USA: Chapter 3

We left cold, sunny Salem and headed north to Maine.

We took I-95 through the rest of Massachusetts and briefly through New Hampshire, which gave us a good opportunity to oggle the leaves the mountains. We crossed the state border about an hour later, and amidst the gigantic hi-ways (seriously, the shoulder lanes could be their own smaller hi-ways) and the moose crossing was just nothing but gorgeous scenery. And you start to understand why people from Maine spend most of their time outside doing shit. I’d want to do shit if I lived in a mostly unspoiled forest.

Our first stop in Maine was Portland. Joel had been reading up on Portland by way of it’s food scene. We stayed in the old harbour district for two nights, and ate, people watched, and froze our way through it. Seriously, it barely got above 12* there, and with a wicked wind chill (yeah, I can use wicked as an adjective now). I had clam chowder and lobster rolls, which confirmed that there’s no point in eating either of these things unless you’re in Maine. We also had a fantastic tapas dinner at Central Provisions, had our minds changed on potato donuts from The Holy Donut, and snuck burgers from Five Guys back into our room (just because you’re surrounded by amazing food doesn’t mean you can’t have the ol’ dependable.

There’s a lot to Portland outside of the old harbor that we didn’t get to see because 1) it was freezing; and 2) we were on a time crunch. We did see Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house, and the Portland Head Lighthouse, and quite a few junkies (junkies and guns are prevalent themes to our USA trip) including one person actively OD’ing in the streets, surrounded by first responders. Fun.

Before we left Portland for Bar Harbor, we wanted to have lunch at Rose Foods, which we found through Bon Apetit, and which didn’t disappoint at all (apart from not having their awesome tote bags in stock, which was 90% why we wanted to go). And then drop by the L.L. Bean flagship store (Joel has a thing for the Bean, and after freezing in Salem, we both needed warmer clothes).

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Now, about L.L. Bean. I always knew the people who dressed in L.L. Bean were members of a creeped out, plaid shirted, khaki panted, fleeced out, flanneled, golden lab and canoe owning yuppie cult that swallowed you whole once you reached a certain age and income tax bracket. And the flagship store in Freehold is where the blessed members of said cult come to congregate. This isn’t just a store, as we were lead to believe. We thought we could just browse the outlet store, grab a few essential warm things, and be on our way. But there’s the Flagship store, which is broken into 4 different stores. Then there’s the seconds store. And the outlet. And the cafe. And the park. And the existing town of shopping that has grown up around it. You see that gigantic boot, and it’s just the beacon of outdoor wear mecca. Every item of clothing is so soft and warm, in a variety of colours and linings and cottons, and made for relaxing even when it’s made to sustain negative temperatures and disaster weather. I’ve never climbed a mountain, or wanted to live in a log cabin sustaining on nothing by wild game and self-grown vegetables, but L.L. Bean made me think I could.

It’s dangerous.

We managed to get through just the flagship store, and then picked up a few things from Patagonia for me, and headed out before we were absorbed into the pod. As it was, all we could think about was scotch plaid and shearling lined vests and duck boots and and and. It was a lot.

As we left the Bean, Navigator Joel did some sleuthing and noted that we had enough time to drive to Bangor, and stop by Stephen King’s house before making it to our Air BnB, if we really wanted to. WELL YES WE WANT TO was the resounding response, and so, we set out to Bangor (pronounced BANG-gor, which I thought was the wrong way) to fan girl the master of horror.

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I thought we’d pull up to have throngs of fans waiting outside his house, clamoring for an autograph or a picture. But it was quiet. Eerily quiet. In fact, the entire time we were in Maine, the most we heard of Stephen King was on the radio, because the station we were tuned to had “Stephen King’s favorite radio station” in their call jingle. He’s just a part of the landscape, something that you see every day and finally stop paying attention to. L.L. Bean, lobster, heroin, Stephen King. Wicked.

I parked down the street opposite his house, and we tried to act nonchalant as we were obviously creeping on his house, taking pictures. We saw someone in fluorescent track suit going into the house through the side door, and naturally, we assumed it was him coming back from a jog. Then we read about how that time he was hit by a car while walking almost left him unable to walk, and decided Stephen King probably wouldn’t be out for a jog these days. Oh well.

So that was cool, even if it was uneventful. But as we drove through Bangor, we saw aloooot of similarities to Derry – the buildings, train tracks, and old houses all looked similar to what he’s written, and then before we got back on the hi-ghway, a HUGE statue of Paul Bunyan, which was what terrorised Ritchie Tozier in IT. I think I was more excited seeing that statute than I was seeing his house. And we drove past Mount Hope Cemetary, which was used in Pet Semetery.

We left Bangor and Mr. King, and proceeded further north to Steuben, just outside of Bar Harbor, for the most anticipated part of our trip: 5 days in a cabin on the edge of the Atlantic.

The cabin was the best. It was just out of the way enough to feel like we were alone, but not so isolated that being involved in a grissly murder a la every slasher flick EVER was a possibility. We saw the stars at night, woke up to beautiful sun rises and always had the sound of the ocean as our back drop. On our last day there, we decided to buy fresh caught lobsters and steam them. And sheeeit, you have never had a lobster until you’ve had one that’s fresh caught. Also in the top 5 messiest meals I’ve ever had.

We also took a trip to Acadia National Park and spent the day engulfed in the wonders of nature. The park was so big, so grand, and really made me wish I was in better shape to do all the hikes.

The next day, we drove through Schoodic Point for some equally amazing scenes of nature.


On the morning we left Maine, it was absolutely freezing. And when we finally got to Bangor Airport, it was snowing! Just flurries, but after not having seen any kind of snow in 4 years, it was enough to get me ridiculously excited. One terrible flight later, we landed at Reagan International, where my parents were waiting to pick us up.

The next 5 days were a blur. First, my hetero life mate and oldest bestie, Cara, drove down from Ohio to visit for a couple days with her new boyfriend. It was 2 days of talking shit, shooting the shit, re-living every terrible bad joke and inside joke, and one school field trip style adventure to the Shenandoah’s and Luray Caverns. Cara and I were basically joined at the hip from late 7th grade until we both moved after high school graduation. We have that friendship that doesn’t change no matter how long we’ve been apart, or what’s happening in our lives. Once I’m around her, I’m 16 and in Jncos, and we’re still working at Blockbuster. Except this time she has an 8 year old and I live in Australia and who the fuck saw that happening? It was great to see her and to meet Paul, and it just cemented that 2 days is never enough time with my friends (another emerging theme from the trip). While she was here, a bunch of us met up at a brewery for hang times, and where I didn’t take enough pictures. Nich and Krista drove in from North Carolina, and Griz came down from Maryland, and Mel and Jill came in from NoVa.

After Cara and Paul left, Joel and I were meant to drive up to Ohio with my parents for my grandpa’s memorial service. But the plans changed, and Joel and I were both coming down with mega flu, so we stayed back in Virginia with my sister, Mary. Mary was home alone with Henry, and it was cold and raining, so we decided to have a pumpkin carving party. Joel hadn’t carved before because Halloween isn’t really a thing in Australia, and Jack o Lanterns would just melt in the heat.

Before I knew it, my parents were back from Ohio, and the next day, it was time for us to leave. My mom made a big ass biscuits and gravy breakfast, and then we were off. There were lots of tears at the airport. A part of me was looking forward to being back in our home, with Pancake, not living out of a suitcase. But the other part of me was really sad to leave my other home, my family, my Bill Purray.

As it turns out, we didn’t have to miss them for long. Once again, we only had 45 minutes to make our connecting flight to Sydney when we landed in Dallas. And before we even went through security, we saw our flight leaving Dulles was DELAYED BY 60 MINUTES. We called Qantas, who said there was no question, we’d miss our flight. They suggested staying overnight in Dallas. Which really just pissed us off. So we spent an hour at the counter of our American flight, trying to figure out what we could do. After a lot of searching, there was a flight that left the next morning from Dulles, and would give us a 7 hour layover in Dallas. We decided to take that flight and just spend the night at my parent’s house. So they were pretty surprised to pick us up shortly after they dropped us off, but hey! Bonus family time — I’ll take it!

The next morning though, we were off for real. We bid another sad goodbye to my family, and went off to Dallas. My Uncle Bo and Aunt Sarah were in town, so we used our layover to meet up with them and eat way too much BBQ.

After they dropped us off, we sulked around the airport for an hour or so before it was time to board. We did and saw so much on this trip in such a (relatively) small amount of time, that it was really hard to process it all. All I do know is, I’m so happy that I got to hug so many of my favourite people. And that we got to see so many beautiful places that I just took for granted. If I could do it over again, I’d spend a month visiting friends and family, and a month in Maine. And maybe another month hanging out with my parents. And then another month after that on a beach somewhere. 4 month vacations are a thing, right?

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I’m so incredibly grateful for everyone who came to visit while we were Stateside, to everyone who put us up and spoiled us, and for Joel, who basically navigated the entire trip, kept me fed, kept me together, kept me awake on the road, and who was generally the best person in the universe.

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Thanks, America. We’ll see you again soon!

xoxo,
Audrey

USA: Chapter 2

From Pennsylvania, we made our way to The Big Apple.

While I’ve always been obsessed with New York, it holds an extra special place in my heart because it’s where Joel and I met up after 11 months of long distance dating. I picked him up from JFK, and we stayed in Brooklyn for 10 days having one of the best vacations of my life. So I was really excited to be back in our favourite place again. There’s nothing like coming around the parkway to see the skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. It always makes me giddy.

We stayed at an Air BnB in Brooklyn, near Williamsburg. It was Spartan meets Bohemia, and close to the subway lines (which were under construction for the weekend, d’oh) and a top rated pizza place (which we ate too much of). As predicted, it was COLD. And a little bit rainy, and hella windy. I had packed a wool cardigan, a hoodie, and Joel’s cheap cotton blazer, none of which would cut it. I needed something that I could wear in Maine, which was showing temps in the single digits. But I also needed something warm in the city. And I wanted to look cool while I was in the city, because looking cool in the city is very important. Clearly. These two things couldn’t be combined in a single coat, and I couldn’t buy two coats. Disappointingly, practicality won out, and Joel suggested a compromise of an outdoor-friendly windbreaker, and a cool and fancy sweater. We bought the windbreaker and a winter beanie hat, and I proceeded to have an internal meltdown hissy fit as we walked to lunch. As it turns out, hanger and emotionally compromising shopping decisions do not make good bedfellows.

Alas, after a life changing bowl of ramen at Noodle Bar (oh, my stars), I felt better about my decision. And the next day, when it was 12*, I sucked it up and prepared myself to walk around my favourite city in a windbreaker, looking like a g-damn tourist. The shocking part was that I was completely warm and comfortable, and because of that, we spent 11 hours walking through Brooklyn and Manhattan. We saw some familiar sights (Brooklyn Bridge, Bryant Park, the villages, 30 Rock, China Town), and some new ones (The Sept 11 memorial, inside the NY Public Library, The Top of the Rock, Brooklyn Flea, Brooklyn Highline).

 


The 9/11 Memorial was very somber and thoughtful. The two infinity fountains are located where each of the towers stood. The water falls into a pool that recycles and comes back through the falls, and the names of the victims are engraved on the sloping sides of the fountain. Apart from the occasional people taking questionable selfies (is it appropriate to selfie at a memorial? I’m on the fence), it was a quiet, respectful area. I always wondered if we would be able to create a memorial that would do the event justice without coming off as tacky or too abstract, but this was well done. The strange shopping centre, The Oculus, next to it is a bit cringey tho.

 

 


The first time I went to NYC was in November 2001. So I’ve only ever known it as the relatively scrubbed up and sanitised city it is now. I mean, I’ve seen some shifty areas and some gritty business there, and that’s part of the appeal. But this trip felt a lot less adventurous than it has in the past. I don’t know if the novelty or the excitement has worn off for me, or if it were the Insta-model photo shoots we passed every couple of blocks, the cheap independent shops that are now super chic, pricey boutiques, or the $20 hamburgers on every street, but something just didn’t click on this visit. The spark that I used to feel when I walked down the sidewalk wasn’t there. It felt expensive… and a little boring. But then again, I’ve lived in a big city for the last 4 years. Every other time I’ve gone to New York it’s been from the suburbs, which gives you that “ooOOooOo” feeling. Maybe I’ve just become that pretentious that I write sentences like that one I just left. And that I refuse to delete. Who knows. We still had a good time.

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One night at dinner, we had some wine and started planning our next leg: Boston. We were only spending one night there, and taking into consideration the drive to get there, we really only had about 6 hours in the city. And the hotel we had reserved was pretty far from the North End, where we wanted to explore. Joel was looking up National Parks (for our stamps passport, what up) that we could stop at along the way, when he said “What about Salem? We could stay in Salem.” And it was like 2 gigantic light bulbs exploded over our heads. Neither of us had been there, and since it was smaller than Boston and only a little bit further away, it seemed like a good compromise. Also, it was October, and Salem lives for Halloween (witches, hello!). We Googled hotels just to see, and Joel found a historic, HAUNTED hotel that was right in the centre of the action, with one room left. And so, we booked the room and our plans changed from Boston to Salem.

I had never been further north than Connecticut, so I was really looking forward to this trip. The weather wasn’t ideal for creating a brilliant leaf show, but it was chilly, and it was fall, and we were headed to New England. We picked up our new rental car, which was supposed to be an economy class SUV. However, they didn’t have any in stock, so we got an upgrade for free (heated seats what up)! The car was from Québec, which thrilled my inner Canada-phile to no end. But while we were leaving the city, I couldn’t figure out why I was going 60MPH, and barely crawling as I was being passed and honked at left right and centre. After a few embarrassing minutes, it dawned on me that the speedometer was in goddamn KILOMETRES and the MILES indicator was on a tiny reel under the kilometres reel. Whoooooops. Freaking metric system.

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Bonjour!

So once that was established, and after a harrowing traffic adventure getting out Brooklyn (freaking cyclists), we were on our way.

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Joel made himself comfortable

Salem ended up being a lot of fun, and definitely worth the change in plans. We toured the Witch House (the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who oversaw the witch trials of 1692. It’s the only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the trials – thanks, Wiki), The Salem Museum, The House of Seven Gables, The Witch Trial Memorial Park, The Nathaniel Hawthorne statue, The Old Burying Point cemetery, the historic houses on Chestnut Street (deemed “The most beautiful street in America.” and it is), and the waterfront.

It was about 5*, and so, so cold. But even with the cold, it was lovely, quiet, and small enough to take in in a limited amount of time. The fact that it’s historically significant in early American history is just part of the fun (yes, you read that right – fun!). It was great to walk around with several cups of coffee and just people watch. Because lordy, I have never seen more Stevie Nicks look-a-likes, costumed witches, teenage Goths, and unfortunate middle age, former teenage, Goths in one place at one time. Salem loves a haunted tale, and in October the town becomes a pilgrimage for every wayward witch and faux-witch alike. Oh, and junkies. Quite a few junkies just milling around itching, or passed out in alley ways.

 


We stayed in The Hawthorne Hotel, a historic boutique hotel that was a 2 minute walk to the historic district. I thought we’d be in for a dump of a room, but it was surprisingly swanky, and we had a really good meal at their pub. It was supposedly haunted, but nothing happened on the night we were there. Womp womp.

The next afternoon, we left Salem and I had a very strong urge to relive my freshman year of high school and re-read The Crucible. 

And then, we were Northward Bound to Maine.

STAY TUNED FOR ALL THE MAINE EXCITEMENT IN PART 3!

 

USA, Chapter 1

We covered A LOT of ground on our trip. Here’s what went down:

Sydney to Dallas, Texas
Dallas to Northern Virginia (Gainesville and Fairfax)
Northern Virginia to Central Virginia (Bedford and Madison)
Central Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia to Wernersville, Pennsylvania
Wernersville to New York City
New York City to Salem, Massachusetts
Salem to Portland, Maine
Portland to Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor to Washington DC/Northern VA
Northern VA to Dallas
Dallas to Sydney

Our first stop in the land of the free was good ol’ Virginia. Northern Virginia, to be specific. The People’s Republic of Northern Virginia, to be exact.

But first, the flight. A few days before we left Sydney, Joel realised that Qantas allowed only 90 minutes to collect and recheck our bags, go through customs, security, and make it to our next gate. He contacted Qantas to see if this was a mistake, but they advised that it’s the minimum time allowed for airlines to provide for connections. For international flights. Through Dallas Fort Worth. The second largest airport in the States. So we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. But once our initial flight out of Sydney was delayed by 30 minutes, we knew we were chancing it. And of course, even with rushing and running through the airport with our expedited LET US THROUGH passes, we still missed our next flight by 5 minutes. So, after a 14 hour flight, our choices were: wait 5 hours in the airport for the next flight; spend $900 on a flight with another airline that would get us home 1 hour sooner; spend $70 taxi to take us to Dallas and $70 to take us back. So we spent 5 hours waiting… waiting… waiting… for the next flight. Thanks, Qantas!

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3 hours in – Joel meets the Dunkachino

We eventually landed in Dulles around midnight. My sister and her friend Brian picked us up from the airport, and my friends Kristin and Kate surprised us there as well, so it was kind of amazing to have a homecoming squad at 12:30 in the morning, waiting for us at baggage claim. We spent a week with my parents, sister, and nephew in Gainesville, where we went to the Virginia State Fair (oh boy), saw an advanced screening of A Star is Born, I drove my family’s very fancy new cars, I picked through my storage room belongings (I thought I had 4 boxes. I actually had 2 carloads. Whoops!), Joel bought a fancy outfit for the wedding, we took a road trip to my dad’s pet project, The Kernstown Battlefield and then went to Harper’s Ferry, W VA, had a visit with the newlywed Odie and finally met his wife, Carrie, and had general hang times with my family and Mz Bill Purray, eating my mom’s cooking and watching almost every episode of 90 Day Fiance (WHY SO GOOD). I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed my family.

On Friday, we packed up our rental car and trekking 4 hours to Bedford, VA for Kris and Kate’s wedding (Fun fact: renting an economy car will get you a tiny roller skate car that will barely fit two adults and their luggage). I love Kate and I love Kris. They’re the most generous, hilarious, and lovely couple you’ll ever meet. And they throw a hell of a party.

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Kate and Kris by the lovely Michael Strange

I met them through my bestie Kristin, right after college when I was a certified Train Wreck, and I bonded with them through too many drunk, late night conversations at parties. Kate also saved my ass during one of the many times I was soon to be desperately unemployed, by scoring me a job where we ended up sharing an office together, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had working. Their wedding was +10 gorgeous, and even though it was 900* and humid, I loved spending the day before setting up and hanging out with my Ashburn pals, and Kate and Kris’ amazing and fun families. On the wedding day, everyone looked drop dead amazing. The vows were so heart felt and beautiful that I sobbed through the ceremony. The food was delicious, bar tenders funny, laughs non-stop, dance floor was fire, the bourbon was flowing, and I had a very hard time waking up at 6AM to get back on the road the next day. (Actually, the hangover was only part of it. It was mostly that Joel and I drunkenly mowed through two ham and cheese sandwiches that I unknowingly made with spoiled ham and we had mild food poisoning for the next 3 days). I’m mad I didn’t get more pictures, but we were both too busy dancing until my feet blistered and reconnecting with old friends – i.e. we had an amazing time.

After the wedding, we trekked (slowly, with great struggle and hangover) back north to Madison, where my bestie Daron lives – as I found out – on a farm on the top of a mountain. We figured this out as we were driving up, and up, and suddenly realised my foot was pressed almost down to the ground and we were still only going 15 miles an hour. Daron is a sweet angel baby and hooked us up with her neighbour’s Air BnB cabin, so I could nap (hangover) and have 3 rounds of toilet time (food poisoning), before she took us to Wal-Mart where we bought slippers, pumpkins, junk food, and bullets. We took the bullets and put them in her guns and made shooting happen at the pumpkins.

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Winchester, baby. Also my new most fave slippers. #wheninrome

I know, I know, America = guns. But Daron lives on a farm on the top of a mountain. It’s important to be able to defend yourself against bears/coyotes/foxes who wander in, won’t leave, and get aggressive when you try to scare them off. I’m terrified of guns, and was a terrible shot with the small pistols (in fact, I dropped the .9 millimetre as it was firing – whoops!). Joel, on the other hand, was basically a natural. I got talked into shooting the Henry rifle, even though I really, really didn’t want to. But something magical happened – I made 3 shots on the target in a row, and I loved it. I loved the feel of the rile, I loved how smooth and quiet it shot, I loved how the smoke escaped the barrel, I loved pulling the gold lever to cock another bullet into the chamber (is any of this correct terminology? I have no idea), and they basically had to pry the gun out of my hands. I only missed once. So if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse and I have a Henry rifle, you’re all in good hands. (oh man, just writing about shooting it makes me want to shoot it again)

Our cabin, which was even higher on the mountain top, was freaking adorable. After our shoot em up spree, we all retired to the cabin for dinner, a few hours gossiping, and Keeping up with the Kardashians (it’s not a Daron/Audrey hang time unless there’s bad reality TV or vampires involved), and once the stars came out, there was goddamn magical star gazing. We were so far away from civilization, that we saw the motherfucking MILKY WAY. It was beautiful. And I didn’t get a single picture of it.

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But I did try to get one of the sunset, so hey

From Daron’s mountain, we ventured northward still, to Philadelphia. We were meeting up with my parents there and staying for two nights. I love Philadelphia for two reasons: history, and cheesesteaks. We stayed in an vintage hotel, showed Joel where our country shook free the yolk of the monarchy, toured a submarine and a historic war ship, and ate some damn good food. My dad and I got matching cheese steak t-shirts, my mom nearly got swindled by a street hustler, and we wandered onto the wrong side of the tracks to get the best Philly cheesesteak. All in all, we had an absolute blast. We also lost about 20 lbs in sweat, because it was 90*, SUNNY, and with extreme humidity on the day we went sight-seeing. And, there were more laid out junkies on the sidewalk than I’ve ever seen in any city, anywhere.

We bid a sad farewell to my parents, and after missing a couple turns getting out of the city, headed an hour-ish out of the city to Wernersville, where my bestie Leah’s parents live. Leah, her husband William, and their two (two! when I left the States, there was only 1) kiddos flew east to meet up with us and spend a few days at Camp Lanphar: where you’re never hungry, rarely sober, and spoiled within an inch of your life.

The last time I saw Leah was two days before I flew to Sydney, and she was in Struggle City with her first born, who was 6 weeks old. To see her and William as real life, functioning parents to a 4 year old and a new 2 year old was weird. Like, it’s weird to see the kids I grew up with as actual adults. Weird in that I-know-this-is-what-is-supposed-to-happen-in-life-but-how-are-we-already-this-old kinda way. We spent two days, hanging out, laughing, playing with guns, talking way too much about poo and mudslides, watching kids be kids, drinking too much wine, but most importantly – eating ribs. Leah’s mom makes My Most Favourite Ribs In The Entire World, and always cooks a batch when I visit. This time around though, Leah entered the ring and we had a blind taste-test rib-off. Basically, it was the happiest night of my life, and I probably could have polished off both pants of ribs and died of stomach explosion with a smile on my greasy, rib coated face.

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The holiest of holy: ribs by Leah and Paula

If I’ve learned one thing from our entire trip, it’s that no time with my friends is long enough. And goodbyes still suck, but they don’t mean forever. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have friends who are family, and whose families have become my family. It feels good, man.

While we were visiting Leah, a big storm came through and the temperature dropped dramatically overnight (I saw a meme that put it best: “The weather dropped from 90 to 50 like it saw a cop.”), so it was blustery and cold. So we rolled out of Camp Lanphar in 49* weather and headed up to New York City. On the way, we stopped by Valley Forge to get our National Park Passport stamped (oh, we are SO cool now) and so we could see the sights. I told Joel the same thing that my parents told me before we visited Valley Forge in ’96 – that the troops there were snowed in and ran out of resources, so they had to resort to cannibalism. Except I forgot that was just legend, and the look of disappointment on Joel’s face when he read “No cannibalism was officially documented at Valley Forge” was probably the same look I had as a 12 year old. heh heh.

And I, in all my wisdom, thought “if it hasn’t cooled down yet, it’s going to be this hot forever, therefore I won’t need these sweaters and this winter jacket for the rest of my trip.” WOMP WOMP. I was very, very cold at Valley Forge, in the one sweatshirt I brought just as an afterthought. And I had a feeling it was just going to get colder.

STAY TUNED FOR CHAPTER 2: NEW YORK CITY AND MASSACHUSETTS!

USA: 1 Second Everyday

We’re baaaaack!

35 days, 6 states, 3 seasons, 2 vicious bouts of jet lag, and only 4 hangovers.

I’m still going through photos, but for now, here’s the 1 Second Everyday flick I put together. In true Audrey style, there are multiple seconds per day, because I hate making decisions.

And as I was loading all the videos, I kept thinking, “shit, I missed that, and that, and that,” and getting annoyed, because I seemed to not film some great moments on the trip. But, I didn’t catch some moments because I was being an actual person and engaging with other actual people, making memories, and I wasn’t glued to my phone. And thinking about that, I’m totally ok with the shit I missed.

So enjoy the smattering (and no where near comprehensive) of seconds from our trip. Tune in this week for Part 1 of PARTY IN THE USA


xoxo,
Aud

Party in the USA

Seriously, how is it July already?

I still feel like it’s January, like I’m still reminding myself not to forget that Valentine’s Day* is just around the corner. When really, my friggin birthday is right around the corner, and around the corner from that, is our big USA trip. That’s right, we’re headed back to my deep fried kingdom, my bullet ridden homeland, my red, white, and blue stomping grounds. And to say I’m excited is a wee bit of an understatement.  Continue reading “Party in the USA”

Wentworth Weekend

My favourite neuroscientist/life coach Josien was in town this weekend, house sitting at one of my dream houses in Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains. She invited me up for the weekend, and I was all HELL YAS. And after a 1.5 hour train ride on Friday night, I was there. Continue reading “Wentworth Weekend”

Aud vs. Australia: Driving to the Blue Mountains

SO. In my last post, I talked about how I confronted my fear of driving on the high ways here in Sydney by taking a professional driving lesson. I was hella scared and nervous, not because I was already scared about driving, but because on Friday, I made the mistake of telling my friend Josien about my upcoming lesson and how I planned to drive a little bit every weekend until I wasn’t scared anymore. Josien has this really irritating habit of forcing me to do things I’m afraid of and of holding me accountable for my goals, so I have to be careful what I tell her or else she’ll actually make me do it (i.e. I really should tell her everything I want to do with my life). And after I told her about my plans, without skipping a beat, she said “Ok, so where are we going on Sunday?”

Damnit, Josien.

I tried to talk my way out of it, but she wasn’t hearing it. It really was the perfect circumstances for a road trip: we’ve both been in a bit of a slump and it need of distraction, it was a long weekend, I had a car, and I needed road practice. And since Josien was my co-pilot on the very first time on the Australian roads, I figured she knew what she was getting herself in for. So, when I sat down for my lesson, I was actually twice as nervous: nervous to be there in the first place, and nervous that if this didn’t go well, tomorrow was going to be awful.

HOWEVER. My lesson was amazing. And by the end of the day Saturday, Josien and I had plans to visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah, about an hour and 40 mins away from Sydney. We were going to leave at 8AM, walk around the gardens, eat lunch on the porch of their restaurant, and head home. PLANS!

Well, Josien showed up and we got to work cleaning off my car. I hadn’t touched my car or even looked at it for 4 weeks when my instructor and I walked up to it. Of course, I could barely recognise the car because it was covered in bird shit and dust and pine needles and leaves, and the side mirrors were pine needles and cob webs (shudder). So I quickly brushed the needles off for my lesson, promising to give it a proper clean before our big road trip. For 20 minutes, we scrubbed the windows with Windex wipes and brushed all the debris off with a hand broom. And then, armed with a GPS and snacks, we were ready to get on the open road.

30 seconds into our drive, I knew something wasn’t right. The car sounded rough. Like there were rocks in the engine. I turned on to the main road and felt like I couldn’t get the car to speed up. And it still sounded strange. Very strange, considering it was driving perfect yesterday. At this point, about 2 minutes into our journey, it dawned on me that I might have a flat tyre (yes that’s how I spell it now). So I pulled off to the side of the road to investigate.

And oh, boy!

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Best start to a road trip!

Ah, shit. I hate flat tyres. I hate them because I know exactly how to change a flat tyre, but I’m not strong enough. It’s my T-Rex arms syndrome. And I hate that when I call roadside assistance and the guy (always a guy) shows up and I’m like, “Hi my tyre is flat,” I get that “It’s ok, little lady, let me just take care of this for ya” and he’s done in 4 minutes and I’ve paid $400 and I hate myself and pledge to work out to get Schwarzenegger arms. But also this time, I didn’t have a jack. And that’s absolutely paramount to the whole tyre changing scenario, or so I’m told.

Also it cost $400 because I had to sign up for membership + lodge emergency service because we were parked in a metro two hour zone. I thought I had signed up for roadside assistance but Joel reminded me that we said we’d get it later because “we probably won’t need it right away.” because that’s exactly how I operate in life. At this point, Karma decided to help me drive over that screw that punctured the hell out of my tyre. But, I got a bonus year of coverage for free, so it’s not all that bad.

So, around 9:45, our tyre was changed and we were ready to go. Except I was a bit defeated, feeling nervous, like this was all a bad idea, and I was ready to call it a day. I was half-heartedly trying to convince Josien that we should just go see a movie and save the road trip for another day, but then she said, “You know if you don’t go out today, you’ll never get back in your car again.” And I hated her because she was right. We had a full tank of gas, a full sized spare, and we still had heaps of day left. And so, I pushed on, against my will, by my friend who won’t let me bail on myself.

After a shakey start (I was literally shakey), we made it to the main road, then the highways, and more highways, and a wrong turn, and then more accidental highways, side winding back roads going up the mountain, and finally, we made it to our destination.

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Intrepid traveler — note the white knuckles and stress veins in my IRONG GRIP on the steering wheel. And this was after I relaxed. ha
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I DID IT!
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Waratahs, the NSW state flower. It’s a protected species, and it’s illegal to pick them if they’re growing wild.
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Josien!
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pretty
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Jurassic Garden. yes, I was thrilled.

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Most plants in Australia look like they were drawn by Dr. Seuss
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Black, like my soul
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Pretty, v.2
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I don’t have a view finder on my camera, and the sun was so bright I couldn’t make out the image on my display screen and thus I couldn’t tell what I was taking photos of. I’m so psyched this came out, in focus.

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Flower Eats Local Neuroscientist
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Pretty, v3
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“Clever Girl”

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Hello, flowers
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Hello, different flowers
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It’s like autumn (almost)

 

 

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this one reminded me of the sun

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It’s believed that this Eucalyptus tree has been around for hundreds of years, possibly before the Europeans arrived.

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We decided to take this unmarked trail
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And it was gorgeous
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And it had a very creepy, zombie proof gate at the end – odd.
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But, after we went through the zombie gate, we got to the entrance of the Lady (Nancy) Fairfax Jungle Walk. So yes, we explored the Lady Nancy Jungle. Or the jungle in Lady Nancy. Either way, it was damp and musty.
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classy
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But also reeeally pretty
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welcome to the Jungle! Gonna bring you to your sha-na-na-na-na kneeeeees

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GIANT tree stump
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GIANT nerd stump (this is me, being a tree) (totes authentic)

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These trees all grow in a circle in the jungle, no one is sure why. The tree experts are… stumped #thankyou
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mountains! You can see an itty bitty city outline in the verrrrry back. I think it’s Sydney. Joel disagrees.

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leeezard, v2

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Gorgeous view from lunch!
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Adorable vines
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Lunch!

We ate an amazing lunch (I couldn’t take pictures because I was so hungry that I immediately inhaled the thiny sliced salmon, perfectly friend potato cake with sour cream and fennel, and spring salad. I wish I were still eating it), with a gorgeous view, and made our way back to Sydney. I had pumped myself up to spend hours finding a parking spot, especially when my FAVOURITE spot was taken (the nerve of some people), but we found one in minutes that I only kinda needed to parallel park into.

All in all, what a fantastic little adventure. Josien and I used to work together, but she’s a doctor now with her own business so we don’t get to hang out 3-4 days a week anymore (once again, the nerve of some people). So it was great to spend the day with her, being huge nerds, laughing, having heart to hearts, scaring people with our show tunes, and listening to Mitch Hedburg and Eddie Izzard. I don’t remember the names of any of the new flowers I saw, but I still feel like I got a lot out of the day. I’m happy to have people like her in my life, who push me out of my sweatpants shell when they know it’s best for me.

Also, I’m still running off my driver’s high from having driven so far. Even if my ass and shoulders hurt the next day from being so stiff in the driver’s seat. But it’s such a good feeling to know that I’m not bound to public transport or someone else driving when I want to go somewhere. Feels good, man.

Onward to the next adventure!

 

 

Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 4

I’m terrified of heights – always have been. So when we made plans to see Tokyo from the top of Tokyo Tower and from the Tokyo City View sky deck in one day, I prepared myself for a day of anxiety attacks and probably shitting myself. Continue reading “Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 4”

Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 3

Ohhh northern hemisphere. It’s been two years since I’ve endured your summer August, and spending a week in humid, muggy, so hot it won’t rain but it really wants to rain Tokyo was a good enough reminder to cherish my (now) winter birthday in Australia. Continue reading “Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 3”

Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 2

I know I went on about how I don’t plan things when I’m on vacation, and how I’m all fly by the seat of my pants and “planning things isn’t fun”, but I didn’t realise how gigantic Tokyo is. And how much there is to see. And just how quickly 9 days can fly by – especially when 2 of those days are eaten by travel.  Continue reading “Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 2”