For the last 10 years, Paige (our head designer) has come to work every day with Norman, a scruffy salt and pepper pup, no bigger than a gallon of milk. He’s present at all design meetings, fit sessions, and final approvals. He’s made his way into photoshoots, been used as design inspiration, and even had his portrait painted at a giant tradeshow.
Norman is just one of many great dogs take up residence at the Toad offices. Over the years we’ve had Lucy the lunch lady, Leo the cuddle bug, Lincoln the scaredy cat, Sunny the tornado, Lana the starlet, Grom the snaggletooth, Bea the sleepy puggle, Truffle the Big Bird, and her little sister, Sophie.
Creating a dog-friendly work environment is part of our culture. Sure, sometimes they sleep on the job, but our canine colleagues make us better employees and happier people. Here are some of the benefits of having dogs in the office:
Creates a positive, flexible, uplifting setting
Promotes a work-life balance (hey there, afternoon walk!)
Less stress = happier employees = more productivity
Dogs can create camaraderie and trigger interactions that may not have happened without them (remember your class hamster in 1st grade? Same thing).
They clean the kitchen floors
They make the workplace fun (and awesome people want to work at fun places!)
They make excellent Instagram models
And it’s even good for the pups – they learn to socialize with other humans and animals (and mail carriers)
So here’s to letting this place to go the dogs. We think we’ll keep it that way.
By: Natalie, Sustainable Materials Manager and Toad’s resident meditation expert
In its simplest form, meditation is the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. A meditation practice depends on the individual and can take many forms – some people sit and clear their minds, others go for a hike in nature, and others even cook or do chores. Anything done with complete mindfulness and intention can become a form of meditation.
I started meditating about 15 years ago when I stopped skipping out on Savasana (aka: corpse pose) at the end of my yoga classes. I realized that those 3 minutes of post-yoga quietness made me feel calmer, happier, and helped integrate all the physical activity into my body and mind.
It took another 10 more years of dabbling before I committed to a morning sitting meditation practice. At the time, I was caretaking for my grandpa at the end of his life and needed a way to keep myself centered and grounded so that I could show up for him and the rest of my family. I needed something for me and meditation became the solution.
For me, the goal of meditation isn’t to clear my mind or count my breath. It’s about consciously focusing and redirecting my mind to the positive. Instead of noticing how tight my hips feel, I focused my attention on how lucky I am that all of my organs are healthy and my muscles strong. I focus on how lucky I am to be able to run and surf and rock climb. Or even just how fortunate I am just to breathe. Focusing on gratitude for my physical body rather than the parts I struggle with brings about a sense of deep inner peace. Once I figured out how to tap into it, I can access that inner peace any time I need it. Here are a few of my suggestions on how to get started:
1. Start off with quick guided meditations from a mindfulness app like Headspace or Daily Shine. You can select topics to focus on that you want to work on – like increasing gratitude or celebrating positivity.
2. Shoot for a consistent routine. I like first thing in the morning, but a lot of people find right before bed works better for them. It doesn’t matter when you choose, the important thing is to establish a routine that you can stick to.
3. Explore different types of meditation (yes, there are different types). I like loving kindness meditation, breathing meditations, moving meditations like Tai Chi or walking or hiking, daily task meditation, Yoga Nidra, guided body scan relaxation meditation, and reiki meditation. There are so many options. Find the one that feels right for you. And know that what’s right might vary from day to day. I integrate all kinds of meditation into my life now depending on what I need for that day.
4. Build slowly over time. Yes, some amazing people like Oprah meditate for 30 minutes twice a day, but the reality is that you can gain benefits of meditation with as little as 3 minutes a day and it takes time to train your mind. You wouldn’t try to summit Everest if you’ve never hiked before… small steps will lead to the greatest success. Start with just 1 minute a day to build the habit. You’ll be successful (and you can do anything for 60 seconds!). Notice the impact one minute can have on you for the next 5-10 minutes. This is what increases your motivation to meditate for longer!
5. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. It’s ok if you hear your meditation timer go off and you realize you just spent the last 5 minutes thinking about breakfast…it happens. Just come back and try again tomorrow. Like anything in life, learning to focus your mind takes time.
Now go forth and conquer your own mind, body and soul connections! Remember: There is no “right” way to meditate. There is no perfection you are striving for. One version is no better or worse than any other version. Just be yourself and use your mindfulness practice (whatever that looks like) to show up for your life as the best version of you.
2020 just sounds like a year for epic trips. While we adjust back to office life, we’re slowly re-entering with a healthy dose of wanderlust and electrolytes (because you have to prep that immune system for international travel). According to the Toads, here’s what tops our list for the best places to visit in 2020.
“I’m taking the little groms to the snow! My youngest hasn’t been yet so we’re getting her on some mini skis. It’s the best place in the world to learn to ski because when you fall at least you got a million dollar view!” – Neil, Operations
“I took a DNA test last year and turns out I’m 91% Vietnamese, so I’m headed back to the Motherland! I’m doing an epic solo motorcycle trip through the countryside. I’ve never been to Vietnam. I’m so pumped.” – Anthony, Graphic Design
“I’m going on my honeymoon this year and I think we settled on Turkey! I want that balance of adventure and relaxing, but we also like amazing food and coffee and culture…Turkey seemed like the perfect place. I hear Cappadocia is where the hot air balloons float over these ancient cities built around rock formations. Sounds pretty amazing.” – Tessa, Production
“Amsterdam has some incredible art museums. The Van Gogh, the Foam, the Moco, and of course the Rijksmusuem that’s been closed for years and just re-opened after a mega remodel – I hear it’s spectacular. I just want to go to all of the museums and eat all of the snacks and go biking through the tulips!” – Helena, Women’s Design
“My buddy just came back from a surf trip in Senegal and now I’m frothin’. There are some great breaks just outside of Dakar like the legendary point break, Ngor Right (the one they surfed in Endless Summer!), and apparently down the coast is a little town called Ouakam where you’re just supposed to barrel all. day. long.” – Dr. Drew, Customer Service
CAMINO DE SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
“I’ve always wanted to walk the Camino. It’s a beautiful, historic pilgrimage route that winds through the hills of France and ends at this beautiful city, Santiago de Compostela, in Northwest Spain. After you’ve made your trek (I’d start in Léon so it wasn’t too long…), you end at the Cathedral where all the pilgrims pack in for a church service (all in Latin, of course). It just sounds divine.” – Lucinda, Production
“This summer we’re taking a road trip all throughout the Western US with the goal to hit as many National Parks as we can. Last fall we took my 5 year old, Lily, to her first national park and she loved it. She asked for a park pass for Christmas. So we’re going to put it to work! Our goal is to do a big circle – Yellowstone, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Saguaro, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Zion, Great Basin… ok, if we make it to half it would be amazing. But Yellowstone is at the TOP of the must-see list!” – Lucas, Brand & Marketing
“I really want to go to Japan and hit some links! People are shocked when I tell them that Japan has great golf courses, but why wouldn’t they? It’s a country known for epic views and beautiful gardens. Makes sense to me!” – Guin, Women’s Design
“We’re going to visit my mother-in-law in Switzerland, but then after that we’re going to check out Southern Spain (or Andalucia). It’s been on our bucket list for years. We’re thinking Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada…just give me all the tapas and Moorish architecture. I hear the Alhambra is mind blowing.” – Steve, Marketing
VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
“I am SO excited to go to Volcano National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island! Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are active volcanoes so you can actually watch the lava flow, AND you can go see the Thurston lava tube that’s so big you can walk through it….AHHHH NATURE IS SO COOL!” – SARAH, Culture & Giving (and our resident geologist)
“Seeing the Northern lights is HIGH on my list of things to see with my own eyes. I hear Iceland is just the coolest and my dream is to surf off the coast of a glacier, while the Northern Lights are above, then get into the natural hot springs. Can you make that happen, Iceland?” – Natalie, Materials
“Give me mountains and jungle and ocean and sky and I’m a happy camper. Usually I love to explore cities, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about the vibe and the people and the food…. I know I haven’t been there, but I think Costa Rica is a place you find your soul. Sounds like a good place to clock some hours.” – Daisy, Brand & Marketing
When you count Jane Goodall as one of your high school mentors, you know you’re destined for a life of goodness. Lucky for us that’s Sarah Palladino, our Office Culture Queen and Master of Giving. Since she embodies the spirit of giving year round, we sat down to talk about how giving actually makes businesses stronger, what’s on her book list, and what Dr. Jane Goodall is like in real life (yes, we feel starstruck just talking about it).
Toad: Ok, Sarah – you do a lot of things at Toad. Give us a rundown on your favorite thing:
SP: The best part of my job is getting Toads connected to our social and environmental missions in hands-on ways. Whether it’s planting trees or volunteering at Earth Day or hosting a Friendsgiving with members of Search, Inc, I love seeing Toads really feel the impact of “business for good.”
Toad: Feel it?
SP: Ya. It’s one thing to hear “we’re a sustainable company,” but when employees are planting trees to offset carbon emissions, they’re really feeling what it takes to offset one shirt or one factory or one cargo ship. That impact has a massive ripple effect well beyond 9-5.
Toad: Do you think it also has an effect on the business?
SP: Absolutely! I can tell you it makes a huge difference on the HR side – being a business that prioritizes volunteer days and community outreach attracts like-minded people. Those like-minded people become Toads and in turn make us better.
Toad: What about our customers?
SP: Doing right by people and planet is the heart of the Toad ethos, and our customers are right there with us. I think they’re looking for companies that are doing good (like giving 1% back or making sustainable products) because THEY are doing good.
Toad: It sounds like a movement…
SP: It totally is! The Do-Gooder Movement!
Toad: So where did this love of philanthropy come from?
SP: I think it started in middle school. I was always that kid with thousands of hours of community service. I just loved feeling like I was contributing to the greater good. My first experience working with at-risk youth made me realize that giving back needed to be ingrained in my life. After that I joined pretty much every club to help organize more people to give back.
Toad: Every club seems like a lot. Any favorites?
SP: I loved working with Dr. Jane Goodall as California’s chapter leader for her non-profit, Roots and Shoots.
Toad: Did you just say you worked with Jane Goodall?
SP: Yes, and she’s amazing. So inspiring. Her motivation behind everything she does is to foster a better understanding of nature, and thereby create a deeper connection between people and planet.
Toad: Wow. That sounds amazing.
SP: She’s my idol. It’s not just about animals and humans – it’s about equality. In Jane’s eyes, everyone and everything is equal. We’re all equal and we can all do good and impact the world.
Toad: What else do you draw inspiration from these days?
SP: I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama and she’s just a good human. I’m also really into this local lecture series right now where cross-disciplinarians talk about creative ways to think about problems and solutions, like an artist depicting climate change. Then there are always the classics like Silent Spring and The Lorax…
Toad: Switching gears. Let’s say Toad wins the lotto and we (YOU) get to finally execute your giving pipe dream. What do you do?
SP: Commit 99% for the planet! I would love to start a whole education branch of Toad with the sole goal to inspire people to pursue environmentally friendly practices – the Toad Academy! I think we could have the biggest impact by investing in teaching future generations about sustainable lifestyles and communities and cultures… it would be amazing.
Toad: Okay, back to reality. What do you want your Toad legacy to be?
SP: My goal is to inspire Toads (whether it’s employees or customers) to look at how they can contribute to their communities and give back in areas that THEY love. I want to create a perpetuating cycle of giving back.
4,600. That’s the number of islands that belong to the state of Maine. Somewhere in there is Peaks Island – a busy little suburb off the coast of Portland and home to one of our all-time favorite Toads, Ponch. He’s our National Retail Development Manager and has been heading up our flagship store in Freeport since 2001. A few things you should know about Ponch: he’s part polar bear, can fix literally anything, and he’s the greatest pizza chef in the state of Maine (unconfirmed, but trust us on this). He’s got every skill you need to live on a tiny Maine island for 365 days a year (which he does with his wife, 2 daughters, and 2 pups). When were out there for our photoshoot this fall, we sat around Ponch’s kitchen and got the local’s take on Peaks Island living.
How many years have you lived on Peaks?
This stint is 13 years, but Jess and I did a previous 3 year stint.
What’s the easiest way to get there?
Casco Bay Lines Ferries out of the Portland harbor – same spot they’ve been running out of since 1880! It’s a 17 minute ferry through the bay, and you pass the old Fort Scammel, can see lighthouses and the Portland skyline. It’s really pretty (You can always take a water Taxi if you plan a late night out on the town).
What’s your last stop before the mainland?
Standard Baking Co. for incredible bread and Old Port Spirits and Cigars for libations.
Best place to get a pizza on the island?
My house! There aren’t any pizza joints on the island, but I like Portland’s Flatbread Pizza, or Micucci’s for a Sicilian Slab.
What’s the best way to get around on the island?
When you get off the ferry, walk up the hill, take the first left, walk a few blocks and visit Brad’s Recycled Bike Shop – you can rent all sorts of 80’s and 90’s bikes, plus some old Schwinn tandems and even kid carriers – great for your beer and lobsters, or dog, if not your kid. Walking is also great as is unicycling.
Best place to watch the sunrise?
Picnic Point – I recommend walking out past the rope swing.
Best place to watch the sunset?
Picnic Point is still a great spot, or the front of the island to watch the sun set over Portland.
Best spot to the get creative juices flowing?
The Illustration Institute cabins. The Illustration Institute is a non-profit based in Portland that allows artists to spend a few weeks off the grid, living in quiet cabins on the island just working on their craft.
Best spot for a cocktail?
Make your own in advance or pack the ingredients, put it in a thermos, and go hang out on the rocks.
Best place to pitch a tent:
It’s not necessarily legal, but can’t say it doesn’t happen… Best advice is to be friendly, and don’t make a mess, but know that most of the land is private and the rest of the island is Portland City property.
Best piece of advice for living on an island:
A friend of mine had recently moved to the Great State of Maine and was considering buying a house but didn’t know where. He asked me about Peaks but had heard that it was a pain. My response to him was “It’s only a pain if you don’t like boats.” You have to know that you can’t get home without a boat and you can’t come and go on your own schedule. You have to share transportation with a whole bunch of people – some you know and some you don’t, some you like and some you don’t care for. BUT it’s a very pleasant way to start a commute or end a long day or week.
For more local tips about Maine, catch up with Ponch and the rest of the Toads at our Toad&Co Freeport store at 11 Bow Street in Freeport, ME.
This is Kyle – our fearless VP of Design, Merchandising and Supply Chain, and unsurprisingly, the best dressed person in our office. He’s been at Toad for a little over a year and he’s already shaking things up (in the best way). Like creating our first ever Pride Tee. We sat down with Kyle to talk inspiration, the outdoors, and what’s on any respectable Pride playlist.
Let’s just start big: Why did you decide to make this T-shirt?
KYLE: Our first Pride Tee is about continuing to raise awareness about inclusivity and openness in the outdoors. Obviously, these T-shirts are making an actual impact with dollars (100% of the proceeds are donated!), but more so it’s about showing Toad&Co’s support for inclusivity everywhere.
100% of proceeds are going to the Venture Out Project. Why did you choose to work with this non-profit?
KYLE: We knew we wanted to partner with an organization that was working with LGBTQ+ youth to build their confidence. Getting kids comfortable with themselves and with nature is so important. I grew up in Northern Idaho and found a lot of confidence in the outdoors and sports. The Venture Out Project is a fantastic organization that brings together all ages of the queer community to experience the outdoors. It’s so inspiring, and frankly, so necessary.
The outdoor industry isn’t known for inclusivity and diversity (though it’s starting to turn around!). What do you think outdoor companies can do to be more inclusive to all groups, especially LGBTQ+ communities? KYLE: Show up. Outdoor companies need to show up at events and break down the walls about what the “outdoors” are and who “belongs” there. Spending time outdoors is about connecting with yourself, with friends, with nature… There’s no reason there should be barriers to anyone in the outdoors.
History pop-quiz: Do you know the origins of the rainbow flag? KYLE: I do! It started in the wake of Stonewall and it was a symbol to invite all walks of life to feel like they’re part of the greater community. It was designed as a flag to inspire people to rally together.
*Editors note: Woo, 10 points to Kyle! The first rainbow flag is attributed to Gilbert Baker – an Army vet and drag performer living in San Francisco in the 70s – who teamed up with Harvey Milk in the wake of the Stonewall Riots to create a flag for the LGBTQ+ “nation.” The most common LGBTQ+ flag has six colors: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, royal blue for art, and violet for spirit. There are many variations of the classic rainbow flag and dozens of other flags associated with the LGBTQ+ community. Hopefully you’ll see them all flying high at local Pride events this summer.
What does Pride mean to you? KYLE: For me, it’s about community and letting people be who they are. Celebrate what makes you uniquely you.
How are you planning to celebrate Pride this year? KYLE: I’m traveling back to Ohio to spend time reconnecting with family and friends. My husband and I started a whiskey distillery in Columbus so we’re having a big party. As for Toad, I’m excited for us as a company to show up at local Pride events this summer (Pride celebrations go well beyond June in California…). At the end of the day, Pride is just a celebration of people who care about people. It’s about supporting the good stuff out there.
Final question – name 5 tracks (or artists) on repeat during Pride:
When the phrase “car camping” comes to mind, you might envision the well-curated craft of surviving in the out-of-doors a la Wes Anderson. It’s a well executed blend of home sweet home meets the great outdoors into a savory alfresco. But when is comes to driving a rickety 1959 trailer across the country on our Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour, the line between survival and car glamping begins to blur. But Dr. Drew, our Tour Manager and Master of Wingin’-It makes tight tour dates and long hours between the white lines look like a breeze. We caught up with Dr. Drew for his advice and insights into easy summer car camping.
Cot or inflatable or sleeping pad? No more sleeping pads! Cots or inflatable only to help keep the ol’ back in fighting shape.
Sleeping bag VS. Blanket? What you want is a high “warm and cozy” factor and the freedom to move freely. In the summertime, I go blanket. Currently using: Down-filled Kammok Bobcat Trail Quilt (mostly because I like the name). For a lighter but equally cozy option, I’m all about the Cashmoore Blanket.
Jerky – A tasty protein filled snack that keeps froth levels high and hunger levels low. Currently munching: Epic Provisions, high quality product and a mission-based company.
Kitchen – Never hit the road without a way to heat up water. No matter where you are, you can fire up a hot meal and warm the soul. Currently using: Jet Boil Genesis Base Camp System. Lightweight, packable, everything you need to get gourmet if you want.
Quinoa – Fills you up in desperate times. Good sweet or savory.
Trail Mix – When the Jet Boil runs out of fuel and you have to go caveman style. I’m currently snacking on Shar Snacks (rhymes with “bear”), which I picked up in Austin. Organic and responsibly sourced.
A good book – Currently reading: History of Haight Ashbury by Charles Perry.
Audio Book – The sound of another human’s voice can be quite comforting on the open road, especially when it reminds you of home. Currently listening to: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.
Tunes – DemerBox for indestructible tunes and a long battery life. Currently jamming to: 2 Spotify playlists, Highway Sounds (more rocky/bluesy) and I’m With Her (all the badass ladies).
Bug Control – When you’re in Charleston in the summertime, you need all the help you can get. I’m not a fan of the chemical sprays so I like to wear clothes with Insect Shield® Technology built right into it. Currently wearing: Debug Mission Ridge Pants and Debug Peak Season Shirt – they keep the bugs out and still look presentable for date night.
Trash – Rule #1: try not to make any. I like to make my own meals, buy in bulk with mason jars, and avoid takeout. But if you’re driving, stick a box on the passenger seat floor, a perfect receptacle for cherry stems and peach pits.
Hydration Station – My ultimate long drive hack: strap a Camelbak to your seat and never deal with water bottle caps and spills again!
Happy Trails. Come out and see the Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour on the road. Check out national summer schedule here.
Over the course of human history, food has taken on different meanings for different people. For some, food is simply the fuel that drives the body. For others, food is an art, creatively crafted to please all of the senses. And for an even smaller group, food is the centerpiece of a competition that knows no cosmic limits. A competition so vast that it’s been said that contestants prepare for weeks, fine tuning their creations, testing daring new recipes and sometimes even the limits of science itself… Born out of bread, cheese and boldness, the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown is a culmination of visionary chefs, experimental ingredients and the desire to create one grilled cheese to rule them all.
The Competitors Table: A place of battle waged with bread and cheese.
Now in it’s 5th year, the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown started in 2011 as a modest competition between Toads and friends. The goal? To create the greatest grilled cheese sandwich in the known universe. Over the years the competition has grown, just like our bellies on the night of competition. In its second year, the Smackdown escalated with the addition of the Golden Spatula, the highly coveted trophy awarded by an elite team of judges. The Smackdown grew considerably through its third and fourth years, but nothing could have prepared us for the epic clash of carbs and dairy that was the 5th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown held at Toad HQ in the early days of April 2017.
The real winners in this competition? Whoever got to eat this.
Undoubtedly, the best part of the Smackdown (besides the heaps of cheese consumed) is the support from our Santa Barbara Community. This year teams representing Alpha Resource Center, Santa Barbara Fire Department, Salty Girl Seafood,UCSB’s Bren School,Ontraport, and Visit Santa Barbara joined the competition. Toad&Co represented with three teams including past winners Nina and Ian. The judges had their mouths full this year with two 30-minute heats and 9 grilled cheeses comin’ in hot! And as much as taste will win over a judge, presentation turned out to be just as important this year. Contestants plating their sandwiches on everything from fine china to polished wood platters, and many sandwiches were accompanied by a specialty cocktail. In the case of SB Fire Department, a straight shot of tequila was the perfect garnish. Because getting the judges a little liquored up is surely a good way to win them over.
Team Santa Barbara Fire Deptartment bringing the heat with their spicy grilled cheese dubbed En Fuego.
As contestants crafted their delicacies, onlookers drank in a delicious pale ale from local Telegraph Brewingand fought off the evening chill with Tuscan Tomato Soup from non-profit Organic Soup Kitchen. As sandwiches began to take shape, hungry masses gathered round to snap up samples and compare notes. Even though the esteemed judges award the Golden Spatula, the crowd was tasked with picking the People’s Choice Grilled Cheese by the end of the night.
As attendees mingled around sampling the various specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, one sandwich began to emerge as the crowd favorite. Pure Cheese, a delicious combination of pepper jack and cheddar cheese, spinach and mushrooms, created by Alpha Resource Center,quickly racked up votes for this year’s People’s Choice Award. More than just a killer grilled cheese team, Alpha Resource Center is a shining star in our community – they’re a multi-faceted service center providing support and information for families of persons with developmental disabilities . Part if our mission is to empower adults with disabilities, so we couldn’t be more appreciative of all the great work Alpha Resource Center is doing to empower and integrate adults with disabilities in our community. Grilled cheese smackdowns, local park maintenance, rock bands, community volunteering – there’s nothing the Alpha folks CAN’T do!
Organic Soup Kitchen kept everyone full with their delicious Tomato Soup.
For those of us with a more traditional palette, the make-your-own grilled cheese station was a hit!
As an evening breeze began to whisper through the trees, the judges huddled around more for warmth than secrecy. Choosing between all of the cheesy goodness must have been a challenge, but a winner had to be crowned. In third place, Phil and Billy from Santa Barbara Fire Department Got the “Overall Hottest Award” for their spicy En Fuegosandwich. In second place, Toad’s Nina and Ian got accolades for their tres chic, artisanal sandwich, The French Onion. With second and third place announced, a hushed silence fell over the crowd (minus our Ops Manager Neil who was far more interested in finishing off the keg). Weeks of experimenting with recipes and cooking methods had led up to this moment: The Golden Spatula went to Natalie and Danielle from Visit Santa Barbara for their exquisite and entirely local-sourced Fromage de la Riviera!
3rd Place – Phil and Billy representing Santa Barbara Fire Department. Living up to their “Overall Hottest” Award, indeed.
Previous winners Ian and Nina ended up in second place this year. From the looks of it, they will be back with vengeance!
1st place – Natalie and Danielle representing Visit Santa Barbara. You go girls!
For anyone who’s ever been to the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown, you know grilled cheese sandwiches are more than just food. They are shining effigies of the two greatest things on earth: bread and cheese. And when those most perfect things meet in the holy confines of a griddle, it’s pure magic. The 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown will be here before you know it, so everyone better start practicing now. Practice makes perfect, and that means lots of test-runs eating sample grilled cheeses. You know, in the name of science.
Friends, grilled cheese, and beer – good times guaranteed.
There’s a reason our tagline is “Keep Good Company.” Everything is a little bit better when you’ve got someone to share it with. Or hundreds of people. That’s how our gal Courtney Edmands felt when she completed Trek Across Maine, a 180 mile bike ride to benefit the American Lung Association. Courtney is one of the Toads at our Freeport, ME store. She’s equal parts heart and spunk, and someone whom we feel pretty darn lucky to keep company with. Here’s a snapshot into her Trek Across Maine. Ride on, Courtney!
180 miles wound through rural towns of Downeast Maine, amongst stunning golden meadows and mountain views, over bridges and alongside rivers. From Sunday River in Bethel, ME to the Atlantic coast in Belfast, sleepy vistas jolted awake as 2,000 cyclists put petal to pavement for the Trek Across Maine event over Father’s Day weekend. With clear, sunny skies and a steady stream of like minded folks by my side, the road was my ultimate happy place (even during mile 101).
In it’s 32nd year, Trek Across Maine is a 3 day ride from mountains to the sea that benefits the American Lung Association. It’s an event that we Mainers look forward to every year. Participants from outdoor sporting companies, bike vendors, local hospitals and individuals from across the state come together to bike for a cause.
Taking a leap out of my comfort zone, I signed up for the life changing experience. It was inspiring to see the collaboration efforts amongst all the different communities. Dedicated staff and volunteers created a stunning, well laid out course with all the necessities we needed along the way. Crowds came out to cheer us on as we rode through little towns. And friends and family heard our call to donate, no matter how much, to the cause that we were supporting. It really does take a village. That and some well-greased gears.
Over the 3 days I pushed my physical and mental limits. When the horn was blown at Sunday River on Day 1, all 2,000 of us started down the path together. Motivating music and encouraging cheers faded into sounds of wild wind, clicking gears and calls of “On your left!” Hours of road signs, kitschy local advertising and wide open spaces gave way to mind games of endurance. And every so often I was confronted with the true danger of the road: holding a long breath while zipping past a hefty cow farm!
But boy, did we celebrate at the end of the day! After 60 or so miles each day, we’d roll into the final stop with sore feet and happy hearts. Exhausted but never too tired for a cold beer, we would find our way to the local live bar. At the end of Day 1, we made our way to The Dugout in Farmington, ME where we enjoyed perhaps the most refreshing beer to date (but after 60 miles on a bike, just about all refreshments have new meaning). Over local Allagash White and Frye’s Leap IPA from Sebago Brewing, we reminisced on the great landscapes we’d just rolled through. Folks swam in the river, cheersed in the beer tent and spent some time tuning up their trusty steeds. It wasn’t completely rugged, but there’s certainty in remembering 60 miles are ahead the next morning…
So we woke up, legs bound to bicycle, and the only option was to keep cranking chain. Ten miles turned into child’s play, being “just around the corner” from the next check point. We’d hear hoots and hollers up ahead when riders at the top of the hill had made it, encouraging us to keep on keepin’ on. After hours on the road, you realize you might be on the same path as everyone else, but the adventure has become your own.
Three days later, the aches and pains gave way to gratitude. I was proud of myself and proud of everyone for making the trek across Maine, and I was proud to support such a great cause. Knowing that we made an impact on The American Lung Association made that last ride across the finish line that much sweeter.
And in case you were curious, why yes I DID bike in a skirt! I will say the Toad&Co Whirlwind Skirt was, and continues to be, one of the best “bike to beer” pieces I’ve ever owned. To be able to wear it over cycling shorts and transition comfortably to a more dressy dinner piece in one swift motion… incredible! I receive compliments to this day when I wear it (which is embarrassingly often). If it’s good enough for the bike path, it’s good enough for me!