Becoming Locals in NYC

So many mixed feelings about the city I fell in love with at thirteen. I started this trip coming from a new place in my life where I was genuinely very happy. I was satisfied with where I was at. I was finally actively seeking my best life and at the moment had no complaints about home sweet home. But.

Well, it’s New York for Christ’s sake. I went in thinking “I’m fine. It can’t hold up. What would I want here?” And then you descend into the subway, the smells, the clamor, the glory of several lives rushing about in a perfect order. And when someone shoved aside my suitcase with a sneer, I smiled and rushed about too. It’s easy to join in when everyone agrees to not wait up.

New York will always have my heart.

Every pic looks like it should be a movie.

We settled into our Airbnb first, a really cool loft space in Brooklyn. Well, technically, first we lost the keys to the door for half an hour while we searched three flights of stairs (the key had fallen and gotten wedged in our suitcase handle). Then we settled in and got ready to explore! 

We had very loose plans. Basically we wanted to wander the city and stop in anywhere we felt like. There was a couple of touristy things I had added to the list that were simply must-dos but for the most part our only rule was: If you pass a coffee shop, you must stop.

So much coffee, so little time.

It seems the train you need is always broken. Our place was supposed to be twenty feet from a subway stop but of course it was under construction the exact amount of time we would be staying there. Which ended up being kind of great because we walked a lot of Brooklyn. At several points during our stay people asked us directions like we were locals. And we knew the answers!

We made our way over to Manhattan and I was navigating the subway for the first time myself. I felt like such a cool kid! This was my first time in the city with no parents or teachers. It was weird to think a NYC vacation for us was a typical day for its citizens.

There’s so much culture all over the city – I love it!
We spent more time wandering through the  Burroughs, making our way through NoHo, SoHo, Little Italy, etc etc. Our first day was spent walking and making mental maps. I could walk New York’s streets forever, because even when it should just be a sidewalk there’s always something going on. 

Shops, and food, and best of all, people. Every kind of person you ever could meet, you can find in New York City. There’s so much story to every walk-up, every person has two (plus) lifetimes, and things happen there. Constantly. The air is full of possibility. 

We spent a long time in Strand, otherwise known as COOL KIDS BOOK CLUB.

Obviously, I’m still in love with New York. I always saw myself ending up here, and with the way things are headed in my life… I still might! 

The world is mine for the choosing, and just in the past few months I’ve learned how resilient I can be. How I can make things work out by force of will. And how I just need to keep opening my life to whatever opportunities pop up.

Discover Dallas: White Rock Lake

Living in the East Dallas area for almost three years, it is crazy that it’s taken this long for me to become a regular at White Rock Lake. I started going here for some city-style hiking training, but it’s got a lot more to offer. 

Side note: I now wouldn’t recommend “hiking” here because there are better places in Dallas. Almost all of the White Rock trails are paved with very little up close nature.

Ah, dock yoga.

First of all it’s massive, so I really only know half the trails. The full distance around the lake is more than 9 miles! I started bike riding here because all the trails are long and spacious. 

It’s also so scenic! Because of the lake, it features tons of bridges and docks. I like to bring a friend to socialize because it’s nice to catchup with a great view. It’s also the perfect amount of traffic where it’s not deserted, but you aren’t constantly fighting for the right to the pavement. 

Every picture looks great on these paths.

When I’m dogsitting, I always head here for a couple of hours. There’s lots of fields that you can take a break in (with benches). Or you can bring a blanket (I always have one in my car now) to enjoy the outdoors or even get some reading done.

This year I got into REI volunteering and they work with the East Dallas community to put together the Second Saturday Shoreline Spruce Up – which is great! It’s mostly picking up trash. (It is so upsetting how many people still litter in this day and age.)

I swear I stood up mostly.

Of course, it’s obviously a lake so there’s water activities too! This is where I first tried stand up paddle boarding. It was so fun! A little awkward at first because I was sure I was going to topple head first into the water – but you quickly get the hang of it and then have yourself a leisurely wade through this picturesque water.

The have lots of boats/boards to rent. Just know there’s technically no swimming within city water sources so don’t go expecting a fun splash. 

I run here so I can see far enough to stop when it looks like someone’s coming.

Seriously, this is the spot that just keeps giving.

Am I a Vagabond?

As an avid supporter of #vanlife, i.e. creeping all the adorable people living their cutest lives, I had vague notions of traveling the country and living out of my car. 

The first step would be to try it out for a weekend. We wanted to save money and “car camp”. Spoiler alert: I’m not dead – it all worked out. I definitely had a bit of anxiety while sleeping. I knew we would be mostly sleeping at night so my tint would take care of us, but sleeping in late was not an option because as soon as the sun was up, I was up.

This is Florence – the cuddly pup!
To prepare I had cut an old futon cushion into the shape of my back (seats folded down of course) and the result wasn’t half bad. Definitely soft enough for me, who likes rigid support when sleeping. Then we piled on blankets and pillows and we had ourselves a fort on wheels.

We also knew it was the perfect time for car camping because the weather was no more than 70 degrees. It didn’t hurt that we had a cuddly puppy too! 

My car’s name is Billy.

Let me also say that I really love my car. It’s the only car I’ve ever had (knock on wood) and since it’s been with me for more than a decade it just had its 200,000 mileage birthday.  Fingers crossed to that car lasting another decade!

After waking up well rested and ready for adventure, I was pretty much ready to stop paying rent and move permanently into my car. Except, well, then we went to have fun in the sand. And cars aren’t typically equipped with showers.

Here I am… covered in sand.

Instantly I knew there was no way to keep all that sand from getting in the car (and therefore, the bed). So after brushing off as much as possible and “outdoor showering” with some wet wipes, we knew it was time to really become roadside travelers. We were headed outside of town to the nearest truck stop. To pay for the showers.

Let me say this: they are cheap, clean, and have a lock. I know this may not sound glamorous to everyone, but in my book cheap travel gets me to more places. So it works for me! 

And I can add the title ‘Vagabond’ to my list of attributes. So there’s that.

Losing Your Keys in the Desert

Besides the randomized screensaver at work I had never seen or heard of a place called White Sands. But when a friend said it was on their bucket list and asked if I wanted to go – I said hell yeah!

We got there a little before sunset just to check it out and it’s incredible. Pure white sand stretched out at all sides, gorgeous unmarked dunes, and small spindly plants in every valley. We enjoyed the sunset and then figured it was time to head the mile back to the car.

White Sands (I wanna live in this serenity)

Only. The keys weren’t wedged in my shorts anymore. They weren’t on the top of the dune we’d been sitting on. They weren’t anywhere in sight.

Now, I am pretty cool headed. I’m a problem solver that loves logically and methodically fixing any new issue. But for the first time in my life, I was one gasping breath away from a panic attack. My keys were missing in an empty desert.

We split up and retraced our steps and luckily – so lucky – we found them near a spiky plant that had surprised me earlier. Crisis averted and I was back to appreciating the evening desert beauty. Whew.

My first National Park!

The next day we knew we’d have to buy a sled to fly down the side of the dunes. While in the National Monument visiting center that’s where I stumbled upon the National Parks Passport. There’s nothing I love more than books and lists. And this was a book and a list! I was sold. Thus started the journey of me getting every National Park “cancellation” or stamp. 

So I bought the passport and we bought the sled and hit the dunes. We didn’t buy the wax so it was pretty slow going but still a lot of fun. We started climbing the highest dunes to make the way down worth it.

Sand sledding makes ya tired!

We went out to grab lunch – future note: bring lunch! They have grills and tables – and when we came back we were ready to hike. They have a couple of marked trails and since it was afternoon and pretty hot we choose the 2 mile one. 

Disclaimer: we did not make the full trail. We got a less than halfway and decided to turn back. We were beat, but more importantly we were worried about the dog with us who wasn’t used to these desert treks. Go figure.

A cool desert.

All in all, a great weekend. And the start of my personal goal to visit every national point of interest. Can’t wait!

My Stance on Aliens

I made it to Roswell. Which, while not a big alien fanatic or anything, I am a big Maxwell Evans fanatic. Oh, who you may be asking? Only the dreamiest alien in the 90s. I talking about the tv series Roswell. Never heard of it? You’re completely missing out. Check out the ‘Heat Wave’ episode, trust me.

Even though I had done the cursory research on what Roswell had to offer and even though it seemed mostly to be something old couples in RVs stopped for, I had an image of the TV show town. It definitely seemed much bigger and emptier than the studio lot the show was filmed on (obviously).

Coffee + muffin to start the day!

I would not be deterred. After a coffee pit stop at Stellar Coffee Co, we decided to walk the main strip, discover how aliens landed on Earth, and verify Max Evans was not real. It was a big day for me.

The greatest thing about Roswell is their full speed ahead ‘Aliens Rah Rah’! Literally aliens everywhere. Statues on the corner, in the title of businesses, and on every t-shirt.

Alien window graffiti on the coffee shop!

Seriously. So many great murals on every building.

Cool space murals everywhere!

And most importantly, we had to get inside the International UFO Museum and Research Center. While small, it was a lot of fun. Some great exhibits featuring the real life newspaper articles from the “Roswell UFO Incident of 1947”, artistic recreations of  what the aliens and flying saucers looked like, and ANIMATRONICS. 

I saw aliens!

No matter what age, Roswell is definitely worth the stop. 

So I know you’re wondering: Do I believe? Was I changed? Does the evidence speak for itself? Why not! Let’s believe in aliens so that I can keep my hope of one day meeting Maxwell Evans. 

Random Girl in the Woods

I was on my own and it wasn’t going great. 

I had gotten up early at a girls weekend camping trip to try my first solo hike. It was gonna be just me and the trail – well, if I could find the trail. Yet again, GPS was failing to help me find the actual place I was supposed to start hiking. Luckily, I’d gotten comfortable wandering.

Majestic way to start a trail, am I right?

While I had wanted to get to a good spot to watch the sunrise, this obviously meant I was wandering around to find the trailhead in the near dark. After walking back and forth over the same 100 feet for twenty minutes it was lit enough to see the trail had no beginning marker and started near the river. Missed the sunrise, but learned not to try that again on a new trail.

The trail was rough, especially compared to my previous experience. It was incredibly hilly and covered in dew. I only stumbled once though (twice). 

These beauties (boots) are from the 80s!

It was empty on my side of the river but just across the way there were a few campsites who kept hollering “Good morning!” or were still dead asleep in their tents. 

Because of my late start, I didn’t make it to anywhere but along the stretch of the river. That was okay by me. The hills were giving me work and I was enjoying the crisp winter air. 

All the cool rock formations!

Eventually my time had run out and I knew my friends would be up, so I turned back. Somehow still pleasantly surprised by how everyone I passed grinned and said hello to some random girl hiking through the woods. Not a weirdo at all, promise.

Honestly, I’d been a little nervous to hike alone. You never know what kind of trouble you might run into – a person, an animal, or an injury. I kept telling myself I could handle anything. Solo hikes were something I’d always wanted to do partly because I wanted to prove to myself I could do them. 

Nature shows you the colors.

There’s times when I want company – when I thrive off of the social interaction, but there’s also a very real duality to me that means being independent and capable matter to me just as much. This hike (through the struggles and the challenges) was my accomplishment with no one’s help. This means the delights and sights are just for me as well. 

Well, until now! 

Finding the Trail

This was the trip that was going to make me an official “hiker” the way I saw it. I had gear, a purpose, and a buddy (Lola!) to take on the new adventure. I was [over]prepared.

My boots were secondhand but my bag was new because I was in this weird “I won’t commit till I love it”/”I’m going to love it duh” mindset. 

So why Davy Crockett National Forest? My thinking was I needed a mountain or a forest to hike but I live in Dallas. So forest it was. And this national forest was an easy day trip with easy trails – perfect for beginners.

We got an early start for our 3.5 hr drive to Kennard, TX because we wanted to be hiking at first light. It had been a rainy January so the roads were pretty much mud and the GPS dared us down a wrong-looking stretch. Technology failed us early and then we were off the grid.

Skimming the outer of the forest we found the official entrance and ranger station (empty). We were two newbies struggling to find the easiest trail in TX. We finally decided to park and and wander until we found it. Wandering is just a dreamier word for hiking, right?

We soon discovered that our intended trail had been closed a month before because of the marijuana crop that was found. (Eye roll.) So even with my full bag of gear and “necessities” I was already 0 for 2. But we would not turn back!

A smaller trail was soon found and we were soon actually hiking (an hour behind schedule). The trees were awesome, the trail fairly dry, and it was mostly flat. I kept thinking, “look at me I’m hiking.” 

The best thing about hiking with a friend is that there’s no technology to get in the way and you can talk. The second best thing is that you learn how to be comfortable in silence with each other. 

To be honest the trail was so easy, after hiking it the third time I had Lola describe the entire plot of Bridget Jones’s Baby. At one point I worked out aloud the ending to the screenplay we’re collaborating on. A lot was accomplished that day. (Haha.)

A little before sunset we got back in the car and headed home. A full perfect day and I could now add ‘hiking’ to my interests. I had learned a lot (like you may think you’re prepared but no) and I was ready to start planning the rest of my year. 

From this trip on I always had on the brain: Where could I go next?