Parking Wars

I bought my first car my sophomore year in college…. a used white VW rabbit. It lasted a couple years until it died on me in the middle of the rural Virginia mountains on my way back home for Christmas break.

I went on to buy my dads next 2 cars, both Ford Escorts. Reliable and safe.

Finally I had enough saved to buy my first brand new car a black Ford Explorer and then a beautiful blue Hyundai Santa Fe. While I would love to own a new car, I enjoy having no car payment anymore. I fully intended to keep my “blue baby” for as long as she would have me, but it wasn’t meant to be.

I’ll never forget it. It was a Monday early morning and I had planned to open the YMCA at 5am (which is very unusual for me) since we were jump starting a massive new event to get our members motivated and moving. Suffering with only 3-4 hours of sleep, I had a Mountain Dew in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other but ready to attack the day and week ahead.

About 45 minutes in, my high energy trainer arrives and asks if I was drunk and why I was parked sideways? She is a nut (in a nice way), so I brushed it off. Then after another half hour, my boss comes in and says I needed to follow him to the parking lot. Hmmmm. Well, my car had been hit by a big semi and pushed 2 full parking spots over so I was actually perpendicular to my colleagues’ cars. OMG.

Well the story gets better….. a member stops by our main desk and said she saw it go down AND that she had it on video (she was talking to a friend via FaceTime and flipped the camera when she heard a huge crash). We were able to make out the logo on the side of the truck and went into full CSI mode. The police wouldn’t come out to even do a report as it was a hit and run. WTF. So we researched the company and got a hold of their corporate offices in GA, and were able to identify the exact truck due to extra lights the driver had decked it out in. Simultaneously, my boss was out for lunch and saw a similar truck with blue paint all over it’s backside…. so we now had a license plate and through more websites we got the drivers name.

The driver gave me this massive sob story and how he didn’t want his insurance to take a hit. I just wanted to be whole again and get it fixed. We arranged to meet and he was a no show. So, no more Mrs. Nice gal. I called corporate again and they ended up suspending the driver until he got ahold of me to make things right.

After an estimate, it wasn’t worth it to get it fixed so I went on the hunt for a new wheels. I fell in love with my hunter green Jeep Cherokee and the rest is history. And the pay off check…… I used it for another vacation!

Hawaii fav pics & quotes – part 1

I’ve never been more inspired and motivated. It’s amazing what a little adventure and finding your true passion can do.

Taking pictures and then trying to articulate the experience through my own eyes has become a new outlet for me to sink my somewhat lack of creativity into.

It was extremely enlightening to not be able to wipe the ridiculously wide smile off my face every day along this epic trek AND it kept getting bigger. I realized I was starting to take more selfies and wanting to capture my expression in that exact moment. This had never happened before.

So even though I have way too many hobbies and projects on my “to do” wish list, I am now obsessed with overlaying many of the motivational quotes that drive me on top of these epic pics that remind me of such a beautiful, life changing journey.

Which is your favorite?

Restless

The day I get home from one of my crazy adventures it is always the same – throw everything into the washing machine and fall to sleep in my own bed. That feeling of complete comfort makes all the days of sleeping in the back of a van or tossing/turning on a red eye flight or crawling up on the floor in the airport all fade away instantly.

Next up is a mini kinda depression. The monotony of every day life. I know it is coming and inevitable. But yet again, I get sucked down. The independence and unknown of any vacation is a whimsical experience that always comes and goes in a flash before you can even blink.

I try to combat that feeling with my wide array of extracurricular interests, but it still creeps into my brain like a nagging headache. It can be kept at bay for awhile and bottled up somewhere deep in my subconscious in the short term. An occasional long weekend will suffice my very independent genes, so I can literally taste the freedom of the open road.

Until the next opportunity to jet off, I enthusiastically scour resources to always have an adventure in the wings waiting for me to act upon it.

You played 4 collegiate sports?

I did it for the challenge. If you could add value to each team, would you go for it?

My first love was always basketball, so finding a school that embraced ‘ball was my top priority. Actually most people don’t know that my second best sport was a toss up between volleyball and softball (ultimately the later won out). It was a perfect fit for me to find a Division II school where I could still play both competitively. After freshmen year and learning how to balance all the new pressures of college life, I joined the fall soccer team as a defender (which was a challenge in itself to reintroduce skills that had sat dormant during high school since it coincided with basketball season in northern VA). Tennis didn’t start until the spring…. so why not stay in shape?

I wasn’t the tallest or fastest or the most gifted, BUT I was always the hardest worker in the room. Sprinkle in a little talent and a learning mindset, and you can make a difference wherever you go. I studied the game relentlessly, picked up on others’ weaknesses and did all the basics well. Then the real key is to surround yourself with amazing individuals, so that you can create something very special. Alone you can only do so much, so an overachieving team is the only way to leave a real legacy.

At the time, I didn’t realize the impact college athletics would have on my life. Besides the obvious life skills of work ethic, teamwork and time management, athletics is an outlet for creativity and individuality. You understand the importance of not only practice, but quality preparation. Those endless hours of repetition and play memorization will pay off when the game is on the line. Drilling on the basics is still to this day transferable to any job – simplicity and execution reign supreme.

Those intangibles learned such as self confidence and the ability to handle pressure situations is invaluable. Even to this day when hiring or recruiting, I still always give preference to former athletes.

My teammates became my extended family and some of my closest friends even to this day. With the extreme highs and devastating lows, they help you power through and find a way to win in so many more ways than just in the scoring column.

Coaching and mentoring younger players at summer camps helped you learn how to breakdown drills and ultimately made your own game stronger. When you saw a light click on in their minds and saw them execute a new skill, the immediate joy was priceless.

Be a game changer. What’s your legacy?

Transcontinental Cruisin’

There are a few openings on a last minute Disney cruise crossing the Atlantic, do you want to go? A no brainer.

After a stop in the coveted Castaway Cay for a day of pampering ourselves, we set off for 6 days at sea without stepping foot on land or seeing other ships. Most people say they couldn’t handle it. To this natural introvert, I couldn’t get enough. It was amazing. There were extra classes offered in the gallies, bridge tours, first run Disney movies and extra pool time.

We had stops in Madeira, Portugal and Gibraltar, which were my first experiences outside the Western Hemisphere. A whole new world.

Spain was delicious in every sense of the world. The vibrant colors everywhere. The house decor. The exquisite food. The over the top flower bouquets. I will have to spend more time there in the future without question.

Gibraltar was extremely interesting to me with caves built into the towering rocks that we got to explore and views on a clear day to actually see the neighboring continent of Africa. Monkeys lingered around trying to steal your food and wallets. And the airport is listed as one of the most unique and dangerous in the world, as it is the only one to have a highway running straight perpendicular onto its only runway.

The grand finale was pulling into Barcelona for the first time ever, their new home port for the season, with a spectacular fireworks extravaganza. Oh my…… it’s was Disneyesque and truly magical!

Ahhhhhh a Greece 1st timer

For those that know me, it’s no surprise that I picked the 3:10am flight out of Cairo via Athens to Chania, Greece. Why would I choose to brave the crazy Egyptian traffic at 12:30am (yes you read that correctly in this city of 300 million residents), fight keeping my dry contacts in all night and stave off being comatose from lack of sleep?

Well it’s 10am on a glorious Saturday and I’ve already staked out my spot along the old 7th century Byzantine fort ruins of this seaside paradise. A gentle breeze is cutting through the waves and sailboats are launching for a day at sea. I followed the sea wall to the ancient lighthouse protecting the fort and plopped down for some quiet time. Overlooking the harbor are quaint, outdoor cafes just begging you to slow down and enjoy the start of the weekend.

Since my apartment wasn’t available for checkin that early, my plan was to beeline for the harbor and explore a bit. I had travelled fairly light for my 5 week international adventure, donning only two book bags, so it was an easy decision. Plus having endured 100+ temps over the last 2 weeks, I was going to enjoy not baking in the early summer sunshine. And the beachy vibe was a refreshing release from the chaos, noise, aggressive street vendors and sandy confines in Africa.

In the distance, the mountains are also calling and I can’t wait to meet my next travel group tomorrow and get lost for a week of trekking in all new territory.

But first….. I just had to stop at one of the bustling cafes for fresh squeezed OJ, a strawberry smoothie and fresh baked croissants to truly get a first taste of this inviting culture! 🇬🇷🇬🇷🇬🇷

Hiking To The Wave

If you are an avid hiker or outdoor enthusiast, the elusive Wave has been on your bucket list since you began your journey into the wild.

I had high hopes of winning the lottery during my short stint in Kanab, but had a solid backup planned out that I throughly intended to enjoy. When I beat the 5% odds to snag my once in a lifetime opportunity via the walk up lottery, the butterflies wreaking havoc on my stomach were in full force the night prior.

Of course, I always have a twist that makes things interesting. My schedule on this particular Saturday was extremely tight, as I had a flight to catch back in Las Vegas 4 hours away by 7pm. So inevitably, I backed out the timeline and needed to start my trek before any hint of daylight.

So with my headlamp, the NPS detailed map and lots of layers to combat the brutal 21 degree starting temperature outside, I took my first step onto the trail at 6:50am without another soul in sight. I easily found the first cut off and crested over the first hill just in time to snag a glimpse of twilight starting to erupt over the desert like landscape. I can’t believe no one else got to experience the first light of day from this amazing vantage point.

I easily navigated the trail and thoroughly enjoyed the varied terrain over the 6.4 mile round trip adventure. Wildlife would occasionally peer over the spires and watch my every move. As the sunlight peeled out over each peak, the colors of the valley would radiate differently at each passing glance. It was insanely inspiring.

After passing between two small beachy mounds, you had one long, uphill sand challenge to traverse prior to reaching the coveted prize. I looked behind to see any other form of human life, but still found nothing but the quiet of nature.

And then…… The Wave, in all its glory, is still hidden from the sun’s rays and beaming to be explored. I went crazy snapping pics and videos, even having enough signal to shoot a live video! I certainly didn’t take this solitude for granted, as I knew it couldn’t last for long. But after an hour of jumping around alone, I ventured upward to climb to even more lookouts and peer into numerous different coves. It was so rejuvenating and life changing, even after tripping over a boulder to slice off the top of my finger. (My first aid kit came in very handy).

After 2.5 hours of pure joy, I knew I reluctantly had to start the return journey. Not until I had quickly slid down the big sand hill did I see the first sign of another human (they had gotten lost). I’m still grateful and shocked that I got to enjoy the magnificent Wave to myself!

I took a couple of minor, wrong detours by hugging the cliffs too close to the left but course corrected to ease back out of the valley with a HUGE smile that wouldn’t leave my face the rest of the day.

And the kicker….. I had forgotten that I actually gained an hour traveling over the Utah and Nevada border, so I had plenty of extra time to catch my flight to Hawaii (go figure)!

Pie eating contest 🥧

Of all the spontaneous weekend trips I plan, none are more important than those involving auntie duty.

On par with my self induced crazy schedule, I attended an amazing concert the night before my pre dawn flight to NC. With only 4 hours to spare, I decided to head straight to the airport and try to catch a half-hearted snooze, since the Orlando airport had been a nuthouse lately at all hours of the day.

After a non eventful two hours in the air except for an impressive sunrise, I was met by my 3 crazy nieces and nephews ready for an afternoon outdoors at the local church’s Easter festivities. The obstacle course was supposed to be the highlight of the event, but somehow I got suckered into the pie eating contest prior.

After learning there would be 17 pies ready to be devoured, I encouraged Olivia to stake out her spot. But the emcee switched gears and confirmed it was an adult only event. And she assumed I was going to represent. OMG!

It didn’t matter that I HATE any type of cooked fruit or pie…. bottom line…. the Elliott clan is ultra competitive. So she just looked at me with those baby blue eyes and I knew there was no way I could disappoint her.

Bracing my hands on the table legs and pulling up my hair, I was ready for my attempt at greatness. I dove in, chomping away at my tray of Dutch Carmel apple (which at least boasted an inkling of tastiness in the crumb crust). Every muscle in my body contracted in pushing down my gag reflex (barely) and the next 4 minutes was a blur…. EXCEPT the sounds of Olivia screaming at me to keep going & that I was winning!! Her enthusiasm egged me on & I felt a second wind coming on.

I took a brief glance up at the table & OMG I really had a shot! By this time, everyone is laughing & screaming with only my crust remaining (meanwhile a huge wad of fruit is tucked into both cheeks as I plowed ahead). I dug my tongue around the edges and struggled to get the sticky stuff dislodged. Then with only 2 bites left, the contest was called for my 6’5” competitor. This was the first time in history I was a-ok with a respectable second place finish!

A few notes: my chin was rubbed raw, my sweatshirt smelled of sugar & had a crusty film along the collar the rest of the day, we all couldn’t stop laughing AND I can honestly say that I will never eat apple pie again in this lifetime!!

PRICELESS!!!!

Stairway to Heaven Hike

I’ve dreamt about this one for years.

Stairway to Heaven or Haiku Stairs is one of the most iconic treks in the world at 3,922 steps. Built in 1942 by the Navy for access to a radio relay station during WWII, it has been illegal to hike since 1987 due to disrepair of the steps with a $1k fine & arrest if caught by police.

However…..

The legal way to gain access to the stairs is via a 10 mile round trip trail leading up from the Moanalua Valley. I decided early on to start my quest at daybreak, giving me extra time to complete my challenge if needed. The average hiker ascends in four hours and returns in three more, so my only goal was to finish.

The first three miles are easy going along a winding but tame path deep into the lush forest. After 10 creek crossings at varying depth depending on recent rainfall, the trek’s intensity flies off the charts.

You dig in mentally for 3 hours straight uphill following RIDICULOUSLY narrow ridge lines amongst the quickly moving fog blankets hovering all around. Those two nearly vertical miles seem to inch on for ages, as you reach five different ledges that are so slick that ropes are dangling from branches to assist with your ascent. What did I sign up for? In this moment, I’m super thankful I didn’t drag any of my friends to this “gut check” trail as any fear of heights would have been paralyzing. Definitely a GDC moment!

Each new peak is a fake summit, but there is no turning back now. Out of breath and heart racing, you plow forward feeling a little disheartened but also so empowered in the same breath. You are fixated on finding the elusive radio tower, signifying the end of your journey.

Then finally, it comes into sight with only ~150 more steps to go and you literally feel like you can walk on air and fly up that last ledge.

And if you are super lucky, you get to enjoy this vantage point all by your lonesome. Yep, it is a surreal moment.

I captured a few pictures and videos jumping over the railing to actually walk on the top 50ish steps and peer over the top to see how crazy the staircase below actually is.

I break out lunch and gulp down a liter of water to replenish the gobs of sweat that I had expended reaching this pinnacle, just as I see a few fellow travelers climbing up the last ledge to join me in reveling at our accomplishment.

Over my 40 minutes sitting on top of the world and waiting for the fog to subside for a few minutes at a time, we only see one crazy adventurer who attempted to evade the police and made it up the full staircase unscathed. I wouldn’t risk it!

The 2 hour and 50 minute jaunt back to civilization was spent concentrating on my footing and celebrating the mind blowing 360 degree scenery. I pass maybe 20 fellow travelers (at the most) and we trade encouragements at our shared goal. And of course, I try not to get injured rappelling down the insanely steep drop offs or break open too many of the blisters that had accumulated on my palms.

The last three mile stretch couldn’t finish soon enough, as I was out of water and literally was just thinking “one foot in front of the other”.

10 miles ✅

Bucket list hike ✅

Blue Ridge mountain escape

Everyone needs an escape every once in a while. I may take that to the extreme, and I certainly jumped at the chance to reunite with my college besties for a late summer 2021 rendezvous in the stunning Blue Ridge mountains (a preview of our 25th reunion upcoming in October).

The sweet spot was in NE Georgia for 3 North Carolinians, 1 Georgian & me the lone Floridian. Syncing the calendars of five busy families is no easy feat, but once we had a date, everything else fell into place.

I flew into the small airport in Asheville with 7 hours to kill, so I got an Uber to the stunning Sierra Nevada Brewery. After a little bit of remote work and a few drinks, I settled into a lounger on the back porch to enjoy a beautiful summer afternoon people watching.

Once my ride arrived, we weaved our way 3 hours through the mountains. Our quaint log cabin was aptly named “A Simple Life”. After a ridiculously steep dirt road approach in the dark, we beelined for the hot tub.

Twenty nine years of memories came flooding back and we enjoyed having no set agenda. I was stoked the girls wanted to go hiking so we set off on an easy 1 mile trek to a local waterfall. After a quick stop in the cute downtown of Blue Ridge, we enjoyed a serene night catching up on the porch swing while Alanda surprised us with her own version of a charcuterie “coochie” board.

When was the last time you partook in a drive in movie? I was genuinely excited to pull up a chair for opening night of the big hit Jungle Cruise.

Saturday was an adventure. After a morning neighborhood stroll, we grabbed tubes for a leisurely 3 mile float down the Toccoa River. We tethered our 5 vessels together, blasted some country music, cut open our frozen margarita popsicles and started our voyage. Tons of laughs ensued while we maneuvered through mini rapids en route to our extraction point.

We made a pit stop at the marina and bar to enjoy some live music and even better company. As our shirts imply, sometimes you need your girls just to listen, have your back, make you laugh, remind you how strong you are and ultimately be your rock….. better than therapy!

Our last full day together, we partook in local wine tastings, strolled through downtown again, indulged in homemade ice cream, sampled healthy olive oils and ended with a ginormous BBQ dinner.

Departure day, we bid goodbye to an amazing hideaway and vowed to rendezvous again in 2022 on a cruise. But we had one final stopover planned, as we detoured again to the brewery for one last toast to 29+ years of friendship. #fiveamigas #lrualumni #25yearreunion

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