Pack up and Go Adventures

Pack up and Go has been on my radar for awhile and the timing just wasn’t right. As I was approaching my 45th Birthday and a girl’s weekend trip fell through for March, it was time I pulled the trigger and go on my own solo birthday adventure.

If you have not read my last post Pack up & Go is a surprise travel agency that plans 3-day weekend trips around the US.

It did drive me crazy having my envelope arrive the week before and not able to open it.  I left it sitting on my kitchen counter and tried to forget about it. I wanted to stay true to the essence of the trip and stayed steadfast in not opening until I got the airport.

So many of my friends were trying to guess where I was going and it was fun to have everyone be a part of this adventure.  I did a Facebook live at 7:30am from the airport in my car to reveal the destination with everyone at the same time.  It was true shock and joy when I opened the envelope and saw I was going to San Francisco.

“Holy $hit, I am going to California” I think was my direct quote.

That morning I received an email with all my flight information. I appreciated Pack up & Go putting in the subject line, don’t open until you open your envelope.  Once I did, in the email was all my travel information and boarding passes.  They check you into your flight the day before so you are all set to walk to your gate and start your adventure.

While waiting to board it was the perfect time to read over and look at everything in my packet. In the packet were some cute personal touches – a post card of San Francisco, Pack up & Go sticker and a birthday card.  In the survey you fill out it asks if traveling for a special occasion and I filled out it was for my 45th Birthday.  Also in the packet was my hotel information, tips on getting around, recommendations and estimated times from airport to hotel, facts about the city and then three days of recommended itineraries.

I did not think when I woke up that morning, I would be going on a four hour flight! I flew from Madison, WI to O’Hare Airport and O’Hare to San Francisco.  I was thankful that all flights were great and landed on time.  It was raining a bit when I arrived, but as I started the taxi ride to my hotel the sun came out and  there was a rainbow in the sky.  I asked my cab driver if I could open the window, and I was like a dog hanging its head out the window, breathing in the fresh air and sun rays after living through -45 degrees and 12 inches of snow the weeks before.

I arrived at my hotel, The Warwick Hotel, and it was super cute.  The cherry on top was a bottle of champagne and a sweet happy birthday note from the hotel staff in my room.  I got settled in and freshened up and as luck should have it, on Friday night I was able to connect with a friend who I met two years ago on a different travel adventure in India. Night one, I went off the Pack Up and Go itinerary and did my own thing.

I met Nina at a restaurant called the Rite Spot Cafe. She had a friend that was playing guitar there – Chris Moss.  It was great to catch up with Nina, listen to great live music, good food, drinks and then hang with Nina and her friends for the rest of the night listening to the next band – Lee Vilensky Trio

The next morning, I followed my Pack up and Go recommendations and started my day with a 1.2 mile walk taking in the scenery of the San Francisco streets on my way to the Ferry Building Marketplace. If you have ever been to the Milwaukee Indoor Market, it is similar to that. Lots of people Saturday morning getting their coffee, fresh produce, fish and shopping done for the day. There was also an outdoor farmers market.  I stopped at a local street vendor for a great bagel breakfast sandwich and coffee to kick off the day. From Pier 1 there was a great view of the Bay Bridge and from here strolled the 1.3 miles along the Embarcadero making my way to Pier 39.

I made some stops along the way.  I stopped at Pier 23 Cafe for a bloody mary.  This was a great place right on the water and outdoor dining.  It was a little rainy and windy at this time, so I stayed in the bar area and chatted it up with my bartender. It was early yet, so the place was not crowed at all.

Next stop Pier 33.  This is where you can get tickets for Alcatraz.  I was in San Francisco for a short weekend in 2011 and wasn’t able to get tickets, so I was crossing my fingers I would be able to this time…. NO LUCK.  Tickets sell out weeks in advance and there was no stand by tickets available either.  On to Pier 39. It wouldn’t be a trip to San Francisco if you didn’t stop to see the hundreds of Sea Lions hanging out. I continued my walk up to Pier 41, and that is when I discovered my plan B. Since I could not get “into Alcatraz”, I decided to take the ferry over to Sausalito. I asked around and heard great things about it – a quaint little town with lots of shops, restaurants and beautiful views.  Round trip ticket was $28.00 and it was about a 1/2 hour ferry ride.  They had times throughout the day to go over and return to San Francisco.  I walked around and continue to take in the site between Pier 39 and 41 and at 1pm, I boarded the ferry.

At this time of the day, it was a little over cast and light rain.  I rode over on the upper deck, and it was very cold and windy, but the views on all sides where incredible.  You had the entire cityscape of San Francisco, close up view of Alcatraz,  a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and as you approached Sausalito, all these beautiful homes built into the cliff walls. If you had a bike you could take it with you on the ferry and they even had a full bar to get a drink on the half hour ride over.

Once the ferry docked I got off and this seaside town reminded me a bit of Fish Creek, in Door County, WI.  On the water, the shops, walk-able ease, the one big difference – Palm Trees! I was grateful the weather cleared as I made my way to explore the area.

I walked in and out of shops and stopped at a place to do a wine tasting. If I was looking for instant conversation with strangers, all I had to do was start talking about my Pack up & Go adventure.  Everyone I met thought it was the coolest thing, many talked about doing it and they said I was brave for going alone.

I recently read in the March 2019 edition of Health Magazine, a recent survey of 9,000 people by British Airways found that more than 50% of women around the world have taken a solo trip, and 75% of women were planning one in the next few years. 

Traveling solo is not for everyone, but I found it very therapeutic, you are able to do what you want, when you want and it is an opportunity to meet some really incredible people.  The key though is to PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN!  Don’t use it as a crutch to not be solo.  Be aware of your surrounding, take in the beauty, make eye contact with people, smile, strike up a conversation, you may be surprised at where it may lead.

“The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.” — Diane Von Furstenberg

I found that people in the service or retail industry are your best bets for pointing out some unique local places. The owner of the winery told me about an incredible seafood restaurant called Seafood Peddler. I had the best clam chowder and the service was impeccable.

After my late lunch, I continued to stroll through the streets of Sausalito and take in the beauty of the homes and the landscape. I got the ferry back to San Francisco around 5pm and I didn’t plan it, but it was perfect because I got to experience the most breathtaking sunset of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge on the return ride.  After I captured my money shot sunset pictures, I just sat back and breathed in the fresh air and was present in that beautiful moment!  I was exhausted from my full day outside and walking 5+ miles, so I got an Uber back to the hotel, a light meal and opened up my champagne to drink in bed and relive the amazing day.

Day three I started off early again by 8am and went in search of coffee. My coffee search led me to the beginning stop on the Powell-Hyde Cable Car route. I waited around for the cable car and hopped on.  I didn’t know where I would end up, but just went with the flow. A one way trip was $7.00 and I road to the other end and got off on Hyde Street. There was a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  By this time I was really needing coffee and I was starving.  As fate would have it, I was next to a restaurant called Beuna Vista, home to the original Irish Coffee! I sat at the counter and had an amazing breakfast, two incredible irish coffees and then went to the bar area and had a Guinness and watched Larry the bartender work his magic making 20+ irish coffees at a time. It was an art! I met some really fun people in this place and could have stayed longer with my new friends, but I had tracks to make to the Golden Gate Bridge.  From this area, it was about a 5-6 mile walk.  I first hit a few more of the recommendations from Pack up & Go: Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Hyde Pier and by this time I had a good 2 miles in and decided to Uber the rest of way to Golden Gate.  It looked much closer than it really was.

The sun was out, not a cloud in the sky and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the views from the Golden Gate of the city was perfection! This was another great moment of reflection being at the half way point of the bridge and to be in the moment to soak it all in and be thankful for all the blessings I have in life.

I had enough time after visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, to also hit up Golden Gate Park.  I went through the Conservatory of Flowers, and wandered around the park to make the most of the last hour of my trip.  From here I took an Uber back to the hotel and it was time to catch the shuttle to the airport.

Post reflection: The entire Pack up & Go experience was incredible. Yes, it was nerve racking not know until the morning of my trip where I was going, but we try to control so much in life, that sometimes to let go and let someone else do the planning (for me anyway) was a welcomed relief. I checked off quite a few attractions on their itinerary and some I didn’t do because I was here once before. If doing a solo trip, I think this was the perfect amount of time; 3 days and 2 nights. My advice to anyone on the fence of traveling alone — just do it. This was a perfect way for me to reflect on the first half of my life and plan what amazing adventures I want to do in the second half.  Cheers!

“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” — Albert Einstein

Pack up and Go for 45!

Monday, February 11 will be my 45th birthday! I have never been one to hide my age or shy from it, but I must admit, I am struggling with this one.  Maybe because it is only 5 years from 50? Maybe because I still feel around 32 and thank goodness most people don’t think I look my age.  (Thanks Mom and Dad for the good genes.) I can’t put my finger on it……

To help me “get a grip” I have decided to give myself the gift of travel, adventure and excitement for my birthday.  A few years ago, I saw online information about the company “Pack up and Go“.    What is Pack up and Go??

Pack Up + Go plans 3-day weekend trips around the United States. All you have to do is tell us your budget and fill out a quick survey.  We’ll take care of your travel + accommodation arrangements – all while keeping your destination a surprise.

For my birthday I am doing a solo Pack up and Go adventure!  I have no idea where I am going and as someone who is a planner there is a sense of anxiety and total excitement not knowing anything about where I will be going in two weeks. (I did pick someplace warm on my survey). 

I will be sure to write about my solo journey and can’t wait to rip open that envelope at the airport to find out where I am going on my birthday adventure!  CHEERS.


Tis the Season for Giving Back

I try to give back and volunteer all year long, but this time of the year, I do try to “kick it up” a notch. Holiday Spirit as they say, and it is so easy to find a volunteer opportunity or way to give back – big or small every act of kindness makes a difference.

I am grateful that the United Way of Dane County puts together the “Season of Caring” Holiday Wish List published in the November 15-21st issue of the Isthmus. It makes it very easy to see all the different agency that need support and how best to give support.

Last weekend, I was in the “declutter and purge” mode. Typically, I pack everything in 3 piles – donate, toss and sell – this year, I looked at what I had to donate and sell and then looked at the list of needs  listed by hundreds of agencies.

I had several boxes of birthday cards (around 150 individual cards) that I purchased when I was in a different work role and sent out more cards. I didn’t need that many and in the Season of Caring guide, I discovered the nonprofit Box of BalloonsBox of Balloons mission is to make every birthday happy and every child celebrated by providing birthday celebrations for children in need. These are children often living in homeless shelters, domestic abuse shelters, and served by social service agencies. One of their needs were birthday cards. I was happy to drop off my stash.


Be honest, how many reusable bags do you have from every trade show, golf outing, super market, special event you have gone to?  I went through my stash and I was able to part with several bags. They are still great bags, but I only need so many. I donated my stash to the Goodman Community Food Pantry ProgramI was volunteering there a few months ago, and I remember them saying they like the reusable bags for families when going through the pantry versus plastic because they are more durable and reusable. Go through your stash and give them to your local food pantry! I am sure they are always in need.

This is the 3rd year that I helped for the Goodman Community 30th Annual Thanksgiving Basket Drive.  This year, I volunteered a few weeks back sorting the food, and then I volunteered to help distribute a full Thanksgiving meal to families in need.

Talk about a rewarding volunteer job and the entire operation was a well-oiled machine.  The staff and lead volunteers did a great job of providing orientation, training and recognition (The Ian’s Pizza was amazing on break).  I lucked out that it was a reasonable warm day for November as I was outside for four hours, but I was not cold at all because of all the warmth and thank you’s received as I was putting a full Thanksgiving meal in the vehicle of these families to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day.

I am proud to do my small part to help with supporting this amazing event.  Here it is by the numbers (shared by the Goodman Community)

  • 3,500 families received a complete Thanksgiving Basket
  • 200 families received a turkey and/or a partial basket
  • 30,000 pounds of fresh vegetables will be served on Dane County tables
  • 527 volunteers gave their time, energy and joyful spirits
  • 2,587 volunteer hours were spent collecting, sorting, packing, registering, distributing & cleaning up
  • 41 groups registered food drives and delivered food to Goodman
  • 2,262 people donated food – or money to buy food. (We’re still counting, but it looks like we’ll have enough to help stock the shelves of our Fritz Food Pantry into the New Year!)







I am still reading through the list and seeing how I can help support different organization.  I would love to hear from you, were do you volunteer during the holidays, or how do you like to give back?  Have you started any family traditions centered around volunteering?

Peace!  – Jody

Remembering the Record-Setting DWOS Journey of Jim Rivett —

*** You had so much more to finish but the legacy you are leaving in all of us will live on forever & continue to inspire and bring hope to others.  Love you Jim.  – Jody Weyers 

By Shawn Kiser, DWOS Executive Producer

When you raise $200,000 you deserve to be called “The King” and that’s exactly how I referred to Jim Rivett following his record-setting fundraising campaign for “Dancing with Our Stars” in 2014. I’m blessed to have held a front-row seat for this epic journey and am honored to share […]

via Remembering the Record-Setting DWOS Journey of Jim Rivett — 39951627_10215221594785975_7059148569135022080_n

Life Lessons: Hard Work Pays Off!

I have been involved on the operations side of running events for the past 14 years and the thing that keeps me always coming back, or taking on more, is seeing the faces (young and old) cross the finish line having accomplished their goal and dream!

A couple months back I was asked by my  fellow past Red Crosser, Annie Taff, if I wanted to help lead up the course volunteers for the Girls on the Run of South Central Wisconsin 5K event.  How could I say no to help with this amazing event that helps to build self-confidence in girls 3rd-5th grade while preparing them to run a 5k at the end of 10 weeks. I wish I had something like this when I was growing up.

From my experience course monitors are always the last area to fill for every event I am involved with, but I feel one of the most critical areas. I am happy to say we had 25+volunteers for race day and had an AMAZING crew to make sure the girls were safe on the course while for many of them, completing their first 5K.

I watched at the finish area for a bit and it was so incredible to see the faces of these young girls, as they crossed the finish line and realize what hard work, perseverance and dedication feels like.

These are life lessons that all young girls and boys can hopefully hold on to as they get to junior high, high school, college and adult hood.

I feel people want to take the easy route out now a days, and as a society we are loosing the essence of a hard work ethic. In my life, the harder I work for something the greater the reward. I feel if it comes to easy we don’t appreciate the end result as much.

Two years ago, I completed my first half marathon. Running is not easy for me at all, fitting in the training was hard, race day was HOT, but I finished. I will never forget that feeling and I can honestly say I am so proud of myself for completing that dream of mine.  I hope everyone who crossed the finish line on Saturday continues to feel that feeling of “crossing the finish line” in everything they do and know….. that if you put in the hard work, it will pay off!

ps. I also got to volunteer with some amazing friends too = BONUS!

Volunteering = Mood Changer

Working full-time, it is hard to find time to volunteer for organizations I want to give back to. After a long work day, sometimes you just want to go home and kick back. That was my day today. I was tired, my allergies were driving me crazy – itchy eyes, sneezing and I didn’t want to volunteer.

I am a person though when I make a commitment, I am going to follow through.  I get ready and walk down to the Goodman Community Center. Taking the short walk on this beautiful day instantly boosted my mood, and by the time I got to the doors of the Goodman Center, I had an attitude shift.

Tonight was their Family Fun Night – a free event for the community including a  BBQ dinner, games for the kids, and a special theatrical performance by some of the children.

I helped with registering the families. Taking down their name, ages of the children and the school they attend. Rough estimate I would say we had around 500 adults and children attend tonight. By the time everyone was through, we ran out of almost everything!

It was an amazing two hours filled with laughter, smiles and a great event bringing our community together!

Next time you commit to something and don’t feel in the mood:

1. Go – because as a fellow volunteer manager, nothing is worst than having volunteers back out last-minute.

2. You will surprise yourself in how giving back is an instant mood changer.


Kindness Calendar: Day 3-4-5

Day 3 – “Leave a Happy Note for Someone Else to Find”

I was staying with a friend up in Green Bay on Saturday night, and I planned to leave him a happy little note when I left, but I admit, I forgot.  Instead, Sunday night I was writing out my bills (Yes, I still write checks and don’t have automatic withdrawal) and in the memo of each check I wrote “Merry Christmas”.  Whoever opens my bills, I hope it brings a smile to their face!

Day 4 – “Give Money for each bed in your house to a homeless charity”

I have one bed in my house, so after doing some research, I chose to give a financial gift to The Road Home Dane County.

Day 5 – “Count how many people you smiled at today”

Again, this was an easy one! I was helping out at a first time blood drive at MATC – Portage Campus.  I was assisting at the registration desk checking in the blood donors. I didn’t specifically count how many people I smiled at but I do know we had 27 people check in, so I smiled to at least that many people. Thank you to all the blood donors who give the gift of life this Holiday Season!


Kindness Calendar: Day 2

“Make some homemade gifts to give away this festive season.” 

I have this one nailed! For the past few weeks I have been a busy bee creating holiday ornaments to give to some of the volunteers that I work with and other special people. 

A year ago when my parents were cutting down trees on our family farm and I asked them to cut me some wood slices from those trees. I have been drying the wood for a year and now they are ready to be decorated and turned into holiday ornaments. 

Decorating is the fun, but simple party. Really something any DYI’er can do.  A simple stamp, ink pad, string and the thing that makes them pop is glitter spray paint. I like the Krylon Glitter Shimmer. 

Ta Da! You have an amazing natural Christmas tree ornament anyone would love and the best part it is all homemade!



Kindness Calendar!

It is December 1st! How did that happen? With every new month, and especially every new year, it always seems like a good time to me to start a “habit”. I came across this Kindness Calendar on the Action for Happiness website and thought, this is great!

With everything going on in the world, we truly need more kindness. I invite you to join me on this “kindness adventure”.  Day one – complete!

Snail Mail!

Last weekend I participated in a class at the Dreambank in Madison. “The Lost Art of Snail Mail”, presented by Taryn of theLoveSum.  She shared her views on the benefits to you and the person you are sending mail too. She didn’t have to twist my arm. I love sending cards and all the better when I receive a card back.

The best type of cards are homemade ones.  Taryn went over a few different techniques for making homemade cards.  This was our chance to play and get messy.  She showed us a technique using paint, water and soap, to make colored bubbles to stain our card paper.  She also showed us a super messy but fun technique using shaving cream, paint and toothpicks.

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays coming up, take sometime to unplug, get messy and make cards to send to some special people in your life. Trust me, this gift is not only good for your soul, but a homemade card with a special note will also touch the person you are giving it to, and would mean more than any store bought gift.

As a challenge……  Make a list of 5 special people in your life, and send them a homemade card.  Doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be heartfelt.

Need some inspiration?  Check out the links to these blogs to inspire you!