Monday, July 30, 2012

New Site Location!

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Thanks!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beach Camping Through a Derecho

I recently planned a trip to the beach for my friends.  We wouldn't be able to check-in to the Ocean City condo till noon on Saturday... so I booked us a beach front campsite on Assateague Island.  Sounded like a wonderful idea, until I realized as we were driving down that a huge storm system was headed our way.

We arrived late to our campsite, around 11pm and saw people tacking down their tents and battening down the hatches.  We hurried to our site and got our tents setup and started a fire.  We made s'mores, drank beers, and started to enjoy our evening.  

I'm sitting on the picnic bench in front of the fire when all of a sudden the wind rushes at me, picking up hot coals out of the fire and spraying them in every direction, including my face.  

I screamed!  And ran for my tent.  The wind was howling all around us, waking up campers that had already laid down for the night.  I unzipped the door to my little 4 person Coleman tent and the wind flew in the door, knocking me inside, ballooning the whole tent in different directions, as the fly flew in the air!  

Help me!  

My friend grabbed my fly... and I asked him to help me break down the tent so I could just throw it back in the car.  I guess you can call me a fair-weather camper.  

We hustled a big wad of tent back to the parking lot and shoved it in the trunk.  I told him I would be fine and just stay in the car.  He ran back to join my friends in the other tent, that also wasn't holding up very well, but it was weighed down by their bodies, and they weathered through the storm.

I, on the other hand, setup camp in the back seat of my friends car.  I waited for the rain to start and turned on my little portable ipod speaker.  The car started to get hot inside... I started to get bored...


The storm wasn't as scary as the first burst of wind.  But the lightening was breathtaking.


As I moved to the front passenger seat to charge my phone, 2 guys rolled up in a Land Rover next to me.  I saw them hop out and admire the storm.  One of the guys had the storm on radar on his phone screen. 


I perked up, because that's exactly what I had been trying to do with my phone.  I hopped out of the car, "Hey do you have the storm on radar?!"


They immediately welcomed me and explained that they had been in the off-road section of the beach, drinking around a fire on the beach when the wind started and did the same thing to their fire!


So they packed up as quick as they could to get back to the camp ground where they had a very sturdy REI tent setup on their site.  


We hung out in their car, drank Captain Morgan, admired the lightening, all while sharing travel stories.  These guys had a couple years on me and I admired their level of outdoorsiness.  They had 2 sea kayaks strapped to the car right above me, I was sitting next to their fishing poles and a surf board.  These guys loved the outdoors and turns out they have a camp site booked in Assateague for every weekend of the summer.


For those of you who don't know, Assateague books up months in advance.  The only reason I was able to book a site at the last minute was because campers cancelled in anticipation of the storm.  These guys are Assateague die-hards, which is part of what contributes to the difficulty in getting a site there. If you want to go, book in April.  


OK, back to the story... We continued to drink as the storm mellowed down.  We finally decided the rain was light enough to go check on their tent.  I walked with them to their site, a few sites down from my friends.  While they investigated how their tent weathered the storm, I walked over to my friends tent to find them all asleep.  


I told them I made new friends and walked back to the guys.  What I learned later, was that my statement freaked out the girls in the tent, imagining the worst...


The guys had a broken pole in one spot that had ripped through the tent, but for the most part the tent was solid and dry.  I left them to their tent repair and walked back to my car.  


I got in the front seat and started to play with my phone, when I noticed one of the guys walking up to my car.  I opened the door and he said he still wanted to hang out.  I was tired, had no idea what time it was, but the adrenaline from the storm was still in me, so we went for a walk.


We talked and talked and walked and ended up on the beach.  Next thing I know, my guy has stripped down to his boxers and he's running into the surf!


It's pitch black on the beach... the clouds are blocking out any ounce of moon or starlight so it's hard to see anything except the water line and the splash of white on the breaking waves. 


"Fuck it!"  


I took a layer of clothes off and ran into the water.  The water was warm and we had a blast.  Every once in a while a wave would wash me out pretty good out of nowhere, but aside from that it was fun.  


It even got a little romantic when we noticed we were circling around in a cloud of glowing algae.  The more we moved our arms on the surface of the water, the brighter the algae became.  It was beautiful and I'd never seen anything like it.  


It's amazing how a series of events can occur sometimes, from a collapsed tent to a romantic swim in the Atlantic....


The next morning, we all woke up at the crack of dawn.  What my friends didn't realize is that I only got 30 minutes of sleep.  But I was excited for the beautiful morning on the beach.  


We packed up the car, stopped by the beautiful bayside nature walk on the island before we headed to Ocean City, Maryland for breakfast.  


Bayside of Assateague Island





Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chatting over Coffee in the Spanish Countryside


View of a rainbow from my room :o)



At first, I was nervous about where to sit at meals... I had flash backs of school cafeteria social rules. Luckily, we had one rule to follow at meals. Every table should have 2 Anglos and 2 Spaniards. Except there was one 6 person table, which would become the party table. 

So each meal I would walk into the little hotel restaurant and sit at the first seat where an Anglo was needed. By the end of the week, everyone was friends with everyone and people were starting to clique. Meals were the perfect setting to let loose a little and get to now each other even more than we already did. We became family and I didn't feel an ounce of homesickness the entire time.

Unfortunately for me, I became very ill mid-week, with the worst enflamed sore throat and my nose was running like a faucet. I was a mess and I think I can tie the source to the very sick girl in my bunk room at my hostel the night before I left for Vaughantown. I bet she got everyone in that room sick.... She was coughing and rolling around in her bed the whole day and night I was there.

One on One conversation sessions

I kept going to my conversation sessions the second day when my ailments were hitting me full force.... unsure of what to do. Luckily, my second session that day was with a doctor from Madrid. As soon as I realized what she was, I started pleading for help and she was most gracious. She took me in the bathroom and shined a light in my throat. No white bumps, so she loaded me up with ib profren and just like that 30 minutes later I felt 100% better!

I wanted to cry and I ran over and gave her a hug! My throat had gotten to the point with all the conversation that it felt like it was bleeding, but I didn't want to fail my obligation as a volunteer. All of the Spaniards were so interesting and I wanted to meet them all. I would warn them to sit away from me so I wouldn't get them sick and I kept my sentences short.

Aside from my medical issues, I tried to take advantage of the experience as much as I could. Every night we would have entertainment whether it be a skit or sing along, etc. One night we did pub style trivia. We formed 2 teams and my team turned out to be a good team. All the trivia was in english, but some of the questions were geared towards European music and movies, so it was a good mix and we came together and won! It was very exciting... I think alcohol was on our side that night.



Later in the week, we were given a free afternoon to go to town as a big group and explore. So we went to the little castle at the center of Barco de Avila and took a couple group shots. We shopped for the specialty of the region: white beans. I bought a big bottle of hard cider to share with my new british friend that night. We had coffee in a small shop on the main square with a cute fireplace that we all gathered around.

On the cute bridge in town

Special beans from the region
The river in Barco de Avila

It was the perfect afternoon to cap off my week of emerging in Spanish culture. It was probably a funny site to the villagers, 30 people walking around speaking english in a town full of quiet senior citizens with little tourism.

The next day we had a big banquet style lunch before loading onto the bus to go back to Madrid. I was sad to leave my private hotel room in the remote hills of Spain, but I was looking forward to my plans to bar crawl in Madrid with my new British friends. I would have 2 more nights in Madrid before my flight back to the US. Stay tuned for the story of our bar crawl... it was quite eventful!

Our final lunch all together!