Monthly Archives: August 2011

Dunes, Chicago Style Pizza, Law School, a Candy Factory, and a Military Academy… Your typical weekend in Indiana

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The rest of my work at IDEM went well and the close-out briefing was, I think, well-received. Overall, files were well organized- we provided some feedback on weaknesses and will follow-up with reports and check-ins to make sure all is on track. Another successful site visit!

On Friday, I headed north to meet up with my brother for the weekend– he’s about to start his final semester at Valparaiso Law School! I met up with him in Plymouth, a little town where he worked this summer and will continue to do so this semester… For a judge at the town courthouse. I got to see his office, the courtroom, the judge’s office (avid baseball fan), and most importantly, the people he works with. It is an extreme understatement to say they LOVE him! Two women in particular bake for him and love him and want him to get hired full-time. They are wonderful ladies and Josh’s number one fans (besides me of course)!

After spending some time in Plymouth, we dropped my rental car off in South Bend and headed to Culver. Imagine driving along through rural Indiana; field after field of corn, with groups of cattle every so often… Then BAM! There it is- the college campus-esqueness of Culver Military Academy. It was like a hidden Presidential home- you’d only know it was there if you were specifically looking for it- almost like a scene out of LOST. it’s a gorgeous academy for HS students right on a huge lake. A lot of well- known folks have passed through, including George Steinbrenner, the founder of Ekerd, The second wealthiest man in Mexico, and various Olympians and politicos. Some digging into Wikipedia showed that it is one of the largest military academies in the US; about 735 students, over 18,500 acres, the largest indoor equestrian center, champion athletes, the cost of a college education, and Puck from GLEE went there! Amazing.

We spent the evening checking out Valpo, doing a driving tour of the school, and eating dinner at Tony’s where we ate Chicago style deep dish pizza with green peppers– delicious and soooo much cheese!!!

Saturday was a whirl-wind tour. We went to the local farmer’s market and bought a musk-melon, had coffee and an almond croissant at a local coffee shop (fantastic coffee), and then met up with Meghan 2. The three of us headed to hike the Indiana Dunes! We did a nice little 5-mile hike throughout the woods down to Lake Michigan- the craziest part was that it was all on sand; it was like hiking in the mountains with the steep inclines only no soil… Which made it hard but very fun! We did get caught in the rain but the hike was enjoyable and we had a great time. After we got back to the car and spent some time touring around the huge vacation homes (many of the houses were built for the 1939 world fair and are all different styles), we headed to El Salto, a most delicious Mexican restaurant for much deceived chips, salsa, and other munchies. We followed up the Mexican with some homemade ice cream (blueberry cheesecake, cherry cheesecake, and espresso Oreo fudge).

After cleaning up, Josh and I headed out for a nice little walk from his apartment to a near by, Ogden gardens. When we got there, there was a sign talking about the salt creek watershed- I realized it was funded through the 319 program and that I had received the project two days earlier (small world!). We walked around for a while, took a bunch of pictures, and stopped to catch a huge feed train passing by- and the conductor waved to us!

Next stop: Figure 8 Microbrewery- just down the street from Josh’s apartment, f8 as it’s more commonly called, is a tiny brewery with seating for about 12. Their beer menu changes pretty often and the only accompaniments offered are pretzel rods sitting in glasses like flowers on the tables and frozen pizza or frozen burgers. We each ordered a pint (a double bock and a watermelon wheat ale- awesome!) and enjoyed some down time. After relaxing, we drove over to the law school, which was unfortunately locked, but we did get to check out the chapel where graduation will be in December… And we walked around the bookstore and the undergrad hub. I scoped out some valpo paraphernalia :0).

Then, on to the final scenic destination- a local candy factory.

The candy factory is located on the side of the road- even with it’s large sign, it seems like a place that is often skipped over for appearing to be “just another candy store.” One step inside, however, will have you singing the theme song of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… To the right, a large stream of liquid chocolate seeming to pour out of the ceiling; to the right, shelves of old time candy like candy cigarettes, ring pops, nik-l-nips, and candy buttons. Finally, ahead of you, bins and bins of candy; jelly beans, gummy bears, chocolate covered marshmallows, cashews, turtles, pixie sticks, sesame sticks, licorice, dried fruit, jaw breakers… It was awesome! We made a few choice purchases, one of which- grand marnier chocolate covered pecans, was one of the greatest tasting combos ever.

We finished off the night back at Josh’s place with pasta, homemade pasta sauce made with tomatoes from his garden and sliced tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, and cracked pepper… That coupled with some Heineken rounded out the visit perfectly. It went by way too fast, but I’m glad I got to spend a full day in Indiana. It is a really cool place and makes me miss living in the country! Josh, being the awesome brother that he is, got up at 2AM and drove me to O’Hare airport for my morning flight.

Thank you, Josh for a great time! I can’t wait for you to come visit me in DC!

 

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Cruising around the country in search of new adventures

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So, I’ve been doing a bunch of traveling lately as I mentioned in previous posts and I got to thinking that it would be fun to “map it out”, so I’m going to continue editing this post to add places I’m visiting/going– maybe through December? See how much I travel in 6 months? Thoughts? So, let’s rewind to July 1st. Between July 1st and today, September 26th, I have:

– traveled more than 27,000 miles (eeks, talk about your carbon footprint…)

– spent at least one night in 17 states

– slept in 22 different beds/ 14 hotels, 7 houses

Here is where I’ve been…

1. Alexandria, VA – home sweet home!

2. New York City- Visiting Paige on her last weekend in the US!

3. Los Angeles Visiting Andrew and his parents and San Francisco, working

4. Portland, Tillamook, Klamath Falls, and Medford, OR working and visiting Becki

5. El Paso, TX for Andrew’s grandmother’s 80th birthday party

6. Cheyenne, Laramie, Snowy Range, Medicine Bow, and Rawlins, WY for work

7. Sioux Falls, Oacoma, Mitchell, and Vermillion, SD for work

8. Indianapolis, IN for work

9. Portland, ME (by way of Bangor, ME because our landing gear was down and we needed a longer runway…) for work

10. Concord, NH for work

11. Waterbury and Montpelier, VT for work

12. Providence, RI to see JULIA!

13. Bedminster, PA to batten down the hatches during Hurricane Irene

14. Ocean City, MD to see if there was damage from Irene at my Grandparents Places (not much!)

15. Nashville, TN for work

16. Jackson, MS (including Yazoo City and Bee Lake) for work

17. Ocean City, MD for pleasure

18.  Bedminster, PA for a stopover on our way to New York

19. Red Hook, NY to visit Andrew’s Aunt Kelly!

 

20. Denver and Boulder, CO for work and a visit to Austin and Mariah!

 

 

 

 

IDEM: Indiana Department of Environmental Management

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This week’s trip sent me to Indianapolis, IN. Well, about 9 miles from the city center, so not really Indianapolis, but close, just the same. Apparently, the IDEM had some re-organization done and the watershed folks/Nonpoint Source Pollution folks are located out on Shadeland Ave.

Shadeland Ave should not be confused with Shadeland, Indiana, a town about 1.5 hours from Indy that is near Purdue. I made this mistake originally and was left cramming in some last minute travel arrangements about an hour before I left DC.

So, the purpose of my visit to IDEM, you ask? To meet the staff, listen to to their thoughts and experiences on the 319 program, GRTS, and finally, assist the Region 5 Grants manager in a 604(b) ARRA onsite review. For those of you new to the “environmental-speak,” click here for some quick definitions.

The site review basically consists of speaking with each of the project officers about the work that is being done, how far along the projects are, any obstacles or challenges they are facing, how much communication they are having with the pass through organizations, and any other questions we may think of to ask. In addition, we collect all of the grant files and go through them with a fine-tooth comb to look for inconsistencies and data gaps, indications that work is being done as planned, to see if money is being used legally, and to determine if work is properly recorded and the files are complete.

I think a lot of states probably see us as the ‘bad guys’, but really, we are the good guys. It is our job to go through these reviews and to help out and act as buffers prior to any possible audits. The audits are when you want to be spick and span- 100% organized and precise. Anyway, we go through the files, interview the folks, and then pull together and exit review/findings. We’ve been meeting with IDEM since Tuesday and plan to wrap-up on Friday morning at some point. The work is interested and the people are friendly.

I just came to say hello

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A few days ago, on my delayed (yet again) flight from DC to Indianapolis, I started dreaming of the yester-years of writing and journaling; I used to keep solid journals, especially while on trips. I would write down every possible detail and note that I could think of and although it took up a lot time, every once in a while I’ll come across one of those journals and be so glad that I took the time to jot down my thoughts. It’s a great reminder of all the fun and crazy times in my life. So anyway, after a brief trip down nostalgia lane, I came to the conclusion that I should attempt to capture my thoughts in a blog.

It is important to point out that i have had many blogs over the years on a variety of themes; college, travel, running, cooking, being green, etc. I always became overwhelmed by trying to update all the blogs all the time. So this time, I am focusing on one blog where I will try to capture a smattering of things going on in my life. There are a few events in my recent past that I’d like to include as well, more so I remember the details, then to make you jealous about the cool and awesome things that I get to do/be a part of ;0).

I hope you enjoy my musings as I take a short backwards stumble down memory lane mixed with a few hopscotches and sprints (albeit, short ones) down the path/road/trail that is my future. Enjoy!