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!

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The Caddywonked Way With Which We Are Getting To Boston

(SORE THROAT UPDATE: I went to see the doctor on Wednesday, and she said it was just a virus that I had to wait out.  I kind of feel like an over-dramatic hypochondriac.  Indulging on WebMD is one thing…but actually going to the doctor when I have a relatively minor problem is a whole different level of crazy.  Oh well.)

With just two months to go until the marathon (!!!), we decided it was probably time to start making travel arrangements for Boston.

I won’t pretend that this trip hasn’t been stressing me and my little wallet out.  For one, since I was one of the last people to register for this race, all of the hotels through the marathon website were already booked.  After checking daily, a room finally opened up after about a month. I made our reservations even though the overall price was a bit out of our budget.  But, I guess maxing out my credit card is better than spending the night before a marathon sleeping on the streets.  I think.

I’ve continued to check a couple of times a week to see if a cheaper room would open up…until I realized after some research that our hotel was on the cheaper end.  Turns out The Boston Marathon is kind of a big deal and the city celebrates by making everything considerably more expensive just for that weekend.  So what might be a somewhat affordable vacation otherwise turns into quite the high-end ordeal.  I truthfully don’t remember Chicago being that hard to swallow, but we did have almost a year to plan for it.

And plane tickets from here to Boston weren’t easing my anxiety anymore.  Prices were looking to be $700 each to fly out!  I mean, I realize that Boston is pretty much across the country, but yet again, this wasn’t in our budget. I was waiting to purchase tickets, hoping for a miraculous Southwest sale, but getting worried as Marathon Monday crept closer and closer.  And then! Southwest announced a sale last week! I literally dropped everything, grabbed my credit card and was ready to pay just about anything cheaper than $700.  But then, this:

Southwest

Southwest blocked out Marathon Weekend for Boston, and the two other nearby airports (Providence and Manchester)! Thanks, Southwest for ruining my life.  But, after some calculations, the savings of flying out a day earlier/leaving a day later with extra hotel nights were greater than buying tickets at full price with less nights at the hotel.  So, we figured we could stay in Boston longer than anticipated.  BUT, that still meant more nights in a very un-cost effective hotel. And we still needed to figure in transportation, food (since eating at McDonald’s for the entire trip doesn’t sound too appetizing), and other various purchases.  

I started looking at alternate accommodations.  Months ago, Dominick recommended AirBnB.  I started there, but all of the options were to stay with someone in their house.  With them.  Sharing the couch.  Sharing the bathroom. One guy even established a curfew. Maybe some other time, but I wasn’t up for it during a marathon.  I googled “apartment vacation rentals Boston” and came up with all sorts of websites and listings.  For the most part, you can rent whole furnished apartments for about $185 a night! Maybe if I had tried booking a couple of month ago, it would have worked out, but most places were sold out, and the ones that weren’t were charging an extra $300-$1000 because of the Marathon, making the cost per night more expensive than the hotel.  (I have decided to check into this more for upcoming vacations.  Most require 6-7 day minimum stays).

I was pacing around our house, crunching numbers trying to figure out ways to not go broke in the process of getting to Boston while simultaneously realizing that the amount of money we’d be paying could fund a week long all-inclusive vacation in St. Lucia complete with our very own Butlers.

And then Aaron offered up a fresh prospective.  Why not fly into somewhere NOT Boston, Providence, or Manchester and take the leisurely scenic route into the city.

Suddenly, my anxiety started fading away.

We could fly into NYC (though, the likelihood of that being cheaper was about zilch), or we could fly into Albany, drive through upstate New York, into Vermont, then across to Boston in time to get my bib, run the race, recover, and then head back to Albany.  We’d get the freedom to fly whenever since Albany didn’t have the black out dates.  By staying in Vermont, we’re literally paying $150 less per night than we would be in Boston, and even the rental car will not push us over our budget.  Albany is less than 3 hours from Boston.

Plus, I’ve never done the East Coast thing.  I’ve been to The District and I’ve been to Manhattan (and all points in between on the New Jersey turnpike), but that’s it.  (Growing up, Aaron spent his summers in upstate New York since his Grandma lived in the Andes Mountains, but he hasn’t been in years). And we get to actually eat at decent restaurants without worrying that our cards would come back with insufficient funds!

So, our Boston Marathon vacation has turned into a New England vacation.  Plus, I will get to cross off my bucket list item of spending a weekend in a place I’ve never heard of since, aside from Montpelier, the state capitol that I memorized in elementary school, I don’t know any towns in Vermont.  And I hear they have some amazing microbreweries in the area! And if you’ve spent any time here at all, you know that I love a good carb-loading local microbrew (non-IPA of course) before my races!

I am obsessed with covered bridges, but I’ve never actually seen one!

SOURCE

And we’ll still have plenty of time to explore Boston (and I’ll be spending a good 3.5+ hours running the streets).  We’ll do the Freedom Trail and we’ll throw around the word “wicked” like it is going out of style.  And I’m hoping to meet as many of you who will be in town that weekend as possible! (Incidentally, my bff’s at the Today Show were in Boston this morning which made me 10,000 times more excited!).

So, since I know NOTHING about this part of the world, I need suggestions! Stuff to do in Upstate New York, stuff to do in Vermont, stuff to do in Massachusetts  (though, maybe not Plymouth Rock since it looks pretty unimpressive) and stuff to do in Boston.  Breweries, restaurants, historical points of interest, whatever.  Since it seems like advance planning is required in order not to go broke for this marathon, I figure I need to start making arrangements for EVERYTHING since now.

I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day, and I hope you all have a great (hopefully long) weekend!

Chicago Photo Shoot

Last post on Chicago, I promise!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that in lieu of any shopping, Aaron and I decided to take professional photos while we were in Chicago.  I actually got the idea from the blog of a couple who hired a photographer to document their Paris vacation, and I thought wow how cool to have vacation photos that are actually not terrible! I mean, usually we have to find a nice stranger who doesn’t look like they’ll run away with the camera, and then you never know what you’re going to get (and I feel bad asking for a “do-over” when our heads are cut off).

I googled “Chicago wedding photographers”  and contacted my favorite one.  Well, they were way out of our “vacation photo” price range, but they went out of their way to find someone within our budget (gotta love Midwest hospitality!).  This brought us to Lane Christiansen of Willow Lane Photography.

She was so adorable and super sweet (bonus…she emailed me a few days later and said she had decided to sign up for her first marathon!) and is actually getting married herself this upcoming weekend.  I can’t recommend her enough if you are looking for a photographer in the Chicago area.

We met up with Lane after the marathon expo on Friday (it was FREEZING), and I asked her to go crazy, be creative, and basically take the reigns and show off her city’s architecture during our session.  This craziness included standing in the middle of State Street and taking a water taxi down the Chicago River and crashing a shoot of a bride so we could get the pictures Lane wanted (it was a post-wedding shoot, so it’s not like we ruined her wedding day or anything).

We are really awkward models.  I forgot how weird it is to stand there while someone shoots continuously.

We also got yells of congratulations presumably because people thought we were taking our engagement photos.  I won’t pretend that it wasn’t fun to get all the attention, but now I want another wedding…3 year vow renewal maybe??? Daddy?….

After weeks of anticipation, our picture disc came in the mail yesterday!

We got well over 500 photos, but here are my favorites:

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Texas Edition

I am incapable of taking pictures of “normal” subjects.

Arranging a bunch of smiling people in front of landmarks? Not my thing.  Old torn down motels that create eye-sores in towns? Far more interesting to me.  (As is beer apparently? One of these days I hope to start a separate tab of Amy approved microbreweries across the country, so I drink for the cause!).  Even as a kid, I took pictures of road signs and funky trees.

Here’s a sample of what I saw in Texas.  Less Alamo and River Walk, more, well…I’ll let you be the judge.  I’ll have to do a whole separate post with pictures just from the Houston Museum of Fine Art.  Who knew all of those amazing paintings…were in Houston.

I’m Home!

HI FRIENDS!

I have really missed you!  And boy, is it hard to maintain a blog from the road when I refuse to pay $10 for wifi and the WordPress iPad app just doesn’t seem to want people to actually use it.

Oh, by the way, I’ve been on vacation.

After two stressful work weeks that left us exhausted (and truthfully, not too into running), we headed on a great Texas Adventure on Saturday.  And I mean, wow, do we know how to make a vacation as unrestful as possible.  For serious.

We drove to San Antonio on Saturday, to Houston on Sunday, took a quick day trip to Galveston on Monday, Austin on Tuesday, and then back home yesterday.  That’s a whole lot of Texas to see in 5 days!

I do want to gleefully confess that we actually did all of our runs while on vacation.  Including a 20 miler in San Antonio (we did our 10 miler on Friday before leaving making this 30 mile weekend #2).  This is a huge deal because it was HOT and HUUUUMID in San Antonio and Houston.  Like, how do people deal with that on a daily basis and still go outside? We pulled into a humid Austin, but it was so much less humid than Houston that we did a happy dance.

While I was work stressing and hanging out in Texas, some lovely blog friends helped me with the blog. I want to do a HUGE thank you to friends Dominick, Brandon, Erika, and Danielle for helping me keep the blog up while working hard and being on the road.  It didn’t go all seamlessly.  Sometimes scheduled posts don’t look quite how they did when I actually scheduled them.  And the dumb iPad thing.  I’m not a fan.  But everything is fixed now!

Thanks for showing some love and leaving them comments!

And another huge thanks to Laura from Mommy, Run Fast.  You’ve probably already seen this if you follow her blog (and you really need to if you don’t), but she lives in Houston and Aaron and I got to meet her for lunch while we were out there! She is every bit as sweet and smart as she sounds on her blog! We were able to jump right in and talk about marathons, living in Houston (she’s a recent transplant) and careers and family.  It was a lovely time, and we hope to get to meet up with her and her family again sometime!

{We were looking straight into the sun!}

While I do plan on eventually doing some big Texas posts (vacation posts sometimes happen and sometimes don’t), I’m catching up on the million things that have been neglected for the last 3 weeks.  Like laundry.  And grocery shopping.  And throwing out the dead flowers from vases.  And you know, responding to comments and catching up on your lives.  So, until then, here are some of the quick highlights of the trip.  

Showing Aaron the Alamo (he was a lot more impressed than I was!).

The big margarita to celebrate 20 hot and humid miles.  This restaurant felt like a giant fiesta. Humidity meant that I didn’t comb my hair because it would be frizzy in seconds anyway.

HORSEBACK RIDING ON THE BEACH! Kind of.  They don’t allow horses on beaches.  So, horseback riding NEAR the beach.  I think it was close enough to cross off the Bucket List!

Spending Labor Day on the Beach! I mean it wasn’t the world’s prettiest beach (or the world’s must blue water), but it worked for our purposes!

This was my first time meeting Aaron’s cousins.  They recently relocated from the Sacramento area to Houston.

Staying in a lovely hotel in downtown Houston.  Our room was on the 25th floor, and I had to hold on tight while zooming up in these exposed elevators!

Spending an afternoon with some of my friends (like my favorite Cezanne) at the Houston Museum of Fine Art.

Hanging out at Hey Cupcake! In Austin with my sister and Aaron.

 

The Caledonian Running Experience OR Running in Scotland

Happy Wednesday! Life is *almost* back to normal, but til then, I’m still letting the blog get taken over! Hopefully you’ve had a chance to check out Dominick, Brandon, and Erika’s posts!

Today’s guest is Danielle. I found her through one of those #ff on twitter, and now I consider her one of my best blog friends. I completely intend on showing up on her doorstep one of these days so she can feed me! (she lives in Scotland by the way!)  I thought it was only appropriate that she write about running in Scotland. FYI, she is actually a native of Canada, but she totally has a Scottish accent even if she denies it! 

Hello! I’m Danielle and I pretend to be a writer at I Eat Therefore I Run, my blog about eating amazing food (homemade or in restaurants) then running to burn off all those extra but delicious calories. I’m also an avid reader and follower of Lavender Parking, and answered Amy’s call for guest bloggers. I’ve only been running for three years now, and I’ve also only been running since living in Scotland, (also three years ago). Long story short, I’m Canadian that moved to Scotland in 2009 to be with the man I would marry two years later. So romantic!

I’m not a marathon runner, I’ll never run one (insert Amy’s optimistic ‘Yes you will!’ here); (AMY INSERT: JUST WAIT!) I’ve never even run a half marathon! The furthest distance I’ve ever run is 7 miles; call me the eternal 10 km runner if you will. I attribute my running to living here in Scotland, and this is what I want to share with you, my Caledonian running experience, (for those of you still wondering about Caledonia, it’s the Latin name the Romans gave the land that is Scotland during the time of Roman rule – yes, I also include little facts in my blog as well). When I first moved here, I wanted to lose weight the easiest and cheapest way I could without having to go to the gym to do it, (I live in the country side, and haven’t always had a car). Running was perfect: fitness and the scenery of Scotland, why not?

Here are five reasons to consider your own Caledonian Running Experience.

Note: Thank you to Rachel, a fellow expat, runner and blogger for her input.

1. The weather: The temperature rarely goes above 25’C, and there’s barely anything in terms of hot humidity, so you never have to worry about hot weather runs, hydration, running early in the morning, etc., because the heat is really only a factor about two weeks a year. Also, during the winter, because it is a damp cold here, you don’t have to deal with the hard-to-breathe-in dry cold, which for me means I can run all year round. A drawback about the weather though is, you guessed it, the rain. I’ve actually become used to running in rain and actually enjoy it because I reward my efforts with a nice, hot shower. I also have to give myself a rest day after a rainy run to let my runners dry.Finally, the more comical aspect of weather in Scotland: the ever changing temperature. Heat wave in March? Check! Snow in April? You bet! Cold June? Definitely. I’ve actually found myself wondering ‘Why am I wearing my winter running stuff in June?’ this year. It’s great.

My reaction to winter running clothes in June

2.

The scenery: If the weather hasn’t enticed you, the scenery definitely will. Depending on your region of Scotland, you may find yourself running along beaches, up some pretty large hills or mountains, along the endlesscountry roads and rolling hills, or in one of many wooded areas or forest trails. Don’t forget about the castles! They’re every where here, but more about that later.

3.

Hill running:I live in a pretty hilly region and I can’t avoid running hills, so instead I’ve kind of embraced them and as a result, I’ve noticed a huge change in my fitness. Although I would never go to this length, another great thing about running in Scotland is hill races, they’re huge here, check out the list of all the hill races in Scotland this year alone. The Aonach More Uphill race kicks off the new year by running 2000 feet up a mountain. You could try the Ben Nevis Race, where you run up Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak at 4406 feet. There’s the Glamaig Hill Race on the Isle of Skye, 4.5miles and 2500 feet running up a mountain that looks like it’s straight out of Middle Earth. Or just try theEdinburgh Marathon Festival 10km that takes you 400 feet up Arthur’s Seat! (I’ve done it, it’s horrible!).

Glamaig Hill in the foreground

4.

The races!Okay, I know there are many cool races all over the world, but we’ve got some pretty interesting ones here too.

The Great North Run: get a taste for Newcastle (yes, Northern England) and Geordie accents with this ballot-only half marathon that features many elite runners/Olympians.

The Great Scottish Run: a half marathon or 10 km through Glasgow. This year’s start featured Team GB last-minute marathoner Freya Murray at the start, cheering runners on. Read Rachel’s half marathonrecap.

The Balmoral 10 km: a race through Balmoral Estate, home of Balmoral Castle, one of the Royal family’s two residences in Scotland, (the other being Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh). You pass by the castle, built by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and get to run up the dreaded PB killer of a hill. I will be doing this race next year, I swear! Check out Rachel’s recap.

RNLI Reindeer Run 10km at Glamis Castle: My first ever 10 km! This takes place on the Glamis Estate (pronounced ‘Glams’), which was the childhood home of the Queen Mother. Glamis Castle is also stunning, and you get to run around it, through the walled garden and part of the arboretum as part of the race. You also get reindeer antlers and a flashing red nose for running, as well as a cup of tea/coffee and mince meat pie at the finish. Check out my race recap. Sorry, no website for this year’s race yet.

Glenlivet 10km:In case you don’t know, Glenlivet is Scotland’s second best selling whisky behind Glenfiddich. Why not run a 10 km around the gorgeous and massive Glenlivet Estate, then sip on your dram of whisky afterwards?

Wild Hearts Santa Run: a 6km run through Aberdeen, where you get your own Santa suit that you wear to race in!

The Perth Kilt Run:a 5 mile race for a world record. All done wearing a kilt. Can’t get more Scottish than that! For any recreational runner, this race is as close as you’ll get to feeling the energy of the crowds during a race, it’s truly electric. Here’s Rachel’s recap, andmy recap of the race. And yes, you might even see a True Scotsman or two at the race.

5.

Running as an art form? This year only is the NVA Speed of Light in Edinburgh, part of Edinburgh’s International Festival and also a cultural contribution to the London 2012 Olympics. It combines art and sport, and was listed by the Guardian newspaper as a Top 10 must-see attraction. Runners, dressed in all black, done what can only be described as light suits, then walk up Arthur’s Seat, to run in formations and shapes around it. Check out the video below to see what I mean

 

As they say in Scotland ‘That’s me.’ I hope you’ve enjoyed this guest post, and perhaps it’s inspired you to do a little run holiday???

Chicago: So Much More Than Just a Marathon

Hey y’all!

Well, just when I thought the heat would be a topic of the past (because really that’s all anyone, including myself, has talked about this summer), here we are in the middle of another heat wave.  While it isn’t as hot here as it might be in Phoenix (sorry, Jac), we opted to do our intervals on the treadmill on Tuesday (I think Aaron wanted to avoid “you made me run when it’s too hot to run fast, so I’m going to run slow to spite you” Amy at all costs, so onto the treadmill we hopped, alternating, doing core work and weight lifting in between intervals.  I just wish treadmill running was exactly equivalent to real running because I kept up about a 6:30 minute mile pace the whole time, even venturing into the 6:07 territory for multiple tenths of a mile.

But sadly real life doesn’t have a moving conveyor belt to do some of the work for you, and neither is it flat unless you live in the midwest.  Chicago is in the Midwest!

Speaking of Chicago, I AM STARTING TO GET UNCONTROLLABLY EXCITED TO BE THERE!

“Bet your bottom dollar, you’ll lose the blues in Chicago
Chicago, the town that Billy Sunday couldn’t shut down “

-Frank Sinatra

(A quick Wiki search shows me that Billy Sunday was pro-prohibitionist and a Christian Evangelical).

I went on google earth and looked at the map of the course.  I mean, it isn’t New York where you get to run through the 5 boroughs and across the Brooklyn Bridge and into Central Park. And it isn’t Disney where you’re running through the happiest place on Earth with characters ready to take pictures with you.  And it might not even be the US Half Marathon (who I am SO disappointed in by the way…don’t ever do that race) where I got to run through San Francisco.  But it looks amazing!

You get to run through so many neighborhoods (29 according to Wikipedia), across that awesome looking urban river a few times (apparently named The Chicago River), and all over the city.

We have never been to Chicago.  In fact, I only made it to “the middle” two years ago for a wedding, so that whole section of the country is still a mystery to me.  Aaron’s mom is from Michigan, so he spent a lot of time there growing up, but I won’t dare compare Detroit/Ann Arbor to Chicago.

Our hotel is only a couple of blocks from the race start, so I think the energy of having some 40,000 runners in one concentrated area will be pretty cool.  Even Phoenix felt like Runner City for RnRAZ, so I can only imagine what it will feel like during Marathon weekend in Chicago.

We’re starting to look into what we want to do while we in the city.  We obviously don’t want to do a lot of walking in the days before running, and we may not be able to do a lot of walking in the days after, so we’re trying to figure out how to maximize our vacation without being on our feet too much.

I’m starting to research the following:

1) A Mafia Tour: I am weirdly obsessed with the mafia.  I want to see sites where people got whacked.

2) John Hughes Tour: I LOVE John Hughes movies.  No girl who lived in the 80’s doesn’t.  16 Candles? The Breakfast Club? Planes Trains and Automobiles? FERRIS BUELLER?!  Even Home Alone.  I want to see as many of these characters’ homes, schools, and shenanigan sites that I can.

3) The Art Institute of Chicago: Both Aaron and I thought at some point in college that we would be art history experts, so we both have a lot of art knowledge.  And we LOVE museums.  So, this is an obvious stop in our Chicago tour.  Known for the large Impressionist collection, Monet and Van Gogh are among the artists whose works hang on these walls.

4) PIZZA! And Hot Dogs! Post marathon, I can eat junk food AND not feel guilty about it!

5) Blues Clubs: Apparently Chicago is known for them.

6) Michigan Avenue: It has nice stores.  I like nice stores.

7) A dip in the Lake: I figure post marathon, this will feel like a giant ice bath!

There aren’t any local sports games that weekend.  I think seeing Wrigley Field would be cool though.  Also, Devil in the White City is one of my favorite books, and I would LOVE to see some of the World’s Colombian Expedition sites, but apparently they don’t exist anymore. It’s not like 1893 was THAT long ago.

What am I missing??? Recommendations are appreciated!

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend.  We are running 19 and 9 this weekend.  For the first time ever, our weekend mileage will actually be higher than 26.2.  Getting closer!

Stay cool out there!

Lots and Lots (and Lots) of Durango Pictures

So, I know everyone knows we went to Durango (and everyone is thinking, seriously, it’s not Paris, stop talking about it), but for such a small vacation, we took an insane amount of pictures that will sit forever in my computer, unloved and neglected.  I hate making anything feel unloved and neglected.

I love our camera (and Aaron LOVES our camera), so between us we take a lot of pictures with lots of different settings, often of the same thing over and over.

So, if you are interested in looking at a ton of pictures of water and trains (and a few other things), here is our Durango weekend in 87 pictures.

And then we will move on!

Birthday Weekend Getaway to Durango

Aaron (who reads my blog but only comments in real life), sends a 30-years-big THANK YOU to everyone for the birthday wishes!

He also thought that I had an “interesting” choice of pictures in the post yesterday, so I thought I’d throw another one in the mix!

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SIDENOTE: We have had non-stop birthday action since Friday, so this will be a short on words post with a lot of unedited pictures (I’ll actually share about 10 million train pictures another day)

We celebrated Aaron’s birthday with a quick weekend getaway to Durango, CO (home of Zuke’s dog treats…thanks Ellie for that tidbit of information!)

Durango is a quick 3 hour-ish drive from Albuquerque, but pretty much a whole different world.

Durango is a small, ski resort town with an old western feel, and as a college town, almost everyone is 22 and beautiful (and drunk).  It is also pretty affordable and unpretentious unlike some of the other Colorado ski resort towns like Telluride, Aspen, and Vail.

We started off the drive on Friday afternoon, and immediately encountered a traffic jam in the first town out.  Fun.  We also ate potato chips for dinner because we had no other options in the middle of nowhere.  (I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I actually eat pretty healthy most of the time!).

After an uneventful drive, we pulled into Durango.  I hadn’t been in about 12 years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see an adorable town appear in front of the bug-gut covered windshield.

Despite being such a touristy spot, hotels are kind of hard to come by (condos, cabins, and vacation house rentals are plentiful however).  Low-budget options like Econo Lodge and Best Western were available in the north end of town, and the two options downtown (where all of the restaurants and action are) are really old.

We opted to go with really old to stay within walking distance of the action and chose the General Palmer Hotel (The Strater is the other, far more expensive option).  It was very cute, very convenient, provided free breakfast, had Keurig coffee machines in room, and real keys (as opposed to the magnetic swiper ones).

Even though Durango is a ski town, there are plenty of things to do during the summer including white water rafting, zip-lining, mountain biking, hiking, and…THE TRAIN!

Without getting into too much of a history lesson, the Durango-Silverton Line was a pretty big deal back in the day.  These days it is quite the experience, with authentic trains chugging customers through the mountains from Durango to Silverton, an old west mining town revamped into a tourist destination.  The 45 mile trip takes about 3.5 hours, but the time investment is well worth it because of the amazing mountain views! Also, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed along this stretch of railroad! Paul Newman and I have been to the same place!

We opted for an open-air car which allows for better viewing (though we did get cold, and soot covered).

Silverton itself is about 2 streets worth of restaurants and shops (apparently the mines were active up until the 90’s, but now the only thing supporting this town is the business from the train passengers).  You get to spend about 2 and a half hours exploring (or saloon patronizing) before getting back on board.

After the 3.5 hour ride back into Durango, we went exploring the various microbreweries and bars that Durango had to offer.  Durango actually has 4 microbreweries in town, two within walking distance to our hotel (more on that later).

Sunday morning we got up for a trail run (more on that tomorrow) to explore the amazing landscape that Colorado has to offer.

Sunday also happened to be the Taste of Durango event where local restaurants give small samples of some of their food in exchange for tokens.  I guess the token sales go toward Charity, but you are essentially paying $4 per sample portion.  It was ok, but we didn’t spend too much time there.

We opted instead to eat at this adorable French restaurant!

On our way out of town, we stopped at Ska brewing company.  I don’t know if it is as widely distributed in other places as it is in Albuquerque, but the brand is completely comic book themed.

But…it is closed on Sundays, so all I could do was take pictures of the sign.  Bummer.

So, even though it was just a quick getaway, hanging out in Durango was relaxing and fun, and at such a close distance, a destination I wouldn’t mind going to a couple of times a year.  Sometimes, just escaping to a different place can make life a little more exciting.

Sometimes Aaron Goes on Cool Trips And Doesn’t Take Me

FIRST: Tomorrow is National Unplug Day.  No facebook, no internet, no tweeting, no blogging.  I think it will be hard, but I’m planning on participating.  My little BlackBerry doesn’t do much, but I do get all my social media updates, so I will have to be extra disciplined in not checking facebook every time Aaron goes to the bathroom.  And hopefully, if everyone else is participating, I won’t miss much! (My guess is me and 5 other people in the world will actually do this).

Also, kind of sad that we’ve become so reliant on constant social media connection that they (whoever the heck ‘They” are) have to actually invent a holiday to get everyone to take a break.

Personally, I’m more a fan of National Margarita Day!

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IRHSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association….i.e. gym people) holds a huge trade show and convention every year.  As a gym manager, Aaron gets to go to this convention to see and demo all the newest cardio and weight equipment, and I’m a little sad that I didn’t get invited.

This year IRHSA was in Los Angeles, so Aaron was out there all last week getting wined and dined by vendors and running 9-10 miles a day on fancy new treadmills.

While he was there, he spotted Mark Wahlberg shopping to furnish his personal gym and raced Carson Palmer (QB for the Oakland Raiders) who was demoing the next treadmill over.  He also walked by the Felicty Huffman trial circus with lots of flashing cameras and news reporters.

Meanwhile, I ate my grilled chicken and watched Real Housewives of Orange County at home with Giuseppe.

I sent Aaron with the fancy camera to capture all the excitement and chaos of a fitness industry convention and to report on all of the new-fangled equipment that he wants to buy me as presents.

He did not bring back any pictures (he was having to put his stuff down while trying out equipment, and as much as leaving a fancy camera laying around without supervision sounds like a good idea, he opted against it).  I was a little disappointed when I found out that Markie Mark got away unphotographed (I could care less about the Raiders).

However, I DID get lots of pictures of the Biltmore (the home of the original Academy Awards in the Biltmore Bowl Regency Room) where Aaron got to stay (jealousy doesn’t even begin to describe).  The craftsmanship that went into that hotel is amazing.  Hand carvings, stone work, and gilding not to mention fresh flowers in different colors every morning.  A palace built for the original Hollywood Royalty.  Walt Disney accepted an Oscar for Snow White, and Shirley Temple presented 7 honorary Oscars to the 7 dwarfs….all downstairs from where Aaron was sleeping.

I also got some pictures of downtown L.A.  I’ve been to Disneyland, Orange County beaches, and Universal Studios more times than I can count, but I’ve never spent any time in L.A.  I kind of want to spend some time exploring the historical buildings…but only if I get to stay at the Biltmore!

Happy Friday! I hope everyone enjoys this amazing weather!