Monday, June 29, 2009

Running of the Squirrels

As a sporadic runner I enjoy getting my monthly copy of Runner’s World and checking out all of the world-class races in exotic locations such as New York, Chicago, London, etc. I usually spend a couple of minutes trying to convince myself to get into enough shape to complete the race and start to think about how cool a particular race may be to run in, but thoughts of entering usually pass pretty quickly as I move on to other things. Well, after scanning the May issue there was one race listed that could not be passed up. It was none other than the “Running of the Squirrels.”
This race was to be held in Marionville, MO and I couldn’t believe a race hosted in a town of 500 (with two of those residents being my Grandparents) would be listed in Runner’s World. So I quickly tried to encourage all of my family members to take part and to chase after the infamous “White Squirrel Medal” -- which is only handed out to the top three finishers in each age category. It is much better to suffer through something together than to go at it alone and it seems like my family is always willing to jump right in and try new things and so the challenge was made. And they did not disappoint. I am proud to say our family members represented 16 out of the 150 or so participants. Some of us ran, some walked, and some did a combination of both, but we all survived, got a t-shirt out of it, and most importantly we had a great time doing the event together.

Austin and Ethan enjoyed the Saturday morning stroll.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Great Weekend in St Louis

Looking for a chance to get away on a short trip during Memorial Day we decided to make the trip north to St. Louis. It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since we have been there and quite frankly we were somewhat disappointed that we have allowed so much time to pass prior to making a return trip. The last time we were in the city Jill had just finished school, we were both packing up all of our belongings, and we were putting the finishing touches on our wedding plans. Needless to say we probably didn’t take enough time to take in all of the final moments and didn’t enjoy our exit as much as we should have. So we were thankful to get the chance to visit the city and visit some of our favorite spots.
Our weekend was spent bouncing from one activity to another but we were able to squeeze a lot into the three day period. We were able to revisit some of our old favorites like the zoo, the Loop, the shops in St. Charles, and Busch Stadium (although this was our first visit to the new stadium). We were also able to revisit some of Jill’s old apartments and the school. Although the city has changed some while we have been away, it still provides that comfort level and feels a little bit like home. The trip itself brought back a lot of memories and specific events that happened while we were there and l it made us miss the “city-life” a bit.

Shakespeare in the Park

Historical Downtown St. Charles

Great Italian Restaurant in "the Hill"

Fun at the Zoo

Breakfast at Rooster

A walk down memory lane of my old street and apartment

No trip is complete without a root beer float from Fitz's

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Grand Canyon Adventure

As has been the new established tradition of our vacations, we were up very early packing all of the last minute additions and making sure that we had everything ready for our vacation. One of the things that we failed to realize was how difficult it would be to pack for our trip. This trip itself was unlike any other that we have ever taken simply because of the activities that we were going to do along the way. For example, how hard is it pack for the beach? Swimsuit, t-shirt, swimsuit, flip-flops, one nice shirt, and finally -- another swimsuit. Not that difficult! But for this trip we had to pack all of our hiking gear, clothes for about 3 different climates (I never realized how much different the weather is from Northern Arizona to Southern Arizona), and if you don’t know my wife, please understand that she tends to over pack a bit. Just as a reference point, she usually packs at least two bags when we go to our parents’ house for the weekend. Needless to say, our packing took some effort but we were able to get all of our stuff squeezed in.

We have decided that it is always best to take the earliest flight available so that we have a full day to enjoy; however, that means getting up at the crack of dawn and getting out the door. Although we had many vacation “Yea moments” our first occurred at the airport. Remember, as mentioned above, we had a difficult time packing and we are always concerned about those weight limits. Well, all of our bags made the cut! It was extremely close as one registered at exactly 50 pounds but thankfully we didn’t have to sit and reshuffle things from bag to bag while in the airport. Upon arrival at Phoenix, we made our way to get the rental car (free upgrade from economy to mid-size – Yea Moment!) and then we were off. Thanks to Jill the researcher and our Garmin we were able to navigate the city like locals. So our day in Phoenix consisted of some great food at some hometown restaurants, taking in an Arizona Diamondback’s game, and doing some true touristy things like visiting the art district and downtown Scottsdale.

Diamondback's Baseball Game

We ended our first day of vacation by making the short two hour drive from Phoenix to Sedona and while it was a bit of a struggle since we started to feel the effects of gaining (and using) the two extra hours in our day, it was definitely worth it to be able to wake up in Sedona instead of having to spend the daylight hours in the car. As a reward for the late-night travels we were able to sleep in a bit and then we hit the ground running. Our time in Sedona consisted of doing some smaller hikes of the 3 – 4 mile variety and taking the opportunity to enjoy the town of Sedona and some of the surrounding areas. The area itself is pretty amazing and lends itself to multiple photo opportunities (as evidenced by the multiple memory cards that we went through). Each day was unique as we were always able to get outside and perform some physical activity, but we also made sure that there was plenty of relaxation time so that we could window shop at Jerome or downtown Sedona, or we could just sit by the pool or the hotel’s great outdoor fireplaces.

Red Rock State Park

Neat shopping spot with local artists

Favorite Dinner Spot-- It was so beautiful and it was like we had it to ourselves!!

They marked at the trails with these pile of rocks

Jerome-- Old Mining/Ghost Town

Grand Canyon
The majority of our trip was focused on the Grand Canyon and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We left Sedona early in the morning as we wanted to make it to the Grand Canyon in time to enjoy the sun setting over the canyon. We went up a scenic highway to Flagstaff and as we traveled we continued to watch the temperature plummet as we got closer and closer. Again, we failed to realize that the temperature could fluctuate as much as twenty degrees between Sedona and the Grand Canyon and so we left in shorts but by the time that we made it into the National Park we were bundled up in about three layers of clothes. Regardless of how hot or cold it ever is the experience of actually being there is definitely worth it!

We spent a couple of hours traveling from lookout point to lookout point and I think that we took about 200 pictures in an attempt to capture how massive it actually is.

Thankfully Jill was able to negotiate our way into a room at the park and that saved us a lot of travel time and hassle. The room itself was very small and we had community bathrooms but it was great to be able to stay at the park.

The next morning was met with a little bit of nervousness and great anticipation as we realized that we had to hike nine miles down to the base of the canyon. Everything that we had read said that we needed to start at five or six in the morning but we delayed that a bit as we didn’t want to get down to the bottom to early, We decided to check out some of the other lookout points that morning and then we started our decent at about 11:00. We had our bags packed to the gills and we knew that the hike itself was going to take at least five hours. As we went down into the canyon we were able to experience things that very few people every get to experience. We shared the trail with about six other people and it was after about the two mile mark that we realized that we were doing something that very few people do.

At the top about ready to start down!

Mule Crossing

We were able to take our time and really enjoy each other’s company on the trail but as much as we enjoyed the hike down, we also enjoyed reaching the bottom. The hike itself was not too difficult but anytime that you experience a 7000 foot change in elevation you are probably going to be a bit tired. In addition, the bottom of the canyon is about 20 degrees warmer than the top and so by the time that we reached the bottom our backs were drenched with sweat and we were ready for a break.

Pretty steep right here-- glad neither of us is afraid of heights

Looking ahead to all the switchbacks

First glimpse of the Colorado River

Bridge we crossed to get across the Colorado

We quickly set up camp and rested for the remainder of the evening. We enjoyed our time at the base as we were able to recharge physically and we were able to enjoy a great night of sleep with the relaxing sounds of the Colorado River right outside of our tent door.

Yummy- Dinner from a bag

We were up shortly after sunrise as we had to tear down our camp and prepare for the 12 mile hike back up. The hike itself was a lot different than the hike down as the areas that we traveled through were much different than the other side of the canyon. During the trip up we faced a lot of steep inclines and switchbacks that were not quite as evident on our way down. Thankfully there was water available at the halfway mark as we had already went through one camelback and we had to take more snack breaks just to keep our energy levels up. After six hours we were able to realize the full effect of our accomplishment as we finally reached the top. Our muscles were a bit sore and we were definitely ready to be off of the trail but we were also convinced that this was certainly a trip that we will repeat again in the future.

Looking back to see how far we have come

Almost to the top!!

We were able to make our way back to Scottsdale after hiking up the canyon and although it felt good to sit and rest, it was also a bit difficult to be confined to the car for a couple of hours. We rewarded ourselves and our bodies by checking into our hotel and instantly finding the hot-tub. Our muscles, however limited they may be, were refreshed as we enjoyed a relaxing soak to end the day.
The next morning we were able to get our second wind and we decided to take a bike ride around the city. Our hotel had some bicycles that we could use and so we decided that it would be nice to go and pick up our breakfast. We found out that Scottsdale has some great trails and that the neighborhoods are all connected. The trails provide great access to everything and make it very easy to get around. We spent a couple of hours riding around, picked up breakfast, and then headed back to the pool to enjoy the day. It was great to be able to relax on our last day and just do as we wished with no real plans or agenda but to enjoy our last few hours before heading back home.