The art of packing….

Packing when traveling is something I have never mastered!  I ALWAYS bring way more than I need, and usually come back from a trip with only half of what I packed actually used.  Now, I get that you have to be prepared for various weather situations, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t being as efficient as I could be.

My trip to Africa was my first foray into ‘thoughtful packing’. I had a friend assist me in packing up one 60L backpack to last me two weeks.  Not only that, but said pack also needed to hold my mountain climbing clothing, altitude layers, sleeping bag and resort wear for the last two days in Zanzibar.

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Not too long ago, I discovered the freedom of flying without checking luggage.  I flew to Toronto from Denver for a wedding and only brought a small roller carry-on.  It was exhilarating!  I was able to walk in, get on the plane, and walk off!

So a month later, I tried it again – flying from Denver to Bangor, Maine. This time, I was a bridesmaid.  I carried my dress in a garment bag and laid it on top of the overhead luggage. On the way back I just crammed everything into my carry-on suitcase.  It worked so well!

I started learning how to come up with coordinating garments that would allow me to make multiple outfits out of a few pieces of clothing without anyone really knowing.  One pair of jeans, a couple of blouses and jackets.

Then I started rolling my clothes to make more room.  And I came up with this on my most recent ‘checked-bag-free’ trip from Denver to Washington, D.C.:

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This was actually a business trip.  I had dress slacks, jackets and blouses in there, along with workout clothes, a laptop, and toiletries!!

What are some of your light packing tips?

 

JennyRightSide’s 2015 Kayaking Season!!

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I love whitewater kayaking.

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I used to paddle a LOT.  In fact, my life revolved around stream flows back in 2006 and 2007. I would chase the rain and drive from Ottawa to Tennessee to West Virginia in order to get on new and fun rivers!

After a bit of a hiatus, I started working with an incredible organization, Team River Runner, which helps wounded veterans and their family in health and healing through paddlesports.  There is a chapter here in Colorado Springs and I’ve been working with them since 2013.  Most of the paddling I’ve been doing lately has been in support of Team River Runner, however I did get a chance to paddle some rivers at my skill level this summer!

April

The season started in April, with two great paddling days.  The first was on Easter Sunday when a group of us met and paddled the Arkansas River with easter bunnies strapped to our boats and some even wore bunny ears!

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Everyone brought a mascot!

Everyone brought a mascot!

The second was the following weekend when a girlfriend and I went to beautiful Steamboat Springs for some skiing.  The snow was very icy and the hills a little painful, so we skied one day, then went into town and she fly-fished upstream while I spent a couple of hours surfing a the fun Charlie Hole on the Yampa. What fun to combine winter sports and summer sports in one trip! And, the Subaru was able to handle us and all the gear!

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May

Then in May we brought three Team River Runner chapters together for CKS Paddlefest in Buena Vista. We have a great campground owned by a veteran that we get to use each year. This year, we had veterans from Salt Lake City, Denver and Colorado Springs together for a fun weekend of paddling, watching freestyle events, checking out company booths and relaxing by the campfire. We were also blessed to have a personal whitewater clinic led by world-class pro paddlers Emily Jackson and Nich Troutman!!

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A week later, I was a student on an American Canoe Association Level 4 Whitewater Kayak instructor course put on by the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center and Whitewater Attainment. This was a challenging course for me, having rusty skills and working with young, spry kids in their 20’s!  I worked my butt off to keep up with them on the river, and secretly collapsed, exhausted in my campsite at the end of each day!

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June/July/August

Through the rest of the summer, we held pool sessions and ran class I-II river trips for Team River Runner down the Arkansas River. I also taught beginner classes at the local lake in evenings after work.

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I also managed to squeeze in a great run through the now historic Brown’s Canyon with two awesome paddling chicks, Tara and Becky and two play sessions at the Pueblo Play Park!

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Pueblo Play Park

September

In September I was given my first opportunity to run Waterton Canyon near Denver.  Four times!  What a great III-IV run with access to walk back over and over to run it again.  Here’s the video from that great day!

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One of the highlights of the season was an incredible opportunity to assist on a three day Team River Runner leadership clinic through the Ruby/Horsethief and Westwater Canyons of the Colorado River. What an incredible experience and to work with veterans pushing their limits on some higher class III whitewater!

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I have such a feeling of accomplishment from this season, and really enjoy paying my passion for paddling forward to others!

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The Adventure of Home Ownership

This is a continuation of Greg’s podcast, “Homeowner Joys and Challenges”.  In his podcast, he interviews his wife Laura and neighbour Rich who describe the various projects and costs that come with home ownership, but in the end, concur that the joys far outweigh the challenges.

I absolutely concur!  I’d like to share my experience with home ownership.

1999

I was 24 years old when I bought my first house.  I saw an ad in the paper for a rental community which was converting to a condo/townhome community.  Basically, the current tenants were given first dibs at purchasing the homes they were in, and then the homes were put on the public market with an attractive incentive for people like me who only made about $30,000/year. I could rent the home for the first three months, then the rent I had paid would be put toward the 5% down-payment and I could either come up with the rest of the money on my own and accept a reduction in interest rate, or the bank would pay the remaining balance. How could I not!  The purchase price included a total renovation of the house, so it felt as though I was buying a brand new house, and the condo fees $120/month covered everything on the outside of the house and lawn maintenance. Life was good. I later spent about $300 on a deck that my friends helped me build before I had to sell it due to a move for work.

Homemade deck.  Lots of caesars and friends helped me build this baby!

Homemade deck. Lots of caesars and friends helped me build this baby!

2006

The second house I owned wasn’t until 2006.  I had saved the equity from my first home and used it for this house after my second move in four years.  This house was slightly different. It was over 100 years old, had just been completely renovated (sensing a trend here?) and sat on a half acre lot. Property ownership was completely new to me.  Property ownership in the country added a few challenges that I hadn’t previously considered: sump pumps failing during the spring thaw; maintaining the bacterial balance in the septic system; emptying the septic system; ensuring heating oil delivery came BEFORE the oil ran out; paying for your heating costs up front; carpenter ants; push mowing a HALF ACRE of grass (I did the front, side and front half of the backyard, letting the treed area in the back go wild); buying your garbage bags for $3 apiece which would be the cost of pickup included etc.  But, as Jason had concluded, living in the country; low, low taxes, and having a place you can call your own was worth it all for me!

Gorgeous character of a historic home.

Gorgeous character of a historic home.

2008

My third home (another work related move) was an suburbia freehold townhouse. It was a bout 16 years old.  When I first moved in, it seemed to be fine, however within two years, it needed a new roof.  Then it needed some structural work done on the sill plate and floor boards which were rotting due to a leak.  Then more carpenter ants.  Then I had to replace the furnace. Then the chimney started leaking. Then the windows needed to be replaced. Then we decided to finish the basement (once we were sure all the leaks and rotting were permanently repaired).  Then we thought interlocking brick, a newly paved driveway and the removal of some pretty crazy willows/bushes would be nice.

Out the front door of the townhome

Out the front door of the townhome

2010

My fourth home was a downtown condo apartment (another work move. Sigh). I absolutely adored the condo. It was two bedroom, two bath corner unit with views of the river and mountains from downtown. We had no issues with the condo, it was a relaxing, convenient place to live. But way too small for our outdoor lifestyle. No rooms for kayaks, bikes, two cars, golf clubs, climbing gear, SCUBA gear, motorcycle, gym equipment. We just couldn’t make it work. So we lived in it for a year, rented it for a year, then sold it to someone who truly appreciated the place. And moved back into the 2008 place which we still own and have rented out twice now due to other work-related moves. Whew!

View from my incredible condo

View from my incredible condo

And after all that, I still feel that home ownership is a solid financial investment if you’re in it for the long term (why pay off someone else’s mortgage?) but only if you are financially capable of all the costs that you may come across!

Reminiscing: River Waves

We go through life, hopefully living it to the fullest.  Every day is an adventure and every day is as good as you make it. There are ups and then there are downs, but for the most part, how we deal with those ups and downs are the most important.

Break those ups and downs into specific aspects of your life and you can examine even further how you deal with things, and how specific events can influence other parts of what you deem important.

Reminiscing

Yampa!I have been thinking a lot over the past few days about the ups and downs of my kayaking experience. Life can be compared to river flows.  Sometimes the river levels are high, and sometimes they’re low.  It’s how you get yourself (and your team) down the river in one piece and how you grow from the experience that really matters.

Last week, I drove up to Salida, Colorado for a Whitewater Instructor Course. I’ve been volunteering with Team River Runner now for two years but never had any formal instruction on how to teach. I wanted to help my local chapter more than simply being a safety boater and photographer.

The five-day course was challenging.  Jenny Right-Side, who used to paddle almost full-time, traveling the world in search of prime whitewater had experienced a lapse. That full-time kayaking experience went into hiatus in 2008 before I went overseas for work, and never really re-manifested itself.  Life got in the way.

I found myself on the first day of the course sitting among other instructor candidates who could be up to 22 years my junior and who paddle nonstop. This almost 40-year-old definitely had a hard time keeping up!  It turns out kayaking (like most sports) is like riding a bike.  You don’t lose the ability to rediscover the essential skills, but without the muscle it can be an extremely challenging experience.

The whole week forced me to look within myself and determine how badly I wanted this certification and how badly I wanted to redevelop those ace skills I once had, more than seven years ago. It made me think about my river experiences. The people I met, the rivers I paddled and how I continually pushed myself to become a better paddler.

Looking Back

I decided to go back and look at some of my notable surfing experiences, and note how I continually pushed myself to try bigger and more challenging waves on the river.

One of the first photos I found of myself was of my surfing a wave on the Black River in Watertown, New York.

Inner City Strife

This was in October 2005.  I had been paddling for four months, when the river levels in upstate New York went off the charts!  The surf wave, Inner City Strife was incredibly intimidating to me! It only formed at super high levels. There was a low-head dam just downstream from the feature. This meant mad rolling, ferrying and eddying skills were required to surf here.

The next photo I looked at was taken in the Spring of 2006. For my one-year anniversary of ever climbing into a kayak I decided to do the unthinkable and enter a surfing competition at one of the biggest and scariest waves on the Ottawa River, Ontario.

Big Cohones RodeoThis wave was much bigger than Inner City Strife and aptly named Big Kahuna. Getting on the wave was a challenge and staying on the wave was a challenge. But I thought, what have I got to lose?  Worst case, I flush off the wave and have to roll downstream. I think I got about five seconds on that wave…

A year later in 2007, I decided why not go even bigger? I know what you’re thinking.  How can there be anything on a river that’s bigger than Big Kahuna?  Enter Buseater. This wave comes in at some of the highest levels on the Ottawa River and could literally eat a school bus. You need to use a tow rope just to ferry onto the wave and then, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you just hang on for dear life.  The water was so powerful, it snapped my paddle in two.

This trip down memory lane truly reminded me of what attracted me to whitewater kayaking in the first place and why I keep coming back to it.  I’ve probably said this before, but when you’re on the river, the only thing that matters is each moment. How you’re going to manoeuvre a challenging rapid, making sure your mates on the river are safe, what is coming up around that river bend. There is no worrying about your mortgage, no trying to figure out what you’re going to make for lunch tomorrow, none of that.  Simply: Every. Single. Moment. Matters.

O = Ottawa

OThis is embarrassing to admit, but I was having trouble finding an “O” word to write about for the A to Z Challenge. I actually considered writing about Ostriches, which I had seen in the wild in Africa.

I told my husband that I needed an “O” word, and after a few inappropriate suggestions, and my claim that it had to have something to do with travel or adventure, he said “Ottawa.  Ontario”. Duh.

OMG.  As if I didn’t think of my hometown! My brain is seriously fried right now with work and school!

So here it is. I was born in Ottawa, Ontario and, despite being an army brat and moving every three years, I have lived there five different times in my life.

Ottawa is the capital of Canada. It almost wasn’t, but lucked out in 1857 when it was determined that the previous capital, – Kingston, Ontario – was too small and too close to the American border.  Parliament Hill, a limestone cliff overlooking the Ottawa River (and Gatineau, Quebec on the other side) is home to our country’s parliament buildings: unique, gothic revival styled homes to our elected government.

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Here is a list of seasonal Ottawa tidbits you may enjoy:

  • WINTER: Ottawa is home to the world’s longest outdoor skating rink: The Rideau Canal Skateway.  It is usually open January to March, depending on the ice, and hosts Winterlude, an annual outdoor festival in the heart of downtown.

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  • SPRING: Ottawa hosts the Canadian Tulip Festival each year, which started when Princess Julianna of the Netherlands thanked Canada for its role in liberating her country, presented Ottawa with 100,000 tulip bulbs and continued sending more bulbs each year until 1980. Still, today, the National Capital Commission plants tulips all over the city each year, bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists to Ottawa annually.

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  • SUMMER: ByWard Market is where the action happens in Ottawa’s Lower Town.  It is home to Canada’s oldest operating farmer’s market (first market in 1827), multiple unique eateries, bars, and boutique stores.

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  • AUTUMN: The area surrounding Ottawa becomes a mosaic of vibrant reds, yellows, oranges and greens as the leaves change colour in preparation for their demise before winter. Gatineau Park is the best place to truly enjoy the autumn colours.

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Ottawa is a city of all seasons, and despite being the capital of Canada exhibits a small town attitude. There is no shortage of things to do and has a unique mix of history and culture.  I hope you get to visit my hometown sometime!

N = Nicaragua

NNicaragua is a country situated north of one of my favourite places: Costa Rica.  Despite some uneducated people warning me that Nicaragua was dangerous and that there was fighting along the border, I did some research and decided to take a day trip into the country from Guanacaste.

I’m so glad I did!

Nicaragua is a beautiful country, despite being one of the poorest in the Americas. I was happy to contribute even a little bit to their economy and to my guide. Tourism in Nicaragua is quickly growing, and I expect as more and more expats retire and visit Costa Rica, Nicaragua will be the next hidden gem. There is so much history, culture and fascinating architecture to experience.

One of the highlights of the visit was enjoying a local band play on the hill overlooking Laguna de Apoyo Natural Reserve.

Enjoy the photos I took from my short excursion!  I will definitely be back!

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M = Mountains

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I grew up in Ontario, Canada.  In fact, before I moved out to Colorado, I had never lived anywhere else. Mountains were never really a part of my life.  I knew they existed but had never been given the opportunity to experience them first hand.

I learned to ski at Horseshoe Valley Resort, north of Toronto. Horseshoe Valley has a difference in elevation of 308 feet. Another place in Ontario where I have skied is Calabogie Peaks, which apparently offers the highest vertical drop in Ontario of 761 feet.

My new home resort, Keystone Resort near Dillon, Colorado has a difference in elevation of 3,128 feet.  Just to give you an idea of what I’m used to and what I’m experiencing here in Colorado.

So, back to mountains. To be honest, I don’t know how I managed to live the majority of my life without being surrounded by mountains! My first time experiencing mountains was in Bosnia and then Switzerland. It was astounding to see them jut out of the earth as if they were the most powerful things nature had to offer.  It was terrifying driving switchbacks in Bosnia with no guard rails. It was exhilarating noticing the thinner but cleaner air.

When I cycled through the Canadian Rockies, I was really nervous.  I thought, how can I possibly get my little bike up those HUGE mountains?  But the mountains can be forgiving.  There are ways to get through them without going straight up. Valleys and passes assist us in being able to experience their majesty without as much effort as we might think.

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Although they can be forgiving, they are also not to be messed with. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I truly learned to appreciate that the mountains are boss.  We passed many people who simply couldn’t handle the altitude, returning down the slopes with looks of defeat on their faces.

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Since I’ve lived in Colorado Springs, the form of Pikes Peak follows me wherever I go. I can drive into the mountains each weekend if I want to. I truly feel as if “The Mountains are Calling”, and I truly feel as if it’s where I belong.

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