Today, I sat in the sun.  I just sat.  I closed my eyes, zipped my coat, tugged my scarf snugly about my neck and sat on a rock.

The mercury did not rise above 42ºF today in Tennessee.  The wind continued to sneak in and steal away the warmth and optimism in my jacket pocket like it has every day for more days than I’d like to remember.  But, I saw the sun.  It is still out there, folks, a bit unfriendly at the moment, but perking up.  For a few moments today, the wintry shadows that have clung longer than any weatherman or groundhog could have warranted stepped aside for the sun!

So, in honor of some sunshine through the shadows, I decided to give up.

I decided to give up hopeless arguments.  I decided to give up doubting.  I decided to give up perfectionism.

See, this semester I have been uncharacteristically mediocre.  I may get the second ‘B’ of my life (I know, right? silly), I have been a so-so friend, I have embraced a whole new level of procrastination, and I did not have nearly enough adventures to sate my wanderlust.  I always thought mediocrity would kill me.  And, while it still might, there are discoveries which can only be made through passivity, through sitting in a rubber tube (not worrying about the extra thigh jigglies from skimping on your gym routine) and floating down the lazy river.

Laziness is uncomfortable.  The body is not built to be idle.  The brain is not meant to be waveless.  Humans are wired for action, desirous of responsibility, insatiably hungry for purpose at all ages and stages of life.  So, when the soul works itself from lethargy into internal chaos, needing something, anything to call its own, some of the best ideas are born.

Time to put the sloth in the zoo.

The sloth in each of us possesses untold power.  We have frightening potential just waiting to be discovered, waiting for us to finally slow down enough to see it hiding in the tree, gesturing slowly towards the little distractions, the beetles, that don’t even have their own plaque at the zoo.

Travel Noodle sprung from a primordial ache, a longing for purpose, a skitzy whim that gathered momentum wrapping itself up in html along the way.  I had no idea what this would be.  I had no idea what it could be.

I know, I know, this is just another heads-up-post.  I wish I could offer more stories, or more advice; but, I am just starting to see the sun, to really define this project.  Travel Noodle is like a bear cub born in the winter time, barely out of the womb and still in hibernation.  But, spring always comes.

Spring always comes.

Okay.  Here is the deal:

I am slogging through the first batch of exams/projects/presentations of this semester of good ‘ole college.  Weekends are spent traveling to lacrosse games (only to be rained, sleeted, and/or snowed on and have to drive back all numb and grumpy…).  Now, traveling with a sports team brings me gobs and gobs of joy; but, it is hardly conducive to lugging a laptop around, writing, or seeing anything besides a shabby hotel room and 110 yards of turf.

Besides that, there is the unfortunate fact that my To-Do list keeps pulling Alice-in-wonderlands–rapidly inflating until my most creative moments are pushed later and later until they come stock me during the few twilight hours I manage to keep my eyes closed.  For everything I cross off of the list, I add on four more.  “Welcome to the world, Sara,” you may be thinking.  And, you’d be right.

It’s really about time management.  And, I am pulling an epic fail in that category these days.  For instance, right now I should be studying for the exam I have tomorrow.  Am I?  No.  I look in my day planner bewildered by what looks like a never-ending set of stairs.  I’d probably be at the top with a great view by now if I hadn’t lallygagged my study hours away on the platform of irrelevant ideas.

I have so many ideas.  Some great ones, I think.  Ideas that shall eventually join the mayhem of Web 2.0 (if you can bear with me until then).

By mid-March, things might begin to look a bit different around here.  Okay, very different.  I rushed into this project the first time, without a clear purpose, long-term vision, or understanding of my potential audience.  So, over the next month I will be introducing a new angle, something more suited to the message I have to offer.

Stay tuned for updates as these persnickety little ideas of mine start to get dressed and go to work.


A few weeks ago, I net-surfed a twisted wake through dozens of travel, social marketing, and digital nomad blogs until beaching on a fellow Nashvillian’s perfectly delightful creation, Life Without Pants.  After reading a particularly gratifying article (What Megan Fox Can Teach Us About Writing Compelling Blog Content), I recognized just how inadequate my own blogging venture has been thus far.

So, did I rise to the challenge?  Did I pick up the metaphorical pickax and strike out again, equipped with a few new nuggets of wisdom on my hunt for gold?

Nope.  I disappeared for a bit.  I went to class; I went to lacrosse practice.  I sulked in a dark room with a tie dyed lamp.

Where am I now?  Well, I suppose I should tell you.  Utilizing social media, engaging an online community, and interacting with the mystical language of CSS are all new challenges for me.  I will tackle each one in due course; but, first I must address an old challenge.  The challenge is transparency.  I’ve never been a big fan of self-disclosure (why start a blog, then, right?); and, now, I have the opportunity to change–to be open, authentic, and, hopefully, somewhat compelling.  So, here I am.

Right now, I am stuck in that dark room with the tie dyed lamp.

Okay, I lied (remember, this is new for me).  I’m not stuck.  I only feel stuck.  For the last two weeks, I have rejected my own manifesto, and ignored my own call to action.  I have forgotten what it is I set off to do; so, I have started to do nothing (beyond the ordinary, that is).  I have reverted to waiting.

I am waiting for the summer elixir to stir up an adventure in me. I am waiting to graduate in December before setting off and being free.  I am waiting for life to fall in line like neatly packaged dreams bought from a store.

Problem: I don’t like things to be neatly packaged or in straight lines.  Just take my room below as evidence.

I like a bit of clutter and crooked lamps.  I prefer beds unmade, drawers left open, and books in stacks.  I stick post-its on my walls; I draw on mirrors; I turn speakers into nightstands.  I am hopelessly drawn to the unconventional, hence the constant war it is to be conventional (aka stay in school).

Life should be wonky, loud, and full of whimsy.

And, that can (and should) happen anywhere.  Though, I do wish my living room had better light…

no brain, no bones, no specialized systems...yet still alive, and still lethal.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is home to Dolly Parton’s Dollywood, a hundred tacky tourist traps, one shoddy hill for skiing, and, most importantly, the best aquarium in America––Ripley’s Aquarium.

Though located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in a land-locked state, the aquarium claims to have more fish (10,000 or so) than Gatlinburg has residents (almost 5,000 in 2005).  Rumors of four-eyed critters, piranhas, sharks, and neon fish revived me from my “back-in-class” slump.  My roommates and I bid goodbye to the Wii, assured Super Mario we’d play again soon, and hit the road.

Only one road leads to Gatlinburg (passing through Pigeon Forge where you should try Zorbing).  Along the way, a series of Ripley’s billboards demand “TEXT [insert word here] TO 7707.”  Though I am not privy to obeying arbitrary orders, especially all-encapsulated-billboard commands, curiosity reached for the phone in my pocket.  Three of us began texting frantically any keywords we could recall: SHARKS, GAS, FATAL, WACKY-COLORED-PUFFER-FISH (disclaimer: these may or may not be the actual keywords; text at your own risk… and standard text messaging rates apply).

Oh, the happy little messages that arrived!  The sea creature trivia kept us occupied for twenty or so miles; and, the $3 coupon sitting in my inbox made up for paid parking.

schooling fish exhibit. though they are bribed with food pellets (hence the gaping mouths)

The same road leading into Gatlinburg is the only road of consequence in the town itself.  At stoplight #5, Ripley’s Aquarium smiles down from the right.  The Rainforest, Coral Reef, and Shark Bay are play lands of aquatic delight.  The newest exhibit, Lethal Weapons, compacts all manner of underwater death into one room.  You wander from death-by-electric-shock to shredded-by-jaws and around to paralyzing-injection.  Somehow, though the nearest body of salt water is a measly 8 hours away, dozens of strangely cute, oceanic killers wound up in East Tennessee.  Peeking at a hamster-sized octopus two inches from your nose that could kill you in 3 minutes flat if given the opportunity is a mystifying, and a bit sobering experience.  Our planet is a freak show (and not just underwater).

Past hanging fossils of prehistoric water beasts, through the winding tunnel of sharks and saw-nosed giants, you wind up at Touch-A-Ray Bay.  Now, if you have never touched a sting ray–do it.  The poisonous barbs are conveniently clipped off of the aquarium rays’ tails so you can avoid the fate of our beloved Aussie.  Wait until feeding time when the scuba guy leads them around the ring for your stroking pleasure.  Otherwise, you’ll wind up submerging an entire arm in piss-colored water attempting to pet the polka-dotted bitch who flits by just beyond your outstretched fingers.  Then, soggy and frustrated you will attempt to bathe in hand-sanitizer beneath the reproving stares of strangers.

Don’t be disheartened by my description, for the real show is above water.  Touch-A-Ray Bay unites a dynamic cross-section of human rumps.  Big, small, saggy, tight––butts of all ages and sizes surround the bay.  Little kids drape over the rock wall on their bellies; parents follow suit.  Step back and behold an exhibit of human buttocks held prominently in the air as their owner’s waggle their arms excitedly toward approaching sting rays.

Unwilling to sacrifice the dignity of one especially rotund, wedgie-bearing rear that wiggled heavenward while the owner squealed with delight, I have refrained from posting a photo of the Touch-A-Ray Bums.  Alas, more reason to see for yourself.  Twice a day at feeding time, the buns congregate again, all equally uninhibited as the rays command everyone’s (or so they think) full attention.

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Although grumbling can be such fun, I decided to follow my 10 snowboarding grievances with a slightly longer list (so optimistic, I know) extolling the virtues of the sport.  So without further ado, 11 glorious things about snowboarding:

  1. Stunning sights: See picture above.  Need I go on?  A few treetops alone are marvelous–just a few speckles on a glossy basin framed by chiseled, treeless rock summits that reach toward heaven as if to snatch up the golden gates and install them instead in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain range.  Travelers be warned that as they creep along the icy lanes, they are approaching holy vistas.  Your soul must rise to the occasion, or be diminished by the greatness of your surroundings.
  2. Quirky lift attendants: Stand in line and the hanging chair lifts will deliver you to the summit; but, first you will encounter a gatekeeper of sorts (not exactly St. Peter).  One or two lift attendants are always on duty to assist kids, midgets, the blind, handicapped, and uncoordinated newbies getting on and off the lifts.  It is a painfully repetitive, boring job which turns the most blase attendant into a desperate entertainer.  They begin crafting phrases like “have a tubular time, yo” or “dude, shred some powder on those gnarly slopes” to send off each loaded chair.  Others resort to high-fives, funny faces, or singing.  One young Michelangelo in Vail Village began sculpting the 7 wonders of the world with snow.  He had completed a convincing Stonehenge, the pyramids of Egypt, and was placing the finishing touches on his snow Sphinx when I passed just yesterday.
  3. Crazy hats: Snowboarding is a great sport for people-watching fanatics.  I particularly like looking at hats.  While standing in lift lines or pausing at the top of a run, I have spotted pom-pom hats, long stringy hats, Elvis wig hats, spiky hats, and even a little kid with red horns and a tail protruding from the back of his head.  Just make sure you can actually board before donning a flamboyant headpiece on the slopes.
  4. Fresh powder:  Nothing beats gliding through fresh, untouched snow on a snowboard.  Nothing.  Not even cheesecake.
  5. Guilt-free binge eating: According to ChaCha (a mobile question-answering service), moderate snowboarding burns about 350 calories per hour.  Tackle a few black diamonds and only rest on the lifts and we’re talking 500 calories per hour.  The lifts are open for 7 hours, at least 5 of which I am cruising up and down the mountain.  So, on an average day in Vail, Colorado, I burn 2,000-plus calories before 4pm.  Basically, snowboarding erases the hesitance plaguing sedentary diners.  I will refill my bowl of chili as many times as I want, thank you; and, there is nothing gluttonous about it.
  6. Reckless abandon: Stepping into snowboard bindings gives the rider unspoken permission to be mildly insane.  You can crash into snowdrifts, jump off of moguls, or simply scream down the mountain spraying a wake of snow on the poor sucker trying to keep up with you.  Mountain = Freedom.
  7. Lift conversations: Whether with friends or strangers (like the exceptionally tall skier wearing a Christmas sweater today), lift conversations are always decidedly quirky.  Topics range from the generic ‘where are you from? how do you like Colorado?’ to more entertaining subjects like movie trivia, life plans, or best wipe-outs.  Breaking out into song also proved popular this trip–favorites including “Eight Days a Week,” “Don’t Stop Believin,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
  8. Great wipe-outs – I’ll just let you see for yourself.  This particular fall received hollers and applause from onlookers riding the lift overhead.
  9. Speeding past struggling snowboarders: Been there, done that.  Slid on my butt just like you; so, no, I do not have the slightest bit of sympathy for your sore knees and face full of snow.  (I may not be on greens anymore, but [see above] I have sore knees and a face full of snow, too–suck it up).
  10. The burn: Oh, the burn…when everything hurts with that delicious pain of victory.  I feel muscles that I never use in everyday life.  I wear out muscles that I do use everyday.  And, by some peculiar magic, no degree of aching, quaking muscles can discourage another day of battle.  The soreness slips away into the snow for a while, if only to return, compounded, after a hot shower.
  11. Going to sleep: Collapsing into bed after a triumph on the mount smells of sweet entitlement.  A snowboarder’s sleep sheds routine and becomes a privilege–something earned, something anticipated, something remarkable.  After a week in Vail Village, I am convinced we should never retire without the joy of exhaustion to carry us to sleep.

Okay, maybe I didn’t hit the lifts at 8:30 sharp this week; but, I rode every day.  I rode until close, and I rode hard.  I took advantage of shimmery bowls, ridiculous inclines, and uncrowded lift lines.  I am ravaged, ravenous, and demanding the dregs of my energy reservoir just to finish this.

In summary (and to use my new lingo), snowboarding is a sick nasty, so nectar, totally schwank sport.  ‘Nuff said.

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All photography and information is product and property of Sara Grove, not reprintable without prior written consent. Copyright © 2009.