I’m Back!

Long time, no write.

Sitting here on a beautiful Wednesday morning with some time to catch up, though, I wanted to get a post out.

I’m in Little Silver, New Jersey, where I stayed the night at my aunt and uncle’s house and will spend the day with my cousins, hitting some of our favorite local spots around Monmouth County. This house has been a sanctuary over the past 4-5 years. I’ve watched both of my cousins go off to college, spent time relaxing at the Shore, and like every family they’ve helped pick me up through some challenging times.

The past few days have been a whirlwind, driving from Virginia to Massachusetts and back down here to Jersey. I was fortunate enough to have my first opportunity to present in front of peers at a professional conference in Atlantic City yesterday. Sharing best practices and receiving feedback from colleagues is so valuable — it’s easy to get complacent in the way you approach work, but there’s always room for growth. The travels will continue for the rest of the week, as I’m off to Philadelphia tonight and Allentown, PA tomorrow.

This past weekend was special, and spent with someone who is becoming that to me. Julie and I have been getting to know each other through texts and phone calls for a little while, since way back in April, but hadn’t been able to meet in person yet. I was very nervous, of course — all the nets in the world couldn’t catch the butterflies she’d given me in the time we’ve been talking — but that feeling of excitement is so unbelievably rare and worth pursuing.

After a 10.5-hour drive on Friday, I made it just in time for a sunset stroll around Harvard and dinner at a local restaurant in Cambridge. From the first minute I saw Julie I could feel the electricity surging through my veins. We have this banter that’s intoxicating; it’s simultaneously frustrating and endearing. She is so witty and challenges me and has just drawn me in. Julie got a burger — little did I know she knew what she was going to order before we even got there, and even littler did I know (is that a phrase??) that she would attempt to use a fork and knife to eat it. I got to meet a couple of her roommates, Kelly and Cammie, who I’d heard a lot about and it was nice to be able to match faces with names.

We had originally planned to spend Saturday in Boston, but with the weather not being ideal and me having just been in town for work a month or so ago we called an audible and headed down to Rhode Island for the day, but not without two coffees for the road first.

Our first stop was the Cliff Walk in Newport, home to some of the most beautiful Gilded Age mansions in the United States. In the late 19th-century, the who’s who of wealthy American families — the Vanderbilts, the Astors, the Wideners, etc. — constructed massive summer “cottages” overlooking Easton Bay. Many of these homes are now open to the public as museums, and the Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile National Recreation Trail at the edge of these properties. The trail takes you along the shore, down to the rocky beaches, and through tunnels. During summer the Cliff Walk is unbearably busy, but on this day we had much of it to ourselves.

Cliff Walk

We then drove into the Newport Historic District, with its intact colonial buildings and wharves on the waterfront thriving as the Volvo Ocean Race brought sailors and their families from across the country to town. Live music, busy shops, boats in the background — even with a bit of drizzle it was so nice to walk around and soak in the atmosphere.

Bannister’s Wharf in Newport

I was hoping to see the Goat Island Lighthouse before leaving Newport, but after driving there and discovering it was very underwhelming to say the least, Julie and I stopped at a neighborhood basketball court and played horse and a game of 1-on-1. Neither of us were dressed for anything athletic and it was a total accident that we stumbled on the court, but I had a basketball in the car and we went out there. That spontaneity is something I value tremendously — planning is great, but to just live in the moment and have fun is the best feeling. Julie was a great sport about it, and it helped me loosen up so much.

We then drove onto Providence and walked quickly around the state capitol building before heading up to Benefit Street and College Hill to see the “Mile of History” where some of the city’s elite lived in the 18th-century. It’s still an absolutely stunning neighborhood overlooking the skyscrapers of Providence, as well as being home to what I believe is the prettiest Ivy League campus: Brown University.

By that point we’d walked just over 7 miles and were too tired to go out for dinner in Cambridge, so we decided to just get two pizzas to go from another local place and spend the night in watching New Girl. Schmidt and Nick always keep me laughing but my God, I’d stop writing this blog right now and marry Cece if I could. What a woman.

Sunday morning we went to a small place in nearby Somerville for breakfast. The nicest older gentlemen was the only cook, and there was only one waitress. It’s hard to go wrong with eggs Benny, so even though these weren’t the best there were no complaints. After breakfast and saying goodbye to Julie I headed onto Hartford, CT for a baseball game later that afternoon before continuing down to Atlantic City for my conference.

Hartford Yard Goats vs. Akron RubberDucks

She makes me so happy, happier than I can remember being in a long time. The distance isn’t ideal but I’d love to see where this goes — it’s so, so difficult to find a person that excites you, that makes you feel utterly alive, that you feel invincible with. My biggest test is being comfortable enough to sing in a car with someone, and I found myself trying to hit an Ingrid Michaelson high note on our drive back from Rhode Island. Spoiler alert, I nailed it. OK, that’s not even the least bit true. But Julie inspired me to try, just like she’s inspired me in so many ways already.

I hope it’s not too much longer before I write again. Until then!



Vacation (n): an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling

Recreation and traveling – two of my deepest passions. This week was devoted to both, starting in Ohio and progressing gradually to my ultimate destination in Toronto, Ontario. Along the way, I explored sights familiar and new, indulged in fantastic food, reunited with old friends, and watched some baseball (of course).

Dayton is not exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of a vacation. It’s not exotic, it’s not flashy, heck, it’s not even the hub of southwest Ohio. But it is a solid American city with a strong history and military tradition, as well as a minor league baseball team that has sold out its stadium for over 1,200 consecutive games.

Hotel views

My only night in Dayton was spent primarily at the park, where the homestanding Dragons knocked off the West Michigan Whitecaps in front of another capacity crowd. After the game I walked into a neighborhood bar in the Oregon Historic District and had a pizza burger with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce for days, and the most delicious bun and sautéed onions. That’s not important, though.

What is important is the retired couple I sat next to and had the most incredible conversation with for the entire game. They’re originally from Alabama but moved to Dayton in the late 1980s. He is a prostate cancer survivor who now rides 50 miles a day on his bike, and he and his wife now travel the country in pursuit of the things that truly matter. They offered to buy me a beer two minutes after we met, insisted I eat some of their peanuts, and handed me a 50-50 raffle ticket hoping I’d win.

Fifth Third Field, home of the Dayton Dragons

These were the kindest, most down-to-earth people you can imagine. Her support during his battle with cancer has united them so strongly, and she encourages him to take part in various bike events, including one from California to Florida and another along the Natchez Trace Trail in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. They were both so passionate about life and spending a few hours with them inspired me a great deal.

I spent the next morning walking around a pleasantly surprising downtown and checking out the University of Dayton, a mid-sized Catholic institution that is probably most known across the country for its basketball success. Visiting college campuses in the summer can be misleading; without a student presence things appear too quiet and it is hard to gauge what life at that school might be like. UD’s campus is compact but very pretty, and I enjoyed some reflective time in the chapel before heading up the road to Columbus.

UD’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

As the largest city in Ohio and the third-most populous state capital in the country (fun facts!), Columbus was a natural next stop. As a huge Michigan Wolverines fan, though, I’ve always been negatively biased towards Columbus as it is the home of Ohio State University, a school that I despise. Buckeyes fans refuse to acknowledge Michigan by name; even while touring the Statehouse the guide referred to Michigan as “that state up north”, and Michigan fans refer to Ohio State as “Ohio” or “that school down south.” It is the most historic rivalry in college football, known simply as “The Game.” We won’t get into who has been more successful in recent years, but this year’s contest is in Ann Arbor so I’m optimistic.

While in Columbus I did walk around OSU’s campus; with over 45,000 undergraduates alone it is, as one would expect, sprawling. Unlike at Dayton earlier on this beautiful day Ohio State was buzzing with student activity. Architecturally the buildings have been constructed in different styles, but the traditional center of campus is the Oval. Expansions throughout the years have made the university a thriving community unto itself. A sizable percentage of the population I saw was international, but there were also athletes and traditional students on campus. You couldn’t help feeling as if you’d just be an anonymous number as a student there, particularly in your classes, but as a major athletic and academic power nationally Ohio State is undoubtedly a premier institution.

Ohio State’s University Hall

That’s more than enough about the Buckeyes, however. I also walked around the Statehouse; unlike the vast majority of state capitol buildings, Ohio’s Greek Revival structure is not inspired by the architecture of the United States Capitol. It is in the heart of downtown Columbus, and the juxtaposition of a smaller edifice with beautiful gardens and green space amongst a jungle of skyscrapers and office buildings was very refreshing, as well as aesthetically successful.

North Bank Park in Columbus

It was another evening at the park, as the Rochester Red Wings came into town and defeated the Clippers in front of nearly 9,000 fans. Huntington Park is also urban in setting, part of an arena district that features several other venues for live events as well as commercial and residential development. The stadium looks out onto the Columbus skyline, which can be viewed most prominently from North Bank Park overlooking the Scioto River.

Huntington Park, home of the Columbus Clippers

I finished the night in Short North, Columbus’ trendiest neighborhood. Lively bars, restaurants, art galleries, coffee houses, and colorful murals can be found up and down Short North, and I relished the mac and cheese with bacon and spicy honey and the cornbread at Double Comfort.

The next morning I continued heading northeast, first stopping at Cuyahoga Valley National Park just outside of Akron. Cuyahoga Valley is a recent addition to the 59 national parks in the United States, only gaining that status in 2000. It follows the Cuyahoga River and the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal and is intended to preserve the rural landscape in what became a very industrialized and urban region in the 20th century. The park is best known for Brandywine Falls, an 86-foot high waterfall, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, a passenger train that follows rails originally laid down around 1880, features dining cars, and takes patrons on seasonal journeys like the Polar Express, Ales on Rails, and Grape Escape.

11 national parks down, 48 to go!

The park is best suited for bikers; there is not a plethora of interesting hikes and the river is not ideal for canoeing and kayaking. It was certainly not my favorite national park experience, but nature is nature and it was nice to start the morning with some fresh air.

Just up the road from Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Cleveland, where I stopped briefly at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and stared out in wonder at Lake Erie for the first time since graduating from Mercyhurst University in 2011. Lake Erie is the shallowest and the fourth-largest of the five Great Lakes, but as anyone who has been on any of their shores can attest, it’s like looking out into the ocean – the most brilliant blue water stretching out to the horizon as far as the eye can see. On average, water spends 2.6 years in Lake Erie before flowing past Buffalo, over Niagara Falls, and into Lake Ontario.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
The Land

Mercyhurst, Niagara Falls, and Lake Ontario were all on the agenda for later that afternoon, before capping the night near City Hall in Toronto. More on those adventures in my next post!

My Old Kentucky Home

It’s not Lou-e-ville, it’s Lou-uh-vull.

I found that out very quickly during this weekend’s roadtrip, which took me to Kentucky and Ohio. Four cities + three baseball games + two friends = one happy camper.


One of the best decisions I made all weekend was to avoid major highways on the 340-mile drive from my apartment in Blacksburg to Frankfort, the state capital of Kentucky. No traffic, no exit signs, no monotony. Only gorgeous countryside through the farms, hills, and mountains of southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Charming small towns that have been bypassed since the creation of the Interstate Highway System are delightful to visit. While my time in Pikeville, Mount Sterling, and Georgetown was short, my morning was made by walking around colorful Main Streets, witnessing architecturally stunning county courthouses, and experiencing life quite literally in the slow lane.

Main Street, Mt. Sterling, KY

My personal quest to visit all 50 state capitol buildings in the United States is going well — I’m at 30 now. I’d been to Frankfort at the end of a spring break roadtrip last year, but it was on the way to my end destination Friday night so I stopped in again. Construction was completed on the current capitol in 1909, and it was done in the Beaux-Arts style that was very common in the US around the turn of the century. The rotunda is dominated by a statue of Abraham Lincoln, who is probably better known as a resident of Illinois but is also claimed by Kentucky, where he spent the first seven years of his life. The Governor’s Mansion is right next door to the capitol, built in the same French Neoclassical style with a beautiful garden out front.

Interior of the Kentucky State Capitol


A scenic drive through horse country took me from Frankfort to Lexington, the home of the University of Kentucky and the second-largest city in the Commonwealth. The campus is sprawling, which is unsurprising given an enrollment that exceeds 30,000 undergraduates and grad students. That large campus and a 100-degree summer afternoon made for some uncomfortable walking — my sweat was sweating. Compared to other major universities I’ve visited lately, UK’s campus was relatively disappointing in terms of its attractiveness and charm. Everybody knows Kentucky for its basketball program, which is a perennial national championship contender, but the fact that Rupp Arena, the world’s largest basketball-specific arena, is (way) off-campus would also have been a turn-off for me as a student.

Main Building at the University of Kentucky

Lexington itself was not a disappointment, though. A thriving restaurant and bar scene downtown made the dinner hour quite lively, and a few blocks away neighborhoods of elegant Victorian-era homes gave the city some additional character.

I concluded my time in Lexington at a baseball game (of course) where I was on the verge of witnessing history as the Lexington Legends’ starting pitcher had a no-hitter going through the sixth inning. He was pulled for a reliever, though, who promptly served up a long home run to the first Columbia Fireflies hitter he faced. Womp womp.

Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends


No-hitter over, I headed westward to Louisville. This was homebase for Friday and Saturday night, and I was very excited about this portion of my trip. One of the numerous advantages of studying abroad is having friends scattered across the country, and I was graciously hosted by Anna and Katherine, who I had never met in person but had talked to for several years as they are friends of another Anna I studied with during my time in London.

Friday night brought some of the most captivating people-watching I’ve ever done. We first went to a pool party that we’d heard about and knew would be well-attended, but weren’t sure what the crowd would be like. Suffice it to say that if you didn’t have multiple tattoos, you were in the minority. Some interesting bathing suit choices for guys and girls, some fascinating hair styles, and some questionable activities going on in the pool. We left after an hour and got all kinds of fried food at a local bar. Mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders are never a mistake at 1 AM.

Saturday brought more delicious food and drink, which were essential since the heat index and humidity were stratospheric. Higher than Creed in 1999. Higher than Wiz Khalifa and Snoop on a good day. We started off at Silver Dollar, where I got chilaquiles verdes — tortilla chips with salsa verde, queso cotija, over-easy eggs, sour cream, and shredded chicken. Brunch nachos, basically. From there we moved to another neighborhood bar, where a peaches and cream wheat beer and iced sprinkle doughnut were partnered with competitive Candy Land and Scrabble games. A rum-infused blue raspberry slushie was the perfect way to fight off the afternoon heat at Feast, yet another local establishment. We went separate ways Saturday night, as I went to a Louisville Bats game before joining some other new friends at an Irish bar.

Love blossoming at Silver Dollar

I was impressed with the different neighborhoods in town, particularly the St. James-Belgravia Historic District within Old Louisville and some of the surrounding blocks a short distance off campus from the University of Louisville. Late 19th-century houses that more closely resemble castles and chateaus mark these residential areas, which maintain their pedestrian-friendly traditions (at least during daylight hours) and provide a nice contrast to a downtown currently in the midst of major construction projects, both expansions and renovations.

St. James Court Fountain


Sunday morning came quickly, and after not getting to bed until 4 AM I was thankful for a short drive to Cincinnati. It was my first visit to the Queen City, and I got my steps in for the day by walking back and forth across two bridges over the Ohio River that connect Northern Kentucky to Cincinnati.

The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge was the longest of its kind when it was completed in 1866

Gushing fountains and flowers of every color fill the riverfront parks on the Ohio side of the river, just outside Great American Ball Park with a great view of the Cincinnati skyline. I was thrilled to go to my first Major League Baseball game this season as the homestanding Reds easily defeated the Miami Marlins in front of over 20,000 fans. What started as a dreary, rainy day improved steadily as the game went on, and I headed back to Virginia under blue skies and warm sunshine.

Hello, Cincy!
Reds get the W!

The blog goes international in August! After another quick stop in Ohio — Columbus and Cuyahoga Valley National Park this time — I’ll be Canada-bound. A wedding in Toronto should make for some memorable adventures, eh? Can’t wait to get back on the road!

Carolina in My Mind

Much has changed since I last blogged about my travels, just over two years ago exactly. New job, new city, a few new life goals. What will always stay the same, however, is my passion for exploration. Places I’ve never been and want to experience for the first time, places I’ve already been and want to visit again, it doesn’t matter. There is so much in the world to see and do and nothing motivates me more than adventure.

Last week I combined the old and the new into a Carolina-themed roadtrip, hitting Raleigh, Columbia, Charleston, Wilmington, the Outer Banks, and Greensboro along the way. I soaked up the sun, consumed history, took in a few baseball games, and even did some work for my university. Have to make the most of your time on the road!


Couldn’t have said it better myself!

I’d been to Raleigh briefly a couple years ago, just to check out the state capitol building and walk around the campus of NC State University. This was my first extended experience, and I fell in love with the city.

I was there in my capacity as an Admissions Counselor for Radford University, recruiting the best and brightest from North Carolina Governor’s School at an event held locally at Meredith College.

I took advantage of my off time, though, to have one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had at Big Ed’s City Market, located a few blocks from downtown Raleigh in a market area filled with appealing restaurants and charming shops. If the South does one thing well, it’s cuisine in general and breakfast in particular. I had local salty country ham with red eye gravy, two scrambled eggs, homemade buttermilk biscuits, and my personal favorite when down south, grits. Perfect.

From there I indulged another passion by heading to the North Carolina Museum of Art. Their collection was strong in Renaissance and Baroque paintings from Italy and Northern Europe, which are not particularly my area of expertise, but I was thrilled to see some quality examples of American Impressionism. I was hoping to see more Hudson River School works and pieces that depict American expansionism, but the American galleries were largely being renovated. Still, a worthwhile experience, and free!

I also stumbled upon the mural pictured above on the side of a local diner. More than simply striking me with its aesthetic appeal, I thought it was the perfect response to a controversy that made national headlines. When North Carolina’s House of Representatives passed HB2 in March 2016, the law eliminated anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community, legislating that individuals must use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. The mural advocates universal inclusion, and I certainly second that notion.


South Carolina State House

From Raleigh I moved onto Columbia, the capital of South Carolina and home of the Palmetto State’s flagship university, which I had visited on numerous occasions in the past. This time, though, I was on my own and in town primarily to attend a Columbia Firelies baseball game. When I planned this trip, former Heisman Trophy winner and national champion Tim Tebow was still struggling miserably in his transition from the gridiron to the diamond, and Columbia seemed a near certainty to be his home for the entire 2017 season. Imagine my shock, then, when I found out two weeks ago that the ex-University of Florida star had actually been promoted to a higher level of minor league baseball, and I’d be missing him.

No worries, though, because it was still a stadium I’d never been to before, and what better way to spend a Friday night than three hours at the ballpark? Unless it rains, and you’re sitting in the stadium when the game gets cancelled. In that case you go to Carolina Ale House and get beer and French onion soup before going back to your Holiday Inn Express. Good times, good times.

The one positive from this stop was my dinner at Cantina 76, just a few blocks from the capitol. Having been there before, my expectations were high, and it did not disappoint. The best tacos I’ve ever had – chicken pesto, BBQ shrimp, and chicken teriyaki.


Rainbow Row

The most anticipated stop on my roadtrip was Charleston, a place I’d never been but about which I’ve heard nothing but incredible things. After visiting for a full day, I largely echo that sentiment.

I made the short drive from Columbia down to the Low Country on Saturday morning, getting clutch free parking near the Battery, which has protected Charleston’s harbor since the Civil War but is now famous for antebellum and postbellum homes that more resemble Mediterranean villas than any domestic architecture that comes to mind.

I spent the entire morning and afternoon walking around Charleston, beating the stifling heat, humidity, and summertime crowds by ducking in and out of the various high-end stores on King Street. Shout-out to Steve Madden and the 50% off discount I got on my new pair of work shoes.

Charleston is filled with color and character…and also with tourists, especially in the summer. Tourists who walk slowly on narrow sidewalks, fill restaurants, and overwhelm a Colonial-era town not designed to handle the masses that now pour in since every travel guidebook you’ve seen over the past ten years has hyped Charleston as a hidden gem. Not anymore, trust me.

In general, Charleston is a fabulous city. Stunning architecture, roaring fountains, leafy squares, beautiful people, plenty of ways to spend a weekend. This includes going to a Charleston RiverDogs baseball game near the campus of The Citadel and on the banks of the Ashley River. The view pictured below is from the stadium concourse, and it’s one of the finest you’ll get at any sporting venue.

Beautiful, right?


Wilmington Riverwalk

After another night in a Holiday Inn Express (racking up those IHG points!), I headed back into North Carolina for a quick stop in Wilmington. Wilmington, the site of filming for so many late ‘90s-early 2000s TV shows and movies, most notably Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill, has captivated me since middle school. Other than visiting the university there once, though, I had never been, and it was about time to change that.

Wilmington has been recognized as having one of America’s best riverfronts, and this coastal city on the Cape Fear River utterly charmed me. I couldn’t stay for long – I had a pressing engagement (cough cough, a baseball game) in rural Kinston later that afternoon before arriving at my aunt’s house at the Outer Banks for the night – but I perused a city market that was established in 1880, walked along the river, and thoroughly enjoyed some quality people-watching.

Outer Banks

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

I usually visit my aunt for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is the perfect time to visit the Outer Banks because the weather is still warm and you’re not overwhelmed by thousands of obnoxious beachgoers from North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

Suffice it to say that the prospect of visiting over the July 4 weekend had me panicking, but my time got off to a good start when I struck up the most pleasant conversation with a couple bartenders over a burger and a beer at Lost Colony Brewery in the heart of downtown Manteo, a safe distance away from the holiday crowds flocking to Corolla, Duck, and Nags Head. One of my favorite things to do is talk to strangers. You never know who you will meet, and some of my most interesting encounters come where I’d have least expected them. After finishing dinner and getting an ice cream cone at a nearby establishment, I caught up with my aunt, an elementary school principal who had just returned that same night from her summer vacation in San Francisco.

Early next morning, we drove down to Cape Hatteras – fun fact, Cape Hatteras is the nearest landmass to Bermuda. Hat tip to Wikipedia for that knowledge. The lighthouse at Cape Hatteras has been in use since 1870, when it was absolutely critical for maritime navigators. The large number of ships that ran aground because of shifting sandbars near here led to the area being nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The lighthouse was moved to its present location in 1999 due to erosion and the ocean coming too close to where it had been positioned near the shore. It rises 210 feet above sea level and can be seen from 20 miles away in clear conditions.


First National Bank Stadium, what a gem!

I left my aunt’s around noon, stopping in the small town of Plymouth to see another lighthouse on my way to Greensboro for the fourth and final baseball game of the trip. I was very excited for this one, knowing that it would be a great atmosphere in a stadium sold out for July 4 festivities, and because the visitors that night were the Asheville Tourists, who I have now seen play over 40 times dating back to my time living there as a summer intern in 2012.

I got goosebumps hearing the national anthem that night, with a crowd of 9,189 singing along to every word. Nothing is more patriotic than hearing the Star-Spangled Banner while enjoying the national pastime, and in that moment, I experienced a surge of ecstasy and contentedness that is rare for my nomadic spirit.

Asheville was manhandled 12-4 by the homestanding Greensboro Grasshoppers, and it rained nonstop for the final three innings. Even with that, there was no place I’d have rather been that night, and it certainly made arriving back home in Blacksburg around 1 AM much more tolerable.

Roanoke River Maritime Museum and Lighthouse

So another trip down, and another one awaits in a couple weeks. I’ll be headed west this time, to Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky before finishing up in Cincinnati, Ohio. My hope is to be more consistent with blogging moving forward, as the experience of writing is therapeutic for me and allows me to remember all the little things about a trip that I value so incredibly much. Until then.