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”

Hello, goodbye: 2017

And here we are, at the end of 2017.

I could focus on the bad shit — Trump, loss, depression, not becoming obscenely rich — but I’ll focus on the positive. 2017 was a year for: Continue reading “Hello, goodbye: 2017”

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”

Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 1

You guys.

Our trip to Tokyo was amazing, as predicted. For 8 days, we took in the sights (and heights), the sounds (when it wasn’t eerily quiet), the tastes (holy crap, food city), and in all realness, only made it through 1/2 of what Tokyo had to offer.

Continue reading “Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 1”