friends

Why the Internet Can Be Good (RE: Alex Rayfiel)

The other day as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a link a friend posted that caught my eye. It had a picture of a boy named Alex, who I’d gone to high school with, attached to an article whose title didn’t quite register until after I clicked it.

When the page loaded, my face went white. Alex was sick. Recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His family had created a donation page in the hope of raising money for a radical new treatment in Israel. I read through the story his wife posted, aching for the two of them and their newly born daughter. It all sounded so completely unfair.

Now, I’d never known this guy. We’d gone to high school together for four years, and I’d seen him around from time to time, but never got to know him. In fact, I only met him once in a brief introduction from a mutual friend at our shared college. But as I read the story about the turn his life has suddenly taken, I realized I remembered him, and how, even in our lack of interaction, he’d left a mark on me.

High school is tough for everyone, often in different ways, and while I wouldn’t say I had a terrible experience, I also wouldn’t volunteer to do it all over again. I was a quiet, reserved student who stuck to what she knew and rarely felt comfortable in her own skin. That being said, Alex made me laugh.

He and his friends had participated in the talent show as the “Finger Flippers” which became legendary amongst our senior class. And during our senior luncheon, they created a video that discussed which of our classmates had celebrity lookalikes. I remember sitting at the back table, nervous as always, counting down the days until I graduated. I hadn’t been sat next to any of my friends, and I was internally apologizing to the people around me for not being more interesting. But then the lights went down and the video started, and I laughed through the whole thing. It was a genuine laugh, the kind that makes you feel lighter, and as I looked around the room at my classmates who felt the same, I felt included. Afterwards, when Alex and his friends mentioned they had plans to post the video to YouTube I took note, excited to have something positive to look back on in the future. I’d forgotten about the video over all these years, and only found it when I searched his name. When I watched it again however, it still gave me that good feeling.

So as I read through his story and then through some of the comments, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to donate, not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it felt like a way I could say thank you for giving me those moments of freedom all those years ago. And even more, allow me the opportunity to be a part of offering him the chance to experience a moment of freedom in the future. Be it through minor progress, or radical recovery.

This is the good part about the Internet. For amongst all the drama and fake personas, there also lie small bursts of goodness. There are chances to read stories of hope and resilience, chances to reconnect with old friends and family, and sometimes, chances to lend a hand to a near stranger. And so, Alex Rayfiel, while we may remain essentially strangers, I hope you know I’m praying for you, and that I’m grateful for what you gave me all those years ago, even if you had no idea. I wish you and your family all the best, and I hope the next time I find you in my Facebook feed, it will be to inform me that you’re on the road to recovery.

If you want to help Alex, you can find his donation page here.

Jeffrey’s Big Milestone

I’m not sure what the appropriate introduction song is here…

For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow? Happy Birthday? Graduation by Vitamin C? There are just so many emotions to sort through. I can’t decide which song fits the best.

In short: my car, Jeffrey, just hit 100,000 miles and I don’t know how I feel about it.

One thing I do know however, is that you should never pass up the opportunity to celebrate things like this.

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Jeff, we’ve been together for almost ten years now. We’ve been to six different states, countless cities and hundreds of Mexican restaurants. We’ve driven on practically every terrain in various levels of elevation. We’ve been in an accident. We’ve driven happy families and kind friends and wet dogs. We’ve (accidentally) ran a stop sign (or two). We’ve had flat tires and worn shocks and a broken air conditioner. We’ve run out of gas and gotten lost and found new roads we’d never seen before. And even though you might be a little worn down. Even though you might eat CD’s now and make that weird clicking noise when we’re stopped at red lights, I know you still have a lot of life in you.

I know we still have many miles to go, many places to see and many people to meet, and so today, I wish you happy 100,000th, my friend. May your tank always be full (even though I know I usually wait until the last minute and I’m sorry) and your oil always be fresh (which, now that I think about it, I should probably check…)

Here’s looking at you, kid. Here’s to another 100,000.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 7 & 8: Park City)

Just like a Saturday, the best part of a non-travel day on a road trip is the freedom to sleep in as long as you want. Now, I haven’t really been able to sleep passed 9:30 since I was about 18, but there’s something to be said about just laying there, with nowhere to be, and no one waiting on you, so that’s exactly what we did.

Around lunchtime, we made our way into town to find Bandits, one of Park City’s well-known barbeque restaurants. One highlight of this meal included a mixup in the kitchen resulting in us receiving double the garlic bread we ordered, a.k.a THE DREAM.

Afterwards we walked around a bit, briefly window-shopping the stores Main St. had to offer. We showed incredible self-control in Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, not submitting to any of the sugary, elegant, chocolate dipped treats. Though this stand would prove to be only temporary, as upon arriving home, my sister, Mel and I decided we wanted needed to make cookies that included M&Ms, sprinkles, and chocolate chips.

That night we made tacos and hung out watching one of the most incredible, most unfathomably Oscar snubbed films of our generation: the Olsen twins’, Getting There.

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As a group we could quote almost the entire movie (which we did), and like any cinematic masterpiece, it made us laugh at all the same jokes, even though we’ve heard them upwards of 20 times now.

Important Tip for a Satisfying Life: See Getting There.

After another alarm free, commitment free morning of sleep, Mel, my sister and I got in the car to make the 20 minute drive to Kamas, which is home to a Chevron station with infamously good donuts. Unfortunately I cannot confirm this countywide opinion, because upon arriving at the gas station around 11:00, the entire case of donuts was empty. It was a soul crushing defeat, but somehow, we found the will to move on.

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With our stomachs still empty, we made our way back into town to find The Backdoor Deli, another well-known eatery in the Park City area. When we walked in around 12, the shop was nearly empty, so we had plenty of time to browse the 50 sandwich menu until we all found one that suited us.

Tip: Order #46!

From there we let the day continue to get better, and let the morning disappointment in Kamas fall into the I-hate-this-10-minutes category. We saw Beauty & the Beast in theaters, we went shopping at the outlets, and we went to the High West Distillery to try some of Park City’s famous whiskey. For dinner we went to the No Name Saloon, made known to us by the should-have-been-best-picture-winner Getting There, before heading back to the house to make s’mores, take a “ski shot”, and talk about anything and everything that came to mind.

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It was the perfect end to what ended up being the perfect day, and as I lay my head down that night, knowing it was the last time I’d do so outside of my own bed, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. This road trip had been everything I’d hoped it would be, and even though it wasn’t quite over yet, I already missed it.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 6: Bend to Park City)

It was another early morning to start another long day of driving, and with the events of Saturday still looming in the far back corner of our minds, we figured it was only logical to start our day with Starbucks.

Unlike Friday’s departure from Vegas, the drive out of Bend didn’t involve buildings shrinking out of sight in the rearview mirror. It was more of a peek-a-boo. A now you see it, now you’re back in the middle of nowhere type deal.

Fortunately, the drive out was beautiful. The highway cut through a lake, thus sandwiching us between still, glassy surfaces that reflected the slow moving clouds overhead. Green surrounded us. I almost felt out of place amongst the flourishing trees and plants and seemingly endless grass.

About three hours into the drive, we made our first stop for gas, figuring you could never be too safe. And while I won’t bore you with the details of what made getting gas at this station a minor struggle, I’ll share with you the accidental lesson we took from it.

Amongst the frustration, my sister, who was doing most of the grunt work (i.e. getting out to pay for the gas), made the statement, “I hate this 10 minutes!” I, of course, started laughing, so much that I nearly honked the horn with my face. When my sister returned however, she clarified the statement, making it less hilarious and more meaningful.

“You hate this 10 minutes?” I said between laughs.

“Well yeah, I don’t want to say, ‘I hate today’, because it’s really only these 10 minutes that have been bad, the rest of the day could be great!”

Resulting tip: if you have a bad part of your day, don’t assume the whole thing is a wash.

Over the next few hours, we made a new friend in the form of the Snake River. As we made our way through Oregon towards Idaho, the Snake River ran alongside us, constantly making us “ooh” and “awe.” When we started nearing the border (which is also known as “Onion Country”) the land got flat. Trees became rare and mountains ran out into the distance. Seemingly every patch of land was freckled with cattle, some of which moved so slow (or not at all) we thought the Idaho-ians may have planted them there for good looks.

After officially crossing the border, our (no longer lonely) highway turned into an actual freeway, which brought me more joy than I would have expected. There were speed limit signs, there were billboards, there were the occasional brake checks from surrounding cars, it felt like home.

We stopped for lunch at Subway, then stopped for gas, where we met arguably the nicest man in the world. He pumped our gas for us, which is not uncommon outside of California as we’d come to find out, and asked us about our day and our trip. My sister and I were both in agreement that he was, as stated previously, the nicest man in the world, but it was hard to tell if this was true or if we were just so used the cold attitudes in Southern California that any motiveless kindness seemed unfathomable.

Side-Tip: If you’re passing through a town you think might offer a good souvenir, but don’t know where to look/what to get. Find the town’s Wal-Mart and grab yourself a hat. Not only will it make you fit in for a low price, it will also hide the fact that you’ve been sitting in the car for 8 hours and your hair is greasier than a fried Twinkie.

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As a whole, Idaho looked mostly the same. We sped down its highways gawking at the (real or fake?) cows and horses and the snowy mountains far in the distance. If I were to describe it in two words, I would probably have to say its “unmistakably Idaho”, meaning that if you blindfolded me, put me on a plane, drove me out into the middle of Ida-nowhere, I’d probably be able to identify the state. If you’ve been to Idaho, maybe you know what I mean. It just feels like one of those girls in high school that knows who they are now and who they’re going to be later. Idaho is Idaho, and I’m a fan.

Upon entering Utah, we did what anyone (and by anyone I mean only us) would do: we took a side trip to see the World’s Largest Fishing Fly!

If you’ve seen this post, you’ll know that I’ve made it a mission of mine to see all of the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions (or as I call them: WRLA’s), so when I heard we’d be passing right by the only WRLA in Utah en route to our 3rd stop, there was no other option but to pay it a visit.

 

Some tips if you ever decide to visit a WRLA:

  • It will probably be in a very strange, very random and not-always-easy-to-stop-in-front-of location
  • You will undoubtedly receive strange looks from people while you’re taking a picture in front of it
  • You should definitely ignore all those looks
  • Always buy a souvenir when available.

 

The World’s Largest Fishing Fly is in the parking lot of a flea market. There is no sign, or souvenirs, and my sister and I got the attention of a number of passing cars as we took pictures in front of it.

Here I am totally caring what they think:

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After our 5 minute, yet totally worth it stop at the Fishing Fly, my sister and I cranked out the last hour and a half of the trip to reach our friend Mel in Park City. It was just about sunset when we pulled up to her house, so we spent the next few hours talking, laughing, eating Taco Bell, and watching Friends. And like our two stops before this, Mel’s house instantly became a haven for us. We felt welcome and loved and thankful to be there, but most of all, we were excited to see what adventure this next leg of the trip would bring us.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 4 & 5: Bend)

Sweet, sweet, Bend. You are cold, but you are a place. People love you. People! You have people. And houses. And food. Oh Bend, I love you.

On Sunday morning Allison, my sister and I got up slow and made our way over to have brunch, which proved to be nothing short of a gift from God. We went to Jackson’s Corner, a local treasure, and I ordered “The Cristo” which is essentially a French Toast sandwich made of dreams and fairy dust, and a big ole pint of milk because: strong bones.

From there we headed to Cascade Distillery, which is located in the neighboring town of Sisters, where we proceeded to try just about everything they had in a very small amount of time, leaving us all feeling relaxed and warm and thankful for one another.

Tip: if you ever find yourself at the Cascade Distillery, tell them Kim sent you. They’ll probably say Kim, who? And then you can tell them about this blog post and Kim, the person who wrote it, which probably won’t ring any bells with them, because I don’t think I even told the guy my name. Then, after you realized I’ve completely pranked you, order the Wild Roots Raspberry Vodka with cream soda, it’s the best drink I’ve ever had in my life.

For the rest of the day, we did nothing short of living. On the way home from the distillery, as we all collectively frowned at the grey, rainy skies, we decided to flip mother nature the bird and have a great day with a tropical twist. We stopped at the store and got junk food, cranberry and pineapple juice, and Malibu rum, then spent the rest of the afternoon drinking, playing board games and laughing loud and hard.

That night, we went to Deschutes Brewery for dinner (where I’d highly recommend the pretzel and the 3-cheese pizza) and then headed back to the house to watch a movie. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that after dinner we all felt a little fat and bloated and kind of regretful, but mostly just happy and 100% willing to do it all over again.

The next morning had a little bit of an earlier start. Unlike my sister and I who were playing hookie for the remainder of the week, Allison had to work, so we headed over to Strictly Organic, a local coffee shop chain, to film a segment for the daytime talk show she produces.

Every Tuesday, they have a segment on the show where they interview customers in the coffee shop, in the hopes of getting a taste of the diverse population of Bend. They tape the segment on Mondays, and since we happened to be in town, my sister got to be one of the interviewees.

Here she is having a totally miserable time making her television debut:

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It was super fun! Much more of a casual conversation rather than a stiff on-camera interview, so if you ever happen to be in Bend and have an adorable blonde with a headset come up and ask if you want to be interviewed for Central Oregon Daily, say yes! You won’t regret it.

Once we were wrapped (yeah, I know TV terms), the three of us headed over to another local favorite: Sparrow Bakery. It was packed, which is always an encouraging sign for a first timer, and lived up to the hype. I ordered an Ocean Roll, which is arguably the best pastry I’ve ever eaten, and had a girl walk up to me just to say, “you look great today!” So even though it was only 9:45, with carbs and a compliment bubbling through my veins, I already knew it was going to be a great day.

Just before lunchtime, while Allison was hard at work preparing for the 3pm show taping, Natalee and I took the time to hike Pilot Butte. It’s nothing special, just a mile and half of breathing fresh, central Oregon air, with a 360-degree view of its beauty from the top, no big deal.

Here I am totally wishing I wasn’t looking out at this majestic part of the world:

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At 3 o’clock, we came back to watch Allison’s show (which she crushed) and then headed home around 4:30 for some solid lounging.

Tip: The Pacifier is currently on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, see it. If you have seen it and (like us) have forgotten how incredible it is, go watch it.

For dinner, we went to a place called “The Lot” which is a collection of delectable food trucks and a tented, heated-bench, seating area. We spent about 30 minutes devouring pad thai from “Thailandia”, all hinting but not expressing how sad it was that we were leaving the next day. But rather than harp on what was to come, we enjoyed what we had now, which proved to make the sting the slightest bit duller.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 3: Vegas to Bend)

Even with my best attempt to go to bed relatively early, the 6:00 alarm I set for Saturday morning still hurt…a lot. I hobbled around the dark room, hearing Cory’s words ringing in my head, “is there a reason why we’re awake right now?” Only this time I knew the answer was “yes”, because today, we were driving to Bend, Oregon a.k.a Stop #2.

My sister and I were on the road by 6:45, and with most of Vegas (including Cory, Amanda, and Ashlynn who were staying behind) still asleep, we saw it shrink in our rearview mirror relatively quick. I was first up on driving duty, so my sister curled up in the passenger’s seat and fell asleep, and I put my iPod on shuffle and watched the highway open up in front of me.

The world was quiet in those first few hours. Only a few cars peppered the road with us, and the only sound I heard besides the low hum of the radio was the light rain that rattled against the windshield. I sang lightly along to the different songs coming through the speakers, sometimes breaking to let my mind wander and create and question and think, and my sister slept, allowing herself to recharge, both from the two days in Vegas, and all the exhausting work days before that.

At about 12:00, we stopped for gas, and I found a t-shirt in the minimart that explained a lot about the last 5 hours of my life.

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As it turned out, that road (otherwise known as U.S. Route 50) that had almost no one on it, that road that was so quiet and serene and yes, now that I think about it, quite lonely, had been nicknamed “The Loneliest Highway in America” by Life Magazine in 1986. Needless to say, I bought that t-shirt, obviously. I felt like it described me as I truly was in that moment: heroic.

Spoiler alert: this is where things started to get a little…less heroic.

In the hours leading up to the t-shirt discovery, my sister had started to feel a little car sick. And while I’d hoped the stop at the gas station would give her body a break, when we hit the road again 15 minutes later, she looked just as distraught, but insisted we keep moving.

Fast-forward 45 minutes.

There we are, sitting side by side. My sister appears calm, possibly even feeling better, when suddenly her face makes 3 major shifts in expression.

Calm ➡️ queasy ➡️ panicked ➡️ terrified.

Let me explain.

The calm was mostly denial, which led to the honest queasiness, which made her quickly proclaim, “I’m going to be sick!” which led to the panic of puking in her lap, which caused her to roll down the window and stick her head out, which led to her quickly pulling it back in looking terrified because her prescription sunglasses had flown off and hit the pavement.

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It is here that my look matched hers, causing me to make a U-turn in the middle of the (empty/still lonely) highway, and drive back a hundred yards or so. We then spent a solid 5-10 minutes wandering down the side of the road, her on the pavement, me in the bushes, trying to locate these glasses, which, against all odds, we did!

We then got back in the car, slightly traumatized, yet neither of us blind or covered in puke, so we took that as a win and carried on.

About 5 hours later, after the events of the afternoon and a few key gas stations lay behind us, we realized we were low on fuel. And by low, I mean exponentially low. Throughout the day, every highway proved to be just as empty and lonely as the first, thus making pit stops few and far between. So when my sister’s car notified us of the mere 39 miles we had until empty, and a quick 360 look at our surroundings suggested we’d find little more than a snake and a sketchy trucker named Bob in that distance, we pulled off and turned to technology for help.

Spoiler alert: technology did little to quell the bubbling panic attacks.

A gas station? It asked. Sure, how’s one 130 miles away? Terrible, thanks.

Mind you, we were still a solid 3 ½ hours from Bend, a.k.a our second destination, a.k.a home to my best friend, Allison, who was anxiously awaiting our arrival, and had no interest in hearing about us getting murdered by a sketchy truck driver named Bob after running out of gas in the middle of a remote Oregon highway.

“Wait, I found one that says it’s 12 miles from here,” my sister said just as I was about to consider crying as a solution.

She’d forewent Apple Maps and went straight to Google with a blunt cry for help: “GAS STATIONS NEAR ME.” This had brought up Rome Station, which supposedly sat on the other side of hill in the (not quite but might as well have been) opposite direction of where we were headed.

Recap: we only had 39 miles left of gas, so if Rome Station was a bust, we’d waste 12 miles, and possibly put us somewhere even more worrisome than our current location.

To try and counteract further destruction, my sister made a phone call:

Rome Station,” a man’s voice said on the other line.

Yes, hi, are you really a gas station?

Uh, yeah.

Good, I’ll be there soon.

The next 12 miles were almost completely silent. We both kept our eyes on the road hoping, praying something would appear in the distance. At one point the navigation said, “2 miles to go” and with still nothing in sight, I was sure we were just going to find a guy standing on the side of the road with a phone and years’ worth of anticipation to finally say, “You just got pranked!” At about the half-mile mark however, a building materialized seemingly out of nowhere, with a sign out front that read “Rome Station.”

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It was old school. We parked our car next to a gas pump the 60s left behind and walked into the café/store combo to find one guy talking on the phone. It was undoubtedly the same gentleman who, 12 long miles ago, had answered a very important question, and when he turned to face us, I wondered both if he knew it was we who called him, and if we looked as desperate as we felt.

Thankfully, he proved to be polite and normal and completely lacking the grimy requests, murderous tendencies, or persistent meth offerings crime shows had prepared me for. So after we filled up, we said our thank you’s and left without having to self-defense murder the guy with the high heels we had in the backseat. I also bought this magnet to commemorate one of the most terrifying hours of my life. So all in all, it worked out.810D0723-4AA9-4C5D-A4E6-EA48D9529DAC

A few hours later, after post-traumatic/12 hour drive delirium had completely set in, my sister and I entered the town of Bend to the styling’s of Aaron Carter (a.k.a a road trip staple) and we spent a half hour describing our day to Allison and her boyfriend, Mike, who looked at us the way I imagine I would look at us if I heard the story rather than told it.

That night as I lay down, I thought of all that had happened since the last time I had lay down. Was that really only 24 hours ago? Was I even the same person I was then?

This road trip was in full swing.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 1 & 2: Vegas)

Thursday started out normal. It was just your average, run of the mill Thursday, complete with an aggravatingly early alarm, a satisfying lunch break, and a 1:30 pm food coma. But then, we escaped.

At around 5:30, me, my sister, and our cousin Ashlynn packed up the car to head to Vegas, a.k.a Stop #1. The drive was pretty standard: lots of desert and budding anxiety. One highlight included us getting off the freeway to get gas, where we passed by a “motel” that, while open, was completely pitch black. It looked like the kind of place that might feature a guy walking around asking, “hey, you wanna see a grave sized hole I dug out back?”

We arrived in Vegas around 11:15, and immediately rallied ourselves into public appropriate attire, went downstairs and lost a few dollars playing craps. Then, in an attempt to put off the impending mouth-open exhaustion sleep, we went upstairs to the Toby Keith country bar and danced our hearts out for a solid few hours. Ashlynn and I hit it especially hard, here’s a picture of us chugging pints of straight up H20.

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Let’s just say we woke up the next morning feeling prettttty, you know, hydrated

One thing that always takes a little getting used to about being in Vegas, is that it’s an afternoon to night type of town. So when we all started to move around at a normal time the next morning, despite being out late, my cousin Cory countered the movement with an appropriate, Vegas-themed argument: “Is there a reason why we’re awake right now?” And after thinking about it, we realized the answer was “no.” Thus, we commenced with prolonged lounging, and only gave this up to find food around 12:30.

After lunch, we walked around a bit, taking in the (mostly sun faded) sites Vegas has to offer during the day, before eventually settling on outlet shopping as the afternoon’s desired activity. One valuable lesson I learned there:

“High heels are good. The higher the heels the closer you are to God.” – Amanda

Later that night, after my Fitbit was thoroughly satisfied with all the steps we’d put in while shopping, my mind took that as a sign to go ahead and do Vegas up right for the remainder of the evening. And by “do up right”, I mean “do it as best I can because Vegas isn’t really my thing but I want to be a good participator.”

So, I lost money at keno, I lost money at craps, I bought a slushy alcoholic drink called a Fat Tuesday and shamelessly walked around with the souvenir cup. I stared confusedly at a Willy Wonka slot machine my cousin played on and then went nuts when it lit up lots of colors and somehow calculated that he won $500. We walked to the Bellagio to get a crepe, we took touristy pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower and made bad jokes about “going to Paris for the day”, we went back to the Willy Wonka machine with high hopes, only to walk away disappointed and kind of nauseous from watching it spin for so long, and then finally we decided to call it a night.

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Back in the hotel, I packed up my suitcase and gathered all of the miscellaneous items I’d managed to volcano around the room in only two days, then I got in bed and looked up our driving time for the next day: 12 hours 30 minutes. We didn’t really know what to expect from the drive. Would it be smooth? Would it feel quick or slow? Would it be scenic? But as I lay awake in bed, I realized that the whole draw of a road trip is the unknown. It’s a learn as you go, think on the fly, be totally vulnerable and free type of an experience, which is exactly what we were looking for.