travel

Rock n Roll Virginia Beach & Future Plans

Labor day weekend we made a somewhat regular trip to Virginia Beach to visit family. As is tradition Jason, his brother and I ran Rock n Roll Virginia Beach half marathon together. This year the race was unique because tropical storm Hermine moved through the day before, leaving behind a half assembled course and 35 mph wind gusts.

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As luck would have it, my daughter came down with something the night before the race and this momma got ZERO sleep. Needless to say, race conditions weren’t ideal.

Regardless, I was determined to do the best I could. This year, for the first time EVER I was in corral ONE. When I first ran this race 6 years ago I was in corral 13, I love seeing signs of progress like this. Races are unpredictable, once the gun goes off its anyone’s guess how they go but no matter how well I did that day I started in corral one and to me that was a big deal.

I had no idea what to expect of myself performance wise since I hadn’t really trained for the race. I’ve spent all my time lately on easy aerobic runs and I was sure that I was sure my legs had forgotten how to run quickly.

Here are the splits:

Mile 1 – 7:20
Mile 2 – 7:34
Mile 3 – 7:29

5k – 23:46 (7:39)

Mile 4 – 7:47
Mile 5 – 7:42
Mile 6 – 7:44

10k – 48:04 (7:44)

Mile 7 – 7:47
Mile 8 – 7:45
Mile 9 – 7:50
Mile 10 – 7:48

10 Mile – 1:17:25 (7:45)

Mile 11 – 7:51
Mile 12 – 8:21
Mile 13 – 7:55
Last .1 – 7:46

Official Results

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After the race, as I shivered while waiting on the boys, I had a lot of time to think about the race. Though 1:42 isn’t a PR it was only 3 minutes off

My PR was run while I was in the middle of training for the Chevron Houston Marathon. I was doing speed work twice a week, and was in nearly peak condition. That race was run under nearly ideal circumstances. I was well rested and the weather was a perfect 50 degrees with no wind. The course was flat and close to home. You couldn’t ask for anything better.

This race was the exact opposite. I didn’t train for it and am most certainly not in peak condition. It was 75 degrees and windy. I was 1,000 miles from home and exhausted. The course IS relatively flat but there’s a giant bridge you have to cross at mile 4 and again at mile 12 which slows things down considerably.

All those things considered, 3 minutes shy of PR is a great result. I was happy with the race and my performance and it leaves me excited about things to come because big things are coming!

November 19th, I’m running the Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon. I AM training for this race with the full intention to kick it’s butt. In April I’m running the BOSTON MARATHON! Registration was three weeks ago and I’m officially in! Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. Training doesn’t start until January though so for the next three months I need to find something to keep me occupied so I don’t go crazy. I should have about six weeks of downtime after Shiner before Boston training starts and that sounds just about perfect. The countdown begins!

Running Through an Outlet Mall

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We were in Shreveport/Bossier City, Louisiana over the weekend to visit my husbands family. 

Our hotel was right on the Louisiana Boardwalk, an outdoor outlet mall built right on the Red River. When we were booking our accommodations and I was given the opportunity to stay at a hotel in an OUTLET  MALL I think I practically begged Jason.

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! PLEASE! PUH-LEESE! OH PRETTY, PRETTY PLEASE WITH SUGAR ON TOP! PLEASE LET US STAY ON THE BOARDWALK.

*bounces excitedly in chair*

Staying on the boardwalk was everything I thought it would be. It was a great place for Evie to run around so we weren’t cooped up in the room, there was a carousel right outside our hotel which we rode multiple times and all our dining options were within easy walking distance – a bonus when you have to schlep two kids in an out of car seats just to drive five minutes.

When we arrived on Friday evening it took approximately two seconds for me to decide that it would be an awesome place to go running and luckily I don’t go anywhere without my running stuff.

Both Saturday and Sunday morning, just as soon as I saw light coming through the window I jumped out of bed to go for a run while the rest of the family slept comfortably in the hotel.

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Armed with my Garmin I set out on two very memorable runs through the all-but-abandoned shopping center. It was quiet out there but not too quiet. While I was out I saw a guy power washing the sidewalk, two trucks making their morning deliveries, people preparing to open up the stores for business and a few other crazies like me looking for some early morning fresh air.

The mall isn’t too terribly large which made for some adventurous bobbing and weaving between buildings.

It immediately became apparent that the furthest I could go was 3 miles without going crazy.

It went something like this.

Run to the Nike store, turn left and run to the river, go right for a while, run up a flight of stairs by Buffalo Wild Wings, go left at the trolley tracks…and on and on and on.

boardwalk run

It didn’t take long for me to get bored, running in circles over and over, so I started measuring distances with my watch.

Ooo, I wonder how far it is from one end of the mall to the other?  1/4 mile

I wonder how far it is to run around Bass Pro? Let’s do that! 1/4 mile

What if I ran the entire perimeter of the mall? .8 mile

Over by the movie theater I nearly had a heart attack when I ran past a jewelry kiosk and I caught a glimpse of a person out of the corner of my eye coming up RIGHT BESIDE ME. It took a couple of seconds for my brain to figure out that I’d run past a mirror and the person was my own reflection. HOLY REFLECTION BATMAN! YOU SCARED ME!

Though each run was only three miles, they were some of the most memorable runs I’ve had. It was quiet, peaceful and fun to scout out all the shops. By the time I had a couple hours to actually do some shopping I already knew exactly where everything was. Bonus!

I can easily say that I never thought I’d go running through an outlet mall but now I’m glad I did. I was a little sad when we left but I know we’ll be back.

Until next time, boardwalk. I’ll see you again!

Camping at Dinosaur Valley State Park

After a great Thanksgiving holiday, Friday morning we packed up our truck and headed to Dinosaur Valley State Park for a camping trip with my brother, sister-in-law and 10 month old newphew.

I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months! We love Dinosaur Valley, we came here several times for day trips back when we lived in Dallas. It’s been several years since our last trip and I couldn’t wait to share the park with Evie. There’s something very novel about touching a dinosaur footprint!

It’s a four hour drive from our house so we decided to stop at Baylor both on the way down and the way back to stretch our legs. It’s a beautiful campus and a great place for E to run around. She loved visiting “sic ’em bears!” More importantly while we were on campus I saw a sign for the Bearathon (!!!) to be held March 22. It’s a half and is only three weeks after my scheduled full. Perfect timing!

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our campsite

Once we got there it didn’t take us long to get our camping equipment unpacked and our tent put up.

Our campsite was nice and backed up to the site my brother and his family were in. A small trail led from our site to theirs though some trees.

The weather was cooperative. It was a little chilly but turned out to be pretty much perfect. No rain, just cool enough for a campfire at night and just warm enough during the day for you to not shiver.

Back in the pre-kid days we would have hiked the entire park but during this trip, with three kids under three, a three mile hike seemed appropriate and even a little ambitious. By the time the hike was over both babies had melted and E was asleep in her daddy’s arms.

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To her credit she hiked a full TWO MILES up and down some steep hills. I am impressed she made it that far!

Seeing the footprints is such a special experience. No matter how many times we visit I am still in awe that we have access to something so unique. Unlike in a museum where you’re told DO NOT TOUCH, at Dinosaur Valley not only can you touch them, you can stand in them. It’s fantastic!

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crossing the Paluxy river, hunting for prints

It is quite an adventure finding the prints. They’re in and around the Paluxy river so you have to cross the river just to get close. If there’s been rain in the area recently the river will cover them completely, luckily for us the river was down but most of the prints in the water were covered in mud and debris.

Even when you find a print it’s difficult to know what you’re looking at. Some of the prints are eroded badly, making them unrecognizable. You find yourself wondering, “Is that a footprint or a hole in the rock?”

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eroded footprints

You may spend 20 minutes crossing your eyes, struggling to use your imagination but then you see one clearly. Once you see one, you start to see them all over the place.

Oh, there’s one!

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this print is freshly uncovered by the flooding river

There’s another one!

And one over there!

Oh my goodness! They’re everywhere! This is incredible!

Then you do silly things, like sit your kids in a mud puddle to take a picture.

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Camping with two little kids is hard – but isn’t everything? The memories I have of camping as a child are some of my most cherished. They embody everything that’s awesome about being a kid. Though Evie and Alvy are too young to remember this particular trip we will continue to take them to this and other special places to build their own sets of special memories.

The moral of the story here is that if you have kids (and a sense of adventure) take them to see the dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Valley! It is a trip that they, and you, aren’t likely to forget any time soon! 

Big Bend Ranch State Park

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Big Bend Ranch is a special place. Easily the most unique Texas state park, it’s serious business; this is evident when you check in and park rangers make you go through an orientation/desert survival manual and sign a waver. They then take the name and age of each person in your party and make an note of where you’ll be staying and how long you’ll be there.

Dubbed the “Other Side of Nowhere,” BBR is remote to say the least. It’s the largest park in the Texas State Park system at about 300,000 acres and you begin to understand the size and scope of its vastness during the hour and a half drive from the the turnoff in Presidio, where you check in, to the park’s headquarters.IMG_100527 miles of dirt road that, though it is maintained and passable by a standard car, is quite an adventure in itself. Its hairpin turns, steep grades and lack of guard rails snake you through the Chihuahuan Desert to the park headquarters in a “town” called Sauceda.IMG_1008IMG_1029I use the term town lightly. There’s some bunkhouses, the park headquarters, a commercial kitchen (which may or may not be staffed) and the only indoor plumbing in the park. Though, the 5-gallon buckets of water under the sink in the restrooms labeled “emergency water for flushing toliets” tells me that water isn’t always available and most likely disappears quickly.

Several campgrounds (multiple camping spots grouped together with a composting toilet) are available for camping off the main road. The remainder of the camping spots are remote, acessible only by a 4×4 capable vehicle on unmaintained roads. Each campsite has a picnic table (with cover) and fire ring regardless of its location. Campsites are not guarenteed to be level and tent pads are non-existent. No running water or electricity services are available to campers and if you’re not in a campground going to the bathroom requires you to dig a hole in the ground. You must bring in all your water and take out all your trash. There’s an ice machine at the park headquarters which the park rangers might stock with ice if they know people are coming – I wouldn’t count on it though.

Because we had our toddler with us, we chose to camp at the South Leyva campground, the closest camping area to the park headquarters. Our first night, two other groups were in the camp area with us but the last two nights we were all alone.IMG_1023It’s creepy to be out there by yourself. We found ourselves constantly on guard after dark, using our spotlight anytime we heard an unidentifiable noise, which was often. We were stalked by the local cayotes on multiple occasions and though it was easy enough to scare them off by waving our arms and throwing rocks, it made us wonder what else was out there hiding in the darkness.

This park is a giant outdoor playground full of 4×4 trails, equestrian camping and mountain biking. We went to BBR to explore the 4×4 capabilities of our Ford F-250 truck. Our first and only off-roading adventure took place on a trail called the Oso Loop. An intermediate, unmaintained, trail which begins and ends off the main park road. It’s a narrow and steep 6.1 miles, which took us a little over two hours to complete.

It’s highly advised that when attempting to off-road in the park that you carry enough food and water to last your party three days (the amount of time it will take park rangers to find you), two full-size spare tires and a 48″ high-lift jack (all information we knew before our trip but were reminded of during our park orientation). This knowledge made traversing the 4×4 trails intimating, especially with a 18-month old daughter to take care of.

We took 15 gallons of water, five gallons of gasoline and all our food, including our cooler. We only had one spare tire and didn’t have a 48″ jack but we figured if we stayed on the intermediate-level trails then we could probably get away without. Our primary goal quickly became not having a flat tire.

Thankfully, we didn’t need any of our provisions and we came out of the Oso Loop unscathed. Unfortunately, the eggs weren’t so lucky.IMG_1038IMG_1041Thanks to several close encounters with cacti our truck is now decorated with something called “desert pinstriping.” Yes, our paint job is destroyed but if you want to enjoy the off-road trails they’re an unavoidable reality.IMG_1073

The pinstriping is our truck’s badge of honor. It says, “I went to Big Bend Ranch and I had fun!”

By the time we left Big Bend Ranch all our camping equipment was covered in a fine layer of dirt (think powdered sugar) from the drive in and out of the park. This little souvenir remained with us for the rest of the trip. Each time we touched our tent, cooler, camp stove, chairs or bags we were reminded of our Big Bend adventure with a palmful of west Texas dirt – somewhat unwelcome, as state park showers are questionable and not always available. Next time, I think covering our gear in a tarp would be helpful. Future campers take note.

Will we go back to Big Bend Ranch? Absolutely! No question about it. It’s a must for anyone who considers themselves a real outdoor enthuaist and was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done.

I think next time we’ll wait until all our kiddos are out of the toddler/small child stage though. It’s uneven terrain is not exactly friendly for little ones who loose their balance easily and the threat of E finding a rattlesnake hiding under a rock made this mommy super watchful of where she put her hands.

All that being said, I’m glad we went. We had a great time and made some wonderful memories! I can’t wait to do it again!

CAMPING!

A couple weeks before Thanksgiving, Jason and I did the unthinkable. We took our 18-month old daughter on a 1,900 mile, 10-day road trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park…and we were camping…and I’m pregnant.

Yeah, there’s a bombshell for you. I bet you weren’t expecting that.

Adventure is an understatement.

We packed up all our camping equipment, the kid, the dog and all the things that go with the kid and the dog. We also packed our ski gear – because our well planned camping adventure came during the worst cold snap of the year. At its coldest, it was 27 degrees. Did I mention we were tent camping?

Guess what the temperature was inside the tent?

That’s right. 27 degrees.

Burrrrr.

We didn’t just go camping. We went backpacking, offroading, hiking and primitive camping. We dragged our poor little girl to the other side of nowhere and back again on an adventure so grand that, now anytime she wants to do something fun, she says, “TRUCK! KEYS! BEEP!”

Only fun things happen in the truck.

Of course, we could have chosen to go to Disneyworld or some other child friendly location but that would have been too easy. We’ve never done things the easy way. What better way to spend time as a family than by visiting a place where you have to dig a hole before you go to the bathroom and getting attacked by a mountain lion is a legitimate concern.

All joking aside, Big Bend Ranch State Park was incredible, a truly unique experience that I will write a separate post about.

We took three hours of video and over 600 pictures. Don’t worry, I don’t have enough cloud space to share them all with you but I did make a cute little video which I’ve posted on YouTube. If you’d like to go on a little piece of our trip with us you should watch it.

After our epic adventure, I can truly say that I have never been more proud to be from and live in Texas. It’s a place full of topographic and cultural diversity and I cannot imagine living in any other place. Though, maybe on our next trip we’ll actually decide to leave the state.

Galveston Island State Park

Saturday we packed up the truck and headed back to Galveston for our long anticipated camping trip at Galveston Island State Park.

Our campsite was on the bay side of the park. Though, I admit, I was disappointed at first that we weren’t on the beach side in the end I was very pleased with our location. The bay side camping area was grassy not sandy and the mile between us and the beach was enough to keep the salt spray off the camping gear.

Much, if not all, of the park is new thanks to Hurricane Ike. It’s been a while since I’d been west of the seawall and I was blown away by how much damage was still visible and how much rebuilding was still taking place, almost 4 years later. The restrooms on the bay side of the park fall into the rebuilding category…I’m think the old ones are still floating around in the Gulf somewhere.

Arriving just after noon we set up camp and let E toddle around the campsite for a while…absolutely covered in sunscreen of course.

Getting into trouble…

After Evie took a nap we packed up our stuff and headed over to the beach to let her play in the water. She wasn’t too sure what to think of the waves at first but once she figured out they were fun we could barely keep up with her!

Crawling around in the water with Mommy.

Watching Daddy play with Baxter and catch hermit crabs in the sand.

 Around 6 p.m. we left the beach and went back to the campsite to grill burgers and roast marshmallows. Roasting marshmallows and sitting by the campfire is by far my favorite part of camping.

Roasting marshmallows with Mommy.

Unfortunately, a long day in the hot sun meant an early bedtime. We slept listening to the sounds of the sea breeze and our neighbors who apparently weren’t as tired as we were.

Sunday morning we woke early and fired up the campstove to make breakfast. Cooking breakfast outside is my second favorite part of camping.

“Helping” Mommy cook.

After breakfast we, reluctantly, packed up camp and left the park. Wanting to explore beyond the seawall a little further we drove to the far west end of the island, put the truck into 4×4 mode and drove out onto the beach. After driving up and down the beach we went back into Galveston proper and back onto the seawall for lunch. We decided, after much debate to go back to Casey’s. We didn’t return for the food but for the patio instead. We knew Baxter would be welcome.

Waiting for handouts…

He laid, dutifully, under the table during lunch waiting for us to hand him pieces of our hamburgers and french fries. He even scored some of Evie’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

Exhausted and slightly sunburned we drove home after lunch. Our fun camping trip had come to and end but I doubt this will be our last trip to Galveston this summer!

California – Day 7 & 8

This was the end of our fun vacation – our final two days. On Tuesday, we got started on the right note by hitting Cakebread Cellars in Oakville. When we went to Cakebread last year we joined their wine club so we get free tastings every time we go…so, like any reasonable people we couldn’t pass up a free tasting on their VIP patio now could we??


After Cakebread we went to Grgich Hills Estate not far from Cakebread. I was a little tipsy from the previous tasting so I sat this one out but Jason enjoyed some nice Chardonnay and some Merlot among other things. I bought a box of Cab filled chocolates and some olive oil.


We asked the lady at Grgich where we should eat for lunch and she recommend Rutherford Grill highly. She also suggested that we try their specialty, house smoked salmon with homemade tartar sauce…


…so we did. It was one of the best things we ate on this trip, which is saying a lot because we ate a lot of awesome stuff on this trip. This makes me want to try and smoke salmon at home.

After Rutherford Grill we headed off to our 2:00 appointment at Nickel & Nickel a very small vineyard in Oakville. At Nickel & Nickel they produce single vineyard, single varital wines which is a very cool concept. I could go more into this wine stuff but I won’t.



After we were finished drinking more wine than we ever thought we could possibly ingest we went swimming and I fell asleep by the pool. At some point (which I don’t really remember) Jason woke me up and we went back to the room where I collapsed on the bed and fell asleep.

What happens when you leave your husband unattended during a nap? He takes pictures of you sleeping. It was an awesome nap.


After the nap we went to dinner at Bouchon, another Thomas Keller, highly acclaimed, though easier to get into restaurant in Yountville. It was super dark outside at this point so the pictures start to get a little questionable…

I had a pork belly that was braised then pan seared. Oh my! Jason had duck breast. A glass of wine and a beer later we stumbled back to the hotel and retired for the evening.




Our last day in California was met with mixed feelings. Part of me didn’t want to go home but part of me was really tired of vacation. We were both suffering from “vacation exhaustion” but we pressed on anyway.

After checking out of the hotel we stopped by The French Laundry garden to see what they were growing and found some of the most beautiful, happy plants on the entire planet. This place is part of what motivated me to start my own garden and during this trip it motivated me to do something else…make compost!

A quick trip to Bouchon Bakery, which is right next door to Bouchon (the place we ate at the night before) was called for before we left. Even though I had already eaten breakfast I just couldn’t help devouring a cream cheese danish that was calling my name through the glass case. Please…eat me! I’m yummy!

Okay. Easy enough!


We left Yountville sometime around 1ish and headed across some mountains down a really curvy road called Oakville Grade to the town of Santa Rosa for a visit to the Russian River Brewery where Jason drank a couple beers and we ate something called Beer Bites…which was really a cheese pizza minus the sauce cut into squares. Like we needed any more food at this point…


Our final stop of the trip was to Moylan’s Brewery in Navato. We discovered this place by accident last year so of course we had to go back and since every blog entry I’ve made about our trip so far included a picture of Jason with a beer I decided that it was my turn for a beer pic!



After Moylan’s we got in the rental car and drove back to San Francisco to catch our flight which didn’t even land in Dallas until 12:40am and we didn’t get home until 2.

And that was it. The trip was over. Thank goodness. I don’t think I could have handled much more fun than that! I need a vacation just to recover from our vacation!