Country Thunder 2016

Holy. Crap. The four days of Country Thunder were such a roller coaster, filled with mostly highs.

THURSDAY: Nothing like shooting the biggest event of your life so far and your card reader not being able to read your CF cards. As I’m flying all around town trying to get one before I leave, I get a text from the Megan and Chelsey saying, “do you want the good news or the bad news first?” As I received that text, I also found a card reader, so that took care of the first issue of the day. Well, CT had messed up and not given me a media pass for the weekend. But instead I was given a Backstage pass – which had all the same features as the Media pass plus the access to clean porto’s and free alcohol. So after my small freak out, I was really okay with that.

After I got back to the house and Alysa and I had packed everything up and sorted it ready to go, we get a text that Jordan was running about a half hour late. Even though we picked this time to leave like 2 weeks prior. So here I am freaking out again. Well that half hour turned into just about 2 hours, and we still had to stop at the office and pick up the stuff we were borrowing for the weekend. Well, after leaving that late, I missed the first act. So when we got to the campsite, we let Joe and Jords figure that stuff out while Alysa and I went down to the grounds and the Star Camper. On our way in with security, he had to check my backpack which was fine, but he opened and goes, “holy shit you have a laptop in here!” Like thank you, I didn’t already know that. So we go to the camper and then I shot one act and we headed back to the campsite to help the boys.

As we were heading back to the grounds for the rest of the evenings shows, a massive dust storm and thunderstorm rolled in and ended up cancelling the rest of the shows for Thursday unfortunately. We watched the storm from inside the camper and then Joe, Alysa and I went to bed early while everyone around us, including Jordan took to the rain and mud and proceeded to get hammered.

FRIDAY: We woke up to Garrett waking us up nice and early at 7 am. We asked if Jordan was still sleeping in his camper. Well, Jordan wasn’t there and when we checked find my friends, he was 18 miles away in Delavan and we were completely unsure of how he even got there. But we continued on our day, did some heavy day drinking, complete with about 20 people playing flip cup. I headed down to shoot with Alysa and we just kinda hung out in the Star camper and helped the girls out in between acts and while I wasn’t shooting.

Friday night, Paramalee opened for FGL. And my God. FGL straight killed it. Like unbelievable. Singing all their hits, their new stuff and covered some Backstreet Boys. After another long day, we passed out after we got back to the trailer. Joe ended up getting food poisoning from our attempt at cooking burgers mixed with some heat exhaustion and puked all night.

SATURDAY: We got up kinda early and headed to Whitewater for a shower and a nice nap in the air conditioning. We started the morning with some Jessica’s breakfast and took turns taking our sweet time in the showers. We slept so soundly. We lost Joe for the day, but we were almost back to 100%. When we got back, Alysa and I headed down to the Star Camper again, trying to get as much air condition time as we could. WE ALSO FOUND THE LOVE BUS. JAKE OWEN BROUGHT HIS LOVE BUS WITH HIM. We got pictures, don’t worry. When we got there, the girls were sorting out meet and greets and on stage seating and getting them prepped for their contests and giveaways. They didn’t have any for Jake. And our hearts kinda sank. So I went on to shoot my acts and after Granger Smith Alysa and I were gonna get food cause we were hungry. Well Megan said, “grab food and come back to the trailer.” I mean, that was the plan anyways, but she hadn’t said that all weekend so I knew something was up. So I told Alysa on our way to get food and she was like I can’t eat. And so we didn’t out of complete nervousness. So as I’m downloading in the camper, the three of them are sitting on the couch and Chels goes, “we need to talk” and Alysa’s response was “wer’re getting kicked out aren’t we?” And Megan goes, “We hate you guys so much that we’re giving you meet and greets to Jake Owen.” LIKE WAIT WHAT. Honest to God, we both started crying. HOLY SHIT.

Fast forward a bit – It was raining and then it started raining harder. And thundering and lightning to the point where they evacuated the grounds and stopped Chris Janson mid-act. It was 8:36. The meet and greet was at 8:45. Alysa and I bagged ourselves up in trash bags to keep us dry as we could and walked over to where the meet for M&Gs. We were told it was cancelled, so we started to head back when two wonderful ladies came running after us to tell us it was back on! So after standing in the rain for another like 40 minutes we finally were going to be able to meet Jake. Alysa cried through the whole thing. And for me, it was kinda a blur in all honesty. After we headed back to the camper to get our phones and then since Mike and Joe left we didn’t know who we were gonna watch with, so we took the other backstage pass and went over to the sky box to hang out with the girls. Well, they were already drunk and Megan’s sister was trying to get us drunk. Don’t worry it worked. We drank while belting our lungs out to every word of every song of Jake’s. We ended up going down to the bowl and were even closer, and we continued to belt and have a grand ‘ol time.

After the show, there was a band playing in the tent where our free alcohol was from and we met up with Chelsey’s friends and continued to dance, take shots and have hella fun. Megan and I went back at like 3 am and Chelsey and Alysa went out til like 5:30. It was so nice to sleep in air condition. However, waking up and having to walk back to our campsite the next morning was not.

SUNDAY: Alysa was stil hammered at 11 am. We laid around for a while and Alysa slept off her drunk and then we headed back down so I could shoot. I was so ready to go home at this point. Thomas Rhett started a half hour early, and luckily I opened the door at the right time and caught it and I sprinted my butt down there and luckily I caught him in time. Eric church was a slight disappointment and the bowl was filled with incredibly amounts of second hand weed smoke. Alysa and I just watched from by the Star camper where we could hear it all and tried to psych ourselves up to head back. 2:00 am Sunday morning I was safe and sound in my bed.

She’s feelin’ 22

I know I’m about a week late on this due to an incredibly busy week. Buttttt. For starters, I’m still a little salty that none of the bars we went to on my 22nd birthday played Taylor Swift’s 22.

I mean, no one really likes a Monday birthday, and everyone hates a Monday birthday when you have to adult the next morning. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this birthday due to some important people not being in Madison. I was so excited about turning 22 and then in a matter of days I wasn’t. I didn’t even want to go out, and I was content just sitting at home doing nothing all night, but I knew that wasn’t about to happen.

That morning Mare and I got breakfast and Creama Cafe and I was really excited to eat my blueberry almond pancakes. (Seriously though, go try them.) While we were sitting there, I had gotten a tweet mentioned to me from Nathan saying “It’s birthday and I can’t sleep with how much I wish I was home” and I almost started crying.

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Fast forward to Monday night after 7. We got to the Nitty and sat down by the windows in the bar area to eat before we got hammered. Rachel kept frantically looking at the window and I called her on it and was like what are you doing and she just replied people watching and I was a little confused but I just shook it off and continued on talking with everyone. After a few minutes Rachel was like I’m gonna go to the bathroom quick. And thinking about it now, after the fact, Rachel went the complete opposite direction of the bathroom. Well she came back and a guy wrapped his arm around me and I just assumed it was Michael being Michael, and I had to do a double take. Turns out Nathan had flew home to surprise me on my birthday, and Rachel, my mom and his parents were in on it. I screamed and then instantly started crying. I’d post the video, but my WP doesn’t support videos. I honestly couldn’t believe that was real and I couldn’t stop crying. I was then okay with being out for my birthday because Nathan was there. I was still missing some best friends, but it would do the trick.

 

I wish I could tell the rest of the story, but it got a little fuzzy after we left the Nitty. I know we went to Whiskey Jacks, lost my cardigan and $15. I also woke up Tuesday morning thinking I was good to go, and then got to work and was no longer feelin’ good. So I went home, took a nap and worked from home the rest of the day. Definitely drunker on my 22nd than my 21st.

 

Eastside Vs. Westside

My lacrosse girls had the awesome opportunity to play in the famous Bree Stevens field for their last home game against the Madison Westside team. They were the first girl’s lacrosse game to ever be played there. Although it was gross, wet and rainy, they still made the best of it and had a good time.

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Kansas City, Go Bowling 400

This has probably been about ten years in the making. When I was like 1o my cousin got a job working for one of the truck racing series drivers. He started in Michigan and has now made his way to North Carolina. He started with Jon Wood, made his way to the Wisconsin favorites; Paul Menard and Matt Kenseth before Aric Almirola, where he currently settles and has the awesome title of car chief.

At Christmas time, he mentioned trying to be off the road by the time he turns 40. Well that’s two years away. So after that being said, and the fact that I’m over 21 (the old age for being allowed in the pits) we thought we’d try really hard and get down to a race and get the full experience. So that’s what we did. We went to the Go Bowling 400 at the Kansas City Speedway.

We left Friday morning with Uncle Jerry in tow and made the 7 hour trek to the speedway. We got our passes and that’s when shit really got real. We had the pass that basically held the key for us to do anything we wanted to at the track. We had free reign of the garages, the pits and pretty much anywhere else. We got to watch Greg and his team fail and pass inspections and make their qualifying runs for the Saturday night race from atop of the car hauler. We were hoping to grab dinner with Greg after the garage closed, but it was late and he wanted to sleep, which is totally understandable.

Saturday was race day. The race wasn’t until 6:30 and the garage didn’t open til 11:30am and the grandstands didn’t open until 3:00. Jerry wanted to get there early so we didn’t miss anything. Well, it was a bit too early and we ended up sitting around and doing nothing for many hours, but it was still cool to sit around and watch every team do their thing.

While we were sitting around, I had a total fan girl moment when I saw Ashton Bayne, Trevor Bayne’s wife run by. Later on I saw both of them and their cute baby, Ellie Kate. I don’t usually have those moments, but oh my God. I was smitten.

We got to walk out on the track and take pictures with Greg and the car before walking down pit road where we jumped the wall and posted up behind the pit box for the rest of the evening. The few races prior, Aric got wrecked or screwed. Luckily, he didn’t get taken out or anything, but he ended up a few laps down. The race was rather boring in comparison to the last month of races, especially Talledaga. There were a few cautions, mainly for debris and one small collision that only included like 3 cars. It wasn’t as loud as I thought it was going to be, but after 250+ laps, it got to be a bit loud and probably would have damaged the ear drums. You can’t see much from the pits, it was still an awesome experience.

 

2015 Things.

2015 was full of some pretty great things. There were many adventures and trips, plenty of alcohol tastings, many memories made, some killer songs and albums released, and plenty of other good things to come of 2015. Looking back on the year, holy cow it’s been quite a year. 2015 was the year of big things for me, or so it seems.

I did the most traveling I’ve ever done in my life with topping out with 10 flights, a handful of road trips and plenty of places I’ve never been. I got to experience the lovely Sarasota Florida, BFE Ohio, KC MO, Germany and Poland. Talk about all around the world.

I laid by the pool while everyone was freezing in Wisconsin and ate ice cream for lunch every day, I got to see the beautiful Gulf and dolphins while in Florida. I got to spend some time with boy in Ohio. I got to experience the night life and wonderful food of Kansas City, Missouri. I got to travel the streets of Germany, drink beer for lunch, see the Berlin wall and all the history that the beautiful city of Berlin has to offer. I got to see the tiny history or little Polish towns and taste their delicious dumplings and watch their goats butt heads in the town square.

I advanced so far in the world of photography and owning a business. I got to shoot some of the biggest country singers including Sam Hunt, The Cadillac Three, Dierks Bentley and Chase Rice. I had the busiest senior summer I’ve ever had that topped out with 19 seniors. I added some new loot to my collection with a new camera and a sick new fixed lens. I grew my clientele, and crossing my fingers for them to return in the future.

I became a lacrosse coach – having my sanity be tested when I spent every day with high school girls who were supposed to look up to me and learn things from me.

I continued to work at the best job anyone could ask for. Although I worked many, many weekends, I gained another family – a family that not only includes humans but  pups as well. I got to go on brewery tours, watch Family Fued at lunch time, bettered my ping pong skills, laugh until my stomach hurt and go on road trips with the best co-workers anyone could ask for.

I celebrated the big fancy 21 with friends and family, and even my work family.

I tried many new foods and drinks, including sushi and a variety of Thai food, so many random beers that Ryan told me to try, and a Brandy Old Fashioned. (Yes, I had never had one until December of 2015.)

I got to see so many concerts, and fall in love with country music over and over again.

As for albums that killed 2015,

Brett Eldredge – Illinois
Canaan Smith – Bronco
Cole Swindell – Down Home Sessions II
Kip Moore – Wild Ones
Maroon 5 – V
Thomas Rhett – Tangled Up
Old Dominion – Meat & Candy

And songs that I love from 2015

Learn It From the Radio – Thomas Rhett
Playing With Fire – Thomas Rhett
Fix – Chris Lane
Raised By A Good Time – Steven Lee Olson
Mirror Man – Ella Henderson
White Lightning – The Cadillac Three
Summer Forever – Billy Currington
Hide Away – Daya
Yours – Russell Dickerson
Wild Ones – Kip Moore
Stay a Little Longer – Brothers Osbourne
It Feels Good – Drake White

I lost some friends, but also gained some pretty damn great ones. I learned who I am as a human, and who I want to be. Don’t get me wrong, while there were plenty of ups this year, there were always those rough moments and downs that I had to get through. But I’m honestly so thankful for the friends, family and work family and support team that I have. I kinda sorta (maybe) have an idea on what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m sure that will change by next month.

 

Thirty Eight.

So it’s been a while since I posted. Well, I’ve posted, but they weren’t terribly thought out posts.

It’s been 38 days since I landed back in the country. 38 days since I’ve had a minute to myself to catch my breath and relax.

In those 38 days, I shot and edited and delivered 12 senior sessions, shot a 1-year old birthday and a swim meet. I worked 30 hours at the Taste of Madison (not including office work for it), another 43 for It’s Glow Time!, plus numerous hours in the office. Oh yeah – I started school full time again in the middle of this mayhem.

I was averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night, and at least 2 cups of coffee a day. (I’m up to about 7 hours of sleep a night and hardly any coffee.) I was running on fumes, completely burned out and wanting to give up on everything. I was cruising Southwest’s website when I had a few minutes looking for the cheapest ticket out of here to Florida just so I could catch a break and not have to deal with adulthood and responsibilities for a few minutes.

My Pictures from Germany and Poland are sitting on my computer, completely untouched. The last thing I wanted to do was go through more pictures. Mary hasn’t really heard about my trip – just in passing of the random things that would happen that something here would remind me of.

I am more baffled by the fact that it’s almost October. I honestly can remember New Year’s Eve and how that night went and every detail of how the 1st went when I worked the New Year’s Day Dash run.

But I love fall so it’s okay. I love everything about it – the leaves changing colors, the thunderstorms, the jeans and sweatshirt weather, the brisk wind and being able to sleep with the windows open again. It’s the beauty of living in Wisconsin and being able to get all four seasons – although sometimes we get too much of one. AKA winter.

I’m excited to have October open and to really enjoy the fall weather and leave colors and be able to relax a bit.