Westward Road Trip: Our Journey Begins

WESTWARD ROAD TRIP- OUR JOURNEY BEGINS from Denver to Grand Teton National Park for the Total Solar Eclipse

The 3:45 am alarm wasn’t as shocking as I anticipated, since I actually awoke at 3:15 am. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I lay in bed thinking about the adventure ahead of us.

When we landed in Denver at 7:40 am MDT, the sleep deprivation caught up with me. Hard. I left my library book on the plane and couldn’t process a coherent thought during the train ride into Denver from the airport. Sam was being patient, as always, as we lugged our bags through downtown to get our rental car. I finally begged Sam to hop on the free bus towards the rental car agency, even though we were only five blocks away.

Denver Street Art near the Central MarketExploring the streets of Denver

An hour later, we had our car, a table at the Denver Central Market, and caffeine. I only drink coffee a few times a year because caffeine takes a serious toll on my body. Luckily, this was one of those instances when I needed it to take its toll and bring me to life. I chugged my almond milk cappuccino in about three minutes and lost myself in a DELISH breakfast burrito from Izzio bakery. Our friend Hannah recommended the Central Market—and joined us for our meal—and we slowly began to feel more settled and revived.

Enjoying coffee at the Denver Central MarketFresh treats at Innis Bakery in DevnerThe perfect almond cappucino at the Denver Central Market

Denver was filled with errands: pick up a cooler and some chairs from our friend Andrew’s house; go grocery shopping for at least a week’s worth of food in case everything near the eclipse path of totality was out of stock; organize our cooler with said groceries and sort out the other foods; drive to the flagship REI for some last-minute supplies (we had to drag ourselves away before losing ourselves in its outdoorsy glory).

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Hinterland Music Festival Video and Life Updates

So…it’s been a while, eh?

This summer has been crazy-busy with a bunch of awesome stuff. Sam and I are diligently squeezing in a lot of adventures into our free time and weekends. We’ve traveled up north to Traverse City, down to the Smoky Mountains, around the Chicago area, and I was lucky enough to take a whirlwind work trip to Charleston, SC a few weeks back. Our big trip is slated to start on Wednesday, when we head off to Denver for a Southwest road trip through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah: plus Total Solar Eclipse views in the path of totality! 

I landed a new job at Inventables! It takes up more of my time, but I love the challenges and work I do now. I’m in a position to focus on my career, and I’m making the most of the opportunity. Plus, I’m mentally preparing myself to go back to school in a month (?!). Needless to say, I’m been so busy living my life that I’ve not had a chance to share it. That’s ok with me. 

Still, I wanted to share something on my blog so I don’t feel like I’m completely neglecting this space. Two weekends ago, Sam and I attended the Hinterland Music Festival just outside Des Moines, IA. Sam’s been to Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, but this was my first music festival. It was absolutely awesome. Rather than a full write-up, I made a short video from our long weekend at Hinterland (set to The Head and The Heart’s “Rivers and Roads”).

Hinterland was, in a word, awesome. It’s incredibly intimate, so it’s possible to see some of your favorite folk, rock, bluegrass, and alt-country bands up close and personal. I still can’t believe Sam and I were in the front row for The Head and the Heart and alt-j. Both bands were playing at Lollapalooza, too, but there’s no way we could have experienced their music there like we did at Hinterland.

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Day Trip to the Ocean State: 12 Hours in Rhode Island

Daytrip to Rhode Island - Adventures in the Ocean State-01

For Christmas this past year, my brother gave us a scratch-off map of the United States. The idea is to scratch off all the places we’ve visited together until we clear the entire US map. When we were planning our trip to Massachusetts for Ragnar, Sam pointed out the close proximity of Rhode Island—a state we haven’t visited as individuals or a couple, and also a state we probably wouldn’t plan to visit. I found some decently priced Amtrak tickets during our planning and we planned a day trip to Providence because we didn’t know what else to do.

Some of our Ragnar teammates were from Rhode Island. When they heard we were going to Providence, they shook their heads and told us to cancel those plans and head to Newport, RI instead. They gave us a lot of great pointers for things to do in Newport and really talked it up, so Sam and I shifted our plans. We couldn’t cancel the Amtrak tickets to Providence, but we could rent a car in Providence for the day and drive to Newport instead. Now that we actually had a plan for some things to do, we were excited!

Psst: want the quick synopsis? Check out this 3-minute video of our trip:

We woke up early on Tuesday morning and made our way to South Station to catch our train. In no time at all, we were walking out into a blue-skied day in Providence. The Rhode Island State House, located right outside the train station, drew us in and welcomed us to the smallest state in the USA. There wasn’t a soul around, so we walked right up the State House steps and took in the view. While it helped that it was a gorgeous day outside, we were already pretty psyched about being in Rhode Island (and I’ll be the first to admit that I never thought I’d say that).

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Hiking in the Land of the Pine: Memorial Day Weekend Adventure

Hiking in the Land of the Pine - A long weekend in eastern Tennessee and Asheville, NC

Just like that, we’re off again! After a travel hiatus (we’ve not gone anywhere since Maui last October), Sam and I are hitting the road tonight and heading down south to Tennessee and North Carolina for an extended Memorial Day weekend. 

We’re packing up our little car for a doozy of a road trip. It’s a little over nine hours to reach our friends Blane and Lisa—our hosts for the weekend—in eastern Tennessee. Their location in Greeneville is the perfect hub for reaching the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What better way to spend the weekend than hiking in the mountains with good friends? It’s pretty much the only thing I want to do all the time.

That said, we won’t be hiking non-stop all weekend: Saturday will be spent in Asheville, NC at various breweries and distilleries. I’m not a fan of beer, but you’ll find me taste-testing many a whiskey and moonshine this trip. Everyone I’ve talked to about Asheville raves about it, so I’m hoping it lives up to my (very high) expectations. Let’s hope we can remember Asheville when we wake up on Sunday!

As usual, I’m always open to suggestions for things to do and places to visit! If you have any recommendations for hikes and restaurants in eastern Tennessee or Asheville (or a good pit-stop between Chicago and Tennessee), please let me know in the comments. I hope everyone has a safe, fun, and sunny holiday weekend!

Ragnar Cape Cod: A Long Recap of a Really, Really, Really Long Race

Ragnar Cape Cod - We Survived!

We did it! We shoved ourselves into a minivan with strangers (whom soon became friends), ran three times in less than 20 hours, and traversed the length of Cape Cod as RAGNARians. It was a whirlwind of an adventure, and one I hope to do again someday.

It’s hard to describe RAGNAR with words and photos. The entire aura of RAGNAR is unlike anything I’ve ever felt, whether at a race or at any other event. Our team—one of the 500 teams taking place in this epic logistics whirlwind—was split between two vans with six runners in each van, but we competed as a whole unit. While I strived to do my best as an individual runner, I was equally invested in cheering each of my van-mates at the start and finish of their runs. It’s a team event, but so much of my time was focused on preparing myself for my solo runs because I never knew exactly when I’d be running again. It’s more mental than physical, and that was a challenge for me.

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Boston Bound and Ragnar Ready

Boston Bound and Ragnar Ready - Mo Stych Travel Blog

The time has come! This Friday, we depart in our van with four other people and begin our RAGNAR adventure. We’ve spent the last four or five months training (with a half marathon squeezed in there, too) and at last, we are heading to Boston.

Am I nervous? Absolutely. In fact, I am incredibly nervous. I’ve never really run at night before and my second run is likely to start around 11 pm EST. The good news is I’ve run in the dark plenty of times–as a die-hard morning person, those 5 a.m. marathon training runs were some of my favorites–but my body happily starts shutting down around 9 p.m. Instead, I’ve got to convince my body to run five miles after running eight miles a mere 12-ish hours before that. I guess it does take a bit of crazy to want to compete in this sport.

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Truth and Consequences in Portugal

Truth and Consequences in Portugal - Mo Stych Blog

A few weeks back, I entered the World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship contest.

Even though I wasn’t one of the three winners selected from 8,000+ entries, I’m still happy I entered the contest. Of course, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take a free trip to the Balkans (because DUH), but more importantly, I’ve never entered a writing contest like this before. It was a great challenge for me, as it required me to hone my travel story into 2,500 carefully selected words. Plus, I researched the Balkans region a lot before submitting my entry and this part of the world is now high on my list of places to visit someday.

Since I’ve not had the chance to blog in a while, I wanted to share my entry here. You can also find it on the World Nomads site (and read some other submissions, too). I hope you enjoy it! (Note: the photos were not part of the submission, but I like them.)

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We’re standing on (what feels like) the hundredth hairpin curve, halfway to the Pena National Palace in Sintra, and my husband is ignoring me. Gasping for air, sweat soaking through our shirts, the tension between us is as palpable as the sweltering humidity. The shade from the tall trees does little to cool our overheated bodies and tempers. As we silently fume, another air-conditioned bus filled with happy tourists drones past us towards the apex.

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Frank Lloyd Wright Home + Studio Tour

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Mo Stych Blog

Sam’s folks were in town this last weekend, which allowed us to take advantage of doing some of the more tourist-y type things here in Chicago. One of our favorite places we’ve visited since living here is the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio located in Oak Park. There are so many perks to living here in Chicago, but access to historic buildings by so many renowned architects is something we’ve really grown to appreciate. We’ve done two river boat tours and visited FLW’s home twice since moving here. It’s fascinating learning more about the people who shaped and built our city into the space it is today.

Even though this is a short post, I wanted to share some photos from Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio. I tend to take more detail-oriented photographs, but I feel that FLW’s penchant for intimate details lends itself to this kind of visual documentation. I hope you enjoy the pictures and visit this beautiful estate-turned-museum yourself!

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Living Room
Living room
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Living Room Fireplace Nook
Living room nook
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Living RoomF Furniture
Chairs and built-in couch in the living room
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Butler's Pantry
Butler’s pantry
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Dining Room and Living Room floors
Floor love

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Makin’ Waves: Big Changes

makin-waves-big-changes-in-our-lives

If you’re a regular reader of my blog (i.e. my dad, my grandma), you’ve likely noticed it’s been a while since I last posted. To be exact, it’s been over a month since I wrote on this blog. I’m not sure if I can even consider this a blog when that much time passes between posts.

While I don’t want to apologize for my lack of writing or come up with a bunch of excuses for my absence, I do want to fill everyone in on some updates in our lives. Maybe I needed a full month to fully process everything I’m about to share or maybe I just didn’t prioritize the time to write these past 30 days. It’s tough to say.

What’s important is that I’m ready to share some things now. Are you ready?

Here are the big changes in our lives:

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Whole30 – Week 4 Recap

week-4-whole30-recap

I thought we’d never get here: Day 31. The other side. It’s intimidating, a relief, and a tease all at the same time.

It doesn’t help that Week 4 still held a lot of challenges for us, including a near-quitting day for me and a work conference filled with the most beautiful vegetarian and vegan options I’ve ever seen in my life. Week 4 also had major breakthroughs for us both and we feel like we really did need a full 30 days to “see the light.”(Tiger Blood still feels like a myth, but that’s ok). My awareness about how food interacts with my body is at an all-time high, and I won’t be able to forget the things I learned on this journey.

OBSERVATIONS

 

  • I feel too touchy-feely saying Whole30 was “life changing,” but the truth is that I will never be the same. My life is different now, and I can’t view food the same way: even the foods I really, really love and truly cherished before I started this. Do I still want to eat muffins and pizza and cheap Mexican food? Well….I do, but I also kind of don’t. I know too much now, and I know what it feels like to fuel my body with real food sources. It feels good. It feels so good that it may counteract the temptation of foods I know taste delicious for a few minutes but make me feel crappy later. Time will tell.
  • We’re doing a slow-roll reintroduction plan. This means we’ll reintroduce certain food groups for one day, then two days of W30 so we can evaluate how the reintroduced foods made us feel. After investing this much time into cleansing our bodies, it seems like a waste to skip this step. We’re excited but a little nervous about this part, since it’s going to teach us what foods work well with our bodies and which don’t. What if I discover some of my favorite foods (hummus, quinoa, oats) actually make me feel like crap? There could be hard decisions to make. Anyway, for the next 10 days, our food schedule looks like this:
    • Day 1: Non-gluten grains (rice, quinoa, corn, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
    • Day 4: Legumes (soy, chickpeas, peanuts, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
    • Day 7: Gluten-containing grains (bread, pizza crust, waffles, oats, cereal, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
    • Day 10: Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.). I’m already pretty sure that dairy screws up my system, so I asked Sam if we could do this one last.

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