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Why We Travel

We’ve always enjoyed travelling together. Whether to Sante Fe in the winter, Savannah in the spring, time living in Germany, racing in Oklahoma or New England or Scotland … travel has been something we’ve shared and been invigorated by.

But these adventures started at a distinct point in time … Paul and I decided to take a road trip in November of 2013. We have done other shorter adventures in the past, but this would be three weeks of traveling. We made up a loose plan to head down to New Orleans, make our way to Big Bend National Park in Texas and then wind our way back to PA. We filled our Honda Fit with all our gear, tents, running shoes, bikes etc.. and headed South. The trip went well and stirred up a desire in both of us to travel more. You can see the pictures from that trip.

Paul’s parents have been travelling around Europe for several years in a camper van, an idea which became more appealing to him as time went by. He turned 50 shortly after we arrived home and announced that he wanted to buy a Sprinter van and customize it for traveling. I thought he might be joking but he actually bought  a van via e-bay and that was that. I am glad he measured our driveway first because the van barely fits in it. The winter and spring of 2014, and later the early winter of 2014/2015 saw a huge amount of work to outfit the van with solar power, cabinets, bedding and more. You can follow that continuing story over on the build thread at Sprinter-Forum.

There is nothing better than exploring a new place to make you feel alive and present. It could be running the canyon trails in Texas, cycling in Colorado, wading across the Escalante River, camping under the stars, eating local flavors, swimming with the fishes, hiking the Wonderland trail. These are the memories I want to remain with me. I feel grateful for the possibility.

Exploring PA State Parks- Rickett’s Glen and Tuscarora

After living in our van for over 9 months arriving home was bittersweet. On the one hand, we missed our neighbors, friends, and family and felt their warm welcome back. There was also another feeling that little had changed and that maybe we could now travel more. Our roots felt less stable because our van has been our new home.

For my birthday this year I decided that I wanted to spend a little time exploring some PA State Parks. Being in nature is one of my favorite things even though I do like NYC too. I choose Rickett’s Glen State Park to camp in because of the waterfalls and hikes. Mid week it is pretty quiet.

The park is really beautiful and the hikes are easy enough for families. 21 waterfalls on the hike!

They have a large sandy beach area where you can swim laps or just play around. It was pretty cold so I only lasted 20 minutes. The hot shower in the bathroom was sweet. End of August so again, not a lot of people.

The next day we decided to drive to Tuscarora and do another hike. The visitor’s center was not very helpful when we asked about trails. “I’ve never done any hiking but I think you can go all the way around, not sure.” We decided to try and do it anyways.

The trails were easy to find at first but a little tricky near the turn around on a road. We had to go over a guard rail and back on the other side.

Parts of the trail are along Tuscarora lake, over a dam, and then following Locust Creek.

I went for an even shorter swim in the lake. Really? Its the end of August. Brrrr….Both Paul and I were pleased to have a few days away for my birthday and hope to be exploring more of PA in the future.

Two of our favorite towns

Paul and I have some favorite places to visit and Ithaca, New York is one of them. It is not only because the place is so beautiful but the people draw you in with their affection and community involvement. I have many friends who have relocated there and from visiting over the years it feels a lot like home. I decided once again to enter the Cayuga Trail 50 mile race on June 3rd. It is a national championship race and I was hoping some of my trail running abroad would benefit me. The race seemed way harder than the last time I did it, some due to a change of course and warmer weather. I was glad to have my friend Gene run the first 25 miles with me before I slowed down.

We enjoyed the Ithaca Farmer’s Market the next morning. I love the breakfast burrito and was in line early for that. Afterwards we headed west towards Wisconsin stopping in Chicago to drop off some of Hannah’s things. She has a new job and will be living there for awhile. Chicago traffic was not fun and we arrived late at Mom and Dad’s.

They own a nice property in the country near Hartford. It is normally pretty quiet but because of the US Open down the road this year, more shuttle buses passed by during the day. The picture above is of mom’s crazy gnome garden.

We were happy to be in the area for Luna’s graduation from Shabazz City High School. A unique small school and a lovely ceremony where each student got to speak.

Anne and Pat held an outdoor party for Luna at their Madison home and many family members attended. Paul was relaxing in his chair before guests arrived. We parked our van in their driveway for the whole weekend. Madison is another town that we love. Two of my sisters, Anne and Carrie, live there and we visit quite often. The Marquette Waterfront festival was in full swing. Anne and I decided to participate in the boat parade “fool’s flotilla” on Sunday morning.

Pat dropped us up at the top of the canal. We tried to hang near the pontoon boat with a full piece band. We enjoyed singing along with all the revelers.

One more stop at Mom and Dad’s to help out in the garden and visit. Paul and I took mom to a nice Indian dinner at Mantra in Oconomowoc. A lot has changed in my home town but it is still a beautiful city of lakes.

Love you mom!

 

 

And We’re Back……almost

I left England early in the morning on the 5th of May.  Many means of transportation, bus to Heathrow, plane to Newark, train to Philadelphia and car to Evan, Rachel and Ozzy’s (and Delores the cat’s) home. There I was greeted with a chili dinner and margaritas.

I slept comfortably on the third floor which was my old massage room. Paul was still abroad visiting and speaking at an audio conference in France. He arrived back in the states on the 23rd. Until then I had some time alone and with friends and family.

This is a photo from the Manayunk Bridge where I would meet up with Gene for running in the morning

Highlights:

Runs in the Wissahickon Valley, on the Green Ribbon Trail and with my teammates in Coventry Woods

Art shows at PAFA, Trail’s end Cafe, and the Mutter museum panel discussion

Movies with Gene and son Evan

Dinners with Baily and Chip, Gene and Olivia, and Carole

Show at Rittenhouse Soundworks

Family dinners and seeing Nana

Momonita at Grape Street

After Paul arrived he went down to Baltimore to pick up our van. In the same day we traveled up to Princeton to be there early in the morning for Hannah’s crew race. Wellesley was competing for the National Championship and although Hannah’s boat placed second, the team ended up third place OA.

Hannah missed the graduation ceremony at Wellesley College but we had an intimate team reception and dinner where the four seniors received their diplomas. Happy Graduate and well done!

Paul found some sweet spots to park overnight while we were in Jersey. One by a watershed and another alongside the Delaware Raritan canal.

Back in Philadelphia we parked outside our friend’s Baily and Chip’s home. Memorial day came with a party and it was just nice enough to be outdoors. Reddy made delicious ribs and there was a pot luck of tasty side dishes. Family, food, friends, art, races, and fun. Nice to be back…..almost.

50 k race in Wales

My time in England, Spain and France has come to a close. Paul will stay for a bit longer. Why not kick off our last weekend with another 50k race in Wales.  Paul and I headed up to our camp site on Friday from Bath to relax for the Saturday event. It was hard to not walk around the beautiful coast line so…we did. here are some photos of the beach in Newgale, wales.

The tide was out so we could explore the caves and really check out all the various rock textures. Paul is easy to spot in his new blue jacket.

The campsite is close to the road and beach front. You can see our white van parked in a distance.

The race morning was stress free.  Up at 6 am and head to New Haven. Arrival prompted a rainbow while parking our vehicle. Someone’s dog enjoyed it too.

The race went well and the day turned out to be perfect weather wise. Partly cloudy. No cramping for either Paul or I.

I enjoyed all the events we participated in. Runners are runners wherever you go and a friendly bunch of people to spend your time with. There is nothing like traveling and being a part of a group that you know you belong too. Home away from home.

 

The Lake District and Fell Racing

I’ve never run a fell race before and Paul thought it might be a good experience. We signed up for a well organised race in the Lake District called “The Anniversary Waltz”. There were 2 different distances to choose from but after speaking with the race director we decided to do the standard shorter one. (11.5 miles with 3,600 ft. of ascent) We arrived to a field with cars filling up fast.

We got our race numbers and looked nervously at all the fit competition. The start of the race was a climb in itself and on a sloped field. Love it!

There was a short announcement and then we were off. Paul had gone off to the bathroom and barely made it on time. I was taking photos so I just jumped in to the sea of people. We ran along a rural path to the start of our first climb.

I thought it was pretty funny until I realized how many fells we would be climbing. The worst part for me was the descents. I passed many people on the way up but only to have them fly by me on the downhills.

All and all it was a beautiful day and we didn’t fare too bad. No injuries or falls. Gorgeous weather and we finished in the middle of the field, 229th for Paul and 238th for me.

After the race we enjoyed going back to “The Quiet Site”, our camp ground on the Ullswater. Very cozy with unique places to stay (Hobbit Holes) and pitches on the hillside.

We relaxed the next day and played tourists with a long walk to a water fall across fields, fells and woods.

Steamer boat ride and lunch at a hotel in Glenridding. What a perfectly lovely day.

Back in Bath

It is April 5th and we are now leaving France and heading across the English Channel. The van is repaired and tucked away below us as we sit up on the top deck and enjoy the sunshiny day. The white cliffs of Dover wait our arrival on the other side.

My passport was stamped again and I realized I could now stay in England for 6 more months if I wanted. Brilliant but not possible. We stop and have a nice pub lunch and listen to conversations in English. We haven’t had this ability in quite awhile and found it refreshing and somewhat annoying at the same time. Now we know what people are saying.

We settle back in Bath on the top floor at Paul’s parents. It is a cozy space with a private bathroom and a skylight over the bed to view the nighttime stars and moon. We feel comforted, well fed, and sleep peacefully. Paul has work to do but I go and explore Bath again. Springtime suits Bath with all the flowers, canals, and walking paths.

I love browsing the shops and going to small art galleries. I couldn’t resist a show called Trumped- Make art great again at 44AD.  Nelly Mason did some really funny collages.

Paul and I continue running and accomplished running a 50K on the coast of Exmoor. One of the most beautiful but challenging races I have done. Paul does really well and comes in 20th place. I have issues at the end and walk about three miles to the finish. No pictures because I was concentrating on not falling off cliffs while running. Here is a sunset at our camp there.

Paul and I make a trip to visit our friends at Radford Mill farm. We cook a tasty dinner for everyone and enjoy conversation and laughter. In the morning at 6 am I help out in the Pollytunnels with Helga and company. I painted some signs for the farm as a gift and left them to be installed. I will miss the Radford Mill family and plan on returning some day.

Helga recently shaved her head so I gave her my purple wig as a parting present.

One last run on the Limestone Link with a new friend and triathlete, Ger Wood.

 

France: a new love

Paul and I entered France from the south-eastern coast and stopped first in  Montpellier at free aire in town. We got in late and walked to old town to visit with Nick and Tais. We had a lovely dinner at a fancy, expensive restaurant and got back to the van around 1 am. Surprisingly a quiet sleep for being in such a busy city. We enjoyed running the next morning along the river Lez to the coast and back. Then explored the city till mid day.

Paul wants to take me to see the Verdon Gorge so we drive in that direction and stop at another aire, which is really a Carrefour market parking lot. It is raining and there are other campers around so we feel safe and sleep well. Next day we drive and stop in Moustiers-Ste. Marie. We park the van and walk around the interesting town set into the hills.

We decide to go for a run even though its a bit rainy. We run to the start of the Gorge and back. Just amazing. While driving through I took a few photos but it was hard to stop on the small windy roads.

Another free aire in Digne-les Bains by a river and cycle path. Quiet again and other campers. Grey clouds make the next day drive less appealing but its kind of misty and moody. We enjoy the mountains and climbing until the van makes a strange sound, It has little power and we are not sure what to do. We decide to try and make it to Grenoble and a Mercedes dealership.

We make it to Grenoble but we were sweating and the van was super loud and struggling to get power. In the end we had major problems…….

We stayed for the first 4 nights in the van at a popular aire in Sassenage, on the edge of Grenoble. I found a public pool to swim at and shower. Paul and I enjoyed runs along the river and a really long 26 mile run up into the mountains. It took us most of a day but we were in no rush.

We took the van into the shop on a Tuesday and got a sweet air bnb in old town. We thought it would be a one day job at this point. We play tourists and do the city walk, ride on the cable cars, check out the eco district and cool murals, and buy cheese from Les Alpages! A nice dinner at Le Gout Des Autres to finish off our day.

In the end we spend 11 days in Grenoble. We find a cheaper airbnb to hang at and wait out van repairs. Our hosts are nice and we explore new parts of the town. A festival called Detours de Babel was on and we spent time listening to music from the world. I loved the markets, parks and cyclable city. Plus you have a mountain view down every street.

 

 

 

 

Last days in Spain plus visit to Dali’s casa

I don’t think either Paul or I anticipated being so captivated by the beauty of Spain. Such a deep, intimate feeling we now have for the place. Spain made us feel welcome wherever we traveled and we absorbed what we could. Running on trails, cycling and hiking brought us closer to it’s natural elements. Dining out, shopping and visiting cities we enjoyed it’s culture and festivals. All this made it difficult to leave. We decided to do a few short stays on our way out.

First we went to Berga where there was a camp ground that had a spa. Perfect for relaxing after the marathon in Barcelona and a nice place to stay for 2 nights. I loved swimming in the pool and the spa was enjoyable. The campground was almost totally filled with caravans yet also almost totally deserted, probably because people rent plots for the year. Still, quiet and mountains in the distance. Next we climbed up a bit more into the mountains to Sant Llorenc de Morunys. We park at an aire in this sleepy mountain town. We are the only ones there.

But look at our free view.

We spend two nights and explore the trails around town. One epic run!!

Now we head East to a campsite outside Olot called La Fageda. I cycle 30 miles of the journey and enjoy the quiet mountain roads. The campsite has a restaurant where we have an early dinner. Paul orders pig’s feet by accident because the menu is in Catalan. Pretty funny.

Its a really cozy, family campsite near trails and a Beech Tree forest. We go for a long run/hike on trails through old village, forest, and farms in this volcanic region. Sleep well for two nights.

Next to the east shore and Roses. Perfectly normal beach campsite, Camping Salata, that is busier than we have seen recently but not unpleasant. They even offer us free welcome drinks.

Here we find lovely coastal trails and also bike paths that wind through marsh lands. Many waterways to navigate. Costa Brava is a popular beach destination but March is still quiet. I only saw a few brave people swimming.

On our departure day we decided to visit Dali’s casa in Port Lligat. Very steep climb in the van but so worth the trip. You can see where Dali got all his inspiration from. The coastline with crazy rock formations and the Mediterranean Sea with its changing light values. The casa was so personal with both Gala and Dali’s belongings.

 

Gaudi and Barcelona

I couldn’t pass up the chance to see some of Gaudi’s work while in Barcelona. I needed to stop by the marathon expo anyways so Paul and I drove the van into Barcelona. I wouldn’t suggest doing this if you are not a experienced driver. There were so many one way streets and nowhere to park. We finally found a place way up on a hill and had to cycle back into town. After the expo, which was nice but not that alluring we headed to Casa Mila, “La Pedrera”. I loved how Gaudi made even the rooftop a magical setting. The exhibit showed some of his design ideas and all the organic forms which came directly from nature. The apartment looked charming and modern enough to live in today. (which people do)

Barcelona has no good camper parks so Paul and I found an aire on the edge of the city in Colonia Guell. Totally free with dumping and fresh agua. The best part is it was a stones throw from Gaudi’s crypt!

 

I woke bright and early and got there before all the other tourists. I had a whole half hour of alone time in this inspiring place of worship. You could see Gaudi was really playing with many of the ideas that went into Sagrada Familia. It is a shame it was never finished  because of funding and family issues. This was my favorite place of Gaudi’s to visit.

I walked  around the charming town of Colonia Guell which has many modernist buildings created by different architects in the time of Gaudi. There is a castle on the outskirts called Torre Salvana built in the 12th century. Now it is in major disrepair but graffiti artists are enjoying the space.

You can imagine it being  a majestic palace with royalty possibly residing there.

Our last day in Barcelona was comprised mostly of the marathon. I signed up the week before and figured it would be fun. I took a train in the morning from Colonia Guell which filled quickly with runners. I was a bit nervous but found it comforting that I was probably not the only one. We got into out perspective corrals for estimated time. I tried to follow the 3:30 pacers most of the way but it was a little ambitious. I thoroughly enjoyed running in the sea of humanity past all the famous sites. The crowds cheered you on the whole way and I had Nick and Paul cheering me too. Afterwards, a shower at the Olympic pool and a massive amount of Indian food and of course, cervesa!

Ocean view

I really wanted to spend some time right on the beach. (directly on the beach) There are not many options for camper parks where this is possible. I did some research on-line and found a place that was just opening. Camping Oasis Mar just south of Cambrils. I was ecstatic when we drove in to find all the beach front spots available. Paul and I quickly set up along the edge of the shore.

It was a pleasure to wake up each morning to a different sunrise. The one that looks red was of course not so good for the day. Red sky at night sailors delight, red sky in morning sailors warning. It was one of the windiest days we have had in the van. I didn’t sleep too well as I kept dreaming of being swept into the sea.

When the wind died down it was calm and perfect. I was able to do some swimming in my wet suit but the water was too cold to stay in long. Nick came to visit and set his tent up one night on the way to Barcelona.

Here’s me being silly with my shadow.

We could cycle to the nearest town Cambrils.  They had a large selection of restaurants and we enjoyed lunch at El Pati. I bought a new pair of trail shoes at Olympus Running. The owner, Carles, was very friendly and told me about running in the Barcelona Marathon the next weekend.  Hmmmm….made me think. There were some nice murals around town in all sorts of random places.

We enjoyed one last sunrise before heading toward Barcelona.  A wonderful 9 days on the beach.