New Bike! New Trail!

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband and daughter surprised me with an early birthday present–a new hybrid bike. It hasn’t been very long that we started our biking adventures, and the need to have more trail options than a road bike can handle had become apparent. There are just too many trails that are calling our names, but that would be too dicey to ride on my road bike. So, fatter tires it is.

I wanted to give the bike a test spin, so we took a little 5.5 mile ride in a local office park area. My initial reaction was 5.5 miles on a hybrid made me about as tired as 20+miles on my road bike. John decided my degree of exhaustion was due more to the fact I had had an early morning and eight hour work day, than the fatter tire size. Maybe, but I did notice a difference.

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

 

Our first trail with my new bike was the Torrey C. Brown (TCB)/Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR Trail) from Ashland, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania.  We jumped on the trail at the Ashland Trailhead, which was about a 35 minute drive from our house. It was a chilly – low 50’s, but a sunny and bright fall day. There were lots of walkers, joggers, and bike riders coming and going. We set off and were immediately impressed with the scenic and serene trail vibe. The trail was alternately narrow and wider. The surface alternated between packed gravel (almost paved) to loose gravel; with lots of leaves. I was very glad to not be trying this trail on my road bike. There were several muddy areas that my new bike handled like a charm. As we traveled north, there were fewer people, but it was still a well-used trail. I was freezing. I decided I need earmuffs that fit under my helmet. And gloves that fit over my riding gloves. And, I could have used warmer socks. But, we were delighted by the trail, so we kept pedaling, hoping to warm up.
The trees were not in full autumn glory, but there was some nice tree color. The part of the trail we rode was probably 90% shaded. We entered Gunpowder Falls State Park and spent a good deal of time with the Big Gunpowder Falls in view. It was so nice. Talk about a great way to disconnect from reality. Just nice scenery and no sounds, but those in nature.

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benches and picnic tables dot the trail. There were also some cute scenic points of interest. We stopped a couple times in sunny spots to warm up and enjoy the views. We went about 8.5 miles, just past Monkton, before turning around and heading back. This is another one of those long, beautiful trails that had us planning our next ride before our first one was finished. John was so taken with this ride, it was one of the big reasons he bought me the new bike. I agree with him. It is a great trail. And, it’s close to home. We will be back to try to get to Pennsylvania next.

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

  For our review and more photos of this trail, see my post on my bike trail blog here.

 

Thirty Years Later

La Sagrada Familia Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona, Spain

Rocky, exasperating, frustrating, overwhelming, and hard are a few of the words I would use to describe my first few weeks in Spain, where I was transplanted for my Junior year of college. However, those aren’t any of the words I actually use to describe my study abroad experience, mind you. I look back on my study abroad experience with happiness, excitement, pride, and a deep yearning to go back. In fact, I have a number of stories about things that I experienced when I first arrived that I laugh about now, but that I did not find funny at all at the time. So, having a child go overseas for his semester abroad program, has reminded me of the not often talked about parts of study abroad: the culture shock. We used the terms “culture shock” and “reverse culture shock” before and after my study abroad experience, back in the day. But, talking about it and learning what types of feelings are bundled under the umbrella of the term “culture shock,” does not prepare you for it happening to you. Funny thing about feelings. And, while I believe that everyone experiences some sort of culture shock, not everyone’s culture shock manifests in the same way. But, I guess, it was helpful to have the idea that what one is experiencing is normal. Although, I don’t once recall thinking, “Oh, yes. This is my culture shock talking,” when I was having a frustrated moment.And, communication has changed so much since I lived in Spain, it is mind-boggling to me. While I had pushed all of my entry into Spain and Spanish culture issues (READ: my culture shock) well to the back of my mind, I was brought back face to face with them through my son.

And, while it was a bit uncomfortable to hear he was experiencing his culture shock, it was nice to be able to say, “Yeah, I remember that. I felt that way, too.” So, while the sum total of our parenting advice has been something along the lines of, “Hang in there!” and “You can do it!” I had more peace about the place my son found himself in those early weeks of his Junior year. I knew that he was so close to getting over the biggest hump and would be fine. It just takes time.

While I mentally wrestled with ways I could “help” him, I began thinking about thirty years ago. One thing that came to me was an analogy. Undertaking a study abroad program is like panning for gold in the late 1800s. The conditions are physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. You’re standing in unfamiliar waters, performing unfamiliar tasks, like bending down and scooping up rocks and dirt and water and shaking out the unwanted parts. It’s demanding all of your attention to find the gold nuggets. But, you find them. Some are small, some a little bigger, and every now and then, you find a sizeable chunk of gold. You put all the nuggets that you find in a pouch or off to the side and continue panning. When you stop at the end of the day, you may not find that you have many nuggets. But, at the end of the week or month or semester, you will have lots of gold nuggets. Those gold nuggets are what you will be proud of, thankful for, and will be what you remember about your study abroad experience. The lack of reliable 24/7 WiFi will fade into the deep recesses of your mind, crowded out by the awesome, shiny gold nuggets you are holding.

Another thing that came to me was a word of advice: Don’t compare your insides (READ: what you are feeling) to somebody else’s SnapChat stories, Instagram pictures, Facebook posts, or tweets on Twitter. Seeing people who are also studying abroad appearing to be having an amazing time without any of the culture shock piece does not mean they are not also struggling to come to terms with their new environment. They are. And, just a P.S. Everyone is thinking the same thing about your cool photos and posts on social media.

And finally, I thought, it’s important to find your inner warrior. Be fearless. Face the day resolving to do your best, make the best of every situation, and have fun. I used to picture a map of the world and then picture where I was compared to my family and friends. I used that image to propel me through days I didn’t want to get out bed, as well as days I was having so much fun, I didn’t want to go to sleep.

Monserrat Catalonia, Spain

Monserrat
Catalonia, Spain

 

 

 

 

#MyGlobalLife

 

Running For Preparedness

Survivor Strong Memorial 5K Run and Fun Walk, August 2015

Survivor Strong Memorial 5K Run and Fun Walk, August 2015

The mark of a truly successful event is having volunteers ask to be part of the same event next year. The mark of a successful charity (non-profit, in this case) and charity event is having volunteers ask, “What are you doing next? I want to help with everything you are doing.” And, the mark of a non-profit’s successful mission or relevance is its ability to bring known and well regarded personalities to attend, speak at, and promote the mission and efforts of your non-profit. The National Center for Citizen Safety (NCCSAFE) had all of the above and more at the first Survivor Strong Memorial 5K run and fun walk.

Volunteers Getting Ready for the Race!

Volunteers Getting Ready for the Race!

The founder and president of NCCSAFE, Lois Blevins, invited me to work at her non-profit this summer to help with the 5K and other projects. I was excited to bring my experience running events to this effort. NCCSAFE is headquartered in Ellicott City, Maryland, and was started just over a year ago in response to the alarming rise in “active shooter” situations and other acts of domestic terrorism. Its mission is to fill the gap in educating the public on what to do if they find themselves in this type of life threatening situation; to be a repository for information and resources for survivors of such incidents; and to provide survivors with healing camps and retreats. The NCCSAFE has several initiatives started that will continue to promote citizen awareness and preparedness, but the 5K run was a major fund- and awareness-raiser.

Gathering for the Race Start

Gathering for the Race Start

Eyeing the Finish Line!

Eyeing the Finish Line!

Her team of volunteers and college interns did an amazing job, and the compliments keep pouring in through word of mouth and social media. I was happy to coordinate the volunteers for the day, and was asked by several about how to volunteer with NCCSAFE year round, as well as for next year’s 5K.

Survivors, Sponsor, Staff and Interns!

Survivors, Sponsor, Staff and Interns!

In addition to enjoying a well organized and well run event with great food, beverages, and SWAG, the participants and spectators heard inspiring words from three speakers, who know first hand how horrible living through shootings and domestic terrorism is. Hector Hernandez conducted responder recovery at the Oklahoma City bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building, where he once worked. Michele Gay, a former Howard County resident, who lost her daughter Josephine Grace in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, is a founder of Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative. And, Erika Brannock, also a Maryland native, who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, is currently writing a book. All three were very supportive of NCCSAFE’s mission and spoke of the need for the type of information and advocacy that NCCSAFE provides during the pre-race ceremony. I was so happy to be a part of such a positive event for such a worthwhile cause. 

Hector Hernandez, Erika Brannock and Michele Gay, Event Speakers

Hector Hernandez, Erika Brannock and Michele Gay, Event Speakers

Photo Credit to Ellie and Fred McKenzie

#HoCoBlogs

 

 

Very Empty Nesty of Us, Again

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

Sometimes you just have to step out of your comfort zone and say, “What the heck.” Or, in our case, “Who needs sleep?” For years, many of them, I have wanted to see actual shooting stars during a Perseid Meteor Shower. I thought I had a great opportunity two years in a row when we vacationed at a dude ranch in the Adirondacks. But, despite the comfortable lounge chairs and the uber dark setting, we weren’t able to see any either of those weeks. Zero shooting stars. Last night’s meteor shower was getting the pre-event hype of a World Cup soccer match. At least according to my Twitter feed. So, since we are still working to regain our top Empty Nester form, we made an impromptu decision to have a date night under the stars in hopes of finally seeing the elusive shooting stars. Clearly, we are on a empty nester roll!


At 10:00 PM, I had packed a bag of water, snacks, a sweatshirt, and bug spray. The chairs and blankets were already in the car. And, we were heading off to the Howard County Conservancy, which was having a Perseid Meteor Shower viewing party. We found a spot among a large group of folks that we couldn’t really see, in a field that we couldn’t see. It was very dark, except for the cars streaming in and out of the grounds. I was really excited. It seemed like a great night for some meteors!  And it was. We saw our first shooting star within 10 minutes of sitting down. It appeared to us almost in slow motion and took its time sailing across the sky. We were both shocked that we saw it so easily. Then, we missed a couple, as evidenced by the oh’s and ah’s from the folks who were looking in the right place at the right time. After waiting minutes on end without seeing any, we became a little frustrated at the sporadic nature of these buggers. It’s definitely not as easy as sitting in a crowd for a fireworks display, where most people are unlikely to miss any of the pyrotechnics. Especially, because of the telltale “whump” sound that gives you a second to look up. There is no warning “whump” with these meteors. You’re either looking in the right place or not. We did manage to catch a couple more and a couple that may or may not have been ones.

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

The wisps of light flitting fleetingly through the night are a joy to witness and, frankly,  annoying to miss. Our need to be able to function today prevented us from staying too late, but we had a great time staring off into the beautiful night sky. We appreciate the Howard County Conservancy for hosting this event! It was a great date night and very Empty Nesty of us.

 

 

@HoCoBlogs

 

Our Empty Nest Game is Strong

 

We had a chance to take a page out of our Empty Nest playbook this weekend and it was fantastic, dare I say, glorious. As a couple, John and I went into empty nest-hood with a basic survival plan, some vaguely articulated hopes, and a determined flexibility. We did great! Although, I didn’t fare as well, at least initially, but that’s a topic for another post.

Since that momentous August two years ago, the kids have come back and gone again and come back and so on. Thus, the parenting territory has become murky or murkier than pre empty nest. It has required many adjustments on our part. Currently, the biggest one being how to handle the limited amount of “empty” in our house. We have found ourselves being less motivated to be the foot loose and fancy free empty nesters we were in the beginning, in exchange for spending time with one or both of the kids. Despite the soundness of our thinking, we were a little stuck.


That is, until this past week. We learned that very dear friends were going to retire on Friday. We knew immediately upon hearing the news that we wanted and needed to be there. “There” being Buffalo, NY. We were able to clear our schedules in under a week and head up to Buffalo. Our friends, Tom and MaryJane, have owned a pizzeria in the town my husband grew up in for 31 years. He actually worked for them 30 years ago. They are about our age, and when John finally moved to Maryland, he kept in touch with them. My first trip to Buffalo included a required stop at the restaurant and introductions. MaryJane and I hit it off instantly, and I would look forward to getting together with them during our Buffalo visits. To think that we wouldn’t have their restaurant as a stop during future visits was so sad. We had to get there one more time. Plus, they were planning a big party Friday night.


We ended up making the trip without the kids, which was a little strange since they were both technically at home. But it was also really empty nesty of us. We realized how much we had needed to get away almost the minute we arrived at the restaurant, which was our first stop upon arriving in town. We had a great visit and we’re thrilled to get to Torella’s one last time to wish our lovely friends happiness and lots of spur of the moment fun!


 

 

 

 

 

 

This Time It’s Not Me

Hearth and Home

Hearth and Home

I started out having an exceedingly difficult time accepting that my son is going to be leaving for Spain for his semester abroad program soon. But, I was not having a difficult time for reasons one may expect from an Empty Nest mom. No, I’m not worried about missing him too much. Of course, I will miss him a lot. I’m not afraid for any struggles he may have getting accustomed to living in a foreign country, as that is part of studying abroad. I’m not concerned about being able to keep in touch with him, as there are dozens of ways we can communicate these days. No, my problem is me, actually. I have been struggling to accept that I am not the one going. I had tried to figure how I could go and stay for the semester, too. Although, like the mouse who gets a cookie, I was definitely going to want more. Like staying for the whole school year. I know this because I’ve done it before. I spent my Junior year abroad in Pamplona, Spain. Am I excited about my son’s upcoming experience? Yes! But, it’s an excitement that is tinged with what I must admit is jealousy. 

Lladro From Spain

Lladro From Spain

Fast forward a month or so and I think I’m finally making the transition from being jealous and bummed it’s not me going to being very excited and happy for my son. The excitement is stemming from the waves of memories I’m having about my Junior year in Spain. I’m remembering details about the people, and lifestyle, and how different I found it from my own; realizations I made while abroad that haven’t occurred to me in years (decades, actually).

The memories began flooding back to me at a rate in which I honestly did not think my brain could produce, from the minute Alex came home from school for the summer. Dozens of them. Some with accompanying advice. And, I am so excited to share them I can barely contain myself. As we sit at the dinner table a memory will pop into my head, and I will say, “You may want to start listening to a Spanish language radio or television station to get your ear accustomed to hearing the language. It’s really hard to get the feel for how fast Spaniards speak in real time from the classroom.” And, “Don’t be alarmed by the crazy dreams you may have in the beginning. It’s just your brain trying to process your second language.” And, then there are the stories of what I experienced and how funny or charming or nerve wracking it was.  

Now, although it has taken several weeks for me to reign in my zeal about Alex’s trip, I think I’ve just about come to terms with it. It is his trip after all. And while I can’t wait to find out what aspects of Spain and Spanish life my son notices, likes, appreciates, and Etc. I must stand back and let it unfold as it did for me all those years ago.

Bull Fight Madrid, Spain 1982

Bull Fight Madrid, Spain 1982

#MyGlobalLife

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A Picture Perfect Day For a Bike Ride

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Today the Empty Nest vibe was in full force, which is to say that we planned a bike ride and executed said plan. We chose the Capital Crescent Trail, a wonderful Rail Trail, that took us from Bethesda, MD all the way to Washington DC. It was a picture perfect day to ride this beauty of a trail. We did the same ride last Memorial Day weekend, but today was better. I remembered being a lot hotter and sweatier last year. It’s 82 degrees and sunny today. We were not surprised to see lots of people along the trail and enjoying the monuments in DC. Some points along our route were trickier to negotiate on a bike than others, but for the most part, we were able to enjoy the city and monuments and the trail with no problems. This time, the restrooms at Fletcher’s Cove were open and I was happy to find they were air conditioned.

Fletcher's Cove

Fletcher’s Cove

The area was teeming with folks enjoying both the river access part and the canal part of the Cove. We got into DC and the line to rent kayaks, paddle boards and other watercraft was the longest we’d ever seen there. So it looked like the Potomac River was as busy and crowded as the bike trail.

View of Trails at Fletcher's Cove

View of Trails at Fletcher’s Cove

John was commenting about what a great ride it was given the variety of sites and effort level required. We were rather tired by the time we started back to Bethesda, as the ride back is mostly up hill. But it was a great day and a great way to Empty Nest. 

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day