The Fiery Gizzard Trail-1, Technology-0

The good, the bad and the ugly

This week I bought a new phone and buried a soggy Canon 60-D at the camera morgue.

Good news: I finally joined the iPhone world.

Bad news: I owe a lot of money.

Good news: you all can laugh at my misfortune (it’s okay, chuckle as you read. I have thick skin)

Bad news: I owe a lot of money…

Now let’s rewind a few days to find out how I got myself in this hilariously unfortunate predicament.

Fiery Gizzard Trail and South Cumberland State Park

My Friday edition of Adventures with Bekah consisted of a day-long hike at South Cumberland State Park. I was very excited to finally hit the trails.

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The Fiery Gizzard Trail is a 12.5 mile hike filled with diverse rock formations, bouldering opportunities, beautiful running water, swimming holes, and waterfalls. Most of it is a moderate difficulty but the Fiery Gizzard stretch is a bit precarious. At the parking lot you sign in so the rangers will know you’re in there. If you don’t sign back out, I imagine they start a search party.

Fiery Gizzard TrailIf you look at this map, I parked up in the top left. I had planned on only doing a short 4-5 mile loop through Grundy Forest, but I got so excited that I found myself halfway finished with the trail before I realized I missed the loop!

Check out the highlights of the trail (If you click on a photo it will start a larger slideshow).

Me vs. Little Gizzard Creek

Here’s where the hike takes a turn for the worst. A little over halfway through the trail I tripped over an out-of-ground tree root.

No, I did not just face plant forward like a normal person…I face planted then rolled down a hill into the creek. KCRG, did you get that? Golden Klutz Award goes to me.

What most of the trail looked like

Most of the trail was inclined slightly above the creek. The hill I fell down was a little bit bigger than the one pictured here.

The worst part? My camera bag strapped across my body was slightly unzipped.

Imagine this in slow motion: Foot catches root, body flies forward, out launches my phone, camera and sunglasses, body lands not so gracefully onto my phone, jamming it into my ribcage right as I witness my pretty Canon 60D splash into the water. I scramble to my feet and hurl myself in the direction of the camera. One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand…by now the camera is fully submerged…three-one-thousand…I snatch the strap and rescue it from drowning.

…only three seconds too late.

Unfortunately neither piece of technology survived the ordeal. I did. That’s the important part, right? Though I may have to sell my soul anyway just to pay for the damn camera.

So what did I do with the dripping camera next? Only what any technology-experienced millenial would do – I put the lens and camera into a bag of rice.

Now we have a soggy, very expensive maraka. The noisy, rice-filled lens mocked my with it’s shakety-shake-shake the rest of the way home.

A happy little metaphor

After falling down a mountain – as you can imagine – I was a bit disoriented. I started hiking at lightning pace, my heart beating wildly and blood rushing to my face. Instead of looking up at the trail, I stared angrily at my dripping camera, trying to hold it at what I imagined was the best position to get the water to drain out and away from the gears and gadgets inside.

Right…like that’s going to help.

In my adrenaline-motivated wild race to the finish line I found myself lost on the trail. I couldn’t use my phone compass and my map was somewhere in the bottom of the creek.

Luckily earlier in the expedition I had met a few fellow hikers.

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Father John Dowling led me back to safety

The guy above’s name is John Dowling, and he is a priest in the Nashville area. We exchanged numbers (before my phone broke) so that when I came back to Tennessee he could tell me about the best trails in the Smokey’s and so I could send him these photos I took. They caught up with me as I sat by the water kicking myself.

Father Dowling led me back to the right path.

How metaphoric is that? A priest leads me back to the narrow road. Halleluiah, good God!

Later that night

After my fall, I headed back to Chattanooga, cleaned up at my hostel and decided I needed a drink at the bar. I met some really great guys again. Here’s how that conversation went…

“Hey, can I get your number?”

“No…sorry I dropped my phone down a mountain.”

“Seriously? Wow you could have just said no.”

“No, really…I dropped my phone down a mountain.”

All I can say is I am grateful for good people, beautiful nature…and payment plans.

 

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Pick up lines (travel style)

I apologize, I don’t really have any good photos to explain what I’m writing here! When you’re having fun you forget to take them!

So….

“How do you meet so many people all by yourself?!”

I get the question a lot.

Well, it’s simple. You talk.

I get it, I get it…It can be nerve-racking! Humans are scary creatures! (I’m not even being sarcastic) The trick is to put yourself out there. You won’t meet anyone alone in your hotel room.

Is it awkward sometimes? Yes, I won’t lie. Is it risky? Yeah, it can be. But does it pay off? HELL YES.

Now if you’re ready for some tried and true tips, skip to the next heading. If you’re still not convinced (or you want to hear more of my rambling), read on…

Why meet people? I just want to see stuff.

So you’re going on a trip. Good for you! You can choose to be a standard tourist sight-see-er, or you can put yourself out there, get a taste of the local culture, discover hidden secrets, and meet new friends all over the country. Which sounds better?

Tourist attractions are great. I’m not saying skip out on the neat aquarium or museum you’ve just been itching to see. I’m saying supplement your out-of-town experience with a few local treats. As a bonus, they tend to be cheaper, too!

In all the places I’ve been, the things that I really remember happened with fellow travelers or locals. In Colorado, I enjoyed river rafting for a price – but I enjoyed the free bonfire with the river rafting instructors much more. At Shaver Lake in California, I enjoyed the hot sun and a good book, but I had a blast downing a few beers, grilling out and dancing with some Texans. In Chattanooga, I had a great time exploring historic downtown and some already-trail-blazed hikes, but I really enjoyed taste testing beer with the bartender, eating the best fried chicken with locals and tipping back a few beers with the guys.

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River rafting and zip-lining in Colorado

…so you see where I’m going here.

Remember, it is high risk, high reward. Trust your gut instinct and be safe about stepping out of your comfort zone. It is always okay to say no.

I’m ready. Tell me how to meet people.

Start easy. Stop at the visitor centers.  Talk with the front desk workers of your hotel. Grab a coffee and spark a conversation with the barista. Take a tour of the town.

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Courtesy of chattanoogan.com

The great thing about visitor centers, specifically, is that the people working there generally are there for a reason. At almost every visitor center I’ve been to, the person working loves where they live and he or she always wants to share!

Put yourself out there.  Instead of reading or blogging in your hotel room, hang out in the lobby. Get a coffee at the local coffee shop.  Sit at the bar when you order out. Beer and coffee are social drinks, so don’t do it in your room!  Picking up what I’m putting down yet?

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Etcetera, Paducah, KY

Stay at a hostel. That – by far – has been the easiest way to explore. (But do your research first. Be safe!) Other people staying generally have a similar mindset. I didn’t even had to start the conversation at The Crash Pad! People were talking to me constantly!

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The Crash Pad

10 Pick-up lines (travel style)

I’ve used all of these and at one time or another, they all worked. You may laugh, but you can’t judge until you try one and watch it work.

1. “Hello.” 

Yes, people generally respond when you say hello. Weird, huh?

2. “I’m from Iowa.”

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From Raygun 

Now, I’m not promising a nice response…I get, “Oh, I’m sorry,” or “What the hell is in Iowa?” a lot… but hey, it’s a conversation starter! When people hear you’re from Iowa, they want to know about it. It’s makes you exotic.

Now, don’t give them your entire address…be safe you guys.

3. “Man, I don’t know what to order. You order for me.”

Yes, this one is totally bizarre, but you would be surprised how it works. I got it from another solo travel blog. It’s called the “Chili cheese omelet opener.” You sit down at the bar, ask if the person next to you is a local, ask if they’ve eaten there before, and then convince them to order your meal. When I did it, I got a laugh…then some great food. 🙂

 

4. “Can I pet your dog, please?”

I’ve done this twice. Once with a huge (seriously.. gigantic) dog while on a walk and once with a little pup at a bar/restaurant. The guy with the big dog was so tickled that I liked his not-so-little-fido that he talked to me for 15 minutes about it. (Bonus: he was cute)

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Really, it’s just an ice breaker. When I pet the little pup, it was enough to break the ice and talk, and that led to the best fried chicken in town!

5. “Can you watch my jacket?”

Be careful with this one…if you like your jacket I wouldn’t recommend it…

When in Nashville I sat down at the front end of the bar and ordered a drink. I kept noticing a group of people look over at me. I’m sure they were thinking, “What the hell is this girl doing sitting by herself at a bar?” Eventually I got tired of them watching me so I picked up all my valuables (but left my old coat to “save my chair”), walked over to the group and said, “Hey can you guys watch my coat for a second while I use the ladies’ room?”

They did. And when I came back, I had already broken the ice! The rest is history.

6. Drink liquid confidence.

Enough said. But be careful!

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7. Can I take your photo?

People love this one. In a family or group there is always that one person who never gets in the photo because he or she is taking it. So when someone offers to take their photo they’re always really grateful. And in return they usually take yours!

A fellow hiker I met at Cumberland State Park, we exchanged emails so I could send him the photo

A fellow hiker I met at Cumberland State Park, we exchanged emails so I could send him the photo

8. “I couldn’t help but notice your Midwestern accent!”

This one works when you run into people from your region. It establishes rapport with them. You have a connection, something to talk about.

9. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just love your bracelet (shirt, earrings, etc.)”

Who doesn’t love to be complimented? Sometimes they’ll tell you a great boutique or local place to shop, too!

10. “Can you help me find….?”

People are generally nice. And generally nice people will be willing to help you find what you’re looking for. Since the hardest part of talking to someone is actually the hello, now all you have to do is say, “So what’s the best local coffee shop?” “What’s your favorite part of this town?” …or if you’re really daring, “So, tell me your story!”

Safety

Come back for my next post and we’ll talk safety. There are definitely risks involved with solo travel and with meeting new people.

 

Southern food, Southern friends and damn good beer

I came to Chattanooga to hike, but I couldn’t leave without exploring downtown. Chattanooga is a mid sized city with lots to do and things to see. Here’s a few of my favorite stops.

The Flying Squirrel

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The Flying Squirrel is a bar in South Chattanooga. It’s literally 30 feet from The Crash Pad and offers a huge selection of draft and bottled beer, tapas style food, and fun and interesting people. Plus, the bartenders are really good looking…

Like really good looking…

At The Flying Squirrel I met a myriad of different people. Last night I met two guys who went to school together in Cookville, Tennessee. Josh, Scott and I talked and drank all night and had a great time! They asked me to stay another night and meet them at The Flying Squirrel Saturday, but I decided it was best to hit the road instead.  Now I’m kind of real sad about it.

Thursday night I met a new group of friends at The Flying Squirrel by asking to pet their dog. After a few playful puppy kisses and some intereesting conversation, they took me out to dinner for the best fried chicken in Chattanooga. That leads me to Champy’s.

Champy’s Chicken

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Champy’s Chicken supposedly has the best fried chicken in all of Chattanooga (some say it gets beat, though, by a little hole in the wall place with velvet walls located inside a budget hotel building).  I ordered fried pickles to share with the group. They were delicious but I don’t think I want to get used to Southern fried food on a regular basis.

Champy’s Chicken definitely had a local feel. I’d say the only way that visitor’s find the restaurant and bar is by meeting friends in Chattanooga.

Chattanooga River Market

I don’t have any pictures unfortunately because my phone and camera are both broken! The River Market is a day long event every Saturday during warm months. There’s local made jewelry, clothes, art, and even dog food…

I got this free Barley Bones t-shirt by eating a dog bone on camera for their Youtube and Facebook networks. I’m famous you guys.

Also…I at a dog bone.

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Seriously….

A cheddar and barley dog bone.

…anything for a free shirt. #Collegeprobs

Also they entrepreneurs at this booth were very interesting. They gave me lots of advice for scenic hiking trails close to town and we talked for a long time about traveling and business. They are trying to raise enough money selling their pure-ingredient dog bones to transform the puppy treats into human treats perfect for hiking.

Walnut Street Bridge

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The Walnut Street Bridge was the first bridge to connect Chattanooga’s downtown with the North Shore. It was built in 1890 and it’s one of the many historical structures of the town. Since it’s now too outdated to meet current standards for automobiles it’s been turned into a pedestrian bridge.

chattanooga bridge

 

 

Lesson learned

I’m really going to miss Chattanooga! There’s so much hiking to be done, people to meet, shops to explore, and downtown events to enjoy. I left one day early for many reasons.

…but now I really wish I hadn’t left early.

Be a yes traveler. You only get so many chances to travel, so enjoy it. When you’re in a new state, it’s a long drive to get back there, so experience everything while you can. Say yes to new adventures.

Friends, family and good music

padukah to nashville

From Paducah, KY to Nashville, TN

Last night I stayed in a $500 suite in the Drury Inn. HOLE-Y MOLE-Y! Pretty cool, eh? I’m big rollin’ now.

Just kidding. It was the last room left so I got it for 60 bucks.

Paducah is a quiet little river town squeezed between Missouri and Tennessee. Nothing special. I stopped down at the historic riverfront before I left, because why not? There was a very cute little coffee place near downtown, too. So many people were sitting around eating breakfast and talking in their Southern accents (I still can’t get over “ma’am and “honey”). I kind of felt like I was part of the town for a little bit.

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Friends

While in Nashville I walked up and down Broadway and weaved myself in and out of all the boot shops, bars, and diners.

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Eventually I planted myself at a bar called Honky Tonk Central. After half of a band performance with me, somehow, as the subject of all the lead singer’s stage talk (I guess it’s cuz I’m from Iowa) a group of guys finally came over and said hello. Man, they were fun!

honky tonk central

These guys all went to school together in Wyoming and were on vacation for a week. They bought me a few beers and led me in a few dances. Have I told you guys all how much I love country dancing?

I love it so much.

If you can dance…marry me.

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Eventually my three boyfriends and I had to part 😥 We exchanged numbers…but it’s too bad I won’t be back to Nashville before they leave. My only regret is that we didn’t get our picture together.

Family

After an hour of walking around and sobering up, I headed out to Hendersonville Tennessee where I ate dinner with Tom and Becky – Tom is my mom’s brother, so my uncle. It’s always so wonderful to be with family. And it was nice to sit down and relax for an evening with their three dogs and cat.  I think it’s been about 15 years since I’ve seen them!

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My Uncle Tom on the left (stole this picture from his website)

Good Music

Tom is such an inspiration to me. Born and raised in Iowa, he’s in Tennessee now following his dreams and songwriting.

Check out his webpage – his music is really good! (Course I’m biased)

http://www.savageehlts.com/

Nashville is, after all, the city of music. What better place to be?

Clumsy, charming, or both

Sometimes I think I should just start a blog for all the awkward things I do throughout the week…

My incredible, unexpected luck

Yesterday was 111 degrees in Fresno. I don’t even want to talk about what kind of things 111 degrees will make your body do. I was joking with my host family that I needed to find a country club pool to sit by all day.

So what do you know, I run into this really nice guy at a unique coffee place called “Kuppa Joy” in Old Town Clovis. Seems like a really upstanding guy. He’s a successful, intelligent 24-year-old who went to school on the coast. And there’s my invite to the country club.

Oh the irony of my day.

A little suspense never killed anyone

My GPS wouldn’t work, I couldn’t figure out where to go, it was a 20 minute drive….and I took a full hour to get there. I was a full hour late.

But no worries, my stock broker guy friend used the time to research for his job. Maybe he expected my terrible punctuality. I probably would if I met me.

Those damn fences

We talked and talked for a few hours. Not a silent moment. Honestly, I had a pretty wonderful night. Around 10:30 we finally decided it was time to pack up and head home a half hour after the pool area closed. And guess what? Security locked us in.

After unsuccessfully trying every locked gate, we gave up and decided to jump the fence. Of course I’m standing there all cocky saying, “Oh, us Iowa girls hop fences all the time…I got this,” and, “Yeah, I was a gymnast. Watch me muscle my way up there.”

Yeah. Right.

I threw my purse over the fence, tied my maxi in a knot, and proceeded to hop up.  I’m a bit vertically challenged. The only thing I managed was to slam my chest against the metal and fall over. This, of course, all happens as a bunch of high school kids sit there and laugh at me.

So what do I do? Try again! Tenacity, my friends…tenacity built the light bulb.

This time I take a running start. I’ll go ahead and let you imagine how that went.

Finally, the intelligent one of us suggests using a chair. I manage to step up onto the chair, and kick it out from under me as I’m sliding down the side of the fence. In the meantime the high school kids across the pool are practically crying I’m so funny.

So Mr. Intelligent-Muscles held onto the chair as I slowly climbed my way up, got stuck at the top and finally fell to the other side.

The amazing part about it all?

I survived, I got his number, AND I got a good night text saying he had a great time and would love to hang out again.

I guess the clumsy thing just works for some girls. So take notes y’all. I’ve got it mastered.

Day 7: Hiking and Running at Lake Tahoe

A beach is a beach

I woke up early this morning to fill out postcards on Nevada Beach. It was freezing cold, but so worth it. A beach is a beach. I don’t care how many cool things I’ve seen, nothing will ever be as therapeutic as a beach.

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With the mountains in the back

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early morning chilly!

 

A hike in the mountains

I wanted to hike some well known trails by myself…you know to have time to think and meditate and reflect since this is my eat pray love tour.

I couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to go.

So I called up Jeff and he took his dog, Zephyr and we went hiking up what I like to call, “Granite Mountain.” That’s not really what it’s called but that’s what it looked like. It was a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe. At the top we drank a couple beers before heading down. Perfect. Just perfect.

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Pure beauty

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Bliss

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Trees make great tripods, too.

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This is precisely why I don’t let other people frame up my photos…was this lady drunk?

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I made it!

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Lake Tahoe ❤

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Mountains

 

A run on the beach ❤

I decided to go for a run on the beach once I got home. It was about 3 miles to get to the pier. Then I walked about another mile and sat  on the beach and just smiled. It really is too bad that Lake Tahoe isn’t warm more months out of the year.

I ran most of the way back…not a runner.

A Diet Coke at the bar

Yes, I did order a Diet Coke at the casino. I just wanted to get dressed up and go out. And I figured I wouldn’t really have seen all of Nevada until I went in at least one casino. #Fail. At least I tried.

What I learned in Stateline, Nevada

1.) Medical Marijuana cards are not hard to get

2.) I need to learn winter sports so I can enjoy Lake Tahoe area year round.

3.) Lake Tahoe, contrary to what I thought, is NOT warm in May. And I brought swimsuits instead of sweatshirts. How embarrassing.

4.) Hiking is beautiful there, too.

5.) Tahoe area is probably the only great part of Nevada.

6.) There are a lot of great places to meet people…the casino is not one.

7.) Don’t buy soda at a casino bar. It costs more than the liquor.

8.) Boutiques in tourist towns have awesome clothing…that’s unaffordable.

9.) TripAdvisor is a Godsend. It helped me find the most amazing cabins in the whole town.

10.) I love Tahoe and I will move to Carson City so I am close to my job in Reno and the beach at Lake Tahoe. You betcha.

Day 6: The Great Salt Lake and the Brewery at Lake Tahoe

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Miles traveled: 577

The Great Salt Lake

Before I headed out of Utah, I stopped at the Great Salt Lake for a little photo shoot.

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Thanks, boobs for effectively ruining this photo

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I wouldn’t be a good tourist without a sign photo…using my car as a tripod

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The marina

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Look ma, I’m pretending to be a model

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excellent framing using a post I must say

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Driving sucks

Today I made the longest drive yet from Salt Lake City to Stateline, NV. Nevada is hideous. The only thing in Nevada is dirt, prostitutes, and casinos.

Okay that was probably harsh….but pretty much.

I took the long way around after getting a flat tire. You can’t see it on the map above, but there’s a two lane road that goes through the middle of Nevada called “The Lonely Highway.” There are very few stops and pretty much no civilization. I figured after the luck I already had that I better just play it safe and take the extra miles.

Along the highway there are several signs that say “Stay awake!” and “Drowsy drivers are dangerous drivers.” There were a few signs that blinked, “108 DEATHS ON NEVADA HIGHWAY THIS YEAR.”

Always eat at the bar

Once I got to Stateline, NV I got dressed up and went to the Brewery at Lake Tahoe. I felt pretty stupid when I sat down at the bar and got a Diet Coke because I’m still 20 and 10 months.

Always eat at the bar if you’re alone. I met more friends at the brewery. A local guy named Jeff invited me to his friend’s place for food and drinks. I took him up on the offer and went.

“Medical” marijuana for them…beer for me. After a some great conversation and wet kisses from their dogs I headed home for the night with some new numbers and new perspectives.

The most awesome hotel:

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I stayed at Doc’s Cottages for the low price of $55 and a $10 tip. What a steal! These cottages are still the same buildings that Clark Gable used to request every time he vacationed at Lake Tahoe. They’re located at Stateline Nevada. Technically the cabins are in Nevada but if you cross the street you’re in California.

What I learned driving through Nevada

2.)    I am very naïve. Drugs, brothels, legal prostitution, gambling…We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

3.)    I don’t want to move to the East Coast anymore. I’m going west.

4.)    Don’t judge a book by its cover….or the drugs it does. I’ve met so many sweet people along the way. Some cute, some not so cute, a lot that do drugs. Give them a chance to talk and you’ll be amazed. People have great stories to tell and great personalities to reveal.

5.)    Also don’t judge a book by how much hair he has….I can’t believe how many people I’ve met with long hair out here.

6.)    I want to start my TV career in Reno, Nevada. Close enough to Lake Tahoe and Cali… Or maybe that’s a bad idea because I’ll be vacationing in my free time.

7.)    Some things are just better in silence. Hiking, sitting on the beach, reflecting at the top of a mountain…you know, just the usual stuff.

8.)    There are a lot of great places to meet people – hiking, sitting on the beach, at the bar in a restaurant, a local coffee place – but Casinos are NOT great places to meet people.

9.)    Always be you. Every time I meet someone, I change my stories and put on a slightly different personality to impress that person. While it’s good to be adaptable, it’s not good to stop being you.