A Camping Weekend at Van Meter

Meg was pretty helpful in setting up the tent!

Brooke wanted to get a test run in on the tent and camping gear before we head to the Grand Canyon later this summer.  The logistics of this trip were somewhat…”rushed”…as it was the weekend before Finals and we’d been busy for the weekends running up to it.

Meg and I went before Brooke was off work so we could get the tent set up.  The site itself was very flat (as all the sites at Van Meter are), though we had to move some leaves and sticks around.  It was pretty early in the season still on April 27th, so few people had camped in the area in 2018 before we got there.

Yay, dinner!

The weather was set to be great and it largely was.  It was pretty breezy Friday evening, but we were still able to get the fire going and roast some hot dogs.  We didn’t stay up all that late, as the temperatures were falling and the wind was blowing around the smoke all annoying-like…

…and…breakfast…

The temperatures dropped to ~42 F overnight and, while the kids slept just fine, Brooke and I were not as fortunate.  I was mostly warm, but Brooke got a bit chilly (and she subsequently bought a new sleeping bag for the Grand Canyon…good thing we went on a test run, yes?).

We got up, had some breakfast, and then the kids played for a little while at the playground.  The nice thing about Van Meter is that you can see the playground from the campsite (just about all of the sites, really), so the kids could go back and forth without us having to worry (much) about their safety.  There were many other kids around that weekend, some of which Meg and Calvin recognized, others of which they met for the weekend and ran around with for a time.

Playing in the sand at the playground

We didn’t have extensive plans for Saturday except for a hike around Lake Wooldridge.  We’ve gone down to the lake before, but we’d never hiked around the entire thing because Calvin is the slowest person on the planet.  It’s a 2 mile hike and, this time of year, the vegetation and insects are more limited, making it far more pleasant than usual.

Lake Wooldridge!

Calvin started out alright, but Brooke had to carry him on and off for periods of time.  In all honesty, he did a lot better than usual for this length of a hike, but it still took us well over an hour to go the full two miles.

Going on a hike!

The weather was absolutely gorgeous that day!  The hike killed a solid amount of time that morning, but we still made it back to have lunch and rest for a little bit.  The kids went back over to the playground while I attempted to take a nap (it was a bit loud…and bright…so yeah, didn’t get very far).

Still hiking…

Early that afternoon, we went by Van Meter’s Missouri’s American Indian Cultural Center for a presentation on the Sun conducted by a gentleman from the astronomy club in Columbia.  It was a bit above the kids’ heads, but after the slide show, we went outside to use a few telescopes with filters to look at the Sun.  Again, I’m not completely sure they got much out of it, but I think they thought it was at least something special to do!

Looking at the Sun!

Later that afternoon, we had mostly “downtime” around the campground, again including playground time, as well as a nice open space to go fly kites.  You couldn’t ask for a more perfect afternoon!

“Let’s…go…fly…a kite!”

That night we had “cowboy beans,” which consisted of baked beans, peppers and pork.  The kids weren’t the biggest fans (shocker…), but it was nice and warm.  We stayed up a little bit later that night, but otherwise got to bed as we were nice and tired from a long day.

I’m an idiot.

We slept better that night, though it still got down into the low-40s.  The next morning, we opted to pack up the cars and head out before breakfast, but as I’m a complete idiot, I had been using the Forester to charge my phone because I forgot the appropriate cable to charge it from the battery backup I’d brought along.

So yeah, we spent an extra hour trying to jump the car using the new jumper cables we’d bought for Brooke’s car.  Guess what?  They didn’t work.  So, we dug out my cables from underneath all the camping gear and they worked like a charm.

Lesson learned.

It ended up being a great weekend!  We got a few pointers for our trip to the Grand Canyon and are that much more prepared for the journey ahead.

Progress

Boom.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been thinking of running a Half Marathon this October in Kansas City.  “Early bird” registration is due at the end of May, so I have been pushing it to get as much training in before the kids are out on their summer vacation so I know whether I can even meet my goals of a). running for that far without stopping, and b). doing it in under 2 hours.

Well, I did it.

Honestly, I started out the run this morning a little later than normal, on account of the weather being somewhat mild at 76 F this morning.  I grabbed a few cups of coffee, something I haven’t been doing for the last few runs.  I ran 6.25 mi yesterday and didn’t run at all over the weekend, though I put in four days of 6.2 mi runs and a 20 mi bike ride last week.

Not too bad…

I hit 8 mi and still felt pretty good, so I decided to keep on going.  Another change from last time (when I only got 10.5 mi in) was that I took along some “hydration mix” for the run rather than just water.  Did that really make much of a difference?  I dunno.  But Brooke picked up a few packs in her last Sierra Trading Post order so I could check it out and it seemed to do alright.  I’ll probably order more of it, or something similar, for the rest of the summer.

I’m nothing if not consistent…

I’ll be signing up for the Half Marathon soon enough, as I’ve proven to myself I can do it.  I’ll likely keep doing between 6 and 10 miles on runs for the rest of the summer, and hit up 13 mile runs when I get a chance (e.g. when Meg and Calvin are elsewhere).

Oh yeah, and I needed a nap this afternoon.  I had 20,000 steps after I was finished running.  :-/

Garden Update: Early May

Garden 2018, ya’ll…

Well, the garden’s finally planted.  In some ways, I feel like it’s later than usual, but in other ways, I feel like it’s early (probably because we planted popcorn in, like, July last year…).

The tomatoes are in the rightmost plot this time and green beans and popcorn are in the leftmost, largest plot.  New for this year, Brooke put in some cucumbers.  The kids actually eat sliced cucumber sometimes, so perhaps we’ll get something useful…

Looks kinda desolate so far…

Brooke planted radishes, carrots, spinach and lettuce about a month ago now, but there was a massive rain (~4″ in a few hours…), so the seeds she’d just put in the ground shifted out of their rows and/or didn’t come up.  Honestly, they look a little better than we expected, but we need to water the garden and get some grass clippings put in to limit weed proliferation.  Last week was the first time I mowed the lawn (fully, at least), so I’m only now getting to the point where I’m mowing regularly.

Pretty flowers!

The “herb garden” section still needs a little more work, though.  Brooke put some bulbs in last Fall and they came up looking all pretty-like.  Some of the other perennials have returned, but we’ve added some milkweed and indigo from the Botany class on campus.  Again, lots of landscaping to finish off.

Millions of peaches…

The trees have also had their flowers on already.  Like last year, the peach tree had a bunch of flowers (and they didn’t freeze this time…yay!), but new for this year, the apple trees, cherry tree and almond tree also had some blooms.  We’ll have to see if anything comes of it, especially on the apple trees where the buds were on the smallest of branches…

First harvest!

That’s it for now!  We’ve got some radishes ready and the lettuce is moving right along, so onward, summer!

State Park #4: Van Meter State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

Hey, remember when I said I was going to make blog posts about all the State Parks we’ve visited??  Yeah, back in 2016?  I suppose I should get back to that.

Incidentally, we went camping at Van Meter last weekend, but I’ll put that in a separate post.  Before I do that, perhaps I should share some of our “greatest hits” from previous years.

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Remember this kid??

Van Meter State Park is the closest state park to Marshall, so it’s the one we’ve visited the most since we moved here in 2014.  There’s a small playground and a campground (that we only recently camped at!), and a few relatively light hiking trails that hit various parts of the park.

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Hiking has gotten…faster…over the years…

A few of the trails head down into wetland areas, and for short legs, they’re pretty easy to handle.  We’ve probably visited those most often, as we could put Calvin down and let him roam mostly freely (albeit slowly).  The other trail we’ve visited with relative frequency is the Lakeview Trail that (spoiler alert) goes around Lake Wooldridge.

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The Lake is one of the best parts of Van Meter!

The lake is especially nice because you can get close to it, but you don’t have to.  The kids get some interesting scenery to check out, and we get a halfway decent hike.  That trail gets “spider webby” as the Summer goes on, so it’s definitely better in the late Spring/early Summer months.

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Picnicking on our very first visit.

The other interesting note about Van Meter is that a series of Native American mound structures are present on the site.  The Missouri American Indian Cultural Center is on the park grounds and has a few displays to explain this history to visitors.  The mounds found at Van Meter aren’t as large as those found in Cahokia, but have similar features.

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One of our multiple New Years’ hikes!

One tradition we’ve tried starting for New Year’s Day is to go hiking.  This year proved a tad chilly for that (high of 11 F, low of -8 F), so we put off our hike a few days (but still went!). Typically, we’re the only visitors at that time (because duh…), so it’s nice being out in the new year with a fresh, nature-esque perspective.

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Again, I can’t emphasize how slow Calvin is.  Seriously.  He’s the slowest hiker ever.

Anyway, Van Meter is a fun park to visit.  I’m not sure it’s a “destination state park,” but the camping experience was near perfect and the hiking is relatively simple for kids and adults, alike.

Review: Avengers – Infinity War

So many characters…

I’m still a bit conflicted on Avengers: Infinity War. It’s effectively what all of the MCU has been working for since Iron Man released in 2008, though the villain, Thanos, first appeared in The Avengers in 2012 (still a long time). Much like the first Avengers movie, bringing together heroes from the existing MCU films of the time, Infinity War brings all of them in, to varying degrees, to battle the greatest threat to the universe.

And it’s a big threat, as Thanos’ deal is “universal population control,” wiping out half of life in the snap of his fingers.

The film is at times deftly navigated, while also convoluted.  Each character seems to “get their due,” but at the same time, Thanos gets so much time it really does seem like it’s more his movie than an Avengers movie.  I suppose we’ve seen most of these characters together as recently as Captain America: Civil War, though the original team, it’s been since 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (and some of those characters, notably Hawkeye, aren’t even in this one…).  I guess I’m saying that I’d have liked to see a bit more interaction between the main Avengers squad, because, you know, it’s an Avengers movie.

That said, we still get to see everyone, and Thanos really does seem to be the threat he’s been played up to be all this time.  The audience has been exposed to the Infinity Stones over multiple movies now, so finally getting to see them “assembled” (see what I did there?) and added to the Infinity Gauntlet was indeed a thrill. Thanos, himself, took some getting used to as he’s entirely CG, but I think Josh Brolin‘s performance mostly came through.  Everyone else was as great as they’ve always been, but again, it just seems like we got so much less of them, even in a 2.5 hr movie.

Ultimately, I think I liked it, but it’s just so hard to judge without seeing Avengers 4.  This movie ends on a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, effectively blowing up the MCU, and we’ll have to wait another year to see how it all pans out.  There’s a lot going on in this one and I think, for the most part, it’s handled as well as could possibly be expected.

I just wanna see Tony Stark and Steve Rogers hug it out, though…

R.I.Bees

Brooke had been meaning to get into the hives for the past month or so, but the weather simply wouldn’t cooperate this Spring.  March and April had very few warm-ish days and they were typically followed by long rain sessions.  Then, if we actually had some good weather on a weekend, we’d be out of town and still unavailable.

Eventually, after Girl’s Weekend, Brooke was able to leave work early and open up the hives and see how the bees were doing.  We’d noticed that there wasn’t much bee activity coming out of the hives on the warm-ish days, but again, as weather was back-and-forth for awhile, we couldn’t be sure whether there was a problem or whether the bees simply didn’t know what was going on with the weather situation.

Unfortunately, there were no bees.  Our original hive from 2016 was completely empty and was likely “robbed” by another hive of bees.  There was still some honey in the 2017 hive, but no bees to speak of, so they likely took their queen and swarmed sometime earlier in the year.  The food Brooke put in late in Winter was still there, so it’s likely they left sometime shortly after she was last in the hive.

In many ways, we count ourselves lucky, as many beekeepers lose 1/3 of their hives in a given year and we didn’t lose any last year, so we were probably due to have something like this happen.  We’re going to “re-set” the hive boxes to be lifted up a bit before putting any more bees in there, so in some ways, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of how we’ve been managing them and correct a few things before any new bees take up residence.

Thankfully, we’ve still got a decent amount of honey available to get us through the next few months.  We think we may be able to score an extra package of bees from Brooke’s Dad in the next few weeks, depending on how his bees hold up.  It’s the right time of year for bees to be delivered, so we’re hopeful that if Mark doesn’t end up having extra, someone else will, and Brooke has enough contacts now that we can probably get something going.

Here’s hoping!

My Legs Hurt

Ouch…

I went for a “long run” today, as the rest of the family were elsewhere and the weather was passable for part of a weekend (it’s snowing in KC right now…seriously…April in Missouri…).  I was hoping I could make it the full 13.1 mi today, but settled for breaching the “double digit” line for the first time.  I ran around much of Marshall, which is almost required when the town isn’t all that large, but I still only hit the 10 mi mark when I was within a block of our house on the return trip.

I spent much of the rest of the afternoon laying on the couch watching the Cardinals game, and as of now, it sure feels like I pushed those leg muscles to their limits.  I wouldn’t say it “hurts,” per se, but I feel my legs every time I stand up and move from room to room.  I’m interested to see what tomorrow brings…

I suppose I’ll need to step it up more slowly, but the next few weeks will get more convoluted due to various meetings and work.  Once we’re clear of school, I should have more time for these longer runs (and they’ll probably need to be in the mornings…I ordered a hat to keep my bald head from burning if I run in intense sun…).  Based on the time I put in today, I suspect that I’m on track to do a half-marathon in under 2 hours, and honestly, I think I could have finished it off today, but it probably wouldn’t have felt all that great tomorrow (or Monday, for that matter…).  Assuming I can keep on schedule, I’m pretty confident I can achieve a respectable time by October.

A Brief St. Louis Excursion

Blues vs Canucks. #stlwins

So, last year I joined the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society, mostly as a means of professional development, but also for some networking opportunities.  I didn’t do much with them last year, but this May’s annual meeting was to be in Columbus, OH on Memorial Day weekend.  The cost was going to be substantial, though Missouri Valley was going to cover most of it.

Anyway, a little over a month ago, HAPS sent out a note that a regional meeting was going to be held in St. Louis on March 24th for far less than the full-size meeting in May.  This weekend was also the start of Meg’s Spring Break, so it presented a unique opportunity to spend relatively little and get a weekend in St. Louis for Brooke and I.  Win-win all around.

After dropping the kids off in Columbia (thanks Mom and Dad!), we continued on to St. Louis.  Brooke’s parents were kind enough to share their season tickets to the Blues game Friday night, so we rushed in through good old fashioned St. Louis traffic (and rain…which exacerbated said traffic…) and made it just after the game started.  It turned out well for the “boys in blue,” as they ended up winning 4-1.  We had a good time!

We went to McGurk’s for dinner afterward (I was quite hungry…), as it was a few blocks up from the Airbnb we rented in Soulard, our old stomping grounds.  There were tons of folks there for some live music, but it was one of the few places we figured would still be serving food after 9:30 pm in the neighborhood.  Mmmmmm, tasty…

Human Anatomy & Physiology Society Central Regional Meeting

The next day, Brooke dropped me off at my conference while she went and ran some shopping errands and got some reading done at the apartment.  She had a rainy, albeit relaxing, day. 🙂

For my part, I really enjoyed the conference.  There were less than 50 people there, but the sessions were good at focusing on information retention and other teaching-related subjects, stuff that I can use some ideas on, as they’re what I’ve been thinking about quite a bit this semester.  I saw a few SLU grads from my tenure there, too, so it was a good opportunity to catch up and follow through with that “networking” I mentioned earlier.  Regardless, I came away excited about some new things I can try in the classroom.

Earthbound Brewing

The meeting was over around 4:00 pm, so we headed back to the apartment so I could change out of my “conference clothes,” allowing us to head out and see some of the microbreweries that have popped up since we moved in 2014.  First up, Earthbound Beer off of Cherokee Street.  The beers there looked interesting (and all of the sampler set we had were impressive!) and they also had some food (grabbed some BBQ nacho concoction…mmmm…) to tide us over until dinnertime.

Second, we went by Side Project Brewing in Maplewood.  The Maplewood Coffee Crawl was going on that day, so they had some extra “coffee beers” available, though they were barrel-aged and pretty “high octane.”  They were good, but not exactly what we were in the mood for when we knew we had to drive back to Soulard.  We also tried a saison and a farmhouse ale, both of which I enjoyed, but Brooke wasn’t as big a fan.  They were close to closing, so we weren’t there for all that long.  They seemed solid, but of the three we visited, it wasn’t our favorite.

Third, we hit up The U.R.B., Urban Chestnut’s Research Brewery.  I’d been to their bierhall across the street a few times, but a buddy from college recommended trying the research brewery, as they had pretty decent pizza, as well.  The concept is that Urban Chestnut tests three difference recipes and sells you three tasters for $1 (total) from which you are asked to answer some questions via digital survey on your phone.  This is all to help them get some feedback on their wares so they know what to scale up into a full release.

The option for Saturday were Radlers, which aren’t exactly our favorite.  One was more lemon, the other more grapefruit, and the third…I dunno…  The grapefruit one was the best, in our opinion, but all three were “drinkable.”

After we had those, we grabbed a pizza that was pretty solid.  It wasn’t Joanie’s or anything, but it was good.

Hammerstone’s

The next morning, we hit up Hammerstone’s for breakfast before heading out (yum…).  Moseying around Soulard was pretty great and we hope we can get back there again soon.  The Airbnb we stayed in was really, really good, and was probably in the perfect place for us, so it was nice to re-live some of our favorite times, even if for only a few nights.

The drive home was uneventful, aside from stopping off at a few more shopping locations.  We had a great time!  Let’s hope we can do it again sometime!

“And I ran…I ran so far awaaaayy…”

#supercatspeed

I’ve beefed up my jogging a bit in the past few weeks. Over the Winter, I was able to get in some frequent jogs despite the chilly weather.  Around that time, I started investigating the possibility of trying for a Half Marathon sometime this year.  Based on how long I’ve got available over the Summer, and distance to travel, I decided the Kansas City Half Marathon in October seems like an appropriate option.  As such, I upped my nearly daily jogging time from 20 minutes daily-ish to 25 minutes whenever I could get around to it.  In the last few weeks, I’ve consistently fit in 3.5 mi runs on a semi-regular basis.

Over Spring Break, the weather wasn’t particularly pleasant so I had to go jogging at the Malcolm Center on campus to get some treadmill time in.  Meg was in school, so I had plenty of time available to push it a bit further, hitting 8 miles on one occasion (in ~75 min) and the next day, another 7 miles (in ~60 min).

That second run (literally the day after I ran for the longest I’ve ever run…) got a bit painful, so I’ve tried taking it a little easier since.

Consistency!

This week, put in a few more 60 min runs, hitting 7.21 mi the first time (Sunday) and 7.44 mi today.  The extra rest between days helped my feet (though I threw in a short-ish run yesterday), but I also picked up some new shoes late last week.  I broke them in yesterday, though I wore them around the house this weekend to flex them a bit.

As I alluded to, today’s run went significantly better than Sunday’s did, despite the temperature being a little colder.  The new shoes are certainly “bouncier” than my old pair, though I’m sure I’ve put enough miles into the old ones that they’re past their prime.  This is my third pair of Asics and they’ve been serving me well enough.

New kicks.

I’ve got a few months to keep pushing, and once school’s out in early May, I should have plenty of time available.  I’m hoping to try running for 13 miles sometime next week when the kids are out of town for their Spring Break, just to see how far I can get.  If I can actually maintain my pace, I should be able to do 13 miles in under 2 hours (a valiant goal!)…but as I’ve never actually run for that long, who knows what my legs will feel like when I’m done (my guess: probably bad).

Still, I want to give it a try when I have fewer responsibilities to take care of during that 2 hour period of time.  If I can do 13 miles in a semi-reasonable amount of time next week, a half marathon in October should be a piece of cake!

Or I’ll wreck my legs and quit running for awhile.  Whichever comes first.

Garden Update: Early March

Gettin’ ready

It’s been a long time coming.  This Winter was quite a bit colder and, more recently, wetter than last Winter, so while we’ve wanted to get out in the garden to get things started, our schedule and the weather simply haven’t worked out.

Case in point, I was on Spring Break this past week and for the first 3 days of it, the temperatures were below 40 F and were rainy and gross.  Granted, I was on Break and wasn’t particularly motivated to do anything, but oh well…that’s my excuse.

Regardless, Brooke ordered some seeds and tomato plants from Jung Seed, so we needed to get the ground usable prior to their arrival.

“Fire!”

For the last few years, we’ve kept the leftover stalks and grass clippings on the gardens for the season.  Last year, Brooke burned it all and we opted to do the same thing this year (this time with a permit, so a bit more legal…).  It was just windy enough to feed the fire, but just damp enough so that it would take a little time to burn it all away.

After the fires were done, I used the neighbor’s tiller to turn it all over and make it look all pretty like.

Healthy dirt!

I’m still impressed by how dark the dirt is after using it the past few years.  We haven’t had to add much compost, though we did add some manure last year (just a sprinkling, really…not much).

The garden plots are going to get rotated again, but I’ll post more about that once we actually plant some stuff.  For now, the plan is to put the carrots, radishes and lettuce are going to go where the tomatoes and peppers were last year.  We’re planting all that stuff a week or two later than last year, but whatcha gonna do?