A near rollover, video-style. 

When I started truck driving, I kinda thought I’d see more car accidents. Not that I wanted to, of course, but I just figured with the large amount of time I’d be spending on the road, it seemed as though my chances were much greater for witnessing more crashes. But I haven’t, really. I usually show up to most wrecks after emergency vehicles have already arrived and things are being taken care of. I’ve driven past a few that had JUST happened, but other witnesses were already assisting, emergency vehicles were on the way, and since I didn’t see any of it happen or wasn’t involved, I’d just slow way down, pay attention to the road and drive on.  

I did witness one very minor accident in Chicago where a car lost control and side-swiped another car. They both pulled off to the shoulder, and since I witnessed it and knew I’d have footage on my dash cam, I pulled over – Adam was up with me, so he jumped out right away to make sure both drivers were okay. They were fine and already calling the authorities. We ended up moving on.  

But recently I got really, REALLY close to witnessing what would have been a terrible rollover. It was a couple of weeks ago. It was about 3:20am and I was cruising along the I-694 bypass in Minneapolis. I was driving 60mph, which was the speed limit along that stretch, and noticed a vehicle coming up alongside my truck pretty fast on the left, passing me. Then I saw his lights get a little too close for comfort, so I reacted by slowing down and moving onto the shoulder a little bit. Even with slowing down and moving over he still almost clipped my front end as he cut in front of me.  

I kept an eye on him after he passed, and things got crazy shortly thereafter. Watch the video I pulled from our dash cam! You may want to pull it up full-screen, and wait at the end – I zoom in and replay it in slow-motion. 

 

After he passed me, I watched him swerve around, and then he started fishtailing. At first, it was really short, tight fishtailing. I slowed down again, and that’s when he really started to swing back and forth.  

It’s amazing how many thoughts can run through your head in such a short amount of time. This same week, I came close to hitting a deer. He started walking out in front of me, and I started braking, but I had to strategically brake so I didn’t lose control of the truck. I also happened to be changing lanes after passing by a weigh station, so I was also making sure I kept my line of travel and didn’t swerve. It was raining, so the roads were wet. All these things were processing in my mind, and on top of those decisions going on, I clearly remember thinking, “I’m going to hit this deer. There’s no other traffic around me. There’s a good shoulder here I can pull off on. I’ll have to get out and check out the damage it caused. Then I’ll have to call safety…” And just then, the deer looked up at me and ran. I missed him by what seemed like inches. After my heart rate slowed down a little bit, I still couldn’t believe that I was already in action-mode, taking care of business. It was like two seconds! 

So as this driver in the video started to fishtail, I was already throwing on my four-ways and pulling off to the shoulder because I was certain I’d be calling 911 to report an accident while running out to check on the driver. I was scared.  

I remember saying over and over as it was happening, “Oh God, Oh God.” Adam had just gone to bed, and he felt me slow down and move over, and then he heard my panicked-sounding chant along with the pickup driver’s squeeling tires. He asked if everything was okay, and I just said, “not really” and continued to explain to him what I just saw.  

I tried to get the vehicle’s license plate number, but he was too far ahead by then – he hadn’t stopped! When he finally did stop, he pulled into an off-ramp and drove up onto the curb. Another car also saw what happened, and they pulled off behind him. I was thankful someone else saw it and was able to pull over, because at that point there was no longer a safe place for me to pull over.  

I was still moving slowly with my emergency flashers on, and just as I was approaching where he nearly crashed, I looked in my mirror and saw a police car come flying down the on ramp behind me with his lights on! I thought, “great! He saw it all happen, and he’ll check on this driver!” Then he flew right past the whole situation. Obviously he missed it and was off on some other call.  

It was crazy, and one of the scarier things I’ve seen while on the road. I’m so very thankful he somehow – miraculously – kept that pickup under control. I don’t know what happened. Given the time of night, my first assumption was that he was drunk, but it could’ve been a health issue – a seizure, a heart attack -or  maybe even a mechanical issue with his vehicle or something. But… It’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that this was alcohol and/or drug related. But who knows. Either way, it’s a good reminder – don’t drink and drive, people! 

All I can say is this dude got damn lucky. That, or he’s a Hollywood stunt driver. But I’m leaning towards the luck theory.  


Tonight I love designated drivers. If you can’t find one, be one. :)

A runner’s slump. Ugh. 

​So I’ve picked up running again, and in the past nine months or so I’ve been able to pick it up to about three days each week. Sometimes four. Sometimes less. It’s a challenge as a truck driver, because I obviously can’t just run anywhere, or anytime I want. So I joined the “truckin runners” Facebook page, which has been an amazingly supportive group, and I’ve managed to find a few of my own places over the road where I can run and feel safe. So now I go as often as I can – it always depends on our schedule. I fit it in where I can. 

Then I got my eyes set firmly on the Frozen Otter race, which I’ve participated in six times in the past, and crazily decided to go back one more time. I do plan to write more about this soon, as I’m now trying to train for an insane amount of miles (64) in an insane winter (!) race, as an over-the-road truck driver. I’ve got lots to talk about – there’s trying different gear, overnight training runs, trying to find the right nutrition… Blah, blah, blah… Anyway, I can only squeeze in big training days about once each month, which is still logistically super-hard, so in between I’m trying to keep up my regular running to hopefully stay in good shape for this Frozen Otter insanity. And simply because I’ve been really… REALLY enjoying running. 

Well, until my last three runs. 

Today was my third bad run in a row. I can get over a bad run… It happens. It HAS happened. But never three in a row! The whole time I was running this morning, I was thinking, “Okay, something’s up. What is it?” I’m trying to listen to my body, but it speaks a foreign language, I swear. I have no idea what it’s saying. So as I ran, I started to list all the things that could be wrong. I made sure my mindset wasn’t to make it a list of excuses, but reasons. Because if I find the reason, I can work on something and fix it. I seriously want to fix this – whatever it is. 

Here was my list and thoughts why running can suck: 

Not enough food. My truck diet it usually pretty basic, consisting of easy-to-eat-while-driving foods. Boiled eggs, a variety of raw nuts, raw veggies, Epic meat bars, avocados… things like that. And it’s pretty low calorie, because honestly, I’m sitting almost all day long. Driving. So during the week it usually works great. But on our days off when I want to put out 6 miles, or maybe 10, and after I’ve been eating my sedentary-trucker diet for a week, do I just not have enough stored-up fuel? Is that how this works? I have no idea. I don’t know what I’m doing at all when it comes to nutrition. 

Not enough carbs. The way I eat in the truck is also naturally low carb. I add in fruit, and get some carbs out of some of the other foods I eat, but I try to stay away from grains and other stuff that might make me feel heavy or bloated. It’s not a comfy thing to drive for hours with a balloon in your tummy. So again, I hit that long run, and maybe there’s some shortage of energy there? Again, no clue. 

I have my period. Sorry, boys. But girls, really. You know what I mean, right? It sometimes feels like your body is just sucking the energy out of you so you can annoyingly bleed for five days. What’s the deal with that? The only catch with this theory is that it’s inconsistent. Sometimes it makes me feel tired, and strangely sometimes I feel a burst of energy from it, but it’s usually the former. Is that all that’s going on? I can’t figure this one out, either. See? My body speaks to me… but in a different language. 

It’s hot and muggy out. The first two bad runs were in some pretty intense heat and humidity, so this morning I ran from 5:30-6:30am. It was still warm, but a vast improvement over the last two times. So maybe it’s not the heat? Guess what? I don’t know… 

I’m dehydrated. I think I’m drinking enough water, but I’ve also been sweating like a faucet, so… Could it be that simple? I’ve been bringing a handheld water bottle with me on even my shortest runs, and I drink a ton while I’m driving. But maybe the timing is off. Who knows! 

My hemoglobin is low. This possibility is admittedly over-dramatic, but with my health history, it’s not something I don’t think about. I’m not cured from Aplastic Anemia, I’m in remission. So, relapse is a word in my vocabulary, just not one I like to use. Ever. Because I’m determined to be done with that whole story. I’m thinking I’m due for a complete blood count, if only to settle a paranoid mind. 

I’m simply anemic. Maybe I should eat a bunch of steak. I kind of hope this is the problem. I should really just eat steak and steamed broccoli and spinach for a week. Yeah, this is surely it. :) 

Spoiled after running trails. Since I’m training for the Frozen Otter, which is on a hiking trail through the woods, I try to run trails when I can. This is super-awesome. Because it’s in the woods. The ground is soft. It’s shady. You don’t almost get hit by cars. There’s squirrels and bunnies. It’s pretty and distracting. For so many reasons, trails rock. So when I have to jump on a road or paved trail, do I now struggle knowing there’s a preferred surface and surrounding that I’ve been on? Have I spoiled myself? Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic in my situation to only run trails… Or I totally would. I should move to a mountain. 

I didn’t sleep as well as I thought. This one’s a stretch. I’ve had great runs on little sleep, and the exercise has actually rejuvenated me at times. I’ve also had great runs on lots of sleep, so… yeah, again. I have no idea. Hey… body… if you could please be consistent… that would be great, okay? Thanks. 

I’m burned out. I can’t be if I’m still excited to run, right? I feel like this would come into play if I’m dreading every run I plan to go on. I’ve actually been there before, and a week off from running has always cured it. Okay, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try this. But… I still want to run. Oy. The confliction! Maybe next week. Or the next. 

My mental game is way off. I don’t want it to be this. I have always thrived on a strong mental game. On my last long training run, I excelled in this. But it’s got to be partly my mentality, because I nearly cried when I stopped to walk for a little bit this morning because I felt as though I gave up on myself. I guess there’s some work to be done there, for sure, and that work will probably never be done, but I can’t see that being the main issue. I hope not, or I’ve got a really rough winter ahead of me! I feel like long distance endurance stuff eventually becomes mostly a mental challenge. So yup. I gotta rock the mental game. Plain and simple. 

So, what’s up, doc? Once I started that run this morning (the one I was stoked to go on – the one that was going to give me a great excuse to eat that delicious belgian waffle), it felt like my head was pushing forward all excited to go-go-go, and my legs were dragging behind me, fussing profusely. My body just felt low on energy, solid and heavy. Even my arms ached, which was strange. I stopped three times to walk and I felt a little light-headed each time. In fact, it almost felt more difficult to slow down because I had to adjust the rhythm of my breathing, which then made it feel like I was going to hyperventilate. I had to concentrate pretty hard to keep it under control. I’ve never had to concentrate this hard on so many things just to get through a run! It wasn’t good. It wasn’t as fun as I knew it could be and it made me sad. 

When I finally finished my six miles, I felt good that I finished it, and happy for the exercise, but man… I was wiped. And worried. And angry. And disappointed in myself. And I wanted to know what’s going on so I can do something about it. Like now. But where to start? I’m really bad at the whole “ruling things out” strategy, but I guess I’m going to have to figure it out. 

Or maybe I go for one more run and hope I miraculously snap out of this. I’ll start there. Fingers crossed. 

Runner friends – have you ever hit a slump? Tell me about it, please! What did you do? Is there a super-obvious red flag here, and you’re all like, “Hey, dummy! Do this!” I give you permission to call me dummy. Let me know! Because seriously, I’m just running. I have no idea what I’m doing otherwise. 

Or if you could teach my body to speak my language. That would also do the trick. :) 


Tonight I love running. Even when it sucks.

The mini mental breakdown

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I really thought that if I ever snapped, or lost my shit, or went a little crazy, or couldn’t take whatever life was throwing at me in a given moment, I’d do something beautiful. I’d grab my backpack and just wander into the woods, not giving two craps where I was headed. In my state of crazy, or shock, or whatever you’d want to call it, I wouldn’t even have the ability to think about how these actions might worry people in my life. Because at that point, I would assume nobody would miss me. It would be a way to run. Take flight. Dissappear and move on. Maybe take on a whole new identity as some crazy lady that lives in the hills.

The reality is that when I snap it’s nothing like any of that. As it turns out, it’s actually quite ugly. When it’s over I’m left feeling empty, afraid, sad, alone, and ashamed. But I still have my wits about me to function under a veil of life still being in motion – even though I would rather pause life and sit still, curled up in a ball. So I keep working. I keep eating. I keep trying to exercise – to at least keep some of the overwhelming emotional chaos at bay. When someone asks how I’m doing, I smile through puffy eyes and tell them “I’m doing well, thank you.” I frankly don’t have the energy at this point to say anything else.

Well, I’m writing this out of a recent experience, unfortunately. I obviously didn’t run for the hills, although that would’ve made for a much better story. And you know what’s really crazy about this? Facebook, of all things, showed me one of those memory things from a year ago. Apparently I posted a blog entry about having a really hard time – needing to refocus and remind myself why I’m on the path I’m on. So I thought about that. There’s got to be something about this time of year. Spring fever? Is it that simple? I guess I don’t think it is, because I know that deep down I’m not a simple person, no matter how much I try to make everyone think so. Spring fever is probably at the base of my emotional chaos, but it is fueled by circumstance and some unique situations. And of course I’m sure anyone reading this can relate to that in one way or another from some point in their lives. We all have a breaking point, and we all deal with it differently depending upon our own personal situation. And our reactions can be different. But what happens when that reaction is no longer under your control? That’s what it felt like for a few scary minutes when I finally snapped. No woods. No backpack. No dissappearing. Just me being an ugly me.

Adam and I have always traded off on breaking down. He’d go through a rough patch, be it an hour or a day, and I’d naturally step up and be his rock. I’d remind him that I love him, he’s never alone, and everything will eventually be okay. Then he’d feel better, and we’d both be good for a while. Then it would be my turn. I’d break and he’d wrap his arms around me strong and tight, let me cry, snot all over his shirt, and we’d talk about it. Then I’d get better and the cycle would continue. Trading off works. We’re a good team. Always have been.

Until the moment we snapped at the same time. I don’t know that it’s ever happened before. We both broke, and it was a pretty intense half hour or so. I don’t even want to go into detail, so I’m not going to. To be clear, we weren’t against each other. We were sharing the same outside stressors, we just happened to break at the same moment. We couldn’t be there for each other, so instead we had to suffer in our own personal, emotional agony for a short, concentrated period of time. Alone. After it was over, we hugged and cried and started talking about finding a way to move towards healing. I just really hope I’m doing enough. It’s fragile.

The result of our episode was taking an impromptu week off of work (emotionally such a hard request to make) to finalize some issues we were having, to get the ball rolling on some healing, and to find some time to relax and try to just be together in the moment – minus the stupid stress.

It wasn’t one certain thing that cracked our strength, either. A lot was happening – good and bad, but we were managing each on their own okay. Then the last card we could hold was set on top and it all crumbled. It’s so crazy how that can happen.

We paid off our credit card debt. We were thrilled. Proud. Happy. We couldn’t think of a way to really celebrate our accomplishment, so we just powered on with our plan. Ho-hum. Then we had a couple of really tough weeks of work that left us feeling frustrated and drained, and even that was smoothed over by a super-understanding team of people we work with that really want us to be happy. And they really made us feel better.

Then we bought a new car. We didn’t plan on buying a new car – not quite yet, anyway. It happened a month earlier than we’d planned. I think this was our last card. We spent a week after feeling totally rushed into the sale fuming about the whole ordeal. We were seriously asking each other if we actually bought it or not. For real – we didn’t know. What the heck was going on? I mean, we signed a few papers, but we had so many unanswered questions. We knew it was the right car, but the process wasn’t at all how we’d imagined. We were not excited, and we really should have been. We worked damn hard for this, and we even had a nice down payment! We were trying to be responsible, but ended up feeling duped.

Thankfully we were able to take some time during our first day off for the week, visit the dealer, double-check some things, ask some questions, make a few adjustments and finally come to comfortable terms with it. We drove our new car away that day, and we felt… well, relieved. The excitement would show up later, but it came as a calm wave.

So our week off was much-needed, and I’m so thankful it was able to work out. It was quiet. I shut down social media, which was pretty good for me, and in the state I was in, fairly easy. Believe it or not, the world kept turning without Facebook and Instagram. Thank God for that!

After getting our new car situation figured out, over the next couple of days we took care of some appointments, cooked some healthy meals in our friends’ kitchen (they were on vacation and let us use their home – seriously awesome of them and so what we needed!), we reorganized our camping gear and belongings between our new car and old, we did our laundry, took a couple of showers and even had a few glasses of wine somewhere in there. The only thing that was missing was sleep. We were so busy trying to get so many things in line that we barely slept. We wore ourselves thin.

So then we did the best thing ever. We just took off. We got into our new car and drove north. We landed in Munising, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was time for some much-needed R&R. This was my medicine. My cure for any ailment. We picked up a backcountry permit, loaded our backpacks onto our shoulders and hiked out into the forest towards Lake Superior and camped for a night. This would be Adam’s first backpacking trip, ever, which made it really special. All went well except for the one thing that had to go right – he has Sleep Apnea, so we hauled his cpap machine and 16-pound battery out with us, and when we crawled into the tent to sleep, the battery wouldn’t work. We woke up the next morning and hiked out. Well, I hiked out. Adam zombie-walked out. I was proud of him for pushing through it, but it was a rough go.

We were already a little sleep deprived before Adam’s sleepless night in the tent, so we decided to rent this tiny, cute little pre-season cheap cabin for the next few nights. The next day we slept in, and when we finally got up, Adam dropped me off back on the trail. I needed more. While he stayed back at the cabin and chilled in the way he chills – watching movies and relaxing, I trail ran. I pushed out a crazy 30-mile run. It was perfectly difficult. It drained away everything, leaving me feeling really sore, proud and accomplished. I even earned a badge – a bruised toenail! It was exactly what I needed. The next day we did nothing. Then we drove home and got our chores done for our next week of work.

And now we’re back at it. We aren’t 100%, but we’re at least feeling like we’re back on the right path again – still moving forward, only in a better state of mind. Here we are. Life is still happening. Our plans are still progressing.

It’s really unfortunate that I can’t share a cool story about parking the truck at a random rest area in Utah and simply disappearing into the mountains. Wouldn’t that be totally irresponsibly exciting!? Sigh… I just don’t have it in me. Sounds like the makings for a fun short story, though.

So… sorry for the bummed-out read. I’m much more accustomed to writing about adventure and happy things, but sometimes you just gotta take advantage of an outlet you’ve got and be real about some life stuff. So there you have it.

Next up, I vow to write about something more exciting – maybe about how I signed up for the Frozen Otter again. Yup. You’ll be able to hear all about it. I’m in training because I’m crazy. Somehow intentionally signing up for something crazy makes me less crazy…? I don’t know how that works, but it does.


Tonight I love me and Adam. Because we always have each other – even when it’s not pretty – which is kind of perfect in its own twisted, beautiful way.

And here’s some photos from the week to pretty up this blog entry a wee bit:

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It was a green Subaru that we bought. We love our PJ2 (Pickle Jar 2)!

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Sun roof!

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PJ2's first trip. Up north, on a dirt road, with a little backpacking thrown in.

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Our backcountry site.

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Pictured Rocks is amazeballs.

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I can't even express just how much I love this. That's Adam. Backpacking.

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Pictured Rocks beauty. So many spring flowers!

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Pretties.

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Spring hiking trails. Yes, medicinal for sure.

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Chapel Rock, cairns, Lake Superior, and a sunset.

Time off in my happy place

“Find your happy place.”

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The fire pit in the back yard. One of the greatest places to be, in my opinion.

I have several “happy places,” but one of my favorites is my parent’s backyard. I’ve always loved coming home on weekends, pulling into the driveway and seeing my dad on the lawnmower cutting grass and mom walking around filling tweety bird feeders and tending to her flowers and vegetable garden. The sun is shining, the trees are full of bright green leaves, there’s music playing from a set of speakers strategically set up at a screen door, and the fire pit has a little fire burning in long preparation for a steak dinner. It’s instant relaxation.

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An oasis in the northwoods.

Pull in, grab a beer and sit in a chair by the fire and, well, do nothing but chit chat and chill out. Perfection. The only problem is I don’t get as much of this home time as I used to. Our weekends just aren’t long enough to make the trip up as often. But when we do… It’s pretty awesome.

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Mom's garden.

We had this week off of work, so Adam and I started by spending a couple days on our own, unwinding in Ashland, WI. We had no specific reason to visit Ashland other than it was a town we haven’t really spent much time in. It was our 14th wedding anniversary on June 9, so we drove up there on Monday morning and spent a couple of nights there. It took a day and a half to finally realize we were on vacation, and it was a great way to start the week. I ate ice cream at two ice cream shops within an hour. Yup. Vacation time.

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A nice run along the Lake Superior shoreline.

After our little Ashland getaway we head south to Phillips. We spent Wednesday evening with Adam’s mom visiting Rhinelander, had dinner, did a little shopping, saw a movie and ate ice cream. Again. There’s never too much ice cream.

The next day we slept in late and head out of town to my parent’s house for the rest of the week. We were hosting our annual canoe and kayak trip there over the weekend. In past years we’ve had up to 30 people out for the trip, but I slacked off on the invite-pushing this year, so we had a much smaller crew. While quite a few of our regulars were sorely missed, we still had one heck of a good time. We always manage to make the best of it.

It rained on Saturday the whole time we paddled the river, but the rapids were roaring and whenever we’d go through them, the water would splash up over the front of the kayak and fill the inside with a few inches, so in the end, the rain didn’t matter too much anyway.

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Rain jackets and kayaks. It's okay!

And there was only one tip-over. Mom and dad took an unintentional swim towards the end of the Stonewall rapids and I helped drag them to shore where they emptied their boat of water, got back in and continued on down the river. That’s whatchya’ do!

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Bailing out the boat.

Eventually the rain died down and we were able to enjoy a dry night around a campfire. Man, oh, man, did the food come out. Everyone brought good stuff and we basically just laid it all out and stuffed ourselves silly. We had a great fire with a “magic log” that my dad rigged up. It was a giant pine stump stuffed with copper so the fire gave off a rainbow of colors just after the sky turned dark. It was pretty much a perfect day and night.

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The magic log.

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The magic log later on in the dark. Pretty!

The next morning my dad made his famous egg breakfast on a giant cast-iron skillet over the fire (30 eggs!) and after finishing that off we lazed around until the sky cleared up and the sun finally came out. My cousin Annie and one of her friends showed up and joined us for a tubing trip down the Elk River. What a perfect last little trip to wrap up the weekend.

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Tubing! In sunshine! Finally sunshine!

But actually, it wasn’t over yet. We grilled more amazing food and ate way too much again. My grandma, Aunt Rita, Aunt Judy, Uncle Kenny and Aunt Beth all joined in for dinner, fire and good family visit time. We even played some cribbage before finally calling it a night.

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Got to see my grandma and some other family. Grandma was really excited about her t-shirt. She's so freakin' cute.

I relaxed this week. I ate too much, had a few (too many) beers, and generally abused my poor body in vacation mode. It’ll be happy to get back into its routine when we get rolling in the truck again.

I’m almost ready to go back to work. Just one more day. Or ten would be okay, too.

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I just don't want this to end.


Tonight I love my parent’s backyard… who needs a beach scene when you’ve got this kind of oasis? And company? It’s heaven.

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Steaks!

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Nom!

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This is quite typical of a fire during canoe weekend. This one's from a few years ago.

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Our little paddling crew of 10 this year.

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Our friend, Mr. Eagle.

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Fishing in the rain.

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Good-night, and see you next time.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

Girls’ weekend – aka The Big Box Tour

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Boxes. Our 10th, Jack-in-the-box, was there in spirit. She lives in CO and had to work. We missed her!

Every year since 2009 a group of us girls get together for an extended weekend of drinking, eating, lounging, shopping, outdoor activities, laughing, talking like we’re 12 years old again, and no. Sorry. We don’t have pillow fights – which always comes up whenever we mention “girl’s weekend” to anyone.

Well, actually… I lie. We had a pillow fight ONE time. It came up on a phone-app game of Truth or Dare. We shrugged, grabbed pillows, and met our challenge. But it’s not like we planned it as a major activity for the weekend, and we didn’t giggle like school girls – it was more like screams and hoots of full-gut laughter. We weren’t trying to be cute. In fact, we didn’t mess around. For example, Iron Box Walinda nearly threw Brown Box Becky across the room, and a few of the pillows were actually quite hard – thankfully nobody was injured. Also, we were fully clothed, and there were no flying feathers. After all, we wanted our security deposit back, ya’ know? We did end up laughing quite a bit throughout, and honestly? It was pretty fun.

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The beginning.

A little history: Somewhere in our past, we came up with a name for our girl’s weekend. Correct me if I’m wrong, ladies… I believe it came up on a break at work. There were six of us that worked together at 4imprint at the time, and we regularly took an afternoon break together. Our group morphed into “The Big Box Tour” after several daily conversations that were most likely of a childish (but super-fun) nature. I think originally the plan involved an actual tour bus and a cross-country trip (we should totally still do this, by the way!). We pared it down to one weekend, usually around February when beautiful cabin rentals are cheaper, easy to come by, and our calendars aren’t chock full like they are in the summer.

We’ve been on seven “Box Tours” now. Wow. Seven. And we now have ten girls. Each girl has their own “box” name, too. We have Brown box, Jack-in-the-box, Cat box, Hiker box, Iron box, Drop box, Chatter box, Veggie box, Jukebox, and me – Bounce box, which is a thru-hiking term. It’s a box that hikers pack with things they don’t want to carry on the trail, so they “bounce” it up the trail from post office to post office. And maybe I get bouncy when I’m excited. Haha! I don’t know, but I like my box name, and it’s stuck.

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2015. Juke even designed the awesome t-shirts!

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This year we got a giant, beautiful, roomy barn that was converted into a cabin in Waupaca, Wisconsin. We usually go somewhere different each year, but I’m pretty certain this place will be on our list for another tour.

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Huuuuge barn-cabin!

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A view from the loft.

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Another view from the loft. Such a pretty place!

We arrived on a Thursday, picked rooms to sleep in without major strategy, arguments, or arm-wrestling. We established the #2 bathroom, cracked beers, and moved in. Juke made an awesome dinner with Iron’s help and we ate. Some crashed early and some stayed up late. It was a low-key first night. That doesn’t always happen!

On Friday Juke and Hiker went into town and rented two fat-tire bikes. Iron and I jumped in with them and we head to Hartman Creek State Park where we played on the single-track bike trails. This was my first time on a fat-tire, and it was a total freakin’ blast! I had a sore bum from the seat for a couple of days, but it was totally worth it! While we were out in the woods, I think a couple of the other girls did a little shopping while others stayed back and relaxed and/or napped. We do whatever we want on girls’ weekend. That’s how we roll.

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Fat tire biking! Most fun ever!

Later we all went to Central Waters, a local brewery for drinks and ran into a group of 17 dudes that were out for what I gather was a dude’s weekend. They were all wearing bowling shirts – and were going to go bowling. They invited us, but it was time to go. We had dinner reservations. After dinner we head back to the barn for more drinks, chatter and Cards Against Humanity.

On Saturday we took our time getting up, and then we all went to the park for a little winter hiking. In the evening we visited Weasels, a local bar, and ended up back at the barn to enjoy our last night. We made animals out of balloons and maybe a few body parts… I’m not denying that… and Brown and I played Jenga. Yeah, I know. We’re pretty wild, hey?

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Cabiny Jenga.

What did we do in between all of those things? Well, we ate. I, for one, ate mostly popcorn. I think I ate 20 pounds of the stuff.

It was a fantastic weekend, and I especially feel a little extra appreciation for our annual event now since I’m not around for regular happy hours and other get-togethers. Trucking really keeps me away, which can be hard. I love these girls and miss them all the time. So The Box Tour is one of my favorite yearly events. I already can’t wait for next year. And for real – some year we’re going to end up somewhere tropical. Or we’ll get that bus.

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Hiking! Yay!


Tonight I love my fellow boxes. ♡

A few more photos:

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A non-raunchy balloon art piece.

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Yup. Beer. (And popcorn, of course.)

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Crocheted bottle koozies from Cat box!

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The porch and back yard. And field.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

The hunt: update

What do you suppose happens when I run out of hours and get a couple of days off? During hunting season? Yup.

So this is happening right now:

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It might only be a day and a half, but my pouty face is gone!

I must go now. The woods are snowy and silent. Time to clear my mind. Happy day!

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Tonight I love winter. Because it might be my only chance to love it this year… It’s hard to love when you’re driving in it. Playing in it, though? Love.

The hunt

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I’ve been home in Phillips for hunting season every year for as long as I can remember. Since I was about 15 years old I hunted every year, too. It’s my favorite time of year. Hunting, Thanksgiving, family, time off, hours in the woods… and this will be the first year I’ll miss it. I knew last year already that I’d probably miss it this year because I’d most likely be on the road truckin’. Which is exactly what I’m doing.

But just because I knew it was coming and expected it… accepted it and was fine with it… doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’m sad.

Hunting season is a solid week out of the year that my dad and I have our best bonding time. We tromp through the woods together and pick trees overlooking the best spots ever to set up our ladder stands, huff and puff as we drag them out way farther than we should’ve on a sled, and get all set up. Perfect spots – I mean the kind of spots where we’re going to see a ton of deer, of course. Sometimes we do, but usually we don’t. But we aren’t bothered much. It’s about so much more.

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Bonding in our own ways. :)

Then on Saturday morning – opening day – we get up well before light, drink coffee and eat breakfast. We bundle up, make sure our rifles are in the truck, our clips and thermos are full, and we have snacks to eat. We drive down the winding dirt road to our hunting grounds and walk into the pitch-black, dark woods together quietly. We part ways to our stands, which are usually set up fairly close to one another so we can help each other out if we get a deer, and after getting settled into our high perch in our trees, we sit stoically for hours. Waiting. In the silent, perfect woods.

Squirrels scurry up and down trees, chattering and flicking their tails violently when the discover we’re in their territory. Chickadees flutter past our faces, occasionally landing on our gun barrel. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of a white weasel, a fox, bobcat, and even… sometimes… a deer.

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Squirrel!

The woods can be silent and still, frozen and glittering, stinging the tip of my nose and numbing my cheeks. The cold sometimes seeps through my winter boots, freezing my toes until a shiver works its way through my entire body to a point when I need to get down out of my stand and wander a bit to warm back up. Sometimes it rains, making all kinds of noise through the woods, and sometimes big fluffy snowflakes silently flitter down all morning, freshening the forest floor with a blanket of bright, bluish-white. And sometimes it’s windy and you just hope it’s at your back so it’s not in your face, but you also hope it’s in your face so deer wandering within your line of vision can’t pick up your scent in the breeze. But whatever the weather brings us, we sit. We sit until after the sun sets and it’s hard to see.

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A wintery view from my stand.

After dark officially settles in we leave the forest and head back to the truck. After packing up we head out to meet up with my uncles and family friends, as well as other hunters for “the last drive” at a local bar to discuss what we’re seeing in the woods, who got what, tell jokes and drink beers.

Some years we get venison, and some years we don’t. It’s usually cold, and I freeze my butt off whether it’s 30 degrees or -30 degrees. But with freezing and all I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. Because this is the week I get to spend with my dad. And family. We eat hearty meals. Drink canned PBR. Sit in the woods for hours on end – watching, observing, thinking… and sometimes maybe even napping. My favorite part of all – walking next to my dad through the woods, guns slung over our shoulders. Getting a deer is a definite bonus, and we always try and hope to fill our tags. But even if we don’t, the time we spend together that week makes up for it by miles.

I’m missing it hard this year. I’ll be okay, and hope nobody feels too badly for me. That’s not why I’m writing. I knew it was going to be this way this year, and Adam and I are working at our plan. And we’re having fun doing it. But this first year is going to be the hardest when we have to let traditions slip for a while, knowing it’s not permanent. I just wanted to think about it more because hunting week makes me happy. Remembering all the details in writing brings me there for a while, and that also makes me happy. It’s not as good as actually being there, but it’s as close as I can get for now. I got this.

Good luck hunters. Good luck uncle Kenny, uncle Butch, Jim, Mikey and anyone else venturing out there in their blaze orange. Good luck dad. I love you. And yes, please use my gun and get a huge buck. I’m ready for a razzin’! :)


Tonight I love hunting season. You know that, though.

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A couple of years ago - the temps were in the 50's! I didn't even have to cover my ears!

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The shadow of me sitting high up in a tree.

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My brother and my dad. God I miss those days!

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A much colder year - all bundled up.

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Can't go wrong with scenes like these! I love the woods.