Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Race Crew

I saw Ragnar Wasatch Back this year from a different perspective.

Though I had been signed up and set to run for nearly a year, and even had specific routes assigned, I had to pull out about 6 weeks before the event due to an injured injury that I actually think is due to my 8.2 run up East Canyon last Ragnar. I felt horrible pulling out at such short notice and tried to make it up by offering to be one of our team's 3 required volunteers.

When my long-time teammate and friend, Greg, told me that his son Chance (who ran with us last year) would be taking my place and was extremely excited about the opportunity to run again, I smiled really big. I couldn't think of anyone better to run for went a long ways towards erasing my guilt and sadness. 

I manned water station on leg 35...the second to last leg in the entire 2 day race....coming down from the crest of Guardsman Pass. It was a long leg...8 miles. And it was this particular group of runner's 3rd and final leg. So they were tired and sore...but anticipating the exhilarating finish so close and soon to come.

Another girl was assigned to help with the water station along with me. And I immediately could see the difference between us. She had (wonderfully) volunteered to help out a niece who was running but didn't really know much about the race. I had run it 3 times before, knew all the ins and outs of how the whole thing worked, knew how the runners felt and was much more invested. While my volunteer partner wandered around to see the view, played around on her phone and talked to her aunt who she had brought along with her for company, I became the ultimate energizer bunny cheerleader. I waved at every van that came around that corner and drove past us. I cheered, whooped,hollered and encouraged every runner that came by, whether they stopped for water or not. 

And I was kind of amazed at the amount of Ragnar love I got in return. Volunteers are hugely appreciated by Ragnar runners. I know this. I've been a runner. But I was still a little stunned at how many runners called out their thanks and expressed their feelings for me as a volunteer. I can't count how many vans cheered for me, went out of their way to roll down their windows to wave back.

* I laughed at countless funny things runners would say as they took their quick water break. Lots of muttered comments about downhill runs and losing toenails, the heat, the sore muscles, the blisters.

* One girl came running up and breathlessly told me, "I just got stung by a bee! On my butt!!" When I expressed concern, she lifted up the leg of her shorts and actually showed me. And yep, right there she had a lovely little welt. I asked if she needed anything and she cheerfully replied, "No. It doesn't hurt anymore. It just really surprised me and I totally screamed! But I'm fine now!" And then off she ran as she gave me a jaunty little wave. I could only laugh.

* Another guy, as he guzzled down some water, asked if I had a cell phone. I whipped it out and he asked if I could text his wife. "I was suppose to call her when I started my last leg," he said. He jogged in place as he gave me the number and told me what to say and then he ran off, calling back to me "You're the best!!!" His wife and I texted back and forth a bit....neither one of us having any clue who the other was but not thinking much about the supposed weirdness of the situation because weird doesn't really have any place in Ragnar.

* We were startled to see a van coming barreling around the corner and screech to a halt on the other side of the road. A few people jumped out, talking with what seemed like a bit of panic. A few seconds later a man came running around the corner....but with a severe limp. He looked like he was in a lot of pain. His teammates called out to him to stop and a younger guy came running across the street to yank the orange slap bracelet off his arm. He ran off as the older man crumpled to the ground just to the side of our water table, breathing heavily. It all happened so fast. We ran over, as did two other ladies. Apparently the man had crashed into some big sign up at the top of the hill. He heard a snap in his ankle, he said. I offered to call for help, but he declined. Being within miles of the finish line, he let his teammates help him back to the van, planning to get his ankle checked out at at the bottom of the hill. 

* I saw 3 people I knew go by. Mark from my old Magna neighborhood. Jay, a friend from jr high, high school and college. And funny enough, Sean....also a school friend. But Sean wasn't running. He wasn't part of Ragnar at all. He just happened to be biking up in Park City that weekend. It was fun to see them all.

When my shift ended, they didn't have anyone to take my place. So I offered to stay for an extra hour. Afterwards, I made my way to Park City myself a late lunch, did some Ragnar swag shopping and more or less just took in the atmosphere and participated in the finish line party. Admittedly, I was a little sad at times to see all those runners and to know what they had accomplished and remember how cool that felt. And part of me wished that I had earned that seriously sweet 10th anniversary Wasatch Back medal. But wow, I tell you what...volunteering was fun! To still be a part of things, even though I couldn't run, and see the awesomeness that is Ragnar from a whole different perspective....I very well may choose to volunteer again next year.

Friday, June 21, 2013


I am a Trekkie. I don't know if this bit of information surprises you or not. At times, it surprises me. The sci-fi geekish part of me is admittedly on the small side, but is strong all the same. I'm not sure whether I am more proud or embarrassed to admit that I had a subscription to a Star Trek fan magazine. I owned a Star Trek communicator pin (that actually made the official noise when you pressed it) and actually wore it attached to my jacket. The thing is...this was not when I was a young and impressionable teenager. No, I was an adult...married and in college at Utah State University. That communicator pin....I wore it proudly around campus. Believe it or not, I actually even wrote a paper all about the ins and outs of being a Trekkie for my English class.
Yes. I did that.

And though maybe not as outwardly and obviously geekish as me, Bryan was right there with me in Star Trek fandom.(Who do you think started me down that Star Trek path??) We watched reruns of Star Trek: the Next Generation every single night at 10:00. We had a running "name that episode" contest....we'd already seen every single one. After Star Trek: TNG ended we made our way through Deep Space Nine and Voyager, finally calling it quits when we couldn't really get into the prequel series Enterprise. (Bryan always claimed it had to do with the opening credits music...such a departure from the normal Trek style theme song. Wrong, just wrong.)

I saw the midnight showing of the movie Star Trek Generations...the one that was meant to "pass the baton" from Capt. Kirk's original crew to Capt. Picard's Next Generation crew. But after awhile (and I feel a little bit traitorous saying this) the movies got a little bit well, meh. And I stopped watching. Traitorous, I told you.

But then some time went by and the Star Trek franchise rebooted itself, prequel-ing Capt. Kirk's original crew and more or less turning the Trek timeline on it's head. And oh wow, oh wow...these two newest movies have made the Trekkie in me smile really, really big!

I suppose maybe none of this sci-fi geekiness is any kind of surprise whatsoever if you've ever noticed my current obsession with Dr. Who. I haven't written any college papers on it of course. And any and all fan magazines and sonic screwdrivers are bought solely for my children. But I have toyed with the idea of getting new family pictures taken with all of us wearing different Dr. Who t-shirts. Or bow ties. Because in the immortal words of Dr. Who "Bow ties are cool."
Yes, I am a geek.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Bucket List

My summer is shaping up to be a lot less complicated and busy than the past few. Partial reasons for that have to do with purposely pulling out of or saying no to specific things....for example, pulling out of Ragnar because of an injured hip may have been somewhat sad, but it meant time opening up where training would've been taking place. Or somewhat reluctantly turning down the opportunity to be in "Footloose" this summer in SLC. As much as I'm itching to be in a show again, I am immensely relieved to think of all those nights I'll be home relaxing with my family rather than driving back and forth to rehearsals. summer bucket list:

* Yoga or biking most mornings while my kids are still snoozing.
* Actually plant a garden and flowers and try to re-claim the backyard. (Done! Well, garden and flowers planted....let's see if we can keep them alive and make some progress in the backyard.)
* Watch all 3 seasons of Downton Abbey. (Got the first season done in a flurry of late night watching last week....)
* Watch the 2nd season of Once Upon a Time.
* Drink lots of green smoothies.
* Drink lots of water....with lemon and mint. Yum.
* Paint the laundry room.
* Build a gallery wall at the base of the stairs.
* Get a pedicure with my daughters.
* Date night with Bryan each week.
* Family Movie Night on Sundays.
* Lagoon! (We've only been as a family once in the past 13 years we've lived here. Can you believe it?? And we live practically within spitting distance of the place. Rebekah has employee discount passes....)
* READ. Really a lot.
* Go camping a couple of times. (Cause we now actually own a tent. I know, shocker!)
* Buy a BBQ. (We've been BBQ-less for the past 3 summers. So, so very sad and wrong.)
* Eat dinner on the patio as much as possible.
* Star watching nights with Brandon's telescope.
* See if it's possible to actually clean the house and then maintain throughout the summer. (Because I'm guessing my relaxing summer will be much more so if I'm not having eye-twitching anxiety about how disastrous the house is.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks....

I used to count down the days to school's end with dread. I liked order and schedules. I didn't like the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of days that summer brought. But with teenagers comes harder and sheer amounts of just more when it comes to homework and projects. Add their busy-ness to mine and that's a lot of crazy. Plus, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of days have become a lot more frequent in our lives. So I now count down the days to school's end with anticipation, looking forward to a break.  The kids are old enough to entertain themselves, and though they still complain about boredom at times, overall summer vacation is exactly that.....a vacation.

As to be expected, the last week of school was a doozy of end of year stuff. Here's some of the highlights....

*Kindergarten baby is heading off to 1st grade and a full day of school. Please don't judge me too harshly as I do the happy dance. By the way...Kindergarten graduation program....cutest thing ever!

 The graduating Kindergartners were told ahead of time that after the program, they were to meet their parents underneath their graduation certificate and self portrait, and then lead them outside for refreshments. Each child was allowed three cookies, and it was up to them whether or not they wanted to share with their parents...though I'm sure sharing was strongly suggested. Judging from Lilian's two fisted cookie monster pose here, each cookie with a bite taken out of it, can you guess what her choice was in regards to sharing? (I snuck a bite or two when she asked me to hold the cookies while she slid down the slide one last time....)

*9th Grade Awards Night.....Julianne, due to her insanely good grades, was invited to the awards night. Seriously, in the past 3 years of Jr. High, the girl has had only had two A-'s to mar her otherwise perfect straight A GPA....and those were in 7th grade. But beyond the 4.0 GPA and recognition for things like foreign language fair, choir solo and ensemble, and other such activities she has participated in, she also won a rather big that we didn't see coming. Each department picked one or two students who they felt had outstanding prospects, had gone above and beyond, and had achieved "greatness" for lack of a better word, in that department. Julianne's was awarded this special recognition from the French department.

*District last year, Brandon got a high enough overall score in the Presidential Fitness Challenge that he was one of four 6th graders sent to represent his school at the decathlon.

The 6th graders also had their big end of year dance. Bryan and I were on our cruise but a friend sent me this picture of Brandon with the caption, "6th grade dance star!"

*Rebekah got out of school a day earlier than the rest of her siblings. I think it had something to do with the last day of school being graduation for the seniors. So she went boating.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Victoria BC and Ship Life

Victoria BC in Canada was our last port of call on our final night of the cruise. We'd spent all of Friday and most of Saturday at sea, pulling into Victoria around 6:30 Saturday evening. Rather than book any excursion, Bryan and I decided to just explore the town on our own, and on foot. A little lady dressed Victorian style was handing out maps of town as we disembarked, and after talking with her a bit about what to see and where to go, we headed off.

We walked. And walked. And walked. I wish I could tell you how many miles we covered but my runkeeper app wasn't too thrilled with trying to locate us on GPS in Canada so I guess I'll just have to guess and say we walked a lot of miles. (How's that for vague?) We took the scenic route into town....saw lots of fun neighborhoods where the houses were incredibly charming, wandered through a gorgeous park, stumbled across a bunch of totem poles (yes, I was in raptures) and finally found ourselves downtown.
I'm not sure Bryan will be pleased I posted this picture...but I think it's really cute. We had a lot of fun exploring this park. And oh, the Herons...good heavens, when they are warning each other off about the salmon they have caught from the bay and fighting over it, I kid you sounds like someone is being brutally murdered. Completely unnerving!

Bryan decided to go all artsy and lay on the ground to get this shot of me and the whole, tall totem pole. So I whipped out my cell phone and got a picture of him....

(Side note: as we were walking through a neighborhood a car stopped to ask us for directions to a local restaurant. It was only after she had asked her question and right before we had time to answer, she noticed me holding a map. "Oh, you're not from here, are you? You don't look like tourists...your clothes and the colors you are wearing threw me off." Huh?
I was a little bit confused. The color of our clothes? I'm all about trying to fit in and not be all obvious touristy so regardless, I was pleased by her comment. I guess the mass amounts of cruise visitors to BC tend to wear brighter and more stereotypically tourist type of vacation clothes? Hmmm.)

The famous Empress Hotel. Admission...I really love ivy-covered buildings. And how pretty to be situated there at the water's edge.

And right across the street...the equally famous government building. How fun to be there on the grounds when the lights went on.
We took the water front path back to the harbor from downtown...equally pretty as the sun was going down. The Golden Princess is the ship in the middle.

This is the 6th cruise we have been on....all the other ones of the beachy variety: Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii. So it was not only fun to try something new, but also interesting to see the differences.
 (Leaving Seattle)

First of all,, jackets and jeans rather than flip flops, swimsuits and shorts. Seriously, we are the pack-light type of traveler. Cruises always tend to require more clothes anyway, but to try and coordinate outfits that required lots of layers and heavier clothing was indeed a challenge.

Second, as I've mentioned in past posts, we booked a balcony room. Knowing that much of our itinerary would be taking us past actual scenery rather than just miles and miles of ocean, and also the thought of being able to whale watch from our own personal balcony gave us the impetus to spring for a slightly more expensive room. And I have to say, it was so very, very worth it! I spent hours and hours on that balcony. And we also spent much more time in our room because of the light and bright rather than the dark, closet feel of an interior room. And this was a good thing because light and bright OR dark closet...Bryan likes to spend much more time in the room than I usually do. Naps, reading, etc. He's not as big of a fan of the ship entertainment. So it was really nice to not only not have to fight for balcony space while traveling through the Tracy Arm Fjord, but to also just chill in our room or out on our balcony during our downtime. And how fun to be reading on the balcony and hear someone on another balcony nearby yell, "Whale...9 o'clock!!" giving me just enough time to jump up from my chair, flipping my binoculars up to my eyes on my way to the rail and be rewarded with an awesome view of a whale tail. Saw lots of dolphins too. How cool is that? We also had conversations with our closest balcony mates to the sides and below us about excursions we'd gone on, the weather, how many whales we'd see, etc. I'm horribly worried that I enjoyed my balcony so much that I'll never be able to do a cruise without one again.

And did I mention how great of a reflection I got in the sliding glass door?? I had way too much fun taking selfies...

Third...we really didn't take part in too much of the ship's entertainment. We had late dining time so by the time we were done eating, we were usually tired and headed straight back up to the room rather than take in the night shows in the theater. Late dining and early to bed, early to rise....also differences on this cruise. We took advantage of the ship's gym....I signed up for the yoga classes. (Have you ever tried to do tree pose when the ground is moving beneath you??) I went to a health seminar. And I actually talked Bryan into accompanying me to a couple of visits to the art gallery and two actual art auctions (where he played candy crush on my iPad the whole time.) And really, I think the main reason he accompanied me to the auctions wasn't so much for support but more to make sure that I did not raise my hand and actually bid on I was truly tempted to do. One of my favorite things about cruises...I sure do love me a good art auction.

Fourth, we tried to watch our least a little bit. Oh, we ate frequently and plenty...but tried to keep it kind of, sort of balanced. And we did stairs. Seriously, I can count on one hand the amount of times we took the elevator during the week long trip. And let me tell you, we were plenty winded running around the ship....going from deck 4 to 14 for example, was a doozy...but it sure was good exercise. Plus, a lot better than killing time waiting for the elevator. When we got back home we happily discovered that neither one of us had gained a single pound. So yay for stairs!
Wayan from Indonesia and John from the Phillipines took excellent care of us at dinner each night. John was heading home on vacation two weeks after our cruise for a two month vacation after ten straight months at sea. He was planning to propose to his girlfriend of five years and was asking us to help him with ideas for a creative way to ask her to marry him. I hope it goes well for him. We really liked these guys...

Though we usually avoided the ship's photographers, just for kicks we decided to stop in at one of the photo-setups on formal night. And though this is the cheesiest high-school-prom-like pose of all 4 that he took, it was the best of the two of us. And frankly, maybe it's appropriate for a couple who's first date actually was Jr. Prom when we were teenagers, now celebrating twenty years of marriage.
So, Happy Anniversary to us!
(Here's to twenty more....)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Skagway was probably the most rustic of all the towns on our trip. I loved the old-timey feel and the fun boardwalk sidewalks.
We thought surely it was going to rain, hence the yellow rain jacket. The whole town was blanketed with fog when we sailed in that morning. It didn't rain. But it was cold! Well, at least until later in the afternoon when the sun came out. And then I stripped down to short sleeves and bare feet. The weather in Alaska was ever-changing.
I was obsessed with totem poles our whole trip. Maybe because we chose not to visit the Totem Pole park in Ketchikan? I got it into my head that a totem pole would be my Alaskan souvenir of choice and checked each and every store we stopped at. But the craftsmanship on them is detailed and time consuming....and the price reflects that. So funny enough, when I finally did find a totem pole with a somewhat decent price attached, I ended up buying something else entirely. Go figure. But this is why I'm hanging out with totem poles here in Skagway. And my foot in the air? Yeah....I don't know. (Just wait till you see the totem poles we found in Victoria BC!)

Yes, we actually spent some time in this internet cafe. Want to hear a story? Bryan is a fan of the game Candy Crush. He isn't on Facebook so he uses my account. All of you who were so impressed at my candy crushing skills that has me at level 200...yeah, that's all Bryan. In order to unlock the next group of levels we needed internet access...access that was somewhat expensive onboard the Golden Princess. So Bryan decided to bring the iPad into Skagway in the hopes of finding open internet somewhere that he could piggyback onto for a few minutes to update the game. It wasn't to be....until we found this internet cafe on a side road off Broadway. (Named because it's the broadest street in town...not because of its little vaudeville theatre...which I did try to talk Bryan into buying tix for. He didn't go for it.) 

So to continue on.... While in the internet cafe, Bryan noticed I had some update notifications, including ones for Candy Crush and Kindle. He started them running but the connection was slow and we had already unlocked the next Candy Crush levels so we decided to bag the updates and continue on our way. But when we got back on the ship later that evening, we discovered much to our horror, that the updates were stalled rather than just canceled. Which meant that not only could we not play Candy Crush, but I also could not read my books on Kindle (my first foray into electronic book reading.) And we still had 2 days left of our cruise...mostly at sea! So believe it or not, the next morning we did indeed make our way down to the ship's internet library and ended up paying close to $20 at 79 cents a minute to get our updates finished up. Sigh. Another reason why I'd prefer to have a book in my hand rather than on my iPad, maybe?

In the late morning/early afternoon we climbed aboard a little shuttle bus that took us on a 30 minute ride through town and up into the mountains. It was an absolutely beautiful ride...even if it did have my heart racing at the narrow roads and sheer drop-offs out my window. We arrived at the base of a sled dog and musher's summer camp. Within minutes we were climbing into the Unimog to head even higher up the mountain...another 10-15 minute ride.
 The Unimog is a german made vehicle used in both WWI and WWII. So cool!

We could tell that we were close when we started to hear the dogs barking. And wow, what a racket they made up there! There were a good 4 teams harnessed in, ready for their practice. And a bunch of others resting in their dog houses nearby. Part of their summer training consisted of taking us all for a ride in their summertime "sleds." Those dogs are strong and fast....such amazing, beautiful animals...many of which have competed in big winter races already, including the famous Iditarod and Yukon Quest.
After our ride was over, the musher's introduced us to their dogs by name and asked us to please, please play with their dogs. Ummm.....okay! Apparently we are doing them a favor by helping socialize the dogs and get them used to strangers so that when they travel they don't have problems being around big crowds and people they are unfamiliar with. Oh, they were such well behaved, wonderful dogs! For one who is already going through a "puppy-hungry" phase, this sled dog camp was such a little piece of heaven.
When we'd had our fill of doggy play (as if we could ever get enough, really) we took the Unimog back down the base camp again, stopping once for the scenic view of the Dyea Tidal Flats.
At base camp one of the mushers came to talk to us, answer our questions, tell us about life as a musher and what doing the Iditarod race was really like. Because see, this camp wasn't just for tourists. This camp was their home, their life. Which was kind of neat, feel like we were getting a peek into something unique and very different from the life I live. We met family members and heard funny stories and kind of felt like for a day, at least, we were friends....and even needed a bit in the training of their dogs. And after all our questions were asked and talk was spent, we got to play with the puppies!
Five weeks old! Aren't they beautiful? (For those who are wondering...yes, Bryan is allergic to dogs. And so yes, he was dosed up on benadryl....brought it on our trip specifically for something like this. I hadn't even thought we'd be seeing sled dogs but was so glad Bryan suggested it!)

Eight days old!

We got back to the ship just in time...I've never cut it that close to departure time before. Apparently they had been watching for our tour...I heard the security guards radio-ing in that we had finally arrived. 
To the left of the ships is Registry Rock. I first thought that some talented graffiti artists had found a way to get up there....until I realized that most of the art has to do with various cruise ships. Apparently each time a new ship arrives in Skagway for the first time, the officers are asked to paint their ship's logo, name and date of arrival on the rocks.

Goodbye Skagway....

 Next up and final....Victoria BC and ship life

Tracy Arm Fjord and Juneau
Victoria BC and Ship Life