Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ragnar Relay - Vegas

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada!  Last weekend Kevin and I ventured to the Sin City where I would run in a relay race with four friends.  Part of the Ragnar Relay series, the scene would be Las Vegas (though never actually running through the city or down the strip, just around it), for 197 miles.  

We arrived the day before, walked the strip and tried to have a good time, though the runners were reserved, wanted to conserve energy for the grueling race the next day. With a cold front.

At 7am we left the strip in style, with our minivan decorated with flames.

For some reason the race started on the top of a very large mountain.  As we drove up the mountain, it became colder and colder, and we could see a mysterious mountain shrouded in clouds.  We feared for Runner #1.

Us desert rats started freaking out with the snow.  The runners look so cold.

#151, Ultra 5!  Our team was named the Hot Streaks.  We don't look hot at all....

Chillin' in the ski lodge, applying temporary tattoos, getting runner #1 ready, and staying warm.

 Exchange #1, Michael handing off to Zach.  I like this for the photo bomb quality, as Camryn looked at the picture and screamed "No! Scary Monster!" (dude in the back).  Also funny is that Michael about ran through the exchange, missing the placement of the snap-band on Zach, which is why he is repeating it with two hands while they are laughing.

Runners Michael (left) and Tony (middle) at an exchange at the end of Day 1.  It was getting dark, so full night-time safety gear was required, which was reflective vest, headlamp, and butt blinker.

Nathen (left) and Tony (wearing two pairs of pants) look very cold.

Zach finished his last leg, having run 45ish miles, and with the same excruciating knee pain that I developed middle of my second leg. He was the first runner completely done, so it was emotional.

 Me trying to roll out my tight iliotibial band before my last leg.  Too late, knee pain already severe.

Runners passing Lake Mead.  This is the second-to-last leg, which Tony ran.  I ran the last leg, a painful measly seven miles to cross the finish line.

Note the absence of pictures of me?  That would be due to mainly the fact that all of my legs were in the dark, and I didn't remind anyone to take pics (though the night ones don't look as good).

So in summary, I ran about 30 miles, split into three legs.  I developed an acute, very painful iliotibial band syndrome after about 20 miles.  I slept about two hours total and ate nothing but PB&J, granola bars, bananas, jerky, an apple, and goo.  Our team finished in 33:21:45, placing 358th, beating 154 teams.  That includes 12-person teams too, so we did great!  I commend everyone's ability to work together through such trying conditions, pick up the extra miles (runner #6 dropped out last minute), and bond so well.  I love these guys dearly now.  We are actually already talking about the next one!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


As promised, here are more pictures of the Yellowstone Bison.  Maybe it's because they are so rare, or because they are half tame in the park, but they are extraordinary creatures.

This one was just walking along the side of the road when he decided to lay down and take a dust bath.

They cross the roads often, and this poor little baby got left behind, and wasn't quite confident on his own.  After sniffing the road for a few minutes and staring longingly after his herd he cantered across, right in front of our car.

Who knew bison could swim?

This entire herd just crossed the river, then proceeded to cross the road to go into the valley field.

Another bison to cross right in front of our car, and even gave us a few choice signals with his tongue.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Halloween

Everyone complains of gaining weight over "the holidays" and I realize now it begins with Halloween.  We started by making cookies at Mason's request.  It sounded like a great way to have fun, and I can be spontaneous.  Little did I know before beginning that we were out of regular flour and confectioner's sugar (the latter for regular frosting) and maybe something else.  We used wheat flour and the finished product was interesting, but definitely tolerable because of chocolate frosting.

The following week we made pumpkin donuts.  For some reason I was motivated to use the donut maker again (we do so rarely), and the concept sounded too cute.  The kids really like helping to bake.  And of course I taught them to lick the beaters, that's the best part!

These donuts were delicious!  I just used a boxed pumpkin bread recipe, slightly modified.  We frosted them to make them cute, but it wasn't necessary.  I can't stop eating even the plain ones.

This little princess turns psycho when candy is involved.  I tried to get her to use the small cute bad for Trick or Treating, but she insisted on the large, bulky, difficult to carry and to open, plastic grocery bag.  She only got away with it because she's so cute.

Gotta eat that candy right away.  And Woody obviously thinks she will drop something for him.  Fat chance!

Mason dressed up as "black" Spiderman, aka Venom.  He wasn't too interested in candy, was nervous still going up to strange houses.  And he didn't even wear the mask.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reptile Show

We went to the reptile show like we do every year.  One of the favorite features is always the petting zoo.  It was very crowded, but the kids did get to pet a monitor lizard and a tortoise.

New this year was a fossil dig, sponsored by the owners of the prior T-Rex museum (closed).  The kids found real fossils like shark teeth and fish bones.

Mason held a type of ball python that has a special gene trait that causes absence of melanoma (not albinism).  Very neat coloring, and a super nice snake.

Mason had been begging for a bearded dragon, but our investigation showed them to be expensive, smelly, and difficult to care for.  The best starter lizard:  Leopard geckos.  So we got two, one for each of the kids, and they are adorable!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waterfalls of Yelllowstone

Upper Falls.  
Below are more of the amazing falls, caused by the geologic disturbances, new step-offs, due to the volcanic activity.  So cool!

Yellowstone River Canyon

From the Brink of Lower Falls.  Don't fall!

Lower Falls (the famous one)

A cute picture, even though Mason was having trouble smiling and keeping his eyes reasonably open due to heavy glare from the sun.  Quite the over-dramatic boy.  I think the black bird in the background makes this shot.

Not a bad family picture, and finally a good smile on our handsome man.  And notice the gap in his teeth, he lost one on the trip!

Gibbon Falls, a cascade-style falls, very elegant

On our way out, we passed by Lewis Falls. The water is actually warmer than the air in the cold mornings, so there was mist coming off the river and falls.  It was incredible and a great way to end the trip, and energize a long drive starting at 7am!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wondrous Wildlife

 A ground squirrel, just chillin' by the side of the trail.  The wildlife was amazing, different from other places we've lived.  Below are samples, only what I could get a picture of.  Also seen but not pictured is an American Pine Marten (or some other weasel-looking mammal), Osprey (barely seen), deer, and some other birds.  Sadly no moose, black bears or eagles.

 Magpies invading our picnic site

 This coyote looks a little better fed than the ones in Arizona

 Yellow-bellied marmot on our hike to the Natural Bridge

 A beautiful male Elk that was seen often by himself in these woods in the middle of the day. 

 This herd was seen at 6am one misty morning, the largest group we saw.

 And I would like to thank my Canon Rebel T3 with my new telephoto lens for the shot of this cutie.

 Elk are very common in Yellowstone, we saw them every day, though not always as perfect as this.  It was amazing how they weren't afraid, allowing themselves to be seen so often.  Once, though, a female charged a group of tourists that were getting too close. 

This tiny speck is a Grizzly bear.  We could see it better using some nice person's binoculars, and it was one of Mason's favorite things about the trip.

Bison were probably our favorite wildlife given their uniqueness, closeness, and rarity, though we still saw them often.  They deserve their own blog post they are so cool!  So stay tuned....

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yellowstone - Introduction

This summer's family vacation was camping in Yellowstone National Park.  In summary, it was a phenomenal vacation.  It was a lot of hard work, both preparing for and in daily activity.  We were camping with two small children, after all.  We never would have survived without our ingenious and thorough preparation.  Kevin did almost everything from packing (and didn't forget anything!) to buying individual/dual DVD players for the kids.  These players saved our lives. 

Erika bought quite a few small toys as rewards and car entertainment.  These she wrapped, so the kids got "presents" along the way.  It worked well to keep them behaved.

We did actually forget one thing - Mason's shoes.  Kevin didn't pack any, and Erika put the kids straight from bed (notice the PJs) into the car, sans shoes.  Day two in the car we went to a Walmart and bought a pair.  The irony is that Camryn had four pairs. 

We survived the car ride and arrived!  We ended up setting up camp with barely enough light.  Dada and Mason shared a tent and air mattress and Mama and Cami shared the tiny tent, with only thin pads.  Who decided that was fair?

Day one we spent in the Upper Geyser Basin.  There was so much to do there!  We walked the trails and saw so many geysers, hot springs, and steam pots.   Erika took almost 400 photos the entire trip, and hasn't had time to sort them all yet, so here is a sampling of day one.

Castle geyser
 View of the basin and Yellowstone river.

 Chromatic pool, a hot spring

The spectacular Old Faithful.  We saw this probably 4-5 times the entire trip and it was one of Mason's favorite things.  Then we went back to camp to finish setting up and have some campfire food!