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For as long as I can remember, every time a year came to an end I would curse it, spit at it, then kick it in the groin and declare good riddance as I eagerly awaited for the ball to drop to finally put that crap year out of its misery.
But for the first time that I can remember, I’m actually sad to see the year go. Where the Zeros continuously served up one tall glass after another of FAIL, 2010 instead turned out to be a refreshing bowl of WIN, topped off with a sugary dose of AWESOME.
So what made this year so special? Well…
- It began with my first ever trip to Boston last February. I had so much fun that I was effectively bitten by the travel bug, and I knew my life would never be the same again. My blog would also complete its metamorphosis from a blog where I whined about my failure of a life, to a blog about traveling and geocaching. Although I still whine every now and then, just to a slightly lesser degree. :-D
- After that trip, I invested in completely upgrading my desktop for the first time in 8 years. I now have a powerhorse that can not only play all the latest games but also makes it SO much easier for me to work on my many blogging projects.
- By this time (after purchasing my new computer) I was breaking records with the income I was generating from my blog. 2010 would prove to be the most lucrative year I’ve ever had in terms of sponsorships, revenues and giveaways I received as a direct result of blogging.
- Then came the long awaited GPS cradle for the iPod Touch that I had been pining to get my hands on for months. This was one of the most CRUCIAL purchases I have ever made. It not only made it feasible to use my iPod for geocaching, but it also powered all my geolocation apps from Whrrl to Navigon. It allowed me to do everything I ever wanted to do with an actual iPhone, at least until it finally becomes available on the Verizon network (hopefully next month!)
- And then came… the MACBOOK. If 2010 had been nothing but a pit of death and destruction, my MacBook’s arrival alone would have ensured that 2010 would still go down as the GREATEST year in history.
- Although not as important or exciting, It’s still worth noting that this was the year my car received its 60,000 mile service. It’s one of the most extensive (and expensive) service jobs to ever have done for your car, but once it was out of the way I was confident I could rely on my beautiful ride for another 60,000 miles, as well as for the future road trips I was planning.
- 2010 also marked the first time I ever went to a Drive-In movie theater. The movie sucked, but the food was teh awesum.
- I would finally, at long last, transform my wardrobe from Walmart drags to Banana Republic/Gap awesomeness. Let it be known that from now on if a girl rejects me, I will at least have the consolation of knowing it wasn’t because I was donning a $5 sweatshirt from Wally World.
- I also joined Collective Bias, a marketing agency that opened doors for new sponsorships, new possibilities for generating revenue for my blog, as well as a trip to Las Vegas to attend BlogWorld.
- In October I began my first ever road trip, traveling over 4,000 miles to at least 14 different states. and at least 20 different cities. The experience will stay with me forever.
- I experienced my first ever car accident too, just outside of Columbus, Ohio.
- I hadn’t flown on an airplane since I was 14, but that streak was finally broken when I flew to Vegas to attend BlogWorld with my friend Casey. It was also the first time I have ever gone on a flight on my own.
- And of course, VEGAS! Easily one of the noisiest, busiest and most unbearable cities I have ever been to. Not even the buffets could lure me back there again. The trip to Vegas also marked the first time I’ve ever attended a major conference like BlogWorld as well.
- After 7 or more years, I would finally meet one of my closest friends, Casey, who discovered my previous blog circa 2003, and has been a thorn on my side ever since. :-D While in Arkansas I had the pleasure of meeting his wife, kids and parents, and in a unusual twist of fate we met up again only a few weeks later, this time on my home turf in New York. For you Psych enthusiasts, I am the Shawn to his Gus, and occasionally vice versa, although we don’t know what started first. It’s like the chicken or the egg, minus the chicken. And possibly the egg.
- While in Las Vegas I could honestly say the biggest highlight of my trip was meeting Bailey of MakeoverMomma.com. To meet such a beautiful woman who was also hearing impaired like me, but so fiercely determined not to let that keep her down was inspiring. Meeting her family was also a treat and gives me a reason now to visit Virginia in the future. I am so blessed to have her as a friend as well.
- And finally, I would close the year out with a trip to New Hampshire for an early Christmas getaway, where I took an unbelievable driving tour of the gorgeous White Mountains and feasted on the bestest nachos and pancakes evahs!!11!1 The trip also gave me the occasion to meet yet another Internet friend, who by now I’m sure regrets that decision. LOL, I keed, I keed… I hope.
After all that, it makes me wonder how 2011 will stack up in comparison. Can the new year continue to carry the torch of awesomeness just as 2010 did? There’s certainly a lot expected to happen for 2011 that makes me hopeful. For one, it will mark the arrival of the iPhone on Verizon. YES, YES, THANK YOU GOD, YES.
Not only that but I will probably purchase my first iPad too when the second generation comes out, completing my trifecta of owning an iPhone, MacBook and iPad. I will be an unstoppable force of ubergeekness then.
I also have a few trips and meetups planned already, beginning with a meetup with Bailey in the city in January, then again in February when she comes to attend the fashion show. I trust by then she can sneak me in so I can ensconce myself in a sea of the world’s hottest models, where any one of them could be looking for a downtown man like me. Just like Billy Joel says, so it must be true! :-D
After that I would immediately flee New York (on Valentine’s Day no less) for a trip to Portland, Maine (and possibly beyond), a return to New Hampshire for a day or two, and finally a four day stay at Boston, where everybody knows my name, and they’re always glad I came.
March will be even crazier with a flight to Texas(!!!), where I meet up with Casey again at SXSW for a few days of Texan BBQ, funsies, and possible new networking contacts (read: people who can save me from my current dead-end job.) After SXSW I might rent a car and take a drive from Austin to Dallas for a few extra days of sightseeing around the state before returning home.
In April or May I’m planning another trip to Tennessee for a week long stay in the Smokies, hoping this time around I’ll have a chance to explore Knoxville and some of the surrounding areas before vegging out once again in a gorgeous luxury log cabin. Tee hee. It will also give me a chance to stay in Virginia for a night and meet Bailey and her family again (at which point I have to think that they’re all going to get sick of me by then, lolz.)
After that things get a little fuzzy. There’s a travel blog conference taking place in Vancouver in June and as much as I want to visit the city, I’m not sure it might be worth the investment then. There’s also the tornado chasing expedition I want to join in late June or July in Colorado, something I need to keep hush hush because my mother would be very upset if she knew what I was up to.
I do know it’s a given I’m going to be in either Colorado or somewhere in the Rockies for my 35th birthday in August, because there is absolutely no way in HELL that I am going to be celebrating that here in stinky New York.
2011 could also possibly be the year I travel abroad for the first time. My friend Casey will be traveling to Germany sometime in the fall and I may (permission pending) tag along for the ride, presuming there’s enough room in the trunk to hold me.
The only downside I’m seeing for 2011 has to do with my blog. Despite the record breaking year I had in generating income from it, my traffic level actually went DOWN by 10 percent for the year, and Google reduced my ranking from a PageRank of a studly 5 to a paltry 3, effectively setting all my efforts to bring in traffic back 2 years. Thanks Google! Motherf—- but anyhow, something will have to give in 2011, otherwise my blogging income will eventually evaporate, along with my dreams of becoming a full-time and self-employed blogger AND my ability to travel on a semi-regular basis.
For 2011, it’s make or break time. Bring it, baby.
A little over a week ago my friend from Arkansas had to do another business trip for Murphy USA, this time to New York. I had already visited him on his turf in Arkansas, and now he would be visiting mine.
After picking him up at LaGuardia, we headed into the city towards the Marriott where he was staying, where I promptly got trapped in the traffic surrounding Times Square. Yeesh.
I haven’t been to Times Square in a while, and now I remember why: the constant soliciting and the immense crowds were a far departure from the quieter financial district downtown, where I usually hung out on the weekends.
Still, at least it wasn’t Vegas. :-D
We had a chance to visit a few stores and then ride the subway uptown to Rockefeller Center. Our timing was impeccable: it was election night and the NBC building was ablaze in patriotic colors. I loved how the lighting hit the autumn colored leaves and tried to capture as much of it as I could with my camera.
You know, I actually like Manhattan, and despite our drug induced moonbattery in trying to emulate California in all our crazy ways, it occurred to me that the only part of New York that I absolutely and truly despised was Long Island. I loved upstate, I loved Manhattan, heck I even like Staten Island. But Long Island? May a tidal wave either bury it or an earthquake plunge it into the inner depths of the Earth’s core. Alas, the pure venom that I spew at the very mention of the polluted filth that is Long Island is something I will have to reserve for another day.
Showing my friend around, I realized how much I miss being in the city, and if I had my way I’d be here nearly every day. Unlike a quick jaunt into Cincinnati though or another likewise midwestern city, it easily costs me $20 and more just to get to downtown. The Long Island Railroad charges $8 each way (and that’s off peak, mind you) while to drive would cost me about $10 in gas, and then from there another $15 to God only knows how much for parking. It’s a disgrace, and only adds to the misery and the feeling of being trapped out here.
Still, I got a bad case of the wanderlust. Even if it was just the city next door, I would take any kind of change in scenery just to keep myself from going insane.
This post covers the events from October 19th to the 21st, during my stay in the Smoky Mountain region.
There was so much to see in this region I couldn’t NOT take a peek around. The worst thing about it though was that it was obviously peak season, and if that weren’t bad enough, apparently there was a college football game going on that upcoming weekend between Tennessee and Alabama. There were Alabama plates everywhere with face painted drivers at the helm showing their colors. Oy. Traffic and crowds abounded at every corner, clogging up the roads and generally giving me unwelcome reminders of the sprawling mess I have to deal with on a regular basis back home.
I did notice if I left late enough in the day all the old fogies that were typically clogging up the roads would instead be turning in for the night at the ungodly hour of 8PM. :-D That left me with just enough room to skip around town and explore virtually all the attractions I could.
It wasn’t long before I realized a lot of it was geared towards the kids (such as the go-kart speedways and arcades), but I was pleased to see miniature golf courses also abounded.
I also enjoyed some of the gift shops here, one of which had some of the most hilarious sounding names for hot sauces I’ve ever come across.
Ironically, I never got the chance to visit the area’s biggest attraction, Dollywood, which I would have to put off for another time.
Visiting Gatlinburg was a complete accident in my case, I had originally thought I was driving into the Smoky Mountain Park, only to realize it was leading me right into town. Unfortunately I had done this in the late afternoon during my last day here, and the traffic was absolutely unbearable. Moving through Gatlinburg was like driving around Times Square in Manhattan. The cars barely moved, and the crowds were astronomical. As much as I wanted to get out and walk around, I was irked beyond measure by how congested the area was. Exploring Gatlinburg would have to wait until I can return during an off season.
Disappointed, I swung around and eventually crept out of the area back towards Pigeon Forge. I decided to keep going until I reached the tip of Sevierville, where I discovered Dolly Parton’s statue in front of the local courthouse and gave her a nice little rub for good luck.
By this time I had explored as much of the Dollywood-inspired region as I could possibly manage in the span of three days, but it was now time to retire and enjoy one last night in my cabin before I would leave once again, this time towards Asheville in North Carolina. Dashing up the mountains before the sun set, I switched on the fireplace again and curled up with a book, occasionally looking up to watch the sun set over the mountains.
I then went upstairs for another extended soak in the jacuzzi, gazing at the stars and wondering if I could ever own a log cabin like this some day. I closed my eyes and drifted away, dreaming of distant places, of a new life far away from New York, of a beautiful girl who might or might not exist.
This post covers the events on October 19th, when I finally reach the Smoky Mountain region and checked into my cabin for the first time.
Traffic really started to get congested the minute I hit Sevierville. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this particular region that Dollywood helped to immortalize is actually distinguished by three cities, beginning first with Sevierville, then Pigeon Forge, which provided the heart of the area’s attractions, and finally Gatlinburg, which is actually separated from the other two cities by a small mountainous strip of the Smoky Mountain Park. I wasn’t actually aware of Gatlinburg’s proximity until a few days later when I explored the region a little bit more.
When I passed through Pigeon Forge for the first time on my way to the cabin rental office, I gawked in utter amazement. Dinner shows, speed tracks, arcades, buffets, mini-golf courses, outlet centers, the strip just went on and on with every conceivable attraction you could think of, all family oriented too, and this wasn’t even including Dollywood itself either. It literally spanned over 15 miles, and I realized very quickly that three days would not be nearly enough time to see it all. It was going to be VERY hard to resist prancing around town when my goal here all along was to veg out in my cozy cabin, and do little of anything else.
Finally, the road came up where the office was located: Timber Tops Rental. The buildings here were decorated in that rustic yet luxurious style, while a pizza restaurant was also located next door, and you just KNOW I was gonna be ordering from them soon. :-D
I checked in, got my map and a key light which the attendant in her elongated accent said I was definitely going to need. I LOLed. I drove up and quickly found the road up and, um… wow. When they said it was a mountain road they weren’t kidding. It was well paved, but it winded around at steep angles, sometimes without guard rails, and it kept on going until my ears started to pop. I could hear the engine grinding loudly as my AWD kicked in to carry me up this treacherous stairway to heaven.
At long last I had arrived… sort of. It was pitch black, and after circling around for minutes, I found a dark cabin.. which turned out to be the wrong cabin. It wasn’t until I carefully scoured the area with a flashlight and got the attention of pretty much every neighbor in the vicinity that I found a very small entrance that led to the cabin that was mine. FINALLY.
I entered my code and swung open the door. Oh my holy sweet chocolatey lovey goodness in the mercy of…
I NEVER WANT TO LEAVE!!!!! NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!!!!!
The living room along was practically bigger than my 2 bedroom apartment back home. I just gawked and ooooooh and aaaahhhed in utter and complete shock at the supreme awesomeness that laid before me. A log cabin in the mountains. A dream I had always tormented myself with wanting to experience for literally years, and now here I was.
Ah well, it was partially a dream fulfilled.
I moved in record speed to unload my car and bring all my gear inside. Because it was so late, I wanted to get back down to the strip for supplies and food as quickly as I could, so as soon as I was settled in, it was down the mountain again, first to Walmart, then to a Chick-Fil-A.
Even when I returned to the cabin and camped out by the fireplace I still couldn’t unwind, as I was beside myself with absolute disbelief. Was I really here? Is it all just a crazy dream? And WOW I didn’t know chicken could taste THIS good! :-D
Things would have to wait until the morning though before I would have a chance to really soak in the surroundings I now found myself in.