Monday, May 25, 2015

Shimps in Jail

This one time in high school, I bumped into a curb and lost my hubcap. Terrified of the consequences, I convinced some friends to try and put it back on before my dad noticed. They did, but it didn't quiiiite go on all the way, and when they tried to take it back off, it stuck.

So I brilliantly took my car to a parking lot in Maple Lawn, where I drove around crazy, jerking around corners and stopping suddenly, in an attempt to make it fall off again. A policeman sirened up behind me, told me the speed limit in the parking lot was 5 mph, and asked if I was having a driving lesson. 

I was not. I was 18. 

(Weirdly enough, another policeman would ask me the same question when I rolled through a stop sign....5 years later. #babyfaceproblems)

This, and a smattering of speeding tickets, are the only run-ins I have ever had with the law. 

When I started planning our trip to Hawaii, I asked a lot of people what they recommended. "Hike the Stairway to Heaven!" they all said. "It'll be fun!" they said. So I put it down as the very first thing on our list, on Thursday morning at 2:30am.

Stairway to Heaven is an illegal hike unlike any other hike there is. You just climb this staircase, straight up the mountain and into the clouds, and when you get to the top, you've got a view of the whole island. It was legal for a little while, and the city put tons of money into repairing stairs and making it safer. But then....there was a storm? Erosion threatened to destroy the path? Hawaiians were still annoyed? People kept dying on it? I don't know. For whatever reason, they closed it up again. Now there are barbed wire fences and huge signs saying "No Trespassing" and "Government Property" and "Keep Out," and the residents of the neighborhoods right by those barbed wire fences have bought big mean loud dogs, and there are guards who watch the trailhead and policemen who stop by throughout the day. If you look on Yelp, you get the impression that the guards watch the trailhead from early in the morning (5ish) to about noon, and it kind of seems like something that's illegal in the same way speeding is - yeah it's illegal, but everyone does it and it's not a big deal.

At 2:30, we drove over to a neighborhood that Jonny told us about, close to the entrance. We silently walked toward the mountain and ran into two guys wearing backpacks. They were either out for a 3:00am bank robbery or they were going to hike Stairway to Heaven, so we took our chances and asked if they knew where the entrance was. It wasn't too hard to find. We hemmed and hawed and finally just climbed over the barbed wire and started up the trail.

We barely felt safe enough to talk, so we just whispered introductions as we walked. They were from Austria, and it was everyone's first time in Hawaii, and when I asked, they said they'd never done anything illegal either. Eventually Margot and Gonzalo caught up to us when we got to a fork in the trail. We were like a walking joke - two Austrians, two Americans, a Frenchwoman and a Spaniard all walking down some illegal pathway before the sun has even come up.

When we saw the guard, we all had a mini freakout and sat in the trees, hearts pounding, crouched down and fumbling with the flashlights like he hadn't already seen us. We sat there whispering for about five minutes before we finally decided to venture out and talk to him.

The guard was nice enough and just told us that it is illegal, but we could hike it if we wanted to. He wouldn't try to stop us on our way up. However, he promised to call the police when he saw us heading back down and said that it would be up to a $600 fine or 4-5 years in jail. He said he grew up here but has never hiked it, and although he's heard it is incredible, he didn't think it was worth it.

"It's up to you," he finally said. "If you do decide to go, you can just walk up there. No need to run. I'm not going to chase you down." Then he went to his car, turned on some music, and leaned the seat back.

We stood around debating for a few minutes. It actually wasn't much of a debate - I wanted to go back down, but everyone else was still determined. We waved to the guard and started our ascent.

The stairs start pretty immediately, and it's nothing but stairs all the way up. Now that we had already passed the guard we felt more comfortable with talking, although I was pretty beside myself thinking about how I was definitely going to get fined and go to jail and lose my job, and my vacation was going to be ruined just because I had to go on the StairStepper 5000 because my husband and our new Austrian friends and old French friends needed to get their adrenaline fix.

Admittedly, the hike was probably one of the funnest hikes I've ever done in my life. It was super dark on our way up, and it looked like there was nothing on either side of the stairway - just a sheer drop. It wasn't as dilapidated as I had expected it to be, from what other people have said. There was just one part of the trail where the railing of the stairs had bent over, and maybe two other steps that were wobbly. Water and humidity dripped off the railing, and sometimes I needed Stephen to shine the light back, but I actually felt quite secure the whole time.

There are three platforms leading up to the top, but other than that, you don't have anywhere to rest. You really just have to keep stepping up and up and up again until you are at the top. 

We stayed at the top for a little bit, shivering and talking and snacking, and waiting for the sun to rise and the clouds to clear. A group of people who are all staying at the same hostel came up behind us. At that point, we were two Utahns, a Missourian, a Frenchwoman, a Spaniard, two Austrians, an Australian, a Canadian, and a guy from Wales (anyone know the name for that?). It was fun hearing everyone's stories and getting more ideas for our time in Hawaii. 

Eventually, two of the hostel people started heading back down. We followed about 10 minutes after them with the Austrians. By now the sun was up and it was easier to see where we were going, which made it scarier in some ways! But again, I never really felt scared of the trail - just of the guard. Was there going to be a policeman waiting for us? How much was the fine really going to be? Was this the last hike I would ever take, or would I spend the rest of my life in prison??

When we got close enough to see the guard's car, I was shocked to see that it was just his car. The police hadn't arrived! We were safe! We continued our descent, almost giddy with excitement. I looked up every few steps to double-check....and then my excitement vanished. Another car had joined the guard's car, and this one had a police light on the top. 

There's the guard in yellow. He's all, "Good morning Officer, thanks for coming so quickly. Please cart these RUFFIANS off to jail."
That other person is the first hostel girl. She made it down and we watched her talk to the cop. We saw him pull out a clipboard, and then we saw him open his trunk, and then we never saw the girl again. Dun. Dun. Duuuuunnn.
I just kept picturing myself in handcuffs, and my bank account dialing down as $1,200 were taken out to pay for Stephen and my ticket. "I am a criminal now," my brain repeated over and over again. It was not a happy time. 

We sat there, trying to figure out what to do. There was no way down, other than the stairway. If we got off the stairway, we would literally die. 

We considered getting down to the first platform and then hacking our way through the jungle until we made it out, somewhere far away from the guard and the policeman. But there really was no hacking to be done in this jungle. If ROUSes exist anywhere in the world, it's probably this mountain where they live. 

We thought about sending down just two people. They would convince the police to leave, and then the rest of us would go down afterwards. We would all split the fine. 

But in the end, no one wanted to pay the fine. We really just didn't want to! And we didn't want it to end up on our permanent records either. 

The other hostel people came down to find us standing gloomily in the middle of the stairs, in between the first and second platform. They called their friend, who we had seen talking to the policeman, and happily announced that she was safe and sound! The policeman had taken her to the gate and opened it for her. He was really nice, she said. 

As soon as this text came, we looked up and noticed that he was gone again! It was just the guard. We practically ran down the mountain. 

The guard reminded us that the hike was illegal when we got to the bottom. He reminded us of the fines and the jail time. He told us not to come back, but he wasn't aggressive or angry. 

We walked down a different path than the one we took to get to the guard, following the hostel people. They told us that they had come a muchhh easier way. There was a gate, but they said it was a lot easier to get over, so we followed them. 

Actually their way SUCKED. We had to walk past a ton of angry attack dogs, all barking and pulling on their chains from inside their gates. The gate we had to climb over this time had barbed wire and everything, and it wasn't easier than our gate. It wasn't harder either, but I was hardcore stressing out about the dogs. Even worse, once the dogs started barking, their owners came out and started barking, too. I have never felt so much hatred in my life! I partly understand....it would be annoying to be woken up e'er morning because your dogs are barking because people are breaking into the government property right behind your house. But I partly don't understand because I've never been so angry at someone that I've felt the need to come out of my house and swear at them for 5 minutes straight, so. 

The hostel people who went down first had gone and gotten the car, so they were able to get out of the neighborhood as soon as they crossed over the gate. We were not so lucky. Our car was parked somewhere else, and the Austrians were the last ones to cross the gate, so by the time we had gotten a block away, the police car was zooming up and flipping on his siren to pull us over. 

We sat on the curb all shame-faced and panicky for about 5 minutes while the policeman asked us over and over again where we had been, what we were doing, etc. At first no one wanted to say anything incriminating, but then he pointed at me, because apparently I was the obvious weak link, and said "You. What were you doing." 

"We hiked Stairway to Heaven," I said. 

I'm going to jail, I thought. He's going to taser me right now. Sorry Mom.

"Okay, thank you," the policeman said. "At least someone has the balls to tell me the truth."

So then, in a happy twist of fate, he decided he loved us. And after ten agonizing minutes of sitting on the curb while he talked to another cop and that cop went and talked to the lady who hated us, he decided to let us go with a warning. On the condition that we go on Facebook and Yelp and tell people not to hike Stairway. I literally considered hugging him but then I pretty much just ran away instead.

Anyway, I actually kind of agree with him. Stairway to Heaven was beautiful, and memorable, and in the end, I'm glad that we did it. But due to all the anxiety I experienced while hiking, I have to discourage it to other people. In another less-intense time, when the guard isn't there for 24 hours, then sure. Just for now, I wouldn't recommend it. I would say it's worth a $100 fine, but it's not worth a $600 fine, and it's not worth any jail time, and it's not worth being consumed with worry the whole time, wondering what's going to happen at the bottom. 

What really needs to happen is that they need to make the hike legal. It's not that dangerous! Honestly I'm pretty sure everyone that died on it, died because they were running down it trying to get there before the police did. That or someone killed them on the purpose by pushing them off the stairs. 

Build a parking lot at the bottom of the neighborhoods. Have a shuttle that takes people up to the barbed wire fences. Take the barbed wire off, open them up wide, and post a guard there to collect $15 per hiker. Don't re-do any of the stairs. They're fine. Just have people sign a waiver, stating that they understand that it's a kinda strenuous, kinda dangerous hike, and then let them enjoy it. 

Right now, they're paying for the guard to be there 24/7. They're paying for the cops to make several stops there every day. The neighbors are pissed and the tourists are, too. They might as well keep paying the guard but get something out of it. 

But until that happens.....at least we have a good story :) And a place to stay if we ever go to Austria. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Vegas, Baby

Our adventure has begun! We are now in Honolulu. If this:

makes you want to start planning your next vacation, I have some great news. I'm about to tell you how to get there :)

Step 1. Have a birthday.

Step 0 (something you actually needed to do first, before that). Have a husband. Then, when you

{Step 1. Have a birthday.},

he will promise you a trip to Hawaii as your birthday present. And you will be allowed, at that point, to start planning and pinning and dreaming. It's a good idea to start planning and pinning and dreaming at least 6 months before your trip. In my opinion, the excitement leading up to it is one of the best parts.

Step 2. Get well-acquainted with Groupon. Also, the internet in general. Read reviews on Yelp and open up about forty tabs with different maps and things to help you plan the perfect vacation whenever you feel annoyed with what's going on around you.

Step 3. Pick a good couple friend to go with you. We picked these friends:

I work with Margot, and Gonzalo is her husband. 
Step 4. Start packing! You've got some flexibility here. I like to start packing two weeks before a trip. Stephen likes to start packing two hours before. We shared a suitcase. I packed all my stuff, and then let Stephen pack so I could see how much I needed to take out. Luckily, he only thought he needed 3 shirts and one pair of shorts. Um. He was wrong....but it meant I didn't need to take too much stuff out. More on that later.

*Sidenote - try not to run over your toe with your suitcase while you are weighing it for the 14th time. Your toenail might crack in half down the middle and start bleeding and then you might find yourself irrationally flopping on the bed and crying to your husband about how you won't be beautiful in Hawaii now, and can he please get you Neosporin BUT BE GENTLE, because it really hurts, even though you're trying to be tough.

Step 5. Pack up the car to travel to Vegas for your flight. I've heard a lot of negative things about Allegiant....but honestly, I would recommend them to anyone. Since we got our tickets so early, they were suuuuper-cheap. Everything from buying the tickets to adding a bag to checking in on the app to the flight was a breeze. Anyway, they don't fly to Honolulu from SLC, so we had to drive down to Vegas.

Step 5b: Say goodbye to crappy weather!
*Shoutout to Sara and Russ who let us crash their BBQ before we left! And use Sara's gel nail stuff. And wash off the cat pee on Gonzalo's backpack in the bathtub.

Step 6. Stop off in St. George for a night with the sweetest family you can think of, in the most beautiful house you can think of.

Step 7. Stand around talking about the time difference between St. George and Vegas for like 10 minutes. It's really hard, guys. 

Step 8. Drive the rest of the way to Vegas. Say goodbye to Margot and Gonzalo!

Step 9. Hang out with the cutest kids in Vegas, and the people who made them. We love Jonny and Tiff. 

This is Underbite, a metal robot dinosaur who is terrorizing a museum and is possibly a Decepticon. 

Step 10. Camp in Red Rock for a few days! I would recommend bringing climbing stuff with you, if your plan is to go climbing. But if it's not, or if you, sayyyyy, forgot the climbing stuff at home, then you have a few options.

-You can rent a mat and shoes and go bouldering.
-You can drive around, finding WiFi in different restaurants or Barnes and Noble's and using it to study for the DAT.
-You can go shopping and buy your poor husband some clothes for your real vacation. All of which must fit in the personal items you brought, since carry-ons cost extra and the suitcase is at exactly 39.5 lbs and can't exceed 40, so yeah. Those new clothes will need to get squoze in with a laptop and some bio notes.
-You can attend a timeshare presentation.

(I mean, why not.)

Step 11. Stay a night with some other adorable people in Vegas, who I didn't get a picture with :/ Kim, your family is adorable and I hope when we have 4 kids that Stephen and I are as put-together and fun as you and Travis are!

Step 12. Go to the airport!! You are ready to leave for your trip! It's finally here!!! So many exclamation marks.

Btw that is my personal item. Not my 40-lb suitcase :)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Whole 30 - The Fun Part is Over.

Fair warning, this is one of those posts that I care about writing, but probably no one else will care about reading. If you are interested in how Whole 30 has been going for me, read on.

Let's talk about how hilarious the universe is, and how right at the end of my Whole 30 stint, one week before going to Hawaii, I encountered my greatest challenge yet: Teacher Appreciation Week.

Tips for Surviving Whole 30

1. Plan it leading up to a vacation. This is great motivation! The first two weeks are okay - it's all new recipes and exciting spices and fast results and enthusiasm. But then come the two weeks where you are starting to hate eggs, and even nuts are getting a little lackluster, and you're not quite tired of sweet potatoes, but you are definitely tired of trying to buy them and for some reason finding them out of stock yet again at Walmart. But if you make it through the first two weeks, you only have two weeks until your vacation, and you kind of have to see it through to the end at that point. Plus, then you get a vacation to congratulate yourself for your amazingness! Which you will totally deserve.

2. Just make it easy on yourself and eat peanut butter. And store-bought mayonnaise.

3. Don't plan your Whole 30 month to coincide with Teacher Appreciation Week. You may recall that this is my absolute favorite week of the entire school year. This week of love and gifts and notes and cute printables attached to free food....it just doesn't get much better than that!

This year was a little different. I still loved it! Just maybe not as much. The theme was "How Sweet it is to be Taught by You," and right away, when I saw that, I knew that I was in trouble. Not only was my door decorated with donuts and a sign proclaiming that "We Donut know what we would do without you!," but also, my desk was decorated the entire week with more things I couldn't eat. Cupcakes, cookies, Oreos, candy bars, chocolate, and cinnamon rolls.....I was dying. All of these things that I would have loved any other month were suddenly so sad to look at!

4. If Teacher Appreciation Week does happen to coincide with your Whole 30, it's still okay. Lots of the things you get will be wrapped and non-perishable, meaning you can save them and eat them later.

5. Other gifts you get are not non-perishable. Things that fall in this category would be, like, the fancy cupcakes, homemade cinnamon rolls, chocolate-drizzled popcorn, these perfect-looking cookies all bagged up with a bow and a printable note about how "We are smart cookies because of you!".....yep all those things. You can't eat them. You have to give them away. Don't unwrap them and smell them, just to see what you're missing. Don't stare at them all day long. Don't ask other teachers how it all tasted. Just grit your teeth and give it to another teacher and then go think about your vacation.

In the end, I ate one bite of a {holycowdelicious} cookies'n'cream kinda Oreo cupcake, and I did eat the apples in the Ruby River apple cobbler they fed us for dessert on Thursday. I'm sure they were loaded with sugar but I didn't eat the whipped cream with it or the crumblyness on the top. I feel like this is okay.

Do we all agree now that that vacation is absolutely necessary after all this??

6. If you do need a dessert (you do), I discovered a good one. It's super-easy!

-Put a bunch of pecans and walnuts in the oven at 350* for 5 minutes, or until toasted.
-Take them out and drop them in your blender.
-Add a bunch of honey and some cinnamon and salt.
-Blend it all up.
-Eat it on apple slices.

The good news is, it's almost over! And despite my one bite of Oreo cupcake, I am really proud of Stephen and I for actually sticking it out this long. In some ways it was harder than I thought it would be, but for the most part, it was easier than I'd expected. tT

And I loooove how it looks on Husband......holy hotness. Just wait for our Hawaii pictures ;)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Weekend at the Capitol

Stephen was not a happy camper this semester.

I've already explained why, so we don't need to go into that again. The point is, it's over now!! To celebrate, I planned a little weekend getaway and enlisted my BFF's, the Dating Divas, to announce it to Stephen.

It was so fun planning everything out! I got a substitute for my class on Monday and set everything up for us to leave on Saturday, after the Real Live Wives club met for breakfast. I told my kids and got their input. Some of their advice, I followed.

"You should really think about bringing a tent. My family always brings a tent when we go camping."

"Just make sure you don't drive too fast, cuz my dad got a ticket last time when we were driving to Las Vegas."

Some of their advice, I ignored.

C: How is he going to pack?
Me: I'm going to pack for him!
C: But how will you know what to bring? What if he doesn't like it?
Me: He won't care, he doesn't really care what he wears.
C: Oh! So.....you should pack a bikini for him!!!
*Laughter erupting all around the classroom*
Me: ....What? I don't want him to wear a bikini!
C: No no! Wait! I got it! You should like, give him a sleeping pill, and then when he's asleep, THEN put him IN the bikini!
*Even more laughter*
Me: But I still don't want him in a bikini, why would I do that?
C: Because he'll think it's so crazy!

Yes. Yes he would.

While Stephen hung out with his family on Friday night, I borrowed ropes and climbing equipment from our friend Brandon (who is single and I need one of my best friends and/or sisters to marry him because he is that great!), pulled the ladder out of our backyard jungle, got down all the camping equipment, marinated some chicken, put water bottles in the freezer, packed the trunk, put all our clothes in a little baby suitcase, and set up my handy little Dating Divas treasure hunt. I changed the last clue just a little - on theirs, the treasure is a movie night in the car (like at a drive-in theater or something).

When Stephen found the last clue, he also saw all the stuff I had packed in the trunk. I told him to get in because we were going somewhere. He had thought I was just planning a date, and he was so surprised! For the first two hours, he had no idea where we were going.

I chose Capitol Reef as our destination because it's only about 3 hours away, and neither of us had ever been there. They don't have climbing, but they do have rappelling! Which I thought would be fun, to try something a little different.

We had just enough time on Saturday to check out Chimney Rock and the Fruita campground, which was full, before we needed to set up our own camp.

In the end, we mostly just hiked and camped and explored the park on foot and via car. It is beautiful!! Our campsite was in the "primitive camping" section, and it was so private. There was a table, fire pit, and tons of wood from the last campers. We couldn't even see another campsite. It was just so unpopulated that it felt like we were the only ones there. Actually, the moon was there too. And it was very full. And quite intrusive.

We ate sweet potatoes and marinated chicken, and cuddled up to read Jurassic Park together. This was a good idea and a bad idea, because it is a really good book, but then I was afraid that a velociraptor was going to attack our campsite.

We also ate at the Rim Rock restaurant, which I highly recommend! The only thing about it that I didn't appreciate was when I told the waitress that I didn't want croutons on my salad, and Stephen tattled on me that we are doing Whole 30, and then she brought rolls back.

"I know this doesn't really work with your no grains thing, but we usually serve rolls with the meal," she said, waving them under my nose. "They're really good, it's our own in-house recipe. Do you want them?"

"They look so good!" I said. "But it's okay, we don't need them."

She smiled. "I'll just leave these right here in case you change your mind," she said.


So then Stephen had to take one for the team and eat them both. {And brag about it....}

I loved this weekend! We got lucky with the weather - thunderstorms were threatening, but we always missed them. We did come back to our tent on Sunday night and it had obviously been rained on, but we were in a different part of the park that had thankfully stayed dry.

One other thing I really loved about it was that the car charger wasn't working, for our phones. So I spent most of the time with my phone turned off, and only turned it on when we needed directions back home. It was so nice to not have to worry about anything except where we were and what we were doing.

I woke up like dis.

This place is stunning and you do need to go. 

Next stop: Hawaii!!