Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

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Arches National Park

Today started early – even by Dwyer standards. I really wanted to see Delicate Arch at sunrise. The drive from our Airbnb to the Delicate Arch trail head is about 30 minutes. The hike to Delicate Arch is 1.5 miles mostly uphill. Sunrise was at 5:55am. I know it’s crazy… I set the alarm for 3:15am! On vacation… to chase sunrise! Before I share any pictures, I want to give a big shout out to Dave. He is always a good sport about my crazy ideas – especially, when on vacation and it involves a sunrise. When I tried to talk myself out of the whole thing last night, he encouraged me/us to go for it. He even woke up earlier than needed to turn on the coffee pot. Thank you, my love.

Us at Delicate Arch

We started hiking at 5am with our headlamps and flashlights. The trail was pretty easy to follow. It’s been well maintained because of all the visitors. I thought it would be more challenging to follow, especially in the dark, but it was pretty easy. We made it to the arch with time to spare and watch the early sun rays turn the clouds into cotton candy. It was beautiful.

First picture at the Arch
Cotton Candy Clouds at Sunrise
Sunrise

Surprisingly, we weren’t alone this early in the morning. There were quite a few early birds. Mostly photographers trying to catch the perfect shot.

This is my favorite shot of the clouds and Arch.

Ahhhh…. Sunrise!

We stayed for 10-15 minutes and watched as the sun continued to rise and it became more and more crowded. We realized it was time to head down and continue seeing the park. It was a quick walk back down especially because we could actually see what was around us!

I also want to take a minute and share navigational tips to hiking in the desert. Trails can often be difficult to follow because there are no natural trail markers like trees or vegetation. Instead, there are cairns or rock piles. They are the navigation points to walk towards while hiking. They are spaced apart and give you a visual line of where the trail leads.

Rock Cairn

We returned to the car and headed up to our next hike. We were going to hike to see Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, and Tapestry Arch.

The light at Sand Dune Arch was beautiful.
Broken Arch – do you see the crack?
Broken Arch
Tapestry Arch

This trail was really sandy in several spots. We even saw this cute little beetle.

We reversed course after tapestry arch. And stopped for a few pictures of the other side of Broken Arch.

Our next destination was Devils Garden Trail head. We stepped it out to see Landscape Arch – the longest arch on the planet.

As we walked, we started seeing elephants in all of the rock formations. Elephant trunks and elephant butts. Look at landscape arch – it is actually two elephants on either side extending their trunks. The one on the left has a crown above his ear. The elephant on the right has his mouth open. Do you see it?

More elephants

Pine Arch – elephant
Pine Arch
Tunnel Arch – elephant

We decided to pass on Double O Arch. The trail was crowded and really windy. We didn’t feel like scaling the fins in the crowd and wind…. We took a picture from below.

As we drove back to the park entrance we decided to see if we could find a parking spot at The Windows. We were pleasantly surprised the crowds had thinned in that part of the park. We found a spot without an issue. We walked along the main trail and then took the primitive trail back to the parking lot. We had the place to ourselves on the primitive trail!

Windows
Turret Arch
Behind the North and South Windows
aka behind the scenes
Windows
Double Window Arch

After we finished with The Windows, we headed to the visitor center. It was after 11am and we were getting hot and tired. I had almost 26k steps and Dave had over 30k. I would call that a very successful day of chasing sunrise, hiking, and having fun!

We took this picture yesterday on our way to Canyonlands. We knew we would pass in the dark today. Seize the opportunity!

We were back to the Airbnb by 12:30. 8 hours of hiking and driving. That’s a full day even if we were done in a half day! After a nap and shower, we enjoyed dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was delicious. I came for two things… a BiG margarita and sopaipilla. I first & last had sopaipillas when I went to New Mexico with my Mom in the 2008. They are sugary puffs of dough. Like a hollow doughnut. Just add honey! Both were delicious!

Hike long – drink a margarita!
Sopaipilla

Tomorrow we head to Park City. We plan to not set an alarm – check out isn’t until 10:00am!

Canyonlands National Park

We were up early and out the door before sunrise. Because that how the Dwyer’s roll. And because I wanted to catch Mesa Arch around sunrise. Also, we had a full day planned at Canyonlands aka “Candyland” and wanted to beat the heat and crowds.

Driving towards Canyonlands
Monitor & Merrimack
Clown Car & Moon Set

After our first obligatory shot at the entrance, we stopped at Mesa Arch. The sun angle was perfect!!

After walking the Mesa Arch Loop, we continued on the drive with our tour guide Alfred. Oh! I totally forgot to mention Alfred. Before we left, our friends Bill and Allison just returned from a trip to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. They recommended the app: GyPSy Guide. It is a narration about where you are driving. I purchased the Arches & Canyonlands tour. I’m so happy I did. We named our narrator Alfred. He’s great. He makes jokes, tells stories, talks about science and gives recommendations and mandatory stopping points. If you have a road trip planned to a National Park, check it out! Back on the road… our next stop was Buck Canyon

We stopped a few more times and then we hiked along the Grand View Rim Trail. Grand View is an understatement!

We double backed and had a mid morning snack before heading to the Green River Overlook. Again, beautiful.

Picnic Spot
Green River

If the Mesa Arch was the primary thing to see, Upheaval Dome was the second. Upheaval Dome is a geological wonder. Was it caused by distillation of salt that caused it to collapse OR a meteorite? We just don’t know… what I do know. It was beautiful to see, really cool and a fun hike!

Step it up!
Hiking Partners for Life!

One of the things Alfred told us about was how desert animals will burrow during the day to keep cool. Dave was lucky enough to find a “bird” burrowing to escape the heat.

Very rare bird burrowing

On our drive back to Moab, we stopped in Dead Horse Point State Park. It was where the classic scene in Thelma and Louise was filmed – where they drive off the cliff. No, it wasn’t the Grand Canyon. It was Dead Horse State Park. It was beautiful and they had running water… nice to use a real toilet and actually WASH our hands! *side note. I had no issue with the cleanliness of the CNP pit toilets. I brought this travel sized sunscreen that was super thick and greasy. After reapplying before our last hike our hands were gross.* (yes, I brought wipes and hand sanitizer – it was like zinc oxide)

It was a FULL day. We left the Airbnb by 5:45 and were back home by 1:45. It was definitely beer:30. We accomplished all the goals and had a blast. Lots of short hikes (1-2 miles) to see different stuff. We were out of the park before it was too hot or crowded. The line to get in was about a mile long when we were leaving! We enjoyed an early dinner and tiramisu for dessert in the desert.

I will always say “yes” to tiramisu!

Tomorrow is another early morning. Arches National Park… Delicate Arch at sunrise.

Greetings From Moab

Welcome back! It’s been a while since I’ve shared a story. I’m super happy to be back – I’ve missed this. Long story short… Dave and I planned a summer vacation that had to fall under the rules of “somewhere we haven’t gone before.” We threw around a few ideas and picked Utah. Because Utah fit that rule easily! (I’ve only been to Four Corners) Here is our plan, we are spending three nights in Moab, four nights in Park City, and one night in Salt Lake City.

We flew out of Memphis early this morning and arrived in Salt Lake City by 10:30am. We picked up the TINY rental car & quickly named it “clown car” and hit the road for Moab.

The drive was beautiful. Lots of rocks and a couple train sightings.

SLC to Moab
A little freaked out about the speed limit. Our clown car didn’t really like going that fast!

We stopped about half way for a pit stop at a local brewery. CrossCut – It was a bust. The word brewery had a different meaning in this area. Funny story, I marked this as a spot to have lunch on our drive to Park City. It has been crossed off!

We made it to Moab around 4 pm. We are staying in a cute AirB&B in the center of Moab. We unpacked the clown car and set out on foot in search of a beer. Our destination was a mile down the road at the Moab Brewery. The beer was cold and apparently Johnny B’s IPA is number one in the state. The brewery had the fastest food service we’ve ever experienced. I forgot to snap pictures of our dinner – I’ll get back into the blogging habit soonest.

We made it! Pass the beer!

A few pictures of flowers blooming around town.

Tomorrow we are heading to Canyonlands National Park. I’ve mapped out our route. It’s full of overlooks and short hikes all to look at rocks in the desert. My nerdy science heart is so happy!

Certifications

I thought it might be beneficial to share my recent certifications and upcoming trainings. After moving back to the Chicago area in December of 2018, I received a lot of encouragement from friends and family to gain my certification as a personal trainer. I used a study program provided by ACE (American Council on Exercise) and successfully passed the certification exam in June of 2019. Here is my selfie after I finished and passed! Ahhh… what a great feeling!

As a personal trainer, I can help clients develop strength and cardio programs to reach their fitness goals. After reflecting the importance of fitness in everyday life, I realized balanced nutrition is essential. My next goal was to complete the Fitness Nutrition Specialist Program offered by ACE. I completed the course earlier this month. As a nutrition specialist, I can discuss the following with clients.

  • Principles of healthy nutrition and food preparation
  • Food choices for a balanced daily diet
  • Essential nutrients the body needs
  • Effects of an unbalanced diet
  • How nutrition needs varies throughout life

I’m very excited to have both of these certifications because a proper balance of fitness and nutrition can lead to a happier and healthier life!

The next piece to my certification puzzle is becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), again (more on that later). After suffering from another running injury in April 2019, I reconnected with an old friend, my yoga mat. My yoga practice has been inconsistent for last 15 years. I’m happy to report, I have been very consistent for the past 5+ months. I’m also happy to report my running injuries are healed and I have been able to find a Wabi-Sabi balance between running, strength training and yoga. A couple days ago, I signed up for the teacher training at my studio. It’s scheduled for January/ February 2020. I know it’s a few months away, but I couldn’t resist buying the required reading. I can’t wait to start reading!

If you have questions for me about a fitness program, I would love to schedule an interview with you. By sharing your fitness goals, I can develop a fitness program tailored to your fitness level, interests, and time constraints. I’m here to help!

Under Construction

Well, hello! It’s been a month of Sunday’s since I’ve posted. Thank you for waiting patiently for me to figure out where I’m going to take Wabi-Sabi Sole. Or perhaps it’s better to ask, “where is Wabi-Sabi Sole going to take me?”

Honestly, I’m not sure I have the complete answer at this point. I do have an idea. After much consultation with family and friends about what direction I should go, I decided I want Wabi-Sabi Sole to be a reflection of wellness and fitness. I have been working on different certifications (I’ll discuss these in more detail later) and wanted to have everything perfect before I launched the new Wabi-Sabi Sole.

A couple of days ago, I had lunch with my incredibly supportive and courageous friend, Beth. During our time together I shared with her my ideas and we also discussed the meaning of Wabi-Sabi. Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese phrase describing “a way of living that focuses on finding the beauty in the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the impermanence of things.”

As I explained the meaning of wabi-sabi to Beth, it made me realize there is no better time than now to begin… again. Because nothing will ever be “perfect”. With her encouragement and your endless support, here I go! I’m officially beginning Wabi-Sabi Sole, again! Thank for reading and following along with me on this perfectly imperfect adventure!

Whirlwind

To say the last week has been a whirlwind is an understatement. We found out Saturday morning (10/27) Dave would need to report to his next command much sooner than expected. We were expecting to leave at the end of January. However, due to unforeseen circumstances we will be leaving Japan at the end of this month. Since finding out the news, we have cancelled events (including my Mom’s visit – I’m really bummed!), arranged the move and begun to say the many goodbyes.

The first goodbye and actually see you soon, was to our friends Lisa and Dave who were visiting. Our last full day together, before they went on their solo trip, was to Yokohama on Wednesday 10/24. On our way we made a brief stop to visit the Great Buddha of Kamakura and visit the beach.

Our tour around Yokohama included a stop at the Marina and a trip to the top floor of Landmark Tower.

After a day of sightseeing, we were able to meet up with Dave for drinks and then dinner at Sushi-Ro. The four of us made a serious stack of plates and beer glasses!

I took this picture Thursday morning at the train station before they left for Hiroshima and Kyoto.

They returned on Halloween. We spent the evening passing out over 300 pieces of candy. Believe it or not, we actually ran out of candy within the first hour of trick or treat time! Lisa and Dave repacked their bags and I took them to the airport Thursday 11/1.

It was a blast to have them visit and share Japan. It makes my heart happy to know we will only be an hour away very soon!

So, I guess the good news is – we will be back in Chicago, America at the end of the month. I anticipate the next two weeks will continue to be a whirlwind as we pack up our two shipments. Dave and I rescheduled our December trip to Thailand. We are giving ourselves a week of R&R after our household goods are shipped.

I appreciate you reading and following along with our journey and adventures around Japan. I’ve loved sharing Japan with you. I think my exploring Japan days are coming to a screeching halt as we prepare to move. Wabi-Sabi Sole has been a pleasurable and therapeutic part of my time in Japan. I’m grateful for so many friends and family who have shared an interest in our experiences. Again, thank you for reading.

Two Days in Tokyo

Lisa, Dave, and I packed an overnight night bag and headed to Tokyo on Monday. I made us reservations at the New Sanno so we could enjoy two full days in Tokyo. Our first stop was in Ebisu at Pizzeria da Michele.

This restaurant is definitely one of my favorites in Tokyo and I’m happy to share it with friends who are visiting and friends who live in Japan. My patronage to the restaurant has not gone unnoticed. In fact, our waitress recognized me! I’m sure they appreciate the stream of customers I bring in from all around the world!

After lunch we worked our way along the Yamanote Line. Our first stop was at the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. Unfortunately, I was a little too confident in my tour guide ability. Turns out, the Tokyo Metropolitan Building is closed on the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month. I gave my sincerest apologies and we continued on to Harajuku.

Followed by several crossings of the Shibuya scramble.

While in Shibuya, we stopped at KIRIN City for a beverage and appetizers. I have passed this KIRIN location so many times. I was happy to finally have the opportunity to stop.

After shopping through the seven-story Tokyu Hands, we worked our way over to Roppongi. Here we were able to visit the Tokyo City View. I was relieved the building was open. We were able to enjoy a beautiful night view of the city.

By this point, we were all feeling a little tired and ready to head back to the New Sanno. Dinner was delicious American cuisine from the bar at the New Sanno. Sometimes it’s good to get a little taste of home. As we were eating, we tried to count how many trains we caught throughout the day. It was an impossible task! Needless to say, we train hopped around the west side of the city! It was a packed day!

Tuesday morning we agreed to meet at 7:30 in the lobby of the hotel. We wanted to visit Senso-ji Shrine and Kappabashi (kitchen Town). It would take about an hour to get there from the New Sanno. In hindsight, we probably should have waited until 8:00 or 8:30. We ended up being right in the middle of rush hour. The trains were packed beyond imagination or comfort. At several stations, train pushers were helping people get on the trains. Dave took a selfie of us all jammed together.

As we got further out from city center, the trains were significantly less crowded. To our surprise, when we came out of the station near the Shrine, it had started raining! Dave bought us all umbrellas and off we went!

Many of the stores had not opened yet. It was fun to see the different murals painted on the doors as we walked through the shopping area.

We walked around Kappabashi until we were just too chilly and decided ramen would make the perfect lunch. Lisa picked Ippudo ramen. It was warm and tasty.

We began our journey home with a stop at Tokyo Station. I wanted to share with them the beautiful building and this gave us a chance to transfer their JR rail vouchers into train passes.

The JR rail pass allows visitors with a 90 visa to ride the Shinkansen for free! It is a good investment if you’re planning to make more than one trip on the Shinkansen. Lisa and Dave are spending a week traveling around Japan. With the JR rail pass, their train travel is paid for already! I’m incredibly jealous. Dave and I have a SOFA visa stamped in our passport allowing us to stay in Japan longer than 90 days and making us ineligible for the rail pass. I’ll look forward to hearing all about their trip when they return! But, first I’ll tell you about our Wednesday in Yokohama- tomorrow. 😉

Hakone Highlights

Before arriving in Japan, Lisa asked if a trip Hakone was worth it and possible. Taking the trip was definitely possible. Katie and I visited Hakone last November for fall foliage. As to if the day long trip was worth it, well, it definitely would be on a clear day because we could have a great view of Mt. Fuji. Viewing the weather forecast, we decided Sunday would be a great day to visit and it would give Dave a chance to join us. (He hasn’t visited Hakone either and it was on his list.) We left the house at 6:45 to begin our trip to Odawara. We arrived at 8:15 and we were first in line at the ticket office when they opened at 8:30.on the train from Zushi to Odawara, I gave Dave a lesson in how to properly open an onigiri.

We hopped on the first train of the day from Odawara to Hakone. This was already our fourth train of the day!

We followed the same counter-clockwise route around the Hakone area Katie and I did a year ago. The second train of the trip around Hakone was the incline railway.

The third section of the trip was the Ropeway. We couldn’t have asked for a better day! The sky was perfectly clear.

As we crested the top, we were able to see Mt. Fuji. The entire car exclaimed with joy!

We stopped for a lengthy break after the first Ropeway ride. We enjoyed views of Mt. Fuji, the sulfur mines, and lunch snacks (fried potatoes and bacon).

We continued along the Ropeway enjoying more beautiful views.

The final leg of the journey was a boat ride across Lake Ashi. It was breathtaking.

After docking in Hakone, we walked over to the Hakone Shrine.

Before boarding the bus back to the train, we stopped for a couple final pictures with Mt. Fuji. We couldn’t get over how clear it was and perfect temperature.

We worked our way back home on the trains. Along the way, we stopped in Ofuna for sushi conveyor dinner. This restaurant had the cute Shinkansen delivery method. We had a couple impressive stacks of plates by the end of dinner!

It was a fantastic day. We were so lucky to have beautiful weather. More importantly, we are so happy to have wonderful friends visiting. We love sharing Japan adventures.

Lisa and Dave

Our friends, Lisa and Dave, arrived late Friday night from Chicago. We decided to start with a low key day to help them walk off their jet lag. We spent Saturday in Kamakura – shopping and visiting the Hachiman-gu Shrine. First things first, we stopped at Barchie’s for lunch.

It was a beautiful afternoon. The weather is finally starting to feel like Autumn. It was a lovely day for a “white wedding.” We saw this wedding party as we walked toward Hachiman-gu Shrine.

I gave Lisa and Dave a quick tutorial on the appropriate way to cleanse before visiting a Shrine or Temple.

Can you spot the Americans?

View from the top of the Shrine.

After visiting the Shrine, I bought a bag of Ginko nuts for us to share. They have a very peculiar taste and texture. They are served warmed and salted. Then the shell of the nuts is cracked. The inside nut is actually chewy. They require a little getting used to, but I think delicious in the end.

We stopped for a few photos at the entrance of the Shrine.

We had fun catching up and sharing one of our favorite places in Japan. The sunny afternoon, walk, and good night sleep was hopefully enough to reset their circadian rhythm. We have big plans for the rest of their visit! Adventures await!

Family Day

On Monday, 10/15, I had the wonderful opportunity to greet my Uncle and Aunts and their friend during the Yokohama port visit of their cruise. Their ship docked at Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama. I took an early train up to meet them. Even on a cloudy day, it wasn’t hard to spot the ship!

After joining up, we set out for a one-day Julia Tour of Tokyo. Here is a picture of me with my Aunt Merrily, Aunt Eileen, and Uncle Jay. Throughout the day, we attempted to recall the last time we saw each other. It’s been at least 20 years since I saw my Aunt Merrily and probably closer to 30 since I saw my Uncle Jay and Aunt Eileen. Regardless of the time, it didn’t take long to quickly fall into step and reminisce of days past.

The cute blue elephants at the Yokohama pier were too cute to pass up a picture opportunity. Pictured here are my Aunts and Uncle and their friend, Nan, who was cruising with them.

Our first stop in Tokyo was the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. It provides a great birds eye view of Tokyo. The best part, it’s free! I joked that by taking them to the top of the building, I could show them ALL of Tokyo!

On one of our numerous train rides, Aunt Merrily asked me to take a picture of the Tokyo Subway map. It looks like a big bowl of colorful ramen.

After our trip to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, we took a break for lunch. A delicious bowl of ramen filled our bellies and fueled us for the rest of the afternoon. I know I’ve mentioned how much I love Japanese eggs. The ones in ramen are smoked. Oishi desu!

After lunch, we headed to Harajuku. We walked and shopped our way down Takeshita Street. It’s one of my favorites in Tokyo. As long as it’s not too crowded!!

During our shopping, we stopped for a break. We thought we were just getting flavored tea. To our surprise, it had little balls of tapioca at the bottom. Needless to say, the first sip was quite a surprise. We all had different strategies for enjoying the drink. It provided a humorous highlight to our tour. Sometimes you just don’t know. Now that I do, I might not stop there again.

After a little more shopping, we took the train one stop to Shibuya. First stop in Shibuya is always at the Hachiko Statue. Hachiko is remembered for his loyalty. He walked everyday with his person to Shibuya Station. One day his person never came back. He had died of a heart attack. Hachiko lived the rest of his life at Shibuya Station waiting for his person to return.

No trip to Tokyo is complete without walking through Shibuya Crossing several times.

We stopped for an afternoon coffee at Starbucks for a chance to watch the scramble. We were lucky to see an almost poo brown bus pass through.

By this point, it was time to return my family to the cruise ship. One last train ride!

It wasn’t without a little bit of humor at the end. Nan’s train card didn’t have sufficient funds to exit. Unfortunately, I had already exited. She had to request the assistance of the station master. We were laughing so hard when he popped out of the wall!!

It was a a great day filled with laughs and adventure. It was great to share one of my favorite cities with my family. Simultaneously, it was really fun to reconnect and reminisce. Hearing stories of their travels and retelling stories about my grandparents warmed my heart. It was such a grand and special day. I couldn’t have asked for more – well, maybe a little bit more time together!

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