Grand Prizes Really Are Real

You know how you always get those enter to win emails or hear about people winning things from radio stations, but have you ever actually known someone who has won a grand prize?

My mom won a trip to Hawaii back in the 70s, and I’ve won concert tickets, but other than that, I’ve never actually known someone who won a grand prize trip somewhere. Also, I heard that you have to pay taxes on it and it can be up to 50%.

Fast forward to April and, at the Silicon Valley Admin Awards, I won the grand prize. Round trip airfare on Emirates for for 2, a 5 night stay at the Taj Dubai, and brand new roller luggage. I exchanged information with the sales folks who were there and they assured me this was real.

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Me, winning. πŸ™‚

In August I contacted Emirates and the Taj Dubai to plan my trip for November. It was fairly easy, though they did ask me to send my prize letter to them in San Francisco which was slightly concerning as I didn’t want to lose my proof that I had won. πŸ™‚ I was charged $192.46 for the tickets (that was the tax I had to pay).

Emirates let me know that my tickets were fully upgradeable, if there was space upon check in. I was not really sure what that meant, but as it turns out, November isn’t the busiest season, so I was upgraded to Business class for both legs of the flight. All I say is, Emirates has the best business class I’ve ever flown in my life. The full bar in the back is ridiculous. The service was the best I’ve ever had. They win.

The Taj Dubai is a spectacular hotel within walking distance to the Burj Khalifa. The lobby has this amazing crystal chandelier with fresh flowers. The concierge was top notch. The view from my room, incredible. Total cost was around $200, but that included pick up from/drop off from the hotel in their fancy car. πŸ™‚

Everything about Dubai is out of this world. It is full of the tallest, biggest, longest, world record breaking, etc. They already have the world’s tallest building, and guess what, they’re building one that’s even taller for the World Expo 2020. Dubai out does itself. It was an out of this world, once in a lifetime kinda trip that I’m very grateful for. In real life I would never be able to afford this kind of experience. But for 6 days, I felt like royalty. Thank you Emirates, Taj, and the admin awards for this crazy awesome grand prize.

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Burj

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Inside the Facebook

So now that I’ve been at the Facebook for over a month, it’s time to disclose just how awesome it is to work here. And that is a true statement. It is awesome to work here!

My first day was a bit overwhelming. From 8am to 4pm in orientation. Drink the Kool-Aid. DRINK IT! And boy did I ever! I actually came to work here not knowing what the mission statement or core values were. I don’t think most people know.

Our Mission Statement: Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

Well, holy crap?! I thought the mission was to have me see as many baby, wedding, and cat photos as possible? And during the elections, to see how angry all my friends were? I guess I was WAY off. But really, when you think about it, it really IS about building community. I have my Facebook community that I share my life events with. When I’m busy traveling the world, I post pictures and share stories to my Facebook friends, and I follow their stories/lives as well. It’s my little community. I feel safe there and I can be me.

One of the things I value most about Facebook is they really push you to be your “Authentic Self”. Every day. Don’t show up to work and be your “work” self. Be you. I kinda love that as I’ve spent many years in industries where they encourage you to be your work self. Wear this, talk like this…pretend you’re someone you’re not. You have to have 2 separate personalities. Work, and Home. It’s exhausting. Tech changed that. At Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even Linkedin, you can be you. But I’ve never worked somewhere where they encourage you to be who you are as much as Facebook. So I can be me here. I’m a little weird as we all know, but so far, people seem to like me. πŸ™‚

So there’s that part. Then there’s the part I’ve been waiting for many years. A boss who I can actually develop a partnership with. That’s right people! For the first time since 2011 I have a boss who actually gives a shit. It’s amazing. It’s what I always hoped for, but haven’t had since I was working for a small start up for the CFO who left after 6 weeks. Gregg has let me into his circle trust. He’s a super busy guy, doing the job of at least 4 people, but he’s down to earth, and gives a shit. He and I both have high expectations of me. I truly hope to not let him down, though we are humans, and I will make mistakes.

On that note: the other person I currently support is also freaking awesome. Scott is an engineer that is in high demand. He is also very down to earth and amazing to work for. I feel incredibly grateful that these two guys (Gregg & Scott) came back to me after a year (I interviewed here in April of 2016) and asked me to come work for them. Best decision I’ve made in very long time.

The truth is, I work harder here at Facebook than I did at my past job, but I feel like I have the support I need to be successful. People here are great. Seriously. Everyone is nice, but they also have higher expectations than other companies I’ve worked for, which can sometimes be stressful. I have no doubt that I will work hard here, but I also have no doubt that I will be successful and I will grow as a person more than I have in many years. And that to me, makes Facebook the best place I’ve worked so far.

And then there are the perks. What tech company doesn’t have them? Food, bars, t-shirts, wood shop, poster making shop, spa, dentist, doctor, ice cream/sweet shop, 10 acre park, bikes, shuttles, and so much more. We are ridiculously lucky and I try not to forget that. I’ve seen how bad it can be out there. So thank you Facebook for all that you give to me. I’ll try to give something back by doing the best job I can.

BRB – Clouds Rest on a Whim

So last week Brian and I decided it was time to check another item off our bucket list. Ever since we hiked Half Dome, we wanted to hike Clouds Rest to get a different view of the Valley. In fact, we were at a Pizzeria in Groveland when we saw a map with all the “must see places” in Yosemite which included Clouds Rest. It was me that said, yep, that’s going on the list. We have prep for Machu Picchu in October, so Brian figured now was a good time to train at altitude.

Saturday

So Saturday as I was packing I realized I couldn’t find my cutaway shorts. Apparently sometime in the last 6 months they decided to wander off. Not acceptable as I needed quick drying clothes for the hike. (you have to wade through some water). Last minute shopping at Sports Basement made me realize that size 10 is hard to find in a pinch. I didn’t have much of a choice, so I paid $70 for a pair of shorts! 😦 Shout our to Prana? We finally got on the road at 1:30pm, which was too late for the bay area. So much traffic as everyone was trying to leave and crashing into each other in a hurry.

We got to Oakdale around 4pm and grabbed a sandwich and continued to Yosemite via highway 120. We arrived around 6pm and being that I had never seen Hetch Hetchy, we decided to go check it out. I had no idea most of the bay area’s water supply came from Yosemite. Pretty cool to see in person! Driving along the road to our destination, I realized that this side of Yosemite was pretty freaking incredible! I must come back!

 

After eating our sandwiches at a nearby picnic bench, we heading back up to highway 120 and to the forrest roads to find a camping spot. Brian’s “secret” camping spot. He had to move a tree to obtain access, but we got there and it was pretty awesome.

We pitched our tent and headed to bed. Something to note: the mosquitos are pure evil. I got bit on my elbow and it was so achy and unfun that I barely slept. It was a perfect temperature… around 60 degrees.

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Campsite!

Sunday

We woke around 5am, which is so late in comparison to what we are used to (1:30am, 2am, 4:30am). Car camping is awesome because you can throw all your crap into the car and take off, which is exactly what we did.

We arrived to the parking lot near the trailhead around 6:30am and had some tasty backpacking oatmeal meals. After applying bug spray with Deet (a necessary thing!), we headed off toward the start of the trail, which starts out with a water crossing where you’re in cold water up to your knees.

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The start of the water crossing. Those rocks disappear under the water!

Once you get out the water, you have to be super quick in drying off your feet and getting your hiking shoes on because the mosquitos are waiting for you. Drooling. It was rather terrible!

From the other side of the water crossing, it’s 7.1 miles to the top of Clouds Rest.

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7.1 Miles!

The trail up follows the water for a while (Tenaya Lake) which means mosquitos everywhere. Seriously, bug spray is NOT optional. Because we left so early we didn’t need to worry about the sun and sunscreen for awhile. Thank goodness!

The trail kept up with this water theme most of the way up to the junction at Sunrise Mountain. Stupid mosquito hatcheries! We also began to encounter snow, which was rather awesome! 70 plus degrees and there’s snow. That’s just goes to show how much of a winter California actually had.

So as an FYI, there is a bit of a gradual down after about a mile, which you’ll come to be reminded of on the way down. πŸ™‚ There is also a fairly steep down with lots of granite steps around 3.5 miles. I kept thinking to myself, this is going to suck on the way back… and boy did it!

There are also multiple creek crossings. Luckily all of them had options to wading across them. Trees, jumping, and rocks.

I only almost died once, which is really good odds in my opinion. πŸ™‚

Here’s a picture of the steps going down with a mosquito hatchery.

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It’s important to note we had only seen 2-3 other people on the trail by 10ish. 2 people coming down and 2 people at the junction of Sunrise Mountain. It was VERY different than the Yosemite Valley side. I kinda loved it. πŸ™‚

At the junction you’re only 2.5 miles out. Surprisingly a lot of which is relatively flat. Until you reach the bottom of the last climb. Then it’s slabbed granite and the views start to become quite breath-taking.

Once you’re at the top, the sense of accomplishment is quite amazing. It’s very similar to Half Dome. It’s so beautiful. Please bring binoculars so you can see the little ants (aka humans trying to get up the cables)

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If you look real close, you can see the cables…

I did forget to mention that we saw a lot of flora and fauna. My favorite of which was the fauna. 3 lizards, 2 marmots, 1 crow, 1 pheasant, and 1 snake. Though the fauna was pretty cool too. The wildflowers were pretty!

Once at the top, we had to take our infamous couplie. This time with Half Dome!

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We took a lunch break and then started back down around 12:00ish. It definitely did not take as long to get down, but it was WAY harder on my knees. 😦 This getting old shit is for the birds I tell you!

The best part about finishing the hike? That initial water crossing! It is a treat at the end of a 13.5ish mile hike. πŸ™‚

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I think I may have stayed in that water crossing for way longer than the original crossing!

Overall, an amazing adventure. I highly recommend this hike. Bring bug spray, start early, and enjoy!

 

 

LASIK Update – As promised

Alrighty, it’s been almost 5 months since I had my LASIK and I promised an update, so here it is.

I was having issues in my right eye for a few weeks after my surgery. Anything that involved me being in a room with lots of white was not good. Everything was blurry and it hurt to focus. Eventually though, it got better.

By 2 months after my surgery I was pretty much back to normal. I didn’t even need eye drops. Everyone got used to me not having glasses, even me. It’s crazy how quickly you take it for granted.

My right eye isn’t as strong as it once was and maybe in a year I’ll go back to have it re-evaluated. I think some of my frustration is because it had been my stronger eye for 34 years and now it’s not. πŸ™‚ Lefty is more powerful now. Damnit Lefty!

Driving at night is still somewhat unpleasant, but it’s because I can see. Things are more clear, therefore my eyes get burned (not literally) by all the fancy new LED headlights. I see more stars than I ever remember which is super amazing now that it’s camping season!

Some things that I have to pay attention to now that I didn’t used to: shit getting blown into my eyeballs. Yes, that’s right, now I have no protection unless I’m wearing sunglasses, so when the Caltrain comes rushing into the stop, I have to turn the other way or dirt and crap get blown into the air and into my eyes. My eyes are way more sensitive to light, therefore I need to have sunglasses all the time.

I would still highly recommend this surgery to anyone who wants to be free of glasses. It’s so nice to not have to worry about forgetting my glasses or smashing them. I can wear ski goggles and they don’t fog up!

I just went to the DMV yesterday to remove my restriction of corrective lenses, so I suppose that means I’m official now. Just a normal person with laser eyes. πŸ˜‰

Next up, seeing a Orthopedic Surgeon… Looks like surgery for my tendons/nerves on my right hand. Oh yay!

The metabolism joys of my mid 30’s

As I have re-started my efforts to be healthy yet again, I thought it would be a good time to write a post about how things have changed with my body now that I’m in my mid 30s. It’s a warning to those of you in your 20’s, perhaps a friendly reminder you’re not alone to those of you in your 30’s, and a fond look back for those of you older than your 30s.

In the age of amazing technology, I, like many other people I know, have a digital scale that tracks my weight and body fat. This is how I know exactly when things changed. I had maintained a really decent 140-145 (yes, that’s true), for a couple years. Even when I was in Malaysia and not exercising like I was used to, I weighed around 145. Then in March of 2015 during my training for the death ride, that’s when it all changed.

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In Β Malaysia (pretty damn skinny!)

My weight started to creep up. It was 147, then 149, then over 150. What the hell? I was riding my bike 60+ miles in one day, up massive hills! I convinced myself it was just muscle because muscle weighs more than fat. Right. That had to be it. I peaked at 155 in August of 2015, right after the death ride. I barely fit into my bridesmaid dress. I had to have it taken out and wear spanx in order to fit. I still looked like a stuffed sausage at my sister’s wedding. I felt really bad about that. 😦 It was then I decided that just biking wasn’t enough. I downloaded My Fitness Pal and started going to circuit training classes at Linkedin.

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Training for the death ride

Kim's wedding

Sausage

 

Over the next 2 months, I lost almost 8lbs, down to 147. Thank goodness because I wanted to fit into my ski clothes for Antarctica. I looked great and felt great during that trip. I could keep up with the cardio (climbing up mountains) and fit into my clothes. Once I got back, apparently I fell off the horse again. By January I was back to 153.

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Christmas 2015

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Antarctica 2015

Throughout most of Q1, I was somewhere between 153 and 155. I wasn’t biking anymore, but I was making an effort to go to circuit training classes 2-3 times a week and be active on the weekends. Then in May, I got sick. For those of you who remember, I may have licked my phone because chocolate dripped on it. NEVER lick your phone. EVER. I was sick for 6 weeks and that is when I stopped working out.

When I finally recovered in June, Carolyn and I decided to start running together twice a week. I also continued to go to my workout classes twice a week. It was hard to maintain as we added more and more mileage, but by August I started to see a small downward trend on the scale. That trend continued for the remainder of the year as my running continued, reaching my lowest weight in 2 years in November of 2016; 147! Of course, by then I had stopped going to the workout classes and stopped running.

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November 2016

Very quickly I gained back all the weight I lost. Back up to 155 by January. Really though, that’s a no brainer. If you’re aren’t working out and you’re drinking and eating a lot, what do you think is going to happen?? Luckily I started training for my half marathon in January, so I was hoping my weight would go back down and I would have more energy. In April, I weighed around 152. I also decided to cut down drinking so much and stop eating so much sugar (not that I really do that, but sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, all I want is a piece of chocolate!)

2016 Christmas

Christmas 2016

I started doing circuit training again and committed to working out three times a week in mid April. I was maintaining 152, so I was feeling pretty good. Then I had a minor health thing come up and had to stop exercising for 2 weeks. LAME! At the same time, I started a new job and wasn’t in the area. I’m not really sure I did anything in May. I may have worked out once. Though I did hike Yosemite falls.. πŸ™‚

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Yosemite falls

I peaked at my highest weight on May 29th; 155.6, so I decided to follow in the footsteps of one of my good friends. She committed back in January to work out six times a week. She looks amazing and she’s a fucking inspiration. So starting June 1st, I signed up at a local studio (they do Barre, Yoga, TRX, and Circuit training). By the way, Barre is incredibly hard. You should try it sometime. I’ve been going to classes three times a week and my amazing husband helped me get all my old Jillian Michaels DVDs on a thumb drive, so I can do those on my “off days”.

I put the classes and workouts on my calendar. It gives me motivation to go. On the days when I’m really sore, I continue to push through the pain, because guess what, being healthy isn’t easy, it’s a commitment. It’s only been 2 weeks, but I am feeling better. Slowly. I have more energy and my body doesn’t feel as jiggly as it used to. I have a long way to go, but I’m hoping this time it sticks. Brian and I are eating healthy. We both don’t drink as much. We should really hold ourselves more accountable for that extra drink or that froyo, but you know what? Life is short. It’s ok to indulge on occasion.

I’ve also realized that I’m never going to look like I did when I was in my 20s. I’m just not, and that’s ok. Actually, it’s better than ok, it’s great. I should celebrate how I look when I’m healthy. My goal weight used to be 140. That’s what I weighed after I got divorced and wasn’t eating. That’s not reasonable. You know what else it’s reasonable? The scale. Clothes sizes. So what, I’m a size 10. I still have that pair of size 6 skinny jeans my sister gave me back in 2014. I’m never going to fit into those again. If I fit into any jeans and I feel good about myself, that’s what matters. But I have to have reasonable expectations. Finding those reasonable expectations is the hardest part. I have to guess because I really don’t know what they should be.

Things change in your mid 30s. Your metabolism just isn’t as fast as it once was. Accepting that and finding a balance is the goal. What kind of body will I be comfortable with that is actually attainable without having to give up things I really like? I could give up carbs, cheese, chocolate, and booze, but what’s the point? Moderation is key. I can’t have cheese every night if I want my thigh size to decrease. I can’t have chocolate every day if I want my arms to stop waving back. I definitely can’t have a glass of wine every night if I want to sleep well and not have my buttons pop on my jeans.

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Here’s the scale measurements

I took my measurements on June 1st. I’m willing to post them here so that when I update in early July we can see if my commitment to myself is actually paying off.

Arms: R: 11 3/4, L: 11 3/4, Chest: 37, Waist: 30.5, Hips: 41, Hips: R: 24.5, L 24. Weight: 155

The one thing I’ve learned, cardio alone isn’t good enough. Strength training for me is a must. It’s not optional. Besides, who doesn’t want Michelle Obama arms? πŸ™‚

This journey is ongoing and I’m sure my metabolism has a LOT in store for me in the coming years, but I refuse to give up. I will find a balance. Something that makes me feel good but isn’t overwhelming and not sustainable. Oh yes!

 

 

 

The Silicon Valley World

Anyone who has lived in the bay area or knows someone who has knows this place is it’s own reality. It’s nothing like the real world. Traffic is horrendous, public transportation is less than ideal, people change jobs every 6-18 months, housing costs millions, and there are a lot of fake people who only care about money. But there are also people who care about our environment, who care about equality, who care about animals, and those who want to make a difference in our world.

It’s hard to want to live here when you know you’ll never be able to afford a house. A condo, maybe, but a real house with a yard that’s not in a scary neighborhood; not in your lifetime. If I were single, I have no idea how I would have been able to stay here. The price of everything is more expensive here. Food, gas, water, insurance. Just to survive you have make at least $60,000/year, which will allow you to do just that; Survive. Barely. If you want to live on your own, you have to make at least $100,000/year. Again, this is just surviving, not saving, not splurging, not owning real estate. This is just renting and paying for food, etc.

Luckily most of the Tech companies here have their own reality. Food is free. Transportation to/from work if you use public transportation or their shuttle is free. Insurance is paid for by them. Those perks alone are worth upwards of $10,000/year (that’s the low end). Not everyone is lucky enough to work at a Tech company though, so I’m not entirely sure how they live here. Well, they don’t live “here”. They live in Manteca or Monterey, or Stockton. They commute for over an hour so they can afford a house. Of course now, those places are becoming so expensive that the communities are suffering.

It doesn’t seem right to me that the condo Brian and I bought almost 3 years ago is now selling for almost $250,000 more than when we bought it. That’s just stupid. There is no way my condo is worth 25% more. Have our salaries gone up 25% to keep up with this absurd growth? Nope. We couldn’t afford to buy our own condo today. I used to work at Linkedin and Brian works at Google. We have really decent paying jobs for the real world, but for the Silicon Valley world? Lower class. Lucky to have bought when we did. If we were renting, it would cost more than our mortgage!

People keep saying it’s a bubble. That it’s going to pop one of these days. People have been saying that for 4 years and it just continues to go up. Amazon’s stock is over $1000, Google’s stock was over $1000. What the hell is going on? This place is crazy. There is nothing anyone can do, except hold on tight as the roller coaster continues to go up. Eventually it will come back down. It has to. Right?

Adventures in Camping – Portola Redwoods

This past weekend the husband and I, along with a few friends went to Portola Redwoods for what turned into a pretty fun adventure that included multiple river crossings, a four leaf clover, trolling leaves, freshly baked cookies in the woods, rude neighbors, tick removal, and a jolly good time.

Friday:

After about an hour of driving, Ethan, Brian and I showed up to the main entrance around 5pm. We set up tents and started a fire because the mosquitoes were attacking in droves.

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We had ourselves some beers and then some pasta with sausages after Kimberly showed up. No cell service meant we were taking bets as to when Thomas and Allison would arrive. So we decided to make cookies while we waited. That’s right, my husband bought an oven that runs off of propane, so we made cookies in the woods!!!

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By Sunday people were stopping by our campsite to see this little oven! We were famous. πŸ™‚

Anyways, eventually Thomas and Allison showed up and we all went to bed at a reasonable hour. There would be little to no sleep for me though. Our neighbors snored so loud it shook the ground. Note to self: car camping = ear plugs. Always.

I ended up getting up in the middle of the night and sleeping Brian’s car because I couldn’t take it. Of course, kids on their razor scooters woke me up around 8am.

Saturday:

Breakfast. Bacon + Eggs. Tasty. So much bacon. Made sandwiches for our hike and headed out around 10ish, mosquitoes in tow looking for a tasty meal because apparently my face wasn’t enough. I ended up with around 7 bites on my money maker. Oh well. Up up and away. Into the beautiful redwoods. Thomas discovered a leaf with a face. We decided it was a very creative caterpillar.

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The redwoods were so beautiful. We had the trail mostly to ourselves. I think we saw one other person the entire 5 hours we were out hiking, which is ridiculous.

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We noticed a metric ass ton of clover as we were hiking, so we started searching for a 4 leaf one. I have never found one, but apparently others in our party had. I wanted some good luck so I became determined.

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In the end, I was the only one to find one. I plucked it from the earth and within minutes it was droopy and sad. 😦 But still, I WIN!

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Once we reached the grove (our destination), we had a lunch break near a creek. Then we headed to the junction where we would decide whether to come back the way we came or go back another way. Of course, there was a river crossing involved.

 

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I did forget to mention that Thomas discovered another leaf with a face so we decided we were, in fact, being trolled by someone.

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After a brief discussion we decided to head back to camp a different way than we had come. Even though the trail was supposedly closed. We were positive we could overcome any obstacle that was presented. Those obstacles would be one more riving crossing and some busy beavers cutting down trees.

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We managed to make it back to camp in one piece. We started a fire and gathered around the fire to relax. That’s when I noticed Brian had a black growth on his arm… of course it turned out to be a tick. He was super prepared and tried to get the tick to back out by heating up a bottle opener and holding it near it. Sadly, that didn’t work, but he did manage to pull it out with tweezers.

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We all checked ourselves after that. Ethan had 3. Luckily only one had bitten. The other two were just chilling. It was determined that the ticks had come from the firewood bought at the visitor center. Note to the reader: check yourself for ticks after you buy firewood!!!

Dinner was frankfurters and hamburgers. A tasty end to our adventure.

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Of course, our adventure was not over. Long after we had all gone to bed, our neighbors showed up at 3:30am with a crying baby, yelling, and obnoxious snoring. Another night in the car for me. And in the morning, no apology from them. They talked loudly about inappropriate things and walked in and out of our campsite as well as others. Completely rude. I was glad to leave them.

I had a great time with my friends. It was incredibly nice to disconnect and my hair still smells like campfire after at least 2 showers! πŸ™‚

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I look forward to our next adventure!