Category Archives: Travel

USA Rugby Austin Adventures

I entered college as a Broadcast Journalism major; I didn’t want to be a weather girl or an entertainment correspondent, though. Instead, I had my heart being set on being a rugby broadcaster. As an actor my whole life, I thrived on the energy that came from being “on stage” and what better way to spread rugby than to be actively involved with it in the media?

After a year of college, I took a class with a great professor (What’s up Professor Puente?!) who got me hooked on Sports Marketing. I liked the communications/PR aspect of it, and made the decision to change my major in hopes of widening my horizons. The entertainment industry is cutthroat, and I didn’t think I had the right “look” to be on T.V. But that story’s for another day…:) I never regretted changing my major, but I did miss the idea of being in front of the camera.

I had an incredible opportunity to help with the broadcast at the Americas Pro Rugby Championships in Austin, Texas this weekend, and, to say the least, it was a dream come true. I owe the opportunity to the incredible Dallen Stanford, who I met about eight years ago when he was an Eagle. He’s started many rugby organizations, non-profits, and has been the face of USA Rugby corresponding with Brian Vizard. I’ve always joked to Dallen that I wanted to be him when I “grew up”, and even in my mid-20’s, the notion stands true. Dallen has been a mentor of mine since I met him years ago, and I feel so grateful to have him as a friend. Not only is he a great rugby player, he’s also a fantastic advocate for our sport in general. Dallen was doing commentary for the Americas Pro Rugby Championship game, and I was invited to be a part of the process. I jumped on the opportunity, booked my last-minute ticket, and two days later, I was on my way to Texas!

I arrived at the field, Dell Diamond in Round Rock Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect about playing at an awkwardly shaped baseball field, but apparently the field was a tiny bit smaller, which was granted by USA Rugby. The grounds were clean and gorgeous! I was greeted by an enthusiastic bunch of techies who helped me settle into the massive semi-truck. I never imagined that the atmosphere would be so methodically chaotic. And I mean that in the best way possible. So much was going on, but everything ran like a well-oiled machine, under the direction of Mathew and Patrick. The conductors of the editing process, they were cool and collected. Live broadcasting has a lot riding on it, so it’s important to be consistent, attentive, and very detail-oriented.

I helped run stats from possession to lineouts won/lost, scrums won/lost, turnovers, penalties, missed tackles, etc. Nothing makes you watch a rugby game more intently than running stats! I learned a ton about live editing, the possible errors that could occur, the importance of fact checking, and framing the feeling. One of my favorite lines was Mathew asking the cameraman to really get into Niku Kruger’s eyes when he kicked. Nothing like the passion of a true rugby player. Goes to show good camera work makes all the difference.

It was great seeing so many familiar faces playing in the match, which always makes my heart warm. I love the tight-knit community we’ve built here in the states. USA went on to win the match against Canada, mostly due to some great rolling mauls, footwork from Luke Hume, and a killer hat trick from Todd Clever! Talk about a great comeback to the American rugby scene, eh?

The MJAA match v. Canada was a real nailbiter. Ben Cima was able to put points on the board for the United States with his lucky kicking foot. There were some great runs from both sides, and the match was essentially a 50/50 possession battle. Ben’s 55 meter kick to seal the deal in the final minute was one that I’ll never forget; all of the broadcasters in the truck weren’t confident he’d attempt to go for posts, but he did it. It was INCREDIBLE! I’ve heard far too many people complain about the clip being far from exemplary, and for them I have a few words about that:

Ben managed to keep himself cool and collected. The kick was not close by any means. It was done in the final play of the game. The pressure was on. He’s under 20 years old and managed to nail the kick. The kick definitely should be celebrated!

Overall, the experience is one that I will forever hold near and dear. Thank you to Dallen for making this whole adventure possible, and thank you to Mathew and Patrick for being so kind and helpful. I can’t wait to be involved in another game in the future!

 

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All my Exes Live in Texas

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Austin marathon

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Thanks to the sweet gals who offered to take my photo! :)
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Heard someone say “It’s just STUPID big in here. STUPID big.” I guess that sums up how massive it was, but pictures don’t do it justice!

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Delayed flight —> cancelled flight —> delayed flight —> cancelled flight –>rerouted flight. Eight hours in the Austin airport alone. Weee!
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Finally on my way home!

 

Disneyland Surprise

J and I had been planning Christmas surprises for each other for a few months. I had no idea what he had up his sleeves, but he told me to dress warm and comfortably. I kept bugging him, hoping he’d give me some hints on what it would be. He wouldn’t budge, and I was so so so excited when I found out he was taking me to Disneyland.

Even though we live close to Disneyland, prices are insane. I would never let myself buy a ticket for that much, which made it even more special. I may or may not have started crying when he told me. Ahem.

It was a cold, wet, rainy trip, but it was perfect. We stopped at Target before to grab an umbrella and headed to the park around 10. It was crowded, so we decided to get a fast pass for Space Mountain, errr HyperSpace Mountain early.

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We were able to go on more rides than I expected! We started out with the Path of the Jedi Star Wars show, then headed to Autopia, which opened a minute before we got there. Our wait in line was only a few minutes long. Score!
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By this time, I was already so exhausted that I fell asleep outside the Matterhorn. Ha, just kidding. :) But I was proud of my color coordination; of course I had to wear a red vest to match my Minnie ears!!

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We packed snacks, but had to indulge in a clam chowder bread bowl. Seriously, there are few things better than dunking that top circular piece and soaking it in chowder. Yummmm. We went on the Haunted Mansion ride, which was our longest wait time by far. After we went on Pirates, which was a nice relaxing sit after standing in lines for so long.

When I went to Disneyland in 8th grade, my friend Gabby and I tried Safari Skewers. I was hooked. I don’t eat bacon anymore, so I was able to eat just the asparagus and enjoy it, too! Plus, J got the bacon, so he couldn’t complain.

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We went on the Indiana Jones ride, the carousel, Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, and more! Sadly the teacups were closed :(
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Could we visit Disneyland without riding on the Casey Junior train? Our puppy wouldn’t have had it! :)
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The wait for Small World was about 45 minutes, and it was 100% worth it. The whole place was decorated for Christmas and it was aboslutely beautiful. It may have been my favorite ride of the whole day, to be honest.


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After we went on HyperSpace Mountain, J took a whole hour to design his own light saber. Haha! Such a neat feature, and watching him create it and be surrounded by a bunch of ten year old kids was quite hilarious. We watched the light parade at night, and finished our adventure with In N Out. Does it get any more “California” than that? Nope.

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Night out on the Bay

J treated me to a little getaway at one of our favorite spots, Dockside Boat & Bed. It’s located in Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach and a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle. After working non-stop, it was great to getaway and relax!

For those not familiar with Dockside, you can rent a stationary yacht for the night. It’s like a floating hotel room, and tons of fun! We’ve stayed four or five times before, but this was our first time on Serenity. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, gorgeous countertops, plenty of televisions, and a great patio. I love being in Rainbow Harbor, since it means you get a great unobstructed view of the historic Queen Mary!
We watched movies, barbecued, and sat out late at night watching the boats go by (our favorite tradition). In the morning, we had breakfast on the patio. Even though it was December, the weather was absolutely perfect! Dockside brings a basket of goodies to you for breakfast, so in reality, there’s no need to ever leave your yacht once you check in. Plus the people who work there are incredibly accommodating and nice; they have some of the best customer service EVER. I recommend Dockside to everyone that I meet; just be sure to sign up for their email list to keep up to date with their incredible 50% off vouchers!

 

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Casey Conquers the Dog Beach

For someone who lives less than thirty minutes from the beach, I don’t take advantage of it nearly as much as I should. Things have been hectic this summer, but we were finally able to make it down to Huntington. It’s hard leaving Casey at home by himself, and we try to include him as much as possible, so of course we needed a dog beach! I looked up some options on Yelp and came across the Huntington Dog Beach; reviews said it was clean, safe, and perfect for new pups .

We packed up our beach bags filled with human and puppy treats and headed down. For anyone who lives in the area, the strip of the beach isn’t clearly marked from above as dog friendly, so look for Tower 22. When we got there, I felt like I was in Heaven. No, seriously. I’m pretty sure that’s what Heaven is like: clear waters and TONS of dogs. I swear every dog breed was represented. It was like Noah’s Ark, but with just the best species ever. Sign me up for that boat ride, Captain!

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We weren’t sure how Casey would act, but he did great. He was a bit hesitant of the waves at first, but we tiptoed around for a bit at first. Then we carried him in to get his feet wet (quite literally), before walking further for a swim. He’s been spending more time at the pool lately, so the beach was at least a little familiar for him. We kept him on the leash the whole time, which I highly recommend to all puppy owners. There were many dogs who were let off their leash to run; most were well behaved, but some needed to be restrained. A large lab was infatuated with Casey, and wouldn’t leave him alone. The owner thought it was hilarious that he tried to play fight with Casey. Me? Not so much….


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Casey really did make tons of good frriends, and it was great seeing him acclimate to the new environment so successfully. His furry friends would pop by to say hi, and it made me fall in love with dogs even more. I wish I could have taken them all home!

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He ended up having such a great time, that we took him back two days later. We grabbed a life vest from Petco for $18, because, well, this crazy Mama needs some peace of mind sometimes. I highly recommend it for anyone who’s a little worried about the water, or wants some extra assurance. Safety first!

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I don’t think Snowy and Bijou would enjoy the waves, but hopefully we will be able to take Tux next time to join in the fun!

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South Africa Part One: Late Planes, Airport Sprints, & Lonely Rows

When it comes to traveling, half the battle is actually getting yourself to your final destination. To put it short, my dad and I found this out (yet again) the hard way. It all began on our flight out of LAX to New York….

Under The Sticks  We arrived at LAX with plenty of time to spare before our 10:30a.m. take off time. I was anxious to catch our flight on United Airlines to New York, from where we would then change to the international terminal for our Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi, then Johannesburg, and finally, a small plane to Phalborwa. One misstep and everything would be thrown off.

We gave ourselves an ample amount of time in JFK to change terminals and make our connecting international flight when booking our tickets. However, our plane out of LAX was delayed an hour. Ok, cool, we could still make it. Then it was delayed another hour. Ouch, cutting it close. And then, yes, you guessed it, yet another hour. The fear and panic began to set in. If we missed our flight to Abu Dhabi, we would miss our flight to Johannesburg, which meant we would also miss our flight to Phalborwa. On top of this, if we were a no-show for the sector out of New York, our entire ticket would be cancelled. We sat outside our gate at LAX, wondering if we would make our flight. What would we do if we missed it? How far were the terminals? Would we be running through JFK? I felt like I was on “The Amazing Race”, which, mind you, is a dream of mine, but I just wasn’t prepared for it to come true!

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Map completely NOT drawn to scale…Just a rough idea :)

We finally boarded our flight from LAX to New York. Luckily the flight was a bit shorter than scheduled, but we still had no idea if we were going to make it. We patiently waited throughout the duration of the flight, searching for terminal maps, tram advice, and the best possible route. If our calculations were correct, we had less than an hour to land, disembark, grab our bags, get on the tram, make it to the next terminal, check in for our next flight, go through security, and get on the plane. But, hey, my dad and I are competitive people, so we were determined to make it happen.

We made friends with the wonderful stewardess, who ended up informing the pilot that we were trying to catch an international flight. When we landed, the stewardess went on the intercom and asked all the passengers not traveling internationally to stay seated. To paraphrase her words, “We have passengers who are trying to connect to their international flight. We ask that if you are not in a time delay, to please stay seated so they can leave the plane as soon as possible. I’m sure one day they will return the favor.” It was an incredibly kind thing for the stewardess to do for the approximately 15 people who quickly grabbed their overhead luggage and quite literally started running down the middle aisle to get off the plane. I wish I caught her name, but THANK YOU!

We began running through the terminal; the time crunch was beyond real and it was imperative that we grab our luggage and sprint to the next terminal after getting off the tram. It was quite a rush, so, The Amazing Race producers, please know I’m prepared! ;) We waited for our baggage, but we weren’t able to find it. Our check-in counter for the flight to Abu Dhabi was about to close, so we had to leave without our baggage. Our Go Pro, electronics, clothes, cosmetics, back-up camera…they were all in my check-in bag. I was incredibly upset, but all those things could be bought elsewhere. Another plane ticket to account for a missed flight? Not so much.

We made it to the Etihad Airlines counter with minutes to spare. Luckily the flight wasn’t too full, and we were able to get the middle four seats for the two of us! Score! The flight was scheduled to be twelve hours, so the more leg and arm room, the better. When we finally boarded, we were able to grab a row to ourselves!!! It was like we had our own bed, and you best believe I used that sucker up. Business class on a budget, anyone? I slept like a baby on the flight and besides a flight on Emirates Business Class, this was, by far, the best I have EVER slept on a flight.

In the grand scheme of things, I was okay that I didn’t have my baggage and felt the Universe was evening it out by giving us our own row of four on the flight. We arrived in Abu Dhabi, where we checked in to a hotel for about six hours to catch some sleep on a real bed. What a treat a real mattress makes! It was then time to jet off to South Africa!