Friday, August 26, 2016

RV Road Trip - Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Home

June 21. We're sorry to leave Minneapolis on Tuesday but it's time for us to start back east. Our next destination is Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We spend the first night after a long drive in Gladstone, MI at a camp along the shore of Lake Michigan. In the morning we take our time leaving, eating a lunch of grilled hotdogs before we go.

A shorter drive brings us to Castle Rock, a campground in St Ignace, MI. This is our home until Saturday. 

We settle in and relax. There’s no lake view but Lake Huron is close by. It's our anniversary - 36 years! We have pork chops, corn, and watermelon for dinner, and a nice bottle of celebratory Rombauer  wine that we've been saving for a few years.

Thursday June 23. The plan for the day is to go to Mackinac Island, but first I have a call with Bennett, my running coach. He's helping me process the race. My goal this week is to write down race thoughts as they occur. We are going to talk again next week. I know he'd like me to sign up to be coached by him again but I don't want to spend the money. He'd have to give me a huge discount! Ha, not happening.

We take the ferry to Mackinac Island. It's breezy and cold up on top but the views are great. Mackinac is adorable. 

No cars are allowed on the island. People get around mostly by horses, bikes, and feet. We walk east and eat lunch at Bistro on the Green and then walk along the shore. It's a lovely day but warm. We let the dogs get in the water before we turn around. 

I start to fade as we get close to town. My feet hurt and I'm feeling tired. But it's only 5 days after the marathon and nothing a little chocolate mint chip ice cream won't fix.

That evening we want to see the classic cars parade down the the road in front of the campsite but I misunderstand the times and we only get a few glimpses of the cars. We're disappointed. Lee knows something about them and can identify the year and make of a lot of them. I know nothing about old cars except that they are pretty and evoke a mysterious sense of nostalgia in my bones.

The next day we don't try as hard to be tourists. We laze around in the morning, then go to the park overlooking the Mackinac bridge. 

We walk along the water, then head to downtown St Ignace. Surprise! All the classic cars are lined up along the street so we get to see them after all.

The next day starts two long days of driving to get home. The first day we take a "shortcut" through Canada that ends up taking probably just as long as if we had gone through Detroit, because of the wait at the border. We stay outside of Niagara Falls in a KOA campground in Lewiston New York. There is a vague sense that the falls are close but we never see them. We've both been there in our earlier years so we don't really feel deprived.

The last day includes a seemingly endless drive through upstate New York, western Massachusetts, and finally we’re home. The lawn is shaggy and the garden needs weeding and there's lots of laundry to do, but it's nice to be back in New Hampshire. We really enjoyed our RV adventure and are already planning more destinations for the coming months and years. But for now we’re ready to enjoy a New England summer, the best time of the of year up here!

Friday, August 19, 2016

RV Road Trip - Zumbrota, Duluth and Minneapolis, Including Grandma's Marathon

Thursday June 16. A bumpy road through Iowa eventually leads us to Zumbrota, Minnesota, and Cathy and JA's farm. Cathy is Lee's sister. She and her husband bought this farm in Minnesota with their son and daughter-in-law several years ago and moved here from Missouri. Her son Andrew has a great blog about all things concerning the running of a small family farm in the upper midwest - Green Machine Farm.

Its still hot but a little cooler, and we enjoy the country breezes. We have dinner outside overlooking the farm and later a few people and small dogs take a walk to look at the chickens. The Westie's reaction to the chickens is predictable, but these free range birds are not easily ruffled. One of my niece's, Cathy's daughter Kate, is also running Grandma's tomorrow. This is her first marathon. She just had a baby only 6 month's ago so I'm totally in awe of her. Once I had kids I didn't run again for at least 10 years!

Cathy has four grandchildren, two 3, almost 4 year olds, and 2 babies. The 3 year olds play with our dogs and the dogs think it's great. The 3 year olds treat the dogs like live dolls. They are used to the big farm dogs, but don't have as much experience with little dogs. Our dogs like children, but can't be bossed around as well as dolls. It makes for some funny interactions, as the 3 year olds decide to "put on a show", but our dogs don't act their parts properly.

Friday June 17. The 2.5 hour drive to Duluth takes 4 because of construction but we make it. We set up the RV at Buffalo House campground 10 miles outside Duluth. Grandma's Marathon is a big event for this small city and it wasn't easy to find an RV campground close to town. We go into town to get my bib and go to the race expo. The expo is warm and crowded and I don't really need anything so I'm done quickly. Lee fixes me spaghetti for dinner, I lay out my stuff for the marathon and fall asleep quickly.

Saturday June 18. Grandmas Marathon. I had a hard time writing anything about this race at first. I was completely undone by the heat and had a miserable finish, but most of the race was beautiful and fun. I do my usual early morning pre-race routine, or so I think. Lee drives me to the place where I can pick up one of the buses to the starting line. The only way to get to the starting line of Grandma's is by bus, or train. On the bus I suddenly realize that I've forgotten my GPS watch! At first I'm horrified. How will I know what pace I'm running? How will I keep myself from going out too fast? Then I tell myself sternly, "Okay, you're supposed to run this race by feel so do it!" I've been training by feel for the past 4 months and have started getting a good idea of how fast I'm going without looking at my watch. I like having the watch so I can verify my time but there's nothing I can do about it. 

The weather at the start is mild, 62F. I have another niece, Nicole,  running Grandma's as her first marathon. We text each other and realize that we are in the same porta potty line! What are the chances with 7,500 runners getting ready to toe the starting line! We stand at the start together, nervous but excited.

The race starts and I wave goodbye to Nicole. I start with a pace that's a "5" on a scale of one to ten, using a 60/30 run/walk ratio, feeling good. The first 10 miles go well. Somewhere in here the informational flags that Grandma's uses to warn of dangerous conditions change to yellow. By mile 13 the flags have changed to black, warning us of extreme conditions, and I'm feeling the heat.

Grandma's marathon is a scenic, rural community course, along the north shore of Lake Superior. There are not a lot of spectators but the ones there are yell "thanks runners!" As we pass by. No thank YOU, I say! My fellow runners are happy, confident and friendly. Every water station has not only water, but ice. Soon I am taking every cup of ice I can get and putting it down both the front and back of my shirt, and sometimes down my pants too, which feels really odd. You'd think I'd be screaming and jumping up and down with ice in my sports bra, wouldnt you? Nope. It feels great, and it melts way too soon.

Many, many people have set up sprinklers on their lawns and we runners go through them every chance we get. They help too, but only for a little bit. Somewhere around mile 15 I change to a 30/30 run/walk ratio and begin to slow down significantly. I'm now concerned mainly about finishing in the heat. The temps are climbing into the upper 70's, which is very very hot for a marathon especially if you're not acclimated. 

At Mile 22 I find Lee at the top of Lemon Drop Hill. It's the only significant hill on the course, and it's not very big, but it comes late in the race, which makes it harder than it would normally be for a hill its size. By now I'm really suffering. He hands me some Gatorade, which tastes close to heaven. The sun is beating down and there is hardly any shade. I run the rest of the race on pure guts. I walk a lot more toward the end than in any of my previous marathons, even St. Louis. I can remember only a little bit from the last few miles. I remember worrying about the mile of cobblestones that turned out to be brick pavers and no big deal. I remember going through the turns that make up the final mile and cursing as each turn revealed more course and not the finish line. My final time was 6:18, 30 minutes worse than St. Louis, my worst marathon to date. 

There were medical volunteers at the end of the course asking everyone as they crossed the finish line if they were okay. At first I say yes and then after a couple more steps I say no, and turn into the medical tent. My throat seems to be closing and I can't breathe. After a few minutes in the tent I feel much better. I'm a little embarrassed by my moment of weakness but they want to check me out. They are worried that I might be having a heart attack, being an old lady and all, but all my vitals are fine. To this day I don't know what it was. After promising to go straight to an emergency room if my symptoms return or get worse they finally let me go. I get my finisher shirt and my awesome medal, but none of the other goodies that they usually have for you at the end of a big race. I missed all of that by going into the medical tent. 

I find Lee and we head back to the RV so I can shower and change and get a little something to eat. At first I'm so sad and confused about what happened. I'm having trouble processing it. What should I have done differently? How could I have handled things better? The answers come slowly at first, but there are answers there for me to learn from. Did I start out too fast? Probably. If its going to be that hot I would have been better off if I had gone more slowly from the very start. Beyond that not forgetting my GPS watch would have been nice. The takeaway from that is to have a checklist and make SURE you check everything on it off! Beyond that however, the main thing I learned from this race is something I already knew, really. I don't perform well in temperatures above 70F, and my ability to run in the heat is getting worse as I get older. If I ever run into a situation like this again I will slow way down from the start and just try to finish and not worry about my time. Strangely, once I get over my initial disappointment I'm not at all put off by this experience. I'm already looking forward to The Dopey Challenge in January, and beyond. 

That evening Nicole comes out to Buffalo House for dinner. She is elated, her first marathon was great in spite of the heat. She is doing well, having fun, finishing up nursing school. She and Tom might stay in Duluth for awhile, it's a nice town, just so far north there is no spring, just 9 months of winter, a month of mud and then it's summer. Two days before Grandma's the highs were in the 40's in Duluth. Dang!

Sunday June 19. The next morning we head down to Minny to visit with Sarah and Erik for a few days. Mika, their sweet little Westie, is at first a little shy and then completely thrilled to have three dogs that look and act just like her at her house. She quickly becomes one of the pack. I even take all four for a walk by myself one night, which is no problem except every time someone stops to do their business we get all tangled and have to fix things.

Sarah makes a delicious meal Sunday night. Hanger steak, taters, salad. My daughter has definitely inherited her father's abilities in the kitchen!

Monday June 20.  We move slowly in the morning. I'm still very sore and stiff. My belated Mother's Day present of a massage later really feels wonderful. We go shopping for a baby shower present for a friend of Sarah's. We decide on swaddling blankets, a onesie, and Goodnight Moon.

That evening we go to dinner at Birch restaurant in Uptown. Although it's a steakhouse no one wants steak again so we have a bunch of sides, fried chicken, and grilled octopus. All very good!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

RV Road Trip - Columbia and Kirksville Missouri

Saturday June 11th. I do a 10 mile run at 5 am by running around the lake at our RV park in St. Peter's Missouri twice, stopping for water at the camper in-between each loop . Then it's on to Columbia, a less than two hour drive away. It's not too hard to set up the RV in front of Joanne's house. We plug into her water and electricity and we're all set. Joanne has a cat so we set up the soft sided crate in her den for the Westies. This is fine, until Simone ventures out from the bedroom. And it would have still been fine if we had bothered to zip up the top of the crate. Up leap the Westies, tipping over the crate and leaping out of the top. Off goes Simone back to the bedroom, with the pack in hot pursuit. Before I can get them away I hear a YEAORWRRRR and a short yip. Someone got their nose scratched, I think. I chase the Westies out of the bedroom and close the door. Poor Simone! No fair getting chased in your own house!

Sunday June 12. Dot and Ann, Lee's aunt and cousin, come over for lunch. We have BBQ chicken and potato salad. That evening we go over to Gail and Phil's for dinner. We have known them forever, since the kids were babies, and have taken great vacations together. Gail always has interesting projects going on. She is currently making a dinette set for one of her daughters. It looks very very nice! Phil is taking up running again and asked me all sorts of questions. He is using the run/walk method. Good for him. Jeff Galloway says if you combine running and walking in the appropriate combinations you can run your entire life. I don't see why not!

Monday June 13. I start the morning with a 6 mile run. I'm supposed to do 3.5 miles at race pace but again I can't really because of the heat, so run it by feel. It ends up a 7 on a scale of 1-10, 11:50 mpm, not too bad considering. Then we drive up to Fayette to get a rocking chair from Lee's Aunt Dot for Sarah. It's a pretty little rocker with simple lines, maybe needs the seat replaced. It is Grandma Norton's rocker, made for a little person, so there you go. We eat lunch at Everett's, a Cajun restaurant on the town square in Fayette. We have the dogs with us so we leave them in the car with the air conditioning on and the engine running. I sit at the table in the restaurant so I can see the truck, even though Lee makes fun of me. I don't want anyone stealing our dogs, or thinking they are in distress and smashing a window!

In the evening we go over to Mark and Mary's house. We drive past their house to look at "our" house, the one that we built, where we lived for 14 years and raised our kids. Sometime I'd like to knock on the door and ask if we could come inside and see it. I bet its changed a lot, which might be a little unsettling. I wonder if they'd mind if we tried to find the "time capsule" Sarah buried behind the garage when she was ten years old!

Mark and Mary have two crazy boxers so we've left our dogs back at Joanne's. Tucker is pretty calm, but Duke is only two and still pretty crazy. Who knows what they would have thought if three Westies invaded their they have a cat, and we know how that worked out with Simone....

Mary is a great cook, we have salmon, lentils and a yummy salad for dinner. 

Tuesday June 14th. Lots of eating and avoiding the heat. French toast for breakfast, blts with Missouri tomatoes for lunch, frozen custard for dessert. This is a Midwest thing. It's not the same as soft serve ice cream, trust me! Oh, and Shakespeare's pizza for dinner.

Wednesday June 15. My last 4 mile run goes well. I've done everything I can for the marathon, now its off to Kirksville, Missouri to visit Lee's Aunt Pat and cousins Eric and Jon. Hot hot hot. High of 97. We park the RV at the Northeast Missouri State Fairgrounds across from Pat's house. There is water and electricity but no sewer. There is a dumping station but without Jon's help we may never have found it. We are the only ones staying at the Fairgrounds. For the dogs this is great. Its far from the road and there is a fence so they have a giant field to run around in. 

Lee's Aunt Pat is amazing. She is 92 and still going strong. The woman in my husband's family live forever. It's fun visiting with everyone and eating lots of good Missouri country cooking.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

RV Road Trip - New Hampshire to St. Louis

In June we took a 3 week trip in our new RV to the midwest to see family and friends, run Grandma's Marathon, and explore a bit of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We have decided that the RV is a great way to travel, relatively inexpensive, nice for the dogs, stress-free for us.  Here is the story of that inaugural trip!

Monday June 6th. We drive across Massachusetts and New York to Brockville, NY outside Rochester. Hills and wind make for terrible gas mileage on our first day. The RV park is pleasant, quiet, rural. We set up camp; the new wire fencing makes a nice little yard for the dogs. We have an outdoor rug but it's too windy for Lee to lay it down. It's nice drinking a beer and hanging out in our little yard, but the dogs growl and bark at every passerby. Very annoying! They need a long walk but we are too tired.

That night I have a disturbing dream. I'm asleep in the RV. Suddenly I'm awake in a strange house. Where am I? I go outside, there is Lee. I ask him, "Do I have Alzheimer's?" He looks at me strangely, and says "Yes, of course!" like this was something I should have known. I realize I am having one of those fleeting moments of lucidity that Alzheimer patients sometimes have. This is frightening and I start to cry.

Later in the morning I realize that the majority of my dream time with Alzheimer's was....nothing. It was only when I became lucid that it was frightening. This was both reassuring and upsetting. I hope it's not a premonition, but if it is I guess it's nothing to be afraid of. It's mostly just nothing because my memory would be gone, a kind of living death.

Tuesday June 7th. I get up early because I'm supposed to run. But as I'm drinking my coffee I read an email my coach sent me last night. We've been emailing back and forth because my run on Sunday was very challenging and I was feeling discouraged again. His email said "don't run today, take another  recovery day." I immediately know he is right but I need a figure of authority to tell me that rest will be more beneficial than a run at this point. 

Now we're on our way to Ohio. The weather is more pleasant, although it is still windy. 

Thursday June 9th. Even getting up at 5, this morning's run was another hot one. It wasn't THAT hot, mid 70's by the end, but I'm working on speed and I'm not acclimated. All I can do is slow down, add more walk breaks, and run by feel. I have to work so hard for crappy times in the heat! It sucks. 

This RV park is a really nice place though. We are in St. Peter's Missouri, out in the St. Louis suburbs, on a large lake. There is a dearth of trees, and the high today is in the 90's, so we have the RV aircon on. There's a nice breeze, and with the awning up we had shade on the side of the camper until around 3 pm, but now we're inside. Earlier while I was outside with the dogs a neighbor came by to say hello and admire them. We've already met another Westie, and people love to tell us stories of the Westies they've known and loved. The girls are great, playing, hanging out in the shade, greeting people politely. But Cossy has to bark at every passing dog, every baby stroller, every truck. Defender of the pack! It would be funny if I didn't worry that he is annoying the neighbors.

If the lows are in the 40's and the highs are in the 60's for the race next Saturday in Duluth I will be fine, and will be able to do my best, whatever that ends up being. But if the highs start climbing into the70's I'm toast. I'll just have to chalk this up to a learning experience and save all the techniques and knowledge I've gained for another marathon.

In the evening we go to see Ray and Al, my aunt and uncle. We eat at Lesters, a deli favorite. We brought the dogs with us but left them in their soft sided crate in their house and they did great. 

Friday June 10th. I didn't do the fartlek run, with the heat I'm erring on the side of caution. That morning we went to pick up Nancy and Charlotte, my mom's cousin and friend. We were going to try to find the tree and the brick paver we had dedicated in Forest Park in honor of my parents. It was beastly hot, and I was a little worried about the ladies. They are both much more spry than my mom, but heat is heat and I didn't want them to have to do a lot of walking around. 

We had a pretty good map. We knew the tree, an Ohio Buckeye, was on a hillside near the Art Museum. We found a nearby parking spot thanks to Nancy's handicapped hang tag. We wandered around checking for the tree. There are pines, redbuds and dogwoods, but what the heck does an Ohio Buckeye look like anyway? Finally Lee found it. It was bigger than we thought it would be. We took a few pictures, and I got out my mom's ashes and sprinkled them at the foot of the tree. I felt like I should say a prayer or recite a poem, or something, but I didn't.

Then we walked around the corner to the area near the Worlds Fair Pavillion to find the brick paver. We knew what section it was in but we still had to read a bunch of the brick dedications before Nancy found it, practically at our feet.

Then we went over to the Boathouse to eat lunch. Although it was warm it was shady and they had their fans on so it wasn't that bad.

It was really nice to see Nancy and Charlotte, but it made me miss my mom a lot. It seemed so strange to be hanging out with them without Hilda. I felt like she was going to show up any moment. Maybe she did....

That night we drove over to Webster Groves to see Sarah and Jay Moore, old friends from Columbia. They took us to a great local restaurant, Robust, that had wine flights and lots of very yummy small plates. I especially liked the figgy flatbread and the baked Camembert. As we sat there finishing our meal my cousin Michael showed up! He said he might try to come and I was so happy that he did! He knows Sarah and Jay from work they all do at Doorways, a housing association for people with HIV and AIDS. It was a wonderful evening.


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