trails were super packed (even midday on a Thursday…) making it hard to fully appreciate the views. After walking almost every trail in the park — which doesn’t take long — I popped into Colorado Mountain Brewery for some refreshing local beer.

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Normally the next day I would have sought out some more hiking, but my trip happened to fall during the Crossfit Open and I didn’t want to tax my body too much before tackling 18.3. Instead I borrowed Greg’s bike and rode downtown to check out some local shops and breweries. I’ve had Oskar Blues before but never visited one of their tasting rooms so that was fun. Phantom Canyon had a selection that catered to my tastes better though and I really enjoyed my flight there.

At this point, you may be wondering why I felt okay drinking a bunch of beer before 18.3 but not hiking. Or more realistically you’re wondering why I would even bother doing crossfit while on vacation (that’s a post for another day). This workout happened to include pull ups, which I’ve never been able to do, despite crossfitting for over five years. A little liquid courage couldn’t hurt while flailing my body at a rig for 12 minutes and hoping for the best.

Before my trip, I contacted Crossfit SoCo about dropping in. I hopped in the first heat of their Friday Night Lights style event and asked for a patient judge who would hold me strict to the standards. I really appreciated that they paired me with one of their coaches. I got through the first three movements then stared at the rig. After several failed attempts where I didn’t even get close, I told my judge Rob I should probably just give up. He took me to a lower rig and had me do some drills to work on my swing and build some confidence.

I stepped back up to the main rig, gave it all I had, and dropped down feeling defeated. But then he told me it was a good rep and I immediately started crying, having just got my first pull up ever. I ended up getting two more before the time cap. It was an incredible feeling and I will forever be grateful for the hospitality Crossfit SoCo showed me (and the awkward photos Greg captured). We celebrated after with a tasty meal at Front Range BBQ.

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On Saturday, we considered taking on the Manitou Incline (next time!) but opted for driving up Pikes Peak instead. The steep, curvy, narrow drive was more nerve-wracking than I expected but the views from the top were totally worth it. And there are donuts. Which was so random but perfect.

We capped off the day with a ridiculous meal at The Rabbit Hole. Honestly they could have served me carrots and I would have been happy (but not really because carrots are the worst). We sat in a section under the stairs surrounded by books and string lights. Is there anything more Melanie in this world??

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The elephant-shaped edible in the room
My personal experience with marijuana has been very, very limited. I hate smoking and I’m not good at it. I’ve had one brownie and didn’t know what I was doing. In short, I’m a total noob.

I was very interested to learn more about the dispensaries in Colorado and the laws are a little more nuanced than I realized. At the shop we visited, you essentially get a concierge service with a guy behind the counter explaining one on one what everything is, how much is in each product, the intended effect, etc. He wasn’t judging or condescending, just super knowledgeable and friendly. I purchased some peanut butter cups which were delicious and effective.

Overall it was a super positive experience and I appreciated knowing more about what I was putting into my body going into it. Also, they had some sleep aid products that I would have loved to try since I’m a super insomniac. Indiana just got Sunday alcohol sales though so we’re a long way off from ever seeing marijuana legalized here at home.

I’m sure I’ll get back to CO Springs at some point (#siblingsgiving) so let me know what else I missed!

A snowy solo getaway

My recent solo vacation was unlike any I’ve done before. I typically pack a lot into every trip, but this time around I was looking for something low key that didn’t require a lot of planning or research. I landed on Primland Resort, located in the hills of Southern Virginia. It turned out to be exactly what I wanted and more.

The digs
The resort encompasses 12,000 acres with a variety of lodging options. I stayed in the Pinnacle Cottages, a short walk from the main lodge. They also had valets who would come pick you up, which proved to be so necessary once the snow started.

My room was amazing. I had mountain views from almost every spot, including the bathroom. I went next level #treatyoself and had a bottle of wine waiting for me when I got there. It was so completely relaxing to curl up and watch the snow while enjoying a Malbec.

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The activities
The resort has a long list of activities that take full advantage of the natural landscape. After I got settled in, I immediately headed out for a run on the deserted golf cart path. The forecast called for colder weather in the following days but failed to predict the crazy amount of snow we ended up getting. I was glad to get it out of the way and make Virginia the 22nd state I’ve ran in.

My plans to hike on the final morning were derailed by the snow, with the trails completely buried and indistinguishable. Instead, I got a hot chocolate and wandered along the golf cart path with no one in sight and no sounds to be heard but stillness and snow falling. I hate winter but it was one of the most serene moments of my life, second only to when I found myself alone on the South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon.

I did have a respite from the cold during my spa day. Being a #treatyoself trip, I signed up for a full body exfoliating scrub, massage, and facial. Between services, they had a relaxation room with floor to ceiling windows. I sat under a blanket and read while the snow continued to fall.

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The food
My first meal was so delicious it just about knocked me out for the rest of the weekend. Also, because I was dining alone, they offered me a complimentary Kindle. I declined but commented about what a great idea that was and how I should have brought my book. They offered to send a valet to retrieve it from my room. I declined again, but knew I was in for a special weekend after that.

The second night they had wine tasting with Blue Ridge Vineyards, based out of Winston-Salem. The red blend was so good that I’m probably ordering some to be shipped to me. After that, I dined at the pub, which was more casual but super tasty food.

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Charlotte pit stop
I could have stayed at Primland forever, but I had a chance to check out Charlotte (where I flew in/out of) so I headed south for my final night. My host managed to pack in some of my favorite things: local beer, string lights, rooftop views, and bourbon. We stopped in Sycamore Brewing, went to a Hornets game, and then took in the rooftop vibes of Fahrenheit.

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Photo by Corey Gensler (aka my host)

Overall, it was a pretty amazing weekend and one that took me by surprise in a lot of ways. It’s good to know I can let myself slow down and truly relax.

 

A peek at Pittsburgh

A work conference took me to Pittsburgh for the first time last week. I made the most of the free time I had to explore the city and the highlights ended up focusing on food and art (shocking!).

The food

  • Altius – walked across the bridge and took the Duquesne Incline up for an awesome view of the city paired with a delicious meal
  • Meat & Potatoes – one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had with short rib, pork shoulder, and pancetta. It was moan-out-loud-with-every-bite good!
  • Bar Marco – they have arancini on the menu. Do I need to say more??
  • The Foundry Table & Tap – long tap list and pierogies
  • Southern Tier Brewing – the beer I had was okay but I didn’t realize until after I paid my tab that they are also a distillery. Would have liked to try their bourbon/whiskey.

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The art

  • Warhol Museum – appreciated the chance to see more of his work beyond the pop art, so much so that I bought two prints!
  • Randyland – one of the most unique places I’ve ever been, an artist’s junkyard of sorts that cannot be missed if you’re in town
  • Mattress Factory – contemporary museum with three buildings worth of interesting exhibits

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I also ran along the Three Rivers Trail to make Pennsylvania the 21st state I’ve ran in.

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Central Coast Cali

When I heard about the Sonoma County fires, my first thought was hoping everyone was okay, especially since I have coworkers who live in the area. My second thought was wondering what it meant for the trip I was planning with three friends 10 days later to Sonoma and Napa. We debated still going, but our VRBO understandably cancelled; their house was spared but it sounded like Glen Ellen had a lot of damage.

We tossed around the idea of going to Willamette County in Oregon. Changing our flights would have been pretty expensive though so we regrouped and looked at where we could go if we still flew into SFO. My main hope was that we could have a similar trip to what we planned: Wine, hiking, more wine. What we ended up with was that and more.

Day one: Cruising down the coast
Coming from landlocked Indianapolis, driving down Highway 1 was pretty spectacular. We headed to Santa Cruz to visit Bonny Doon’s tasting room, with a pit stop in town to stroll the boardwalk and kill some time. This quirky vineyard was a great way to start the trip. My favorite wine was a Cabernet Franc that was not only delicious but had a really cool label designed by artist David Choe.

We then ventured down to Monterrey where we had some of the best truffle fries ever in the cutest beer garden at Alvarado Street Brewery. Next up was a private one-hour sail in the bay, which was absolutely gorgeous. I could have sat on that sailboat all day but we had to move on to Carmel and check in to the Pine Inn.

Our original plan was to stay in a three-bedroom house with a pool and hot tub. I was a little apprehensive about four ladies piled into one room, but we lucked out with a super spacious suite that had a king bed and couch in the bedroom and a queen pullout sofa in a solarium-type room. There was even a third room with a dining table.

 

Day two: Santa Lucia Highlands
I kicked off the day with a 10-mile run along Carmel’s Scenic Road and up part of Highway 1. It was surreal watching the sun rise over the mountains and cast colors onto the water. It was also hilly as fuck but I’ll keep those miles close to my heart for awhile.

When we had to re-route, I was concerned about missing out on the Sonoma County wineries. I wasn’t sure what this new area would offer but it delivered and then some. We drove about an hour out and worked our way back toward Carmel with stops at four wineries:

  • Smith Family Wines: Started on a high note with an incredible view, the most adorable patio, and super friendly/knowledgeable staff. My favorite was a white blend from their Paraiso label.
  • Hahn Wines: We wanted to take in more of the scenery this time so instead of doing a tasting inside, we bought a bottle of the Rose to enjoy on the terrace. They have a cat on staff who was hanging out there so I was basically in love with this place.
  • Wrath Wines: This vineyard came recommended by a few friends but we weren’t super impressed. Part of that may be that we were getting hungry and they ran out of cheese plates… No favorites to note here, but we did manage to find a McDonalds on the way to the last winery. Pro tip: Bring food with you!
  • Odonata Wines: The one good thing that came from our stop at Wrath was the recommendation to visit Odonata. It was a smaller production with just three dudes on staff who all looked like they should own a brewery. They were friendly, passionate, and just the right amount of sassy for our group. I ended up shipping three bottles of the Cabernet Sauvignon home. Pro tip: Indiana laws are effed up so not everyone can ship to us. I should have checked a bag so I could bring back more.

Back in Carmel, we cracked open a bottle of the white blend from Paraiso then hit the town. The highlights: A ridiculous meal at Basil, rooftop drinks at Vesuvio, shooting the shit with Parker at Sade’s, and having a bunch of rich guys who were more than happy to flaunt their millions pay for our drinks at Barmel.

 

Day three: Hiking and more wine (because duh)
After a light breakfast at Belle, we drove down Highway 1, across the infamous bridge, and into Big Sur. Unfortunately a lot of the trails were closed but the park ranger guided us to Buzzards Roost which promised panoramic views for the low, low price of a steep (to us) climb. It was worth it though and we managed to beat the rush.

Since it had been a few hours without wine, we naturally spent the rest of the day hopping around tasting rooms in Carmel. There are probably at least 20 in town, which is both convenient and dangerous.

  • Scratch: These Cali wineries know the way to my heart: Wine + art. The tasting room doubles a gallery so you can sip your flight while strolling around.
  • Trio Carmel: We had a great time here with a server who was willing to go off the tasting menu and give us some fun pours, including a cider he designed the label for. My favorite though was an Albarino by La Marea, a style I had never had, and a unique red blend by Le P’tit Paysan.
  • Caraccioli Cellars: We had our first and only charcuterie plate here, which paired perfectly with a flight that focused on bubbly. I loved the Brut Cuvee and Brut Rose and was super bummed to find out they don’t ship to Indiana. Though that means they do distribute and I can keep an eye out for their label.
  • A.W. Shucks: Not a tasting room, but a dinner spot. I’m not a big fan of seafood but I did enjoy the crab cake and my trip-mates devoured the oysters (gag).

 

I will definitely get to Sonoma/Napa eventually but this trip worked out so well and we discovered a region I never knew had such great wineries. I would highly recommend this area for your next getaway!

On being alone

EXT. VALTER’S OSTERIA. EVENING.

A WOMAN in her early 30s sits alone at a table on the patio. She’s waiting for her bill and slipping into the early stages of a carb coma, having just enjoyed a delicious meal at one of the top rated restaurants in Salt Lake City. A group of men walk by, led by UNNAMED ASSHOLE.

UNNAMED ASSHOLE
“Why are you alone?”

The woman looks over, confused.

WOMAN
“What? What’s wrong with being alone?”

Unnamed Asshole looks at his friends, laughs, and shakes his head in disbelief.

UNNAMED ASSHOLE
“Are you serious?”

His friends join in the laughter and keep walking. The woman sits in silence, her rage boiling below the surface. The waiter places her bill on the table.

THE END.

 

On my recent trip to Salt Lake City, I arrived a couple days before my friends who I was meeting in town. I’m a big advocate for solo vacations and even wrote about tips for traveling alone after my first time doing it. (Note to self: Write a part two. That trip was 6 years ago and I’ve come a long way since then… literally!) So, it wasn’t unusual for me to explore a destination on my own.

When the scene above played out on my first night in SLC, I was so pissed off at Unnamed Asshole, and then later pissed off at myself for giving him any reaction at all.

I’ve reached a point where I’m pretty comfortable doing anything alone: Eating at a restaurant, going to a movie, hiking, etc. If I waited around for someone to do all those things with me, I might never leave my apartment. That’s not to say I don’t have any friends. Just that people aren’t always available, or they don’t want to do the same thing as me, or sometimes I just want a break from people. Basically, I never let being alone hold me back from experiencing life.

When people tell me they could never imagine doing these things alone, I often wonder if it’s because they’re uncomfortable being alone with themselves. I don’t want to put myself in the position of judging them the way they judge me, but it reeks of insecurity. I imagine they’re worried about people thinking they’re a loser, worried about being bored, worried about being alone with their thoughts (oh wait, that last one applies to me, too). I picture them face down in their cell phone safety net should they ever end up in public alone.

But a funny thing happens when you decide to embrace doing things on your own: You can have a ton of fun! It’s freeing to be able to do whatever you want with no one to answer to. You pick the restaurant. You pick the movie. You pick the travel destination. Doesn’t that sound great? Doing whatever you want?

And sometimes, because you’re forced to pay attention to your surroundings more, rather than stay in the comforting bubble of your friend group, you can have some really unique experiences. I’ll never forget one night in South Haven when I ended up bar hopping with two travelers I met while eating dinner. At every stop, we picked up more people and ended the night dancing on a boat. Sure, that could have happened with a group of friends or a boyfriend (assuming they have the same mindset), but I was more open to that experience because I was alone.

I’ve had some super fun trips with friends (no boyfriends, yet), including the rest of my time in Salt Lake City. I don’t want to take away from those experiences by any means, but I really cherish the trips I’ve taken alone. And I’m already thinking about where I’ll go next. I’m getting the international itch again so it might be time for my first solo experience overseas.

As I replay my conversation with Unnamed Asshole, I wonder about his motivation for saying anything at all to a total stranger. I can guarantee this scenario would not have happened if I were male. And sure, maybe he thought I was too attractive to be eating alone (for the record, I don’t think that). But that implies I can’t exist without someone else. And clearly he wasn’t considering the many factors that may have led to me sitting there alone. But none of those would have mattered either. He doesn’t deserve an explanation. It doesn’t fucking matter why I’m alone.

And I will never get an explanation as to why he’s an asshole, though I have a few guesses. In the meantime, cheers to you, Unnamed Asshole. May you feel better about yourself having confronted the woman sitting alone.

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Salt Lake City

When my friends Brooke and Ryan mentioned they were road tripping from Portland to Colorado, staying at national parks and forests along the way, I jumped at the chance to meet them in Salt Lake City and see Utah for the first time.

After the obligatory listen to Sal Tlay Ka Siti, I dove into researching SLC. This trip had a lot of moving parts, so I ended up creating more of a structured itinerary than I typically do. It worked out great though and I got to experience the best of SLC proper and the beautiful surrounding area.

Day 1: Olympic Park and Park City
I’ll admit to not watching much of the Winter Olympics outside of ice skating, but it was cool to visit Olympic Park. There’s a lot to do in the summer if you want to pay for it. I went the free route and hiked up the Iron Bill trail, around the Legacy Ridge/Loop trails, then back down via the extreme tubing trail.

Next, I headed over to Park City and refueled at Wasatch Brewery before taking the town lift up the mountain. It was my first time on a true ski lift and I have to admit I was more nervous than I thought I would be. The views were absolutely beautiful though so I tried to relax and take it all in.

On my hike back down, I intended to follow Jenni’s Trail. The trail markings were a little confusing though, so I’m not quite sure what route I actually took. I came out near the Legacy Lodge and had a short walk back to the main street area where I posted up at High West Distillery for a flight. Because of Utah laws, they can’t actually pour you the whole flight at once. I enjoyed mine two-by-two and bought a bottle of Campfire before heading back to SLC where I enjoyed a delicious meal with phenomenal service at Valter’s Osteria.

Day 2: SLC
I started my day with a three-mile run, making Utah the 20th state I’ve ran in. Staying in sweat mode, I drove over to the Greater Avenues area to access the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. If I thought the trail markers were confusing in Park City, they were nonexistent here. Luckily I had done some research and knew general landmarks to look for in order to climb toward a truly spectacular view of Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains. I also hiked part of the trail near the Natural History Museum, though I turned around before ever finding the Living Room.

After another full day in the sun, I was ready for Red Rock Brewing and BTG Wine Bar. The Golden Halo at Red Rock was one of my favorite beers of the trip.

Day 3: Wasatch National Forest
Brooke, Ryan and their dog Charlie arrived in town and we headed out to Wasatch National Forest. We drove around checking out different sites and overlooks before settling in at Duchense Tunnel campground. The forest was full of stunning views, including the creek that our campsite backed up to.

Day 4: SLC
I would have loved to camp another night but everyone on my flight home was probably grateful my last night was spent in a hotel with a shower. We hopped around to The Green Pig (loved the rooftop), Twist (good cocktails and fun staff), and Squatter’s (more of that Utah 3.2% beer).

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As much as I loved the beautiful views, I didn’t care for the vibe of Salt Lake City itself. I would recommend that as your point to fly in/out of, but suggest spending most of your time in Park City and surrounding areas.