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

Finish Line

finish lineIt has been ten days since I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon! Yesterday morning I went out for a two-mile run. This was the first time I have run since completing the half. It was an amazing feeling to run because I “wanted” to, not because I had to for training.

What a mind shift. When I started this journey on January 9, 2016 I couldn’t (or didn’t think I could) even run a mile, and now I am a 13.1 mile finisher, and I am running for enjoyment and exercise.

My head has been flooded with different thoughts, feelings and emotions that it has taken some time to sort it all out and share my race weekend experience.

Friday: I signed up for the race weekend experience and well worth the extra money. Friday night there was a cocktail party sponsored by Fellow Flowers. You got a sweet swag bag, free drink ticket, lovely display of appetizers and desserts + a badass dj, that cranked the tunes and kept the dance floor packed all night.  I was a good girl all week, and didn’t have any alcohol and drinking extra water to stay hydrated, but I couldn’t resist a free cocktail so I did have the “flowertini”. I was on my feet all day at work, so I was not your typical dance machine, but it was so much fun to absorb the positive energy and excitement of 500 ladies.  Check out this cool video of the party & see if you can spot me! 🙂

fellow flowers friday

A few of my Foundations Training Run ladies. We clean up nicely!

Saturday:  You could start the day with a “shake-out” run, but there would be no more running for me until the big day on Sunday.  I did take part in the yoga yogaclass led by Kula Yoga and Wellness. That is exactly want I needed to get ready. It was the perfect amount of stretch and relaxation. After yoga is was time to pick up my packet and visit the expo full of running goodies. I splurged on a bracelet and a 13.1 charm. I then met up with one of my fellow Foundations training partners, Lori, and we walked around the farmers market and then rolled out our yoga mats on the grass outside the Capitol Square and bib pick upenjoyed the beautiful sun, blue sky and trees.  We had time to kill before the guest speaker series at DreamBank. The day ended by listening to two inspiration women in their own way talk about their adventures in life and in running.

After an amazing day, I went home, put my feet up and kept drinking my water.  I was actually in bed by 10pm and slept!

Sunday:  I got up at 5pm. I made myself breakfast consisting of a veggie omelet, toast and coffee. This is what I had the last two long training runs and it seemed to give me the fuel I needed and helped me “take care of business” before I left the house.

I got to Hilldale Shopping Center at 6:45am. I wanted to cheer on the 7:00am 13.1 walkers. Thank goodness the main storms passed by 6:30am and the set up crew scrambled to get everything in place. Thanks to Race Director, Jen Anderson and her crew, the walkers were only delayed by 15 minutes. Now it was our turn! Coach Flo had us gather for our traditional Foundations Training Run picture. On the way I ran into my friends from Green Bay, Brian, Kate and her boyfriend!

brian kate and i

Brian, me and Kate!

I was so excited to see these friendly faces on the morning of my first half! It was a weird déjà vu feeling that I was the one running and they were cheering me on, versus the other way around.

Ten minutes to the start.  It was a weird feeling….. I thought I would be more nervous but I wasn’t. I was ready to do this! I was not excited about the temps and humidity, but it was weather similar to my 12 mile training run, and if I had to walk, to make it, then I had to walk.

at the start8:00am – I line up with the pacing group at the 3 hour mark. My goal was to come in at 3.5 hours, so I thought if I stayed with the 3 hour group for most of it, if I have to walk some, I could still come in with the time I was shooting for.

The horn sounds, and I start running.  It was amazing to see as I rounded the first corner, joining Brian was Marla, Stosh and Sarah. They made it for the start! I was all thumbs up and smiling.

blood signWe are starting out uphill and we run past the Red Cross building.  There is Megan with the best sign ever! Before I know it I have made it to mile 1 – only 12.1 to go!

On Saturday, at the expo, I attended Jen’s race day course talk.  She said there will be ice on the course and if you feel yourself overheating, to put ice in your sports bra and over your heart to cool your blood. Rookie mistake….. I forgot to ask WHAT “AID STATIONS the ice will be at.

We get to the first aid station, and I was starting to feel pretty warm… “Do you have ice?” Awesome volunteer, “no”.  Get to the second aid station, “Do you have ice?” again a no…. this is happens again at mile 6 – still no ice.  By this time, I can feel my face getting beet red. My saviors and amazing “Route Rockers” were there for me to cheer me on just past mile 6, and I go to them (could have been in a demonic voice at this point) “GET ME ICE”.

Sarah pouring ice down my pants and sports bra!

Sarah pouring ice down my pants and sports bra!

Mile 7, I see my angels and Sarah has a cup with ice, and I let her dump it right down my shirt and sports bra.  I also had them dump ice down each leg. Instantly, I could feel my core temp starting to lower. This went on for every mile.  My team was there with a cup of ice to dump down my sports bra.  I did finally see ice at the aid station, but it was not until mile 10.  I would have over heated by then and left to the buzzards. This course was a tough one.  Observatory Hill, some additional hill beasts and some full sun areas that made you want to melt. I did have to walk the last mile.  It was mostly up hill, full sun and I was starting to feel a little dizzy.  Slow and steady has been my motto and I really channeled that mantra in

Finish Line with high Fives!

Finish Line with high Fives!

the final stretch.  I passed the Red Cross building again, and after that I knew it was all downhill (literally). I started to run again. I get to the final stretch and I see the finish line, I see about 20 women lined up on both sides and I picked up the pace, running through their dance party,  giving high fives and finally crossing the finish line and this little girl handing me my medal!

Now I know why people do this crazy shit! After all the training, hard work and sacrifices, crossing the finish was AMAZING.


WE DID IT! My official time: 3:42:07

Amazing Route Rockers and Ice Team!

Amazing Route Rockers and Ice Team!

After I crossed the finish line my “ice angels” where there, and some of my Foundations running teammates. No matter how tired and hot I was, I was so excited and proud of myself. I finished the day with a beer at Great Dane with my Route Rockers, then I went home, showered, slept two hours, and had a smile on my face for the rest of the day!




MY FINAL COMMENTS! I wrote this a few hours after I finished and still holds true.

blingIt is hard to put into words how amazing today was. My “word” going into today was “Believe” my word after finishing my first Half Marathon is “Grateful”. Grateful for all the messages & cards of support, Grateful for my training run teammates, grateful for my Route Rockers who saved me by being my own personal ice delivery crew & provided needed words of encouragement on the course, finally grateful for my legs & health that allowed me to be a Half Marathon Finisher!!!!!

You Have to Start Somewhere!


Starting anything new can be intimidating. Thanks to my friend Jen Anderson, Race Director for the Her Madison Half, she told me about the Endurance House Foundations Program for people of all abilities and distance goals.

20160106_175929January 6th I nervously walked in the doors of Endurance House for the informational meeting. I felt more at ease as I saw other people of all shapes and sizes walk through the door. We were greeted by Coach Flo, who immediately made you feel comfortable. She told us about the program goal: “To build the foundation of our best life by enjoying walking and running outside, without injury in an ever growing supportive and active community,” and then we went around the room to introduce ourselves.

Some of the reasons and stories on why people, like me, where exploring this fitness journey were very inspiring. Trying to get fit after battling cancer, a women who walked her first 5k, and now wanted to run it and someone like me, hates running, but likes running with this group.

Coach Flo!

Coach Flo!

For the spring Foundations Program, we are working toward running or walking a 5K or 10K by mid-March, depends on your fitness goal. I am shooting for running a 10K by mid-March.  If I can get to 6.2 by March I have almost 3 months to get to 13.1.

I felt inspired and thought, this is the right fit for me to accomplish my goal. I signed up. The program cost for the 10 week program is $125 and that includes Walk, Run/Walk and Run pace groups (Wednesday at 6pm & Saturdays at 8am), coached team workouts, 15% in-store discounts, workshop series and much more.

Here’s my start!

31 Days of Giving: Day 13– Gift of Education


I’m proud to be a UW-Green Bay Alumni, so when I was asked if I wanted to volunteer for the receiving line at the winter commencement, I was all for it. I also graduated in the winter at the Weidner Center. Being there and seeing all the students with their cap and gown on so excited for that “next step” brought back so many good memories of my graduation day. It is hard to believe my day was 18 years ago!

After I first graduated, I was not involved with the alumni association. I only first started to get involved over the past eight years. If I had to give advice to the new graduating class, I would tell them, stay connected to your alma mater.  They can help you get a job if you currently don’t, they can help you network with people in your field, they can connect you with other alums in a new city and they are their to continue to guide your feature.

Congratulations Class of 2014!


Are You in the Career Meant for You?


This past May I attended and presented at the Wisconsin Volunteer Coordinators Association (WVCA) conference. There were 200 other volunteer managers like myself who have been in the profession from 40 years to the newbie of 14 days.

There is nothing like being in a room full of people who share your same drive, passion and career goals as you. The conference kicked off with key-note speaker Tom Krause. Tom was a retired teacher/coach of thirty-one years in the Missouri Public School system, and he was a 20 time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

He shared with us heartwarming stories during his coaching and teaching days, that came back to the same inspirational message:




This statement really resonated with me. The more I am in this profession (13 years now and counting) I am learning it is not just about finding people to fill the needed roles of your volunteer organization, but it is more about connecting people with the right opportunities for them to serve in our community. Everyone has talents to share.

As a volunteer manager, there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone recognize and help facilitate that perfect volunteer match. Granted overtime, that perfect role might change, but then we have the challenge of connecting people with new opportunities and making that match again and seeing them thrive and find success.

I was up next to present to a crowd of 52 people. My presentation was on “Networking On and Off Line”.  (watch for a later blog post on that topic.) 

After I got done presenting, one of the greatest things happened. I was packing up my supplies, and I had a few people in line to ask me questions, so I stopped packing up, and this gentleman was before me and I asked him if he had a question. He said “No, I just want to give you a hug.” So, of course I hugged him.

I felt so honored, that he wanted a hug from me. It also made me laugh, because, Hector, the photographer I worked with on my national deployment to Colorado last September, called me “the hug whisper.”  If a hug from me makes people feel better, I am all for it, it also makes me feel pretty darn good too!

There was another really great moment that also came from this conference. This was another “ah ha” moment when I knew that I was in the right career for me.

I was in the hall between sessions, and a women came up to me and she began to tell me how my presentation last year (3 R’s in Volunteer Management – Retention, Recruitment and Recognition) helped her in revamping her program, and the success she was having.  I seriously teared up, I was so touched that she took the time to share this with me, and now I was the teacher. I am so grateful for my many mentors and now for me to be the person mentoring someone. It is a really cool career high moment!

After saying my good byes to my fellow volunteer manager peeps and I drove the hour and half home, I had a sense of peace wash over me in knowing, that I am in the profession, that I am meant to be. I hope everyone can experience this feeling, and maybe if you can’t find this sort of peace in your career, maybe you can find it in service. I encourage everyone to keep searching for it!

Save the date for the 2015 Wisconsin Volunteer Coordinators Association Conference May 7th & 8th, 2015 at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton. 

We Shall Never Forget


September 11, 2001 is a day that none of us will forget. I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news about a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. I was with the American Red Cross for six months and I was in my boss’s office, all of us glued to the television and trying to comprehend what was happening…..

A few hours later, and for many days, months and years after, when bad things happen, things we can’t imagine, I actually get to see good. I get to be that vessel of providing people opportunities to help — from giving of time, money or their blood.

That day on September 11, within a few hours, we had people out the door waiting to donate blood, giving money and wanting to volunteer because people wanted to help in any way they could.

That day started my passion for wanting to connect people with opportunities to serve in their community and that is why I am starting this blog. I have been in the field of volunteer management for over 13 years and the number one question I hear from people is “How can I Help?” Hopefully my blog can help connect people with their passion. I can help guide you to an opportunity or agency that you feel will be the best fit for you.

I also hope this blog will provide leadership for people in the profession of Volunteer Management.  Yes, this is a real profession and I want to be able to share valuable life lessons that I have learned to create stronger volunteer programs within our nonprofit sectors.

I think back to that day and that time period and I am proud of the way people gave and continued to give. Thirteen years later, we must never forget and we must continue to give back. I hope I can inspire and be your community time guider.