Down the Eastern Seaboard

On my last morning in Bethesda, I quickly looked at my map to guesstimate where I might end up that evening and make a hotel reservation. Myrtle Beach seemed like it might be too crowded, and Georgetown looked dull, but Pawley’s Island right between the two…interesting! It sounded quaint, very casual and appealing. I got online and much too quickly made a reservation at a local Motel 6 (oh, more to come on that later!). I left around 10am, and planned to take I-95 and get there as quickly as possible. Well, as they say, the best laid plans….it was not to be. Construction as far as the eye could see turned I-95 into a parking lot. Normally that would have irritated the hell out of me….but I’m looking at everything in a new way. So, I chose to look at the situation as an exercise in letting go of control, and patiently crept along until the next exit presented itself. I made my way to Route 1 and turned south. The trip took much longer than I expected, but what the hell, I am on no schedule whatsoever. I arrived in Pawley’s Island around 7pm, very hot and tired. Upon checking into the hotel, I realized that I had NOT done enough research…it was old and worn and just a bit scary….although at least it was clean.

The upside of the hotel was that it was barely a mile and a half from beach access. I scoped out the location and walked onto the beach. OMG it was beautiful! It was clean and uncrowded. The evening was warm and breezy, and the Atlantic waves crashed gently onto the shore. I walked into the water up to my knees, it was warm and felt amazing. I strolled up and down the beach for an hour, looking forward to the next morning and what I was certain would be an amazing sunrise. With darkness quickly approaching, I made my way back to Scary Motel.

First night in Pawley's Island

First night in Pawley’s Island

My alarm was set for 5am but I woke at 4:30. Still can’t break the early morning habit. So, I packed up a few things and made my way in the pitch black to my beach. Flashlight in hand, I set my little beach chair up and settled in with camera and iphone in hand. Slowly the sky began to lighten, from dark blue to pink to orange. The clouds on the horizon filtered the sunrise and it finally showed over the horizon at around 6:15, in a glowing red sphere. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.

Sunrise on Pawley's Island

Sunrise on Pawley’s Island

On of the advantages of being back on Facebook is that everyone knows where I’m going and can contact me. When I checked in on FB in Pawley’s Island, I received a message from one of my former 5am WOD-mates at Derby City Crossfit, Katie Love Bower, who coincidentally was vacationing in Pawley’s Island that week! So that afternoon I met up with her and had a nice afternoon on the beach reconnecting with her and meeting the rest of her family, her gorgeous one year old Benjamin, her husband Curt and his two adorable kids, Thomas and Stephanie.

Friday morning I chose to sleep in rather than experiencing another sunrise, and surprised myself by not waking until 7:30am (that’s quite a feat for me!). I packed up my car, and stopped for breakfast at a nice looking spot I’d passed several times. It was a unique local family run breakfast/lunch joint, and I enjoyed a fantastic meal….two eggs over easy, bacon fried to perfection, grits and a biscuit. Oh, and coffee…lots of it! Satisfied, I headed south, and in 15 minutes or so arrived in Georgetown, the third oldest city in the state. I stopped in the historic little downtown and went for a little walk along the boardwalk, enjoying the sunny morning. Back to the car and continuing my drive south to Mt. Pleasant, where I stopped at Jack’s Cosmic Dogs and enjoyed my first soft serve twist cone of the summer.

breakfast

Georgetown

Georgetown

Twist cone in Mt Pleasant!

Twist cone in Mt Pleasant!

The next stop was Charleston. I crossed into town over this HUGE scary bridge, drove down to Murray Blvd, parked my car, and walked along the Charleston Harbor Wall, looking out at multitude of boats on the water until I arrived at White Point Garden. I sat near the gazebo in the center of the park and enjoyed the shade before I headed back to my car. After a not very scenic hour and a half, I crossed yet ANOTHER huge scary bridge into Savannah, GA. I arrived at my hotel and was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite the outward appearance of the hotel itself, my room was much improved over the tired old Motel 6.

Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC

I got online and looked for suggestions for casual local dinner and noticed several recommendations for Crystal Beer Parlor. Back into my car I went and drove several miles south through some very interesting neighborhoods til I arrived at a very non-descript looking building. Inside however, it was great, and PACKED with a Friday night crowd. I took a seat at the beautiful wood bar and asked the bartender for some kind of a chocolaty porter. He brought me the most delicious coffee stout and as I sat there, the most wonderful wave of happiness overcame me. I felt alive really for the first time in my life. I can’t explain why, other than I am just so grateful to have the means to be on this adventure. I couldn’t stop smiling as I just took in everything around me….the friendly, bustling bar and wait staff, the Friday night crowd around me, the rich flavor of the beer. Dinner followed, a tasty perfectly done burger and hot sweet potato fries. I asked the bartender what he’d recommend for dessert; he told me the house specialty was peach cobbler. Despite my love for all desserts chocolate, I trusted his suggestion and was not disappointed. The cobbler was hot and bubbly, with baked on sugary crusts on the edge, and topped with vanilla ice cream. Perfect end to the meal, as well as to the very long day!

Crystal Beer Parlor in Savannah

Crystal Beer Parlor in Savannah

This morning I packed up and thought I would hit the Savannah riverfront before I left for Florida. So I parked right on Bay Street and walked down the uneven brick sidewalk to the stairs down to River Street and the waterfront. One of my Norton Common YMCA peeps strongly suggested that I check out the pralines in Savannah, so I walked into River City Sweets and bought me some. They are delicious!

Savannah Waterfront

Savannah Waterfront

Pralines!!!

Pralines!!!

Next I took about an hour to walk around the beautiful homes a few blocks away from the riverfront. I had no idea where I was going, but ended up exactly where I hoped, in front of the Mercer House, featured in the fantastic book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Mission accomplished!

Savannah homes and Mercer House

Savannah homes and Mercer House

Next stop….Florida!

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A New Friendship with an Old Friend

New old friend

When I contacted my old friend Gretchen to see if she would mind if I stopped to visit her in Kalamazoo along the way on my amazing adventure, she told me she would welcome a visit, but not in Kalamazoo! Life opportunities were bringing her family to Bethesda, MD, and how fortuitous was that…just a short drive from Greensboro, NC.

I left Greensboro and headed north. Ab recommended that I avoid the tried and true I-95 route, and suggested that I follow I-29 instead. Great advice! That route in Virginia is beautiful….rolling hills, mountains, green as far as the eye could see. I passed through Lynchburg and Charlottesville, hit a snag of traffic and then smooth sailing til I came into the DC area to the joys of urban traffic! I pulled in front of a 17-floor high rise in Bethesda, a beautiful city just north of Washington DC. Gretchen, her husband Tim, their 7 year old daughter Iola and their adorable dog Sushi came down to lead me to the parking garage. Gretchen is simply untouched by the passage of years…what is it about my University of Iowa friends who don’t age? Although 13 years had passed since I last saw my friends, we picked up as if no time at all had gone by. After a delicious dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant Gringos and Mariachis, which rivaled my Louisville favorite El Mundo, we headed back to the apartment and up to the rooftop pool where Iola had a blast making a fort out of a beach towels and pool furniture. Gretchen and I settled ourselves at the rooftop lounge, where we talked for hours about life and the unexpected twists and turns that it takes, bringing you exactly to the place you are meant to be at the very moment.

The next morning, the sun rose early, as did Iola, who jumped onto my bed and promptly serenaded me on the harmonica. I gave it a whirl myself and an absolute priority on this trip is to find one for myself!

IolaThe day started off with a couple of shots of espresso, an egg scramble, and some delicious natural nut butter toast. Perfect sustenance for the next item on the day’s agenda, a visit to Tough Temple Crossfit directly across the street. Some unconventional coaching notwithstanding, the workout of heavy front squats and inverted rows effectively kicked our asses. Iola then joined me for a refreshing swim, after which we visited Whole Foods for our dinner supplies….huge ribeye steaks, asparagus, zucchini and four flavors of an Ohio-based grass fed ice cream brand, Jeni’s. When Tim returned from work, we gathered up the food and headed up to the rooftop again. I watched over Iola as she swam while Tim and Gretchen grilled the steaks and veggies on the rooftop grills. We sat and enjoyed this delicious meal with an exquisite bottle of red as the sun set over the city. Our conversation continued and veered towards our mutual love of music, horn, and Mahler symphonies. Tim quickly obliged us and set Spotify to the slow movement of Mahler 6. We sat in this idyllic setting listening to the beautiful horn solos in that movement and reminiscing about our own horn playing days. The evening could not have been more perfect.

Tuesday began with a couple shots of espresso (I am obviously fascinated and addicted to the Nespresso!), toast and another visit to Tough Temple Crossfit, where I eagerly loaded weight on my bar for a wod with deadlifts, sprints, and pistols (modified of course). After another visit to the pool (Iola would swim from dawn til dusk, I’m convinced), we wandered to downtown Bethesda for a late lunch and some shopping. I made my very first Lululemon purchase (Erin Stimac is so proud of me) and picked up a few more books for my journey at Barnes and Noble. An incredible Indian meal followed as we awaited Tim’s return from a long day in Manhattan. Can’t resist showing off our beautiful meals.

food in bethesda

Good Grub!

An unexpected bonus of this visit was my introduction to single malt scotch. Since living in Kentucky for the last 17 years, I have attained a love and appreciation for fine bourbon. My only experience of scotch has been my mom’s scotch and soda. Single malt is an entirely different beverage. Tim introduced me to 4 different varieties, my favorite of which was Lagavulin 16 year…. aged in a VERY smoky barrel. A new obsession!

Single Malt Happiness

Single Malt Happiness

This visit was remarkably special and this is the crux of this post. When Gretchen and I first met, she was a college freshman and I was in the second year of my DMA program, with about a 13 year age difference. I remember that although much younger than I, Gretchen possessed a quiet maturity and an appealing gentle spirit not common in most 18 year olds. Plus, I was just flat-out in awe of her amazing natural musicality expressed on her horn. So it’s no surprise that we were friends back in school. After I graduated and moved on to Louisville, our paths crossed only twice after that, in 1999 at the horn conference in Athens, GA and then again in 2001 at the conference in Kalamazoo. Since then, we’ve kept in touch only through the magic of facebook. So it is absolutely incredible to me to reconnect and rediscover our many common interests and mutual core beliefs, most of which we never discussed so many years ago: our love of music, our journey with the horn, our love of teaching, our passion for fitness, crossfit, and eating real food, each of our life’s journeys and the challenges which have been presented to us and how we’ve faced and dealt with those challenges. When I marveled aloud at the similarities in our priorities and spiritual paths and the ease of our friendship despite the span of years, Gretchen uttered a simple yet profound statement: “When there is a connection, time is irrelevant.”

I remarked to a very special friend yesterday how grateful I am that both my visits so far have been filled with such meaningful conversations. And she stated “Kindred spirits abound when you are open to the Universe.” True words and I promise to stay open to the Universe on this adventure.

 

A Kindred Spirit

A kindred spirit

When I first started wrapping my head around taking time off this summer, I wanted the first official stop of my trip to be Greensboro, NC to visit my BFF from University of Iowa, Ab.

The drive from TN to Greensboro was stunning. As I drove eastward, the beauty of the Smoky Mountains rose ahead of me. Intermittent but welcome rain showers materialized as I crossed into North Carolina on I-40, leaving the stunning Appalachian Mountain range behind as I traveled into the Piedmont. I arrived in Greensboro to find my dear friend completely untouched by age and as smiling and vibrant as ever. As we caught up on each others lives and shared a meal and a couple of delightful adult malt beverages at a local microbrewery (The Natty Green), I realized why we could so easily pick up after the years….I had found a kindred spirit. As I spoke about my journey and the events leading up to it, Ab would finish my thoughts, articulating exactly what I was thinking. I shared my inner struggles and introspection and noticed that we both are choosing to look at life and approach our interactions and relationships with others with the same philosophy.

Ab was scheduled to play a runout summer concert in Kinston, NC with the North Carolina Symphony, and then suggested that after the concert, we could drive to the coast and spend the next day kayaking along the inlets of the Atlantic. What an unexpected surprise! I could hear her play with a fantastic symphony and then get to do one of my favorite, though seldom done, activities. Thursday afternoon we loaded the kayaks atop her car and headed east. We arrived at Pearson Park, the outdoor concert venue in Kinston with plenty of time to spare. As we walked around the park, we came to the edge of the Neuse River, and there, sitting at a picnic table we encountered a petite white haired little old lady. She introduced herself to us as Pinky Harper, 95 going on 96, but you wouldn’t believe it. She had a twinkle in her eye and a quick wit. She was the epitome of a spry old lady. We asked her what the secret was to her longevity, and without missing a beat she said “hard work.” She told us of her life and all the places to where she’d traveled. I told her why I was in town and the adventure and travels ahead of me, and she looked me in the eye and told me to go for it and not waste a minute of my life.

Ab & Pinky

Ab & Pinky

After the concert we drove to a little city called Beaufort, just off the North Carolina Coast, and checked in to a lovely little spot called the Inlet Inn. We set our alarm for 5am and the next morning drove to across the Atlantic Bridge to Morehead City to watch the sunrise. It had just been thunderstorming a few hours earlier, and the sunrise through the remaining clouds was spectacular, and the only sound around us was the crash of the waves and the call of the seagulls.

Sunrise on the NC coast

Sunrise on the NC coast

At 8:30am we loaded our kayaks into the water into the Atlantic Inlet just off Carrot Island about 4 miles from the Inn. It was already quite warm but there was a pleasant breeze as we paddled along the inlet. We were headed for Horse Island, hopefully to catch a glimpse of the wild horses that roam the main area of Rachel Carson Nature Reserve, made up of Town Marsh, Carrot Island, Bird Shoal and Horse Island. After about an hour of paddling, we turned into an inlet and caught a glimpse of a sole wild horse far off, grazing along the bank. Going a bit further, we saw two additional horses in the distance. Satisfied with this, we headed back the way we came, as the sun rose higher and became more intense. Imagine our stunned surprise when we turned around a bend and came upon an entire HERD of wild horse not 50 feet away from us! Hurriedly we grabbed our cameras as they came closer to the bank. Ab quipped “who would have ever thought you’d see wild horses at the ocean!”

Our curiosity satisfied, we paddled back to the boat ramp, exhausted but exhilirated by the experience, loaded the kayaks back onto the car in the blazing heat and humidity, and made our way back to Greensboro, stopping only once on the way for lunch at the most delightful spot for my very first North Carolina BBQ. And yes, the first sweet tea of my life!

North Carolina BBQ!

North Carolina BBQ!

It is rare in this lifetime to find a friend who loves you for exactly who you are, with no judgement. Who speaks the same language, who is on the same spiritual path. Who enjoys the same activities, with whom you can travel easily and comfortably, with eleventy billion bathroom stops without complaint! I am so thankful for my friend Ab, a true kindred spirit.

Image

Relax damn it!

IMG_2817The initial stop of my journey is a beautiful lakehouse in Tennessee belonging to the parents of my best friend. It’s quiet and peaceful, and I thought it would be the perfect way to start this new chapter, relaxing and clearing my mind and preparing for my journey of a lifetime. But I realized over the past two days that it’s a challenge for me to really relax. I feel like I should be busy doing something productive. Yesterday I settled in, watched the sunset and stayed up to see the brilliance of a million stars in a pitch black sky. Today I got up early and watched the sun rise. I made some coffee, went for a walk, did a few hill sprints, and ate breakfast. I thought alright, time to kick back and relax, so I eagerly grabbed a book; it took me no time to read it. I took a nap, I journaled, I sat in the sun and swam in the lake, but after that I felt anxious and that I had relaxed enough and that I should do something. Clean the house, mow the lawn, do the laundry… all the things that I’ve always done to keep busy. I feel uncomfortable without the structure of a schedule of mundane tasks. I think I’ve kept myself so busy throughout my life that I’ve never really taken time to be comfortable with myself.

The past two days I’ve sat in this peaceful solitude, listening to the sounds of nature all around me. Yet my mind has been racing with thoughts… thoughts about issues that are the source of my insecurities, specifically career and relationship. What will I do when I’m at the end of this journey? Will I find someone to be with or am I meant to be alone? What will my future be?

Although I’ve not practiced meditation or know much about it, I’m trying to quiet these thoughts and instead focus on the moment: the sound of the water lapping on the shore, the symphony of a multitude of birds, bullfrogs, and insects. Because what do all those worrisome thoughts matter, and why even waste energy thinking about what may or may not be, because right now, I’m on this amazing adventure to learn to be open to the Universe and to be ok with myself, in the moment, relaxing in this beautiful paradise.

A New Chapter

goodbye coehlo2

Today I leave the friends who have become my family and the city that has become my home for the last 17 years.

I remember when I first moved to Louisville…August 22, 1997. It was not an easy adjustment for me. My hometown was only five hours north, but it was a very different culture here in Louisville than I was used to. I remember driving to my job at the School of Music at U of L in the mornings and thinking “I hate it here….it’s so daunting, I don’t know anyone, I feel so alone.” How things have changed. I have lived in Louisville longer than anyplace in my life…even longer than I lived in my hometown. I’ve learned what a special place this is, and why Louisvillians are so attached to this city. Just a few months ago I distinctly remember saying to someone at the YMCA “I will NEVER leave Louisville.”

Never say never.

The past month I’ve said so many goodbyes….I’ve said goodbye to my lovely little house at 318 Iola Road. I’ve said goodbye to my job at Kentucky Opera, where I worked for 15 years, meeting and collaborating with amazing and talented people creating excellent opera productions. Thursday I said goodbye to my fabulous and dedicated class at the Norton Commons YMCA, who would enthusiastically undertake whatever impossible ass-kicking workout I could throw at them and leave with sweaty smiles on their faces and return for more, usually dragging friends and spouses in tow. Friday and Saturday I said goodbye to my Derby City Crossfit family, my sanctuary and happy place, without whom I would have never found my best friend ever and discovered my true calling and passion as a coach.  I also said goodbye to VOICES of Kentuckiana, with whom I have traveled a long, varied, and sometimes rocky road….serving as singer, section leader, board member, board chair, assistant and guest Artistic Director. VOICES gave me an opportunity for growth as a musician, teacher, and leader, and provided me with the most supportive and loving friends and family I could ask for. I’ve said goodbye to my best friends and past loves. It has been heart-wrenching and I’ve cried more the past two weeks than I care to remember, thinking about how much I will miss all those dear to my heart. But no matter how sad and scary this is, I refer back to the quote which heads this post, and I have absolute faith that having the courage to say goodbye and to let go will lead me to a new and incredible chapter of my life.

I came across this lovely song completely by chance a couple of months ago. It immediately brought me to tears since it so accurately states what the Universe has been telling me.  I share it with you all.

 

Out of the Comfort Zone!

comfort zone

A scary thought came to me while I was preparing to move out of my house. “Holy crap, I’m going to be living out of a suitcase for the next 3 weeks.” Then an even scarier thought hit me: “I’m going to be living out of a suitcase for the next 3-4 MONTHS!”

I”m sure everyone knows the feeling during a vacation or something similar, which often is “I’m having a great time, but I can’t wait to get back to my own bed, things, routine, etc.” Well, from now on that’s not an option for me. I’m facing the daunting realization that my home is sold, my comfy bed is living in a 10X20 storage unit, and my comforting daily routine is nearly at an end.

My comfort zone has been blasted to pieces.

When I’m coaching, I tell people on a daily basis (actually, I yell it): PUT MORE WEIGHT ON THE BAR!!!! You will NEVER get any stronger until you make yourself lift heavier! You never see gains until you push yourself OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!

And I just realized recently that goes for life outside the gym as well. Yet those of you who really know me, know that throughout my life, I have always played it safe. That I am not comfortable with change. That I LOVE my daily routine. It’s safe. It’s predictable. It’s comfortable. But I haven’t been happy. And I never will find happiness, nor get stronger emotionally and mentally, unless I push myself out of my comfort zone. And when that came to me back in February, I forced myself to do the absolute scariest things I have ever done. Sold the house that was my security blanket. Quit the job that I thought I couldn’t do without. Did things that I’d always depended on someone else doing. And now I’m about to undertake a journey for several months by myself, alone, independent.

It will push me out of every single comfort zone I have relied on. And I know, without a doubt, that I will discover I am all I need. That I don’t need anyone else to make decisions for me. That I don’t need anyone else to tell me that I”m worthy. And I will finally discover the most magnificent Alise, who has been hidden deep inside me, just waiting for me to have the courage to let her out.