Family Travel: Grandma Turns 90

In my lifetime, I have had the honor to meet my great-great grand-mother (100 and something) and my great grandmother (97) on my mother’s side and both lived very long lives. However, this celebration was something I was afraid I’d never see.

Last November (2012) my grandmother on my dad’s side had a medical crisis that lead her hospitalized, intubated and barely aline. My dad went to visit her and told me that he really didn’t think she’d survive and from my medical knowledge I really didn’t know either. She gave us quite the scare that month and my strong and wonderful grandmother gained back her breathing, gained back her strength, and was able to return back to her home. I was overjoyed hearing the news that months of going through rehabilitation and living away from home, she’d return.

Eleven months later, my grandmother sat in front of me talking and smiling as I wished her a very Happy 90th Birthday. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel back to Iowa (with a Chicago pit-stop) and spend time with my dad’s side of the family on this special of occasion.

During my 4 days in my dad’s home(region), I spent time at my grandmother’s assisted living facility, hung out with dad’s old friends, visited my cousin’s new farm house along with one aunt’s farm house filled with cows, billy goats and CATS, and partied at my other aunt’s farm with the entire (mostly) Lang family. During our birthday party, I spent time talking with my cousins (who are all older- some with kids a few years younger than me), aunts, and uncles, taking pictures of my grandmother meeting her newest great-grandchild (a couple months old), and even taking a ride in my uncle’s new toy- a classic car (don’t ask me what kind). I even shot a gun for the first time, well 3 different types of guns actually. It was quite fun and quite country as we were shooting a shotgun, in a corn field, drinking busch light. Talk about a fun birthday party!

It was quite the special trip returning to Iowa to honor my grandmother in her amazing life of 90 years and spending precious time with the Lang family bunch. Hopefully, my time away isn’t so long and I’ll be able to visit my grandmother again.

Family Travel: Daddy-Daughter Day in Chicago

A few months ago, my dad offered me my mother’s plane ticket back to Iowa to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. Reason for me vs. my mother was because my sister’s due date was around the same time, so instead of my mother flying back to Iowa, I got to go (since she’d be in Dallas for the new baby and I wasn’t able to go to Iowa for my mom’s family reunion)! As my dad was booking our ticket, he realized that since I’m in Washington and he’s in Arizona that it was actually easier/cheaper for us to meet in Chicago. Now, I’ve never been to Chicago before and my dad hasn’t been in probably 40 years and I love going to new places and exploring, so I was over-the-moon happy when my dad told me we’d be spending a day/night in Chi-town.

I’m the type of person that when an opportunity like this arrives, you don’t say “NO”. It was quite the whirlwind experience. My dad did some research prior to our departure so when we landed we knew how to get from the airport to downtown via train. Exiting the train, I got my first blast of breezy air off Lake Michigan and was immediately smiling. We made it to our hotel and within 10 minutes were out the door.

We started our sightseeing at the Buckingham Fountain (which we knew really nothing about) and the overlooking of the skyscrapers. Off next to Millennium park- location of “the Bean”, which my dad had NO IDEA what I was talking about, but I think he was blown away. We laughed as we were standing next to it because we both realized that it’s practically impossible to take a picture without getting your own reflection (unless standing from afar). We continued by foot towards Navy Pier, where we had a preset date with a good family friend, Mike. Mike is one of our neighbors at my grandparent’s cabin in Iowa and who practically broke my neck one tubing trip. We met him at Bubba Gump for a pre-dinner drink before heading to Harry Carey’s Tavern.

After dinner and wonderful company, we headed off to a night-time bike riding adventure with Bobby’s Bike Hike. We weren’t sure if we were going to do this when we arrived, but after talking with Mike, we decided what better way to no just see this lovely city, but to learn a little bit more. This ride took us north of Navy Pier to North Adventure Beach, through downtown near the Trump Tower, over to Millennium Park, down to Buckingham Fountain, over to Museum Campus and ending our night at the Chicago Broadway Theater. If you are every lost for something to do in Chicago, I HIGHLY recommend participating in a bike ride tour.

The next day may have been short and sweet but still nothing shy of amazing. We started our morning at Dunkin’ Donuts before heading north on the train to…WRIGLEY FIELD home of the Chicago Cubs. I’m not going to lie, I’m not a huge baseball fan, but exiting the train and seeing the field for the first time felt like I was stepping back into the 1940s. There is really something special about these original baseball stadiums. It’s literally in the middle of a neighborhood. We spent a good couple hours wandering around the stadium, laughing at the seating on top of the surrounding building.

After the stadium, we headed back into the city towards Hancock Building to meet up with Mike, in hopes we’d be able to head towards the top for a overhead view of the city. Unfortunately, due to extreme fog, there was a 0% visibility. It wasn’t a complete loss however. Mike gave us an off-the-beaten-track tourist spot called “Billy Goat Tavern” home of the Cheezboger, cheezborger, cheezborger. If you are a fan of SNL, you might recognize the name and we didn’t leave without trying one for ourselves. From there, we headed back to our hotel, packed up our things, headed back to the airport and picked up our rental car. However, we made one last stop before heading off to Iowa. We enjoyed a nice delicious lunch at Portillo’s Hot Dog for a true Chicago Dog! I would say that this Daddy/Daughter Chicago Adventure was a complete success! I guess it goes to say that you really can explore a city in a day!!

Check out pictures here

Ironman Arizona 2012

It’s been 8 months since I was in Arizona last, and this past weekend I was able to join my family (sister, brother-in-law and nephew flew in from Dallas, brother lives in AZ) in cheering on my 54 year-old father as he competed in one of the world’s toughest competition, the Ironman. The Ironman is a triathlon that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, ending with a marathon 26.2 miles run, raced in that order without breaks. That’s a total of 140.6 miles completed between the hours of 7am (start) and midnight (end). Click here for more regarding the history of the Ironman Triathlon.

One year ago, my dad made the courageous decision to register for the 2012 Ironman and began training for IMAZ in March.  My father, who is an accountant, loves numbers and is a true gadget guy, which explains why for Christmas 2011 my siblings and I got him the Garmin Forerunner 310XT- his training best friend. Here are his statistics of his training regime:

Running: 88 activities, 410 miles

Cycling: 114 activities, 2706 miles

Indoor cycling (Spin): 32 activities, 34 hours

OWS (Open Water Swimming): 13 activities, 21 miles

Add to this, four Olympic distance triathlons and one 1/2 Ironman distance triathlon, countless hours of workouts, yoga classes, track workouts (and bleachers), stretching, whirlpools, saunas, chiropractic treatments and massages.  Talk about passion, focus and determination.

November 18, 2012 was a day my family and dad will never forget. It all began at 6:45 am in the morning in Tempe Town Lake for the float-start swim, pros @ 6:45am Age-groupers (my dad) @ 7am. My dad completed the swimming leg in 1 hr 20 minutes 20 seconds (2:04/100M), ranking him at 98th for his age group and 1140th overall (2900 athletes total). Transitioning to the bike was up next. For us, the bike portion was a little more entertaining since the course passes by our condo 4 times before the Bike-Run transition, meaning every 2-hrs, my dad got that extra burst of energy as we stood there cheering him on…GO GRAND-DUDE GO!!! His bike statistics for the total 112 miles ended in 6:35:59 in 138th rank in his age group and 1625th overall. Next, up the marathon. As with the bike, the run course passed the condo a total of 6 times giving my dad extra support every hour to 1.5 hours until the finish line. His run statistics: 6:11:43, 146th rank in age-group, 1827th rank overall. My dad became an Ironman at 9:31 PM with a time of 14 hours 31 minutes and 4 seconds.

Watching my dad cross the finish line ,as the guy announcing my dad as an Ironman was one of the proudest moments of my life. Click here for all the pictures taken during the day.

The Ironman was not the *only* reason I headed home. My not-so-little nephew was turning 2 just a few days after the Ironman and my family was able to spend his birthday party together with friends. Best part, I didn’t tell my sister I changed my flight to make it to his party and I surprised her! It was my first time ever surprising someone and I’m glad it was her! Click for Pictures.

Overall, you could say that my first trip home was a success and I am eagerly awaiting my next trip home.

Family Travel: Parents Visit Washington

I don’t even know where to begin this post. I haven’t seen my parents in six months, which is the longest we’ve EVER gone without seeing each other and this past weekend they came to visit the PNW. Oh yeah, and me! My mom came shortly after I moved, however her trip wasn’t really a “vacation”. This time was different. My goal for their PNW weekend vacation was to have them see why I LOVE the PNW and for them to love it too.  I thought long and hard about what to show them during their short 4 day weekend (not counting their 3 day adventure in Victoria, BC, Canada to visit a family friend) here in Washington. The results…well keep reading to find out.

Seattle, as some of you know, is not the “cheapest” location to stay so we decided to head east of Lake Washington where we stayed at a beautiful Marriott property in Bellevue, WA. What I found interesting is that the hotels here provide guests with van services that will take you anywhere within three miles of the hotel. Of course we utilized this service on our first night and found ourselves wandering through Downtown Bellevue Park before hitting up Happy Hour at various locations recommended by a friend and locals. Slightly anti-climatic but nothing less than a perfect and relaxing first night with the parents.

Seattle was the next stop in the adventure where we partook in a food tour, rode the Seattle Ferris Wheel, headed up the Space Needle and ended the night with a beverage overlooking Pike Place Market. I heard through the grapevine that a food tour is a MUST when in Seattle and Seattle Bites Food Tour was ranked #1 on multiple sites. Those sites didn’t lie. This tour took us through the history of the market; how it got started, how it was almost destroyed, and how it continues to thrive today. It gave us various tastes of the market; German brats, Indian chicken tikka masala, French crepes, locally grown fruits, and America’s Best Clam Chowder with Seattle’s Best Coffee and a local winery for refreshments. Ending with a unique outlook on the famous Pike Place Market with an additional stop at the Gum Wall, the second most unsanitary location in the world (second to the Blarney Stone). We continued to stroll Pike Place Market following the tour with a Starbucks in hand, where my mom and I decided it was entertaining watching my dad stare, with his mouth open, at everything going on in the market (if you know my dad you’ll understand why this was funny). Oh yeah, did I mention that one of my mom’s co-workers from Phoenix was on this tour with her husband and they had no idea? Small world!

The Seattle Ferris Wheel was next on our agenda. This attraction opened in June and provides the riders us with a beautiful view of downtown Seattle with the Space Needle peaking through the sky-rise buildings. Plus I learned that my dad squirms with heights, something I never knew before. We continued our tour of Seattle with the Space Needle. We took the 41 second ride up 520 feet to the observation deck where we relaxed and enjoy another fabulous view of the city of Seattle, Mt. Rainier, and the Puget Sound. By the time we ventured down the Space Needle, our stomachs began to growl so what better place to enjoy a sunset Happy Hour than at the patio of Hard Rock Cafe!

Saturday wasn’t as full packed as Friday but still adventure driving none the less. Following my parents morning 10 mile run (I slept), we headed out to Cougar Mountain for a short hike through Washington’s Wilderness! Hiking in Washington is a huge part of my life and spending time with my parents in the wilderness hiking was one thing I wasn’t going to pass up! Wine Country in Woodinville, WA was next on our schedule of events. We enjoyed a tour and tasting at Chateau Ste Michelle Winery,  lunch at Redhook Brewery, ending our day with a tasting at Columbia Winery. Well sort of ending…we actually ended our day at Costco for a little shopping therapy!

Off to Port Angeles, WA via Aberdeen and Ruby Beach. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to show my dad my home this trip, so when the opportunity presented to travel the extra few hours, I didn’t hesitate! I loved driving him around Aberdeen, showing him where I work, place I go, and even introducing him and my mom to my friends! Continuing on our WA adventure, we headed north on the 101 with stops at the Quinault Rain Forest, World’s Largest Sitka Spruce, Largest Red Cedar, and Ruby Beach. Port Angeles isn’t known for much other than being a gateway to Canada and the San Juan Islands, however there is one thing special about Port A. It is 17 miles north from Hurricane Ridge, a location that provides a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains on one side and the Strait of Juan de Fuca with Canada on the other. When we woke up Monday morning, we didn’t know if we would make it up to the ridge as we were on a strict time restraint. Luckily, we had plenty of time to enjoy the clear air and views the ridge had to offer before I had to send my parents north to Victoria, BC, Canada. Saying goodbye sucks but It won’t be too long before I head home to AZ to support my dad as he competes in the Ironman Triathlon!

So, do you think I showed my parents enough of Washington for them to fall in love? Click for Pictures.