February 2011


 

A Little Friend, originally uploaded by bexadler.

I saw this little critter at the top of Arch Rock in Point Reyes this weekend while he (and I) was grabbing a bite to eat.

Point Reyes has been my most favorite hiking and camping spot for years. Part of the appeal for me is that the summer temperature here is about 20 degrees cooler than in Sacramento. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being hot. The other thing, though, is that it’s an ideal place to take novice hikers and backpackers. There are a variety of routes so you can tailor your hike to meet the fitness level of just about anybody you may want to take out there. For instance, my friend Christa has old lady legs (AKA weak bones) so she can’t do much uphills and down because of the pounding, so this weekend we did the Bear Valley trail out to Arch Rock. It’s an 8-mile out and back (4 in and 4 back), with a super flat, even course. Christa said she had no problems doing the trail and was surprised to learn she’d trekked 8 miles. This trail is also good for cyclists, as there’s a bike rack a few miles in where you can store your bikes during the rockier portion of the trail.

My usual route for more advanced hikers is below:

Mt. Whittenberg Trail toward Coast Camp/Arch Rock; Bear Valley Trail on the way back for a complete loop: The trail in is steep with lots of switchbacks, but goes through a beautiful wooded area that opens up into a gorgeous meadow. Stopping in the meadow for lunch or a snack before heading to Arch Rock is a good idea, as this is a slightly longer trail. Arch Rock is my favorite spot for stopping and eating lunch. You get a great view overlooking the ocean and a wonderful breeze. Plus, if you have extra time, you can always make your way down to the beach and put your feet in the water. I usually take Bear Valley Trail on the way back because it’s a really easy trail for weary hikers. Total length of this loop is about 14 miles.

Also, for beginning backpackers, try camping at coast camp. It’s only a 1.8-mile hike into camp and you sleep only 200 meters from the ocean. There are many short day hikes branching off from the Coast Camp trail, making it a good spot for exploring. And for no extra cost you can get a permit to do bonfires on the beach! Fun, right? The best time to camp here is during low tide so you can take an early morning stroll to gawk at the sea stars and sea anemones in the tide pools. Tide charts can be found at the park’s website, or you can just call and ask a ranger.

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Offerings to the Voodoo Queen, originally uploaded by bexadler.

On our second day in New Orleans we stopped by the city’s first cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery No.1, which is kept up (somewhat) by the archdiocese. We hadn’t planned on getting a guided tour, but we ended up getting picked up by a very well-dressed drunk, who told us all about the history of the cemetery and showed us the famous crypts. He was quite entertaining along the way and actually was really informative. One of the things he showed us was the tomb of Marie Deveaux, New Orleans’ famous voodoo queen. Believers leave her offerings and mark three X’s on her tomb in the hopes that wishes will come true for them. I didn’t leave any offerings, but my friend Melissa left an apple Jolley Rancher. She credits her amazing finish at the half marathon to some extra luck from the Voodoo Queen.

My good friend is joining me today in New Orleans for a mini vacation that we planned around the Mardi Gras Marathon taking place here this Sunday. I had originally planned to do the whole 26.2, but after the CIM in December I decided to take a break from training for awhile so the half it is.

Anyway, Kevyn (my faithful travel companion, pictured above) and I are super stoked to get out and about to explore the Big Easy today, even after a hellish redeye that involved a 7-week-old baby seated right behind me and two Chatty Kathys with tiny bladders seated next to me (I had the aisle seat, lucky me!). I will not let it put a gray cloud over this gorgeous Louisiana day though. Oh how I love getting out and exploring a new city, and one with beignets at that!

The power just went out at my house and I had a brief feeling of panic, wondering whether I’d paid my electric bill this month. Old fears die hard I guess, especially considering it’s been almost two years since the last time I had an overdraft fee on my bank account. As I gear up for this trip I feel like I really need to go back to the mindset I had when I actually was poor. I need to find some way to believe that I actually have no money so I can force myself to save as much as possible instead of splurging on big nights out (like I did on Friday night).

The only thing I can think of is to put my money somewhere that I won’t see it and won’t be able to spend it easily. I just signed up for one of those ING savings accounts, partially because it’s a high-yield account with four times as much interest as my current savings account, but also because it won’t be as easily accessible to me. I also recently signed up for Mint.com, which links directly to your bank accounts and gives you a monthly breakdown of your spending. With all the cool charts and graphs, it’s easy to see where you overspent for the month and budget better the following month (and they have a budget section!).

Here are some of the ways I’ve already begun cutting back to save up for this trip:

– No more Starbucks: I realized I was spending between $80-$100 a month at Starbucks last year. So far this year, I have spent exactly $4 there. Instead I buy the chai tea concentrate at the grocery store for $4-ish and mix my own chai tea lattes ever morning. One box of chai concentrate lasts me at least seven days.

– No more fancy haircuts/dye jobs: I dyed my hair back to its original hair color back in October when I decided I was going to start saving money. I don’t love it nearly as much as I loved my blonde hair, but it saves me about $175 every six weeks not having to go to the salon. I haven’t gotten a haircut since then. I’m thinking I might splurge for at least a trim in a couple of weeks though…

– Canceling my gym membership: My campus just built a wellness center where I get a free membership. They have yoga classes (not at super convenient times, unfortunately) and a climbing gym, which are the two memberships I’ve had in the past. While it’s not ideal because it’s further than my favorite yoga studio and climbing gym, it will save me about $160 a month in membership fees. And I figure if I’m really craving a vinyasa class, it’s only $12 to drop in. Still better than paying for the $120 unlimited pass when I only go 2 to 3 times a week. Plus, there’s always running, which is FREE.

– No more races: I’m a serious runner and I love to sign up for races. I love the camaraderie of races and the excitement of race day, but paying $40 or more every couple of weeks to run (Remember: Running is normally FREE.) doesn’t really make sense anymore. Until the Sydney Marathon in September I can’t let myself sign up for anymore races. Luckily, I’ve already been registered for two half marathons since October so I at least have those to look forward to.

– Limiting my drinking and eating out: One of my goals for this year has been to eat healthier, both because I want to BE healthier and because I know it will save me money. I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking a couple of main courses on Saturday and then dividing them up into Ziploc containers for each day of the week. I’ve even been making my own breads and salad dressings, which not only taste better but cost almost nothing to make. And I lost 15 lbs last month! Win, win.

Things I should do, but probably won’t (at least not for awhile):
-Cancel my internet since I can get it for free at school and at cafes around town.
-Cancel my book club membership, which includes one book a month for $10.
-Cancel my Netflix. I have no TV so being able to stream videos is a godsend for someone who is super social but has now limited themselves to going out only once a week.

Any other suggestions on ways to cut back/budget/save? What are some of the things you do to save money?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been talking about taking a trip around the world but have never had the stick-to-it-ness to save up the money…until recently. It came as a sort of challenge from the most recent man to break my heart. I was talking wistfully about the never-going-to-happen trip around the world and he said to me, “Rebecca, look at your life. Anything you really want you make happen. Saving up for that trip isn’t any different than training for this marathon. I know you. If you really wanted it, you’d be taking that trip around the world.”

And the second he said it, I knew he was right.

I had been talking about this trip forever, but had made no real effort to get myself there. I don’t know if it was fear that was holding me back. Or possibly, knowing that everybody would yet again be disappointed in me for “running away.” But I took his comment as a sort of dare. I had to prove to myself that this really was something I wanted and I was willing to put the effort into making it happen. So back in August or so I began socking away money. I’m not quite there yet, but I’ve set myself a deadline: September 5, the day I leave for New Zealand.

It wasn’t originally my intention to kick off my round-the-world trip with this trip to New Zealand. In fact, I bought round-trip tickets. But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. If I’m already going to be that far away from home, this might be my chance to make it happen. And if I chicken out and use that return ticket home? Well, then I’m never allowing myself to talk about going around the world again. It’s time to sh*t or get off the pot, so to speak. So I’m going to bite the bullet. I’ve already listed all of my books on Amazon and am beginning to photograph all of my belongings for sale on Craigslist and other online outlets. I’m not going to keep storage this time: It’s too much of a temptation to come back home. Even my bed is going to go – the bed I’ve been carting around with me for 10 years because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford another one quite so beautiful and so perfectly me.

Yes, I’m scared to death. I have a great job with great benefits. I have a perfect little apartment that is gorgeously decorated. I have savings for the first time in my life. Everything is AMAZING. And I’m scared to death that I’ll never have all of these things again. BUT I keep telling myself that I was able to accumulate all of these things in just one year, upon returning from Istanbul with nothing – not a dime to my name. ONE YEAR. If I can do it once, I can do it again. That’s all I really need to know.