State Park #12: Elephant Rocks 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.

As part of our “Staycation 2020” trip in August, we also stopped by Elephant Rocks State Park, as it was close to multiple other state parks we wanted to hit. Really, this park was most of the reason we wanted to take the trip in the first place, as it’s one of those things we both remembered doing when we were growing up, so we wanted the kids to get to experience it while they were still on the younger side of things.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, we tried getting there earlier in the morning so we could avoid the inevitable crowds, and for the most part, we definitely did. After being there awhile, there were more and more people coming in and it was getting harder to distance from them, so we really only stayed for the morning.

The park itself features gigantic granite boulders that naturally formed and were weathered over millennia. The largest of the rocks is 27 feet tall, 34 feet long, and 17 feet wide. Some of them are pretty difficult to climb, while others are shorter for kids to try to maneuver around.

There aren’t really any serious trails at this park, but there is a well-defined nature trail with various signs that are instructional for the surroundings. A lot of school kids get taken there, so much of the material focuses on geology, as well as the natural environment in that region. Our kids weren’t all that interested in the signs, though we did try to get Meg to get some interesting factoids from them. Calvin really just wanted to climb on things, but hey, that’s why we went!

There are some playgrounds there and a few picnic shelters, but we avoided those for obvious reasons. In more “normal times,” we could definitely spend almost all day there, though I would probably want the kids to be a little older before letting them go run off by themselves. It was a memorable part of the trip, for sure!

The Bathroom II: Plaster’s Revenge – Part I

When we first moved into the house, we had to have the toilet replaced upstairs so it would be usable by our four year old, and in the process, tiles were torn out and needed a fix. So, we embarked on our first remodel, and were thus introduced to the use of plaster to repair walls in the house. While we were satisfied at the time with the work we did, we’ve come a long way in removal of wallpaper, repair of plaster, and painting in other spaces of the house.

In the intervening years, the ceiling began peeling due to all the excessive moisture in the room. We also didn’t have a fan in there, so moisture tended to hang around, which wasn’t ideal for a space like that. With the remaining time left during my Winter Break, and the availability of our fathers around the holidays, we figured it was best to pull the trigger and go ahead and get it done while it was chillier outside, in the event we had to be without a shower for a few nights (spoiler alert: we were…).

On December 28th, we had a 12 sq. yd. dumpster delivered where we could put all the products of our destruction from the room. Last time, we stashed the tiles and leftover plaster behind the garage, and I ended up hauling it out to the curb each week until it was finally gone, so this time, we did our best to get rid of it all at once.

Mark had visited a few weeks earlier to check out the room and pull a few patches of trim so we could get a handle on what everything would entail. We planned to have Mark and Diana come out and stay in a hotel here in town for a few nights while they helped with drywall, and I had my Dad come out the day before to get the wiring done for a new power outlet and a new ceiling light+fan.

Before Dad could arrive, I had to get the demolition done. I spent Monday and Tuesday tearing out the long wall by the door, and then focused on getting the wall by the window down, followed by the ceiling. I did my best to keep the shower and toilet covered so they would be usable for as long as we could, but that only continued for another day. Our progress slowed down on Tuesday quite a bit, mostly because the ceiling took me some time to work around while not damaging things. We went ahead and pulled the toilet out and the old vanity, the latter of which we put out by the curb (it was gone by the next morning, so hopefully it found a new home).

Another thing: before Dad came, I had to pull up all the insulation from above the bathroom and, believe you me, it was the absolute worst!! Thank God we have a billion masks around here (for obvious reasons…), ’cause if I wasn’t wearing one, I would have inhaled all kinds of dust while pulling up insulation. But yeah, I think I ended up with 7 or 8 trash bags full of insulation by the time we were done with demolition, including from the outer walls in the bathroom itself.

Dad came by on Wednesday as planned and, as became the theme of the entire ordeal, things went slower than we wanted to. I went to the store a few times to get electrical boxes and Romex wire, while Dad took some measurements and figured out how to get the fan wired the way we wanted to the light switch. We had two switches first and expanded to three: one for the vanity light, one for the light/fain, and one for the nightlight built in to the fan. We also only had one electrical box in the room, so we daisy-chained it up and over to drop it down between the toilet and the new vanity (that we didn’t have yet…).

A note on that: we ordered a lot of the stuff to be delivered by Lowe’s, but weather got in the way and the delivery was delayed from Tuesday to Wednesday. It didn’t end up being a huge deal, but it was one more thing for me to pay attention to, distracting me from other aspects of the project. Brooke ordered drywall, trim, the vanity, and some other odds and ends, so that saved us the need to get the stuff ourselves (and rent/borrow a truck to do so with…). We picked up the vinyl floor we wanted from Menard’s the weekend prior, strapping it to the roof of the Outback. Worked out alright!

Anyway, demolition took three days. We had a few small bits to finish up on Thursday, but by the time Mark and Diana rolled in Thursday morning, we were pretty much ready for them!

But for that…we’ll wait for Part II… 🙂

State Park #11: Taum Sauk Mountain 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.

We visited Taum Sauk Mountain State Park as part of our “Staycation” 2020 trip, taking the opportunity to knock out a few parks that were close enough together for us to visit multiple in a single extended weekend. The “claim to fame” for Taum Sauk Mountain is that it’s the highest point in the state of Missouri. It’s found within the St. Francois Mountains and features a few trails through its 7,500 acres.

When we went, we really were just wanting to visit the “highest point,” but it took us a bit to find it. There wasn’t a really obvious sign or anything that said “highest point in Missouri this way!,” but we eventually found it.

After that, we walked along one of the trails . The Mina Sauk Falls trail is the one we tried, as it’s a loop that passes by a scenic overlook and some waterfalls. I can’t say the falls were that impressive, frankly, but they were a solid distraction for the kids to play in for a bit before we went to visit other sites. The Mina Sauk Falls trail follows along the Ozark Trail for a bit, which actually connects to Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, but we just did the short-ish loop. The trail itself was pretty rocky, so we had to be careful with how the kids were hiking, as some of the grades were a bit steep.

We’re glad we stopped by, but we’re also glad we didn’t plan an entire trip around Taum Sauk Mountain. After we did the loop trail, there wasn’t really much else to do there! No park office, the parking lot was gravel, and there were very few informational signs around. It was a nice little trail, but there are other parks nearby where there are more activities available!

Meet Charlotte

We’ve noticed over the past few months that Sam has been very….clingy…..at night…. Maybe it’s old age, maybe he misses Edie…who knows… But it got to the point where Brooke was wondering whether Sam needed a new friend. He’s also over 15 years old now, so while he could easily be with us for another 10 years (which is crazy to think about), Brooke thought that getting another cat now would give them enough time for Sam to “rub off” a bit on a new arrival.

She poked around the Humane Society’s website to look at what our options were. Since the pandemic took hold (or maybe before?), they have had cats in host homes where the foster “parent” can post about the cat’s personality quirks, how they deal with other animals and children, etc. It’s a much better system than having them locked in a cage where you really don’t get a good sense of what they’re actually like.

We drove to Columbia last Saturday to meet “Caramel Corn.” Granted, it’s been a long time since we had a young cat in the house, but dang she’s tiny compared to Sam! She seemed friendly enough and let Brooke and Calvin hold her, so that was a good start. We chatted a bit with the foster parent and then we were on our way!

“Caramel Corn” yowled in the car for most of the ride home. After awhile, she would close her eyes and pretend she wasn’t in the car…then she’d open her eyes again and start yowling again… So yeah, not a car rider.

Once we got her inside, Sam was sleeping on the couch, so we set the carrier down in view of him. At first, he didn’t really know what to think until he realized what was in the box….

There was quite a bit of hissing initially. For that first day, they avoided each other as best they could. Sam mostly stayed on the main floor, while “Caramel Corn” stayed downstairs in the basement. It was a struggle to get her upstairs! The litter box is down there, so it was fine, but with all the stuff down there, it’s tough to find her when she doesn’t want to be found! There was one point where we wondered if she escaped through some small hole to the outside of the house, but eventually we found her.

The next day, she wandered around a little bit more than before. Ate some of her food (Sam keeps going after it….we haven’t solved that problem just yet….). Used the litter box as she’s supposed to. But she still hung out down in the basement quite a bit! She liked playing with the cave crickets that are plaguing the basement at present.

Early that evening though, she came upstairs for some water, so I shut the door behind her so she had to stay upstairs and “socialize” a bit with her new family. She opened up quite a bit! She was still hesitant to hop up on the couch with us while we were watching TV, but she would walk past frequently and slow down enough for us to give her ear a scratch.

That second day, we still had much discussion about a name. We were looking for “old lady names,” as Edie was short for “Edith Anne,” and we think giving human names to our pets has been fun. One idea was “Max,” short for “Maxine.” Calvin wanted to keep calling her “Carmel,” but the rest of us weren’t down with that idea….

Eventually, Brooke came up with “Charlotte.” We don’t have a good short version of it yet, but perhaps we’ll settle on something after she gets used to the name.

The week has largely progressed with social improvements between the cats. Charlotte has been sleeping on the velvet bench at night, and sleeping on the couch when she doesn’t mind the kids petting her. She also uses the cat scratching stand!!! Sam never uses that thing!!

Speaking of which, Sam and Charlotte still aren’t quite “friendly” yet, but it’s to the point where Sam can walk past Charlotte on the couch while she’s sleeping, and she doesn’t swipe at him or wake up startled. There are other times, though, when Sam is on the table while we’re eating dinner and his tail dangles down below….down to a waiting Charlotte who is happy to start pawing at it. That usually doesn’t go as well….

Charlotte is fitting right in! We’re going to declaw her, which is something we didn’t do for Sam. To be fair, 15 years ago, we didn’t have “real furniture” that we wanted to protect from claws. If we’re going to have another cat for another 20 years…..we’d like to keep our nice couch looking that way….

She’s a sweetie! Looking forward to watching her grow!

“Staycation” 2020

We had this grand plan in mind for our vacation this year. Reservations were made, days were claimed to be taken off, and tents were being bought in preparation for the journey. The plan was that we would drive out to Yellowstone National Park and camp at one of their campgrounds, then stay at an Airbnb closer to Grand Teton National Park for another few days, then circle down through Colorado and see Brooke’s cousin.

Well, we all know how that turned out, right?

The kids and I still needed to get out of the house though, and Brooke has an innate need to go on a road trip every year, so we decided to knock a few more state parks off our list and head out to Pilot Knob, MO, where we could stay in a motel (with a swimming pool), and hit up 3 state parks while we were in one central area. Pilot Knob is pretty close to Elephant Rocks State Park, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, and Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, so we’d be able to spend part of the day at each one while we went for an extended weekend. We actually drove through Onandoga Cave State Park, but because they weren’t doing cave tours, we figured we should just go back there when all of this is finally over…

So yeah, because we’ve got a whole other thread of posts for state park visits, I’m going to make separate posts about those. Here, I’m going to speak more broadly about the trip.

Pilot Knob is about 4.5 hrs from Marshall, and luckily for us, St. James, MO is on the way, so we stopped off at our favorite winery in the state, Heinrichshaus, to pick up some bottles. While we were there, we had a picnic lunch and enjoyed being out of the car for a bit. It was a pretty short stop, but it had been a few years since we were last there (Meg and I stopped in last Spring on the return trip from an excursion with my Biology students,, but we didn’t exactly “stock up”).

That afternoon, we stopped off at the Huzzah Conservation Area to play in the water for a bit. Really, it was just an excuse for Brooke and I to relax with our feet in the water and let the kids mess around in a fast-moving float trip river.

We only stayed for an hour or so, but the kids could have done that all afternoon. They’d float their bodies while their hands kinda shuffled them along with the current, and then they’d do it again, and again, and again. It was like sledding.

There weren’t many options for where to stay in Pilot Knob or Ironton (which is practically attached…), and we weren’t thrilled with the prospect of camping in late-July humidity, so Brooke booked us a room at the Fort Davidson Hotel. It has an attached restaurant with a nice patio, it had exterior access to the room, and it had an outdoor pool, so we figured it was a relatively safe bet. The place turned out to be pretty nice, all things considered! We had an issue with the toilet constantly running, but the owner of the hotel came right over and took care of it for us. That night, I went out to Casey’s to get pizza, so the kids were more than satisfied.

The next morning, we went to Elephant Rocks (more on that in another post), and thankfully, it wasn’t all that crowded. More folks kept showing up and, as we were being responsible human beings, we tried avoiding others to the best of our ability, so it was good that we went relatively early so we could leave before the crowds got really bad.

That afternoon was mostly spent out by the pool! The kids were pretty proud of themselves swimming in the 11 ft deep end of the pool for much of the time. Meg was able to get diving sticks from the very bottom, though it took her some practice to get there. Calvin touched the bottom a few times, but again, he hadn’t really done that before, so diving from the surface was tough!

That night, we ate at the attached restaurant. We had the option of eating inside or outside, but the patio was nice enough and the weather wasn’t too bad, so we were comfortable. The kids got some Fitz’s soft drinks and their beer selection was surprisingly decent, considering how far Pilot Knob is from….er….anywhere… And my fried catfish was spectacular.

Across the street from the restaurant sits the namesake of the hotel: Fort Davidson. It was my first “earthen fort” that I’d ever visited, so there wasn’t really all that much to see aside from a hill with grass on it in the shape of a square. Apparently, the Union were holding the fort and then lost a battle with the Confederacy, who then subsequently took over.

So yeah, it was a nice evening stroll after eating way too much. An excuse to walk around a bit like normal people for a change. 🙂

The next morning, we went to Taum Sauk Mountain, and that afternoon, we went to Johnson’s Shut-Ins. Again, I’ll have separate posts about those, but here, I’ll point out that Taum Sauk was a nice little hike where we got to sit and enjoy some small waterfalls, but Johnson’s Shut-Ins was a madhouse. We figured on a Sunday afternoon, the “St. Louis Crowd” would have waned a bit as they were all heading back home, but nope…totally wrong on that one… We had to park almost a mile away from the main area of the park, and it was very difficult to maintain any form of social distancing, let alone 6 ft. We only stayed for an hour or so, and while the kids would have liked to have stayed a little more (and seen more of the park), we just didn’t feel comfortable.

So we went back to the hotel and swam there again! 🙂

That evening, we went to a Mexican restaurant in Ironton called Checo’s that was pretty good. Not a lot of good mask-wearing in that building either, but we were seated relatively far from anyone else, so we felt at least okay about it.

In the evenings, we played some games that we brought alone. The first night, we played Skip-Bo, which is a family favorite. The second night, we played a family edition of Trivial Pursuit that actually worked shockingly well. The kids get their own set of cards separate from the adult-level cards, and we think they did a good job of getting that mix right.

Monday morning, we decided to hit up Meremec Caverns on our return trip home, as Onandoga Cave was closed and we had played up how cool caves can be (literally and figuratively).

The kids definitely enjoyed it! I’m not sure I’ve ever been there, though I’ve been to others in the state like Mark Twain Cave, Bridal Cave, and Jacob’s Cave. Like those, this one is definitely a tourist trap, but again, it provided a bit of “spectacle” for the kids to experience. Hopefully they’ll remember it!

We were wearing masks, but very few others in our tour group was. Our tour guide did, but most of the folks with us weren’t doing their part. When we passed other tour groups, it looked like there were others there wearing them, but the majority of the visitors didn’t have them on. Definitely disconcerting.

Again, I think the kids enjoyed it quite a bit, and they did a great job of following directions and listening to the tour guide as he pointed out various aspects of the cave. They also very much enjoyed when they turned all the lights out, just how dark it gets in there. Of course, as we were vacationing in southern Missouri in late-July, we didn’t have jackets with us…..so next time, we should try to remember to bring long sleeves. Calving got a little chilly after being in there for an hour, but overall, they did a good job!

After we finished at Meremec Caverns, we continued home via Highway 50! Mostly, it’s because that was a different route than we took to get home (it also rained quite a bit on our return trip, so that was lovely…..), but the real reason was that we would pass through Jefferson City a little after lunch time:

For the record, Brooke did not eat that entire banana split. Meg did eat the mint chocolate chip sundae in its entirety, though. And she didn’t throw up, for the record.

That’s it! We had a ton of laundry to do after this, but for an extended weekend trip, it was “good enough” to tide us over until next year. We’ll have to double back and get to Yellowstone eventually, but assuming things get better in time, next year’s plan is a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway ending at Disneyland!

Milestone!

I mostly just wanted to post this for posterity, but Calvin is riding a bike! Yay!

I suggested it to him a few weeks ago, that we could go up to Meg’s old elementary school asphalt and he could ride around in circles, getting some practice in. We tried doing something similar last year at his old school, and while he was able to do some light biking, he didn’t have much control, confidence, and couldn’t really start the bike by himself.

What a difference a year makes! This time, I think I held the bike once to get him started. After that, he listened to my instructions (“Start with your right foot down, and put your left foot on the pedal so you can push down with it and get yourself started”…stuff like that…) and just kinda did it! To be fair, he also had his knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist pads on this time, so maybe he just felt invincible?

After a few times around the black top, he took off the pads to get a bit more flexibility and, again, he just kinda did it! He really didn’t struggle at all, except for the occasional pause when he’s trying to get his feet in the right position to get started.

That first day, he wasn’t great at using his brakes, but he asked to go again later that week (“Well, of course we can go biking again!!!” said the very proud father), so that time, he focused on gradually pushing backwards on the pedals to slow down a bit, rather than coming to a complete stop.

That day, he also went down the hill on the road a bit, so that’s probably the fastest he’s gone. We went again yesterday and he did the hill one more time. We also brought Brooke along so she could see him in action.

We’re talking about getting another bike now, as this one is a little on the small side for Calvin, and it most definitely won’t fit him next Summer. We’re still working on convincing Meg to actually put forth an effort on riding a bike (she’s pretty stubborn about it….wonder where she gets that from?), but I think seeing Calvin doing it so easily and having fun makes her think that she could probably do it without falling and hurting herself.

Regardless, I’m not officially not a failure as a parent. I’ve got at least one kid riding a bike, and enjoying it. 🙂

State Park #10: Harry S Truman 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.

We’ve been feeling pretty cooped up these past few weeks, largely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so with the weather being really good this weekend, we opted to go for a picnic lunch and hike at Harry S Truman State Park, which is a little over an hour south of us in Warsaw, MO.

Getting to the park wasn’t really all that difficult, though it was a bit further off the highway than we anticipated. We had to drive through Warsaw to get there, which was a nice diversion. They seem to be big enough for fast food and grocery stores, so if we were to go down there for an extended camping trip, we’d be all set. Unfortunately, all of the camp grounds in the state parks are closed for the time-being (more on that later…), so that wasn’t really an option this weekend, anyway.

By the time we got down there, it was a little after 11:00, so we opted to eat first before finding our hiking trail. Because of the way Truman Lake bobs and weaves into and out of the land surrounding it, we thought we were in a place close to the hiking trail we were looking for, but upon further examination (and the distinct lack of a trail head), we figured out we had to drive about 10 minutes through the park to get there.

Unfortunately, the trail we wanted (that was something like 2 miles long) was located far back into the camping area of the park. Further unfortunately, said campground was closed, so we couldn’t even drive to it. We could have parked at the Park Office, but we’d have to walk on the road at least a mile just to get to the trail head, making it a 4 mile day. Calvin has improved a lot in the last few years, but 4 miles isn’t something I’m prepared to get him to do just yet……

Instead, we found a trail that we could access, but it was only about 0.9 miles long. It was a decent trail and was well-maintained, but it was a bit muddy in spots (it had rained recently). There were definitely some nice vistas off the trail where you could see Truman Dam off in the distance.

So yeah, this is a weird one, under the circumstances! There’s a beach down there that would probably be good to visit, as well as a pretty massive boat area (that had tons of vehicles parked, so lots of folks were out on Truman Lake, it looked like). We assume the Park Offices had some educational displays, but they weren’t open. There were playgrounds, but they were all roped off. Apparently there are hiking trails, but you can’t get to most of them!

I guess we’ll just have to go back sometime after this situation is all over!!

Only Hope

The almond tree….. “It’s aliiiiiiiiiivvveee!!!”

I’ve got some time on my hands, as as mental health professionals suggest journaling, I may as well keep posting here, right?

Classes “resumed” this week for me, so I’m trying to get in communication with my students. I’ve only heard from a few of them at this point, which isn’t too surprising, but it’s a substantially different dynamic compared with what I’m used to. I’m hosting virtual office hours five times a week now, though I haven’t actually had anyone join yet. I’ve got my first committee meeting today, so it’ll be my first non-email communication with folks at the college in a bit.

The kids, on the other hand, are generally enjoying their new reality. Brooke’s still setting up a checklist for them that gives them something to do everyday, along with a little bit of variety in the daily routine. Animal Crossing came out last Friday, which Meg’s been looking forward to since last Fall, so it’s been a welcome diversion from everything that’s been going on. Thankfully, there’s a co-op mode to it so Calvin can play along simultaneously.

Brooke started her new schedule at work this week. Right now, they’re going to remain open, but have rearranged their consumers for isolation protocols so it’s easier to separate those that may have been exposed, should that happen eventually… As of today, there are no cases in Saline County, but Columbia and Kansas City both have multiple cases. As of yesterday, there were 183 confirmed cases in Missouri, almost half of which were in people under the age of 50.

On Saturday, I took a trip into Columbia to donate blood, as the Red Cross is canceling blood drives all over the place now. I dropped some stuff off at Goodwill to clear out space for the next remodel… We were planning on separating the kids into their own rooms this year anyway, so we’ve just pushed up the schedule on that now that time is seemingly more available… Brooke and Meg spent quite a bit of time this weekend organizing their toys, moving some of it up into the attic and getting rid of other bits. I also brought back some old bed frames from when my grandfather and great-uncle were growing up, so we’re hoping to restore those and put them in Meg’s room, depending on how they fit in the space.

Then again, if Lowes closes and we can’t buy paint for the bed frames, we’ll be slowed down considerably…

Aaaaaaaanyway, I’m catching up on TV, keeping up on school stuff, and otherwise trying to entertain myself. The weather is improving, though it’s been pretty rainy. We’ve had at least 4″ of rain in the last week, kinda spread out over the days. Temperatures should reach into the 60s later this week, so hopefully things dry out a bit! The kids really need to get outside more…

Brooke and I are watching This Old House every night now, trying to watch happy, positive stuff. Also, Jon Foreman is recording and performing a new song every day on YouTube.

At least the trees are getting their leaves back, right?

It’s Been A Minute…

Whee! Playing outside finally!

It isn’t that there hasn’t been much going on…but most of what the last few months has entailed was routine. We had Christmas Break, started the Spring Semester, had a bunch of snow days (like, one per week, almost literally…), and now I’m on Spring Break…but more on that later…

Probably the biggest thing that’s happened was Meg’s 10th birthday. It’s crazy to think that it’s been 10 years since she joined the family! We had a small gathering for some of her friends after school last Friday, and keeping 4 fourth graders entertained for 5 hours is certainly a challenge…

Speaking of Spring Break, I’ve gotten a few short-ish bike rides in, some running, some prep work for the rest of the semester, and a few other odds and ends done. Mostly, I’ve just been chillin’ around the house. The weather has been up and down (because Missouri), but we’ve had a few days in the past couple of weeks where we’ve hit the mid-60s or low-70s, so we’ve had a taste of Spring and are ready for it. Brooke even got her annual “burning of the garden” done! Of course, there’s a chance of snow tomorrow…because…Missouri….

The big news has been developing over the past few weeks. As you, dear reader, undoubtedly know by now, the world has been rocked by the novel coronavirus. Incidentally, Calvin, Brooke and I were struck with influenza a few weeks ago, so we’ve already had a run-in with sickness this year (yes, we had our flu shots…), but this coronavirus is a different situation.

So different that Missouri Valley has decided, along with many other colleges, to shut down in-person teaching for the foreseeable future. We’re on Spring Break, so students are already scattered all over the place. The administration took the logical step of delaying their return for an extra week, and gave them the option to choose to return if they want later in March. Buildings will be open, the dining hall will still function, dorms will be available….but we won’t hold any face-to-face classes.

For me, this isn’t going to be a tough transition. I already teach a few classes online, so I’ll just have to push a few buttons to move things over, in a few circumstances. For one of my classes, I’ll have to record some video lectures and think about how to assign a few “virtual laboratory” activities.

For other faculty, though, it’s going to be hard. Classes like chemistry, for example, aren’t easily switched to an online format. There are virtual solutions available, but not those that can be easily mobilized in a short time-frame with limited financial resources. I’ll probably have to help some of my colleagues come up with some solutions, but for some classes, there really isn’t a good option available.

So yeah, we chatted with the kids last night to explain that “things are going to look different” for a bit. I’ll go to work, but not on a regular schedule. They’re still going to school, so that routine hasn’t been affected….yet…. But we did have to tell them that they’ll have to be flexible and patient with what they’re used to getting from the grocery store. Supply chains have already been disrupted, so it’s at least possible that Meg won’t get her cheese crackers, or Calvin won’t get the exact frozen pizza he likes… It’s just hard to say whether groceries will be affected, or whether things will go “business as usual.” It just seems to be best to warn them so their frustration is at least slightly abated when things don’t happen the way they want… Right now, I don’t think they’re scared or anything, nor should they be, but I do want them to be prepared.

It’s gonna be weird! I’m not looking forward to exclusively online instruction, mostly because I actually like the interaction with students. Doing everything by email just isn’t the same… It’s better than spreading a virus to people more susceptible than us, though!

Another Successful Half

So after I completed my first official half marathon last year, Adam, a buddy of mine from high school, asked if I’d run the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in 2019 with him. Apparently he was supposed to run it with some co-workers a few years back and they “chickened out on him,” so he didn’t do it. So yeah, I agreed to do it, knowing I’d have months to work on it again, and it was conveniently also falling on my Fall Break again, giving me a Thursday and Friday off work so I could get to Louisville, KY.

Relative to last summer, my weekly running stats weren’t as impressive. I was running 40-something miles a week for a stretch there, but this summer, I struggled to hit 30 or 35 some weeks. As recently as a month ago, my left ankle started feeling less-than-stellar, prompting me to seriously investigate a new road bike so I could diversify my cardio training.

That said, I did run 13 mi lengths three times before running in Louisville, so I felt pretty confident I could pull it off, though I expected that my time may not be as good as last year (1:44:06 in Kansas City).

Adam and I left St. Louis and got to Louisville late afternoon on Friday, giving us plenty of time to meet up with a few of this co-workers, get to Louisville Slugger stadium to pick up our race information, and grab a bite to eat before trying to get some sleep.

Thankfully, this year’s race started at 8:00 am….though that was EDT, so it was really like 7:00 am CDT…which is the same time last year’s race started…figures…

There were 3065 runners, and by the time we got to the starting area, it was packed enough that we couldn’t work our way up to the correct pace group. I wanted to get up to the 1:50 pace runner, but got stuck back at 2:30, meaning I’d have to work my way around some folks. The temperature was 43 F, which was pretty solid, but I still wore light long-sleeves and pants, as well as light gloves.

Once the race started, I did my best to work around the folks in front of me. The road was relatively wide, so it wasn’t too hard to move through, but it still meant I had to sprint a bit more than I wanted to so early in the race. At points, I was running at 7:21/mi to get around people.

I felt pretty good throughout! The race route was pretty flat compared with Kansas City, with three somewhat large hills in the park that make up a third of the run. The hills were very gradual: up, then down…up, then down….up, then down… It made for a challenge, yet still better than the really large elevation change at the end of the KC route that ended with a large downhill to the finish line.

Again, though, I could feel that I was doing pretty well. I didn’t even look at my watch until I got to the end because I didn’t want to psych myself out. I’d passed the 1:50 pace runner a long time before and hadn’t seen them since, so I knew I was at least in the range of my time last year: I just wasn’t sure exactly how fast I was going.

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:41:01. I had shaved off 3 minutes and 5 seconds from my race last year. My final placement was 178 out of 3065 runners; I was 144 out of 1312 males; and I was 28 out of 208 males ages 35 to 39. Ultimately, it was way better than I expected going into the weekend! I was going to be happy if I was anywhere around last year’s time, but getting a new personal record was a pleasant surprise!

And my ankle didn’t feel like trash, either! 🙂

After the race was over, Louisville saw fit to grace us with bourbon tastings! Yay! They’ve got a pretty sweet venue downtown in Louisville that’s kinda indoor/outdoor in its setting, some bars and restaurants, and they had a stage set up for some live music. It got pretty tight for 3000+ people, but there weren’t crazy-long lines for the bourbon tasting. Each participant got to taste 4 bourbons, got a can of not-so-great beer, a slice of pizza, and some kinda soup called “burgoo.”

It ended up being a great weekend! It was awesome catching up with Adam, as it’s been quite a few years since we’d had a chance to talk at length. We’ve seen him a few times in recent years, but never for long enough that it felt like “old times.” It was good getting to walk around Louisville, get some awesome food (Turns out Brazilian steakhouses are awesome! Who know?!), and take a break from work for a bit.

I’m thinking I’m ready to attempt a full marathon next. If the opportunity to run another half comes up, I’d still do it, but I’m to the point now where I’m not going to blow through my 13.1 mi times much more than I already have without tearing something in my leg, so going “slower” and “steadier” may be the next step. I’m not sure I’ll do the 26.2 mi stretch next year or not: still need to work in all that training while having two young-ish kids around the house. I’ll probably stick to running more reasonable distances and start putting in long-distance bike riding to supplement. It’ll take awhile to work out good biking routes around here, so 2020 may just involve developing another skill set.

We’ll see! Until then, I’ll keep it up as long as I can.