Good gracious, beauties, I'm so happy to get this trip down on (virtual) paper. I'm coming to you from Dallas, Texas, where I have the pleasure of taking in a work meeting this weekend. And under these extremely special circumstances, I'm finally finding the time to give our Belize trip its proper due. You guys. Belize is a really wonderful place to visit. We followed our Costa Rica model of spending the first half of the trip in the jungle and the second half on the beach, and that worked out really well again. If you have the chance to get yourself down to Belize, or if you just want to daydream about it (like I do, all the time) these were the highlights for us.
Part One: The Cayo District
One of the things that just has to be said about Belize is that driving through it will break your heart. It is stunningly beautiful and starkly poor. The houses are made from plywood and cinder blocks, stray dogs are running everywhere, underfed and unhealthy, and there is garbage along the side of every road. We started our trip driving from the Belize City airport to Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge in the Cayo District, and that landscape was a little shocking. And then we arrived at the hotel, which was basically paradise.
The Cayo District has a lot of citrus trees surrounded by tree-covered hills, and the landscape is really beautiful. Hiking up through the hills, surrounded by enormous trees, will reward you with incredible views.
A short drive from the Cayo District are the Xunantunich Mayan ruins, and they are absolutely worth the drive. First of all, the ruins are much larger than I thought they would be (I've seen pictures of Mayan ruins but didn't understand how TALL they are!) and you can actually climb up on the ruins to see the rest of the excavated site and even look over to the Guatemalan border.
I'm not a huge history buff, but looking at something that was built THOUSANDS of years ago and marveling at the beauty, the details, and the fact that these things are still standing basically unscathed is pretty amazing.
We also did a day trip to the ATM cave, which is a cave that the Mayans used for ritual sacrifices and other ceremonies. You can't bring any cameras into the cave because tourists have damaged the relics and remains in the past because they weren't paying enough attention to their feet when they were trying to take photos. But, because I can't do this experience justice with words alone, I pulled some photos off Google to help me paint the picture--we were in all of these spaces.
Through a lot of the cave you have to swim or wade through water, and many times you're squeezing through tiny openings and climbing over huge rocks. This is what the opening of the cave looks like--the last time you see any sunlight.
You climb and swim for quite a while until you get to a point where you have to do some rock climbing (!!!) to get up to the ledge where you can see remains of ceramic pots used in the Mayan rituals, and even bones from the sacrifices.
Part Two: Ambergris Caye
After a few days in the Cayo District, we drove back to the airport in Belize City and returned our rental car to board a teeny tiny plane to fly to Ambergris Caye, an island just a very short flight away (about fifteen minutes). I was a little worried about the flight on a plane this small, but it goes very quickly and is actually really cool (you can see the island as you fly over it, and the flight is over before you know it).
The island is next to a huge coral reef, so it attracts a lot of scuba divers and snorkelers. We aren't divers, but we did snorkel one day and went out to an area where nurse sharks and stingrays gather to be fed by the boats. They're basically tame after the boats coming to feed them multiple times a day for years, so you can touch the sharks and rays--I don't have a photo of this, but I did dive down and touch a nurse shark that was about eight feet long. So, that's something. Dan wanted nothing to do with touching sharks even though our guide tried his hardest to encourage him. ("No, you can pet them! Just not on the mouth!")
But you know what we didn't have any reservations about? Pina coladas. At every meal. Ok, not breakfast. Most days.
Most of the island is small enough to walk around, but when people are driving it's usually on golf carts. We rented a cart one day to head out to "secret beach" (a beach that apparently used to be a real secret and is still pretty difficult to find, but once you get there you are rewarded with a sandy swimming beach, rum punch, and tacos). Most of Ambergris Caye doesn't have great swimming areas because of the nearby reef, so this beach is a good find.
There are also lots of dogs running around the island, but they seemed to be owned by someone (we didn't see any dogs on leashes but lots had collars, and even the pups without collars seemed to be well-fed). We went for a run one day and this dog decided to come with us--he hung tough for more than a mile, just padding along next to us until some kids who apparently knew him saw him and called him away. We loved him, and he made us miss Chewy.
This trip was dreamy all around, and was a great combination of adventure and relaxing. It was probably the most action-packed with bucket list activities of any trip we've ever taken (even things we didn't know were on the bucket list until we did them!)
We'll be daydreaming about Belize for quite a while. Especially when it's below zero in Minnesnowta.
I can understand why the idea of exercise on vacation is not appealing to everyone--if you think of exercise as a chore, why would you do it when you're supposed to be relaxing. (To be clear, no judgment there--I like exercise but I DO often think of it as a chore, and taking time off is appealing to me, too.) But I realized on our last family trip that running on the road is actually one of my favorite times to run--getting outside of my normal routes and enjoying the scenery of wherever I'm traveling makes the run way more fun than it would be at home, and fitting in some good sweat sessions throughout a trip makes me feel healthier and more energetic than I would if I skipped it. So I decided to put a short post together about why I love to run when I travel, in case it's just the inspiration you needed to throw your running shoes in your suitcase on your next trip.
I. The Scenery
One of my favorite runs to date happened when I was in Washington, D.C. last fall for a work conference. I decided to get out of the hotel and go for a run around the monuments one rainy evening, and it was the best run. When you're enjoying sights, scenes, and people-watching that you don't get at home, you're not focusing on your breath or your worn out legs like you might if you're running the same old tired route. Plus, what's better than getting an awesome workout and being a tourist at the same time??
II. New Challenges
If you know Minneapolis at all, you know that most of the running around here is pancake flat. I love that, actually. But running on flat ground is different than running on hills, and the latter will challenge and improve your running a lot more. Plus, I'm training for the Ragnar Great River right now, and I've heard that race is nothin' but hills. I'm terrified, truth be told. But I took advantage of the hills in Hill City, South Dakota (509 feet of elevation gain in a 4-mile run that was basically 2 miles up hill and two miles down hill) and the elevation in Denver to stretch myself and get ready for the upcoming race. And I discovered some pretty forests and trails while doing it. Win win win.
III. Blowing Off Steam
I love to travel, but travel often comes along with some stress and frustration, too. If I'm traveling for work, that probably means trying to catch up on emails/to-dos in the evening after a long day of meetings. If I'm traveling with my family, that means we're spending a LOT of time together navigating the best ways to get places and choose things to do--and I say this with all the love in the world, but that can be a lot. Getting away for a 45-minute run can make all the difference in letting off that stressed energy.
So that's my endorsement. Anyone have recommendations for great vacation runs they've taken? Horror stories about running into a moose, bear, or a buffalo when you were running on a vacation and not thinking about it? (The wildlife hazard did occur to me when I was deep in the woods running in the Black Hills--maybe good to think that through ahead of time. Maybe.)
On to the final leg of the family road trip recap! After the Black Hills, we drove down to Colorado to spend some time with Dan's cousin and aunt, in Golden (right outside of Denver). The drive down was only about six hours from the Black Hills, and while it wasn't very scenic it was also pretty easy driving (straight, flat, and fast). In Colorado we had a great mix of hiking and touristing, and enjoyed some great food (still dreaming about a greek-style lamb burger I had with gluten free flat bread at a local brewery....yum.) I really like hiking (like the day trip kind that ends in a hotel, not the tent-on-your-back kind that spans multiple days and doesn't include showers) and I was happy to discover on this trip that Dan and Kelly really feel the same. We drove to Evergreen, Colorado for a fun hike around Maxwell Falls (word to the wise--this trail is not well marked, and we accidentally ended up on private property and needed to turn around, but it was still a good time. Also, the "falls" are more of a small series of drops over rocks, so you might miss them if you're expecting something more raging.)
I read there was also an awesome pizza place in Evergreen with regular and gluten-free pizza, but we were there too early in the day to take advantage.
We also drove up to the peak of Mount Evans, which you can hike (if you're feeling extreme and want to devote the day to it) but you can also just drive up and have a look. The road was a little terrifying in places, so naturally I made Dan drive while I ate potato chips.
It also gets pretty cold up on the mountain (even when it's 90 degrees in the city) so packing a sweatshirt is wise. Halfway up the mountain there's a lake with a parking lot, and we were there at the perfect time to see tons of wild flowers blooming. No one in our family is real fond of heights, but the views are pretty spectacular and you don't have to climb way out to the edge to enjoy them. Also, how awesome are these mountain goats?! Don't let Dan's face fool you. He loved it.
The drive to/from Mount Evans is also super scenic, and I would recommend pulling off at some of the overlooks to take it in. We chose one that had a retaining wall, but the boys were still not very comfortable taking the picture by the edge (lesson learned: heights, not so much. We're calling this Dan's power stance.)
We also went to Red Rocks, which was a surprising highlight. I knew we had to make a stop, but none of us expected it to be as cool as it was. The amphitheater there is home to some amazing concerts, and there's a little museum where you can see who's played at the venue over the years, but the place itself is just incredibly beautiful. And, in the mornings (before setup for the night's event begins) it's open and free to the public, and you can see hoards of people working out--running the stairs, running top to bottom along each row of seating, squat jumping from bench to bench, leading yoga classes, etc. It was really cool to see, and if we'd had another day in the area we probably would have gone back to join them the next morning!
Red Rocks is a prime example, but all over Denver it was really noticeable how much the community buys in to active outdoor lifestyles. Dan and I agreed that if we weren't so tied to Minneapolis we would love to live in Denver (but no moves in our future--too many roots, and too much love for our home city! We'll just have to settle for visits.)
Kelly also got a chance to pan for gold with Dan's cousin as his guide--he had a blast, even though he didn't strike it rich.
After an awesome few days, it was time to pack up the Jeep and hit the road. We pulled in to a Whole Foods on our way out of town to grab some caffeine--if you guys haven't tried either of these beverages, I highly recommend them. The chai is spicy and not too sweet, and the coffee is perfect in every way (both dairy free--the chai is made with soy milk, which I don't drink a lot but don't avoid like the plague, either). Yes, Dan laughed at me when he saw this picture on my phone. No, there is no shame in my game.
Our next big trip is to Belize over Thanksgiving--just Dan and I for that one, and I'm already daydreaming about it.
Wishing you all wonderful weeks!
OH HI! So, getting back into the swing of things after vacation--how 'bout them apples? This week was a little rough, but I'm so excited to get back to my routine, including blogging and cooking and livin' the life. The vacation though. So good. We spent a few days in the Black Hills and a few days in Denver, after our first day in the Badlands. I'm going to split those stops into two different posts because you're already going to be sick of me by the end of this one, but let me just start with this: if you live in the Twin Cities, you've gotta get yourself to the Black Hills. It's beautiful there, and it's only seven hours away. Seriously. Grab your calendar, and block some time. Preferably in the summer. And this is what you should do. Ready? Here we go.
I. Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse
Super novel ideas I have so far, right? You never would have thought to include these on your trip? Ok, it just has to be said. Everyone should see Mount Rushmore at least once. And Crazy Horse, too--although, I have to be honest, Dan and I were both excited to see how much progress they'd made at Crazy Horse because we were both there about twenty years ago, when just the face was finished...and it's still basically just the face that's finished. So you've probably got plenty of time to catch the "in progress" version of that one.
We did Mount Rushmore right away when we got to The Black Hills, and we did Crazy Horse the next day. They don't take long, and you've just gotta go. And it's fun. Ok, next.
II. Sylvan Lake
This is where the worthwhile tips start--I got this one from a coworker whose family lives in the area, and I hadn't read about it on any travel sites. Sylvan Lake was one of our favorite parts of this whole trip--the lake itself is beautiful and Kelly loved swimming in it, but the 4-mile hike on the Sunday Gulch loop was the star of the show. It starts at the lake, which is surrounded by walking trails you could enjoy in flip flops.
Super instagram-able. If you decide to do the Sunday Gulch hike, you need some good shoes and preferably some athletic wear. We did it in tennis shoes and normal clothes, and I was wishing I had switched into something more sweat-friendly about halfway through.
The hike starts going down hill over some huge boulders, with hand rails built into the rock to help avoid falls. This was really fun, and something I hadn't seen before--no trail, just hand rails over a big rocky descent. From there, it went through the woods for a while, and then up, up, up to some pretty spectacular views (and burning quads).
We did this hike in an hour and a half at a pretty good clip, but we ran into several groups who said they'd been at it around three hours. Plan some time for it, but don't miss it.
III. The Wildlife Loop (Custer State Park)
This little drive through Custer State Park is one of your best chances to see buffalo (and prairie dogs, and wild donkeys) just roamin' around. We read to go in the morning or evening, and we did the loop first thing one day. We saw tons of buffalo (there's a herd that hangs out in this area, and they're often close enough to the road to see them) and some donkeys that were standing in the middle of the road and weren't interested in moving. Kelly loved the baby buffalo and the prairie dogs.
IV. Jewel Cave National Monument
If you've never done a cave tour, you need to include this on your itinerary. It's a cool experience, and this one is big and interesting and the tour is pretty accessible for family members of any age. You need to stop by early to get your tickets (the tours go all day but they sell out before noon). We grabbed tickets for our tour and then went to Crazy Horse while we waited for our tour to start. It's cold in the cave, so you need to bring a sweater (Kelly's helpfully illustrating that for you in this picture) and photos really don't do the cave justice, but Kelly thought it was "SO cool" and the ceilings were mostly tall enough for Dan to fit through, so we gave this two thumbs up.
V. Reptile Gardens
There are a lot of hokey tourist traps in the Black Hills, and it can be hard to guess what will be worth your while, but luckily we heard from several people that Reptile Gardens was worth the trip, and it definitely did not disappoint. If you've got kids with you who are even remotely interested in animals, you've gotta stop here. They do three shows--a gator show, a snake show, and a bird show--each at several times throughout the day, and they have exhibits you can walk around in between the shows. The shows are entertaining and informative--I mean, this guy jumped on an alligator's back.
They also had enormous snakes and a giant tortoise that you could touch. The tortoise was pretty motionless until Dan came--I think it recognized another giant in its presence and lifted its head pretty excitedly (for a tortoise).
Kell also got to touch a snake, and a baby alligator. My only tip is to plan about half a day here--I thought this was going to be more of an hour-long activity, but the shows are cool and you won't want to miss them, so you need at least an hour and a half for those and another hour or two to walk around and see everything.
There you have it--the fab five of the Black Hills. Next up is a Denver recap, and then a return to our regularly-scheduled programming, including Ragnar training! The race is in less than two weeks. I'm a little bit in denial, but still super excited. Plus, I ran hills on vacation...so that cancels out the fact that I barely ran this week, right? Yeah, I think so too.
Greetings from Wall, South Dakota! Might I suggest that if you’re ever in need of a laugh, you read Yelp reviews for the restaurants in Wall? Tears of laughter were shed in the process of choosing a dinner locale. A barbecue spot that sounded promising included a review that recounted flies swarming so thickly inside the restaurant that the diner was unable to eat her meal simply because her hands were too occupied as fly swatters. Another diner gave up and left after an hour and a half because his dinner never arrived and his server mysteriously disappeared (presumably because he was carried off by flies). Another restaurant had a review that reported finding maggots in the food. That's not funny, that's repulsive, but thanks for sharing. Not that one, sweetie. We chose Dairy Queen. It was the right choice.
Someone needs to make a coffee table book of the many incredible billboards of rural America. My favorite today heralded a mechanic who offers “24 hour toe service.” I might also humbly offer that if you are going to the trouble of creating a billboard you could consider having a friend or two proofread it for you. My only regret of the day is not calling that gentleman to ask about what sort of service he offers to toes. No, I have two regrets: the Chinese restaurant we chose for lunch, and not chatting with the man about the toe service.
Bust mostly today was lovely. We made it to the Badlands and scrambled over rock formations to our hearts' content, and we’ve started an awesome selfie trend that I dearly hope continues throughout this trip because we are not very good at selfies and I find them all hilarious. Actually, my favorite photos of my family are the odd ones. Where Kelly’s all squinty because he can't deal with sunlight or Dan realizes afterwards that he “must have forgotten” to smile. Yes, we’re all having the most fun. Why do you ask? OH! But we learned at lunch that our Chinese Zodiac animals are very compatible with one another. So there’s that.
But seriously, it's beautiful here. And there's only more beauty to come as we head on to the Black Hills and Denver. And we're getting very in touch with our American roots. When we were hiking through the Badlands, we passed a group with a 20-something guy who had climbed up onto a tall rock formation, and I looked up at him and thought "wow, that would be a really beautiful photo" (with the blue sky, and the clouds, and the rocks stretching out all around). And then he arched his back and launched a wad of spit into the canyon below him. AMERICA!
And that's a wrap for today. Now we're climbing into bed, stuffed full of french fries and root beer floats. Sleep tight, friends.
Well hello there, stranger. Fancy meeting you here. Welcome back from the unplanned hiatus that has been the past ten days...here's what happened. I planned to write a Fueled Up Friday post last week like normal, but then Friday arrived. And there was just no way on God's Green Earth to be fueled up last Friday, guys. Do you watch the news? I'm thinking about just stopping with the whole news thing. It's been too rough. So I was not fueled up, and I didn't want to pretend, so I just stayed silent. And then, this week.
Ok, so, we're leaving on vacation tomorrow (which I'm going to talk so much about in two shakes, hold tight) but this week a thing happened to me that happens a LOT before vacation. And the thing is, I spend the week preparing my home/job/self to leave for vacation, and that causes me to pretty much hate everything about my life. I like my job, and I liked the last job I had, but the week before I'm going to be out on vacation I am consistently convinced that my job is torture (and even more melodramatic than that, like, what am I even doing with my life!?) It's dumb. I can recognize and admit that it's dumb. But it happens, and no one would want to read a blog post that comes out of that head space. You're welcome, for not posting any of those.
But TODAY. Today I woke up and finished all of the work items, and bought the things that we need for our vacation, and put together all of the plans, and packed a bag, and now I am totally fueled up. And all I want to talk about today is vacation, so this is going to be a uni-topic post. Here we go.
We are leaving on a road trip tomorrow morning and I am PSYCHED. Here's the plan: we're heading to the Badlands and the Black Hills, and then on to Denver. The boy child is coming with, but the fur child is not. It's going to be awesome, I've decided. (I'll admit to waffling between "this is going to be awesome" and "I wonder how Dan and Kelly will do in the car for that many hours" but I'm off the fence. On the awesome side.) Don't worry, you'll hear a lot more about this vacation (maybe this week, maybe next week, you never can tell) but one of the things I'm particularly fueled up about is the snacks. Snacks are the BEST part of road trips, amiright?? I'm not alone in this in my family, because Kell dug through the bags from my shopping trip this afternoon and exclaimed, "S'mores Goldfish?! THIS IS THE BEST VACATION EVER!" Maybe I don't buy him enough fun food. But I digress. Check out these healthy snack options (S'mores Goldfish not pictured, but packed.)
So another thing that happened this week is I had an episode of stomach issues for a few days. This isn't out of the ordinary for me, but I usually know why/saw it coming (because I tried to eat cheese curds, or whatever). This time the reaction was set off by a big bowl of quinoa, which was unexpected. I eat gluten free grains pretty regularly without issue, but I don't usually eat a TON of them (like, a small side-dish serving is normal) and I went out for lunch this week and ordered a salad that turned out to be a pretty huge bowl of quinoa. I've ordered this salad before, even, but I think this time the restaurant was running low on greens/the other ingredients, and they were like, "Just put all that quinoa in there. Good. Send it out." And I guess it was just too much.
So a weird thing that happens when my body is throwing a temper tantrum is that my stomach swells up a LOT. I was texting a bff about that this week and decided to take some pictures, because this is weird and weirdness should be shared. So preface to these photos--I look pregnant in the first one, and I am not pregnant (but I'm smirking because I'm doing the preggo belly hold, and what's in there is QUINOA). I am also not pushing out or sucking in my stomach in either of these photos--this is just the difference in how my belly looks (when my muscles are relaxed) from the beginning of an episode to the middle/end. The photos were taken about five hours apart.
Isn't that ridiculous?! I have to hide in my office with my arms crossed over my belly in the first state so my coworkers don't ask when I'm due. Also, stomach, quinoa is healthy. Let's relax about the healthy, gluten-free, dairy-free foods, mmmmk? If you get any pickier, I'm going to have you fired.
The unfortunate part about having a fascist for a stomach (aside from the obvious parts about not being able to eat delicious gluten and dairy-rich foods) is that I get a little nervous about needing to eat out when I'm away from home for a long stretch. Even if I avoid the stuff that I know will set me off, cooking oils are different, and you never know ingredients (and I don't ask, because I'm painfully uncomfortable with inconveniencing people) so it's just likely that I'll eat something that doesn't agree with me. Also, I like french fries and road trip foods and so I'm for sure going to eat those (or the dairy-free, gluten-free ones, anyway). One way to navigate that obstacle course is to pack lots of good foods that I know I'll have along if nothing else is available--RX bars, Lara bars, nuts, dried fruit, etc. And, you know, potato chips. But no S'mores Goldfish for me.
I just think vacation time is so crucial. Taking an entire week to really unplug from life, and change your surroundings, and spend annoying amounts of time with your family--that's the glue for us. It recharges my batteries (sorry, I can't think of a better phrase so just go with it) and it provides memories that we squeeze for everything they're worth. Not kidding, Kelly still talks about a bowl of soup he had on our trip to Alaska like it was one of the defining moments of his short life. Kid's got a very healthy appreciation of food. One of his many stellar qualities.
So, we're setting out for the wild, wild West with some real fancy snacks and our trusty Jeep. I can't wait to tell you all about it.
When it comes to travel, I am constantly torn between visiting new places and returning to places that I've already seen and loved. This strife is probably strongest for European destinations, because I deeply love spending time in Europe, but it's also the place where we've spent the most time (Dan lived there for the better part of six years playing basketball, so he is understandably not dying to return). But I am always dying to return. I absolutely loved living in Portugal and France in between college and law school (truly one of the best decisions I've ever made) and each destination holds a special place in my heart. My family visited cinque terre in Italy when I was 13, I haven't been back since then, and I still think about it all the time. Truly. A few facebook friends and folks I follow on Instagram are in Europe right now, and seeing their photos ignites such a powerful wanderlust that I find myself scheming about when I could squeeze in a few days in Paris or a week in Florence, even though we have great trips planned for this summer and fall. There's just something special about that continent. So, I'm closing my browsing window with fare alerts set to every major European hub airport, and channeling that energy into a blog post instead. Like a responsible adult, or something.
A huge part of my love for travel definitely comes from my parents, and I am so grateful to them for teaching us how to be good travelers growing up. I vividly remember the firs time I flew to Europe by myself--it was my last semester of college and I was going to Portugal for the week of my fall break to visit Dan. He'd left to start his first season in early September, and I was coming to visit in October before joining him over there in December, after I graduated. Dan hadn't really known what to expect when he arrived in Portugal, and had packed all the wrong things and not a lot of the right ones. So, I left in October with two fifty-pound duffel bags full of his belongings, plus a carry-on of my things (and everything I could think of to make Portugal feel a little more like home to him--including about ten pounds of Snickers bars, which he couldn't find over there). Because I was traveling with my body weight's worth of luggage (literally. my actual body weight in luggage. just imagine that for a hot second before we move on here.) getting to the airport was not the easiest. But, I made it from Madison to Chicago on the Megabus, checked those enormous duffel bags, and got on my flight. Well, actually, first I was stopped at security because king-sized Snickers bars look a lot like sticks of dynamite on x-ray. But then I got on my flight. And then I started to feel a little uneasy--yes, I'd been to Europe twice and traveled internationally a handful more times, but always with a parent or teacher who took my passport and handled navigating customs and transportation. Plus, when I got to Portugal I needed to find the train station, and buy a ticket to get to Dan's town...and I didn't have a cell phone that would work to call him if I didn't get there at the right time, and I didn't speak the language...the eight-hour flight to Amsterdam gave me plenty of time to think about all of the things that could go wrong. Lots, and lots of things. But when I landed at Schiphol for my layover I got through the customs line easily, and when I stepped into the international terminal and saw the duty free stores with European chocolates, and recognized the odd furniture and European symbols for pharmacy and restrooms, I literally breathed a sigh of relief. It felt familiar, and comfortable, and exciting all at the same time. This continent gives me butterflies.
I hope that our future includes travel to lots of interesting places--there's still so much that we haven't seen or explored, and entire regions we haven't even scratched the surface of. But Europe is one that I'll always want to come back to, no matter how much time we've spent there. And, until next time, I'll keep eyeing everyone else's pictures and searching for plane tickets just for fun.
Here comes the sun, ba da da da! The sun is out in full force today, reminding us that summer is nearly here and making me so antsy to take a vacation. We just planned a road trip for this summer (first family road trip, wish us luck) and I'm thinking back on some of our favorite getaways from the past few years. Today, I'm digging through the archives to our trip to Alaska from two summers ago, so everyone else can join me in daydreaming about vacation (and having The Beatles stuck in your head. You're welcome.)
If you've never been to Alaska, it's time to jump on Kayak and take a look at some flights. If you're at all interested in outdoorsy activities (hiking, camping, kayaking, biking, skiing, fishing, picnicking) or just enjoy gorgeous scenery, awesome seafood, and friendly people, Alaska is a must-see. One of my very best friends lives in Anchorage and she and her husband graciously played host for part of our stay, so you can benefit from the local tips they shared with us.
One of the first things I did on this vacation was run the Mayor's Midnight Sun Half Marathon. This was my first half and it was a STRUGGLE (we were battling strong winds and rain the whole race, there was a portion of trail running through the forest on hills that were basically a mud slide, and the race ends with about a dozen hills). Still, I remember this race pretty fondly and I've seen it on a couple of "bucket list races" lists, so it wasn't all bad.
Anchorage is a really fun city, full of quirky local spots. We spent a lot of our time at our friends' home, but loved catching a movie at the Bear Path Theatrepub (movie theater with beer and great food, with tables set in front of the movie seats). It's also fast and easy to get to great lookouts and hiking spots near the city--one of our favorites was Baluga Bay, where we stopped on the way to go fishing and grab lunch in Girdwood (an adorable town not far from Anchorage).
Kell was still pretty small on this trip, so we kept the hiking to some manageable, shorter trails (except for an accidental hike in Homer where we ended up in the middle of a bog, and had to climb on fallen trees and stumps to avoid stepping in the knee-high mud). There were lots of trails right around the Anchorage area that gave us a taste of hiking and offered great views while still being family-friendly. This one was right by Baluga Bay.
After we spent a few days in Anchorage, we rented a car and headed off to Homer. We loved this little town--the seafood spots on the spit served amazing baskets of fish and chips and clam chowder, and we had a blast combing the beach and taking in the amazing views. Plus, the drive between Anchorage and Homer is beautiful--we pulled over several times to check out the views and stretch our legs.
We didn't go Halibut fishing in Homer, but we did do a day trip that went across Kachemak Bay and included ocean kayaking and tidepooling. We saw so many cool ocean creatures when the tide was low (I had no idea there were starfish in Alaska, and you can see in the photo below just how excited I was about it) and we had tons of fun paddling around in the ocean kayaks. If you're into fishing the trips out of Homer are amazing, but they're also pretty expensive and not necessarily worth it if you're traveling with an eight-year-old. Spending the day with starfish, bald eagles, and otter was more our speed this time around.
The craziest thing about looking back on these photos is how different Kelly looks. Wild how little you notice them changing day to day, but look back a couple of years and he's a whole different kid. This trip down memory lane makes me even more excited for our trip this summer!
Do you ever have a thirty-second burst of your life that you wish you could have gotten on tape to share with a thousand of your closest friends? I was standing in the Chicago airport today on my quick layover between Nashville and Minneapolis and I had one of those moments. I was watching the nearby moving walkway, and saw a mother standing by her toddler, with an infant in a stroller in front of her that was just screaming bloody murder (the really gut-wrenching kind of baby wail that makes your throat gravelly just to hear it). The walkway pushed this woman past me, and as she went by I noticed a woman standing behind her, who looked to be six or seven months pregnant, just staring forward with total “oh shit” eyes. Like zoning out in the direction of this screaming baby with a look of sheer terror on her face. It was so delightfully hilarious. Stop the walkway, I want to get off.
So right now I’m home for about fifteen hours between the conference and the bachelorette party—just enough time to write a quick Fueled Up Friday. This week, I’m talking about switching it up, and tiger balm. Ready? Ok.
Switching It Up
This week was a great reminder that changing up my routine is essential to recharging my batteries. Even though I was traveling for work, and the conference wasn’t restful, I am more energized than I’ve been in weeks just because I got to do something new. Stepping away from my normal surroundings and daily routine gives me a chance to reflect, and without fail leaves me feeling more appreciative of my life and happier to return to it. I try to be mindful and grateful on a daily basis, but I really need to get away every few months to really keep perspective and stay energized for my daily routine. I thought a lot about that while I was away this week, and realized I need to be more deliberate about planning a few days of routine-busters every couple of months, even if that just means working from home or taking a long weekend. And if I can get out of town, even better. How else am I going to experience something like this on a Wednesday night?
Last Sunday I experienced my first-ever true running injury. I went out on Saturday night for a different friend’s mini-bachelorette party (lots of celebrating around here) and on Sunday I was feeling a little worse for the wear, but decided to soldier on and run my eleven miles anyway. I actually killed the run—I finished with an average time of just under 9:15 a mile—but a few hours later my knee started feeling really sore. We went to see The Big Short that evening, and by the time we left the theater I was noticeably limping.
I figured out that my quad was too tight and was pulling on a ligament on the inner (medial) side of my knee—it’s nothing major, and it’s feeling somewhat better now, but it’s still sore when I walk a long distance and so far this week running is a no go. So, I’ve been icing and foam rolling and getting to know my new best friend Tiger Balm really well. Rubbing it on my knee seems to help, and it makes me smell like a cinnamon air freshener that you would hang on your rear view mirror if you drove a 1996 Buick. Who doesn’t love that? I’m hoping the Tiger Balm and some more TLC will have my knee in fighting shape for next weekend’s half marathon. Cross your fingers for me! This setback has reinforced that I need to be better about post-running stretching and foam rolling (and probably also that running hungover is just asking for trouble...)
I hope you all have marvelous weekends! I’ll be back next week with some recipes and more normal programming. And, almost certainly, another hangover. Bachelorette parties, you guys. I just can't.
Remember how I said I forgot my wallet when I left for the airport on Monday? Want to hear what I didn’t forget? Here goes: two apples, a banana, four packets of almond butter, a snack baggie of raisins, a bag of Paleonola, a pack of Epic Hunt and Harvest trail mix/jerky, a bag of Seven Sundays gluten free muesli, a bag of pecans, and a handful of Lara Bars. I basically brought the snack aisle of the best grocery store ever in my carry-on. Why did I do that? Well, I had some extra time left over from not packing my wallet, for starters. But also I know that finding decent snacks (that won’t make me nauseous) can be tough at the airport, and I’m going to a conference where I won’t have a say in what’s served for lunch, and having a stash of food that I like and that makes me feel good is going to make this trip much more enjoyable. On that note, here are my top three tips for traveling (or eating out at home) if you’re following a Paleo or Whole 30 diet.
1. Always have an emergency snack nearby. You don’t need to pack every snack ever if you’re not interested in bringing 5 pounds of food with you, but keep a Lara Bar or a package of jerky or a piece of fruit in your purse (or car, or office) so you know you have something handy if you find yourself starving and without decent food options. I always leave a snack in the center console of my car, and most of my bags have a Lara Bar stashed in them. When you’re on the road, most gas stations or convenience stores will at least have a basket of bananas at the checkout—I always buy those when I see them, and stash it away for later if I’m not hungry right away.
2. Look for fish, chicken, or steak options on a restaurant menu, and if those don’t work then look to the salad section. The thing about most restaurant salads is they’re going to have either cheese or croutons, and you can order without those things but then you’re losing some of the calories that would otherwise keep you full. Some restaurants have great salads that will hold you over for more than an hour, but especially if you’re traveling it’s hard to know what you’re getting. If you can find a protein that looks good, you can usually get some sort of vegetable next to it (or a side salad, or at least some kind of potato if nothing else will work). In a pinch, you can get a burger without a bun at nearly every restaurant in America.
3. Eat a big breakfast. Breakfast is the easiest meal to eat out, in my opinion, because you’re basically set so long as you skip the cheese and toast. Omelets are great, big, and filling, breakfast potatoes give me heart eyes, and don’t even get me started on bacon. If I know I’m going to be eating out the rest of the day, or I’m not sure that I’m going to have food options, I’ll try to eat a really big and hearty breakfast so that it doesn’t matter as much if I need to eat lighter for lunch or dinner. One note, though—you can usually get good vegetables in your breakfast, but you usually need to try. Be mindful of looking for an omelet or a scramble with some veggies in it.
I don’t eat strictly paleo when I travel (or ever, really, but especially on the road I eat gluten-free grains like rice or oats). I do still avoid dairy, because that upsets my stomach, and even when I’m eating carefully while traveling my stomach gets upset by all the oils and hidden ingredients in restaurant food. Just like at home, you have to do the best you can and let the rest go, but feeling bloated and nauseous and yucky is even worse when you’re away, so I do focus on eating as well as I can. That said, if there's something awesome and regional that's worth trying when I travel, I absolutely eat it. For me, the calculus is mainly based on how sick it's going to make me--if it's not going to upset my stomach, I'll try it without question. If it's dairy, I'll probably eat it. If it's gluten...I'll probably eat a bite or two and hope that it's fine. Most things aren't worth the pain and nausea that gluten inflicts on me, but I'm never going to go to France and not eat pain au chocolat. I'm just not. Eat the things that you really want to eat, and try to make good choices in other parts of the day that will balance it out and not leave you feeling like a busted can of biscuits when you're supposed to be enjoying your trip.
Anyone have great travel or restaurant tips that I missed?