Saturday, August 5, 2017

Karma and the ATV Adventure

Grassy Lake
Last Sunday’s ATV ride was a little more adventure than we bargained for.  The abundant rainfall in July made for some serious mud along the Arapeen OHV Trails.  On Friday’s ride we pulled a two-wheel-drive truck out of a muddy rut on Skyline Drive – the main road.  When we arrived, he was elbow-deep in mud trying to put down enough rocks to get himself out.  We learned that his name was Jim, that he’d been there all night, and that it had rained – again – at around midnight.  We hooked up his tow strap and pulled him out forward.  That was a sign.

On Saturday, we came across a fallen tree – right across the main road out of camp.  Again – armed with a tow strap and with the help of several riders on the other side of the tree, we dragged it off to the side, clearing the road.  That was a sign.

But ever optimistically ignoring the signs, we set out on Sunday on a long ride down Reeder Canyon to Joe’s Valley Reservoir, then taking the Potter’s Pond road back.

Reeder Canyon was actually in good shape.  There were a few muddy spots but nothing too deep or treacherous.  Several riders coming up the canyon assured us the road was completely passable.  And it was.  We reached the end of the road.  We saw Joe’s Valley Reservoir in the distance.  And we could not find the road to get us there. 

Nor could we find the road to take us north to Potter’s Pond.  Of course, the map was back in the trailer, and our GPS was less than helpful.  The one helpful way point it gave us was Grassy Lake.  We’d been near Grassy Lake, so we were sure we could find our way back from there. 

Off we went on a fairly major road, and soon enough we were at the turnoff to Grassy Lake.  We were sure that the road we wanted was just north, but hey, why not go check out the lake?  After a short stop, we headed back the way we’d come and proceeded to follow the road.  We realized we weren’t where we thought we were about ½ hour after we’d left the lake, but knew the road we were on took us to Skyline Drive.  We could make it back from there.

Or could we?  As we made the northbound turn on the ridge, we saw it.  Couldn’t miss it.  It was a snowdrift all the way across the road.  There was no way we were getting across it.  We had to find another way.  So we turned around and headed down a very rocky trail we’d been on before that we knew would get us back to Reeder Canyon.  At the bottom of the trail, we ran into some serious mud. 

Clouds about to burst
We knew we had to cross it – there was no other way.  So we plowed through and found ourselves at a 45 degree angle with the front wheels spinning.  Thankfully we were able to back out.  There was another fork.  The mud was just as deep but the steep section was on the downhill.  I hopped off to lessen the weight on the ATV, and Paul drove across.  I found a way across through the trees, avoiding the deep mud, and we were off.

Shortly after the mud we found the Reeder Canyon trail.  As we headed up, it started to rain. Then it started to pour.  Thank goodness for helmets and windbreakers.  As we finally pulled into camp, nearly 8 hours after we left, the sun was peeking out and we knew we were safe.

So where does karma come in?  I’ve always believed that good begets good, and in this case I’m sure of it.  We made it home safely.  We didn’t fight.  And on the other side of the huge mud puddle at the bottom of the rocky road, there was a truck waiting that would have pulled us out if we’d gotten stuck.  He made it across as well. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

If You're from Utah, You Must be a Republican

Another story from our Alaskan adventure.  When we arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska, we met an entrepreneur named Otto.  Otto is the owner of Alaska Smart Rentals, which quoted us the least expensive car on the island.  Granted, the car was a bit older and not exactly pristine, but that was exactly what we wanted.  It was great not to have to care about getting mud and or/fish guts in the rental car.

I digress.  This story is about Otto.  After Otto picked us up and brought us the Ford Explorer that would take us pretty much throughout Revillagigedo Island, we headed downtown to find a place for breakfast.  We chanced upon the Pioneer CafĂ©, where we sat at the counter and ordered up a hearty breakfast.  No sooner did our food arrive when Otto showed up and sat at the counter next to me.

We started chatting.  When we told him we were from Utah, he asked if we were Mormon.  No, we told him.  We’re not.  He assured us that he’d met a few Mormons and that he liked them, but that he was a Lutheran.

“But Utah is a Republican state, right?” 

“Yep,” my husband told him.  “My vote hasn’t counted in years.”

Otto then launched into a tirade that only a true Trump believer could have recited with a straight face.  He had donated $50 to Trump’s campaign.  Comey was a leaker.  Hillary should be in jail.  Russia didn’t have anything to do with Trump’s election.  It was all a witch hunt.  While we thought we’d made clear our true political leaning when we could get a word in edgewise, our statements went right over his head.  He was certain we were agreeing with him.  He ended the conversation by patting my husband on the back and telling him how delighted he was to be able to visit with fellow Republicans.

We’re still shaking our heads.  He believed us when we said we weren’t Mormons, but apparently everyone in Utah is a Republican.  That’s his story, and he’s probably still in Alaska sticking to it. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Celebration of Family

My husband’s step-brother died a week ago yesterday.  While a close family member’s death usually brings grief, this one did not.  This man had managed to alienate most of his family and friends, and in the end, he died alone.

To be truthful, it was not entirely his fault.  Mental illness is insidious.  I won’t go into my tirade of how the mentally ill really need to seek treatment and follow their doctors’ orders; I’ll only say that he did not.  And when he died, he left his estranged children with the task of setting his affairs in order and arranging for cremation.

So – how do you hold a memorial service for someone that nobody was even going to miss?  His siblings and children asked us to host an open house in his honor.  The event that actually transpired was a celebration of family.

The open house was pretty much the same as a luncheon following a funeral service – only without the funeral.  Or, since we live in Utah, without the funeral potatoes.  We had fresh flowers on the tables and a display of photos of the deceased, but the photos all had family members as well. 

We had not seen some of the family members who attended in over 20 years.  Some I did not recognize.  Little children had grown up and brought children of their own.  Some were in poor health.  Some of this man’s family had also not seen one another in over 20 years.  There were tear-filled hugs and past-due reconciliations.

We reminisced about the good times we’d had together.  Conversations revolved around the family.  We caught up with one another’s lives.  I uttered the words, “I am sorry for your loss,” only once – to the father of the deceased man who has now felt the tragedy of burying three of his sons.

I write this in gratitude for family.  I was so honored to be a part of what turned out to be a blessing for the family and friends of this man.  And if the occasion ever presents itself again, I will be honored to host a Celebration of Family.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Cruising Alaska – Local Style

MV Malaspina
Retirees - is Alaska on your bucket list?  Consider using the Alaska Marine Highway.

The Alaska Marine Highway is a system of ferries that run from the Port of Bellingham, Washington, to several communities in Alaska.  Most of these communities are only accessible by air or by sea.  The ferries are not luxurious by any means, but the accommodations are adequate, the ships are clean, the food is good, and the staff is friendly and courteous.

We drove to Bellingham, but you can also fly into Seattle and take a shuttle to Bellingham. On the ferry, you pretty much get what you pay for.  You can book a stateroom – or if you’re more adventurous, you can pitch your tent on the top deck or sleep in the recliner lounge.  The cafeteria is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – with two or three specials for each meal along with standard grill items and an array of packaged fruits, salads and desserts.  Only one of the ships – the Kennecott – still has a bar, and adult beverages are allowed only in your stateroom, but you can bring your own.

You can bring your car onboard.  Fees are based on length.  We saw small cars, large motor homes towing boats, and cars loaded with household belongings.  Pets are allowed, but must remain in kennels on the car deck, and you can only visit them on “car deck calls” announced by the Purser’s Office every few hours.

Once onboard, the voyage is pleasant.  While it’s often too cold to watch the scenery go by from the
Canadian coastline
outside, a large viewing deck at the front of the ship provides excellent views, and it’s pretty quick to run outside to get photos.

Our final destination was Ketchikan – the first major port on the route.  It’s a 38 hour cruise with only a couple of open water crossings where you could feel the rocking of the boat.  The crew warns you in advance of open water crossings – just in case you need to take a Dramamine.  This route also serves Wrangell, Petersburg, and Juneau.

Downtown Ketchikan
A bit of history:  Alaska was granted statehood in 1959.  The first state legislature passed a bond issue to build three ships for the planned marine highway system.  The three ships were completed in 1962. Our ship, MV Malaspina, was one of the original three ships.

Malaspina?  Sounds like Latin for “bad back.”  Turns out she was named for the Malaspina Glacier, which in turn was named for Italian explorer Alessandro Malaspina, who visited the area in 1791.  And while the ship’s “back” is sound, you can see a few “age spots” where the water hits. 

The ferries are austere, in contrast with the many cruise ships that sail Alaska’s inside passage.  But if you’re looking for good value in a pleasant trip to your Alaska destination, the Alaska Marine Highway may be for you.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Making up with Twitter

Sometime at the end of 2016 I broke up with Twitter.  I say sometime because my last tweet was December 24, 2016 – well after the election and well before the inauguration – so I can’t pin it to one of those dates.  But my rationale completely revolved around those dates. 

I just couldn’t support a platform upon which the leader of the free world acted so, well un-presidential.  I certainly wasn’t burying my head in the sand – if I wanted to read his tweets all I had to do was tune in to any major national news channel.  Besides, interesting tweets from the people I follow showed up occasionally in my email, and I seriously doubted that any of my 300 followers really missed my tweets. 

I changed my mind just these past few days, after reading an article in one of the running sites I follow that featured funny running tweets.  Not long after, I had a funny experience running that I was sure could have qualified as an addition to that list.  Dare I tweet it? 

As I continued running, I realized that my distaste for one person’s use of the Twitter platform didn’t make the Twitter platform bad.  And I realized that a) I was being petty and childish, and b) no one cared. When I came in from the run, I sent the tweet.

So I’m back.  But I still swear not to follow @RealDonaldTrump.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Oh Capitan, My Capitan

El Capitan
Yosemite National Park was the setting for this year’s first Vacation Races half marathon.  The race was held on Saturday, May 13, beginning at 6:00 AM. 

That’s right, 6:00 AM.  The race was run in two heats to accommodate the large number of runners and cars.  Since the start line was in a remote area outside of the park, every runner had to be bussed to the start line.  No exceptions.  The first heat’s runners departed their assigned parking lot at 4:30 AM.  I have no idea how many busses it took – but doing the math:  1500 runners per heat divided by 50 seats per bus = 30 busses.  That looked about right. 

About that 4:30 AM departure – our hotel was only five minutes from the parking lot, so we left at 4:20.  Big mistake.  So did every other carload of runners, and the two lane highway with a single stoplight at the turn to the parking lot was backed up for a couple of miles.  It took 20 minutes to make that 5 minute drive.  Thankfully, there were plenty of volunteers to direct the cars to the overflow parking, and plenty of busses to get us to the start line – with about 10 minutes to spare.  Not enough time for the porta-potty line.  Thank goodness for the bathroom on the bus!

And we were off.  The first five miles of the race were on a decent dirt road with only a few muddy spots.  Then it was downhill most of the way, with miles 5 – 10 a blur as we floated down the mountain.  I say we because I was actually keeping up with Sue!  At about mile 10, beautiful Bass Lake came into view, and rolling hills past beach houses and shore-side businesses dotted the course. 

Unfortunately, at about mile 10 that hip injury came back with a vengeance.  As Sue’s confident stride faded in front of me, I walked the uphills and ran the downhills into the finish line.  Even so, I finished in second place in my age division.  Sue and I were stopped at the finish line by a cute 20-something who gushed about how inspirational we were and how we’d kept her on pace.  We posed for a photo together. 

After the traditional celebration, we headed to the park. According to the locals, Yosemite was 
actually the first National Park (sorry, Yellowstone) because it was set aside by President Lincoln long before Teddy Roosevelt established the National Park Service.  In any case, the land is spectacular, with high cliffs and waterfalls, glaciers, and giant redwoods and sequoias.  Or so we are told.  On that Saturday afternoon, traffic toward Yosemite Valley was at a standstill and signs indicated to park now and walk in.  But the walk would have been nearly six miles – more than our tired old legs could handle, so we turned around and took photos from the overlook.

A good reason to return – on a weekday.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Dissecting a Race

I ran the Salt Lake City Half Marathon on Saturday, April 22, 2017.  Here’s what I discovered during the race.  I hope to use what I’ve learned to better train for future races.

I finished just over three minutes slower than last year.  As I compare the two races, I realized that I ran ahead of my target pace for the first five miles both times.  Because I could.  The race-day adrenaline was in full force, the weather was cool, and a good portion of the first five miles is downhill. 

The difference?  When I reached the long hill climb on South Temple I walked for a bit last year.  This year I ran the whole way.  And I noticed when I got to the stop that I had to consciously slow down because I could tell my heart rate was faster than it should have been.  Maybe that little bit of walking helped me to make up time later in the course.  Hmmmm.

My left hip started to bother me about halfway through the race.  Of course, I kept going.  Did it slow me down?  Possibly.   What was that all about?  Hmmmm.  After the race I paid a visit to my chiropractor and learned that my right leg was out of alignment and my left side took the punishment.  The sad thing is that I had started to feel it a few days before the race and decided I’d just power through it.  My bad.

I had read in one of the running newsletters I subscribe to that runners need about 45 grams of carbs per hour.  So I tried consciously making sure to eat a sport bean and drink some water every mile.  I’m not sure it was helpful.  It felt like too much.  I need to come up with a way to get sufficient nutrition without having to eat so much during the actual race.  Hmmmm.  

Even with my slower finish, my “graduation” into an older age group made my time fast enough not only  for first place in the 60 – 64 age group, but for first place in the Grand Masters category!  This was my first ever first place finish in a half marathon.  And best of all, my daughter and her fiancĂ© were there at the finish line, holding a large, neon-pink sign that read My Mom is Faster than your Mom!  That made it the sweetest finish of all.