Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Home Sweet Home!

Family and friends~

It's been a while since I've sent out an update...and I'm happy to report this is my final one! For those of you I haven't had a chance to see or talk to yet, I've been home for two weeks now. It kind of feels like I'm just passing through, but at times it feels like I never left! It's nice to go out and see familiar faces and be able to talk with those who know me best.

Soon after returning home I began interviewing. Marketing-Werks, the company I went on tour for, was interested in hiring me as well as a small public relations agency focused on brand marketing. After much turmoil and debate, I chose to take the job at the small PR firm. You are now talking to an account manager at Salmon Borre Group Communications! I'll be managing three others in the office working on a variety of toy and candy accounts. I will also get to work on some new business development and getting to travel here and there. Some of my first trips are to Los Angeles and New York. Thanks to my tour, I know my way around those cities quite well! My new boss says she loves my background and admires me for quitting my job and hitting the road for such a great opportunity. She says it shows my entrepreneurial side and with that being said, my start date is December 8.

In the meantime, I've been catching up with friends and family and look forward to the holidays. I have been living with my parents for a couple weeks and on Dec. 2 I move back dowtown. I'm looking forward to living out of an entire closet rather than a few suitcases. I'm ready to burn some of my clothes I've had to wear them so much!

This has been an incredible journey...a once in a lifetime job for me...and I don't think I would have been as happy out on the road if it not been for the friends and family who remained in touch over the past seven months. I fell like I've done things I'd never accomplish if it were not for this opportunity, and in the same respect I feel like I haven't missed a beat here in Chicago. I can tell you that I am not missing the imperfections of Mapquest, always having to navigate my way around a city with a thousand maps in hand, making small talk with strangers on a constant basis, lugging around my luggage each week, living out of the same two suitcases of clothes and ultimately being confined to driving the beast! But I wouldn't trade this journey for anything! I will miss my new friends on the road, living life exploring new cities and the opportunity to meet new people every day. Most importantly, I will miss helping to educate and provide a free medical service to those who are less fortunate. After witnessing the many health struggles that many face, especially without the means of attaining proper aid, the importance of my health has really hit home. It is something I tend to take for granted at times, and I now make a better effort in maintaining it.

On the road, I compared each city to Chicago and no other city beat the complete package this great city has to offer...it's charm, beauty, attraction, and opportunity but most of all, it's neighborhoods full of friendly, loyal, charismatic people. It was quite a gamble to quit a stable job of five years and move from a city I've lived in or near most my life. But I am fortunate to be given this opportunity and am a better person for it...and I thank each of you for experiencing it with me. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason...and since I've been back, things have just seemed to fall right into place.

It's great to be home...

Monday, October 27, 2003

Week 28 - St. Augustine and Jacksonville, FL

We basically had to go straight from one Southern Women's Show to the next. We had to work at a health company in St. Augustine which also happened to be across the parkway from the Golf Hall of Fame at World of Golf. I spent about half a day there. It's definitely a place I want to get back to stay and golf. But the Hall of Fame was amazing.

We were only in Jacksonville for a few days with long days of work every day. We ended up meeting a friend of Carolyn's out for dinner at the River City Brewery and we walked around the Landing downtown. Another night I went out with my Southern Women's Show friends to catch the World Series game near my hotel. And another night we went out at Atlantic Beach for dinner and drinks. The beaches in Jax were nice and perfect for running. I got a long run in and along the way I saw a group of dolphins about 100 yards from the shore.

Overall, I liked Jacksonville. My computer was out of commission for the week so I couldn't take as many pictures as I would have liked as my camera was full with nowhere to download them.

The countdown is on! Only 2 weeks left. For those of you that haven't heard Gen and I found an apartment to live in when I return. Well, I should say that Gen found it...but I'm excited to move in! We'll be at 25 E. Delaware. Now I just have to work on getting a job when I return and I'll be set!

See you all soon...and Happy Halloween!! Sorry I couldn't have a party this year!
Week 27 - Miami and Orlando

After the wedding Gen ended up staying an extra day. We had tickets to game 5 of the Cubs vs. Marlins. Pro Player Stadium is a horrible venue for baseball. We were tired from the wedding weekend, our seats were in the nosebleeds, it was 85 degrees out and worst of all, the Cubs lost! I was hoping for them to clinch it while I was there. But unfortunately, we all know how that turned out... :(

That night Gen and I headed to South Beach to go out. We stayed at this swanky hotel. We had a nice dinner and then hit the Cleavelander. It was great because many Chicagoans were there still in their Cubs gear. A few guys came up to talk to us and they were actually from Chicago too. There was a band that played Sweet Home Chicago and we all cheered for the Cubs and danced around even with the loss.

The next day it was time to say bye to Gen and get back to work. I spent another day at the Ft. Lauderdale beach before hitting the road to Orlando for yet another Southern Women's Show.

I only had one day off in Orlando and went to Wet N Wild to spend the day outside. I've been to Orlando so many times I wasn't up to doing too much touristy stuff on my time off. One night I did head to Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios City Walk to see the All American Rejects and Hoobastank. The shows were great and these people noticed I was there by myself and approached me. They were cool and asked me if I wanted to hang out with them. They also were in the music industry and knew Hoobastank's band manager. Turns out there was an "after party" scheduled and my new friends were able to grab a bracelet for me to stay. So, I hung out afterwards with the bands for a while but sent myself home at a decent hour since I had to work a 10-hour day the following day. Another crazy story about being in the right place at the right time and meeting some great people. If there's one thing I've learned is that if I ever see anyone out by themself in Chicago, I'm going to make an effort to talk to them. Chances are they are visiting by themself. I'm very greatful to the cool people I've met that were nice enough to make an effort to talk to me and show me the town!

Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed so I don't have pictures with the band or of my new friends!
Week 27 - VACATION - Ft. Lauderdale and Captiva Island

After MNF, we drove to Ft. Lauderdale for a day of work before my vacation started. It worked out perfectly that my friend Todd decided to get married in Captiva, FL which was only a few hours away. Not to mention the fact that it was my birthday that weekend. Being on the road for so long, I was very greatful to celebrate my birthday with some of my closest friends. I had 4 days off for the trip and it was much needed.

My friend Jay from Grayslake was first to arrive for the wedding weekend. We ended up hanging out in Ft. Lauderdale for a couple days. It was great to have a Chicagoan to watch the Cubs games with at the beach. The next night Gen and Elly flew into Ft. Lauderdale as well. Ft. Lauderdale beach is beautiful and pretty happening. Here's a few shots of the beach.

The four of us drove to Captiva for the wedding weekend. It wasn't too bad of a drive and we stayed at a pretty cool resort on the island. It was very isolated but had a fun bar on the premises that we hung out at every night. Needless to say, we made the bar our own and also made everyone watch the Cubs games. It was pretty much a high school reunion as well.

The majority of my friends arrived the night of my birthday and we hit the bar to celebrate. I think everyone celebrated like it was their birthday! Here's a few shots.

Gen playing bartender

Rockstar Elly

Gen and Aim

Party on Tom

Tom and Jay in the pool

The next day we hung at the pool and then went to a seafood dinner on the island. The Cubs game was that night so we packed it back into the Crows Nest. Once the rehearsal dinner let out, the place was packed with Cubs fans. I almost felt like I was in Chicago watching a game. It was great!

The wedding was absolutely beautiful. Todd and Gail looked incredibly happy and we all had a great time. From a quaint wedding, to a cocktail hour on the beach and dancing at the reception...we all had a blast.

The happy couple!

The beautiful sunset at cocktail hour

Grayslake girls and Todd

The Grayslake Crew

Gen and I on the beach

It was a long but fantastic weekend! Thanks to all those for the birthday wishes and congrats to Gail and Todd. My vacation flew by too quickly.

Week 26 - Birmingham, AL

I wasn't in Birmingham very long due to my Atlanta pitstop. I had to work another Southern Women's Show and that was pretty much my excitement. My "psuedo-celeb" sightings here were Jamie from "The Bachelorette" as well as Carter from Trading Spaces. They drew hundreds of women to this thing. Jamie was very cool and we talked Chicago for a bit. He actually lives in Old Town.

I did get a night out downtown with a couple of the guys that I've met through the Southern Women's Shows that travel as well. We hit the 5-point area and went to a bar. Turns out there was the championship of women's jello wrestling. It was pretty funny...and I guess there's not much to do in Bama so they've got to find something entertaining to pass the time! Overall, Birmingham didn't have much going on.

We have to head to Ft. Lauderdale for work next week. But first, we made a stop in Tampa for Monday Night Football. It was Bucs vs. Colts and was that a great game! It was very bizarre going to a football game while it's 80 degrees at night. Carolyn is friends with Dwight Freeney on the Colts so he got us tix in the Colts section. It was great to see them come back. Another sport sighting in the record books! Bucs fans are insane and started hitting things when they started loosing. Afterwards, we hung out a while for the team to come out so Carolyn could see Dwight. I wish I knew more about the Colts because I saw half the team.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Week 25 - On to Birmingham, AL with a pitstop in Atlanta! Go Cubs!

Well, lucky me! We had a few days off and had to travel from Greensboro, NC to Birmingham, AL. And it just happens that I had to travel through Atlanta and had a few days off. I've been so busy with work that I didn't know there were tickets left, but Gen told me so I got tix for the first two games at Turner Field!! But first, I visited Courtney Cauldwell in Atlanta. For those of you that know her, and don't know...she moved there a few months ago for work. She has a great apartment about 15 min. north of the city, and sounds like she's loving it! We went out to dinner and to watch the Bears vs. Packers debacle. At least we have the Cubs to cheer for!

Cubs WIN!

I had some time to kill during the day before game 2, so I just did some running downtown to see some Atlanta's sights including Georgia Tech campus. Atlanta is a beautiful city.

After a crazy two days, I had to get to Birmingham for yet another Southern Women's Show. And, of course, there was another "Bachelor" there. This time it was Jamie from Chicago. He actually lives at North and Wells of all places. I also met Carter from Trading Spaces. Both very cute! ha ha

I am now in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and my vacation officially starts tonight! I have the weekend off to go to my friend Todd's wedding and a bunch of my friends are flying in for it. It's a much needed vacation and it will be great to catch up with everyone. Nothing better than celebrating my birthday on the beach with friends!

Oh...and I almost forgot...on my way down to Ft. Lauderdale Carolyn and I stopped in Tampa for Monday Night Football. I'm catching some luck with witnessing sport games going down in the record books with the addition of the Colts comeback against the Bucs! It was an amazing game. Carolyn is friends with Dwight Freeney and he gave us some tix in the Colts section. The Bucs fans were just livid! Afterwards, we met up with Dwight and some players after the game before boarding their bus. It was pretty cool...and felt weird being at a football game in 80 degree heat! I haven't downloaded the pics yet, but they'll be in my next update.

I hope everyone is doing well!

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Week 24 - Greensboro, NC

After rafting I made it to Greensboro for the next show. One of our temp staff from the Charlotte show, Christy, actually lived there. So we ended up going out to dinner one night and then I went with she and her friends to see Sam Bush play in Winston-Salem. What I love about traveling is meeting local people who can show me the true experience of the area. Sam Bush is a rockin' bluegrass band which was great. We met some great people. As Christy would say, "I have just enough hick in me to be fun!" And she definitely was fun! Stay in touch Christy!

After a long weekend of work, I decided to take an hour ride up and do some hiking at Hanging Rock state park. It's a beautiful area in the mountains with loads of hikes to choose from that were very desolate. It may have not been the smartest thing to go by myself, but I loved it. Here's a few pics. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend it!

We have our first long drive in a while...going from North Carolina to Birmingham, AL for yet another Southern Women's Show. We have two vehicles now since we load in our vehicle to the shows every weekend.
Week 23 - Charlotte, NC

I figured that North Carolina and Alabama were going to be a little less than exciting, but found that I had a great time. It's definitely slower paced than home, but I took advantage of doing some things that I'm not able to do in Chicago.

We had a long weekend of work at another Southern Women's Show in Charlotte, but we were able to get out one night with one of our temp staff. A couple of the places we went were pretty cool, and I met some people that have recently moved from Chicago so it was great chatting with mid-westerners! The city is pretty small, but clean and beautiful.

Since there wasn't much to do exactly in Charlotte, for my day off I decided to travel a bit to do a 6-hr whitewater rafting trip. It was incredible! I've only been once before and this was a level 3&4 course with a drop 5 at the end. I had some great people in my raft from Seattle who were fun. Here's a few pics:

I decided to take the scenic route out to Greensboro, NC (to our next SWS show) and I drove through the Smokey Mountains and made a few scenic pitstops along the way. I'm really liking driving across the country, and I never thought I'd say that considering I don't even own a car!

Monday, September 22, 2003

Weeks 20, 21, 22 - To Hartford, back to NYC, back to Connecticut and on to North Carolina!

I had some issues with my camera and lost my pictures from Connecticut. We didn't have much free time, however I was able to go to a great Cajun dinner at a jazz place called Black-Eyed Sallys, and I was able to meet up with Lee Abdella's brother, future sister-in-law and friend while there. We went to a good mexican restaurant for some food and margaritas before heading to meet out a bunch of their friends at a bar that had a Dave Matthews cover band playing. It's not only Chicago that has the cover bands..only this time, the band sounded EXACTLY like DMB!

Hartford is a very small, but pretty city. I was very surpised as I had no idea what to expect. At the CT Women's Expo, Matt Cedano from Days of Our Lives was there doing a guest appearance. Again, another picture I don't have! For you soap opera fans, he's just a good looking in person.

We had a few days off so we decided to head back to NYC since there wasn't much going on in Hartford. I spent a full day hanging out in Central Park. I did some running around the lake there and walking through the entire park. I wanted to go to the Metropolitan Art Museum but when I got there, I found it was closed being a Monday. I bought a couple framed photos of Central Park I loved it so much. Overall, an enjoyable day!

Tuesday I needed a lazy day and just spent it at the hotel sleeping in late and watching TV. Seeing as though we had to get up at 4am to head to the Today Show the next morning..it was a good call as it was a long day!

We arrived at The Today Show at 5am with our posters and rawhide dog bones. We wanted to try to stick out so we made posters geared toward Al Roker since he's the one who's outside the most. One poster read, "Hey Al, How dense are your bones?" And the other read, "We drove 15,200 miles to meet you." Since we're doing bone density screenings, we thought Al may wonder what we're talking about as well as where we came from that we had to drive 15,200 miles. (That's the total miles driven to date on the tour) Well, it didn't work...we did meet him, however being the day before Sept. 11, he talked to those who had quilts and pictures of lost loved ones...and rightfully so. We were, however, able to get our client's logo on tv since we put the stickers on the back of our signs and when the camera panned us the logo was captured...so they were pleased. I got some calls from friends saying they saw me on tv during the Conan segment. Too fun!

The Today Show was a good one! The guest star outside was Conan O'Brien due to his 10th year anniversary. It was a crazy segment if you didn't catch it on tv that morning. They had a camel, Chippendale dancers, sheep with party hats, a marching band and presents and cake. Here are a few pics:

After the show, I stayed downtown and took the NBC studios tour. We visited Dateline and Saturday Night Live sets which was pretty cool. I was also picked to do the weather segment with a teleprompter and everything. It was interesting to learn facts about many of the shows I watch on NBC.

After that I went to Shea Stadium to catch the Mets vs. Marlins game. They lost...as usual...but it was a good way to spend a sunny afternoon. When I got there, I met a girl named Jordan. We ended up getting tickets together and hung out during the game. Afterwards, we went down to Little Italy for dinner. Once again, an instance where it's been very easy to meet cool people while on the road!

After dinner, Jordan had to take off since she had to catch an early flight the next morning...and I went to a bar in the lower east side which was cool. I made friends with the bartenders and some other people there. Again, great, cool New Yorkers! I ended up going across the street later and seeing a band called The Ritchies play. A very jam-packed but fun day. Had to go out of NYC with a bang!

We then headed back to Connecticut...this time it was to the Fairfield area to work some retail stops. Overall an easy week. We didn't do much as there's not much to do there and we only had 3 days. All I did was work, workout and sleep. My wallet also thanked me for laying low since NYC wiped me out.

We left from NYC and started our journey south to North Carolina. We had to go to Charlotte to work at the Southern Women's Show. From here on out, we are basically going to cities following the SWS. It's a huge 3 or 4 day event with vendors geared towards women's interests. It involves working 10 hour days, giving bone density screenings and educating consumers on the "power of soy". It turns out being long, exhausting days and I found I didn't have much energy after work.

Charlotte is also a very pretty and clean city. It's a bit slower paced that what I'm used to, but it was still enjoyable. We were first worried about Hurricane Isabelle but were assured that it wouldn't be heading inland to Charlotte, so we decided to still attend the convention. It was a big nerve-racking to be there, but besides the day of the storm the weather was beautiful! We did get the energy to head out one night with one of our temp staffs to a lounge and a club. It was a pretty good night...met some guys that used to live in Chicago...but as I said, definitely lower key.

A highlight at the Southern Women's Show was the guest appearance of Charlie from "The Bachelorette". For those of you that don't remember, he was the guy who lost to Ryan for Trista's heart. ha ha Well, I met him and he seemed like a genuine, humble guy. He now works for Extra as an interview host. It was interesting to hear how he got on the show and how his life has changed since. That makes 3 bachelors I've met on the road so far.

I have off until Friday when we head to Greensboro, North Carolina for another Southern Women's Show. I drove down to the border of South Carolina and Georgia today and I am going on a 6-hour whitewater rafting trip tomorrow! Details to come!