Puerto Rico Vacation – Part III

Day Two in PR kicked off with a trip to the interior of the island, where we found Gozolandia Falls. We didn’t know what to expect, as the description of the place almost made it sound like some dude had waterfalls on his land and started charging people parking to leave their car in a field so they could go swimming. Thankfully, it was much better than that.

For $5 a car, you could walk down to two different waterfalls on a concrete sidewalk and stay as long as you wanted. Honestly, if it was just the one waterfall, it was more than worth it, but having two to go explore was even better. The water wasn’t particularly warm, but the lower fall was shallow enough for wading, so the kids mostly focused on that area rather than the falls themselves. I finally dipped in for the second waterfall after walking around enough and getting kinda hot. Still, it was definitely worth the visit and we’d recommend it!

After that, we drove another hour to Sandra Farms Coffee to check out a coffee plantation. Getting to this place was a bit more sketchy, as the mountain roads weren’t particularly safe and the oncoming traffic wasn’t all that patient with the idea of “staying on one side of the road.” We eventually got there and initially struggled to find where exactly we were supposed to go (small operation…), but after calling the number on the sign, we could hear the voice on the other end speaking up at the house on the nearby hill, so we trekked up there.

The gentleman we spoke with, Israel, reminded us a lot of Heinrich from Heinrichshaus in St. James, MO: an old school dude who’s been doing this for years, knows what works for their product, and is happy to talk your ear off about just about anything. A group of relief workers also showed up for the $15 tour, so we headed down the hill toward their operation to see some of the machinery as a storm came in, keeping us in a relatively small building talking about everything from coffee to Puerto Rican statehood. It was scheduled as a 2 hr tour and, based on what we saw, it probably didn’t need to be that long, but with how much Israel talks about…everything…it’s understandable! We learned a lot and had a great time! Unfortunately, they didn’t have any coffee for sale because Hurricane Maria decimated enough trees that they don’t have anything ready and likely won’t until October. Still, the coffee he made us at the end of the tour was probably the smoothest we’ve ever had, so we’ll definitely be buying whatever we can once it’s available. They’ve also been putting some of their coffee in some chocolate candies, so we bought some of those to bring back home (the kids were big fans of that stuff).

Speaking of which, the kids did such a good job during this day that we took them by a grocery store in Quebradillas to pick out a treat to have later that evening. By the time we got back to the house, there wasn’t much time for leisure, so we watched some TV, got dinner going, and hung out for the rest of the night!

When we decided to come to Puerto Rico for our vacation, especially giving us as much time as we have available to us, I made a push for us to visit the Arecibo Observatory. It’s more centrally-located on the island and isn’t trivial to get to, so it isn’t exactly “on the way” to all that many other sights in Puerto Rico, but the sheer scale of the thing made me think it would be worth it. Also, they appeared to have a museum, of sorts, with some kid-centric activities that would hopefully hold the kids’ attention.

Ultimately, we weren’t disappointed! It cost a bit more than the previous day did, but we got to watch a brief video on the history of the radio telescope, as well go on the VIP tour that took us down to the control room where real live scientists were studying solar flares. It’s obvious they’ve made some upgrades over the decades, but for the most part, they’re still using a lot of the same equipment that has been on-site since the 1960s. Definitely some impressive engineering!

After that, we went to a restaurant in Arecibo called El Buen Mofongo to try some more local-ish cuisine. Mofongo is, I guess you’d say, “mashed plaintain,” so it has the consistency of mashed potatoes (kinda…), but a distinct flavor. I had mine with a flank steak while Brooke had hers with fried pork. It was very good, though the service could have been a bit better! It seemed like the wait staff needed more than just two people attending all of the tables in the place. Still, we were glad we went!

By the time we got home, it was 2:00-ish and we were ready to chill, so we went down to the beach that’s about an 8 minute walk from our house to kill some time. I came back up the hill and tried running (in short, there are a ridiculous number of hills up here, as well as loose dogs…no bueno…). After another stint in the hot tub, it was time for dinner and another relaxing evening!

Puerto Rico Vacation – Part II

The Airbnb rental was exactly what we needed for this trip! It had 3 bedrooms (one king, one full, one with twin bunk beds), an open living space with a small kitchen, washer/dryer, hammocks, hot tub, and plenty of deck space.

Oh yeah. And it had a great view!

The house is kinda off the beaten path, so we had to drive to get to beaches, but no more than 10 minutes. First thing’s first, though: Walmart trip.

There were a few Walmarts close to the house, but the nearest one was about 20 minutes away in Isabela. That place was packed, and not just with people. There was also just a ton of stuff packed into a Walmart that wasn’t really large enough to handle it. We were able to find most of the stuff we needed and spent less than we thought we would (though, in retrospect, we should have grabbed more snacks…). The kids were difficult to deal with, mostly because they’d been cooped up in a car and were tired of shuttling from place to place, so there was a challenge to lock them down. After we got back to the house, we had to tell them to stay in their rooms for a bit and leave us alone……..

Brooke picked up a rotisserie chicken and some rice for dinner that night and it was really good (though we were so hungry, it probably didn’t matter what we ate…).

After dinner, we hopped in the hot tub for awhile as it rained lightly. Overall, it was a really lovely evening!

The next day, we got up and headed to Playa Hermanita, a beach rumored to have harbored pirates centuries ago. It was a relatively small beach, but we were the only ones there, so it was nice to just chill and let the kids play in the sand. Meg has been to a beach before in Mississippi, but that was before we had Calvin, so it’s been a long time. The closest Calvin has been to a beach was on Madeline Island, and the water temperature on Lake Superior just isn’t quite the same as the Caribbean…

After spending the morning at the beach, we knew rain was coming for the afternoon, so we went back to the house to rinse off and otherwise chill for the afternoon. Brooke took a drive to a nearby Walgreens for a few other incidentals (read: snacks) before coming back to make spaghetti for dinner.

And because we visited a pirate beach and kept making “the rum’s gone” references, we had to rent Pirates of the Caribbean so the kids could see it for the first time. ūüôā

Puerto Rico Vacation – Part I

I think it’s safe to say that Brooke has something of an obsession with Lin-Manuel Miranda, so after he (and many others) implored people to visit Puerto Rico (as tourism is one of their major economic drivers) to help support the island’s constant hurricane recovery, we seriously considered it. Late last year, we started watching for cheap plane tickets and looked at Airbnb options for the island, and things sorta fell into place. We were looking at late-May as it would avoid hurricane season and the kids and I would be out of school, so we bought tickets and made reservations for May 22nd through June 1st.

At the time, little did we know that Winter was going to hit Marshall particularly hard, leading to the kids’ school year to be pushed back a week! So technically, they missed their last week of school, but most pre-K and 3rd graders aren’t doing all that much at the end of their year. Missing a few field trips, I suppose. Oh well.

We stayed at Mallory’s house in St. Louis Tuesday night and took a Lyft to the airport Wednesday morning to catch our 7:51 am flight to Charlotte. It was the kids’ very first ride on an airplane, so they were pretty excited! Then, they got bored when they realized that flying on a plane isn’t really all that fun… Still, we brought plenty of entertainment (read: tablets and the Switch…), some snacks, and had just enough time at the Charlotte airport to grab a few more provisions before boarding the plane to San Juan. The second flight was over 3 hrs long, so the boredom really set in, at least for Meg. For both flights, we were in rows back to back, with Brooke next to Meg and Calvin next to me.

Brooke rented a car when she booked the flights so we’d have a means to get around the island, so our first task was finding the rental agency. Little did we know that the agency wasn’t actually located at the airport, so we found some other “mainlanders” who told us that there was a shuttle coming by to pick us all up and take us to where we’d get the car(s). After a relatively lengthy paperwork process, we had our blue Hyundai Accent and we were off to find our hotel in Old San Juan!

The room at the Casablanca Hotel was very nice, including a king-size bed and a futon the kids could sleep on (Calvin ended up joining us in the bed because Meg rolled around enough in her sleep and effectively took over the bed). We went to a pizza place called Pirilo just down from the hotel and that was awesome. The sauce was a bit sweeter than we expected, but the kids didn’t notice, so oh well. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and were crashing around 9:00 after a long day of traveling.

The next day, we ate breakfast at Cafeteria Mallorca, where we were hoping to get donuts. Apparently they only have mallorcas, which aren’t exactly donuts. They were a flaky pastry of sorts that you could just eat with powdered sugar and butter, or get sliced in half with ham and cheese in it, among other things. They were quite good, though the kids were unimpressed.

Brooke and I also had some coffee before we got started on our long walk to El Castillo de San Cristobal, which has been there for about 500 years and has changed hands from multiple countries in that time period.

The kids very much loved going through the dungeon, but other than that, we took the opportunity to see the city from a higher vantage point and see some old architecture. We also walked to another fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, passing lots of folks flying kites in the ocean breeze. It was a beautiful day!

After finishing up at San Felipe, we quickly walked back to our hotel to check out, then struggled to find our car in the parking structure (seriously, it took 30 minutes to find…dunno what to tell you….) before heading out of town toward Quebradillas, where our Airbnb was. The drive took about 1.5 hrs, the majority of which was divided highway driving, so it was a pretty uneventful trip. Eventually, we left the highway and took a few narrow, paved roads to our final destination.

More on that next time!

State Park #7: Prairie 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.

Prairie for as far as the eye can see.
Prairie for as far as the eye can see.

We returned from Pittsburg, KS from Taylore’s wedding back in August of 2016 and, at Brooke’s suggestion, we looked for a Missouri State Park near that region that we otherwise wouldn’t visit for a very, very long time. ¬†She ran across Prairie State Park, which happened to be just over the Kansas/Missouri border.

In all honesty, it doesn’t seem like there’s all that much to do there. ¬†They’ve got multiple hiking trails, including one we went on that, literally, involved walking through a field. ¬†There are some backpacking trails that are a bit longer and further out, but again, given the terrain, I’m not sure that it would be all that “hilly” or otherwise difficult to make good time on a long trail. ¬†Shade was certainly at a premium out there…

...the boy was very slow...
…the boy was very slow…

The “claim to fame,” at least so far as we could tell in our limited time there, was that this open field we were hiking through also contains bison and elk. ¬†When we first drove in, the sign informed us that there were free roaming elk and bison moving through the area and, while we didn’t see any, unfortunately, we did see signs of them…

Ew...
Ew…

…but with multiple buffalo patties around, it was clear that large animals move through the area frequently. ¬†They were easily identified by their similarity to their other bovine brethren (and the fact that we saw tons of the elk variety in Colorado and it looks nothing like this).

A nest for something...big...
A nest for something…big…

We also saw multiple spots in the grass that clearly used to bed some kind of large animal. ¬†It wasn’t obvious to us whether we were seeing elk or buffalo “beds,” but they must have been recent, as the grass looked like it would pop back up given enough time.

"You may experience bison/elk"...is that a combination organism?!
“You may experience bison/elk”…is that a hybrid organism?!

Overall, it was a nice, brief little stop. ¬†They’ve got camping, but we didn’t see much of a shower house available: only a single in-ground outhouse near the picnic area. ¬†It looked like mostly primitive camp sites and, although they actually looked pretty nice and spacious, only one was reserved for the coming days. ¬†I suppose August isn’t exactly prime camping season.

We want to go back and see some bison up close, though!  Perhaps another time, when we happen to be down in southwestern Missouri!

State Park #6: Pershing 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.

Back in May of 2016, we went camping at Pershing State Park. It was named for Gen. John J. Pershing, who grew up in the area and explored it as a kid. It’s located in the north-central part of the State, so Brooke and I had visited the park back when we were in college, so we thought it’d be cool to check it out with our kids.

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The campsite we stayed at was just a short walk to a small pond. Calvin and Meg weren’t particularly great at fishing, but they still had fun! If I remember right, the kids got their lines stuck in branches a few times and didn’t catch anything, but oh well – it killed some time.

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The campsites were pretty flat and covered in trees. It was easy enough for them to entertain themselves around the campground. We were there in mid-May, so the temperature was pretty reasonable: chilly at night, nice during the day, not many mosquitoes yet. There was plenty of wood around to make a fire with, and that’s always entertaining to 2- and 5-year-old kids.

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We didn’t do a ton of hiking, but Pershing has a pretty cool walking trail through some tall grasses. There wasn’t much wildlife aside from birds we could see, but the kids enjoyed hiding from each other, darting around corners behind brush. The boardwalk pictured above is a short loop within walking distance from the campsite. We did our best not to carry Calvin all that much, but we didn’t have much of a choice unless we wanted to sleep on the trail forever…

There was also a cool observation deck where you could watch for water fowl in the marsh. The kids took their sweet time climbing up to the top, despite the fact it wasn’t even really that tall. Remember, Calvin is among the slowest people on the planet and it was even worse when he was 2…

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Overall, we had a great time! It was also a relatively short drive for us, which is always appreciated. I don’t remember there being a playground all that close to our campsite, which would have been nice, but our kids were of the age where they could “make their own fun” so it wasn’t a big deal.

We’d go back! It’s definitely worth the return trip someday!

State Park #5: Rock Bridge Memorial 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.

So, I last posted about State Parks last May. For real, this time, I’m going to get a few more in the virtual can. It’s on my “Christmas Break list” and Brooke keeps reminding me to work on them.

We last visited Rock Bridge Memorial State Park near Columbia in April 2017, though Meg first visited back in 2012, before Calvin was born. As close as we live, and as often as we’re in Columbia, you’d think we’d go more often, but alas.

The proverbial “rock bridge.”

The park gets its name from an unusual rock formation carved out by a creek over many years. Growing up, we used to be able to actually walk through the bridge, but a few years ago, they removed the wooden walkway. To be fair, they’d have to close the walkway any time the creek flooded, so perhaps it’s for the best.

Meg was a bit smaller back then…

Brooke and I both went to the park growing up, actually. Mom and Dad took my sister and I and we both went on school trips relatively frequently. I never got to go down in the “Devil’s Icebox” cave, but Brooke got to back in high school. I also participated in an orienteering activity there in 8th grade, which Mom fondly remembers.

Some relatively light hiking around the park

The hiking around the park can be as strenuous or as simple as you want, with many trails set up on wooden slats, and other portions being traditional dirt trails. The park is pretty big and has campsites, but I don’t remember ever camping there. My experience is mostly just the hiking around the park, but even with that, I never really went all that far.

That kid…

The aforementioned Devil’s Icebox cave is somewhat popular among amateur spelunkers. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d even gone down as far as these pictures here indicate. The kids found it pretty awesome to be down in a cave by the rushing water. We didn’t get all that wet, but they did go out in the middle of the water out on some slippery rocks.

We’re in a cave!

We may end up camping there at some point, but for the time being, we’ll probably just visit when we get some time in Columbia. It’s a fun and easy park to walk around in so we’ll definitely head back…but we have quite a few other parks to hit, too!

Challenge Completed

As I’ve written before, I’ve been working on running a half marathon for most of this year.  Back in May, I registered for the Kansas City Half Marathon and have been putting in quite a few miles since, especially recently.  I did 45 miles 3 weeks ago; 37.7 miles 2 weeks ago; 47.4 miles last week; and then scaled down for this week, “only” running 19 miles in the days leading up to today’s race (and I took off yesterday).

Brooke and the kids stayed home this time, mostly because there isn’t a whole lot for kids to do for two hours between 7:00 and 9:00 am in downtown Kansas City.  It also afforded me the flexibility to get down there, use public transportation to get around, and go to bed when I needed to.  To that end, I left home yesterday around 2:30 and headed to Union Station where the race packets were being held.  I picked up my shirt (which is really nice, btw…) and race bib, checked out a few of the “wares” from various sponsor companies, and then headed to my hotel.  We had originally scheduled an Airbnb for the night, but the owner cancelled about a week ago (hmmm…wonder why…), so I ended up staying at the Marriott Downtown, closer to the convention center.  In the end, this was probably best because I was a). close to the Power and Light District (for dinner options) and b). the hotel was a block away from the KC Streetcar stop I needed the next morning.

After I checked into the hotel, I went around to the corner to a sports bar called Yard House, which was packed (because Friday, ya’ll).  I ate my turkey club and fries at the bar, along with a few beers from Torn Label, which were quite good.

I was done with dinner by 7:00, so I went back to the hotel and watched Netflix for a few hours before trying to fall asleep, which thankfully happened around 9:45 pm.

It was a brisk 46 F when I walked to the trolley around 5:45 am Saturday morning.  Honestly, it was supposed to be worse earlier in the week, when the temperature forecast was closer to 36 F, so I was fine with this.  The worst part about this aspect of the experience was that, because of the number of people running and parking being at a premium, using public transportation requires getting down there early, and when you are by yourself, there’s no one to hold a coat for you, so I just had my running gear to keep me warm (read: not really warm).  Thankfully, Union Station was open, so I could hang out in there until the race was to start.

I should also note that, before leaving the hotel, I had 40 oz of water and a Cliff Bar.  I took along some Scratch Labs energy chews (effectively fruit snacks with more salt than usual) to have closer to start time, and I washed it down with a 20 oz water from a vending machine in Union Station.  I did not carry water with me for the race.

Note: You can “check” gear at one of the tents at the end of the race, so I could have taken a coat along with me, but having not run this race before, I wasn’t sure what that process would look like with a few thousand people being down there.  If I run this again sometime, I think I can get away with doing it this way again.  If it’s any colder, though…who knows…

There were a lot of people racing.  Official tallies indicate 3,987 finishers for the Half Marathon; 1,263 finishers for the Full Marathon; and 1,363 finishers for the 10K.  All of them started at 7:05 am, so it took a bit to get off the starting line.  The 5K runners (1,272 finishers) started at 7:30 am.

My goal for this race was to do it in under 2 hrs.  My understanding from perusing the internet is that 13 miles in 2 hrs is a perfectly “respectable” time (indeed, the average was 2:19:16 from those that ran it).  The two times I’ve run 13 miles before, at least around Marshall, I’d done it in 1:56 (back in May), and then again at 1:51 a few weeks ago.  Granted, I didn’t know the Kansas City landscape, so it was still a bit of an unknown how this route would go, but I hoped I could at least do it in close to 1:50.

Relatively early on, I noticed the pace runner in front of me maintaining an 8:00 min/mi pace, which would put runners nearby on track for a 1:45 half marathon.  After I spotted him, I thought I’d try to keep up for as long as I could, thinking that would push me beyond 1:50.  And for most of the run, I kept up or was in front!  I didn’t stop for water (which was provided every 2 miles) or restrooms (which were also provided about as often), so that helped me keep moving.  My legs didn’t really hurt all that much until I got closer to the 8 mile mark, but more on that shortly…

The organizers made a big deal of the fact that the race course was “reversed” from usual, and this is the second year they’ve done this.  I guess it used to start with a giant hill to go up at the beginning, and then slower declines for much of the rest of the race.  However, by virtue of reversing things, that meant there were more slow inclines for much of the race and a mile long decline at the end.  Around mile 9, I definitely started feeling those slow hills…and wasn’t a fan…  Still, knowing the end of the race would be on a downhill kept me going.

That last hill, though.  Whoa.  For comparison, I was going uphill at 8:24 min/mi for mile 11, then 8:03 min/mile for mile 12…then 7:34 min/mile for 13…

…and 6:36 min/mile for the last 0.2 miles of the race…

In the end, my official time was 1:44:06 to run the 13.1 miles, which I was very happy with.  I not only beat my goal, I killed it. I placed 49 out of 286 people in my age group (35-39) and 276 out of 1773 males who ran the race.  336th place overall (out of 3,987). For my very first official Half Marathon, I thought that was pretty good!  

At the very end of the race, at the “Finishers Festival,” you are given a beer and some BBQ, which I wouldn’t normally be all about, but after burning 1,600 calories before 9:00 am, I can’t say I was eager to refuse…

People have asked if I’m going to push on for a Full Marathon next and, at this time, I’m thinking “no.”  After I finished the race, took the trolley back to my hotel, and took a shower, it was around 10:00 am…and I just thought about all the Full Marathon runners still going.  I’m not sure I’ll say that I’ll never do it, but it’ll be awhile.  With that finishing time, I’m not really eager to do another Half for awhile, either – I’ll probably stick with 10Ks for awhile.  But when I’m ready, perhaps I’ll hit up the Half Marathon in Columbia or St. Louis where I know more people and don’t have to deal with public transportation quite as much.

For now, though, I’m going to take a few days off!

Oktoberfest 2018

Last year’s Oktoberfest went well, but attendance was down slightly from the previous year due to putting it the same weekend as Fall Break.¬† We also consistently hear from some of the usual folks we invite that October is pretty busy because of other school-related activities.¬†¬†Therefore, for this year’s Oktoberfest, we pushed into September.

Of course, once you start looking at the calendar, there aren’t all that many options for later in the month because a¬†certain someone has a birthday on September 23rd (incidentally, Calvin’s grandmother has a birthday on September 22nd, so he isn’t the only one with a birthday around then!).¬† Soooooo, the decision was made to try and combine the two: he was turning five and had more friends to invite this year, so we could just invite¬†everyone and try and satisfy both needs.

We spent the usual amount of time preparing for the even the week before.  Thankfully, the weather was solid enough that we could get mowing done and pick up some straw bales for seating.  There was a threat of rain later in the week, but a front came through on September 21st, cooling off the temperatures into the low- to mid-70s for September 22nd.  Near perfect weather, really!

Mimi and Poppy, and Nana and Papa, all came in early to help with some set-up, though Brooke and I had most of it done already.¬† Still, it was good to visit a bit during “the calm before the storm.”¬† Calvin and I even went to the MVC Rodeo the night before, so we weren’t so behind with set-up that it was necessary for me to work through Friday night getting ready (the rodeo was fun, by the way).¬† Before everyone arrived, Calvin opened some presents from his grandparents – we saved the rest of them for the next day.

As part of Oktoberfest, knowing that we’d have more kids than usual present, Brooke looked into getting special activities to entertain them.¬† We tried finding mini pumpkins, but it was just a bit too early for them to be available at our local stores, so Brooke found some plastic ones to be painted at Dollar Tree.¬†¬†

We also set up some yard games, including a “throw the ring around the beer bottles” game and horseshoes.¬† Honestly, I was down with the grill the whole time, so I didn’t see how the “kid games” went over, but it seemed like they were relatively entertained!¬† Some kids got out chalk for the driveway, others used the swings, and others played cornhole.¬† No one felt the need to go inside and turn on the TV, so I suppose this was a “win!”

The rest of the party went off without a hitch.¬† We set up the screen-in tent down where the yucca plants used to be and put some straw underneath (it fit the theme of the party while also covering up the distinct lack of grass from that particular spot).¬† We ran an extension cord out there for the Crock Pots and turned on our blue Christmas lights for later.¬† We ended up with plenty of seating for the 38 visitors we had (about 10 more than last year!) and moved chairs around when necessary.¬† It was warm enough that I didn’t light up the fire until early-evening, but once it was going, it was a welcome addition.

A brief side-note: the Nuremberg sausages we like to get from Aldi didn’t come in until that very week here in Marshall.¬† I ended up grabbing 15 packs of them from the Aldi in Columbia when I made my run for Oktoberfest beers, just in case, but the Marshall store got theirs in just in time.¬† Still, if we do it around the same time next year, we may have to drive a bit to stock up!

As usual, most people were leaving by 7:00, which was when the rodeo started that night.  A few couples stayed later than that, one of which hung out until around 9:00.  Calvin sat inside in front of the TV; the adults chatted by the fire; and Meg laid down in the straw under the blue lights.

It was a great day!¬† Let’s hope the weather is similar next year!

A Different Fourth of July

Decent weather for July 4th? Craziness.

Independence Day fell on a Wednesday this year, which threw scheduling into something of a tizzy.¬† Our usual plan is to head to Hannibal for Tom Sawyer Days, but they separated events between the surrounding weekends, so we were actually home with the kids on July 4th for once.¬† Marshall has a fireworks display and I picked up a new grill (oooooooo, it’s so nice…), so Mom and Dad came in from Columbia for some BBQ and Fourth of July festivities.

Marshall moved the fireworks display to the old Habilitation Center about a half mile from our house, so we took the wagon and set up shop for the evening.  We watched the Marshall Municipal Band play a patriotic set before the fireworks were set off, so we were up there for a few hours.  Not a bad way to spend the Fourth!

Long. Run.

The rest of the week went as normal and we left for Hannibal on Friday, when the Tom Sawyer Days events were going to kick off.¬† We watched some mud volleyball Friday night, as Rachel and Jimmy were playing again.¬† Diana and I ran the Hannibal Cannibal the next morning and,¬†shockingly, the temperature was 61 F on July 7th, so I ran far better than I had been for the week prior.¬† My goal for this 15K was 1:20, as that should keep me on track for the half-marathon I’m running in October, and I beat that by a few minutes.¬† The 15K is where the marathon runners live, so my competition was substantially greater than it was when I ran the 10K last year, but hey…whatchoo gonna do…

Fireworks!

We spent quite a bit of time downtown for mud volleyball during the weekend, went swimming back at the house, and shot off some fireworks for good measure.  It was a fun weekend, as always!  The kids stayed in Hannibal with Mimi and Poppy for the week, so Brooke and I have some time here to catch up on things (read: work).

Summer’s half over…

Grand Canyon 2018: Part IV

Navajo Bridge in Marble Canyon

We left the North Rim on my birthday, a Wednesday this year.¬† The kids played with the neighbor kids for awhile as Brooke and I packed things up, which was mostly uneventful.¬† We weren’t necessarily in a rush to get out of there by a certain time, but getting on the road close to 10:00 am was certainly a goal.¬† We planned to get to Albuquerque, NM that first night and had to contend with at least one time change on the way there.¬† We also had a few stops planned on our way out, neither of which did we expect would take a ton of time.

The first stop was Marble Canyon, specifically the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River.¬† In the picture above, the one on the left is a walking bridge, while the one on the right allows passage of Highway 89A across the river.¬† We thought the site would involve a cultural center for the Navajo reservation that we were passing through, but there wasn’t much there aside from bathrooms and a gift shop.¬† It was nice to get out of the car after a few hours on the road, though.

Another reason to stop there was because California condors have been sighted in Marble Canyon in the past, but we didn’t get to see any.¬† Had to try, I suppose!

A whole lotta nuthin’…

Most of the drive that day was very much like you see above.¬† Flat and desert, with the assorted mesa showing up occasionally.¬† The kids did fine during this entire portion, as they were ready to be back in consistent air conditioning with their electronic devices, but for the¬†grown-ups in the car, there wasn’t a whole lot to look at.¬† I-40 made life easier once we got there (we had quite a few state highways to hit before making it south to I-40), but until that point, it was desolate reservation land and not very many places to stop.¬† Thankfully, we didn’t really have to.

Beeeeeeeeer…

We made it into Albuquerque after 7:00 that night and before heading to our hotel, we stopped at Ponderosa Brewing Company.¬† It was apparently “open mic night,” which wasn’t our first choice, but it was late and we were hungry and I wanted beer, so we suffered through it (it really wasn’t that bad and reminded me that I should play more mandolin…).¬† The food and the beer were great, but the service left much to be desired.¬† The receipt was a bit confusing, but we¬†think they knocked some money off when we bought a growler to take back to the hotel, so that was a plus.

Now, back in Part I, I neglected to mention that we stopped at Rockslide Brewing Company in Grand Junction, CO for lunch before heading into Utah (because it’s 2018 and they don’t have real beer in Utah…).¬†¬†That place was great.¬† The food was great, service was great, and¬†It was tough to pick a beer for the growler that night.

After a restful night in the hotel in Albuquerque where the kids stayed up until around 10:00 pm (time change is difficult, people…), we hit the road.¬† It was going to be another long one, but this time, we were stopping at the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum in Amarillo, TX.¬† Which seems like a thing you should visit when you’re in Amarillo, TX.

That’s an old Airstream!

It was actually pretty neat!¬† It’s actually a retail RV lot, but if you go in and ask at the front desk, they’ll lead you back through all the new ones to a warehouse with all the old ones, each with a sign that gives you some idea what’s there.¬† We ended up seeing a 1970s-era pop-up camper that looked quite a bit like the ones Brooke and I grew up with, and¬†that particular camper was donated by a couple from Columbia, MO!¬† Small world.

Meg and Calvin¬†really liked seeing campers, as we’re used to staying in tents when we travel like this.¬† We had to explain to them that the towing capacity on our Subarus isn’t really up to snuff to carry many of these campers, so they’re slowly devising a way to get us to upgrade.¬† I don’t expect they’ll win this battle…

From Amarillo, it was another 4 hours on I-40 until we got to Oklahoma City.¬† This time, we were going to get there a bit early, hopefully giving us time for a nice dinner and some swimming at the pool at the hotel we got.¬† This time, I picked the restaurant: something that would satisfy the four different mouths in the car without leading to arguments about what kind of food we were getting that night.¬† I found this place called Shorty Smalls that looked like they had a wide swath of options that we hadn’t had on the trip so far, including seafood.¬† When we got there, they advertised an all-you-can-eat catfish deal and $0.99 Coors Lights.¬† Sounds great, right?

Well, we sat there for 15 minutes and no waiter visited us.  The kids finished their placemat activities and were already ancy and various servers had walked past us with nary a word.

So we left and went to Waffle House next to our hotel.¬† It wasn’t¬†my first choice, but the other three in the car were happy, so it was fine.¬† I left them a review on Google Reviews and got a response the next day apologizing and saying they’d pass the experience on to management.

So. Much. Root beer.

After another late night staying up (with some swimming this time), we hit the road one last time for the home stretch.¬† This time, we were going to stop about 30 minutes outside of Oklahoma City at Pops Soda Ranch, which advertises over 600 different types of soda and other Route 66 kitsch to buy.¬† Meg had never seen this many root beer varieties, so she was pretty excited.¬† We didn’t stay long (and didn’t get gas there, as the price was at least $0.40/gal higher than everywhere else around there), but grabbed a six pack of different glass bottled sodas.

A McDonald’s over I-40? Kewl.

After another few hours, we stopped at the former “World’s Largest McDonald’s” in Vinita, OK, which runs across I-40.¬† It’s a McDonald’s, so not much to report on that, but it was neat for the kids to have a Happy Meal while cars passed under them.

A note on Oklahoma vs Kansas driving.¬† Kansas is a terrible, desolate state that is horrible to cross.¬† A definite black hole between Missouri and Colorado.¬† And¬†while they do have toll roads, they certainly don’t milk you for everything you’re worth like Oklahoma does.¬† I think we spent maybe $2.50 to go on I-70 in Kansas, but it was $9.00 to get from Oklahoma City back to Missouri.¬† Ridiculous.

All tuckered out…

Finally, the heavens opened up and we crossed back into good ol’ Missouri.¬† Granted, it was relatively far¬†south, so we still had hours to go, but it was certainly more familiar territory as we got closer to Highway 65.

We had a fun trip!¬† ~2800 miles covered and 25.6 mpg average overall.¬† Gas prices really weren’t all that different than they were in Missouri, though we ran into some more expensive stations due to their isolation from other populations.¬† We’d still like to hit the South Rim eventually, but may do that on a “Tour of the Southwest” trip when we hit Mesa Verde, Arches, and other locales in a few years.¬† We’ve got other plans for the next few years, though, so that’ll have to wait!