February Instagram Challenge

Back in December, I participated in an Instagram daily photo challenge hosted by the Daily Travelettes.  Even though I only participated in about 75% of the days, I actually really enjoyed brainstorming ways to interpret the daily themes and seeing some of the amazing photos that other participants posted.

I actually really missed having a challenge this month.  I would go to the app, excited to see the new word of the day, and I would be a little sad when I realized there wasn’t one. Yesterday I started searching for February challenges, but I couldn’t find any that I liked. Lot’s of lovey dovey ones, but nothing that got me excited.  So, my solution was to create my own.

Lacking the time to brainstorm clever daily themes, I googled “random word generator,” and was taken to watchout4snakes.com, and started randomly generating away.

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Admittedly, I skipped about 3 words that I didn’t think would make for inspired photos (for example, “essay”), but for the most part, the words that came up were pretty perfect for something like this. Real friend (and half marathoner) Kevin (@ikeatkinson on Instagram) jumped on board!

Since this is a running blog, I’m going to try to take these while on a run, but I don’t run everyday, so sometimes they will not be taken on a run. How is that for flexibility?

If I end up being the only person (along with Kevin) who does this, I will be totally cool with it, but if you are feeling like you want to take a picture and you just don’t know what your subject should be, or if you see a daily theme and really personally connect with it (because I know the effect these things can have on people :)) then please jump on in! I’ve created the hash tag #randomlygeneratedphotochallenge and when running, I will add #randomlygeneratedrunningphoto. Please hire me to generate creative hashtags!

So, if you’re wondering why I’m taking a picture of a yeti on February 13th, now you’ll know why! Blame the random word generator.  And really, there should be a bigger Yeti presence on Instagram.

February Instagram ChallengeThose are conversation hearts.  Because, Valentine’s Day. 

My Instagram is HERE.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’m going pro-Broncos on Sunday, and pretty excited for some 90’s sitcom reunions that are supposed to happen!

Who are you cheering for? Commercial you are most looking forward to? 

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Train Travel: January’s New Experience

I had never been on a train.

I’ve been on the train at Disneyland, and on the train in Durango, CO but, as fun as they are, I suppose they don’t actually qualify as legitimate train travel.

My little sister and her fiance moved to a middle of nowhere town about an hour and half from Barstow in Southern California this past weekend.  We drove their cars out, but the nearest airport was not in fact very near, so the most sensical option was to drive into Barstow and take the train back to Albuquerque.  In lieu of a bucket list, I’m trying to do one completely new and adventurous thing per month, so I figured this would be a great way to kick-off the year.

I have more pictures of this sign than any normal person should

I have more pictures of this sign than any normal person should

I honestly didn’t know that interstate train travel still existed on such a large scale in this country.  I’ve never known anyone who has traveled by train, and I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a commercial or advertisement. I figured the railroads were reserved for hauling cargo instead of people.

I’ve also been convinced that the people who rode trains were hobos or bandits (WHERE DID THIS EVEN COME FROM?).  Also, Murder on the Orient Express suggested that I might get stabbed by a whole gang of people if I slept.  Pretty sure there were some dementors on the Hogwarts Express too…

But, a quick look on the Amtrak website showed us that train travel is alive and well with routes all over the place.  So, in need of a way to get home, and keeping my eyes open for a new adventure for January, we decided to book 2 seats on the Southwest Chief.

Our less than 48 hour trip into California involved some In-n-Out Burger (probably 85% of the reason we went), a quick (and I mean very quick) drive through some really sketchy towns, some unloading and unpacking, and that’s just about it.

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Johannesburg, CA…population 165 + 4 animal carcasses

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I went to college in the Bay Area, so I’ve done the drive through Barstow/general armpit of California many, many times, but I forgot just how un-“California” it all actually is (my sister does have a beautiful palm tree in her front yard thank goodness). I also forgot how cold it can get at night.  We went on a 3.5 mile run in Barstow on Sunday morning pre-sunrise, and I didn’t pack any layers, so I was running in 37 degrees in shorts and a tank top.  Which apparently was more reasonable than hopping on the hotel treadmill or you know, skipping it.  Silly runners.

After the driving and unpacking (and watching the first half of the Broncos/Patriots game at a Sports Bar), my future brother-in-law dropped us off at the Barstow train station (why are train stations always in the scariest parts of town?).  The place was kind of dark and abandoned at 9:40, and we weren’t at all positive that we were in the right place because there wasn’t a departure/arrival board and the building was locked. With the moon shining and the street lamps illuminating the tracks, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a contemplative Dagny Taggert standing on the platform, waiting for The Comet to arrive.

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Eventually the train rolled up right on schedule, and with very little “to-do,” we boarded (they checked our tickets after we were seated).  I have to say I’m a bit sad that the conductor didn’t yell “all aboard!”

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Our car was already about half full of sleepy passengers when we boarded (it originates in LA and travels all the way to Chicago, so we were the 4th or 5th stop).  We took our seats and reclined back, eager to sleep.

I think if we’d been a bit more prepared, we would have been quite comfortable.  But we didn’t bring blankets or pillows, so we were cold and slightly contorted.  For a higher premium, we could have reserved private sleeper cars, which I think would have been great if we were spending two nights on the train.  The train made a few stops along the way (they were very fast stops), but aside from other trains passing right next to us on the track (which was kind of scary and loud) it was a pretty quiet ride.  They also had power outlets at each seat, so we were able to charge our phones while we slept.

When we woke up the next morning, we headed to the snack cart for some $2 coffee, and watched the sunrise along the desert horizon from the observation car, which was set up with chairs facing the window.

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We went to the dining car for breakfast, and it felt like a throwback to a more glamorous time complete with white table clothes and vases full of fresh flowers, all while watching the western New Mexico landscape unfold before our eyes. The railroad travels into those Route 66 roadside towns that the interstate bypasses, so, we got to see a lot of the charm that we usually miss traveling through I-40.

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We pulled into Albuquerque about an hour earlier than scheduled, sufficiently fed and caffeinated, and very open to the idea of more train travel.

At a time when it seems that airlines add new fees while eliminating leg room on a daily basis, and a pleasant experience in the sky has been replaced with no-nonsense safety protocols to prevent terrorist attacks, I have to say that the very reasonably priced train fare  ($75 per person from Barstow to Albuquerque, or $76 per person from LA to Albuquerque) coupled with the cheerful and accommodating attitude of the staff have really changed my thinking. Other selling points: the hassle-free boarding process (no security line!), convenient overnight itineraries that don’t make you feel like you are wasting time, ample space, and the ability to get up and stretch or walk around at any time.  I also felt very safe which was truthfully one of our biggest concerns (and misconceptions) about train travel.  No hobos!

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I’m also thinking that train travel would be so much more comfortable after a marathon than a plane or car.  Instead of waiting around in an airport and trying to make your legs not ache after sitting for a few hours, I could walk around at my leisure on a train, prop my feet up, and eat a decent meal at a real table.  Seriously.  It’s like my whole outlook on travel has changed.  Even my mom said she would do it again (and that’s saying something).

So, January’s new experience has been successfully crossed off.

I hope you are having a wonderful week despite all of the weather weirdness. It was 10 degrees here this morning which I know is warmer than most places. STAY WARM!

The 2014 Goal “Plan”

We made it! We are now successfully existing here in 2014.

I’ve really missed the boat on my “New Year Resolution” post to the point where I’m guessing most resolutions are already broken.  But I am known for my creative timing, so here we are.

Now that things have finally started calming down a bit, I’ve been trying to put together my plan for 2014.  I realized a long time ago that I wasn’t very good at resolutions.  Turns out I’m not very good at Bucket Lists either as evidenced by my attempts over the last two years.  I think I crossed 9 items off of 2013’s list.

Luckily, by definition, you can’t actually fail at a bucket list, so that’s why I chose that route in the first place because failure sucks.  But I do believe in using opportunities…like new years…for improvement.  And I really like making goals and lists of goals, even if I don’t keep them, because goal setting is what gets things done.

And this year in particular is a big one for me, because, as you have heard (and will likely continue to hear), I will be turning 30 in September.  Even though 30 is the new 20 and blah blah blah, I’ve had a heck of of a lot of fun during this past decade, and I know just by virtue of maturity, my 30’s will involve a lot more saving (as in, putting money away instead of going on impromptu vacations), a lot more Saturdays spent working on the house instead of out on the town, and probably kids at some point which is just far more responsibility than I can even handle thinking about for right now.  So, the next year holds a lot of pressure to leave my 20’s with a BIG bang.

So, in the most ideal (but really, the most realistic) of circumstances, this is what I hope to have crossed off my list when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2014:

1) Run another Boston Qualifying marathon: More on when and where later, but after a racing hiatus, I’m itching to train hard and crush goals.

2) Establish Financial Security: I say this every year because it is the right thing to say, but I’ve never truthfully actually meant it.  While this qualifies as more of a “30” responsibility than a “29,” suddenly, I get it. I need to pay off debt and have at least have 2 months worth of expenses in savings. We made some good strides this year (we both started saving for retirement and we bought a house and already have some equity established), but I still feel unprepared financially to face a crisis, and that makes me uncomfortable.

3) Get to Europe: I believe that travel is one of the best forms of education, so I feel like it is almost a crime that neither of us have been to Europe.  Of course, this all depends on the financial security issue because I think that is more of a priority at this point, but I would not mind adding some stamps to my passport this year.

Nope, the Disney World version of Germany doesn't count!

Nope, the Disney World version of Germany doesn’t count!

4) Work toward a fitness model body:I sign up for a New Year’s fitness/weight loss challenge every year through the gym where Aaron works, but I’ve never actually taken it seriously because I tend to care more about how my body moves rather than how it looks these days.  But I’m pretty sure if I don’t do it now, it won’t ever happen because the metabolism isn’t quite what it used to be.  But don’t worry…I don’t plan on posting daily gym selfies on Instagram.

5) Write every day: I technically have “writer” in my job title, so I write a lot, but I’d like to write recreationally every day whether here on the blog (because I miss it!), or on that novel that I’ve been attempting for 2 years. You don’t become the Jane Austen of modern times (or even the Danielle Steele) by not writing.

6) Once a month, try something I’ve never tried before: This is taking the place of an actual 2014 bucket list, and I’m going to be pretty flexible on what I do and when I do it.  The point is to experience new things when opportunities arise instead of mapping out ideas in January and NOT doing them.  Some ideas including SUPing, taking a cooking class, and going on a full moon midnight hike, but I’m open to suggestions!

7) Continue attempting to cross items off the 2013/2014 lists: Because really, most of these do sound like a lot of fun!

 * Run a race in a crazy costume

* Organize all of our medals, bibs, and pictures into an impressive display

* Compete in a triathlon

* Get 4-pack abs (6 pack abs is asking too much I think)

* Be able to do 50 push-ups in a row

* Hike up a 14er

* Learn to swim.

* Explore 2 of New Mexico’s “must see” places (Carlsbad Caverns and Chaco Canyon)

* Get Passport stamp #4

* Go on a White Water Rafting weekend expedition.

* Do one big random act of kindness

* Take an art class

* Study up on the history of Israel vs. Palestine

Read my way through Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of all time (the list and my progress is here on a sub page).

* Relearn French

* Brew our own beer

* At least once a month, choose a recipe and cook dinner with Aaron

* Host a ridiculously over-themed Mad Men Party

* Ride in a hot air balloon.

* Learn how to use my camera and take awe-inspiring photos.

* Win something (anything) in a radio contest.

* Invest in a piece of artwork.

So we will see how this year turns out!

How are your resolutions working out? 

Any suggestions for “new experiences” I can try?

One Run for Boston Part II

Remember last summer when Aaron, my dad, and I volunteered to drive to the remote parts of New Mexico to run several miles through the desert, sometimes in temperatures hot enough to melt the asphalt under our feet? And if that wasn’t absurd enough, that I also volunteered to pick up a complete stranger named Ty from Maine at the airport so he could run with us?

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Just in case you don’t follow my life as closely as I do, last June a nice man from England emailed me because he and a couple of his British runner friends were organizing a relay across America in order to raise money for the OneFund, the foundation that supports those most affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.  We enthusiastically participated and made some friends along the way! (You can read the recap HERE).

Well, they are doing it again.

One Run for Boston Round II is kicking (running) off  this March in Santa Monica, California, traveling (running) across the country, and concluding in grand style at Harvard Stadium in Boston about a week before the 2014 Marathon.  Bart Yasso, the social media running maven from Runner’s World, has committed to running a stage along with almost 600 other people (Aaron, my dad, and myself included).

The relay runs though California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

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The cost to sign up for a stage is $50 (they are also asking for a $250 fundraising minimum but you will not be charged if you don’t meet the fundraising goal and as far as I can tell nothing bad happens to you).  Most of the stages seem to be in the 5-17 mile range (I know a lot of people split up the longer stages).  There are also group stages organized in major cities along the way (cost is $25 for group stages).  You can get more information HERE.

All participants get a free t-shirt and access to a very supportive and encouraging online community along with the excitement of running in slightly oddball locations during slightly oddball hours while raising money for a cause that I know has touched many people in the running community.

Aaron, my dad, and I are all signed up for stages in New Mexico (they changed the route this year, so our stages are in a much more accessible place which makes me very happy).  I get to run through a place called Pie Town! I LOVE pie! I’m also hoping not to have to pee roadside this time…March is also typically much less scorching hot than June.

I would love to have you join our ORFB family! And, it goes without saying, that if you want to fly to Albuquerque to help us cover New Mexico, I will gladly pick you up from the airport (at least, probably…for all I know, I have a bunch of secret internet stalkers who are ax murderers…I would probably not agree to pick up someone who is an ax murderer)! You can also donate toward my fundraising goal HERE (this is actually the first thing I’ve done in the way of fundraising for this adventure).

I KNOW you want to be this cool too!

I KNOW you want to be this cool too!

Let me know if you sign up (or if you just want to come and feed us snacks and give us water).

Hope everyone had a wonderful first full week of 2014!