A Travellerspoint blog

Rio Day 1

The Rio adventure began when I received a text saying Erin and Kyle got upgraded to first class on their Dallas to Miami flight. Meanwhile, it took Alyssa and me three Ubers to get to the Bush airport in Houston. Talk about juxtaposition. Sheena didn't have room for two suitcases in her tiny Lexus. Then another driver picked me up, realized he had the wrong ride when he said "you're Pat, right?" and then had to turn around to drop me back off. Then Timothy came in his SUV to save the day. Timothy and I picked up Alyssa and made it to the airport with plenty of time.

While waiting for my flight, I spotted a female of athletic build wearing an official team USA backpack and head to toe USA gear (literally to toe-- super cool red, white and blue sneakers). The tell tale sign she was a real Olympian though was the navy blue hanging back with a Polo logo on it. Inside that hanging bag, there is a red, white and blue striped shirt, navy blazer, and white cropped pants aka the official Olympic opening ceremony outfit of Team USA. Of course, she was in first class, and I was in coach so we didn't have a chance to become best friends. However, I did have an open seat next to me, so it was still a win win situation on the flight for me.

We landed in Miami and sat on the plane for 30 minutes due to a traffic jam. After deplaning, we asked an old security guard how to get to terminal J, the international terminal. The trek involved a tram with poorly labeled destinations, a few thousand stairs, leaving the terminal, an elevator, and about 5 kilometers of moving sidewalks- one of which did not work and almost resulted in Alyssa taking a tumble. Seriously, whoever designed this airport had no logistical sense. We finally arrived at the terminal where I needed to get a boarding pass and Alyssa was informed she needed a new one. Our reservations would not show up in self check in machines, so we waited in the most unorganized inefficient line behind the Papua New Guinea tae kwon do team. FYI: Papua New Guinea is near Australia, not in South America as we briefly thought. We finally got boarding passes and discovered even though we updated our TSA Pre Check information in the American Airlines system, it did not transfer to LATAM's system despite them being One Alliance airlines. So we stood like the peasants in the regular security line. Alyssa had not been through regular security in quite some time, and the security guard noticed. He joked with her and made her basically do a little dance while waiting to through the scanner.

After over an hour of trying to get to the elusive terminal J, we got through security to find out that we still weren't there and had more of a trek to go. We decided to get food before our long walk. Much to our dismay, all of the restaurants were closed in the terminal. The Ray Ban and Coach stores were open, but there wasn't any food. So we started walking to terminal J where we found a sandwich shop-- the only place offering food. So we stood in line for 15 minutes to order. They somehow forgot to make Alyssa's sandwich, and after 20 minutes, they finally made her one.

We met up with Kyle and Erin, and we took off at 11:30 pm. On the flight, I sat right behind a Jamaican Olympian. I wanted to tap him on shoulder and say "hey monnnn" but decided he probably needed to rest before his event. Fast forward 8+ hours, and we landed safely in Rio right when the entire USA track and field team along with some other miscellaneous Olympians landed. We stood behind them in customs trying to act cool while stealthily taking pictures of them. There were separate lines for tourists and athletes, but the lines kept merging at various points. We tried so hard to blend in and identify the athletes by googling Team USA over the free airport wifi. We exited the airport right behind the USA team. Athletes had to exit to the right, while we had to take a left hand turn to distinguish us as peons. The paparazzi were going crazy as team USA exited. The moment we stepped out of the airport, they stopped taking pictures immediately.
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We took a cab into the city and nearly collided with a thousand vehicles in route. On every corner, there are police with automatic weapons and armored vests standing guard. So I guess the government started paying the police force again. We arrived at our apartment which is a block from Copacabana beach and next to the Ritz. David, the owner of the apartment, met us and directed us to what he said was a good restaurant. We decided to eat lunch at his recommendation and immediately regretted it. Alyssa and I tried the pizza which had Brie cheese flavored spread stuffed crust. Yes, Brie cheese flavored spread stuffed crust. That detail was not included on the menu, and it was the most horrid crust combination ever. We gave up eating it, just as Erin gave up eating her cheeseburger that looked like t came from the St. Anne Catholic School cafeteria circa 1997.

We walked along Copacabana, freaking out every time we saw an Olympic athlete and marveling at the Cariocas (local Rio citizens) play volleyball and footvolley (volleyball+ soccer hybrid). Rumors are true- Olympic venues are not 100% complete. We saw construction workers putting final touches on the beach volleyball stadium this afternoon.

After our stroll along the beach, we were exhausted and returned to check into our apartment. Then, the payment fiasco happened. Prior to arrival, David told Kyle he would pay the remaining balance upon our arrival via PayPal. We arrived and inquired about payment, and David was acting width washy about us paying via PayPal because it charges David a fee and tax. David was worried about getting shortchanged, so Erin, Alyssa, and Kyle worked out the math while I was on the phone with my bank informing them my purchase of official Olympic gear in Rio was not a fraudulent transaction. Fun fact: Brazil is a known fraudulent country, so some banks won't set travel notifications for your credit cards including mine.

I finished my call and noticed Erin and Kyle were missing. Alyssa informed me they went downstairs to see David's friend Bob to get Bob to translate for them. Bob owns the travel agency called Blame It On Rio located below our apartment. Bob is from New York and is a talker. Alyssa and I thought Kyle and Erin would return momentarily once they settled up with David. 20 minutes passed, and Alyssa and I voiced some concern, but we just brushed it off. 15 minutes later, we started contemplating how long before we contact the US Embassy about a potential kidnapping and how to file a missing persons report with the local police. We kept watching soccer and learned that RSA doesn't stand for Russia but stands for Republic of South Africa making us feel really dumb. 15 more minutes passed, and Alyssa asked where they were. I was on Instagram stalking the Today Show cast, so I responded with "well, it looks like they were at Copacabana playing footvolley today." To which Alyssa replied, "are we talking about the same people? I am talking about Erin and Kyle, and you're talking about Matt Lauer." So I decided we should go look for Kyle and Erin, but we shouldn't stray too far from the apartment. An hour and ten minutes after Kyle and Erin initially disappeared, we were lacing up our shoes when we heard their voices in the hall. THEY WERE ALIVE!

Now, here is Erin and Kyle's story of what went down during this timeframe:
Bob was luckily missing from Blame It On Rio, so Kyle used the local internet cafe's computer to log on to his PayPal account while Erin finalized the number crunching and reassured David the math was right. Kyle had to learn how to master a Brazilian keyboard, so seven minutes later, he finally logged into his account and discovered he has to receive a text message to verify his login. Kyle doesn't have an international phone plan, so of course, he can't receive the text. His account gets locked out. Erin then logged into her PayPal account and changed her contact information so the verification text was sent to her brother who then iMessaged the verification code to her. Erin entered the code but discovered her account waslocked too, likely because she was using a public computer on a sketch internet network in Rio de Janeiro. David started panicking. Kyle suggested using Venmo but then learned David has an old school flip phone so Venmo won't work. David suggested going to Citibank to get money. Erin explained she wanted to go to a Chase bank or affiliate so she would not have to pay a withdrawal fee. As they were following David through the street, a random person came up to Kyle and said he was David's friend who worked at Citibank. Thus, Erin and Kyle get dragged to the Citibank. They discovered the withdrawal limit is 1,000 reals plus a $25 withdrawal fee. We needed 7,000 reals. Finally, Erin decided to call her mom Barb, and Barb saved the day. Barb logged into her PayPal account and sent David the money. Then Barb realized she accidentally used her work credit card; however it still went through. Erin and Kyle returned and explained this whole debacle. Alyssa informed them she works at an international bank and could have assisted, and I informed them I had just used my PayPal account without any problems. Of course, the two people with working PayPal accounts and banking assistance were just watching soccer in the apartment and wondering when we should file a missing person report while all this happened.

To end our long day of travel, we went to Santa Teresa (Rio neighborhood nestled in the hills with lots of winding cobblestone roads) for dinner. My friend suggested Aprazivel for dinner. It feels like a tree house. There are multiple levels of outdoor seating amongst the trees with a great view of the city. After our failure of a lunch, we were thrilled to have a delicious meal of steak and Brazilian wine. We have decided we will only eat at places that serve pão de queijo aka Brazilian cheese bread. Three times during this meal, we were served another table's food. The waiters tried to convince me I ordered a chocolate cake for dessert when I knew I ordered the ice cream with roasted banana. Erin's dessert called love strawberries was given to us originally, but then, the waiter realized it too belonged to the other table. For some reason, it cracked Erin up that the little boy ordered the love strawberry. She laughed so hard and spewed wine on Alyssa's eyeglasses. A few moments later, I realized I had received some of the spray. Good thing, I wore my rain jacket. They sorted it all out, and the meal was delicious. When we were leaving, we saw a lady with a Deloitte name tag. Knowing Deloitte had sent professionals to the Olympics, we struck up a conversation with her. After all, Erin works at Deloitte, and I recently left the firm. This lady had zero interests in talking to us, so we wished her safe travels and headed home so we could rest up for day two of Rio!

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Posted by lsto90 03:25 Archived in Brazil Tagged olympics rio_2016 Comments (0)

Rio Ready

If you're anything like me, you have spent your summer watching every Olympic trial, following Olympic hopefuls on social media, anxiously awaiting the release of the P&G Thank You Mom Rio campaign, buying American flag clothing on Amazon, praying Bob Costas doesn't end up with pink eye again, trying to decide how you feel about the Ralph Lauren opening ceremony boat shoes, and brainstorming hashtags for your trip to Rio. If you didn't spend your summer remotely interested in any of the above, you have a few days to catch up and get on board with my Olympics enthusiasm before the opening ceremonies on August 5. Every two years, I postpone my life to dedicate every waking moment to following the Olympics, and this year, I am taking it to a new level of obsession by venturing to Rio de Janeiro to watch the Olympics in person. Upon return, I plan on watching reruns of all prime time coverage. The Olympics are not the Olympics without commentary and special interest stories that bring you to tears by Bob Costas, Rowdy Gains, Mary Carillo, and other NBC fixtures.

Moving on, my three travel companions for this adventure are Erin (you may remember her from Iceland and NYC to name a few) and Alyssa (see Peru and Breckenridge). The third Rio ready travel partner is Kyle. All you need to know about Kyle is that he wrote thank you letters to the hosts of the first college house party he attended- yes, a thank you letter for a college rager. Emily Post would be so proud.

While I am super excited about Rio, my parents are freaking out about my trip. They are frightened by what I hope is just overhyped media coverage of Zika, dismembered body parts found on beaches, police strikes, healthcare shortages, flesh eating bacteria contaminated waters, unfinished Olympic venues and infrastructure, terrorism, and overall political and economic turmoil in Rio. They begged me to cancel my trip. They sent an article a day about the latest Rio related disturbance to dissuade me. They even bribed me to cancel by fully reimbursing my trip if I chose to stay home. Of course, my dad knew his attempts were futile because he, too, was once young and dumb. Some may even argue the latter still applies. My mom gave up her attempts too and instead switched to focus on my survival. I now have enough bug spray to supply the entire USA Olympic team of 550+ athletes for the duration of the games. As Gabby Douglas so eloquently stated, "I don't care about no stupid bugs." I'll forgive Gabby for the poor grammar and still share my bug spray with her. She was likely too busy training for the Olympics to attend her grade school English classes. Lastly to appease my mom, I got a last minute typhoid vaccine. I played enough Oregon Trail in elementary school to know you don't want to mess with typhoid. The typhoid vaccine is good for two years which means I am only traveling to places where typhoid is prevalent for the next two years. Anyone want to join?

We are a few days out from our departure, and we are Rio ready. We have our Olympic tickets, the aforementioned insect repellent and American flag attire, a selfie stick because every tacky tourist needs one, and very little knowledge of Portuguese. I once met a Brazilian version of George Clooney in line outside of the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. Perhaps, it was the constant sugar coma I was in from consuming the trifecta of Italian desserts (tiramisu, gelato, and cannolis) that made him look like George. Regardless, Brazilian George taught me the only useful word in my Portuguese lexicon. "Obrigado" means "thank you," and I hope that's all I need to know to successfully navigate Rio because I don't think my other three vocabulary words -- cabra (goat), quijo (cheese), and pão (bread)-are going to be very helpful when I wander into a foreign protest amidst police in riot gear for the third time, Alyssa undoubtedly falls into a cactus while being chased by cattle through the wilderness, Kyle catapults off his bike and lands unconscious in a favela on our bike tour, Erin ends up with a fractured sternum after being judo flipped by an Olympian. Yes, the aforementioned scenarios are all based on real life events. May the odds be ever in our favor.

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Here are the usual caveats for this blog:

  1. Please ignore any typos or grammatical errors. Per the usual, the blog is being written on my iPhone. I try.
  2. This caveat mainly applies to my parents: I will post at my leisure, assuming we have wifi in the apartment we rented which is assuming the apartment we rented wasn't a scam... Lots of assumptions playing into the trip, and you know what they say when you assume....

Cue "Waka Waka" by Shakira (in my mind, the 2010 World Cup song is applicable for every international sporting event. Simply change "Africa" to "Brasilia," and it works), because it is almost time for Rio 2016!

Posted by lsto90 07:06 Archived in USA Tagged brazil rio_de_janeiro olympics_2016 rio_2016 Comments (0)

Racecation, it's a thing.

Some people go on vacation; we go on racecation. In October, Kayla, Sam, and I ran the Chicago Marathon. Once our sore legs recovered, we decided it was time for another race vacation--a racecation, that is. Kayla, Sam, and I signed up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. This is the largest half marathon in the country. It sells out immediately; thus, we moved work meetings around to ensure we were on our computers when the registration opened, and we secured coveted spots to run 13.1 miles with 27,000 other crazy people.

Our friend Erin decided to tag along to eat at Shake Shack and explore NYC with us. We arrived Friday afternoon, checked in at the Grand Hyatt in midtown that Sam booked with some of her Hyatt points (gotta love friends with consultant lifestyles and hotel points), and headed to Brooklyn Bridge Park for packet pick up. From the park, there is a great view of the Manhattan skyline.

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We then walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, passing the original Grimaldi's pizza on the way. It took us, four CPAs with masters degrees, a few minutes to figure out how to actually get on the Brooklyn Bridge. Luckily, Google saved the day and routed us to the stairs that were clearly labeled and only a few feet in front of us. We walked the mile long bridge along with every tourist in the city. PSA: In the USA, it is a common courtesy to walk on the right hand side. Another PSA: It is a common courtesy to not walk 4 people abreast in one direction on a path that is wide enough for 2 people.

Of course, no other tourist was aware of the above public service announcements, or maybe they did but were too preoccupied taking their wannabe model pictures on the bridge causing all sorts of congestion.

After having many tourists walk right into me as they refused to form a single file line, we remembered how little tolerance we have for crowds, and we started speed walking our way to the end. Midway through our stroll, we got a guy to take our picture. He had an accent and said "I took three" as he handed the camera back to Erin; however, Erin misunderstood him and laughed in his face. A few seconds later, we asked why she laughed at the nice guy, and she said it was because he said "trick or treat." Clearly, there was a language barrier in place.

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We then walked through Chinatown and avoided the hawkers trying to sell us knock off purses. We observed that there is an invisible barrier between Chinatown and Little Italy. The moment you turn on to Mulberry, the purse salesmen disappear.

We ate dinner at Angelo's of Mulberry owned by Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey (RHONJ) Teresa Aprea's husband. We did not know this fun fact because we don't watch RHONJ; however, Kayla's mom notified us this with quite the enthusiasm. Being the lively 20 somethings we are, we headed back to the hotel which was located by Grand Central station. Before heading to bed at 9 pm, we stopped to stare at the main concourse of Grand Central and its ceiling. In Erin's words, "humans amaze me." Seriously, though, that concourse is beautiful and has withstood the test of time since it was built in 1903.

Saturday morning, we woke up at 4:45 am to get ready and catch a 5:30 am train to Brooklyn. Before departing the hotel, we had to switch out our room keys due to some weird Hyatt reservation system. Of course, at 5:15 am, they were training a new guy, and even though we said we were in a rush, the trainer did not step in to expedite matters. We luckily made our 5:30 train, as there weren't any other trains that would get us to Brooklyn before bag check closed. We were a little concerned we were not on the right train, but as hoards of runners boarded, we assumed we were headed the right way and just followed the pack of runners to the starting line.

One thing the Brooklyn Half did well was the porta potty set up. They had tons of Royal Flush porta potties in each corral which meant 0 lines. Fantastic job, Brooklyn Half. Other than the porta potties, the race was a little subpar. The course consisted of 7 miles looping in and out of Prospect Park. Prospect Park is very pretty and green, but after a mile of green trees, it would be nice to see a change of scenery. But, no, the race committee decided we needed to see 7 whole miles of green trees. Then there was a straight away down a highway to Coney Island. Imagine running down I-45 from Houston to The Woodlands--a really scenic view of nothing.

Another problem this Texas girl had with the course was hills. I don't have hills to train on here in Houston, and while these hills were baby ones that were gradual inclines, they really messed with my pacing.

The race ended on the Coney Island boardwalk where Erin met us. Sam needed a Nathan's hotdog to channel her inner Joey Chestnut, and she and Erin followed their hotdogs with a ride on the Cyclone which is a wooden roller coaster built in 1927. After fighting with a 50 year old man who cut them in line to steal the front seat, Erin and Sam settled for a back seat and managed to keep their hot dogs down.

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We headed back to Manhattan around noon and noticed people moving away from us on the subway. I guess we didn't smell too good after 13.1 miles of running, so we showered before heading to Chelsea Market where we accidentally each ordered four slices of pizza and proceeded to eat all four. No regrets. Chelsea Market is like an upscale food court. It is housed in the former Nabisco factory that was built in the 1890s and later invented the Oreo.

We then took a walk on the High Line where we further were irritated by groups of slow walkers. It started to sprinkle a little as we walked through the West Village and Greenwhich Village to Smith's in the East Village where we were meeting Kellie and Grace-- two old PPA friends who live in NYC for dinner. We got inside right as the downpour started and sipped on cocktails until our reservation. Luckily the rain stopped by the time dinner was over, and Kellie guided us to the highly acclaimed ice cream shop called Big Gay Ice Cream where their ice cream is aptly named after Golden Girl characters.

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After some ice cream, we bid adieu to Kellie and Grace and headed back to the hotel. In total, we had covered about 24 miles on foot and were exhausted.

Sunday started with 8 am mass at St. Patrick's. Every Catholic church should a take a note from St. Patrick's 8 am mass and get their mass time down to 37 minutes. It was a quick in and out mass. We wandered around Radio City Music Hall, the NBC studios, and Time Square so Erin who had never been to NYC could see the highlights. We enjoyed brunch at Sarabeth's before heading to the 9/11 museum. We spent 2.5 hours in there and could have spent more time. Word of advice: do the history of 9/11 exhibit first.

I then headed to the worst airport in the USA, La Guardia, to head back to Texas. I believe Joe Biden likened La Guardia to a third world country. Joe's comparison is a little overdramatic, but I saw some similarities. I was so happy to get out of La Guardia until I boarded the plane with 113 middle schoolers returning from a field trip to NYC which reinforces my career decision to stray as far away from childhood education as possible by becoming a number crunching accountant who sits in absolute silence the majority of the day. I made it home without complaining to a flight attendant about the noisy children like the crotchety 80 year old inside of me wanted to do; thus, I deemed the trip in its entirety a success.

Posted by lsto90 20:02 Comments (0)

Q4 2015 Adventures

Since my last post, I have been on two trips in Q4 2015 (yes, I measure the year in fiscal quarters. It comes with being an auditor). The first was to Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon with two college friends, Sam and Kayla. It was my first marathon, and I am still too exhausted from it to write about the entire weekend. The highlights are:
-We all finished!
-I did better than expected and beat Oprah's time of 4:29:15 she set in 1994, and I beat Bill Rancic's time from this year.
-There is a blue line on the marathon course that marks the shortest path to the finish line. I signed up to run 26.2 miles, not any further, so I hugged that blue line the entire race.
-Miles 1-20 are no problem (assuming you trained). Miles 20-26.2 are the worst. They say if you can run 20 miles, you can definitely run 26.2 miles. That is true, but those 6.2 miles will be extremely painful. Word of advice from a one-time marathoner: train more than 20 miles.
-Lastly, it takes about 3 days after a marathon to walk normally again.

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The final trip I ventured on in 2015 was the second annual friends ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. The trip was officially dubbed Brecking Crew Round 2 because that is what happens when you vacation with a dozen Aggies who are used to chanting Wrecking Crew around Aggies.

The trip began with us running into Alyssa's ex boyfriend at the airport, and yes, as events typically go in Alyssa's life story, the ex and his new girlfriend were on our flight to Denver. We were flying Southwest which has open seating, so there was a temporary panic that there would only be one open seat on the plane when the ex boarded, and that seat would be next to Alyssa. Unfortunately for the bystanders but fortunately for Alyssa, the gods showed a little mercy and prevented that from happening.

Trey arrived early in Breck and went to Breckenridge Brewery alone while waiting for us. The rest of us arrived late in Breck and Skiwatch Condos where we had rented a 3 bedroom condo with heated bathroom floors (I want these in my apartment) where we fell asleep after scarfing down some pizza.

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The next two days followed a similar pattern: wake up early because we are all young professionals morphing into our parents who can no longer sleep late (thanks corporate America), hit the slopes where we all split up and skied with whomever we wanted, ate a lot (after all, we exercised all day long), and ended the day with some fireside chats (similar to FDR's fireside chats) before going to bed at a reasonable hour. We sure are wild.

On night two, we went to Breck Brewery, and sure enough, the waiter remembered Trey being there solo the night before. He was relieved Trey had friends. At Breck Brewery, a customer dropped his hat behind s shelving unit. They were standing by our table as they were trying to fish the hat out from behind the shelves. They spent at least 15 minutes trying to retrieve the hat in which during one man's butt crack was exposed to the entire restaurant. A. butt crack is never an appetizing site. B. They put in a considerable amount of effort to retrieve what was probably a $10 hat. Not worth it.

A big topic of conversation centered around Mason's astonishment that some girls will go on dates just for the free meals. Some may say that is rude and manipulative. Others may say it is economical. Most of us supported the latter theory. A girl has got to eat, right?

Liz's friend Amy joined us after Breck Brew, and since she was an outsider, we naturally had to ask her absurd questions to get to know. If Amy was the last person on earth, she would choose to hang out in a hot tub with Kathy Bates. We don't know how we got on that topic, but we did. For those of you who don't know, Kathy Bates was on Titanic and a ton of other movies, but you probably know her best for her role as the tutor in the Blind Side. At least, that's the movie reference that solved all of our confusion. Amy was the only one who knew who Kathy Bates was.

On day 2 of skiing, it snowed all day. White out conditions convinced a lot of us to take long breaks or go in early. Trey took a tumble and ended up with an awesome black eye. Alyssa and Scott got stranded on a lift for 10 minutes and luckily didn't turn into icicles. This was very fortunate as Scott had entered the annual Santa Run slated for that afternoon.

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Scott, Andy, Erin, and Megan donned Santa suits and ran a 3/4 mile race. Scott placed first which was absolutely hilarious. He won a stunning bedazzled Viking helmet that made it back through security without any questions asked by TSA.

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All in all, it was a successful trip full of fun, skiing, Adele's "Hello," and some "Hotline Bling." In the words of Scott (retold by Alyssa), "Until next time, Breck, pow pow."

Posted by lsto90 21:16 Archived in USA Tagged chicago marathon breckenridge Comments (0)

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

The time has come for the 6 year friendaversary trip! Back story: sophomore year at Texas A&M, I went on a Business Honors trip to Boston. These 5 girls happened to go on the trip too. We met, became best friends, and now celebrate our friendaversary each fall. This year's celebration took place in the Mile High City where Megan has been living for almost a year.

Thursday night, Kelly, Erin, and I arrived in Denver. Of course, my flight was delayed, so when I arrived I had a welcoming committee at the baggage claim. After a few failed attempts at trunk Tetris, we loaded all of our bags in Megan's car and headed pass the possessed horse statue toward Denver, jamming to Taylor Swift the whole time. We settled into Megan's apartment in Capitol Hill. Megan describes her apartment building as a "Corp Dorm." The outside did resemble it a bit, but her little apartment was cute and quaint. After unpacking, we heard a noise from the kitchen. Erin said, "oh, it was just the ice maker." Megan said, "I don't have an ice maker." Cue the scary movie music. We checked the refrigerator and found out Megan's beer had fallen over in her refrigerator.

A month ago, Sam suggested we climb a 14er. We all agreed to cross this item off the bucket list. At 4:30 am Friday, we woke up to embark on our first Denver adventure: climbing a 14er. Then panic set in: how on earth will a girl who lives basically at sea level survive at 14,000 feet of elevation after 8 hours of acclimating to Colorado altitude?

We met up with Sam and Paul who had arrived late at night and their cousin Chuckie to head to Mount Bierstadt about an hour outside the city. Megan and Chuckie have hiked 14ers before, but the rest of us were novices. We were slightly afraid of this trek, but we were even more frightened by the compost toilet at the trailhead.

Around 6:30, we started out on our 7 hour hike in 30-40 degree weather. Note to everyone climbing a 14er: bring gloves. The trail starts going downhill... Because that makes total sense. Let's go downhill to make our ascent to 14,060 feet even longer. After our descent, we took a little break to take off some layers. Paul decided his hiking pants were too warm and chose to strip down to his leggings for the duration of the hike. In the process of stripping, he fell into some bushes. That's when we realized this whole hike was going to be a mess.

We climbed and climbed following our fearless legging clad leader and making frequent stops along the way. Mount Bierstadt has two false summits. The second one is the one that makes you angry. Rude joke, Mother Nature. In my opinion, the 14er started off much easier than I expected. Then again, 3 of us are training for marathons, so we are actually in decent cardio shape. Then after we got to about 13,000 feet, I noticed some signs of altitude: a head ache, swollen hands, the feeling of breathing with a trash bag over my head, etc. We charged on, taking even more frequent breaks.

At the very top, we had to climb over talus which is just a fancy mountaineering word for giant rocks and boulders. We made it to the summit, took lots of pictures, befriended a group of Alabama fans, and then decided it was time to get off the mountain before the afternoon storm rolled in.

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The walk down was even worse than the walk up. The parking lot was so far away, and we were all tired by that point. We returned to Denver, grabbed some sandwiches, and then waited at Megan's for Jenny to arrive.

Jenny, our token friend who doesn't like the outdoors, decided to join us in Denver post-14er. She took an Uber from the airport and shared us the details of her ride. We knew her driver was Oey, so we watched out the window for Oey to arrive. Jenny and Oey arrived, and we noticed Oey got out and was rolling an ice chest up to Megan's apartment. Umm, why does Jenny have an ice chest? Is she delivering an organ for a transplant? Then, it dawned on Kelly and me. A few weeks ago, we Houstonians discussed transporting Blue Bell ice cream to Denver so our friends who don't live in Blue Bell distribution areas could have some of this delicacy. Kelly and I gave up on the idea since it seemed like a logistical nightmare. Jenny, being the good friend she is, found a way to check an ice chest of Blue Bell on a Southwest flight.

After we settled down from all the Blue Bell excitement, we went to Breckenridge Brewery for dinner. Our drive to dinner was when we realized Denver Uber drivers are nuts. Our driver ran a red light and nearly broke down into tears about her boyfriend problems.

On Saturday, we stopped at a quintessentially hipster coffee shop called Thump. Then, we went to Red Rocks and marveled at all the crazy people exercising at the amphitheater. Jenny did one box jump, I sprinted up one ramp, and as a group, we decided that was enough of a work out for everyone. Off to Denver Beer Co., we went to indulge in a post "work out" beer. My favorite part about this place was they offered free sunscreen to patrons sitting on the patio. My rheumatologist and dermatologist and fair skin grandmother who always said I should wear sunscreen would love Denver Beer Co. for protecting our skin! After some beer, we ate at Avanti. Avanti is a fancy food court, or as the hipsters call it, "a collective eatery." Unfortunately, not all the vendors are open at lunch; however, we did find some delicious food at the other vendors. I knew I needed to carbo load for the intense work out I was going to have that night at Taylor Swift, so I downed half a pizza.

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After carbo loading, we started the prep phase for the Taylor Swift concert. Luckily, our friend Liz let us use her apartment to get ready too. 6 girls in a one bathroom apartment is not ideal, so huge thanks to Liz!

At the beginning of the year, someone decided we should dress up as Taylor Swift's many characters in her "Shake It Off" video. Naturally, we committed to this idea. Even more naturally, I chose the one normal outfit that can also double as business casual. In summary, I looked like my friends' chaperone as they all wore crazy, yet fantastically put together costumes. We then Ubered to the Pepsi Center for the concert. Fittingly, our Uber driver was tattooed head to toe and drove a jacked up Tahoe that was blaring Kanye and other rappers I had never heard of before. He asked what was going on at the Pepsi Center. When I said there was a Taylor Swift concert, I would have expected him to take a hint that rap was not our preferred genre of music. Nope, he didn't get the hint. Instead, we rolled up to the Taylor Swift concert bumping to some hardcore rap while all the Tweens and their moms lined up outside the arena.

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Children ogled at our costumes. They shamelessly took pictures of us without saying anything. Gosh, we were the coolest 25 year olds there, at least according the kids who were in awe of us. We did find some other groups dressed as Taylor's "Shake It Off" video. I confidently can say their costumes didn't even come close to being as good as ours were. After our adoring fans stopped taking pictures of us, we danced and sang the entire night with our best friend Taylor Swift, the seventh member of our best friend group.

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We were more tired and sore from Taylor's concert than from a 14er. So we summoned an Uber XL which turned out to be falsely advertised and ended up with Kelly and Jenny sitting in the trunk of the Trailblazer and is giving the guy a 1 star review.

Sunday, we ventured to Snooze for the best and highest calorie brunch I have ever had. If you ever go to Snooze (opening in Texas soon!), get the peanut butter cup pancake. You won't regret it! Well, you totally will regret it once you are in a food coma, but that is a small price to pay.

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Sam, Kelly, Paul, and I decided we needed to walk off brunch while the others napped. We circled around Cheeseman Park, and by the time we returned to Megan's, everyone was coming out of their food comas. We headed downtown, stopping at some of Megan's favorite spots. Katy Mueller, an Irish pub, was excellently situated to watch the Anime Convention goers traverse downtown in anime costumes. We stopped at the Tattered Cover, a secondhand bookstore, before the Cruise Room which was Denver's first post Prohibition bar. We went to Union Station to devour ice cream from the Milk Box because dessert before dinner, which was at Euclid Hall, is always a good idea. Liz stopped by to chat which was fun. I introduced Megan and Liz when we randomly ran into Liz in Iceland. Small world how they are now good Denver friends!

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Monday rolled around, and Kelly was the first to depart at the crack of dawn. I luckily scheduled my flight to be after a morning breakfast at Voodoo Doughnut. Again, dessert at any time of the day is okay by me! Liz drove Jenny and me to the airport which concluded my involvement in the Friendaversary 2015 trip. Per the usual, it was another fantastic reunion of the best friends I could have ever found at the business school at A&M.

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Posted by lsto90 20:10 Archived in USA Tagged mount colorado denver texas taylor swift a&m bierstadt 14er Comments (0)

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