Let the Planning Begin!

Wedding? Who’s thinking about the wedding? I’ve been swamped with work and out of town on various trips (see Leo’s side blog for details).

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a planner. I LOVE to plan. Calendars, lists, phone calls, maps. I jump up and down just thinking about it.

But a wedding? Never thought about it. I knew a girl once who had a huge binder crammed full of wedding ideas — all by age 17. Uh, whatever. And yeah, starting a business and a new career has been a tad time consuming.

But I DID manage to buy a very important book, a big planner book from The Knot. My best friend also bought me some magazines not long after I got engaged, (thanks, Ginny!) and between those and my big book, I feel as though I’ve got some serious ideas cooking. The ideas are starting to flow: colors, locations, etc.

Let the planning begin!

North Carolina Lighthouse Roadtrip

Jen and I went on a roadtrip recently to the North Carolina coast. Our mission was to see all the lighthouses and climb as many as we possibly could. With a little research to prepare ourselves and a map with the locations of all seven lighthouses, we hit the road with four days to get to them all. If anyone is interested in doing this, here is the breakdown of our trip with the map of the entire route shown above.

Oak Island Cigarette
Oak Island Lighthouse

Day 1

The Oak Island lighthouse was first on our list. We found out that to climb it, you have to make reservations at least two weeks in advance. We left Raleigh around 7am on a Friday and arrived at the lighthouse a little before 10am. After signing a waver, the only lighthouse that we had to do this, we climbed the eight flights of navy steps to the top. The view of the Cape Fear River basin and the ocean was beautiful and you can actually spot the next lighthouse on the trip, Bald Head Island.

Oak Island cost = $0 (reservations required, donations accepted)

Getting to the car-free Bald Head Island requires riding a private ferry. It is not a car ferry like the NCDOT ones around the coast. The lighthouse is very close to the terminal on Bald Head Island so walking to it is easy. The lighthouse has a museum and with a small fee, you can climb the light to the top. It is quite a squeeze to get to the top but the views are worth it.

Bald Head cost = $15 per person ferry ride (roundtrip) + $5 museum/lighthouse entry

Old Baldy
“Old Baldy”

After seeing the lighthouse and taking our return ferry ride back to Southport, we drove onto the Southport/Fort Fisher ferry to get to Carolina Beach, where we were staying for the night.

Bonus: To see the Price Creek Light, look north along the marshes just as the ferry leaves from Southport. Here is some background information on this lighthouse.

Day 2

Saturday started out with some more early morning driving. We had to get to Harker’s Island and hire one of the local ferries to take us out to Cape Lookout since you cannot drive to it. It took about three hours from Carolina Beach to get to Harker’s Island and we went to the Local Yokel. For a small fee, the boat drove us from the Island across Back Sound to where the lighthouse sits. The driver gave us about two hours to explore the island and see the lighthouse before he would return to pick us up.

Shackleford Ponies near Cape Lookout
Shackleford Ponies around Cape Lookout

Cape Lookout was my favorite spot on the trip. During the ride out there, we saw wild Shackleford horses that have survived here since a shipwreck that occurred nearby in the 1500’s. The islands were very natural and is one huge state park. The views from the top of the Lighthouse were spectacular and I will make it a point to visit again.

Cape Lookout cost = $15 per person ferry ride + $8 per person lighthouse climb fee

We returned to Harker’s Island around 2pm and were now delayed because of an overlooked detail.

TIP: Make reservations on ferries ahead of time.

Our next step was to take the two and half hour ferry ride from Cedar Island to Ocracoke but the 3:30pm trip was already full. We made reservations the same day for the 6pm trip and drove from Harker’s Island to the Cedar Island ferry terminal, which is less then an hour away. We killed time on the beach nearby and got on the ferry when it finally arrived later in the afternoon.

I think this delay actually turned out to be better because we were on the ferry during sunset which was a great experience.

We arrived in Ocracoke at night and headed to a campground where we battled with a tent and mosquitoes until finally falling asleep.

Snow Cone
Ocracoke Lighthouse

Day 3

Sunday, 3 down, 4 to go. We woke up on Ocracoke and eager to get out of the not-so-great campground, Jen and I packed up our stuff and started driving. Since we arrived on the Island at night, we passed the Lighthouse and had to turn around to see it. The Ocracoke lighthouse is still in use and climbing this one is not allowed.

Ocracoke Lighthouse cost = free cause you can’t go in it.

After a few pictures and very brief history lessons from the signs, we drove to the last ferry of the trip at the other end of the island. The Ocracoke/Hatteras ferry is free and runs every hour almost the entire day. (5am to midnight when we went) It is also a lot shorter then the others and before 10am, we were heading toward the granddaddy of them all, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The world’s tallest brick lighthouse, Cape Hatteras was a long but easy climb. The lighthouse is not in its original location and has been moved because of erosion. You can go to the original spot if you wish.

Cape Hatteras cost = $7 per person to climb

World's Largest

After lunch and plenty of time left in the day, we drove up towards Nag’s Head where the Bodie Island Lighthouse sits. When we reached it, we were disappointed to see that it was under renovation and no one was able to climb it. Still, the lighthouse sits on a beautiful area, Oregon Inlet and we spent a little time here and set up camp in the early afternoon at a state park.

Lighthouse Surgery
Bodie Island under renovation

Day 4

One more lighthouse to go. The Currituck Lighthouse sits near Corolla and we made the short drive towards it on Monday. However, we made a quick stop at the Wright Brothers Memorial and walked around the museum.


The Currituck lighthouse was very well maintained and looking around the lighthouse was free but you had to pay if you wanted to climb.

Currituck Lighthouse cost = $7 per person to climb

That’s it. All seven lighthouses were seen. You could actually do the trip in three days but we chose to take our time and enjoy our time off.

On the drive home we took the scenic route through Elizabeth City towards Edenton to spot the Roanoke River Lighthouse which was towed inland from its original spot. We found it easily but it was being renovated so we only stayed for a few minutes before heading home. Here is some additional information on the lighthouse.

Epic beach roadtrip, and I really enjoyed camping near the water which is a change of pace compared to staying in a house every time I visit the beach. Cape Lookout was my favorite stop and like I mentioned earlier, I’ll make a point to go back to that area sometime.

Ring Bling Distract-ing

There is something on my left finger. It’s sparkly and gorgeous and very impressive considering I didn’t give the boy any hints.

by Leo Suarez

But wow, is it weird. I never wear rings on that finger. Even the rings I wear on other fingers come off at the end of the day. Sometimes I don’t put them on at all.

Not that I’m complaining. No, sir. It’s just a bit of an adjustment to have this bling thing on my finger all day.

In the shower: Wow, soap is slippery; watch out for the drain!
Washing dishes: Hmmm … wonder if the grease is going to make it look dull?
Typing at my keyboard: Must … resist … staring … at the sparkle. Must … write … press release.
Driving in a car: Oooh, pretty ring in the sunlight … EEk! Watch out for that pedestrian!
Sleeping: Something is on my finger and it feels odd. Oh wait, that’s the gift from Leo that I kinda wanted.

Someday I probably won’t be able to take it off without a grunt and a little baby oil, but for now, I’m learning to live with it. Yes, it’s a struggle, but I think I will manage. 🙂

The First Question

“Will You Marry Me?”

No, not that question. I’m talking about the torrent of other questions that follow it — about the proposal, the ring and most of all, the Wedding.

Dum, da dum dum. No, that’s not the wedding march. Dirge is more like it.

“Have you set a date?” That’s the first question anyone asked either of us as soon as hearing the news. Yes, family, we know you will have to travel many miles to Raleigh for this blessed spectacle (er… union) but no, we have not set a date. We might not set one for awhile.

Reason: We JUST got engaged. Our plan is to savor it a little, like a piece of fine chocolate, just enjoying the experience for the sake of it. An engagement can turn into a whirlwind of planning so blinding you don’t even get to stop and enjoy the fact that hey, you found the love of your life and he/she wants you to stay forever.

Besides, we both love to plan, so we’re having fun with our pro/con list.

But don’t worry — as soon as well know, we’ll be shouting it from the rooftops. You California residents can hear us from here, right?

We're Engaged

Carolina Beach-2009/Photo by Andy Watson

This picture was taken in April, just a few days before we started dating.

I didn’t know then that Leo was the love of my life, but sticking my tongue out at him seemed to prove to both of us that maybe our friendship could be something more.

Apparently, we were right. On Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010, after one year and four months of dating Leo Suarez proposed to me. Thanks to all of you who have sent your congratulations, and thanks to those who encouraged us to give it a chance.

California Dreamin'

Now that the summer is heating up, all I can do is think about the cool April temperatures in California. Leo and I vacationed there, first visiting San Diego, then driving up U.S. 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) to San Francisco. He took more than 700 photos, so this is just a sample.

Click on the first image to open up the slideshow for each city.

San Diego
We arrived in San Diego on a Friday and stayed through Sunday night with my grandparents, who retired there from Los Angeles.

San Francisco

In Case of Disaster, Please Read

Some people believe the apocalypse is coming in 2012.

Let’s hope not. But if it does, rest assured, we have a guide to rebuild society. (If there are any of us left.)


The Georgia Guidestones. Wired Magazine referred to them as “America’s Stonehenge,” but that they are not. The six granite slabs are each 16 feet tall, and like Stonehenge, stand out in the middle of a field. But I had to fight multi-national tourists to get up to the ROPE surrounding the 26-foot-tall Stonehenge rocks; my group and I stood alone at the base of these slabs and we could walk right up to them.

Besides, scientists think they may actually know who built Stonehenge. The Georgia Guidestones are a mystery with a message: LET THESE BE GUIDESTONES TO AN AGE OF REASON.

The words engraved in six major languages do appear fairly reasonable, although I’m sure someone will question the part about population control. (Hey, China does it.)

The other cool (or odd) thing about the stones is that the county in Georgia does not appear to be interested in levying them as tourist attractions. We did not see a single sign along the way indicating their existence and found our way only through the use of GPS. Stonehenge, of course, has a zillion buses to get you there, an audio tour and the ubiquitous gift shop.

Check out Wired’s
detailed and beautifully written article on the subject for more information.

And cross your fingers that we don’t have to use them.

Finding My Inner Kermit

I have had two old license plates sitting in my trunk for months. Ok, years. Illinois – 2005. Tennessee – 2007. My boyfriend recently added an NC-2009 plate to that pile.  And when my sister moved here last week, she handed me one from Texas.

Time to recycle some metal!

I hated to throw those in a landfill, so I headed over to the license plate agency near my office.

“We don’t accept out of state plates,” she told me, handing three out of four back.

Really? You don’t want metal that can be recycled into new plates? She suggested I mail them back to the state where they sprung. Sure, I’m paying that postage.

I set off in search of a solution. And as Kermit says, It A’int Easy Being Green. I found a place that recycles scrap metal and pays you money for your items. Score!

The place is on Garner Road, not far from my downtown home. However, it’s on the less-than-nicer end of town. I arrived in gray capris, a black shirt and black high heels — having just come from a business meeting. That expression “sticks out like a sore thumb” doesn’t even cover it. Sticks out like a dressed up girl among a bunch of hard-working people wearing work boots, jeans and dirty T-shirts.

I stepped up to the scale, my meager offering looking sad compared to the prior refrigerator-sized loads. But he took them, weighed them, and in the end, I got $3.75 for my green efforts.

If you have some metal to recycle, check out Raleigh Scrap Metal Recycling.

A Reckless Deadline

My 20s are almost behind me, with one year to go.

According to my bff in her birthday card to me, we have exactly one year of recklessness remaining. Well, not recklessness. But the recklessness that can be later written off with a dash of devil-may-care-I-was-in-my-20s-so-it-was-justified.

Flickr Creative Commons

So what should I do for this requisite recklessness? Jump out of an airplane? That’s on my bucket list, but shouldn’t I wait until I’m closer to Death before laughing in its face, flinging myself out into the open and hoping a flimsy piece of nylon prevents us from actually meeting?

Um, that sounds like a good plan.

Maybe I should party until dawn. But my birthday celebration was more low-key than temerarious tippling. Oops.

Maybe it was the change in venue.

This year I left behind my beloved Landmark Tavern, where I celebrated the past two years, for a not-so-busy Busy Bee, resulting in a quiet table discussion with drinks among my group.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Why do we use our birthdays each year to hit the pause button and reflect on our lives thus far? Does my multi-paragraph pondering really allow me to step back and get a 360-view of the space time continuum of Jennifer?

If so, the view I have is looking pretty good. As I get older, I get less reckless, sure. But also more adventurous.

So instead of using this one-year deadline to get “reckless” out of my system, maybe I’ll just take advantage of getting older to be bolder.

Maybe I will jump out of that airplane this year. That’s bold no matter what your age.

Then again, I think I’d rather go hang gliding.  Does that count?


A Life's Journey