Sunday, September 25, 2022

Banff Part II - Tunnel Mountain, Lake Minnewanka and the Banff Gondola

Back to my report on our trip to Banff:

Tuesday August 22nd, Banff

Daniel is 36 today! My baby….

I’m very glad we don’t have to drive long distances for the next 5 days. We only had to drive 3 and a half hours today, but that was enough. It was mostly prairie except for the last 30 minutes or so, the mountains rise up out of nowhere and then there’s Cranmore and then the National park and here you are.

 We are in Tunnel Mountain RV park, in the park itself. It’s huge but there really aren’t that many people, considering. We got set up and I took the dogs on a short walk. There is almost no connectivity here, no WiFi, hardly any cell service either. We called Dan to wish him a happy birthday and the call was dropped.

So we decided to go into town, get some coffee, find some wifi. We left the dogs in the RV and off we went.

Banff is a busy mountain tourist town, but nice. We figured out where to park and found some coffee. Even in town the connectivity wasn’t great but I was at least able to check my email and figure out where to do laundry tomorrow. And Google routed us back to the campsite in a way that’s much shorter than how we got here.

Now we’re back at the RV for the evening. We’ve got the screen tent up and I’m sitting outside keeping the dogs company for awhile. It’s cooled off enough that we can turn off the aircon, which might make Harper less anxious inside the RV. Maybe.

Tuesday August 23

I ran around the campground this morning. I ran for 40 minutes. The altitude isn’t bothering me, that’s a relief. It’s so big, I only ran around part of it. Just up and down the rows, looking at the different campers.

After my shower it was time to go into town and do laundry. The laundromat was in the basement of a shopping centre. I had to carry the laundry about 2 blocks, plus the soap, etc. It wasn’t too bad. Good thing I’m strong, lol.

When I got there is wasn’t too busy. The attendant gave me 22 Canadian dollars in coins for my 20 dollar US. I needed most of it to get my 2 loads washed and mostly dried. While I was waiting I finished the Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich. What a great book! It’s about the movement in the 1950’s to terminate the Indian Reservation system. Her grandfather was one of the tribal elders that fought against it and she made his story into a novel. It was fascinating. There was a lot of stuff about Indian culture and belief systems in it. In some ways it reminded me of the Magical Realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude, except that the spiritual/fantastical portions of the book are presented matter of factly, as if they were not unusual occurrences if you were a traditional Indian. Anyway, I loved it. 

After lunch we decided to drive to Lake Minnawanka, do a little hiking, a little driving. We tried out Heather’s new backpack. She wasn’t thrilled with it, but we hiked almost 2 miles around Lake Johnson and she just can’t walk that much anymore. Harper was full of vim and vigor however! I walked behind Lee so Heather could see me, and so I could see her too and make sure she was ok. Harper kept trying to catch up with Lee. Such a little booger!

Then we drove around the lake loop road. We were tired so just stopped a couple of times to take in the views and then went into town for coffee and a few groceries. Then Heather got to walk a little. 

And We Saw a Moose! Just Strolling Through Town...

Wednesday August 24th

Today we rode the Banff Gondola. There’s not a lot of parking at the gondola so they recommend that you take a shuttle. No problem, I bought tickets for 1:10 pm, and looked up the shuttle schedule. We could catch one at 12:30 in front of a hotel downtown. 

We went into town early, parked at the train station, and walked to a restaurant that Lee had found which sounded like it would be good for brunch. Only problem was there was a 45 minute wait. Oh well. We walked around a bit and decided on another place, right by the shuttle stop. 

After brunch we still had some time to kill so we decided to go buy me some socks. For some reason I only brought 3 pairs. I got some colorful Pink Floyd themed socks. 

We went back to the shuttle stop and waited, and waited. No shuttle. Finally one of the other people that was waiting went into the hotel and asked them what was going on. The girl at the front desk told them the next shuttle didn’t come until 2! This in spite of the schedule on the website and what some of the people waiting had been told at the ticket office when they bought their tickets. Grrrr

Fortunately the Banff Roam mass transit buses also go to the gondola, and we could ride for free if we showed them our gondola tickets. But we were going to miss our boarding time! Would this be a problem? 

As it turns out, no. We got there around 1:20, got in line, and hopped right on a gondola carriage. You can’t board early, but they don’t care if you board late!

It’s a steep breathtaking 8 minute climb to the top of Sulphur Mountain, named after the hot springs at its base. Looking up the mountain gave me vertigo, looking out at the vistas was ok.

At the top there’s a 1k boardwalk that climbs to an old weather station at the peak of the mountain. We were at 7500 feet, so it seemed farther. it was nice up there, cool but not cold, breezy, but not windy. It was a lot more pleasant than Mount Washington!

Going back down didn’t take any time at all. We boarded the carriage and swooped down the steep part of the hill. It was a little bit like the first part of a roller coaster. But then it calmed down and before we knew it we were back at the base of the mountain. And just as we got there a Roam bus pulled up. Lucky!

Once back in town we walked to the train station to get the truck. We were going to stop at the wine shop, but made a wrong turn and ended up way out of our way. There’s a beautiful river that flows through Banff. We drove along that. Then we ended up on Tunnel Mountain Drive, high above Tunnel Mountain Rd, which is the road back to our campsite. So Lee took me back to the campground. Then I took the dogs for a walk, and Lee went back into town for wine.

Btw, Harper has been fine the last few evenings. She is not crazy about Lee using the stove, but we haven’t run the aircon or the fan and she doesn’t care if we run the heater. Crazy dog!

Sunday, September 18, 2022

We Interupt This Regularly Scheduled Program - RVing with Leo and the Johnmeyers

Sorry, I know I started posting about Banff, but then I realized that I had forgotten to post about our camping trip with the Johnmeyer's earlier in August. So here's that post, and I'll get back to Banff after this one!

Last year we took Leo to Baker Park to go RV camping for a few nights. We had such a good time we decided to go back. So when Cathy and JA said that they wanted to go RVing, we suggested they bring a couple grandkids and join us.

On Wednesday we picked Leo up from daycare after nap and drove to Baker Park. That’s one of the great things about it, it’s very close. We set up the RV, the screen tent, and the dog fence for Heather and Harper. It was pretty warm so when the Johnmeyer’s showed up the kids and Lee put on their bathing suits and went down to the beach. JA stayed behind to get things set up and Cathy and I walked the dogs down. 

I let them get close to the water. Harper walked in up to her knees, but Heather didn’t even get wet. Then we sat on a picnic table and watched the kids swim. The big kids watched Leo, but we had to keep an eye out too. He can almost swim, but not well enough for us to be confident about him being in the water without an adult.

When we took my bike off the bike rack the front tire was deflated. Somehow the little cap had come off. JA tried to inflate it but the tube got pinched between the tire and the rim and exploded with a very loud POP! Oops! 

It was getting late and time to start on supper so we walked back to the campsite. It was Cathy’s turn to cook dinner. Lee would cook tomorrow night. We had steak, grilled veggies, quinoa salad, and ice cream for dessert. They tried to make a fire but were only partially successful. It was too late for s’mores anyway. 

We all went straight to sleep. In the morning Leo and I had oatmeal and then I went for a short run. Then Lee made pancakes (frozen ones) and blueberries for everyone so that was breakfast number two.

This was breakfast the next morning

JA and I went into town to get me a new tube for my tire. Gear West wasn’t far away, so that was easy. We had to go to two different grocery stores to find the tonic water that Cathy wanted, however. Oh well!

We spent the rest of the day biking, hanging out, talking, and generally having a good time. After Leo’s nap Lee took all the kids down to the fishing dock to fish. They had a great time and Leo caught 6 fish! He loves fishing!

That evening the kids played soccer and practiced casting. We kept telling them to stay away from the trees, but we “fished” quite a few lines out of the the trees anyway. And Leo playing soccer with the big kids was awesome. He was very into it, “hey guys, pass it to me!” He wasn’t that bad either. You could tell Erik has been working with him.

That evening Lee made pork burgers, potato salad and watermelon. Once again there was ice cream for dessert. 

During the night it began to rain. The Johnmeyer kids were in a tent because their RV is too small to hold 2 adults and 4 children. So they all ended up in the Johnmeyer RV, but not until early in the morning. We just hung out in ours until the rain tapered off. I decided to go for a bike ride and explore the 6 mile park loop. I did that, plus a couple of miles on the Luce line to get to 10 miles for the day.

The kids were having so much fun we decided to wait until after lunch to leave. When we put Leo in the truck he fell asleep almost instantly. It took us about 30 minutes to get home. Then we just kept the truck running and let him sleep while we unloaded the RV. He got a really good nap! 

The only trouble with that was that he was full of energy, and we were trashed. He was spending the night with us, so we started a movie (Paddington, funny), made some popcorn, and curled up on the couch. When the movie was over the grownups couldn’t keep their eyes open so we all went to bed. I heard a few bumps upstairs and then it got quiet, and he slept until 7, so he was very well rested.

We had a great time all around. It took my mind off the sadness about Cosmo for a few days, and it was a delight to see Leo playing with his cousins. They are really nice kids and we want to do this again. Next year Kirby can come too!

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Banff - Over the Prairies We Go

Thursday August 18. Jamestown North Dakota

Lee can finally check North Dakota off his list, the last state he had never been to. This was a very easy day of driving, 5 hours, all on I-94. The sky just gets bigger and bigger as the land gets flatter. It’s not completely flat yet, but it probably will be tomorrow. 

We been driving through and around thunderstorms all day. It rains, it stops, it rains again. The clouds are amazing.

This is a nice campground. Small and quiet, well maintained, full hookup, easy pull through. They have a path that goes all around the campground and through a canopy of lilacs. It must be something else in the spring.

Heather and Harper are doing just fine. I gave Harper a CBD chew about 30 minutes ago and put the thunder shirt on her right before she got in the RV, with lots of treats. She is under the table now, perfectly calm. We have the fan on at a low setting. Here’s hoping this works; I hate seeing her shaking, shivering and panting. We’ll leave the shirt on through dinner at least. If she’s still calm we’ll take it off at bedtime.

Note: Harper has developed an aversion to the air conditioner on the RV. We discovered this when we took the RV to Baker Park earlier this summer. Why? Who knows.

Friday August 19. Williston North Dakota

The northern plains. Miles and miles and miles of wheat, cows, hay. Sometimes flat, sometimes rolling hills. We’ve been climbing, currently at 2100 ft. This RV park is clean and quiet, all gravel though. No good place to walk the dogs. Its beautiful in a wide open spaces scenic vistas sort of way. It’s warm this evening, 81F. Tomorrow we cross into Canada, Saskatchewan. 

Saturday August 20. Swift Current Saskatchewan Canada

Last night Harper was a mess. We made the mistake of not putting on the Thundershirt until she was in the RV, plus I only gave her half a CBD chew to start. One and a half chews later and she was still panting and if we tried to put her on the seat next to us, or on the bed, she started shaking too. The really strange thing is that once it’s bedtime and we’ve done all our bedtime rituals, I can put her on the bed, take off the Thundershirt, and she goes straight to sleep. So tonight I gave her a whole chew about 30 minutes ago. When we got to the campground I took them for a short walk, then I put them in the little dog fenced area and gave them some water. Then I put on the Thundershirt and after about 10 minutes let them both inside. It’s hot out there so I didn’t want to leave them out for long. She is not perfectly calm, she’s panting a little, but she’s def better than yesterday. She’s under the table and she can stay there as long as she wants.

We slept late this morning, almost 7 am. We moved slowly but we still managed to get out of there by 9:30. It was only an hour to the Canadian border. We crossed at Oungre, which is in the middle of nowhere and we were the only ones there. Crossing was simple. Answer the questions, tell him we had filled out the ArriveCAN app, two bottles of wine, 10 cans of beer, no tobacco, less than $10,000 cash (!). Good to go.

About 30 minutes from the border we passed the town of Oungre and a nice looking RV campground. I decided to call them, so we’re going to stay there instead on our way back. Trees and grass!

Miles and miles of Saskatchewan were amazingly flat. Right before we got to Swift Current there were some rolling hills. We’ve crossed the continental divide and we’re now on mountain time.

I mentioned that it’s hot. Indeed, it’s 90F! That’s kind of crazy this far north. It’s fairly dry however so I could take the dogs on a short walk. Now we’re sitting in the RV in the aircon, and in a minute I’ll open a bottle of wine and get a snack. Not a bad life, even if Harper does need a doggie psychotherapist!

Sunday, August 21. Duchess, Alberta

So first, Harper. We’re learning even if we don’t understand it. When we got to our campsite I gave her a whole CBD chew. We put the dogs outside for a little while, but it’s too hot for them to stay outside for long, and there isn’t much shade. It’s even too hot to put the Thundershirt on while they were outside, so we brought them inside and put on the shirt immediately. She is currently under the table, in her little cave, panting, but not horribly. The trick now is to just let her chill until dinner time. No putting her on the bed, no putting her next to us at the table, because it only makes things worse. We just have to be strong!

So today we only had to drive for 3 hours, so we took our time. I went for a run, just up and down the gravel road beside the RV park. It felt good, and at least 2500 ft of elevation doesn’t bother me. 

Next to us was a Mercedes’ conversion van. His battery had died because he accidentally left his lights on all night. He had a battery charger but it wasn’t strong enough to start his battery. While the menfolk called tow trucks and hunted around for someone with jumper cables, the woman and I had fun. We toured each other’s vehicles. Theirs was teeny, of course, but ingenious. They go RVing for weeks at a time, but it doesn’t have much storage, nor does it have a true bathroom, more of a Japanese hotel bathroom, where the toilet and the shower are combined. But of course it’s much easier to drive, and you can get to everything while you’re on the road.

She was a knitter, so she showed me what she was working on and I showed her the afghans I’m currently doing. We talked about traveling, grandkids. It was fun. Then they found someone with jumper cables and they were on their way, and soon so were we.

Really flat today, endless wheat fields, and then just scrubby pasture. Hardly any towns, or people. We are close to the Canadian badlands, but not close enough to make a detour.

This is a nice RV park, small and tidy, with little grass lawns for everyone, ringed by trees. Too bad it’s so hot!

Tomorrow we will be in Banff. Mountains, cooler weather, maybe rain. I’m curious!

Saturday, September 3, 2022

SF and 70 and a Marathon - Part II The Marathon and After


Finally, here's the San Francisco Marathon report!

Saturday night Lee made us dinner, pasta with pine nuts and bacon, and a nice salad. 

Sunday morning I woke up a little after 3 am. The race started at 5:30 so I needed to get up, so I would have time to eat, and digest, before the race.  I was as prepared as I could be, and I’ve refined my pre marathon routine over the years. Eat, dress, check and recheck my prep list, use the bathroom many many times. Their apartment is so close to the starting line; that part was great. At 5:15 I walked the 2 blocks to the start, found corral C. I thought maybe I would avoid the porta potties at the start for once by being so close, but no. I got in the very very long line and went to the bathroom one more time. I’d taken some Pepto Bismol, and peppermint tums, so I was hopeful that the nervous cramping was behind me.

I got into corral C, but without a clear idea of where I should line up, somehow managed to align myself with the 4:30-4:45 hour marathoners, so for the first few miles of the race I watched as what seemed like hundreds of runners sped by me. This is always a disconcerting feeling but I didn’t let it faze me, at least not too much.

The first 4 miles of the race are pancake flat, along the Embarcadero, to Fort Mason. Then there is a short, but steep hill and a drop down into Crissy Field. Crissy Field is along the bay. Nice views, with the GG bridge looming in the distance. That will be our first big climb.

At about 5.5 miles we started up the switchbacks leading up to the bridge. It was long, but not very steep. I would run, and then walk when it started to feel hard. It was still very early in the race and there were a lot of hills to go. Looking at the switchbacks before the climb, they looked pretty intimidating. I wish I could find a picture of them! I felt like I was running a marathon that just happened to have a small mountain in it!

The bridge was kind of cold, and very windy. It was also still very foggy, so I couldn’t see much. I was still excited and just happy, so I took my one selfie of the race here.

I knew that there was a long downhill into Sausalito, almost a mile, but it was hard to enjoy it, knowing that we had to get back up it to the bridge. It was really cambered too so it wasn’t an especially enjoyable downhill.

As we gradually turned around and headed back to the Golden Gate Bridge I got disoriented. The bridge came back into view, but it seemed to be on the wrong side. It took me awhile to figure out that we had made a loop in Sausalito and ended up on the other side of the bridge that way. 

Again the climb back to the bridge was long but not terribly steep. I was managing the hills so far without slowing down too much. Yay!

After the bridge we entered the Presidio. So beautiful, but still foggy. We went on the Lands End trail for a little bit, then on the road along the bay and ocean with a long descent into the Richmond. That was a nice descent, about a mile of downhill.

Richmond was up and down, up and down. Then we entered the park, joining up with the half marathoners from the first half that were just finishing up. 

I thought the park was supposed to be a long very gradual uphill, but it ended up being a lot of up and down, again. By the time we got to the 1st half finish line (and the 2nd half start) the full marathoners were at mile 17. I didn’t know it, but Daniel, who was running the second half marathon, was somewhere behind me for the rest of the race. The marathoners mostly ran with the 2nd half marathoners for this part, but not always. The signs were clearly marked so there wasn’t any worry about making a wrong turn.

At around 19.5 miles we finally left the park and ran down Haight street, of hippie fame. I thought the park was sort of boring so I was glad to be back on the city streets. Here and there we would see a sign that said “runner valve ahead”. I was mystified as to what this could mean, but later Daniel explained that after we were joined by the half marathoners, they would divert runners over a block to keep congestion to a minimum. That explained why periodically runners would appear from another street and rejoin the main group. It’s a great idea and some other big city marathons that get extremely crowded in spots might want to consider doing something similar.

From Haight, through the Mission, all the way back to the Embarcadero involved lots and lots of ups and downs. I still felt good, so I gradually began to push it a little. I had plenty of hydration and nutrition and there was no danger of bonking at this point.

Once we got to  Potrero there were some major downhills. I went with them and they didn’t hurt (that would come later ha). 

Right before we turned on to the Embarcadero there was a brew pub offering free beer. Of course I had to have some! If it's available this is becoming a marathon tradition for me!

We got on the Embarcadero at the Chase Center, where the San Francisco basketball team plays. The sun had finally come out, making everything look bright. The warmth actually felt good but I was glad we only had to run in it for a few miles.

I started trying to speed up. I did this mainly by cutting my walk breaks short by 10 seconds or so. I wanted to try making up a minute or so so I could qualify for New York again.

By mile 25 I knew I was going to run the end of the race all out. I got to 25.6 and skipped my next walk break and decided I would just keep going to the end. I finished in 5:28.30, good enough for NY. I felt good too.

I texted with Lee and Kelsey until we found each other. Daniel finished a couple minutes after me.

I felt pretty happy. I didn’t make my A goal, but really I didn’t expect to. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the hills and I ended up managing them very well. The temps were perfect for a marathon, and I didn’t let the wind bug me (except on the bridge).

And then I found out I had won my age group! I was shocked. I’ve NEVER won my age group in a marathon before, let alone a big city marathon! At Manchester City I came in second in my age group, but that was a much smaller marathon, about 1200 people total. San Francisco had about 6500 people in the full marathon, so not huge, but pretty big. There were 5 women in 70-74, and two of those women didn’t finish. It just brought home to me that San Francisco is a very challenging course. I’ve got to give a shout out here to the training plan I’ve been using, Luke Humphrey’s marathon method, a cousin of the Hanson Marathon Method. Its infamous among marathoners for having long runs that max out at 16 miles, instead of the 20 miles or more than most marathon plans prescribe. Instead it focuses on quality runs. Every run has a specific purpose, and when you run those 16 milers your legs are tired, so its like you are running the last 16 miles of a marathon. Ever since I’ve started using LHM I’ve felt very prepared for every marathon. I don’t always PR but in some fashion I run well, and recover quickly. Its hard but it's a great training plan.

And of course this year I get to PR in my age group for every distance that I run!

We walked the few blocks to the apartment. I took a much needed shower and then we went to 21st  Amendment for lunch. I wore my medal, of course! I had a pizza. It was good, but they were really busy, and it took soooo long to come. I was almost about to start nibbling on the energy bar in my purse before it finally came!

We went back to the apartment to laze around. I was feeling pretty stiff and sore by then. I took a nap but was actually too sore to sleep. We went for pasta for dinner. It was good, but I was so tired. I just really needed to lay down. 

I woke up in the morning still really stiff and with a headache to boot. The headache meant I needed to hydrate. A couple cups of coffee and lots of sips of water didn’t really cut it. I had some oatmeal but we were going for dim sum later so I didn’t want to eat too much. I went with Dan and Kelsey to walk Rossi and that helped with the stiffness a lot, but the headache persisted.

At 11 we took the streetcar to Ghirardelli Square to have dim sum at Palette. The streetcars are not the touristy trolley cars, although the ARE touristy. The are old fashion street cars from all over that SF bought and refurbished. They bring back memories for us old folks, albeit kind of faint ones for me, from when I was a little kid.

The streetcar was slow, and crowded. We’ve been wearing masks everywhere so this was no different. Palette was delicious. Their plates looked like little China paint palettes and you could put the different dips in the places where paint would normally go, the chopsticks looked like paintbrushes. Very clever!

We got Chou long bou, hot and sour soup, egg tarts, beef noodles, bbq pork buns, pork belly, and more that I forget. AND I had several larges cups of jasmine tea, that finally took care of my headache. It was all good.

We decided to take electric city bikes back. I’ve ridden an electric bike before but it’s been a long time, when we went to Kyoto in Japan, years ago. It took me a couple minutes to get used to it, and I walked over the streetcar tracks, but once we got to where there was a bike lane it was fun. The only problem was that there wasn’t anywhere to park them when we got back to the apartment. All the city bike parking spots were full. It was ok, we could leave them locked on the street, but it costs a lot more if you do that. $13 for a short bike ride is pretty pricey! Oh well.

I fell asleep for about an hour. At 4 we drove down to Palo Alto to look at chairs for Daniel and Kelsey’s dining room at West Elm and then we met Kelsey’s parents for dinner at Limon, a Peruvian restaurant in Burlingame. More delicious food, margaritas, wine. When we get back home I’m not going to eat again for a long time. Like at least a couple hours!

And that's that for the San Francisco Marathon. I really loved it; I'm glad I didn't listen to the warnings about how hilly it is and just went for it. I wouldn't recommend it if you're trying to qualify for Boston, although some people do, but if you enjoy the challenge of hills, like beautiful views, appreciate a well organized medium sized-race I highly recommend it!


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