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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tri-State Jamboree Ride Review - 2017

Low Mountain Overlook
We took three rides this past Jamboree.  Here’s the scoop on these rides from a more experienced perspective.

#11 Low Mountain
This 55 mile intermediate ride took us into the Arizona desert.  Guides Reg and Ken piloted us through a 2-mile stretch of lava rock, which riders in previous years really disliked.  They reported that the BLM had done some work on this stretch this year, which seemed about right as the road was not that bad.  When we reached the top, we recognized a couple of signs and realized that we had been on the south side of the road previously – traveling up from Mesquite, NV.  Now we know.

We hit a long stretch of mud on this ride – an added challenge courtesy of our much needed snowfall this year – and came off the ride with ATV, boots, and pants splattered with the stuff.  All part of the fun.  There were no “intermediate plus” surprises on this ride – or maybe we’ve just become better riders.  The trail was fun and the scenery was great. 

#23 Diamond Valley
When we signed up for Jamboree we agreed that we’d take a Beginner ride on the Friday so I could do most of the driving and give Paul a break. 
World's Largest Laccolith
When we saw that Diamond Valley, one of the new rides of 2017, was listed as a beginner ride of only 35 miles, I jumped in line to sign up.

The guides told me as I walked up that “this is not a Beginner ride.”  When I asked how difficult it was, they told me “Intermediate minus.”  Hmmmm.  I signed up anyway.

It turned out I was the only one who signed up.  When we reported for the ride, guides Dale, Fred, and Lee were happy to take out a single machine.  This broke two Jamboree records in our book – the only ride we’ve ever been on where we were the only riders, and the only ride we’ve ever been on where the quads outnumbered the side-by-sides.

I drove.  I learned that 1) driving an ATV on paved roads is difficult, especially without power steering (oops); 2) I hate being off camber (major oops); and 3) I’m not a very fast driver (thanks to Dale, Fred and Lee for putting up with the slow pace). 

The ride featured an up close view of the world’s largest laccolith.  (Laccolith: noun; geology.  A mass of igneous rock formed from magma that did not find its way to the surface but spread laterally into a lenticular body, forcing overlying strata to bulge upward.)  It also featured a significant stretch of mud.  Paul got to drive that section.  One advantage of fewer machines – not nearly as much mud splatter!

All in all a fun, albeit slow, ride.  I recommend they reclassify it to at least Beginner Plus if not Intermediate.

Top of Dutchman's Draw
#25 Dutchman’s Draw
Our third ride was the exact opposite of the Diamond Valley ride – it was full!  Twenty machines – not including guides, tackled the very dusty road toward the more beautiful trails through the Dutchman’s Draw.  And when I say dusty, I mean “can’t see ten feet ahead of you” kind of dusty.  I think I may have preferred the mud.

Guides James, Rulon and Jerry took us through the amazing tree-filled trails at the top; then stopped for lunch on a flat, sunny plain with no trees at all.  Really?  How do you expect the ladies to heed nature’s call when there’s not even a tree to hide behind?  Thankfully there was a ditch about 100 yards back, and the gentlemen on the ride were kind enough not to watch.

The description of the ride was accurate; 50 miles of intermediate level terrain.  It was quite popular as it was a new ride, but again, worth taking.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tri-State Jamboree Ride Review - 2016

Elephant Butte
At our first Tri-State ATV Jamboree, we participated in two of the 28 rides offered.  Here’s the run-down on those two rides – from a rookie point of view.

#6 Maildrop / Barracks
This ride is pretty popular – so popular, in fact, that they actually offered it as rides #4, #5, and #7 as well.  It is billed as 40 mile intermediate ride.  The trailhead is near Kanab, about an hour’s drive from Jamboree Headquarters.

The ride was every bit as beautiful – and as much fun – as the description portrayed.   With our lead guide, Jim, leading the way, we visited several spectacular viewpoints and other interesting sites.  I was first to find the elephant in Elephant Butte, which garnered me $2 from Jim.  The photo I took at a really interesting rock formation ended up on the cover of the 2017 Jamboree Newspaper.  And the consecutive banked turns on the ride were really fun to drive – at least, that’s what Paul said.  I was too busy hanging on.

Before we started the ride, Jim asked if we would be interested in taking a slight detour which would present a bit of a challenge but the ride would be worth it.  Of course we went along with it.  When we saw the “bit of a challenge” we were more than a bit concerned.  It was steep.  Paul drove it like a champ but it pushed our little machine to its limit.  That was when we broke the code:

The Code:  What we considered “Oh, s__t!” is considered “intermediate plus” in the Tri-State Jamboree.

The “slight detour” ended up adding 20 miles to the ride, and unfortunately, our little machine ran out of gas.  We were more than a little embarrassed, but our tail gunner, Donnie, came to the rescue and wouldn’t take any money.  I hope someday to pay that one forward. 

I’ve heard from other jamboree riders that their guides also took the longer route.  If I ever have any kind of input on the content of the Jamboree Newspaper, I plan to strongly encourage the editors to just tell people up front that the ride is 60 miles so they are more prepared.  That said, the ride was definitely worth the extra miles and extra time. 

#19 Curly Hollow
Our second ride of 2016 started a little closer to Jamboree Headquarters – in a neighborhood near St. George.  It was also billed as 40 mile intermediate ride. 
Top of Curly Hollow

The description boasts many elevation changes.  We rode up and down dozens of hills on the trail as we made our way to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the Virgin River.  Then it was back down, and before we knew it we were on the banks of the Virgin River. 

OK – there was one minor obstacle – the trail down to the river was very steep and very rocky.  We made our way down and relaxed a bit on the sandy banks, steeling ourselves for the eventual climb back up.  It was not without incident.  As we started the climb, I felt the front wheels of the ATV come up off the ground and found myself sliding off the back.  I scrambled to my feet pretty quickly, was completely unhurt, and managed to hitch a ride up to the top on one of the side-by-sides. 

Virgin River
When we got to the top, I learned that one of our fellow riders and a fellow photographer had captured the whole thing on video.  He very graciously sent me a copy.  Don’t look for me to post it any time soon. 

The rest of the ride was dusty but uneventful.  It really was about 40 miles, and most of the terrain really was intermediate skill level – with the above-mentioned exception.  Again, a ride worth taking.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

What a Difference a Year Makes

Tri-State Jamboree Newspaper Cover Photo
March 8 – 11, 2017 marked the second time we participated in the Tri-State ATV Jamboree.  This time, our familiar experience was punctuated by a few key differences.  True, we were returning to our old stomping grounds, but we were wiser.

First, we were no longer rookies –both to the Jamboree in particular and to ATV riding in general.  We knew where to go and what to expect at the Jamboree, and were even able to give advice to this year’s first timers.  But we had also logged a lot more hours riding – a critical factor in Jamboree riding as even the easiest rides carry an expectation of ability to ride what’s in front of you and keep up with who’s in front of you. 

Old machine - check out the rope stirrups
Second, we had a much better machine.  Our new Polaris 570 Touring Model is a legitimate two-up, as opposed to our under-powered Yamaha of last year with the “Queen’s Chair” and the makeshift stirrups.  I never dared drive the Yamaha with Paul riding behind, where I’ve driven the Polaris with Paul riding many times now – even on this Jamboree.

It was really great seeing some of the friends we’d met last year.  “Cousin” Carol Richardson was back, along with her little dog Tinkerbell.  She introduced us to “Cousin” Etta, who drove her own quad and had a helmet with her name on it.  “When I call it, it will come,” she quipped.  Our friends Peg and Jerry from Riley, Idaho were back, as well as Arvin and Lorelei from Minnesota. 

Cousin Etta
One of my photos (above) was featured on the cover of the 2017 Jamboree newspaper, winning me a free registration and instant credibility in the new circle of Jamboree participants.  Of course, with this newfound credibility likely comes the expectation of future participation.  No worries.  When we get our second home in Hurricane we expect to be active members of the Tri-State ATV club.  Who knows?  I might even get to guide a ride someday!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Emotional Intelligence and Politics

Where have I been, you ask? 

Truthfully, I’ve been in kind of a funk since the end of the year.  It seems that every time I sit down at my computer I find myself googling political commentary – mostly commentary that I agree with – and reassuring myself that I’m not the only one in a funk.  This at the expense of writing.  If it weren’t for running I’d probably completely devolve into a bon-bon eating, political-commentary-watching couch potato.

I exaggerate.  It’s really not that bad and we’ve actually done some fun things so far in 2017.  I will write about those things, I promise.  But now I want to write about emotional intelligence in the context of politics. 

The 2016 election was one of the most divisive – and emotional – in the history of our great nation.  In fact, it would be interesting to understand just how many votes were cast based on emotion rather than facts or qualifications.  Although I doubt there’s a way to capture that information because I don’t think anyone will admit that they voted based on emotion.  I do know several people who told me they voted for “the lesser of two evils.”

The results are in, and regardless of how we feel about the new president, he is our president.  There are times that I watch him in action and think, “he totally lacks emotional intelligence.”  There are other times that it seems like he not only has significant emotional intelligence, but also knows how to play the emotions of others for maximum advantage. 

This is my opinion only.  I am not qualified to assess the level of emotional intelligence of the President of the United States, or anyone else.  I can use my own emotional intelligence, in this case, self-awareness and self-management, to bring myself out of the current funk and back into being creative.  Self-awareness helped me to recognize that my emotional state has taken me down a proverbial rabbit hole that I need to climb out of. 

Self-management comes next.  Now it’s time to take better action than watching Keith Olbermann.  The good news is that I can.  If there’s something I feel strongly about, I can write my senators and my congresswoman.  I can write our governor – and I have!  And once having taken action, I can get back to living my life and doing the things that I choose to do.  And of course, get back to writing.

I’m back.