Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Final High Point

After a not-all-that-comfortable sleep, we got up and headed back to Black Mesa, elevation 4973. While it was about a 4.2 mile hike up, the climbing portion was real short. Being on a mesa (table top) we followed a nearly flat trail for about two miles before starting up. Then about 20 minutes of decent up-hill to another flat for a couple miles. At the highest point, we had now done six high points in the last 5 days. The stone obilisk at the top had on its sides what was in each direction. On the west, it said New Mexico is only 1299 feet away. We looked to the west and realized that we'd still be on top of the mesa at that point, so we walked to New Mexico.

We headed down and went into Kenton to The Mercantile to get something to eat. We asked for a menu, but they nearly laughed at us. The menu is basically either a hamburger or a cheeseburger. Hmm.... Since Mike keeps kosher, it's pretty hard to eat there. We picked up some ice cream bars instead. They gave us a certificate for climbing Black Mesa.

The next leg of our journey would be travelling Route 66 back to Chicago. We headed to Amarillo to pick it up there.

Route 66--America's Mainstreet, stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. I always thought it would be great to travel it. Now-days a lot of it doesn't exist in its old form. We did pick up the old road a little after leaving Amarillo, and traveled the two-lane old road pretty much alongside the freeway for the rest of Texas. In Oklahoma, as it got darker, we reverted to the highway. We stopped in Oklahoma City at Bricktown Brewery for a beer and some dinner, and then continued to Tulsa to spend the night.

Back to the trip -- Nebraska and Kansas

Sunday night with Brent was nice, but Monday morning was back on the road. Fortunately, the price of gas is pretty consistently under two bucks now!

About an hour after leaving Brent's, we arrived at a little box where we could put three bucks apiece and then head down a drive to Panorama Point, elevation 5424. Even though we were over a mile high, it isn't what you'd call a mountain. It's just the highest thing they have in Nebraska. The best part of this one was the field of buffalos we had to drive through to get there. MASSIVE animals. Beautiful. Back to the road and we headed south via Colorado to Mount Sunflower in Kansas.

Mount Sunflower is another nice little drive-up highpoint. At 4039 feet, also not a mountain. Very nice little display of iron-art at the high point and very welcoming signage by the property owners. One more to go.

The trip into Oklahoma was perhaps the biggest adventure of the trip. After hours on the road, we wondered how it would take us as long to get there as my GPS said it was going to. We found out. About 20 miles or so from the Oklahoma boarder while still in Colorado, we turned onto gravel roads. We drove and drove until the road started curving around. The road narrowed. And narrowed. And narrowed. Before we knew it, we were on a two-track with grass growing up in the middle of it. So we're 800 miles from home, in the dark in the middle of nowhere with NO lights in the distance in any direction. We drove for about 10 minutes on the two-track before crossing the unmarked boarder into Oklahoma. A house appeared. The road turned back to gravel. And soon we were on paved roads again. We saw three HUGE raccoons on the road in front of us and stopped to watch them until they got bored with us and wandered off.

And five minutes later we were at the trailhead to Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma. Now we just needed a place to spend the night.

We drove into the small town of Kenton, about 5 miles away. Small town. It was around 9:30 pm, but the streets had been rolled up a couple hours earlier. The next nearest towns were 30-40 miles away, so we drove around and found a state park with an open bathroom and camped in the van for the night.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Personal Record

This month I set a personal for number of states visited in any month--
1 Michigan
2 Ohio
3 Florida
4 Alabama
5 Tennessee
6 Kentucky
7 Indiana
8 Illinois
9 Wisconsin
10 Minnesota
11 North Dakota
12 South Dakota
13 Wyoming
14 Nebraska
15 Colorado
16 Kansas
17 Oklahoma
18 New Mexico
19 Texas
20 Missouri
Still to follow--3 more high points!

Monday, November 17, 2008

South Dakota

The extra rest after an early evening was nice--we've done a lot of mile so far. This morning the high point is only about 10 miles away.

We arrived at Sylvan Lake for our climb up Harney Peak, elev 7242. The conditions were perfect, temperatures in the high 30s, partly cloudy, not much wind. Officially, the park didn't open until 8:00, but at 7:30 we were ready to go. Mike's "nervous energy" had kept him talking non-stop (even more than usual) as he bundled up in 5 layers. He reminded me of Calvin bundled up to go outside. We stopped about 200 yards in and I took off my jacket and Mike took off his top 3 layers. The hiking weather was actually pretty comfortable.

Snow! We were in 5 or 6 inches of it much of the way, but the trail was never hard to find, and several people had summited on Saturday so we always had footprints to follow. The hike up is a little over 3 1/2 miles, and in a little under two hours we reached the lookout tower on the summit. We were the first to the top for the day.

The view from the top is an amazing panorama of the Black Hills. We hung out for a few minutes, ate a few Oreos, and headed back down.

On the way down we ran into a couple guys from New Jersey who were doing the climb on the spur-of-the-moment. They asked if we had any water bottles they could buy. We gave them the two full bottles we had left. As we approached the parking lot, we found a cell phone on the ground which was probably theirs (there were only 4 of us on the mountain so far) so I set it on the hood of their car.

That's 26 state high points.

Next stop was Mt. Rushmore. As we pulled up to the gate, a herd of mountain goats was guarding the entrance. Mt. Rushmore is one of the most inspirational places I've been--the vastness of the artwork, and the symbolism of the images really makes me proud to be American.

I noticed that the Nebraska high point is only about a half-hour from Cheyenne, Wyoming. I called Brent Weigner, my bi-polar friend. Brent and I met on a trip to the South Pole, and we've been to the North Pole together as well. We arrived at Brent's and he took us out to CB & Potts brewery for a meal. Butt-Face Amber and Disorder Porter were the beers of the night. We spent awhile catching up on the latest adventures, and then headed back to his place for some rest.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

North Dakota

It was a nice, easy day. We slept in a bit after getting in pretty late last night, then headed from Bismarck to a spot near the little town of Amidon, ND.

Neat stuff along the way--The Enchanted Highway near Regent, ND. Gigantic sculptures of birds in flight, deer crossing the road, and I found later, a few others that we could have seen if we had travelled a few more miles. Check 'em out at http://www.enchantedhighway.net/

The trail for the high point is down about six miles of gravel road before turning down a two-track lane for .8 miles to the trail head. Unfortunately, with the snow they got in ND last week (about 4 feet worth) we could only get about 2/3 of the way down it, and that was with a little jog over into the field to avoid getting stuck in the snowbanks. Still a little icy and as it warmed up, a little muddy underneath.

So, our hike was a little longer than the guide book said. At first, the trail was hard to find, but since we could see where we were ultimately going we just improvised for a bit. As we got farther up the mountain, it was more and more obvious where the trail was. Actually, it looks like everyone made up their own trail, as we kept finding new ones.

Anyway, after about 30 minutes, we reached the top of North Dakota, White Butte, elevation 3507 feet. We signed the summit registry, took a few shots, and headed back down. Mike has now bagged two state high points. It's number 25 for me.

We were fortunate to find a farm along the way where they raise buffalos (bison) so Mike was able to see his first ever buffalos.

Next peak is Harney Peak near Custer, SD. It's only 40 miles or so from my friend Ben's place in Rapids City. I called him. He's in Kalamazoo. Guess we won't sleep at his place tonight. We stopped at the Firehouse Brewing Company on Main Street and I had a pint of Smoke Jumper Stout. Nice.

Tonight would be an early one. Nice and relaxing for a change. We checked into the Bavarian Inn in Custer, only about a 10 minute drive from tomorrow morning's trailhead. Had dinner at the Sage Creek Grill. Very nice salmon, washed down with a bottle of one of my favorites--Moose Drool, from the Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, MT.

Life is good. I should have a better connection tomorrow and post some pictures.

and the adventure continues....

The Journey Continues

It's been a wierd week. I can't seem to remember what day it is.

Thursday, after a short night's sleep following my Floriday trip, I worked for 5 hours getting some computers set up at Michigan Chief Sales, and then headed for Chicago to pick up Mike.

Of course, I was running late enough to hit Chicago way too close to rush hour. It wasn't bad though. Everyone there is intent on one thing--getting out of town. It was really pretty orderly.

We headed north toward our first high point, Timms Hill, near Ogema, Wisconsin, with the intent of getting fairly close so we could do it first thing in the morning. We got as far as Appleton before we stopped. (Appleton is the site of the Fox Cities Marathon, which I've done a couple of times.) We stopped for a quick beer at Fratello's. Their brewery, however, is in another of their locations, but I did have a pint of their local brew. We stopped for the night a few minutes later.

Friday morning. North to Timms Hill. Driving north through Wisconsin it gets pretty desolate after a while. For a city-boy like Mike it was a bit of an eye-opener. Little hunting cabins alongside the road here and there, lots of nice wilderness. We got to the park that's around the high point and found that the gate was closed. Guess we might have to walk in. The map showed the road going out the other side, so we drove a mile or so to check it out. It was open--but the road was one way, one lane, and coming at us. Oh well. I drove in anyway.

We were the only people at the park, so no traffic incidents were to be had. We parked the car and proceed to hike a couple hundred yards up a well-trodden path to the summit. Mike's first high point, Timms Hill, elevation 1951. The sign actually says 1951.5. Guess they wanted an extra six inches. (I'm not going anywhere with that one.) There's an observation tower to climb that took us above the treetops for a great panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Next summit is in the west end of North Dakota. This will be our biggest driving day.

It's Wisconsin. We found a cheese shop and bought some cheese. Then before leaving the state, we stopped at Das Bierhaus in Menomonie for a snack and a pint of Marzen. Alas, no beer glasses for sale again. Back in the car for the trip across Minnesota.

It was looking like Fargo would be a great place to stop for dinner. Cheese in Wisconsin, so I figured buffalo in North Dakota was the thing to eat. A buffalo burger and a pint of Broad Ax Stout at the Granite City Brewing Company was nice.

We figured getting to Bismarck would be a good jumping off spot for the night. And that's where this entry ends. Heading west this morning.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Epic Journey

Or whatever. It started with my old college buddy, Mike Schwartz. He said, I need to have an adventure or something. Spend about a thousand bucks. Hmmm... "Maybe you're talking to the right person. I have a thought."

I'm collecting state high points (see highpointers.org for info) I noticed a few years ago that the high points of ND, SD, NE, KS, and OK are pretty much in a line running north to south.

Here's the plan. I pick Mike up on Chicago. We hit the state high point of Wisconsin on the way, then head west across North Dakota, and start working our way south. After climbing in Oklahoma, we go south to Amarillo and head back to Chicago on old Route 66, just for fun. We left last night and spent the night in Appleton, Wisconson. We'll see how it goes.

Francine needed another car. Clint's mom had a really nice minivan which he was going to bring up from Florida to sell. The transport was going to cost him $300. I needed a break from the action for a couple days, and I also needed to check off Brinton Hill, the high point of Florida. So instead of waiting for Clint to get the van moved in December, I hopped on a plane for Tampa and proceeded on the world's longest test-drive.

Clint's dad met me at the airport about 2:00 pm. I headed for Brinton Hill at Lakewood Park, FL.

Brinton Hill is located far west in the Pan Handle, approximately straight south from Montgomery, AL. The trip took me through Talahasee for the first time, and then still farther west. Finally, at about 9:55 pm, I pulled into a little park close to the Alabama border, where I checked off the lowest-of-the-high points. At only 345 feet, it's not much of a climb. Just park your car and walk about 75 feet to a stone marker.

Back in the car and head north. The trip home was long, but nice. I listened to the various radio stations. Throught the south, while scanning for radio stations, it's either religious stations or country stations. The people on those stations don't have eyes. They have ahs.

I caught a couple naps along the way, driving until I was drowsy and then pulling off for a couple hours. Stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast at around 5:30. By the time I near Birmingham, I wanted a cup of good coffee, so I got off the freeway and found a Starbucks.

Nostalgia. I pulled around the corner by the Starbucks, and across the street was the hotel I stayed in nearly two years ago, when I made my first seven-continents marathon trip. "Hey! I know where I am! Cool!"

I had met some pretty nice people down there. Justin, the race director. Jill at trackshack dot com. A good friend from Kalamazoo, Brian Molrony, introduced himself to me down there and we spent a while searching (unsuccessfully) for a microbrewery in Birmingham. I ran a fun marathon there.

On northward. In Nashville, I stopped at the Blackstone Brewery for lunch. Shepherd's Pie and a pint of Nut Brown Ale. Nice.

North through Louisville, and a bit more nostalgia. I ran a marathon in a rainstorm there. Slept the night before in the back of my Aztek and watched fireworks over the river. Talked a janitor into giving me a big plastic bag for the soaking-wet-and-cold walk back to my car. Taking my post-race shower in a downpour.

Gas in Indiana for only $1.82. That's less than half of what we paid a month ago. Yet another nostalgic moment--I remember back when gas used to be under two bucks...

As I got close to Fort Wayne, I pulled off for gas again. This spot looked familiar too. Huntington, the site of the HUFF--the Huntington Ultra Frigid Fifty. The longest distance I've ever done, through lots of trails and lots of mud. The 50K there is actually too long. More like 32 miles. Huntington is also the home of former VP Dan Quayle. And they have a massive display of Christmas stuff in this little sunken park in the middle of town that's fun to walk around in.

It was my last stop before home. Finally around 10:30 I got home to the lovely Francine. A beautiful end to a long trip.

and the adventure continues....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Was Paul Simon a Great Prophet?

No, I wasn't crazy about either candidate, however--

Isn't it cool that FINALLY we've been able to put away the past (at least for a bit) and actually elect a Black guy for President!

I'm feeling pretty proud of my fellow countrymen right now. I hope our new president is up to the task.

Was Paul Simon one of the great prophets? Somewhere around 1975, he sang:

"And if I was president
The minute congress call my name
Id say who do,
Who do you think youre fooling?
Ive got the presidential seal
I'm up on the presidential podium
My mama loves me
She loves me
She get down on her knees and hug me
Like she loves me like Barock"

What? You think I misinterpret? Go back and listen to the song again. And, what kind of colors do you think he might have been talking about in the song Kodachrome?

(You see what I have to deal with--this kind of stuff goes on in my head all the time!)

Best of luck, Mr. President-Elect!!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

And now...I really am going to try and start writing again.

It's been a great year. And a bad one. Only bad because I haven't been running and working out as much as normal. But great in all other aspects.

A couple weeks ago I had my SECOND knee done. Arthroscopic surgery. This time, instead of going in and fixing something specific, it was more of a "search and destroy" mission. He went in and cleaned out a whole bunch of stuff that was floating around in there. Anyway, it was MUCH more painful than the first one. It's healing nicely though.

The lovely Francine finished another marathon today. Elyria, Ohio. A nice out-and-back course on bike trails. Significant, because she now has reached 51 marathons before she turns 51 in January. Also significant because she's now done 21 months in a row.

Meanwhile, Carly and I went out while TLF was running and found four different geocaches (http://www.geocaching.com/ if you're curious). It was a nice morning with a great kid.

Carly and I are getting to be closer as we go along. It's great having another kid--my other ones are getting OLD.

Life is good. More soon.