May Motorsports Madness and More!

June 2, 2010

I’ve been putting this off for a long time because my life has been pretty hectic lately, as usual. I forgot to mention that I bought a snowboard a couple months ago… it’s sitting in my office waiting to be used. I’m already looking forward to winter which is very unlike me!

I’ll try to make this as short and sweet as I can given how much stuff has been going on. Erik and I headed up to VIRginia Motorsports Park a few weeks ago to run another gymkhana event on the skidpad and had a really great time. We had a lot of drivers show up and were ridiculously busy (in a good way) all day. We also spent some time with the guys from Prey Racing which is always fun. I think we’ll be up again in October for another event but it’s not definite yet.

EJ and I took our boys to the Cobb County Carnival and got to ride a camel. Yeah, it was strange.

Formula D has come and gone and was a blast as usual. Saw some great driving and got to see some great friends in from out of town as well. It’s always craziness at Road Atlanta for that event but well worth going for the entertainment factor alone. Our good friend, Dennis Mertzanis, even made it to the top 32! Congratulations, Dennis!

The following weekend was the annual Southern Worthersee event up in Helen, GA which is a huge Volkswagen/German meet with several hundred cars. We went with a decent size group and brought a tent to escape from the sun under. Later on when it started raining, however, the tent came in handy to hide from the rain under, too! There’s always lots of great food and interesting cars. If you live in the South you should come check it out next year!

The weekend after SoWo we decided to go to Atlanta Dragway for the NHRA Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Mod races. I’d never been to Top Fuel/Funny Car before and was absolutely blown away by how powerful (and loud!) those cars are. I even got to meet racing legend John Force!!

Last week my friend from college, Monica, came to visit for a bit. She and I spent the week doing silly stuff, including a visit to the Yellow River Game Ranch where we got to pet and feed some wild animals (including a chipmunk, lol). Later on we, along with a bunch of others, went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival which was neat especially since I had never been to RenFair before. We dressed up in silly hats, tried to learn to juggle, watch lots of funny shows and played with some ponies. Loved it!! We also met up with another friend and fellow Drexel University alumni who happened to be in town for the weekend. I also somehow convinced Monica to take a riding lesson at Huntcliff and she claims to have enjoyed it.

Me “playing” with a peacock at the Yellow River Game Ranch… LOL

Speaking of riding, I finally jumped 3′ for the first time ever! It was absolutely amazing and I’m still smiling. I love TobyPony 😀

Lastly, we had a great Memorial Day weekend which included attending a friend’s graduation and a dope cookout/BBQ at Mikel’s. We took advantage of the holiday sales and finally bought an elliptical machine for the sunroom which I can’t wait to start using! We also celebrated our 3-year anniversary of owning our home!

Riding, The Girls and the Best Birthday EVER!!

April 22, 2010

What an amazing month April has turned out to be so far!

The past few weeks have been scattered with the usual excitement so I’ll recap the highlights in case anyone is interested in reading about my oh-so-wonderful life.

My best friend EJ and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary of knowing each other on April 7th so we wanted to do special something that weekend. We decided to do dinner at this great noodle cafe that we love, Doc Chey’s with the boys as our “dates”. Then we headed over to Fernbank for the Martinis & Imax thing that they do on Friday nights. I went with Erik when we first started dating and it was a blast – they have a bar set up, a band playing and it’s really lovely. The Imax that we saw was the about the history and culture of cowboys around the world so of course it featured lots of cute ponies for EJ and I to squeal over – what a perfect night!

I also turned 26 on April 17th. Usually my birthday is pretty awful and I wind up miserable but this year my amazing boyfriend and best friends decided that wasn’t allowed to happen. Erik, EJ, Alyssa and Sarah all plotted together to surprise me with the best weekend ever! Friday I had off from work, slept in and woke up ready for fun. EJ came and kidnapped me and drove to the airport for part 1 of my surprise. Who was there? Alyssa and Sarah! They had flown in from PA and MD just for the weekend!

Friday night they took me out for a pre-birthday dinner celebration. We got dressed up fancy and I even was given a special “birthday princess” tiara to wear all weekend, yay! We went to the Cheesecake Factory because that place is very yum with about 12 friends and had a great time. There were several other birthdays happening so by the time the servers came to sing to me it had been decided that everyone would out-sing everyone else and oh yes, they did. I felt special. 🙂

Me, Sarah, EJ and Alyssa celebrating on Friday night

Saturday morning Erik (in conjunction with The Girls) had planned part 2 of my surprise and I had to wake up at 6:30am for it! I am not a morning person so of course I wasn’t thrilled about getting up early on my birthday but they all promised me that it would be worth it. Erik packed a special bag full of stuff I would need and we drove for over an hour. As we got closer he had me close my eyes but I got excited because I could “smell horses” and when we finally arrived I found that we were at the beautiful Southern Cross Guest Ranch in Madison, GA. He had booked us for a half-day which included a 2-hour trail ride, use of the facilities and lunch.

The ranch has 250+ horses on the property, mostly Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas. The facilities are absolutely gorgeous and you can see horses running in the pastures from anywhere on the property. Our trail ride was just Erik and I along with one other guest and our great guide, Abby. We did a lot of cantering/galloping and I was very proud of Erik for not only surviving, but not whining at all – he hadn’t been on a horse in over a year! After the ride we lounged by the pool and dipped our legs before enjoying a delicious home-cooked lunch and driving home.

When we got to the house it was quickly evident that The Girls had been busy decorating for the party they decided I should have. The theme was “pink pirate” and was super cute! We had about 20 people over, played some rock band, smashed a skull-shaped pinata, played pin the treasure chest on the pirate map and partied it up. Mission: Happy Birthday was a success!

Sarah, EJ, Alyssa and I with some of the cute pink pirate party decorations!

A trip to Atlanta isn’t complete without a visit to Waffle House so Sunday morning we headed over there for lunch before driving The Girls back to the airport. I was bummed that the weekend was over but so thankful for having such incredible people around me.

Meanwhile, my trainer had called and wanted me to come ride Toby for my birthday present. How could I resist? Erik and I drove straight to the barn after stopping at the airport and I got to snuggle my pony. After a warm up, I worked him (Toby, not Erik, LOL) over some jumps and just enjoyed being with my boys. I rode for about 45 minutes before finally giving up because I was just so pooped from the overabundance of fun!

I am SO lucky to have such amazing friends in my life; I love you all more than anything ❤ BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER!!!

Monday Erik presented at IgniteATL so I went to watch him speak. There were some very interesting topics covered and I was proud that he did well.

Tuesday I went back to Huntcliff for my lesson, spent an hour grooming and snuggling Toby only to find that he had a stone bruise on his hoof and was lame so I couldn’t ride him. I quickly saddled up another horse, Halo, who is an adorable draft-cross. Halfway through the lesson I switched horses with the lady I ride with and got to ride her lovely Andalusian/Appaloosa mare. As much fun as I had riding two new-to-me horses, I missed Toby terribly and can’t wait to see him next week!

Me and Toby jumping – I love this pony!!

We’ve also been house shopping lately. We decided that given the current market, it makes sense that we should at least look around to see if we could get something bigger/nicer and/or in a better school district than what we have now for around what we’re already paying. We saw one house yesterday which was huge and beautiful but the lot was too slope-y and the driveway too small. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

snowboarding, hockey, cars and riding

March 31, 2010

I feel like the more I try to make some downtime for myself to relax, the more things I find (or find me) to keep me busy. Not that that’s a bad thing – far from it – I hate being bored!

We went out to Utah from March 12-14 to go snowboarding at Snowbasin again. It was a really great trip because Alyssa, Sarah and our friend Seth decided to join us this year! We stayed with EJ and her parents who took wonderful care of us and had a blast goofing off and getting hurt. I wasn’t expecting much of what I learned last year to “stick” but I was very surprised at how quickly I picked it up again; Seth even taught me to successfully ride on my toe edge! I’ve been shopping around for a board to buy and am already looking forward to next year’s trip. New hobby? Yes!

Seth, EJ, Sarah, Alyssa, me and Erik at Snowbasin in Utah

Two weekends ago I went to go see Miranda Lambert play at a local club. I’ve been a huge fan of hers for years (she’s a rebel-girl country singer) and was thrilled to finally get to see her live. The thousands of screaming, redneck fans, however, I could have done without 😉

The next day me, Erik, EJ and Mikey went to go see the Atlanta Thrashers play the Philadelphia Flyers. EJ and I had never been to a pro hockey game before and we both were excited that our new and old homes were playing against each other so it made the game that much more fun to watch. Atlanta won and I can’t say I was disappointed in the least.

This past weekend a whole big group of us went down to the High Museum of Art for their “Allure of the Automobile” exhibit which featured some unbelievably incredible cars from the last century; they truly are works of art. I was floored by how technologically advanced some of them were even at almost 100 years old!

Riding has been going well lately. I’ve been working with Toby consistently, trying to get him to relax and stop being resistant. I went out the other weekend and just spent an hour working with him on my own to get him to give to the bit and go in a frame. We made a lot of progress but unfortunately he’s a school horse who is subject to the kicks and pulls of lesson students and has quickly reverted back to his old ways. It’s definitely a bummer but he makes up for it when we fly over jumps and have fun. I love that little pony…

Anyway, that’s it for now. Some other exciting things are going on but I’d rather not publicize them here… yet!

Racing, riding, a blizzard and a wedding.

March 10, 2010

Yeah, yeah, so I haven’t updated in over a month… whatever.

Erik and I went down to Tampa last month to help our friends at Full Auto Motorsports run the timing equipment for a dope gymkhana/autox and drift event they put on. The event itself was great and I’m looking forward to heading back down for the next one!

I also had the pleasure of babysitting a wonderful Thoroughbred named Fergus for the past month while his mommy was out of town. We worked a lot on getting him to relax, bend and go in a frame. Even though it was just a month he really made a lot of progress and I’m super proud of him. I’m also incredibly grateful for such a wonderful opportunity!

Valentine’s was nice; Erik always does his best to make it a special day. He had planned on surprising me with a picnic but thanks to the 4+ inches of snow we received two days prior (yes, 4″ is considered a “blizzard” in Atlanta and yes, I also find it hilarious) he had to improvise a bit by moving the picnic into our sunroom. Either way it was so thoughtful and sweet and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Yesterday I had a pretty crappy day; people were aggravating me at work and I was just in an overall icky mood. I headed over to Huntcliff for my weekly lesson and was surprised to see Erik’s car there. He had decided to come watch to cheer me up! I rode Toby and I seriously can’t get over how much I love that pony. He’s such a sweetie and so much fun to ride! My trainer keeps trying to convince me to buy him and I really wish I could but there’s no way I could afford to do so and take care of him should something happen. I hate this pile of student loan debt. 😦

Lastly, I’d like to congratulate the new Mr. and Mrs. Petitone! My good friends Laura and Joe got married this past Friday and am so thrilled for them. Jill and I were bridesmaids and the wedding itself was beautiful. I wish them all the best and lots of happiness in their new life together!

Jill and I: beautiful bridesmaids! Sorry for the funny face; I’m still learning how to smile.

Life, girls and riding updates

February 3, 2010

So I’d like to start by remembering a friend who recently passed away. The last time I saw him was the night before I left Philly back in 2007 and I’m fortunate that every memory I do have of him is one that’s filled with laughter and happiness. Bill Keim, you will certainly be missed; may you rest in peace. As tragic as his passing is, Bill was the kind of guy who was always smiling. With that in mind, I’ll move on to some not-so-depressing news…

I went out to dinner and a movie with EJ and some girls from her Psych program at GA State the other week. I’m glad to see that she’s making some good friends and, as silly as it sounds, the “momma/chaperone” in me was glad to meet people with whom she spends a lot of time. The following night we went to a friend’s party for some good times. I hadn’t had a strictly girls-only weekend in a while… I need to do that more often!

Most of my friends know that I am the kind of person where good things tend to happen to me very frequently and very randomly. Most recent case in point: last Saturday my friend was out at a party and met a girl. The girl mentioned that she would be going out of the country for a month and she was trying to find someone to “babysit” her horse while she was gone. My friend instantly convinced her that I would be perfect for the job and got the two of us in touch. Long story short, I went out to meet her and the horse, Fergus, this past weekend at their barn. She’s super nice and Fergus is an adorable little Thoroughbred who is incredibly fun to ride. Lucky me will be riding Fergus several times a week for the next month! I’m absolutely thrilled – in all my years of riding, this is the closest I’ve ever come to having “my own” horse. I’m also grateful beyond words to my friend who made this all happen.

Sunday I actually had another “girls day” with a friend who is getting married. She and I and our other friend went and picked out bridesmaid dresses (which was so much fun!) then went to lunch and to find shoes. I’m honored that she chose us to be a part of such a wonderful occasion. Congrats girl!

Last time I updated I asked that everyone please watch the Atlanta auditions on American Idol. Why? Well, now that they’ve aired I can finally share the good news. My amazing riding instructor, Miriam, made it through to Hollywood!! She’s a killer singer and I’m glad she’s finally getting the right kind of recognition for it. I couldn’t be prouder of her, not to mention proud to know her and proud to have her as my trainer!

Speaking of training, I rode at Huntcliff last night. It’s still a giant muddy mess (from the floods back in September) and most of the paddocks are still underwater (literally) but I am very pleased to report that Toby is no longer lame! He had been on stall-rest for a few months and I hadn’t ridden him since before the floods and missed him terribly. I rode him yesterday and couldn’t stop smiling – I love that little pony!! I’m ecstatic that he’s feeling better and I can ride him again; I feel like a silly schoolgirl in love 😀

Well, that’s it for now. The next few weeks should be pretty busy for me… I’ve got a bit of motorsports-y travel planned, the wedding and we a trip to go snowboarding in Utah again this year. Stay tuned!

The Best Week That Never Happened!

January 13, 2010

So I may be a few weeks late with this, but… Happy 2010!

After getting back from our cruise, all I wanted to do was relax and take it easy for a while; 2009 had been quite the busy year for me! For Christmas, Erik and I did the traditional Jew-mas of going out for Chinese food and seeing a movie.

My great friend Sarah (who I knew from the Drexel University Equestrian Team) decided that she didn’t want to be home while on break from grad school so she came to stay for a week. We spent New Year’s Eve partying at Dan and Jill’s beautiful new home and hanging out with some really incredible friends. New Year’s Day we kept the IHOP-breakfast tradition alive and had everyone from the night before join us to make it even more special. Two days later we went with a group of like 20 other friends to Korean BBQ and karaoke. Sarah had never been to either and she (as well as myself!) had a great time. I really wish we did this more often; I love me some Korean BBQ yum-meat! Sarah, however, is convinced that this was “the best week that never happened” because of the overwhelming lack of photographic evidence.

Riding has been pretty decent lately. I’m with a new trainer now that Miriam has left to pursue bigger dreams. Last week I rode a new-to-me horse and really didn’t enjoy him at all. It was one of the most “blah” rides I’d had in a long time and it left me feeling pretty down. Last night I rode a horse who I hadn’t ridden in over a year and was actually surprised at how well he goes now. I’m nowhere near being in love, especially not like I was with Wally or Toby (poor Toby is incredibly lame and on stall-rest for an undetermined amount of time), but it was a really nice change after last week’s mess. I really need my own horse…

Spent this last weekend sitting around the house and catching up with Miss EJ since she’d been back home in snowy Utah for the past 4 weeks. Gah, I missed her so much! We hid from the cold (people in Atlanta were panicked over the “blizzard” that we had… it was just a dusting with no accumulation! LOL) and I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfectly low-key.

Erik hurt himself really badly at judo last night. Apparently they were practicing throws and he landed weirdly and another guy fell on top of him, dislocating his left shoulder and possibly doing some tendon/ligament/cartilage damage. He’s going to the orthopedist tomorrow to get checked out but I’m a bit worried, so please keep your fingers crossed that he’s okay and won’t need surgery!

I’m also proud to report that in my very first year as a real-life business owner I actually turned a profit! That’s right, did not post a loss in its first year! How cool is that? 🙂

One last thing – it is very important that you watch American Idol’s Atlanta auditions tonight. I’ll post more after the fact, but please tune in!!

Mexican Riviera Cruise & Our 5 Year Anniversary

December 18, 2009

In 2007, Erik and I went on our first cruise/vacation together and had a blast. Since then, we’ve made it a tradition to go each December to celebrate our anniversary and enjoy some time off. This year, for our 5th anniversary, we did a Mexican Riviera cruise to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas!

Day 1: December 5 (Saturday)
The cruise was departing out of Long Beach, CA which made me a little leery about flying in same-day. What if the flight was delayed and we missed the ship? I used this worry as a great excuse to fly in a day early and hang out with some friends. We landed at LAX around noon local time and Steve (my good friend from when I used to work at Garrett Turbos) picked us up in his (finally running) swapped S13. Steve now works for SpaceX, an independent space exploration company, and our first stop was a tour of their facilities! They had some very neat stuff and it was a little overwhelming seeing it all up close.

We then headed to In N Out so Erik could get his Animal-style on. From there we went to the Los Angeles International Auto Show and wandered around for a while looking at the new models and concepts. For dinner we hit up a dope all you can eat Koran BBQ joint and stuffed ourselves silly. Later we met up with a LA-based coworker of mine at PinkBerry (Erik wanted to try it). We crashed at Steve’s apartment that night for some much needed rest!

Day 2: December 6 (Sunday)
It may sound strange, but I absolutely love California fast food; I convinced the boys that we should do breakfast at Yoshinoya and it was so worth it. Afterwards, Steve drove us down to Long Beach so we could board our ship but first we stopped at the Long Beach Convention Center for a large motorcycle show that was going on. I’d love to have a bike, but I have a feeling I’d wind up getting pretty hurt so I keep sinking money into my car instead. 😉

We boarded the Carnival Splendor around 3pm and set sail that evening. The ship is their second largest/newest and it was really awesome!

Day 3: December 7 (Monday)
Our first day at sea we spent mostly just relaxing and exploring the ship since a cold front had moved in and the weather was kind of icky.

Day 4: December 8 (Tuesday)
Our second day at sea was much of the same – eating, relaxing, exploring. Luckily the weather had warmed up a bit by then and we spent some time hanging out in one of the ship’s many hot tubs. Dinner that night was very, well, interesting. At one point all of the servers came over to our table with a piece of cake and a candle. I thought they were going to sing “Happy Anniversary” to us like they’ve done each year so far but instead they started singing “Happy 15th Birthday” to me! It was neither my birthday nor am I 15, but I wanted the cake so I played along and enjoyed it. Very random but highly amusing.

Erik and I at Las Caletas Beach in Puerto Vallarta

Day 5: December 9 (Wednesday)
This was our first port-day and we docked in Puerto Vallarta. We had booked an excursion with our friends Susie and Rick to go to a private beach and have a sea lion encounter. First of all, our tour guides from Vallarta Adventures were absolutely hilarious. At one point during the boat ride they decided to reenact a “classic Mexican movie” for us, complete with pink wigs, fake boobs (they were all guys) and dancing. What was the movie? Grease! And yes, they put on a wonderful performance. Also on the boat ride over they decided to stop and have us go whale watching for a half an hour. Apparently the bay is a prime Humpback Whale migration destination and they have just arrived the day before. Typically they travel in smaller groups of about 2-3 but we lucked out and spotted a group of 8+ whales close to our boat. We watched them splash and play and flash their tails around for a while; it was absolutely incredible! I was so glad we got that “surprise” added to our trip!

Later on we arrived at Las Caletas beach where we ate lunch and relaxed for a bit. After, we were given wetsuits and swam a little ways off shore to meet our new friend, Littiboo the very friendly sea lion. We got to swim with him, watch him do tricks (he’d do anything for a fish), go for a ride, give a high-five and get a “kiss”. I’d never seen a sea lion up close before – they’re huge!! When we were done “playing” we decided to go snorkeling and watch some fish. All in all, this excursion was amazing and definitely the highlight of our trip.

Being that this was also the day of our 5th anniversary, we decided to have dinner on the ship at their special fancy steakhouse. It was very private and the food/service were excellent. The ship wasn’t leaving Puerto Vallarta until 10:00pm so we had a great view of the city while we ate. Erik also got me a gorgeous Everlon diamond necklace. He’s the best!

Erik, me, Rick and Susie with Littiboo the Sea Lion

Day 6: December 10 (Thursday)
For our second port-day we stopped in Mazatlan and I was surprised at how smoggy and industrial it was. We boarded a somewhat sketchy boat for a ride over to Deer Island where we spent the day kayaking and hiking. The island is an uninhabited nature preserve and we got to see a ton of pelicans just hanging out. The views from on top of the island were stunning; the cliffs and rock formations were definitely worth the hike.

Instead of going back to the ship afterwards, however, we “escaped” the tour and opted to hop a tiny boat to cross the bay to the mainland where we had lunch with some people we had met during the day. It’s always fun exploring new towns! We also had been seeing a lot of Mexican military/army personnel at the ports who were all carrying very large automatic rifles. While most normal people would avoid contact with them at all costs, I am not “most people”. I walked right up to one guy and asked if we could have a photo with him. He smiled and immediately put his arm around me. Gracias, Mexico!

Thanks to my braces I’m finally able to smile after 10+ years. I love us!

Day 7: December 11 (Friday)
For our last port-day we stopped in the harbor at Cabo San Lucas and took a quick tender ride to the docks. Erik and I wandered around looking at the vendors and stopped to enjoy a beer. There were a few people who had canvas bags literally full of iguanas. I absolutely adore reptiles and had an iguana for 15 years who thought she was a dog, so of course I couldn’t say no when they practically forced them into my hands. I felt bad because it was obviously a “take a photo and give us a dollar” type thing and I didn’t have any cash on me, but it made me smile to cuddle the cute little green lovelies again.

For our excursion we had chosen to do a Sea Trek helmet dive. It’s basically a 75-pound helmet that sits on your shoulders (thanks to buoyancy it doesn’t feel like much underwater) and contains an air bubble which allows you to breathe normally, even when 30 feet under water, without a regulator or dive mask or anything. We were the only two people signed up in our time slot and therefore we had a “private” session which was pretty neat. The water was clear and we were surrounded by thousands of fish. They say the feeling is similar to walking on the moon. At one point a wild sea lion even came by to swim with us and see what was going on. Unreal!

Erik and I enjoying our underwater Sea Trek in Cabo San Lucas

Day 8: December 12 (Saturday)
We spent our last day at sea mostly just sleeping and recovering from the week’s excitement. We had a great time with our friends and met some wonderful new people. I’m already looking forward to next year!

The beautiful sterling silver and diamond necklace Erik got me

Day 9: December 13 (Sunday)
Nothing much to say here except that we got back home around midnight and were so pooped that we immediately went to bed. We had a great anniversary vacation!

If you’d like to see more fun photos from the trip, you can view the whole album here:


Cavalia, DMGGMASD2 and riding

November 24, 2009

What a fun month November has been! Nothing major has happened since my last update but of course that hasn’t stopped me from keeping myself busy.

For those who haven’t heard, Cavalia has been touring the country. It’s an equestrian art performance very similar to Cirque de Soleil in style. Tickets are hella expensive and I’d been wanting to go (but not spend the money, of course). As luck would have it, a very good friend of ours happened to have some extra! We (me, Erik, EJ and Jon) had a lovely dinner at Strip in Atlantic Station before heading over to the tents. Jon got us the Rendez-Vous package tickets which not only guaranteed us great seats but also included hours d’oeuvres and an open bar before the show, desserts during intermission and a tour of the stables to see the horses afterwards. The show itself was incredible and I am so grateful that Jon made this happen for us! If it’s going to be touring near you, I highly recommend you go see it, even if you aren’t a “horse” person!

That weekend Erik and I decided to drive two hours south to the Big Pig Jig, one of the largest BBQ festivals in the country. It was interesting, to say the least; the food was *yummy* and the crowd was great for people-watching.

The following weekend was the 2nd annual greatest drift event that nobody knew about – the DMGGMASD at the Nashville SuperSpeedway. It’s turned into an annual thing now, but basically it’s a private day drift event where we rent out the entire track and play all day on the roadcourse. It’s invite-only, so there are only a limited number of drivers (and friends/family) which makes it a total blast. Erik and I trailered up our E30 BMW so he could drive since Sae’s old SC300 isn’t ready quite yet. The best part? I even got to try my hand at drifting! I’ve honestly never done any sort of motorsport before (with the exception of some drag racing and an autocross 7 years ago) but I didn’t suck too horribly. I managed to get the car sideways and a little slidey which made me happy. It was so much FUN! I can’t wait to try again 🙂

2009 Drift Mechanik’s Gossip Girl Marathon And Some Drifting 2 (DMGGMASD2)

I’ve been riding with Miriam up at ReinCheck while the Huntcliff Equestrian Center recovers from the flood damage. Lately, I’ve been working with this black Thoroughbred named Jet who I’m definitely not in love with but he’s not too bad. Last week we were riding in the outdoor arena at night and he was a little jittery. He spooked once pretty badly and I managed to stay on but he was really tense afterwards. I tried to get him to relax and focus but a few minutes later he spooked again, this time much worse, and dumped me off. I flew through the air quite a distance and managed to land somewhat unpainfully on the back of my hip but my head smashed the ground pretty hard on impact. Not fun. I got up, went to go catch the horse (who had run back to the barn) and got back on to ride some more. He was really worked up at this point so I just trotted him for the next 40 minutes to get the energy out and (try, unsuccessfully, to) get him to relax. Blech. I hadn’t fallen off in over a year and even though I didn’t get hurt, it’s never enjoyable. I was a little sore in my neck/shoulders the next day but that’s just a part of riding.

I went up to ride last night before the holiday and Miriam had trailered over her beautiful 4 year old Hanoverian mare for me to ride (instead of Jet). Genoa has been under saddle, off-and-on, for about eight months. She was definitely the greenest horse I’d ever ridden but I was amazed at how lovely she was. She’s very willing and she has that super-adorable space-cadet mindset that babies tend to have which is hilarious because you can pretty much see her processing thoughts and trying to figure things out. I jumped her a bit and was really impressed with how much power she has! I’m very grateful and flattered that Miriam thinks enough of my riding to trust me with her.

Anyway, up next I’m heading up to New York on Thursday morning for Thanksgiving with Erik. I’ll be back Monday, then I’m in town for four days and we head out on our anniversary vacation. So basically, starting Thursday, I’ll only be home for 4 of the next 18 days. Ha!

Here’s a funny comic that I’ll leave you with which will hopefully brighten your day:
How to Ride a Pony

Vacationing in Spain, Equestrian Style!

November 3, 2009

I finally found some time to sit down and write a recap of the recent trip that my mother and I took to Spain. We had been planning to go horseback riding in Europe ever since I was a little kid and finally decided when I graduated college back in ’07 that we would do it. A few weeks ago, we made it happen. If you want to skip the text and go straight to the photos, you can check out the ones I’ve posted on Facebook by clicking HERE.

Day 1: Saturday
Not a very exciting day; I woke up, finished packing and drove to the airport with Erik and EJ. After a slightly tearful goodbye, I caught a flight from ATL to JFK to pick up my mom. I met a nice guy on the flight up who was a naval officer from Ecuador and we kept each other company for the duration of the trip. Landed at JFK, met up with mom at the gate and re-boarded our flight bound for Madrid.

Day 2: Sunday
We landed safe and sound in Madrid at 7:30am local time. Thanks to the 6-hour time difference, we weren’t too tired yet (I didn’t manage to get any sleep on the plane) and wandered outside to find a taxi to catch our train for the next leg of the trip. I don’t speak a word of Spanish and thought it’d be more “interesting” if I kept it that way throughout the trip. We found a very nice cab driver who happened to not speak a word of English and through my awesome pointing and pantomiming skills I managed to get him to understand that we needed to go to the Madrid train station (Estacion de Atocha, as he taught me it was called). Atocha Station itself is beautiful. It’s an old building (mid-1800s) with neat architecture and a pond-forest-garden-y thing in the center which is home to hundreds of turtles. Seriously. We sat around for a couple hours and let the exhaustion settle in before catching our train to Seville and promptly falling asleep for the entire 3-hour ride. So much for seeing the countryside!

We arrived in Seville and had another few hours to kill before we were met by the owner of where we would be staying. While waiting, we also met two of the other guests for the week. Patty, a lovely dressage rider from South Dakota, and her father Doug who would not be riding but instead provided us with entertainment and hilarious jokes throughout the week. Eventually Fernando showed up and drove us all back to the Epona Equestrian Center to give us the welcome tour and show us to our rooms. The main building is a 500+ year old hacienda that has been converted into guest rooms, the owners home, a lounge, tack room and more. To say it is absolutely gorgeous is not doing justice; Epona’s facilities are stunningly beautiful, immaculately maintained and staffed by some truly wonderful people.

Dinner that night as spent at a small, local restaurant in the town of Carmona (where Epona is located). The remaining two guests, Gillian and Ross, a great couple from the UK, met us at the restaurant. The food was excellent and Fernando taught us about the local culture, customs and industry.

Day 3: Monday
Woke up for our first “real” day nice and early and surprisingly wasn’t jet-lagged at all. We nibbled some breakfast (all of our meals on-site were cooked by the owner’s wife and were fabulous) and wandered out into the stable yard to meet the horses that would be ours for trail riding for the week. There was one big, tall, incredibly gorgeous bay Andalusian gelding that I immediately noticed and figured he was one of the guide’s horses since he was so impressive. I even commented to another woman about how handsome he was. One of the staff then walked over to me, pointed to the horse and said “That’s Handsome. He’s yours for the week.” What an appropriate name!

We rode through olive orchards and across fields, viewing old olive press buildings and other interesting scenic things. Unfortunately the fields we rode through had already been harvested, but early in the year they are full of sunflowers as far as the eye can see. I think I need to visit again in the springtime!

Three hours later we returned to Epona for lunch and a quick siesta before our first lesson of the week. I’d never really ridden dressage before, nor had I even ridden in a dressage saddle. I was a little worried that it’d be strangely different from the usual huntseat riding that I do, but thanks to Miriam’s awesome lessons I had a strong foundation in dressage flatwork and basics and was amazed at how easy it was for me to make the transition. I was paired with another unbelievably gorgeous bay Andalusian gelding named Corsario (means “Pirate”, cute!) and instantly fell in love. I’ve never ridden a horse that supple before; never had a horse that responded so well and easily to my leg and seat aids. It was incredible. It made me (almost) want to give up jumping and study dressage…

Me on Handsome in Carmona, Spain. Look at that neck!! 🙂

Day 4: Tuesday
Instead of a trail ride in the morning we all jumped in the car for a drive up to Jerez where we would attend a show at the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre (Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art) which is comparable to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. We got to watch some of the students warming up the horses and then saw an amazing show of their “Dancing Stallions”. The school itself is incredible; the grounds are immaculately maintained and the architecture is stunning. Afterwards we had a quick pit stop at a local sherry shop for some tastings and headed back to Epona for lunch.

We ended the day with another lesson with Karin (our instructor for the week) before heading off to dinner and bed for some much-needed sleep.

Day 5: Wednesday
This was one of the slower, more low-key days of the week and that certainly was appreciated as we had been busy busy busy up until then! We went for another 3-hour trail ride and along the way stopped at a 2,000+ year old Roman bridge. In Seville itself there are quite a few old aqueducts that remain standing, running along the city streets. I really enjoyed not only learning about the ancient history tied to the area but also getting a chance to see some of it for myself. In the evening we had another lesson where we worked on things such as shoulder-in and travers. I am still amazed at how much fun I had riding Corsario. I wish there were horses like him at Huntcliff!

Me riding Corsario at the Epona Equestrian Center and having so much fun!

Day 6: Thursday
This morning we did things a little differently. We still went for a trail ride except that it was on the beach in Cadiz. Fernando arranged for us to ride horses from a local stable and take them out along the shore. The views were incredible from atop the cliffs during our ride. We cantered along the beach where, unfortunately, Gill’s horse stumbled and went lame. We had to wait on the beach for a new horse to brought out to her and her injured one to be hand-walked back. Definitely a bummer, but the horse was okay and that’s all that matters. Once we got home we enjoyed lunch and another lesson with Karin.

Day 7: Friday
Sadly, this was our last day of riding. Our morning 3-hour trail ride was enjoyable but somewhat somber as we were all disappointed knowing it was almost over. Along the way we stopped at a grand hacienda that belonged to an ex-Formula 1 driver who now breeds mules for carriage driving. There were dozens of them in the pastures and they came over to say “hi” as we approached – so cute!!

In the late afternoon we had our final riding lesson. We worked on a team dressage routine (me, mom and Gill) where we would ride in unison to perform certain movements and patterns. It was very difficult because you not only had to focus on your own horse but also on the other riders’ horses, their speeds and locations relative to your own and adjust as necessary to ensure that the distances and positions remained consistent throughout. By the end of the lesson, however, we were doing great and having a wonderful time.

That evening we went into downtown Seville for a traditional flamenco show. The costumes and dancers were wonderful and the performance top-notch. Dinner afterwards was at a local, traditional style restaurant.

Day 8: Saturday
Oh hell what a day this was! We had to wake up at 4:00am in order to get to the Seville airport in time for our 7:00am flight. When we checked in for Iberia Airlines, they said they could only give us the first boarding pass even though our next connecting flight was also on Iberia. Strange. Anyway, we landed in Madrid at 8:00am and ran around frantically trying to find someone to help us in time to catch our next flight. Eventually we managed to get on our next flight at 9:30am and landed an hour later at Malaga. Now comes the fun part – since the first two flights were on Iberia and the next two flights were on Delta, we had to go back out to the ticket counter to get our new boarding passes and go through security for a second time. Surprisingly enough it was pretty easy and we had enough downtime to relax for a minute before jumping on the 12:40pm flight to New York.

This is where things got interesting. We were supposed to land at 3:25pm EST, I’d say goodbye to mom at the gate and continue on to Atlanta on my own on a 4:45pm flight. We landed on time but sat on the runway for 30 minutes before getting a gate. Now, add in the fun of standing in line to go through immigration, another line for Customs and Border Patrol and finally another line to clear security for a third time in one day and you see where I started to worry that I’d miss my flight. Oh no, I wasn’t about to let that happen considering I’d been up since (after the time conversion) 11:00pm the night before. To make a long story short, I literally sprinted through the entire airport hauling my suitcase and backpack (both of which were super heavy since I didn’t want to check anything and risk losing them on the way home), in my paddock boots (not great for running), absolutely exhausted and desperate. I also had a small bottle of water in my purse which managed to open and spill its entire contents all down my leg while I was trying to get from one end of JFK to the other. Hilarious, yes. Comfortable, no. I got to the gate just as they were closing the door and the nice man took pity on me because I was about to faint and let me on. I got to my seat and almost started crying I was so tired and happy to be on board!

The flight home was relaxing, thankfully. I sat next to this really awesome old man (in his mid 70s) who has travelled the world. We talked about every subject under the sun and I concluded that basically he was the coolest 20-something I’d ever met. He just happened to be stuck in an older body. To date, he is by far my favorite Single Serving Friend. We landed in Atlanta at 8pm (for a total of 5 airports and 22 hours of travel), Erik and EJ picked me up and I went home to collapse. Game over!!


All in all, it was a pretty incredible trip and I’m so happy that mom and I were able to make it happen. We’ll just have to go back again in the springtime so we can see all the pretty sunflowers!

Since I’ve been back I’ve been doing my usual routine of keeping busier than is probably healthy. We did manage to go to NetherWorld last week with some friends. Supposedly it’s rated #1 in the country right now and it’s definitely one of the best haunted houses I’ve ever been to. We did both the main house (which rocked) and the second attraction, Zombie Rampage. Thirty seconds after walking in, some zombie guy ran up to me trying to scare me but I just stood my ground (this sort of stuff I find funny, not scary) and so he stuck his face right in mine, about two inches from me nose, and I just smiled. Then he gave me a kiss. On the lips. Then he ran away. It totally caught me by surprise and I didn’t know whether to be terrified or flattered, but either way I found it absolutely hilarious. How that is the only thing from both haunted houses that actually scared me? LOL!


October 8, 2009

I’m leaving on Saturday for a week-long horseback riding vacation at the Epona Equestrian Center in Seville, Spain with my mother so I figured it’d be best if I updated now with all the craziness that has been going on over the past few weeks… 😉

As many of you know, Atlanta got hit with some pretty severe flooding not too long ago. We were fortunate in that our house was spared, although the creek behind us that is normally only 1-2 inches high rose to over 5 feet and swamped our backyard. The barn I ride at, Huntcliff, wasn’t so lucky. They’re located on a peninsula right in the middle of the Chattahoochee River which came up over the 100-year flood plain mark and swallowed the barn whole – covered the roof and everything. The horses were evacuated and transported to a nearby barn for temporary housing where they will stay until things are back to normal. While the main structures at Huntcliff are still standing, there was tremendous damage that will need to be repaired and all the feed/equipment/machinery/etc. was lost. I’m so upset by the devastation and although it’ll be quite a tremendous task for them to rebuild, I’m confident Huntcliff will come back better and stronger than ever before.

On a more positive note, Erik and I have been going to a lot of concerts lately! We saw Depeche Mode not too long ago, went to The Sounds with some friends, saw U2/Muse the other night (the spontaneous rendition of Stand By Me, accompanied by the 75,000+ fans at the Georgia Dome, was spectacular) and will be heading up to see Social Distortion (one of my favorite bands ever!) in Athens when I get back from Spain.

We did manage to go see the BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs the other weekend which was pretty cool. I saw the making of it on Discovery a while back and had wanted to go ever since. I can’t really describe it, but it was all life-sized and incredibly detailed to the point where even though it was real life it seemed almost like CGI. Incredible.

This past weekend we went to the 2009 Bosch Octoberfest at VIRginia International Raceway since DGTrials was asked to host the gymkhana and VW Challenge on the skidpad. The event itself was great; we had a very complex course for the regular gymkhana that people had a blast driving (and getting lost) on. The VW course was simplified as this was open to any attendee who registered in advance and wanted to drive a track-provided 2009 VW GTI. I was working the timing equipment and registrations, as usual, and met a lot of really great people and had a blast.

Early in the day on Saturday, a team came over to us from the Grand Am race that was also going on that weekend. They had wrecked their Porsche Boxster and rather than fix it enough to continue racing, they decided to play with it on our course instead. Cool! The car was dope and they were an absolute blast to hang out with. At one point they decided to run their golf cart on the gymkhana course and got that bad boy up on two wheels. I LOLed.

Sunday I got to do a ride-along on the road course with a pro driver in a simulated race. Shockingly enough I’d never actually been out on a road course before, and I loved every second of it. I need to get my car track-ready again… There was also a GTR hanging out in the paddocks that the owner let me crawl into and play around with. Yay!

Speaking of GTRs… one of the participants at our gymkhana had an absolutely gorgeous, showroom-new quality 1989 Nissan Skyline GTR. The cool thing about it was that he was letting anyone drive it so long as they had the balls to ask him. His reasoning was that the car is too much fun not to enjoy and share. Amazing huh? I didn’t drive at all the whole weekend because I was so busy running the event, but at the end of the day on Sunday he walked over to me and stuck the key in my hand. I looked at him with this confused look on my face and he just pointed at the car and said “go, you’re driving it”. Me? really? In an R32 Skyline? No way! Long story short, I wound up driving it around for a while (although I was too worried about breaking it somehow, haha, to really push it) and couldn’t stop smiling. I’d never ever driven right-hand drive before but found it surprisingly easy. It doesn’t feel weird to sit on the “wrong” side of the car because you’re focused and concentrating on driving it so that you don’t even notice. I was even more surprised to find that I didn’t try to shift with my right hand, not even once! Go me! I need to get one of these babies for myself…

I drove a RHD 1989 Nissan Skyline GTR!! 😀