Always Aubrey: September 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Sutler

I'm not quite on the cutting edge of the Nashville restaurant scene; I dabble in trying new places, so it often takes me a while.  But when my friend JL and I needed to grab a bite before a show at TPAC, it seemed like an appropriate time to try something new: we went to The Sutler in Melrose.


The Sutler definitely has a saloon-like atmosphere, with reclaimed hardwood and cowboy boot decor.  It's located next to Sinema, another pretty new restaurant, all in the up-and-coming Melrose neighborhood.  You wouldn't expect this super-cool restaurant across the street from a pawn shop, but it's there!


For my drink, I had think what I had was the East Bound (didn't get a menu pic!), described as a strawberry soda with a kick.  There was another drink I'd wanted but they didn't have the ingredients for, and what I ended up with was something strawberry with a very interesting finish.  We asked about it because it felt like a spicy floral, and it was some kind of liqueur or bitters that gave the effect.  Not bad for a fresh-tasting beverage; not sure if I'd get the same one again, but I like the creativity and would be into tasting more concoctions.

For starters, we had the Sutler Queso Spread jar, which was chilies, cheddar, gouda and belle chevre, spiced peanuts, and saltine crackers.  There was also a really delicious jelly served too.  Overall, we wished the queso was more like *queso*, vs. a spreadable cheese.  Dipping not spreading.  The jelly was probably our favorite topping for the saltines.


For our main meal, we decided to split the Brussels Sprout Hash and a Bear Creek Brisket Horseshoe, which was brisket, Texas toast, house fries, and a cheddar ale gravy.  I love eggs, so we topped it with a fried egg to boot.  Awesome!  This was definitely the highlight of our meal.  I don't like vegetables, but the Brussels Sprout Hash proved itself to be tasty (and a happily less healthy version of the green stuff I'd expected).  But our absolute favorite was the BBQ stack.  The cheddar gravy was thick but a great complement.  We dug in with forks and cleaned the plate.


Overall, I'd come back to The Sutler.  The service was great, and even though not everything blew my mind, there's enough good there to keep me curious.  I'd love to try their pork fat fries, and maybe one of their "dunks", a sandwich literally served IN a bowl of soup.  Interesting, right?  This place has a great ambiance and pretty solid eats.  Oh, and PARKING!  :)

Sutler on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Budgeting Bloggers: September 2014

It's the end of another quarter!  While I had a larger budget left for this final month of the quarter, and I sure did spend it, I noticed I got fewer items overall.  And it feels good!  I like the idea of investing in quality.  My biggest purchase was my Madewell tote, which I chose to replace my falling-apart black Longchamp Le Pliage (circa 2005, falling apart now); I wanted something bigger than my Longchamp, and Madewell's offering is leather for a similar price of Longchamp Nylon.   The brown/black combo is one of my favorites, because I can keep the same purse on my shoulder all week no matter what color shoes/belt/etc. I'm rocking.

Here's a snapshot of my haul:
  1. Chloe + Isabel Crystal Square Stud Earrings ($24):  My friend had a jewelry party to support her friend who recently adopted.  I feel strongly about adoption, so why not buy some new baubles for a cause?  I love stud earrings, and these were classic!
  2. Fabletics Lima Capri in Taos Print (retail $50, paid $40 VIP): I have a number of Lima Capris from Fabletics, and I find it hard to resist new prints!  Capris are perfect for working out in pretty much year-round in Tennessee, and this print might also get worn around the house on lazy Sundays.  (If you're interested in learning more about Fabletics and their *$50* high-quality monthly workout outfits, click my referral link here.  I can earn $10 if you sign up!)  Kate Hudson wore the pink version of these on a magazine cover this month.
  3. Fabletics Suki Short in Pink Lava (retail $30, paid $24 VIP):  These are shorter than my other pair of Suki Shorts, but still long enough to be comfortable in for running!   I wear my Sukis so much, I wanted another pair.  These also have pockets, perfect for my inhaler or a little packet of energy gel.  I definitely use the shorts in warmer weather quite a bit, just like capris but with more breeze.  I even ran a half marathon in them!
  4. eShakti Belted Chambray Skirt (retail $53, paid $18):  I know I'm an eShakti addict.  But hear me out!  I had a $25 giftcard from my last purchase, plus they sent me a $20 gift coupon, and those both *stacked* for $45 off base price.  So I got a full, fun belted skirt for under $20 including shipping!  Their chambray does rub off before the first couple of washes, but it's fun.  It will be a new classic piece for me.
  5. Madewell Transport Tote in black (retail $168+tax, paid $156 w/tax):  This bag has a bit of a cult following, especially among bloggers.  I wish this bag had a zipper or snap top, but I chose it because it was a comparable price to Longchamp's nylon bags, and I gave my old Camden tote from Madewell to sissy this summer.  Shoutout to Madewell for offering a 15% in-store student discount!  It actually gave me $25 off the pre-tax retail price ($143 subtotal).
  6. Madewell Bien Fait Canvas Tote (FREE):  It just so happened that I was picking up my Transport Tote during the grand opening celebration of Nashville's store... so they gave me a freebie tote bag.  Score!  The back has the Madewell logo.
$262 spent - $38 sold = $224 total
$64 savings + a freebie tote!

Quarterly Budget: $500 - $159 July - $115 August - $224 September = $2 remaining

Not too shabby!  But since I now have a new car and other things that require my funds, I am cutting my quarterly budget from $500 to $400, which is actually less than I used to do before quarterly tracking.  I am also no longer going to count blog earnings towards my budget, only sales of clothing/accessories exiting my closet.  I feel like my wardrobe is in a much better place, and I can still use my quarterly budget for the occasional splurge.  Forcing myself to sell some things before I bring in new stuff will help me control the total closet.

I also decided that after my Disney Marathon in January, I am going to treat myself to a pair of imogene + willie jeans as a reward, outside of my budgeting.  You heard it here first!  Gotta keep myself motivated to finish those 26.2 miles.

Here's a pic of me wearing one of my custom circle skirts from last month!  Instead of my normal petticoat 50s look, I wore it without for more of a 60s schoolgirl vibe.  I love mustard; it's my favorite color these days.


Check out the rest of this month's Budget Bloggers at the linkup at Franish!

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Base Shaper for Purses

When I bought my new Madewell Transport tote, I was worried about stretching the leather out because I tend to overload tote bags.  After all, I'm an MBA student... my Levenger, iPad, and MacBook go all over the place with me!

Bourbon and Bear like approve!


I turned to Google for solutions, and happened upon a post on a blog I've frequented regularly, Putting Me Together, reviewing Base Shapers.  Because when leather stretches out of shape, it stays that way!  While the Base Shapers website isn't anything pretty to look at (even my Gmail thought my order might be spam), I was able to take the measurements from the inside of my Transport Tote and see that the Prada BN1786 had the same dimensions I needed.  I received my order quickly, so despite looking sketchy, the website is legit.

$22 is not cheap for a piece of plastic.  But after making an investment in my Madewell bag, and realizing that I've been carrying it nonstop since I bought it, I decided that I needed to take care of it.  Having the shaper in the base has made a huge difference.  It's a little weird to look into my purse and see my reflection in the plastic, but I can choose to pop it up and simply carry it when the load is light, and ensure I use it when the load is bigger.   It also helps the tote stand when I have to set it down, instead of flopping over!

Just check out the difference in photos, of the bag holding the exact same load.  I can see how over time my tote would get wonky and out of shape!

My Transport Tote, Before/After, including my MacBook Pro inside!

I paid for my own Base Shaper and decided to review it here to share with others...  Has anyone else experiences bag sag in a purse?  I don't want my new baby to get stretched!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Sell Your Clothes on thredUP

Even though I've had past luck selling my clothes via Poshmark, there were a few dresses that just weren't budging in my sales closet.  I heard about thredUP (my referral link) from Marissa at The Modern Austen and decided to check it out.

thredUP is basically an online consignment/thrift store.  If you're a seller, they send you a giant "Clean Out Bag" to fill with your gently used (no flaws!) brand-name clothing items.  It's free to ship them your stuff, but if you want items returned that are not selected, you sign up for a $12.99 deduction from what your items end up earning.  You can use their calculator online to get an idea of the range of earnings you can expect from your clothing.  Keep in mind that they need to earn a profit on selling your items, so they can only take things they feel will sell, and pay accordingly.  It is very much like consignment, but many items qualify for up-front payment, especially quality brand-names.


I was definitely skeptical of the thredUP process, but I was willing to give it a try.  Since I had some pieces (including NWT) in there that I thought I would want back if they rejected, I opted for the $12.99 Return Assurance on this first bag.  This bag was HUGE, and all I had to do was drop in pieces and take it to FedEx.  Simple as that.  I didn't have to sit around and haggle and wait some someone to buy something, then take it to the post office myself.

My Bag to thredUP!

I sent thredUP 12 items: 6 tops, 1 jacket, 2 pants, and 6 dresses.  Since these were items I never wore, and some that I had no luck selling on Poshmark, I felt like it was worth giving thredUP a go despite lower earnings.  My bag was processed within two weeks.

Of these items, thredUP accepted 6 tops, 1 jacket, and 5 dresses and offered $50 in exchange.  (They've already sold 5 of my items last I checked, for about the amount I was paid, so they're making a profit for sure.)  This was probably about $10 less than I'd hoped for...  and I still had to pay the $12.99 return assurance to return the items they didn't want.  In hindsight, I regret signing up for that service given almost all of my items were accepted.  Even though the pants returned to me were high quality (and one NWT), paying $13 to get three items back stung a little.  You have no way of knowing which items are being returned, but if you don't have any returns then you aren't charged the return assurance fee.

So basically I ended up netting about $38 (which I have to wait two weeks to cash out), not great when you figure that's about $3/item for good brands like a Betsey Johnson couture-type dress, two NWT items, J. Crew, Banana Republic, etc.   I just didn't feel GOOD about what I got even before the $12.99 deduction...  I was disappointed and bummed.  But that might just be me.  I know they need to make money on what they sell (I watch Pawn Stars!), which is also why Poshmark takes 20% of your earnings.


I think the only reason I would try thredUP again is if I have a bunch of brand-name tops that would probably only be worth the $5/piece that I could send in for a quick buck.  I don't think I'd try to sell anything to them that I feel is worth $20 or more, or more high-end stuff.  I also wouldn't send anything that I want back, to avoid Return Assurance charges.

I just don't trust the process as much, as I prefer the control I have with Poshmark.  I'm more likely to purchase from thredUP than Poshmark though, given the high quality inspection standards.


Since I have had so much luck with Poshmark but still gave thredUP a try, I decided to do a quick comparison so you can see the difference between the two.
For Sellers
  • Your Work:  thredUP is less work than Poshmark, period.  You send them your items, and they photograph, create listings, and sell.  You get paid upfront or on consignment.
  • The Payout:  Poshmark earns you more, but requires your effort.  Because you can set your own prices with Poshmark, and they only take 20% of the total sale price, you have more control over earnings.  With thredUP, they give you up to 80% (but usually 10-40% it seems) of what they feel it will sell for.  Please use their calculator to give you realistic expectations.
  • Bottom Line: If you want more control over what you earn, and you are willing to do the work, use Poshmark to sell.  If you want convenience and the payout matters less, (i.e. you just want it out of your closet) use thredUP.
  For Buyers
  • Quality of Items:  I have only kept and used ONE of the six items I have purchased on Poshmark.  I felt disappointed in the quality of items I received, and there were never true guarantees of the authenticity of items.  thredUP feels like less risk, because they disclose flaws and do not accept any knock-offs.  But there is less selection on thredUP; it's more carefully curated, if you want to look at it that way.
  • Price You Pay:  thredUP has some great deals, but with Poshmark you have the opportunity to negotiate with sellers, and even bundle items for a discount.  There also aren't wholesalers trying to turn profits on thredUP; it's just one seller vs. a bunch.  It's a toss-up to me.
  • Bottom Line:  thredUP seems more shopper-friendly, because the photo quality of items is excellent, flaws are disclosed, and it's guaranteed to be an authentic item in good shape.

UPDATE 12/3/14: I sent another bag to thredUP, and I've decided it will be my last.  I sent 8 brand-name tops and 1 pair of shoes that yielded only $22 (that's less than $3/item) and a dress they have on consignment for a MAX payout of under $12.  I just don't see the point in waiting for weeks to hear back from them with a payout, on top of not getting what I could probably make selling on my own via Poshmark.


Have you used thredUP?  How do you like it?


If you're interested in thredUP, please check it out and sign up via my referral link!  You'll earn $10 off your first purchase, and I'll get a $10 store credit.

If you're interested in Poshmark, check out my post about selling there here, and use code HROMR for a credit.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Red Pony Restaurant

Red Pony Restaurant calls itself "sophisticated Southern", and I would have to agree.  It is a solid favorite on the Franklin restaurant scene, conveniently located on our town's historic Main Street.  It is one of Jason McConnell's restaurants (see also: 55 South, Cork & Cow, and The McConnell House venue), and it has a seasonal menu that changes about six times a year to present the freshest fare.  I love that it's right across the street from the Franklin Theatre; from where I sat on the upper floor, I had a great view of the adorable marquee!

image from Nashville Originals

WARNING: I did not get good photos of the meal.  Argh!  I was there with a group from work, so I tried to stealthily snap iPhone pics without looking conspicuous.  Fail.  So please look at some of the beautiful food photos on the restaurant website to get a better look.  Because lately, when it comes to snapping bad food photos, I'm a regular Martha Stewart.  The restaurant has an eclectic and beautiful interior, lots of wood and vintage accents.  I wish I'd captured a bit of it, but again, work events make me a little self-conscious when it comes to taking photos.

I started the night with a delicious cocktail, the Ditzy Blonde, which was grapefruit vodka, pomegranate juice, aperol, and lemon.  So good, I had TWO!  I like "girly" cocktails that many people find a bit too sweet, but there is something for everyone on Red Pony's bar menu.


To kick off the meal, we were so busy munching on appetizers, I didn't take photos!  We had hummus and pita chips, chips and housemade guacamole, flatbread pizzas... holy cow.  It was all I could do not to fill up before our meal.

For my main couse, I chose the wood-grilled beef tenderloin, which came with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and lemon butter.  The steak was so tender, I could cut it with a regular knife!  I love the entire meal; definitely one of the best steaks I have had in the Franklin area!

Blurry photo... did the cocktails get to me?

Dessert was my absolute favorite, though.  Vanilla creme brûlée, with fresh fruit...  so good I had eaten half of it before I snapped a photo.

Noms!

Overall, I'd have to say Red Pony is one of my favorite higher-end restaurants in the Franklin area.  Its food is tasty, and the drinks are great.  It is on the pricier side, so it won't be someplace I eat at frequently, but once or twice a year I think it would be worth splurging at this local gem... or during Restaurant Week!

Red Pony is open daily for dinner (closed Sundays), and reservations are accepted.  It's perfect for a cocktail before a show at Franklin Theatre, or for a special occasion dinner.

Red Pony on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Slow Cooker Spicy Macaroni & Cheese with Red Gold *Giveaways!*

Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post. I received a beautiful package from Red Gold with cans of tomatoes, a wooden spoon to mix all the goodness, and a tomato red apron to give away...  in order to taste and make the recipe featured in this post, but all opinions are 100% my own!  This post contains links to Red Gold websites.


As a proud Hoosier, I love to use Red Gold tomato products, knowing the company is based in Indiana, sources its tomatoes in and near Indiana, and produces their goods in my home state!  So when Red Gold asked me if I would share their Red Gold 2-a-day Crock-pot Give-a-way promotion (running on their Facebook page September 17th through October 8th), as well as cook up some one of their featured slow cooker recipes, I was game.

I chose the recipe below because I didn't have to cook the pasta (score!) and that felt like a win in itself.  It took me literally 5 minutes to combine the ingredients in the morning, and when Dan and I got home, dinner was ready to go.  Although, you will note that I was half-asleep apparently when I did this, because the yogurt cup in my "ingredients" photo does NOT belong!  That was breakfast.  Oops.  Unfortunately, my "after" photos did not turn out due to lighting/phone issues, but you get the idea... it was a cheesy, delicious meal, and the pasta did cook itself!  (Ugh, blogger photo fails...)  I used spicy mustard because Dan always has like 3-4 varieties in the fridge like the connoisseur he is.  I like that Red Gold adds peppers to some of their products to really add flavor.  I would mix this mix into different sauces, or even into pulled pork for example, to add a kick!

I love adding diced tomatoes to meals, because it add texture and flavor at the same time.  I totally make tomato sauce from a jar feel more "homemade" by adding diced tomatoes to it, a trick my Mom taught me growing up.  No one will be able to tell!

Bourbon the cat is not included in the recipe...


Slow Cooker Spicy Macaroni & Cheese
Servings: 8    |    Preparation Time: 15 minutes    |    Cook Time: 240 minutes

Image from Red Gold

INGREDIENTS
2 cups pasta of choice, uncooked
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces processed American cheese, cut into cubes
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14.5 ounce) can Red Gold® Petite Diced Tomatoes With Green Chilies, drained or 2 (10 ounce) cans Red Gold® Petite Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies (10 Oz), drained

Place the uncooked pasta in the bottom of a 3.5-qt. crock pot that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Add the remaining ingredients, except RED GOLD® PETITE DICED TOMATOES with GREEN CHILIES, to the slow cooker and stir until well combined. Cook on LOW for 4 hours.

Just before serving add RED GOLD® PETITE DICED TOMATOES with GREEN CHILIES; stir to combine.

You can find this recipe and more slow cooker meals on Red Gold's website, here.

Lastly, because Red Gold is awesome, you can not only enter their crock-pot giveaway, but I'm hosting a giveaway HERE on my blog!  You can win a Red Gold apron, plus a comfort food cookbook I've thrown in as well: Back Home with the Neelys: Comfort Food from Our Southern Kitchen to Yours.  Just enter to win in the Rafflecopter below!  The giveaway will run for two weeks.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to enter Red Gold's giveaway too, now through October 8th!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post. I received a beautiful package from Red Gold with cans of tomatoes, a wooden spoon to mix all the goodness, and a tomato red apron to give away...  in order to taste and make the recipe featured in this post, but all opinions are 100% my own!  This post contains links to Red Gold websites.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Out of Office

Hey y'all.  Just a heads up I'm taking a week off from blogging to catch up on work, homework, and get my apartment shipshape after a week of traveling!  I'll be back on September 17th with a fun recipe and giveaway, so stay tuned.

Yay!


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Monday, September 8, 2014

Blog Hop: Behind the Scenes

When Jess, from Stamp in my Passport, nominated me to go next on a blog hop, I was immediately flattered by her kind words about this humble little space.  How could I refuse?  This one is focused around the writing process, so I had to sit back and think about how I actually end up posting what I do on my blog.



Q1. What am I currently working on/writing?
Nothing!  Honestly, my queue of posts is basically empty.  I have been traveling a lot, it's my MBA finals week, and my cousin's wedding just happened, so I have neglected my blog.  Usually, I have a half dozen posts lined up and space them out as I see appropriate, inserting new posts in between as needed for sponsored content and whatnot.  That's the usual cadence, anyways!

Q2. How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
It's probably more incoherent than other lifestyle blogs.  While I admit I do have some fun travel posts, I don't really know what my blog is supposed to be about, other than me.  It tends to veer towards travel, food, shopping, and my cats, but I don't generate enough content to do any of them exclusively.  If you like me, you'll like my blog.  If you don't like my blog, we probably wouldn't be great friends.  I also don't generate a consistent income/living from blogging (always <$100/mo in goods and giftcards) and a bunch of that ends up going to taxes.

Q3. Why do I write what I do?
I have kept a journal since I was a teenager, but blogging took me from writing a private journal to creating content for others to read.  I no longer write in a notebook; it seems like a waste of paper.  I write for a few reasons...  One, it's cathartic.  I'm a chatterbox by nature, and so blogging makes sense.  It helps keep me from overwhelming my IRL friends on Facebook with all the stuff in my head.  Two, I like the social aspect.  I've made friends through blogging, and I like to crowdsource ideas about where to travel, where to eat, good shopping deals, etc.  By posting my own reviews and ideas, I'm giving back to the community as much as I take.  Lastly, I blog because it gives me an opportunity to learn.  I learn about basic coding, basic Photoshop, lots of geeky things.  I enjoy learning something new.

Q4. How does my writing process work?
Typically, my posts are event-based.  I ate at a restaurant.  I traveled somewhere.  I wore an outfit that made me feel good.  Then I take photos (usually my iPhone) and upload them to my Google Drive.  I create individual blog post drafts, usually a bulleted list at first so I don't forget details I want to write about later.  I use these lists, and my photos, to craft a post when I have more time to sit down and focus.   I only spend a couple hours a week blogging, when it's all said and done, because I have a full time job and MBA going on.

To continue the fun, I nominate my blog friend Meghan at Hayes Days.  She's beautiful, sweet, and I love seeing what she's up to!  (P.S. Meghan, you don't have to if you don't want to.)

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Fresh Face Friday with We Took the Road Less Traveled

Hey everyone!  I'm in NYC on bridesmaid duty today, but I wanted to let you know I'm being featured as a Fresh Face on We Took the Road Less Traveled today.  I really love Casey's blog, and she's definitely got the travel bug as badly as I do.
Today there's also a blog hop that allows you to find some new blogs to read/follow and feature your own blog as well.  Check it out, and have fun!

Welcome to the
FRESH FACE FRIDAY BLOG HOP!

Hosted by: Casey @ We Took the Road Less Traveled

This week's writing topic: 
Tell us about the greatest trip of your life!

Rules for hopping:
1| Follow your host & co-hosts (first 3 links), pretty please! 
2| Link up your post! Please only link up the FFF writing prompt post...all other entries will be removed.
3| Hop around, meet new bloggers, and leave them love!
4| Have fun? Spread the word and share this blog hop with your friends!
5| Want to be a co-host? Click here for more info! 

Grab a button and share the blog hop love!
We Took the Road Less Traveled
Tweet about this blog hop!

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Colorado

Courtesy of a wonderful work retreat of sorts, I was able to have my first official (i.e. non-airport, grown-up) visit to Colorado.  We started off the trip with a stop for lunch in Golden, grabbing lunch on the creek at Grappa Mediterranean Bistro.  I had a delicious Croque Madame (I can never say no to a Croque Madame).  You could see the Coor's plant in distance from near the restaurant.


After lunch, we headed to the Keystone/Dillon area, where our house was.  It was a gorgeous, modern cabin with eight bedrooms, a movie theater, gym, game room, huge kitchen, and beautiful views.  We made our own breakfasts and divided into teams to make dinners.  It was definitely a retreat-like atmosphere.  We even played games at night, like Heads Up, Apples to Apples, and Scattergories.  It felt like a trip with extended family!


We spent most of our time in the Keystone area, including grabbing burgers at Kickapoo Tavern and golfing a 9-hole scramble at Keystone River Course.  It was my first time actually golfing on a course, so I had a lot of slices, but I contributed a couple of good shots that helped me team.  I also attempted to run in Keystone, but between the altitude and my exercise-induced asthma, I only managed 1.5 miles vs. the 5 I was planning; it felt like someone was sitting on my chest!

Golf Course

The highlight of the trip was definitely our ATV adventure with Nova Guides.  I'd never been on an ATV before (as I mentioned earlier on the blog) so I was a bit terrified, but the vistas were just unreal as we climbed the mountain!  I was really impressed by the terrain the ATVs could handle, thought going down was scarier than going up.  We even got to go on some really rocky paths and through some mud, getting filthy in the process.  Our guide, Stan, was awesome, and very patient with me.  I can't say enough good things about him.  They even provided us with a good, warm lunch afterwards. It is an experience I will not forget!



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