Rob and I present a retrospective on our 2017 adventure of filling the Florida State Parks passport book. Sorry for the wind noise!
Charlotte and Blowing Rock
Last Wednesday, my friend Vic and I took off toward Charlotte for a couple opportunities at checking out the suburbs on the way to and back from Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I’m half-considering the move to Charlotte for a change of scenery and closer proximity to the mountains, but I also just wanted to get away for a bit and breathe some crisp, fresh, cold mountain air. Some thoughts and highlights from the trip!
- We unintentionally ended up at the same Arby’s on the way up and the way back. We got embarrassingly bad service both times, but nothing stopped those Chicken Bacon & Swiss from being delicious.
- The southern and eastern areas around the 485 (Charlotte’s beltway) are pretty nice! I could definitely see myself staying there if the opportunity was right.
- The typical places described as desirable north of the city (Davidson, Mooresville, Huntersville, etc.) are very crowded and the traffic / construction on I-77 was horrible by 2:30pm on a Thursday. I don’t think I could deal with that, but the parks and amenities on Lake Norman felt like they could be frequent visits.
- Our room at the Hemlock Inn in Blowing Rock was upgraded to…the same room Rob and I stayed in last October. Not complaining!
- Restaurants that remain stellar: Local Lion, Bella’s, Our Daily Bread. Those that weren’t so great this time: Capone’s, Blowing Rock Brewery. New find that is pretty solid: The New Public House’s breakfast.
- The weather and forecast only gave us a couple mornings’ worth of sunshine so we crammed a lot of hiking into those windows. Friday morning we hiked a trio of trails (Beacon Heights, Flat Rock, and Linville Falls Plunge Basin) and braved a starting temp of 25* Sunday for the Green Knob loop. On our dreary, wet Saturday, we stuck to the flat lake loops (Trout Lake and Bass Lake).
- I joined my team’s Daily Standup from the top of Beacon Heights.
- It snowed Saturday night and I was a nervous wreck, having never driven in snow. But uh, it was mostly just in the air, and literally everyone I asked rolled their eyes at me. It made for a really pretty Sunday morning hike atmosphere!
- Vic started a new Pokemon Go account on Wednesday and was level 21 by the end of the trip. Oh look a Wailmer!
All in all, a pretty great trip! It’s a nice holdover until Rob and I likely return for another early-October week in the mountains. For now, back to work finishing out the Spring semester and looking forward to an early-May trip out to the Bay Area!
March 2018 Update
It’s that time again! Just got home from our monthly Budget and Goals dinner and I’ve got some updates on goals!
Entered Sweetwater Cabin Lottery: There is a small, private spring and cabin in the heart of the Ocala National Forest, rentable by the week. It’s one of the only springs I’ve never been to in Florida, mostly because you have to win a lottery to even pay to reserve it. Threw in my entry for this year–here’s hoping!
Posted Weight Loss Blog: In case you didn’t see, I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past few years! Read about it in my recent blog post.
Finished Reading Leaders Eat Last: As part of a work book club, I finally finished reading Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. A common selection for leadership, it’s a really good basic look into what powers actual motivation and how you can respect that in your leadership style. Worth a read for sure.
Performed Some Car Maintenance: Typical stuff, but changed the oil in the Fit myself for the first time (thanks for the assist Erik!) and had the tires rotated and balanced (a good combo with oil changes as a rule of thumb). Next month I’m rolling it into the shop for some major, milestone work: all new brake pads and rotors, a brake fluid replace, a complete transmission fluid flush and replace, and new spark plugs.
Planned Charlotte / Blowing Rock Trip: In an effort to see some possible move spots, I’m taking a trip with Vic for an extended weekend to see Charlotte for a couple days and chill in Blowing Rock in between. Too much driving but should be a good time.
Florida Springs Video
Throughout the last decade or so, I’ve had the privilege of visiting most of the springs in Florida. I had a lot of personal, amateur video lying around, so I thought I’d throw together a little fun clips video to share my adventures. Enjoy!
January 2018 Updates
Hey all! Some quick updates from me, trying to get in the habit of reflecting on what I accomplished or did in the month prior.
- Built Go-Bags: In an attempt to make travel a little less painful, I built out a couple “go-bags”, one for electronics and one for toiletries, that are already packed with anything I’d need to stay overnight for a few days anywhere. I used them on a quick trip to St. Petersburg to see the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds concert (which was excellent!) and they worked out really well.The electronics bag: lightning cable; micro USB cable; portable battery pack; 4-port USB wall charger; iPad 12v wall charger; Nintendo Switch USB-C car charger; an Apple Watch charging cable; and a pen. The toiletries bag: clippers; toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss; deodorant; a razor; a small mirror; band-aids; a tiny tube of sunscreen; a microfiber cloth; and a seal-able wet bag.
- Taxes Done, Refund Received: I’m usually pretty fast on this, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it fast enough to receive my refund in January. 100% of it into savings, as usual.
- Held a LAN Party: Taking advantage of my boycott of the Super Bowl, I threw together a quick Halo: Master Chief Collection LAN party Sunday night instead. I was prepared for my rosy memories of chaos, hushed whispers of tactics, and cries of excitement to be let down, but despite all odds I felt transported back to the heights of our church meet-up LANs and generally had just a complete blast. I hope to be able to put together a larger and longer (heyo) attempt with MCC, especially after the next patch.
- Nights and Weekends Planning: Off to a good start! Using our “Home Nights” board (over only three nights a week), we completed games 2-7 of Charterstone, played through the main story in Celeste, sat through Baby Driver, started Stranger Things S2, watched half of Planet Earth II, played through both expansions of Forza Horizon 3 (that 4K patch tho), and dove back onto the Wii U to play through New Super Mario Bros. U. Likewise, our “Weekends” list has helped us plan for and sync on visiting Kennedy Space Center, hitting up all four Disney parks before our passes expired, catching Pokemon Go community events, planning dinners with friends, and even cooking meals. I’ve found it pretty stressful when my night comes up and nothing calls to me, but it’s something to work on.
(And now that it’s 2/19, I should probably go ahead and post this. >_>)
2017 Highlights and 2018 Goals
Welcome to 2018! It’s hard to believe half of January is gone already. Today I’m enjoying the day alone (MLK Jr. Day off) and taking advantage of the focus and freedom before the barren wasteland of no-holiday-Spring kicks into gear. After some cleaning, gaming, organizing, and bike riding, I figured today would be a swell day to write about the status of my 2017 goals and some thoughts on what I’d like to accomplish in 2018.
2017 Goals in Review
Budget Update: Budgeting and general money-stuffs went pretty well in 2017. I started direct-depositing most of my non-essential earnings into savings (check) and ended up saving quite a bit more than I did the year prior (double-check). In general, auto-hiding that money even though it was only a quick transfer away helped me focus on the amount I was budgeting for spending. Saving is awesome, and I’d highly recommend prioritizing it more if you can manage it.
Vacations: Planning vacations for the year ahead was killer and it completely worked for us. Those plans gave us something to look forward to no matter the time of year, and they all turned out much, much better having been planned in advance. We were able to chart out more mid-trip destinations, score better deals on lodging, and budget time off much more effectively. Traveling constantly, even if the destinations were just a couple hours away, also really made the year feel jam-packed with adventure and fulfilling exploration. I thought the constant travel might feel overwhelming (we even tried to plan to only go out every other weekend) but it ended up being so motivating that I wanted to go out most weekends. It helped tremendously to have a checklist of destinations (more on that below). Some years will be less predictable than others, but planning in advance paid off more than I was expecting.
Blue Ridge 2017 Hikes
We hiked a lot this year in the mountains! I figured I’d throw together a quick list of the hikes with some links to the trail maps and reviews. I’d recommend all of them, but details can be found in the previous blog post thingy.
- Day 1:
- Fryingpan Mountain Lookout (1.5mi out/back, 357ft)
- Triple Falls (2.3mi loop, 450ft)
- Devil’s Courthouse (0.9mi out/back, 275ft)
- Day 2:
- Graveyard Fields (3.0mi loop, 423ft)
- Craggy Pinnacle (0.9mi out/back, 272ft)
- Mount Mitchell Summit (0.4mi out/back, 88ft)
- Balsam Nature (0.8mi loop, 118ft)
- Day 3:
- Trout Lake Loop (1.2mi loop, 85ft)
- Day 4:
- Flat Top Mountain (5.1mi out/back, 629ft)
- Rough Ridge (0.8mi out/back, 268ft)
- Day 5:
- Jumpinoff Rocks (1.0mi out/back, 278ft)
- Cascades (0.7mi loop, 141ft)
- Day 6:
- Flat Rock (0.7mi loop, 147ft)
- Beacon Heights (0.6mi out/back, 150ft)
- Linn Cove Viaduct (0.8mi out/back, 124ft)
- Bass Lake / The Maze (3.8mi loop, 295ft)
- Day 7
- Green Knob (2.2mi loop, 613ft)
- Day 8
- Rough Ridge (0.8mi out/back, 268ft)
Join me on a journey back through one of my favorite video game experiences: Myst! I talk about Myst, why I did this video, why Myst is special, and then I skate through all of realMyst: Masterpiece Edition! Save yourself some time and watch at 1.5x.
Despite being one of my favorite game series ever, I dropped off the Myst train after Myst 3. In an attempt to get back on and get some motivation to see through Myst 4 and 5 (and maybe Uru) before mainlining Obduction, I wanted to revisit Myst, Riven, and Exile and share my thoughts in some form. The above video is my attempt for Myst. The Riven video is being edited and is coming soon!
Surprise I’m 32
I recently turned 32 (October birthdays, woo!), so here are 32 stream-of-consciousness topics that came to me as I forced myself to write about 32 topics.
Hurricane Warning: An Irma Experience™
Irma’s finally gone. I’ve lived through the “threat of an oncoming hurricane” phase enough times in my life to have lost count, but the harbinger period of the last week felt like an eternity. Even as early as the day after Labor Day, local stores were mostly out of bread and water. Newscasters love to talk about Floridians’ “hurricane amnesia,“ but it was pretty clear there was a good bit of healthy fear for this one.
I waffled between dismissive optimism and speculative anxiety all week, well after we stocking up on tons of food, water, gas, batteries, and flashlights. By mid-week, we’d decided to pack valuables in plastic tubs, move furniture and electronics away from the windows (I even plastic-wrapped our dining room PC and desk), and set a milestone for deciding to evacuate or stay. I was even able to take advantage of my parents’ Christmas gift of a drone to take some video of the roof and surrounding area, just in case. You can only do so much of this kind of preparation work before the dread sets in.
As fate-tempting as it felt, we enjoyed a rainy day at the Magic Kingdom on Friday, mostly to take advantage of the strange opportunity and to try to cut through the anxiety we were all feeling leading up to landfall. When things started closing around mid-afternoon on Saturday, you could really feel the unease set in everywhere you went. Back home, we focused on completing Overcooked (fantastic) and Tomb Raider (better than Uncharted, fight me), but as I went to bed that night, I knew, finally, tomorrow was going to be “the day.”