Friday, June 23, 2017

Sandpaper Shoes

Note:Just thought I would share this. I wrote it when I first moved to St Augustine and it is based on    a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
              Sandpaper Shoes                                                March 7, 2012 

 Did you know; that sandpaper is actually MADE out of sand?
Did you know; that if you walk 5 miles on the beach, barefoot, that by mile no. 2.89 it FEELS as if you were walking in shoes made out of sandpaper?
Did you know; that walking in sandpaper shoes will give you blisters on your feet the size of Texas?
Did you know; that walking in sandpaper shoes while curling your toes so that the balls of your feet DON'T touch your sandpaper shoes doesn't really help?
Did you know; that If you park your truck down the beach, ride your bike 5 miles home and then walk back along the beach in your sandpaper shoes you have to make it ALL THE WAY back to your truck or lie starving on the beach until your sandpaper shoes are ripped away by the incoming tide?
Did you know; that a double cheeseburger, super-size fry, and a diet coke make it ALL better?
Did you know; that the cheeseburger and fries COMPLETELY defeats the whole concept of walking 5 miles in your sandpaper shoes?

Did you know; that I have had moments of shear brilliance in my life, so bright that I thought to myself, "YOU, Kristine are a Goddamn genius?”

                     Did you know; this is NOT one of those moments?

                       To all my friends.  From a girl...and her sandpaper shoes.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Outside the Box


Sometimes simple is best. Simply put; dreams really can come true. I am living proof of just that. It was brought to my attention the other day, that some people might find my way of life interesting. And as such, I might actually inspire someone to dare to dream and then dare to make those dreams a reality. Dare to live a life outside the box, in order to make their dreams come true. And so…I write. 
                                 In the Proverbial Nutshell 
Way back in 2011, my daughter and I spent 3 stellar weeks in Europe. We had traveled across the pond to discover our family heritage in Scotland and discover it we did. However, I was so taken by Ireland that my feet hadn't touched the soil back here in the  states, before I was planning my return. Then, in 2012, I quit my job and did just that. I Spent 7 adventurous weeks on the Emerald Isle. Part of that time I was literally on foot; traversing 100 incredible miles across the Irish countryside. An idea born, finally became a dream come true.
 In 2014, I again quit my job and returned this time to Scotland wherein I did another long distance hike. Trekking  yet another 100 miles across the Scottish highlands. A dream, a crazy idea I had floating in my head, once again came to fruition. Then in 2016 I had an epiphany.  A wild idea of driving solo across America. So, I once again quit my job, built a bunk in the back of my truck and hit the road. So, In the most simplest of ways
 my life evolved. I spent all of last summer in my truck camping all across this exquisite country. I drove 10,000 miles, hitting 26 states in just over three months. Those journeys, all of them, were indeed life changing. However, after returning to my regular life, while also being enthralled by deep reading of Henry David Thoreau's "Walden Pond," I began to realize that life inside the box didn’t suit me or my new found philosophy that, less is more. It was also around that time that I began to have a vision, a dream of traveling the world; of seeing this earth and all it had to offer. But, it would take more money than all my other trips combined to do so. An idea began to form. I had just spent 3 months living in my truck. Would it be possible to do that full time? Could I save all of that money that I felt was being wasted on an apartment which I no longer needed or wanted? In short order, I made the conscious decision to give up my
apartment and live out of my truck, in order to save all my pennies to circumnavigate the globe. And for the record, I am not independently wealthy, nor do I have a rich relative that bank roles my trips. I literally just prefer to live a simple life with few creature comforts; putting all my money towards traveling somewhere new, somewhere exciting, somewhere beautiful. Somewhere... I’ve never been. And so the adventure began. Currently, my new minimal life choices are an on going sojourn.
Living in my little town in my truck is, I have to say, quite the interesting undertaking in and of itself. I’ve been  in my truck now for 7 months and have saved a good chunk of change towards my trip around the world. So, in the following blogs, I thought I would share with you exactly how I make this work. How I live, how I shower, where I sleep and how and where I get ready for work and all the mundane things many of us take for granted.
 And, how my friends have helped me in my pursuit of living yet another dream. Because to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I could make this crazy life of mine work if it wasn't for them. 

I'll leave you with this thought: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. (Author Unknown)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

From the Sea to the Summit: Rainbows (Part III)

Rainbows: Now it has been said that being in the right place at the right time is essential to great photography and I believe that to be true. Now the other way to go about that is to almost be at the right place at the right time and force the universe to comply. Such was the case with me, my beer, and my rainbow. Having given in to the inclement weather and having lazed around all day at the hostel I finally decided to take a stroll in the misty conditions along the beach taking some pictures as I went and cursing the camera when the batteries gave out. I strolled amiably along the beach back to town where I bought some batteries and some bread because the two often go hand in hand, made my way back to my room and then reached the incredibly difficult decision that it was time for a beer. For whatever reason I changed the batteries in my camera, (I normally would not have even carried it with me as the store was right there on the corner) tossed it without thought into my front pocket, and walked across the street. I took my time as I was in no particular hurry and carefully chose the cheapest beer in the store (Carling Black Label). I exchanged pleasantries with the store clerk and leisurely made my way out of the store. As I began to step into the rain soaked street, I looked over my left shoulder for traffic and there it was; the biggest, most brilliant rainbow I had ever seen.  I stopped dead in my tracks. And then my mind was like "hey you dumb ass get a picture… quick!!"  Thing was it was a dozen blocks up the street to get decent view and/or picture before it disappeared and who knew how long that would be. I would have to get a move on. I tucked my beer, which was in a brown paper sack, haphazardly under my arm and literally sprinted up the street. I am sure the locals were like “look at that crazy tourist.” No matter. As I splashed through the puddles with reckless abandon, I reached the top of the lane. I fumbled for my camera with one hand as my beer began to rip through the now wet paper sack. I made it to the top of that hill in what felt like seconds flat, threw my beer unceremoniously to the ground and got the shot. I must have looked half crazed standing there with what I am sure amounted to a stupid grin of triumph on my face. Up to that point that had been the most laid back day. I mean I had just been on the top of a mountain. Patience was my middle name right? So much for being “laid back.” That was two minutes of shear chaos and insanity followed by me laughing at myself for the next several hours. That rainbow must have stood in silent awe of my determination, quick feet, and triumphant grin. I am certain it watched in quiet amusement as I gathered up my beer, that had tumbled out of the sack, as I place all but one of them as neatly as I could back into what remained of said sack, and casually sat down an old stone wall and popped the top on the remaining pint. The rainbow was still shining in the fading twilight as the rain started to fall again so I hopped down off the wall and began to walk casually back down the hill that I had just moments earlier traversed at the speed of light. I took one last glance back over my shoulder just in time to see that giant, amazing, rainbow, that had only moments before stretched down from the heavens, be swallowed up by the approaching storm. I turned and made my way slowly back down the street with the mist gently falling over me…and my sack of beer. Kristine one; Universe…zero.

Side note: I just want to give a heads up to my friends from Lahinch. Lahinch was the perfect place to just hang out and relax and I want to thank Peter and Pat who ran the hostel for making me feel so at home. And I want to give a “surfs up dude” to my friend Colm who I came in on the  bus with the first time I was there and who joined Nora and Martin and I to make my last night in Lahinch a grand, grand time. You guys really made a lasting impression on me and I hope that you find that killer surf you were looking for. 

From the Sea to the Summit: Perrick (Part II)

Pierrick: I absolutely, positively, adored my friend Pierrick. The day I arrived in Doolin I was sitting at an old wooden table in the hostel enjoying the warmth that emanated from the fireplace when in walked Pierrick. I smiled at him and said hello and he responded in kind and thus, in the simplest of ways, we began what would become a grand friendship. Pierrick did not go out that particular evening as he had decided to hike to the Cliffs of Moher the next day and I, after having one too many Guinness’ at the pub that evening, opted to take the bus. We did however run into each other on the Cliffs as I was heading down the trail and he was heading back, so although we didn't get to wander the cliffs together we were able sit next to each other on bus on the trip back to Doolin. Back at the hostel I got a quick nap and Pierrick had something to eat and afterwards we sat in the hostel next to the fireplace and shared some beer that I had bought at the store the day before. I had only three so we each had one and then we retrieved some glasses from the pantry and split the last one while we sat outside on the stone wall and watched the Aille River float lazily by. It was a beautiful evening filled with the joy of being in Ireland so along with our beer Pierrick and I shared an abundance of pleasant conversation. We talked about our lives, our families and about living life to its fullest. It wasn't long before Pierrick and I decided to take a stroll up the hill, a rugged 90 second walk, to Fitz Place to get a cold, fresh beer. Eventually we found ourselves immersed in the music, the atmosphere and the growing bond of friendship. I found Pierrick to be such a gentle soul. He had the heart of a poet and the mind of one not yet jaded by the cruelty that life can often hold. I found it incredibly refreshing that he was so taken by the simplest of things. He would look at me randomly throughout the evening and say “this is it Kristine!! There is nothing else but this moment!!” And he would smile and say this is so “grand” or “lovely"or “cool” and we drank our beer and toasted the night, the music, and the warmth that surrounded us. We avowed to be content; being completely and utterly engrossed in those moments. 

It was a grand and lovely time and one which I have to say was one of the best nights of my trip. Without question I will remember it with great affinity and fondness. Unfortunately, as has happened so often during my sojourn, morning came and it was time for me to once again say goodbye to a friend that I had made such a special connection with. So Pierrick and I ate breakfast and then together we walked down to the bus station where we eventually hopped on the bus to Ennis where we would part ways; he would make his way to Waterford and I would make my way back to Lahinch. Upon our arrival we gathered our gear, gave each other a hug filled with warmth and friendship and I watched with a growing sadness as he climbed aboard his bus and waited for it to depart. As I stood upon the cold, damp, sidewalk I had to fight back the tears that I knew would eventually come. Pierrick’s bus finally backed slowly away from the curb. I could see Pierrick as he looked at me through the glass. His face disappeared only to reappear as his bus rolled across the asphalt coming back into view as it passed between two buses. I caught a glimpse of him so I waved and smiled, as did he, until  once again the buses blocked our view. I waited to see if I could see him once again as his bus cleared the final obstacle and pulled out of the station…I could. He turned and looked over his shoulder as he waved a final farewell, as did I.  The lump in my throat gave way as his bus disappeared into the street and this time there was no stopping the tears. It was as if the universe was waiting, because at that very moment the rain began to fall gently on my shoulders and the tears that had been on the brink finally fell from my eyes and quietly rolled down my cheeks. I stood silently, helplessly by as I watched yet another friend make their journey homeward.

From the Sea to the Summit: Part I

Once again time and travel have graced me with gifts beyond measure; great friends, spectacular beauty and oddly enough, a lesson in patience. If I had to pick my most memorable journey of the past week I would certainly have to say that the climb to the top of Croagh Patrick was the ultimate in personal growth and life’s lessons learned. It pushed me past what I thought I could endured both mentally and physically and in some weird way gave me strength in return. Patience is a virtue they say and one that has not always graced my illustrious personality. But I will have to say that thus far there isn't anything in this life that has taught me the art of patience as well or as thoroughly as a single, solitary, majestic mountain known as Cruach Phádraig
And thus the story goes as follows: It was an unusually clear blue morning as I made my way towards the path that would take me to the rocky peak and as I gazed upon the mountain from below I could discern the slow progression of time etched upon its face which the mountainside seemed to patiently endure. I was intimidated to say the least. But soon my thoughts turned to my approach, to the task of reaching the stately mountains pinnacle, and subsequently, to the arduous journey back from its peak. I was in awe. 
I do not believe that I have ever known the true meaning of the word patience until the day I climbed that mighty mountain. Nor had the term “one step at a time” been more real, more…apparent or more important than during my time on that mountain. There were at times brief respites where I looked forward towards my goal or back to whence I had come, but only for the briefest of moments and I found it was during those times that I would miss a step...falter. Wavering for that one split second in time instantaneously brought my focus back to the task at hand, that next step, and nothing else. I found that when I began to reach that state of mind where I garnered such complete focus wrapped tightly in a ragged determination to reach the top, I became a different person within myself. I could feel my whole being thrive on that mountain and in that circumstance. It was in that existence that I became deeply interwoven with that place. And as such, after my fear of heights had been conquered, when I finally reached the summit and looked across the vast horizon it felt as if, since the beginning of all time, Ireland herself had been patiently waiting for my arrival. After the exuberance and exhilaration began to gently subside and I turned and looked at the daunting task of returning to the fields and valleys below, I,  for the first, time understood completely what that  journey, that climb, that struggle to reach the summit had taught me. I knew without question that I had been given a gift. A gift that had sat silently waiting for me to appear. The gift of a deep and true understanding of the nature of patience. And as I took my first step towards my descent, I knew I had been changed forever…

Thus Far: Beyond Killarney Part III

  Cloghane, Castlegregory and Camp…and Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My…

 Eventually I had to leave the home, friends and comfort that I had found in Dingle, and in particular at the Hide-out Hostel, and make my way towards Cloghane. I had two choices. Catch the bus EAST to Tra-Li and then transfer to a bus going WEST to my next destination. Or hitchhike over O'Connor’s Pass and be there in 30 minutes. Guess which one I chose and do not doubt for one second that 30 minutes turned into…well you’ll see. Off I went again to the edge of town where I was promptly picked up by Michael a really wonderful guy who admitted he hadn't picked up a hitchhiker in over fifteen years. There goes that damn Onomatopoeia again. Michael was on his way back to work from a holiday with his family and was just the coolest dude. Not only did he stop at the top of the pass to let me take pictures, offering to take mine with Dingle Bay shining in the back ground, he went out of his way, like in the opposition direction, to take me down into Cloghane right to the front door of the hostel. Thanks Michael, you are the salt of the earth my friend. I had, at the last moment, decide to go to a town called Cloghane instead of my original destination of Castlegregory. In hind sight it was stupid decision the first of many on this particular journey nestled in with several good one but those don’t really count at the time you’re making the stupid ones, now do they? First of all my trip thus far had been about hiking Kerry Way and part of Dingle Way which I did and was, in part, still doing. But once back in Kilarney my trip became more about pub crawling than mountain climbing, or mountain scurrying as I liked to call it. In order to gain some type of focus I decided in Kilarney to make the next part of this journey all about finding surfing in Ireland. So off I went, half cocked and raring for the adventure that would come with my search for surf and/or surfers. 

Although I went to Inch, a beach renowned for its small but consistent surf, there was none that day. However I did happen to catch a few pictures of a couple of surfers tucked neatly away in a hidden cove along Slea Head but my search began in earnest in Cloghane. I picked Cloghane as it was smack–dab in the middle of Brandon Bay and there was supposed to be surf in Brandon Bay. Well, no such luck; wrong part of the bay. I decided to leave Cloghane, sigh…but as good luck would have it the dude at the hostel was really cool, made a few phone calls, pointed me in the correct direction, gave me a lift back to the main road, and wished me happy trails. Okay now all I had to do was hitchhike over to Castlegregory right? Good luck with that the universe said. I shall cram this into the proverbial nutshell just to save time (and because I promised myself I would not go over 4 pages per Blog). I ended up walking the ten miles into Castlegregory where I found the hostel which, and you have to love this about these little towns, was also the pub and general store. The room and the people were awesome but that was it. There was no TV, internet, stove or microwave. No sweat. All I needed was a bed anyway. So, at one point I talked to a couple of surfers who were staying there…ah ha!!! A clue!! Where there are surfers and boards there are usually waves; me and my sharp wit at work once again. After getting some info from the surfers I met some really, really wonderful folks at the pub who wanted to take me home with them right then and there to the Caravan park that a guy named Brian owned and where my temporary new best buddy, Judy lived. Since I had booked in to the hostel already, I told them I would come down tomorrow and they could put me up and we would continue the drinking of their national brew, Guinness. Never make plans while you are drinking Guinness in Ireland as the details can often get lost amongst the laughter and Slainte! I never did get to hook back up with them, too bad to cause that Brian was as manly an Irishman as I had met to that point.  Anyway, I digress. The surfers had told me to go out to Maharees and if I was lucky there would be surf. Off the next morning I went hiking the 8 miles out to Mahrees and back and….no surf; flat as a pancake. Okay, no problem. I went back to the hostel, collected my things and again (this is getting to be a habit) marched out to the edge of town to hitch into Camp and possibly find some surf along the beach there. I actually found Brian’s Caravan Park, which he had told me to look for during the prior evenings shenanigans and had asked me to come for a visit. Well timing they say is everything as Brian had just left for the Pub 10 minutes before I arrived. Probably thinking that I was going to be a no show; boy did he under estimate me!! So I thought I might catch Judy but didn't know what time she got off of work. I hung around a bit, talked to some of the local trailer park dwellers, always interesting, and finally made the decision to pitch my tent along the beach and wait for morning to try to get into Tra-Li where I had decided I would purchase a bus pass to get to my next few destination. Well, I had a wonderful spot picked out nestled deep in the dunes of the beach under a solitary tree where I settled in to my 3 x 6, quaint and completely free accommodations and promptly fell asleep. 

Now here is where I want to remind you of several things. A) Remember the part in my last blog about the flying teeth? Yeah well midges like to vacation at the beach as well. Who knew?? And B) Remember back at the beginning of this a dude named Michael picked me up on his way to Tra-Li? Coulda been there two days ago…but noooo….I had to go to these other places to explore and experience “Ireland.” Silly me.  Remember a while back in another Blog I ended up hitchhiking all over hell's half acre to wind-up going to Kilarney in the end? Yeah well that’s what this whole experience was; a comedy of errors that took me…the long way 'round. But I have to admit it wouldn't be called an adventure if everything happened all neat and tidy now would it?? At any rate, I walked the three miles into Camp from my digs at the beach where I hope to find the bus to Tra-Li. Just missed it. Damn the luck. Next bus, three hours away, shit. I did what I do best. I made a sign, threw out my thumb and hoped for the best…come on Onomatopoeia (be a great name for a racehorse). So what happened you ask?? Well…I shit-you-not. A little old lady named…wait for it…Mary, swear to goodness, pulled up, on her way to….wait for it…church and ushered me into the car. I have to tell you in all honesty; this was not the second time, but the third time since I began hitchhiking across Ireland that an older woman named Mary while on her way to church picked me up and gave me a ride,each in turn telling me that they would pray for me as they drove away. The first I didn't end up writing about. The second time, back a few paragraphs, certainly made me think, but the third time??!! I was blown away. As fate would have it when I was a young child around eight or nine my grandmother gave me a ceramic bust of the Virgin Mary that I still have to this day. So for me “Mary” has always been a symbol of comfort and solace. For over forty years I have kept that statue with me and for the last 20 years it has been placed beside a picture of my children as a guardian so to speak. I always felt as long as she was there they would have someone to watch over them. So make what you will of this story my friends, as for me, I believe God was watching over my dumb-ass and from here on out I think I’ll listen to what he is telling me…and just take the bus.

Thus Far: Beyond Killarny Part II

Dingle: Dingle is just one of those places that has that something…special.  “Onomatopoeia.” A friend recently told me is a term that talent scouts use to denote “that something special.” Well to me…that is Dingle. Dingle represents friends to be made, music to be enjoyed, and a beauty to be seen that is unrivaled. It is a place where you can hear the sound of a child calling out across the quay, her falling footstep echoing across the pier as she runs down the dock aside her father’s ship, he, who had just returned from a day upon the sea. It is a place where music, hard work, laughter and Guinness all hold equal importance. There is a place in Dingle, right off the quay, along the narrow main road lined with colorful houses and shops, which pipes traditional Irish music out into the street. If you stand there, as I did, listening to the sweet lilting sound of ancient music, your nostrils filled with the smell of fish and the ever present aroma of the sea, stand there…you will not just see, but you will feel the majestic beauty of those things which have stood for centuries there; Hussie’s Follie, the Esk Tower and O'Connor’s Pass, and who keep watch over the harbor, its people, its heart. So, if you stand there…as I have, then you too will feel the aura known as Dingle. Simple things are often at the heart of life and it is those simple things, those times which often occur spontaneously which make life wonderful and interesting and beautiful. Dingle is simple in its own existence and breathes life into those who are fortunate enough to take the time to find it.

Now, I was fortunate enough to find a hostel that spoke quietly to me, as Dingle often does. In actuality I was planning on camping at another hostel on the edge of town but had decided just to check the rates in town and thus I came across what I would have to say was a hostel and proprietor that was quintessentially…Dingle. As I walked through the door I was greeted by my soon to be friend Chuck who was straight out of the 60’s. He wore round John Lennon glasses and a Jazz-type cap which he wore backwards and  his grey, semi-long hair, was tucked haphazardly behind his ears. 

After a quick smile and hello Chuck gave me the rates (outside of my budget) and then helped me ring the other hostel, yes they could accommodate my tent, and sent me off with directions down an old Irish boreen which would provide me with a nice scenic walk and get me there lickety-split. We parted ways, him smiling and laughing as he folded clean sheets for the beds and towels for the guests. I didn't even make it 4 blocks before I turned around. I rang the bell, asked if he missed me yet and we shared a good laugh as he ushered me back into the warmth of what would become my home for the next four days. I don’t want to say that Chuck gave me preferential treatment but, he did.  He gave me a private room for two nights for the price of a dorm room, let me put my hand washed clothes in the dryer, gave me my last night’s stay for a “tener,” let me drink the house milk out of the fridge, and kept me company on the porch, where he drank red wine and I cheap beer from the grocery store. Chuck was a wealth of information, a constant source of entertainment, and became my good friend. I guess for whatever reason I have a tendency to have that type of effect on people; I bring out the best in them and they, me. I’m not sure why. Onomatopoeia perhaps…