Saturday, June 30, 2007

vacation highlights (part one- arizona)

according to blogger, this is my 600th post. i should probably check to make sure unfinished drafts aren't included in the count, but i'm not really that picky, so i suppose we'll just have to go ahead and consider the count official. (had i kept up my original one-a-day pace, i would've it the milestone a while back, but somewhere along the line i decided to spend a little less time on the computer and a little more time in the "real" world.)

no pressure to make this a decent post or anything, of course.

vacation highlight number one: adventuring in arizona

since i'd spent a ridiculous amount on tickets to see the police in arizona (and have since spent an even more ridiculous amount to see them in atlanta in november), SO and i flew out to phoenix to make a weekend of it. on sunday the 17th, our friends (and constant adventure guides) scott and karen took us hiking at west clear creek in central arizona. it was my first hike with crawdads, as well as my most injury-filled hike to date. (you should see the bruise on my knee- at one point, i seriously wondered where my kneecap had gone. (for details, scroll down a couple of posts. however, you need go no further for visual aids....))

the descent into the canyon- pretty steep, but i managed not to injure myself just yet.

one of about 35 stream crossings along the hike

the view just about mid-hike. (no real injuries yet, though i think i'd unintentionally landed in the creek at least twice.)

fun fact: crayfish/crawdads/whatever you call these crustaceans swim backwards. (i didn't know!)

fortunately, everyone in our party survived.

vacation highlight number two: doing my part to end ignorance

while in arizona, i decided to buck tradition and make my haircuts a semi-annual (instead of annual) affair. SO and i wound up with a day to bum around and run errands (not enough time to drive to petrified forest or saguaro national park and make it back to phoenix before the police concert), so we headed off to the nearest mall in search of a reasonably-priced haircut, preferably by a stylist who didn't have really bizarre ideas of their own, like "let's take off all but three inches".

what an experience, i must say.

there were two employees present at the salon i chose. we were informed that there would be a shift change in half an hour, and while the first stylist wandered off to ask the second stylist if she'd cut my hair, i wondered if they'd actually ask me to wait until the shift change to get my trim.

apparently, the first stylist had someplace to be right after her shift ended or something, because the second girl came back to the front desk and said, "well, i guess i can do it for you."

gee- how big of you, in seeing as how cutting hair is theoretically what you do for a living, and tips are usually involved. (i tend to go for relatively chap haircuts- i don't like spending more than $30 before tip- and then i usually tip about 30% if the stylist does a good job.)

during the 45 minutes it took to wash and cut my hair, i was given several opportunities to enlighten my twentysomething (if that) stylist:

~"what is "top 40" music?"

~(when told the reason for my visit- the police concert):
"that's that old band, right?"

~(when told where i was heading the next day):
"national park"
(minute passes, during which i think the conversation has officially ended)
"and where is that, exactly?"
thinking: "it's two states away. you sure don't get out much, do you?"
but instead, i say, "it's up in northwest wyoming"

(yes, you should admire my self-control.)

vacation highlight number three: reunited (and it feels so good)

while supporting my favorite local independent bookstore, which i'd initially wandered into to purchase multiple (6? 7?) copies of laurie notaro's latest book to have signed during her visit while i'd be in the middle of wyoming, i found a long-lost book, near and dear to my heart. when i was younger (think 20 years or so ago), i checked how to eat like a child by delia ephron on a regular basis.

i was doing my usual "this'll only take a minute and by a minute, i mean it'll be about an hour and a half" browsing thing, and lo and behold, they had not one, but two copies of the book that introduced me to my favorite expression of distaste ("vomitrotious").

i was so excited about this discovery that i actually squeaked....then i grabbed both copies and ran......(to the checkout, of course.)

vacation highlight number four: enjoying a ridiculously-priced concert*

despite the not-quite-sober ladies sitting directly behind us who would not shut up about how great the band was, how they were playing their favorite song (i guess they were all favorites, since that part of the conversation stretched across several songs), how much they loved sting, what a great concert it was blah blah blah for the entire first three songs,

despite the near-brawl going on across the aisle (i still have no clue what all that was about, aside from an "asshole" and a "dickhead"),

and despite the guy next to me (not SO, of course), who "woo-hoo"ed at weird times, supported stuart copeland on air-drums, sang every third word (but he did it with feeling, dammit!), and constantly invaded my airspace with his weird, wide-armed clapping style,

i really enjoyed the sold-out police concert.

(so much so, in fact, that i blew over twice as much on tickets for their atlanta show in november)

Friday, June 29, 2007

"if you wanna be my lover...... gotta get with my friends".

i'm still trying to figure out the logic behind that. then again, i wouldn't doubt it if one of the other four spice girls harbored at least a minor crush on david beckham, posh'd husband. i mean, quite frankly, is there a woman alive who would turn that down?

(before i hear from a certain member of the peanut gallery, let me rephrase: is there a straight woman alive.....)

i returned from my vacation earlier this week (details to follow over the weekend- i need to crop my visual aids and get the last couple of days recorded on paper, first) and upon opening my inbox to tackle an avalanche of missives from financially inept nigerians and underground pill pushers, as well as a few messages from actual friends, i was immediately confronted with gossip that was about as believable as hearing that michael "thriller" jackson and joe "steppin' out" jackson were related*.

today it was confirmed (because, obviously, everything that appears in the entertainment section of the local newspaper must be true, right?)- the spice girls are heading out on tour again.

the reporter behing the blurb i read in today's paper seemed disappointed that the girls didn't dress their parts for their recent press conference confirming the tour. i'm curious as to how they'll pull it off on the tour itself. i mean, "scary" melanie b. no longer looks very intimidating (though i'm sure there's some sort of reason why eddie murphy bolted), and i'm not quite sure how "baby" emma bunton is going to pull off her role- or maybe her nickname will just take on a whole new meaning, in seeing as how she's expecting. (this'll be child number six, after posh's three, scary's one, and ginger's little girl.)

and speaking of "ginger" geri hallowell- does anyone else remember her pre-ginger days, when she was "sexy" spice? i can't remember whether that was changed before or after her photos (pre-spice girls, it should be noted) were printed in playboy. she left the group to pursue a solo career (remember "look at me"? i should chase her album down on amazon- my ipod could use a little freshening up- a week in a car and the music starts to get a little stale), followed by a goodwill ambassadorship...or something like that....

...but can she support bluebell madonna** on that sort of salary?

not that i'm saying that's the reason they're touring. i mean, to an extent, it fits in nicely with the other reunion tours this summer- the police (excellent concert, by the way), genesis.......

...wait a minute- is anyone else seeing a pattern here?

*don't laugh. when i was about six, i had not yet grasped how common a last name like "jackson" really was. i was convinced the two were brothers. after all, i'd heard that michael was from a musical family....

**i'm guessing she took a page from the bob geldof/paula yates/michael hutchence guide to baby names

Monday, June 18, 2007

that's gonna leave a mark....

looks like it'll be a few days before i attempt walking in the new shoes.

today's hike was a five-mile (technically 6 1/2, since we had to leave one of the cars a mile and a half away from the trailhead, because what passed for a "road" was almost as rough as the trail itself, minus all the river crossings.) challenge, to say the least. a good portion of the trail was the creek itself, which featured some seriously slippery rocks (several times, i was inspired to sit down rather abruptly and enjoy the view, including one time, when i somehow wound up flat on my back, with my left hand holding my digital camera aloft, a move i perfected during the course of the hike.) and enough crawdads to supply new orleans for at least a week.

which reminds me- i'd never realized the principles of crawdad locomotion. they crawl forward, but swim backward. i'm still trying to work out how they knew not to smack into any of the aforementioned rocks, as some of those suckers would get moving pretty quickly.

anyway- where was i? oh, yes- slippery rocks, large numbers of crawdads.....

i took a large number of pictures, too- which i'm currently transferring to my laptop. unfortunately, it'll be a day or two before i can post any of them, since i can't currently get a wireless connection. perhaps by then i'll also have taken a picture of my left knee, which will surely be a sight to behold by morning. not only did i wipe it out mid-creek (during one of my rather abrupt seats, i managed to take an unintended seat on a slippery rock and, as a special bonus, whacked my knee on another rock in front of me), but i also totally biffed it on a perfectly dry boudler, resulting in a nice scrape on the digital camera (this is why the cheap one goes on adventures with me) and another blow to my knee.

needless to say, wherever SO and i decide to go tomorrow (leaning toward saguaro national park), hiking will not be an matter what my footwear options may be.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

all dressed up.....

...but i'll get to that in a minute.

after spending five hours this morning sitting in the aisle seat while a small-bladdered couple occupied my window and the middle seats, i was somewhat relieved when our plane landed at the phoenix airport around 9am local time.

relief was short lived, however, because at 9am this morning, sunny phoenix was already at a "balmy" 88 degrees.

but "it's a dry heat," as people keep telling me, which i guess is somehow supposed to make it all okay.

the forecast called for 110 degree temperatures today. i have no idea whether or not the mercury rose that high, mostly because i've spent most of the day bonding with SO's mom's air conditioning vents.

we did venture out long enough for lunch with his dad, and afterwards we stopped by DSW (designer shoe warehouse), where for some strange and inexplicable reason, i decided to purchase what will inevitably turn out to be the implements of my demise.

the next time i feel like being social and dressing a little girly, i have killer heels to wear. these 3" tall shoes surely qualify as "catch me, f*ck me pumps", and while i doubt either of the two actions will take place when i wear them out in public, surely i'll at least have an embarrassing anecdote or two to share when i get around to penning my best-selling autobiography.

assuming i don't hit my head on the way to the floor, that is.

Friday, June 15, 2007

oh, you'll love this.....

as part of my pre-trip ritual, i always call my credit card company and warn them that i'm about to be on the move, and that i plan on adding to the local economy. (it's much less embarrassing than being declined while trying to support the local economy, i assure you.)

this evening, the helpful representative and i somehow got off on a tangent regarding the state of radio today, which i summed up by saying, "this sort of stuff was never covered on wkrp".

her response?

"oh- is that the station you work at?"

rapidly approaching 30 does not make me feel old. having a younger sibling with her own house does not make me feel old. encountering someone who seriously has never heard of a popular early to mid-80s tv show makes me feel old.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

easy, my derriere

the kind folks at nascar are currently trying to figure out whether or not they'll be considered wusses if they cancel the race for rain, and though i'm hanging on the commentators' every word, i think i can still manage to tell you about yesterday's woodland adventure.

after our last hike, the 9 year old (not mine, for any first-time readers who have somehow had the (mis?)fortune to stumble upon my blog) picked out another waterfall he wanted to see as we were driving home. as a result, SO and i decided we'd try out one of the trails (there are two possible routes) to see if this hike would be appropriate for a nine year old and a five year old- not to mention my thirty-something year old SO.

it's iffy....very iffy.

we left columbia about an hour later than intended (my bad), drove northwest through greenville, and pulled into the parking lot of a&w/long john silver's somewhere near easley around 12:30 or so. after impressing the counter employee with my appetite (he was astounded that someone of my size could pack away a grilled chicken sandwich value meal, cheeseburger, and broccoli and cheese bites) and hit the big bend trail* around 2:30, after making several comical u-turns as we tried to work out the location of the trailhead.

according to my south carolina hiking guide the big bend trail, leading from SC 107 westward to the waterfall, is rated "easy", which i figured would be about as strenuous as walking across a grocery store parking lot, though perhaps slightly more scenic.

this would not be a wholly inaccurate assessment, had there not been at least four large fallen trees across the trail, not to mention a landslide that i'm not sure the five year old would be able to get past.

the trail was not always well marked, though not the worst i've been on by far, and neither the hiking book nor the waterfall book we'd brought along bothered to mention one of the intersections we encountered along the hike.....which naturally led to us taking the "extremely scenic" route a couple of times.

however, one of these dead ends worked out to our advantage, as during our turn, i noticed that despite dousing ourselves with bug repellant, SO had picked up a few stowaways along the way. fortunately, i'd insisted upon bringing my keychain from the car, and SO now knows just how invaluable my swiss army knife can be.**

ticks on SO: 3
ticks on duff: 0 (guess he used more bugspray on me than i did him- oops)

anyway, it was decided it might be wise to take the trail that led toward the water instead of away from it, in seeing as how we were attempting to find a waterfall and whatnot, and we wound up at water's edge about five minutes later. unfortunately, as some folks camping out on the georgia side of the river informed us, we were too far upstream to see the waterfall.

well, crap.

so, we backtracked a little bit and met a couple of guys who, after we got our bearings, pointed us in the right direction, assuring us that we were only fifteen minutes away from the waterfall, if that.

make that forty five minutes, as we overshot the trail that led to the water's edge at the actual waterfall, opting instead to first wander about a 1/4 mile (at least) too far down the trail, then made a really steep descent to water's edge within view of the waterfall (though not close enough to get a really decent picture with my camera, which i later discovered- and by "later" i mean "when i took the camera out of my backpack about fifteen minutes ago to dump the pictures onto my laptop"- had several fingerprints all over the lens).

the good thing about the blurriness is that you can't see how spotty my skin currently looks.

after snapping a few blurry photos, we climbed back onto the trail, and tried a slightly more official looking trail to the water's edge.

i slipped a little at the end of this trail, which as it turned out, led to the top of the 15 foot waterfall. unfortunately, compared to SO i am as sure-footed as a sherpa, and his arrival at trail's end was signaled by my favorite obscenity (which, by the way, he never uses, perhaps to balance out my overuse of the word) being yelled as he slipped on the mud and took the last five feet on his butt, somehow spraining/straining/pulling both triceps along the way.

since there didn't seem to be a path that led directly from the trail to the bottom of the waterfall, i briefly contemplated climbing down the rocks next to the waterfall itself (i would've been about two feet from the falling water), but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, and taking into account the slipperiness of the rocks, the well-loved state of my trail running shoes, and the fifteen foot drop, i decided to stick with taking photos from the top of the falls.

after SO stopped swearing (a signal that he was feeling better, i think), we started back up the trail. unfortunately, i'm a little faster than he is, even in an uninjured state, and got too far ahead of him. ten minutes later, after yelling his name approximately 5,286 times, he appeared. it seems that my dear SO headed in the opposite direction of the trail, which only confirms my long-held suspicion that he does not, in fact, possess any sense of direction whatsoever.

remember how i told you those guys said the waterfall was only 15 minutes away? figuring in a fifteen minute break at the waterfall for play and pictures, this little side trip should've taken about 45 minutes, tops.

so, two hours after we'd left those guys and headed down toward the waterfall, we finally returned to that intersection.

two hours.

had we brought the kids along, i think we'd still be hanging out at the water's edge. needless to say, if we decide to bring them along on this hike next time, we'll start at the other trailhead and the kids will be instructed to follow yours truly and not SO should we lose each other on the trail.

*i know, i know- this isn't a link to the trail we took, but it was the closest google could come up with for me.

**don't get too excited- i was using the tweezers, not anything with a least not this time.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

odds and ends

i imagine i'll get around to a coherent post tomorrow- roughly an hour after SO walks into my studio and says, "i told scott about the hike we took yesterday, and he wants to see pictures, so........."

until then, you're stuck with a rather disconnected update of sorts:

~i seem to be having an identity crisis. since we have a fancy gate at the radio station, one must carry their ID at all times in order to be able to drive around to the employees entrance. pulled up to the gate this morning, paused the ipod (didn't want to miss a moment of barry white), set the parking brake, reached down to pull my ID off of my keychain and..... it appears i'm laying on the ground somewhere in (most likely) northeast columbia. i'm hoping when i go in and beg for a new ID they'll let me retake my picture. quite frankly, that last one made me look like a thug. well, as much of a thug as a short chick who's completely out of touch with her inner bitch can be, anyway.

~i sent my fall out boy tickets back to ticketmaster after finding out that poison's going to be performing the same evening. when i was looking at tickets yesterday, i saw they had a "buy one get one free" special running.

guess they're having trouble filling the stadium, which is too bad. i mean, who wouldn't pay $39.50 (plus the $7.95 "sure, i'll bend over for you" i mean, err, "convenience charge") to hear "talk dirty to me" live?

i certainly am willing to pay it- especially since when i logged on this morning, i found out the hard way that it was a one time offer, and now i'm going to have to pony up full price for those coveted "back of the arena" seats. at least they're row g, so i won't be battling a bloody nose while trying to figure out which speck onstage is bret michaels.

oh- which reminds me- apparently there's some sort of "let's find a peroxide blonde (oh, hush, you- i haven't dyed in over 3 years now) with fake boobs to date bret michaels and boost ratings" thing coming to one of those "music" channels. that's not what got me, though- when i saw a writeup of the premise of the new show (forgive me- i can't remember what i was reading at the time, though i know it was neither the somerset maugham novel i just finished or the sc hiking book i've been staring at lately), i noticed the author of said piece spelled bret with a second "t".(sort of like brett canfield- my first big crush- but i digress.)

~i know i mentioned that tick i pulled off myself while driving home from the hike last weekend. did i tell you about the one i had pulled off of my hip monday night? the discovery was quite unsettling. there i was, reaching for the toilet paper, when i noticed something that simply should not have been hanging on my hip. i was surprisingly calm up until the point the bosses walked in from their dinner, at which point i gave him the opportunity of a lifetime:


you know, in the event i ever wind up out on the prowl again, i could totally work that line in a crowded bar. (after all, this is south carolina, folks.)

so, i'm pretty glad i stocked up on flea/tick spray when avon introduced it last year. i mean, initially i was bummed about winding up with 15 cans on hand, but now i'm thinking they could come in handy......

~at this moment one week from today, i'll be in charlotte, waiting to board a plane for phoenix. since i hate to come back to a messy apartment, i guess that means i should do some cleaning. then again, since i also hate coming home to an empty bank account, i should probably try to put in some extra hours at work. what a conundrum.

~since all the media outlets have jumped on it, i'll add my two cents:

suck it up, paris. a bj's not going to get you out of this one.

wait- maybe i didn't phrase that quite right.........

Sunday, June 03, 2007

of parasites that suck and waterfalls that don't

once again, because he has promised to post yearly (and i've been informed that he's not due yet), SO has suggested that i be the one to blog about yesterday's hike in the upstate. (his excuse this week was that my legs hurt less than his. i'm not really sure what that has to do with pounding out a post, but there you go.)

i was on kid duty anyway (the bosses had a stimuating conference to attend, and while their 9 year old has promised to use his powers for the forces of good and not evil, i'm afraid i just don't quite fully trust him not to set something on fire or try to put his little sister (my sidekick) on ebay or something of that sort.

because i like to prove i'm not totally mean and horrible all the time, i asked the kids for a little input regarding the sort of hike they'd like to go on. he said he wanted to go on a shorter hike (our last one was in the neighborhood of five miles)and he'd like to see a waterfall. she said she wanted to go on a hike we hadn't been on before.

because i pretty much rock, we went on not one, not two, but three trails and saw two huge waterfalls. (as for the distance thing...uh....oops. then again, the kids didn't seem to mind.)

after our customary lunch stop at the a&w/long john silver's in greenville, sc, we drove northwest, toward lake jocassee.

after about an hour or so, we arrived at the north carolina border, which meant i'd overshot the turn for our first hike, so i turned around at the first available opportunity (the kids were pretty excited about the state welcome signs), and backtracked to the gate blocking the road to our first trailhead. after noting that the gate only operated automatically between 6am and 6pm (which came in handy later, when the kids were screwing around and needed a little motivation to hustle their buns so we wouldn't find ourselves sleeping in the car at the trailhead overnight), we passed through and drove to the trailhead.

helpful trail map located at the trailhead parking lot

after the first 1/2 mile, we came upon a pair of bridges spanning the whitewater river. after playing around on the rocks for a few minutes*, we crossed the bridges and continued down the trail toward the lower whitewater falls observation deck.

sadly, my incredibly graceful and refreshing dip in the drink while heading back to the bridge was not caught on film....err....pixels.

there had been a orangish brownish snake in front of these logs, but SO didn't hand me the camera in time for me to take a picture so i could look it up at home and see if it were the sort of snake i should have been a little more concerned about. this, dear reader, is why i held the camera for the duration of the hike.however, you must admit that it is a rather lovely picture of wood, which is almost as interesting.....or not.

obviously, this bar was placed across the trail for my amusement, though the offical sign claims it's to keep vehicles off the trail.

ahh...spring in south carolina....rain keeps the waterfall running, and humidity keeps my face both shiny and...uh...interestingly textured.

the trail from the parking lot to this lower whitewater falls (which is a 400 foot drop, by the way) observation deck is just under 2 miles long (each way). after snacking on oranges, beef jerky, and a variety of dried fruits and nuts, we headed back toward the river. somehow the boys got ahead of us, which worked out well because as luck would have it, this hike turned into a learning opportunity for the five year old.

yes, folks, my sidekick has now learned how to pee in the woods.

as a matter of fact, not only has she learned how to pee in the woods, but she also has firsthand knowledge of just how important it is to not only keep your butt downhill of your feet so your feet don't get wet, but also to lean waaaay back (trees don't mind being hung onto for this purpose) so that one does not wind up with wet shorts.**

i swear, you boys have it way too easy.

after crossing the bridges again (and having a small snack on the rocks, while the 9 year old was busy playing on the rocks and going for an unintended swim), we took the coon branch trail in search of the state's largest magnolia tree. the hike i linked to earlier claims that the tree was at the end of the hike, but if it was, it must've been in some sort of disguise.

mildly disappointed after hiking two miles and not seeing the giant magnolia tree, we headed back to the parking lot, passing these funky plants along the way:

after heading back to the car and making ourselves comfortable (did you read the footnotes yet? you should. really- i can wait....), we headed back through the gate (with ten minutes to spare, thankyouverymuch!) and crossed back into north carolina in search of the slightly larger (411 feet) upper whitewater falls.

(it's actually possible to hike from the bridges across the whitewater river to the upper whitewater falls overlook, but that would have added another 3.5 miles to our hike, and i'm pretty sure someone would have wound up needing to be carried and quite frankly, none of us are strong enough to carry SO on flat land, let alone a 1.7 mile climb.)

here's the point where you can "ooh" and "ahh" as much as you'd like:

after a few (dozen, on SO's part) photos, as well as a tick removal on the way back to the car (note to self: start carrying spray), we headed back home, stopping in greenville for dinner on the fly. (after nearly seven miles of hiking, we were so grubby and funky that even jack in the box was a little too classy for our group.)

we got really lucky on this trip- the remnants of a tropical storm were heading through south carolina, but we didn't get rained on at all. in fact, the sprinkling started about ten minutes after we left the upper whitewater falls parking lot....and approximately three minutes before i discovered tick #2 while scratching what i thought was a zit along the hairline at the top of my neck. (i was surprisingly calm about this, which is probably a good thing when driving on a winding mountain road.)

on the way home, the nine year old browsed through my hiking books and selected a waterfall he wants to see on our next outing. after we dropped the kids off, got home, and scrubbed off the forest funk, i settled in with my hiking books and discovered there are two waterfalls along that trail. i'm hoping to have SO talked into checking it out next weekend, assuming his legs have loosened up again by then, of course.

*my socks and trail running sneakers still aren't quite dry yet...oops.

**it should be noted that she chose to practice this technique back at the parking lot, in front of the spot a pot. i can't say i blame her for preferring to drop trou in front of the spot a pot rather than inside. those things are generally downright foul. i think i'd almost prefer an old-fashioned outhouse or tree any day.