Redneck Extravaganza

Have you ever had a weekend that filled your heart with so much happiness, gratefulness, love, laughter, and faith? I experienced one of those weekends less than a month ago and have had so much love in my heart since. I’ve been battling personal struggles for the last 9 months and this weekend showed me that I’m on the uphill climb to a new and better me. It’s possible to feel as though you’ve got nothing left but still grow in relationships, make new relationships and reconnect with our Savior.

My Redneck Extravaganza weekend was spent with 5 other Christians, who are so kind-hearted, grateful, loving and all around wonderful humans, who I am lucky to call friends. The weekend didn’t start off as planned, as we were initially planning on climbing to a fire tower through forest and snow. However the day before, Washington’s weather took a turn from sunny and 75 to raining and thundering. Not quite the ideal weather to summit a mountain. Instead, one of the guys, Ben, put an idea out there for camping over in eastern Washington near a popular destination called Mosses Lake. As I didn’t have any knowledge of such place, I was all in, regardless of the decision. And the decision was to postpone the fire tower climb and head east to camp.

We met as a group bright and early Saturday morning, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and loaded up Big Blue or Diesel. The men (Ben, Paul, and Jonny) had this vision of how the truck needed to be loaded because we had 3 kayaks, 6 bikes, fishing gear, and all of our stuff. Us girls (myself, Brittany, and Angela) really did try to help them, but let’s face it when men have a vision, it’s really better to just let them do their thing. When the truck was finally loaded, we piled into the truck (all 6 of us) and began our road trip.

I selected the middle of the back seat (not sure if I actually selected it or if that’s just how it worked out) but I didn’t mind. It was fun to be between everyone during the drive through the city and beyond to the I90 corridor, as I began learning about many other adventures and stories the group has shared together, more specifically the men’s stories.

We made several pit stops, which all included very random and very hilarious extra activities. Those included random running/sprinting to a pole, group circle push-ups, running through a corn field (resulting in me getting smacked in the face from a corn stalk) and an apple orchard during a MASSIVE wind advisory, and stopping at Wal-mart for a very important purchase, wife-beater tank tops.

The actual location of camping was outside of a town called Othello, in an area called Columbia National Wildlife Refuge/Seep Lakes State Wildlife Recreation Area. A bridge separates the refuge from the recreation area and we decided to take a break there and it turned into the first photo-shoot opportunity. It involved me standing on a truck, the group striking posses on the bridge, and climbing on the sign. We continued on before making our first selection of spots to camp, which turned into our second photo-shoot opportunity, but not our actual camp site.

We piled back into the truck and continued on our way finding a line of rocks blocking a washed out road. This location was our 3rd photo-shoot opportunity and was the start to a good 2-3 hours of off-roading adventure with more random episodes of fun. Us girls started to get restless and we decided to turn back to where the rocks were, but not via truck. The 5 of us, minus Jonny, who drove, jumped onto our bikes and did a little mountain biking.

We finally selected a camp site located near the edge of the lake on a small cliff. It was absolutely breath-taking when setting up camp with the sunset on the horizon and a beautiful, clear sky. Once camp was set up (thank you men for putting up the tents), we enjoy a delicious dinner and some after dinner entertainment with a super moon shining light on us. Nighttime kayaking occurred for Ben and Paul, who went out to fish, and Brittany and Jonny, who took the singles out of the smooth and quite lake. Angela and I stayed behind; I was having too much fun with nighttime photograph trying to capture the stars.

When the group came back from kayaking, I introduced them to something called “Flashlight Nighttime Photography” and we spent a solid 2 hours tracing each other and playing Pictionary via the camera. This was followed by bedtime.

I was the first awake and I woke up to rain dropping down on the tent. Us girls were toasty warm in our tent, but that wasn’t the case when I exited. The rain wasn’t too hard, but it was a bit chilly. I don’t do well just sitting and waiting, so I took off on a hour + bike ride and when I was returning to the camp site the other women were on their way to the restrooms.  Before the men awoke, I got to spend some quality heart to heart with the girls, which whenever you can have girl-time is a special time.

We had some breakfast including coffee and spent some time in worship. I don’t think I’ve been that open and honest with people in sometime. I never felt judgement about my mistake/miss-comings  that I always think I would. I felt loved. I felt friendship. And I felt God again. These 5 people brought back the one thing that was missing during the last 9 months. They brought me back to Him, my Savior, my Heavenly Father.

During worship, it went from cold to super sunny, which we knew meant it was time to hit the water. The men spoiled us and offered to break down camp as we took off on the kayaks towards the canal. We gathered back together, 4 people in kayaks, myself and Ben on the inter tube tied to the double kayak.

This is when our day gets a little spontaneous. We hit the canal, which is a free flowing body of water so we didn’t have to do too much. That was until we hit the bridge. Yes, I’m talking about the same bridge from the day before. Want to know why we stopped? Well, because we (the guys mostly) wanted to jump off the bridge AND designed a rope swing. Why not? I have no fear in heights and honestly have loved “cliff jumping/bridge jumping” when I’ve done it. Every time something adventurous comes up and I’m with Ben, he tells me “Do it for Mapless Adventures”. It’s hard to say “no” to that (though I don’t usually say no) and so that’s exactly what we did. I jumped off the bridge twice and tried the rope swing, but wow of wow did that not feel good. Brittany and I some how really hurt our hands and fingers from the release off the rope (I actually ended up breaking my top knuckle on my middle finger) but it was still a blast. We ended our trip, after Angela and Ben continued down to the bikes and Jonny and Angela rode onto the truck, with one final photo shoot opportunities with the sunset in the back ground.

It was another eventful road trip back to the city and am so thankful that Jonny was a wonderful driving with the amount of rain we hit through the I90 corridor. Our arrival home was past midnight, but with the amount of laughter and adventure that endured I didn’t mind getting home so late. We called our weekend Redneck Extravaganza, but it ended up being “Chasing Sunshine” because that’s exactly what we did. This one is diffidently one for the books!

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.