Cal Poly Robotics Roadtrip

At the last minute, I decided to join my boyfriend in his weekend plans. It was Open House weekend at his alma mater, Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, and also the twentieth anniversary of a robotics competition he once helped run. This is a good time to apologize for all of the details of this wonderful experience I mess up, there was so much to take in and it was all new to me! As always, I will write what I experienced but keep in mind that this weekend was all about Sean and I was merely an observant bystander 🙂

Friday morning we hopped in the car fairly early to push through LA traffic as quickly as possible. We had a few close calls with fellow drivers in a hurry to escape for the weekend, and even had to call 911 to report an accident that happened right in front of us, but we arrived unharmed in the early afternoon. We didn’t have too many set plans for the weekend, so we started off with a walking tour of the town of San Luis Obispo. I thought it was adorable with its winding creek, local coffee shops, and great weather. It helped that we had lunch at Firestone Grill, which is known for AMAZING tri-tip sandwiches. I can confirm this, 100%. The pulled pork and seasoned fries were exceptional as well! After walking off our full bellies, we checked into our hotel in Pismo Beach before heading to the first planned event of the weekend.

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So in college, Sean was vice president of the IEEE Computer Society that hosted a competition every year. Teams built robots to perform a particular task, which changed over the years, and then competed during Open House weekend each spring. Most teams were composed of Cal Poly students but there were a mix of computer science, mechanical engineering, etc. majors who participated, many for their senior projects. Anyway, this was the twentieth year so the alumni were invited back to check out the event. Friday night, the participants were allowed to practice on the course and make any modifications necessary to get them ready for the next day. We enjoyed light refreshments while catching up with other former club members and while looking at the projects. Then a few of us headed back into town for a drink and to continue hanging out. It was really fun for me to hear some stories about Sean back in the day and to get to meet several of his college friends. There were even a few classic photos shared 🙂

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Saturday morning, Sean and I wanted to get in a long(ish) run to help shake out our legs in preparation for the La Jolla Half Marathon we have coming up this weekend. We did a fairly hilly six miles through Grover Beach before calling it a day. Our legs are still both having a decent amount of pain as we adjust to new training plans and try to nurse our injuries. Then it was back to campus for the main competition and I have to admit that I was really excited! I had picked out a few favorites from the night before and was interested to see what the other teams we hadn’t seen would bring to the table. The task this year was to move as many rings from horizontally mounted posts across the table and place them on vertically oriented posts. It was a head-to-head, double-elimination bracket with three minute rounds.

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After nice introductions from the Dean and President, competition was underway! We watched the entire first round of battles before needing a stretch break, so we ventured out into the courtyards in search of food. More tri-tip was consumed in the sunshine before heading back inside the gym. There were tons of booths set up from various engineering clubs, organizations, and majors so we looked through those as well. The student MCs did a great job commentating the battles, so even non-engineers like myself had some idea what was happening and why certain robots were or weren’t doing what they were programmed to do. Some spun in circles, others lost wheels, but overall the robots were really impressive while completing their tasks. It was interesting to see how the teams chose to attack the task at hand and the top robots were super stream-lined and efficient! We were a little disappointed that a company team ended up winning, but the students did an outstanding job as well.

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The rest of our Saturday was spent exploring campus, checking out new buildings, driving through areas that Sean hadn’t seen before, and spending some time in the Engineering alumni beer and wine garden. Again, the weather was absolutely perfect and it was really relaxing to just go with the flow and not really have a set plan. At the same time, I got to see a new college campus and hear tons of stories from Sean about his time spent there. Saturday evening we drove back to Pismo after saying good-bye to his friends and enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at Brad’s Diner. Everything was really fresh and delicious and the icing on the cake was having Trivial Pursuit cards on each table to entertain us while we waited. Between our run that morning and walking all over campus that afternoon, our legs were quite tired from the 20,000+ steps we’d already taken, so we called it an earlier night and went back to the hotel to relax.

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Sunday we were up early again to hit the road, but we lucked out with traffic through Santa Barbara and LA, making it home in just enough time to suit up for our kickball double header. The only downside to this weekend for me was that it made me miss Charlottesville and my UVA family, but in a good way. Maybe I’ll have to bring Sean to Reunions Weekend next summer to show him around, lol. As with most weekend trips, it seemed like too much time driving and not enough time at Cal Poly. But we have already decided that another trip to SLO will need to get on the books, because there are some great hikes, beaches, and wineries we want to check out and some other friends we missed seeing this trip. Overall, I had a blast and learned a lot about Sean (and robots), so I deem it a success! Have a great Monday and hopefully I’ll be able to write again this week 🙂

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East to West: STAT

My last update was posted from Virginia, where I was spending the week after moving out of North Carolina. I told y’all that I sold my car, Funshine, with no major issues. But that was last Friday morning, so what have I been up to since then? Maybe it’s better to ask what I haven’t been up to, lol. I’ll try to give you the quick overview below… but you’ll have to hustle to keep up 😉

Friday after delivering Funshine to Carmax, Mom and I worked on a few projects at her house before she drove me to Dulles Airport to pick up my rental car. I took advantage of the (free) airport lanes on the toll road to cruise into Arlington to see my east coast girls. We met up at MexiCali Blue… in Clarendon?… to grab dinner and drinks. I absolutely love the three girls that met me (shown below: Katie, Katie, and Claire). We spent a few hours talking about life, work, boys, family, etc. It was very relaxing and fun, in spite of the cold weather and snow everywhere. Then I spent the night with little sister Katie in Arlington before heading down to Richmond on Saturday.

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Why was I driving to Richmond on Saturday (leaving at 8am)? Because the fourth of my lovely east coast girlfriends, Paige, is getting married this summer and has asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding! I feel so honored and excited, but Saturday was the day she’d picked (after learning that I was moving again) to have all of us bridesmaids get together to go dress shopping. We had a great time and settled on both a color and a style of dress fairly quickly before enjoying a nice lunch with the two mothers. I won’t post pictures from that group as I don’t want to leak any wedding details 😉 After lunch I drove myself to Richmond Airport, returned my rental car and started my journey west!

So Saturday night at 6pm EST I boarded a plane to Dallas, TX. After a 1.5 hour layover (barely enough time to find my gate and grab a quick dinner), I left there at 10pm Central time to fly into San Diego. I landed at SAN about 11:30pm Pacific time, which was the equivalent of 2:30am EST except that it was also daylight savings time so really like 3:30am. Woof. Luckily both of my flights were on schedule and I avoided any weather concerns. Sean picked me up and helped me lug my 100+ pounds of luggage to his car… don’t judge me, it’s the only stuff I have access to for the next 2-3 weeks.

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Sunday morning started with a walk to a cafe for breakfast burritos before getting in a 5.5 mile run. It was definitely warmer than I’ve been used to, but it felt great to see the ocean and not have to wear a hat and gloves! Then I headed up to Carlsbad for the first week of our spring kickball season 🙂 I’m on a new team this year, because our old team decided to disperse. Although most of us are still playing in the league which means I have friends on all the teams. I was a bit nervous on Sunday because I hadn’t played since the last season ended in… September? I had also been asked to help line ref the game before ours. Luckily it was week one and everyone was still learning the rules and working out the kinks. I pitched half of the innings in our game and didn’t allow any runs to score, so I felt good about that!

After spending a few hours catching up with friends at the bar (Erica, Christy and Sean are pictured above), I called it a day. Monday I rented a car in Encinitas and drove out to Temecula to look at Subaru Foresters. I had found from my internet searching that they had the model and accessories that I wanted, and the price was the cheapest. After less than two hours, I had test-driven the SUV, gotten insurance, processed the paperwork, returned my rental car out there, and was driving away in my brand new vehicle! It was a whirlwind, but I knew what I wanted so I went for it. So far I LOVE it, but the first real test will be this weekend when I take four adults with our stuff on a mini-roadtrip. I’ll keep you posted how it holds up but I’m also taking any suggestions for names of this vehicle… even though I probably won’t get vanity plates since they are so expensive in Cali.

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On another note, I do also have a job lined up (yay!)… really two. I’ll be teaching at Halstrom Academy again, but only teaching this time around, not working with corporate as a lead teacher. And I will dominantly be teaching math (Algebra/Geometry) instead of social studies, although I already know I’ll have some ACT/SAT test prep courses and an AP World History. Since it is mid-semester, my hours will build as the weeks go on which will give me time to move into a place when I find it and just adjust to living in SoCal again. I’m really excited to get back to working with kids and helping them in an area where so many seem to struggle.

My second job will start in April and is working with Pearson Learning, Inc. who publishes a ton of textbooks across content in the USA. I will be acting as an online test scorer for their end-of-course Geometry testing this spring. The project lasts April-June and I am allowed to log as few as 20 or as many as 40 hours a week grading test. This will help fill my time until summer semester starts at Halstrom and I have full hours there. It’s completely flexible as far as when I grade in a day, which will be perfect for my Halstrom schedule, and it will give me more experience in the testing/grading world.

Other things I’ve done this week include: getting a TB test, completing a LiveScan fingerprinting test, run with my good friend Dahlia, toured 3-5 potential apartments, gotten groceries, gone to a farmer’s market, and just enjoyed being back in SoCal! For now, my biggest focus is finding a place to live and enjoying being back in the place I truly feel I belong. Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to y’all soon!

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Big Life Decision…

Things I Know I Love:

  • Being outside. All the time.
  • Being active. If it’s with friends, that’s a huge bonus.
  • Being involved in incredible organizations that work with youth in need.
  • Being in nature. Especially out of sight of civilization.
  • Being able to find healthy food close-by in grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Being surrounded by a network of friends that love and support me.
  • Being present in the lives of those same friends and supporting them.
  • Being in a place that makes my heart happy.

In case you haven’t already guessed it… this post is my official announcement that I will be moving back to California!!

I will be the first to admit that the last four months have been a chaotic whirlwind. I moved out of my house in Encinitas, drive the Cali coast with my mom, went to Mexico, crashed at one of my best friends’ houses in Cardiff, drove to Colorado for Thanksgiving at my brother’s house, drove on to VA and stayed at my mom’s house, spent two weeks in Argentina (had an absolute blast, but got robbed), crashed at another best friends’ house in south central VA, flew to San Diego for New Years, moved into an apartment in Wake Forest, went on an incredible ski trip to Montana… Did I leave anything out, lol?

In the midst of all that, I spent a lot… A LOT… of time thinking about my life and where I am and where I want to go. And most importantly, what makes me happy. I left California thinking I had used up my time there.  That I needed to get back to “real life”. I was frustrated about the lack of a full-time job (even though I hadn’t done that much looking). I had been telling myself since I made the choice to move there in 2012, that if I couldn’t find the perfect job that I could always move and try somewhere else. The problem with that thinking was that I got sucked into tunnel vision a little bit. I knew I was frustrated with my housing arrangement (our third roommate left a bit to be desired). I knew I wanted a full-time job. I knew I needed a change. And I knew our lease was ending. I could feel things changing so I just took the opportunity to leave.

Since college, I have thought about living in the Raleigh-Durham triangle area, so I figured why not? It was closer to my family, closer to my East Coast friends, not too big of a city, in the south where country music thrives, and has a lot of opportunities in the education field. Sounded great! And in fact, there is little wrong with this area. I’ve already made friends, gotten involved in an amazing church, had interviews and potential job offers, found a place to live… Except it doesn’t make my heart swell every time I think about it. It doesn’t put a smile on my face anytime someone mentions it or the thought of it crosses my mind. It’s simply not San Diego.

The first specific sign of a problem with my decision to move was the fact that I turned the car around that night in November when I tried to leave. Then I continued to think about the people I was missing throughout December… so I went back for New Years’ Eve. But I could tell that it was more than just the people… that it was the place and the community and the life I had there. I worked hard to establish myself in San Diego, in non-profits, at church, with friends. For the first time, I felt like I was setting up my adult life. Even though it didn’t include the house and the career job and the stability of my life in Ashburn… it included things I really felt passionate about. And that was so much more important.

I guess the bottom line is that I can’t neglect the things I’m passionate about. I need to put myself back in the place that makes me happy. And I might as well do it now versus later, right? It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s crazy, it’s a bit chaotic… but it’s right. I can just feel it. I’m still working out the details about exactly when I’m moving, and how, and when… but I’m going! I’ve put in my 30-notice at my current place and I’m working on finalizing the rest. I should say that I am sad to move away from my East Coast family and friends again. But I have to trust them when they say that they just want me to be happy, because that’s what I want too! I also feel really, really good about actively choosing a place because I know what it entails and I WANT to be there, instead of just leaving a place because I know it isn’t right and I want to try something else new. I will never regret moving to North Carolina because it opened my eyes to where I really need to be… But California, I choose you and I can’t wait to see you again!!

SF to SD: 101 Roadtrip

I spent the greater part of last week driving from San Francisco back down to San Diego with my mother. Why? Because we both love ocean views and seeing California! Mom has been bugging me to do this drive since I moved to Cali, and we finally made time for it. Going into the week, I asked what her priorities were and I listed out mine. Her’s were to see her cousin Kathy in Salinas, explore SF, go to Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and visit her relatives Ted and Charlene in Tustin. I wanted to drive through Half Moon Bay, find the purple sand beach, and visit Hearst Castle. With that backbone, we formed the rest of the details for the trip and off we went! It’s probably easiest if I just post the itinerary I sent to Mom before we left. I’ve included my favorite photos from each day as well!

Sunday, November 2nd

– fly to SF and pick up Firefly  rental car

– stay at Courtyard San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf using points

– Mom’s flight gets in at 5:45 pm

– My flight gets in at 5:00 pm

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Monday, November 3rd

– Spend the morning in SF (pier 39, drive the bridge, ride a cable car, Ghirardelli)

– Drive through Half Moon Bay

– Drive through Santa Cruz

– Dinner in Salinas with Kathy (and Tricia/Julie)

– stay with Kathy overnight

– Drive 108 miles total

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Tuesday, November 4th 

– explore Monterrey Wharf

– visit Monterrey Aquarium

– wander to and through Big Sur

– Purple Sand Beach near Pfeiffer State Park

– Stay somewhere at Lucia Lodge in southern section of Big Sur

– Drive 73 miles total

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Wednesday, November 5th

– Morning tour at Hearst Castle

– continue south along the coast

– stay in Santa Barbara at Holiday Inn Express using points

– Drive 174 miles total

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Thursday, November 6th

– explore Santa Barbara

– get through LA chaos either along the coast or through town

– dinner in Tustin, CA with Ted/Charlene

– get back to Cardiff, stay with Xavier

– Drive 191 miles total

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Friday, November 7th

– enjoy the morning in Cardiff, take Mom to airport and drop rental car

– Mom’s flight leaves at 11:55am

It’s Time Again for a Change

Two and a half years ago I wrote a post titled, “She said, ‘Well, I’m goin’ to California'”, and it explained to all of you where, why and when I was planning to uproot my stable Virginia life for the unknown world of the west coast. You should pause for a moment to read it and try to understand a little bit more about how I ended up in southern California. And then you should know that I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of living in this gorgeous place. I needed to move here when I did, I needed a change, I needed to focus on different aspects of my life, and I needed to just relax.

That being said, I have done a lot of thinking and praying and soul-searching over the past few months and I have decided that it’s time to move again. This decision has not been easy and even still, there are tons of unknowns. But I will take a minute to tell you what I do know, because that’s all I can do 🙂

My lease is up on October 31st and at that point I will have put my earthly possessions into a Door-to-Door storage unit. One. Not the three units it took me to move here, lol. Then I’ll move into the spare bedroom of my closest Cali friend, X. Mom is coming out to do a mini west coast road trip from SF back down here in early November. Then I’ll be hanging out the rest of the month, seeing people and doing fun things. Thanksgiving week I will hop in Funshine and drive to my brother’s place in Boulder, CO, leaving California behind 😦 On Sunday after the holiday, my mom and I will hit the road to drive the rest of the way back to Virginia. I’ll be in NoVa for the first week of December helping my mom unpack, organize and settle in the new house she just moved into. I will also celebrate my 30th birthday! Then on December 8th I fly to Argentina for the trip I already have planned with my friend, Jenny. When I get back from South America, it will be Christmas so I’ll spend that with mom. That’s when plans start to get fuzzy…

I know in my heart that the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle area in North Carolina is where I want to go next. Why? Because I pursued jobs there after college, because it’s closer to my family and friends but not too close, because it’s a slightly slower southern pace of living without being too backwards, because it has trees and lakes and mountains, because I can still drive to the beach, because I can be in an educational hub of colleges, and because it just feels right. I have started looking for jobs in the non-profit world, as well as in college admissions, study abroad offices, and athlete academic advising positions. I want to combine my love of education and youth/young adults with my organizational skills or traveling experiences… so if anyone has any information or suggestions or contacts in the research triangle area, I would love to know about them! My good friend, Paige, lives about an hour outside of the area so I may stay with her for a few days initially while I look for an apartment and decide what neighborhood I want to be in. This may also depend on where I’ve gotten or am looking for a job. That’s all I know about that end for now, other than the fact that once I pick a place, I’ll call and have my stuff delivered to settle in!

I’m not expecting for everyone who reads this post to understand my decision to, once again, move across the country without the promise of a stable job. Especially when I seem so happy here and I have such a good network of friends and activities to keep me busy. And I’ll admit that I’ve put off writing this post because it makes my heart hurt to think about leaving… But I read an article the other day that made some sense to me, so I thought I’d include it here. I know that I agree with the first two at least (other than the part where it says I’ll leave my old friends for new ones) and I’m interested to wait and see if in the future it still applies to my life. What do you all think? Can you relate?

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