A Not-So-Epic but Somewhat Hilarious Mountain Rescue

For those who read my last blog post, thanks for taking the time. Y’all are saints.

As promised, I am writing more often, and it’s not going to be about feelings, because I hate those things anyway. Instead, I’ve realised I have a fucking arsenal of ridiculous adventure and drinking stories from the past many years that I have failed to write about (because of the aforementioned “feelings”). So, it’s time now. Buckle up.

These will not be in order. I have no idea what I’m doing. Join me on this wild ride, won’t you?

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This first story is fairly recent, and also a new favourite of mine already. In part because it’s completely ridiculous, and in part because it seems to have become a trend that whenever Melissa and I get together, things don’t go exactly as planned. And it’s wildly entertaining.

In April, I went on a girls adventure with two college friends. We don’t see each other all that often, but when we do, we fall back into that easy way of being friends that is so rare and special and awesome that, well, we certainly wish that we saw each other more often. Melissa lives in Geneva, so she and I have seen each other once a year since 2016. The first time, we had a massively entertaining (and potentially dangerous) adventure on a snowy Swiss mountain. And last year, we went on a tulip adventure that was supposed to be a leisurely cycle and instead turned into 20km+ of walking because we planned very poorly. We are really, really good at getting things not quite perfect. Which is funny because normally I’m super good at planning, but somehow, together, the two of us are so relaxed about the whole thing that we just think “it’ll be fine,” and then even when it isn’t, we make it work. And that’s pretty damn cool.

I haven’t seen Eliza since 2015, which, incidentally, is also the last time the three of us saw each other together. And that trip was pretty tame, because we were just hanging out in Boston and having dinner, and the circumstances weren’t quite right for an epic adventure of “oh shit” proportions.

But April was a different story. The 3 of us decided to go to Corsica. Why? I’m not really sure. Melissa suggested it, and I said yes. No regrets, though. That place is fucking awesome.

Melissa also suggested that we do a 2-day cycling trip around Cap Corse, to which I also said yes, because she does lots of cycling trips and knows how they work. And then we organised the whole thing so carefully that we were convinced it was going to be perfect and lovely and awesome. All the internets told us it was “fun” and “beautiful” and “the best way to see the cape.”

IMG_2950.jpgYou do have to admit, it’s pretty amazing…

What the internet failed to tell us is that it was a motherfucking bitch of a cycling trip. One website said it was possible to do the whole thing in a single day, which led me to believe that 2 days would be fairly leisurely and quite doable for reasonably fit people (but not pro cyclists) like ourselves.

IT WAS ALL LIES. Apparently pieces of this ride are a part of the fucking Tour de France.

We had to scale a fucking mountain. A FULL MOUNTAIN.

TWICE.

None of us was prepared for this. At all. In fact, we were so unprepared that on day one, we ran into a man driving a nice car who told us we were going the wrong way after we had already climbed most of the way up the mountain. So we actually had to go back down and start again. And we were not happy about it.

But we made it. We made it up, and made it back down (soooooooooooo much downhill and sooooooo thankful our brakes worked). And then we stayed in the most beautiful tiny fishing village and it washed all of our worries away. Washed them away so fully, in fact, that we were convinced that Day 2 couldn’t possibly be any worse than Day 1.

IMG_6520Day 2: See? Look how happy and fearless we are!

We were very wrong.

We got an early start on Monday so that we could take our time and not rush to get over the mountain. So we stopped for a coffee. And then for lunch. And then to buy a bottle of wine at a local winery. And we gave ourselves a solid 4 hours to cross the mountain pass.

But then we went the wrong way again. Because Google fucking SUCKS.

And then when we righted ourselves, the grade was so insanely steep, and we were so insanely tired, that we just couldn’t go anymore. We walked our bikes for a while, and tried cycling again, and then had to walk again. And then it was 7:30PM and the sun was already getting low and we still weren’t at the top. And we didn’t have reflective gear or good lights, and couldn’t even consider going down the other side with such limited light.

It was intense. Each of us went through all the stages. The “omg can we do this???” to the “YES WE CAN” attitude, to the “no, no, no, we really cannot, I am going to die” attitude. And at each point, the other two would perk up the 3rd and we’d keep going.

Until the point that we stopped. The point where I nearly had a panic attack, but I tried not to, and then Melissa said, “Soooo maybe we should call someone?” and I just started crying. And we stood on the side of a winding mountain road next to a cliff and called the bike rental company. Because we didn’t know what else to do. And we ate snacks. And we waited. And we called other people. Basically, we made all the phone calls.

After about 35 minutes, the bike rental company said they would come rescue us. Which, let me say, is BEYOND the best possible customer service. They did NOT have to do that. But they did it anyway. And charged us only a marginal fee for the whole rescue operation.

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But they wouldn’t just rescue us at a random spot on the side of the road, so we were forced to backtrack to a town we had passed ages ago. (Actually, I think it had been nearly 2 hours since we’d passed that town. But it only took us 20 minutes to get back there. Downhill FTW.) And then we sat on the curb outside the post office and waited. And we waited. And we waited. And we feared that perhaps they would never show up and we’d be stuck in that tiny town overnight. Fortunately, we were sitting right next to a hotel, and we began considering backup plans.

And then the van arrived. And a kind young man emerged from the driver’s side and looked at us with a smile, but you could tell there was pity in his eyes. But, instead of teasing us, he validated us: “Why didn’t you rent e-bikes? Most people do this ride with e-bikes…”

WHY HAD NO ONE TOLD US THAT BEFORE?!

We were so grateful to be sitting in a car, and our driver was so friendly. (I wish I could remember his name…) He drove us to our hotel and wished us well for the remainder of our travels. And basically everyone we met over the next two days looked at us incredulously when we told them about our adventure. “Wait, you DIDN’T have e-bikes? What were you thinking??”

Validation. Also, we felt pretty stupid.

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But hey, we survived. Built some character. And then drank a whole lot of wine. Wouldn’t trade that adventure for the world.

So, Mel: what mischief will we get into next spring?

Living the ‘Dam Life

Hello, world. My name is Christina, and as of yesterday I live in Amsterdam. WTF.

48 hours ago, I left this beautiful place:

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Yep, that’s Seattle. It’s fucking stunning, amirite?? I am missing it a whole lot right now, and I imagine that feeling is going to ebb and flow for quite some time.

I don’t even know how to continue this post. There are so many feelings happening at the moment. Within a matter of 12 hours, I went from being a US resident to being an expat; from being in a country that speaks my language to a country that doesn’t*; from being just “Christina” to “Christina, the American.”

Indeed, there are a lot of feelings. But despite all of the confusion, the trip went unbelievably well. I was expecting all sorts of crazy drama (“Your bags are too heavy!” or “Your bike will cost $10,000 to check!” or “We refuse to let you into the Netherlands because you don’t have the appropriate paperwork!”). But instead, it was so easy that I could hardly believe it. Because seriously, is moving to another country supposed to be this easy?

Let me provide some context: When I arrived at the airport in Seattle, I had a small backpack, a carry-on duffel bag, 2 checked bags, and a GIGANTIC box filled with my deconstructed bicycle. I arrived at the airport nearly 2.5 hours early, because I was worried about this ridiculous baggage situation.

But then, a nice man at the curbside check-in desk offered to help me take all my stuff inside. Then they let me check in at the Priority desk, even though I’m not technically priority. Then the guy charged me $200 less to check my bike than what I had been told on the phone. Then I got a window seat next to a very nice professor. Then during the flight, I went to ask for more wine and the stewardess was SO NICE and we chatted for 10 minutes. Then when I got to Amsterdam, they didn’t ask me any crazy questions at passport control. I got all my luggage, and even with my overflowing cart they didn’t stop me at customs. Then the guy at the cab line was super friendly and loaded all my bags for me. Then the cab driver brought all my bags inside the lobby of the building where I was staying, without me even asking her to. And then I had a room in an apartment and literally EVERYTHING WENT SEAMLESSLY.

IMG_3086The view from my apartment!

It was so overwhelmingly easy that I nearly panicked. Because that’s some crazy shit. It’s not supposed to be that easy, is it?

Now don’t get me wrong. This didn’t mean I was happy and full of giggles and joy. I was exhausted and stressed and terrified and, to be honest, partially worried that I had made a terrible mistake. I just left a place that I adore, with friends that I love and already miss dearly. This is hard.

Yesterday was tough. Lots of jetlag and a nap that I allowed to last way too long; several bouts of crying; a brief jaunt to the grocery store; frantic unpacking; easy pasta dinner; and more sleep (which went poorly…stupid jetlag). But today, I woke up deciding to make myself excited about this town. And so I did all the things I enjoy.

I walked to a cafe and bought myself a coffee. Then I walked into De Pijp and wandered around the shops. I bought myself a French press. I went to Kaas en Zo (roughly translated as “Cheese and Such”) and bought some delicious aged cheese. I went to a beer store and bought some Dutch craft beers (and one Italian beer!). I stocked up on groceries and finished unpacking my bags and made homemade stew and ate dinner while watching Netflix. And now I’m sitting in bed with tea and writing this.

IMG_3098Part of my awesome haul from today.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I was walking down a side street with a backpack full of groceries, and I felt comfortable. In that one moment, it seemed like this was right. Months ago, I asked for this, and I suddenly remembered why. Because I feel comfortable here. Comfortable in a way I never managed to feel anywhere else. I still don’t entirely know why that is, but that’s ok. I’ll just relish it for now.

This doesn’t mean I’m not still sad. I am. I think I will be sad about leaving Seattle for a very long time. I think it’s going to come in waves, and there are days I will regret everything I’ve done. But I know myself well enough to know it’s not over. I have never wanted to stay in one place for long. So who knows. Maybe 5 years from now, I’ll find myself back in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. Those mountains are always calling…

But for now, I am ready to greet Amsterdam with open arms. Because I do WANT to be here, and I want to be excited about it.

So, Amsterdam. What do you say? Want to go on an adventure with me?

 

*Note: Basically everyone in Amsterdam speaks English. But Dutch is still the native language, and that’s how you’ll be addressed unless you immediately dictate otherwise. So no, it’s not difficult to manage, but it sure as hell isn’t an English-speaking country.

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[Next time, on Christina’s adventures in Amsterdam: BEER! I am going to drink all of it.]