Adventure doesn’t need excessive money, time or planning. Adventure can be as simple as jumping in the car, or in Saturday’s case, hopping on a ferry.
Saturday was a race cheering, hand holding, vegan feasting, ferry riding kind of day—one that took very little preparation and effort. And it all started with race cheering.
ZOOMA Race Cheering
Saturday morning Andrew and I hopped in the Jetta and drove an hour and a half north to Amelia Island. My friend/running partner/neighbor Brenna was running the ZOOMA Women’s Half Marathon, and we decided at the last minute to go cheer her on.
Upon arriving at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, as I surveyed our surroundings and spotted a sea of women sporting dazzling medals and rolling out their yoga mats on the grass, I knew we couldn’t be far from the ocean-side finish of this boutique women’s race.
There it was, just over the dunes, and merely steps away from the Atlantic waves.
The closer we got to the sand, the more intensely the wind blew. I suddenly realized only one of us was bundled up and dressed appropriately. Hint: It wasn’t me.
In an early morning fumble, I had thrown on shorts, a thin sweatshirt, and my classic vans (without socks). As Andrew and I walked along the water, opposite the finishing segment of the course, we found ourselves wind-blasted with eyes watering. My toes were frozen.
After seeing pacers for the 1:45 and 1:50 groups pass, we knew we had arrived on time and Brenna was getting close. We stood in thick sand and greeted runners as they made the transition from asphalt to the final .2 of the race that took place on the sand. “Don’t worry, it gets harder!” I yelled. Realizing the potential for confusion in that statement, I hollered, “I mean, the sand gets harder. Running gets easier! Looking good ladies. You’re almost there!”
Just minutes after the 2:00 pacer passed, we saw Brenna coming around the bend. We jumped, waved and cheered as she ran by us. And then, in an effort to beat her to the finish line, we immediately darted off on a straight shot short cut.
Major props to Andrew for not only carrying my purse, camera, and both of our water bottles, but managing to take this photo of me as we simultaneously ran and laughed.
After cheering for Brenna as she sprinted to the finish, we met up with the rest of her crew. I had the privilege of running with a couple of these women during the previous Saturday’s 12-mile training run. Spectating for Brenna and this particular group of women, plus soaking up the energy at the finish line made me that much more motivated for my own race—New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.
I know I’ve said it before—specifically when Brenna jumped on and ran the last three miles of the St. Augustine Half Marathon with me—but I’m quite thankful for the friendship and running support she has shown me since the day I met her.
Vegan Feasting in Fernandina Beach
After leaving Brenna and the crew to their post-race celebrations, Andrew and I headed across Amelia Island to downtown Fernandina Beach, where the race actually started. As we drove through the center of town (on Centre Street) and passed a farmers market, I noticed a sign reading “vegan.” Following this “vegan” sign to the market not only landed us bite-sized chocolate cookie rounds, the man selling these cookies directed us to Jack & Diane’s for lunch.
But first, while at the market, we couldn’t resist pickles on a stick.
Upon walking up to Jack & Diane’s and spotting this chalkboard of specials, we knew this was just the vegan stop we had hoped to stumble upon. Thank you cookie man!
Thanks to the warm jacket and pants I dug out of my car, I was no longer feeling like a popsicle, so we decided to enjoy our coffee and lunch on the eatery’s enclosed porch.
As we discussed the vegan specials listed on the chalkboard with our server, our stomachs grew overwhelmed with excitement. We each ordered the “hot mess” special, that is, whatever chef/owner Lisa decided to cook up.
“Daiya cheese and tofu—yes or no?” Was the only question we were asked. We both answered yes and yes. The rest we left up to Lisa’s creativity, since neither of us is opposed to eating anything within the plant-based realm.
The warm plates that graced our table minutes later were loaded with veggies, and spiced up just how we like it. Although both included similar ingredients, one plate was finished in a more Asian-fusion style with peanut sauce (pictured left), while the other took a more spicy Mexican turn (right).
Both included spiral pasta, tomato, eggplant, tofu, Daiya shreds, potatoes, cauliflower and a mixture of greens. After eating half, Andrew and I switched plates so we were able to enjoy both equally.
Lisa came out to speak with us as we were chowing down. Although not a total vegan, she prepares many dishes both entirely plant-based and gluten-free. This way of eating is something she’s gradually introducing to the small town, she explained to us. Granted Jack & Diane’s doesn’t have any official vegan options listed on the menu, they can and will adapt most entrees to suit.
Having an out of this world vegan dining experience in the least likely of places makes this vegan’s heart melt. As I told Andrew in between bites, “I’ve faced a number of obstacles in my life. Being vegan isn’t one of them.” While still new in his vegan journey, he agrees.
Maybe it’s because I truly believe that attitude is a huge part of everything we encounter in life. Maybe it’s because I truly believe I can eat vegan wherever I go (I mean, I’ve done so in Haiti, Paris, and small town North Carolina). Maybe it’s because there isn’t anything I don’t like in the plant-based realm (except cantaloupe). Maybe it’s because I truly believe plant-based eating is the ideal way for my mind, body and spirit, as well as the planet. Maybe it’s because I view Veganism as a non-stop adventure. Either way, my vegan radar never ceases to lead me to the jackpot, no matter where I am.
Hand Holding // Afternoon Cruising
After eating, we walked around downtown for a bit, hand in hand, making a stop at Picker’s Market antique shop, and popping in and out of a few other local establishments situated in this quaint and small, yet bustling historic downtown area.
As we prepared for departure, I recalled seeing a health food store online, so we decided to make a cookie detour at Nassau Health Foods before taking the longer scenic route home. At the register, I began conversing with the man ringing up our cookies, who looked to be in his 70s. He was telling us he often rides his bike to St. Augustine and back via Scenic A1A, and takes the ferry.
Hold up. Did he say ferry?!
Andrew and I looked at each other smiling, realizing this is why there was a gap in our directions when looking at the scenic route home. We were sold. We were ferry bound.
And so we drove along eating our cookies, while listening to my favorite Sufjan Stevens album “Come on Feel the Illinoise,” as we passed through several state parks and across islands. Andrew had his hands on the wheel guiding us, while I sat with my feet up, making notes of where we would like to return for full day excursions this spring.
Ferry Hopping // Homeward Bound
A small sign let us know we had reached the end of the road, and directed us left toward the ferry parking lot. Here we eagerly waited in line to drive up the platform and onto the ferry and float across the St. John’s river. Once on the boat, as soon as we paid, turned off the car, and pulled up on the emergency brake, we hopped out and walked to the front of the ferry.
Here we stood windblown, arm in arm.
Once making it to the other side and exiting the ferry, we continued our relaxed, drive home.
If I’ve learned anything about adventuring and planning, it’s that although planning can be helpful and even necessary in some cases, many times the best adventures are experienced when approached with few preparations or expectations. Our Saturday shaped up like it did because of one thing—our willingness to just go, and be, and let the day lead us.
A Day Dedicated to Adventure
Last spring, my dear friend Lacey featured a series on her blog, the Parachute Journalist, titled “Adventure Saturdays.” Each Saturday, she put away her to-do list and set out to experience a new locale, with an effort to do so frugally, tallying her expenses at the end. In the spirit of this brilliant idea, and considering the fact that our “Saturday Escape” very much mirrors her concept, I’ve decided to do a similar breakdown of expenses.
GAS: Approximately $8 worth, based on mileage / price of gas
FOOD & DRINKS:
$6 for two iced coffee treats for our morning drive
$28 bucks for two “hot mess” vegan specials + multiple cups of coffee + tip
$2 worth of cookies at the market
$2 for two pickles on a stick
$7 for three vegan cookie splurges from the health food store
FERRY RIDE: $7
TOTAL COST: $60 ($30 per person)
Dedicating a day every week as a day of relaxation and adventure-filled escape is something Andrew and I intend to make a regular practice. It is beneficial to our productivity, creativity, and health, as well as our relationship with one another. Must it happen on a Saturday? Of course not, and thanks to our flexible schedules, for us, it might not even happen on a weekend.
As for our next escape, Andrew and I are departing tomorrow and heading toward New Orleans for a full weekend adventure—complete with more race cheering, hand holding, vegan feasting, plus some post-race cider sipping, and who knows, maybe even some ferry hopping. In New Orleans you can always expect even more unexpected than usual.