Monday, February 15, 2010

"Stand Up" Comedy

Yeah, you know I like to drink a beer once in a while.  I met my son at HopCat the other day for lunch.  I like that place--decent beer, BIG selection, in-house brewery.

Sooner or later, you have to get rid of some of it.  At HopCat, they have some of the greatest wallpaper I've ever seen.  Pinup Girls!  I was standing there, doing my thing, as my eyes wandered over the very entertaining scenery all over the walls.

I suddenly regained my focus.  I'm not sure how long I had been done peeing by that time.  Couldn't have been more than a couple minutes.  I think.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I went to the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the museum downtown the end of December.

Leonardo was one of the pivotal people in history.  He gave us art, design, many inventions that came out of his brain.  Knowledge way beyond his years. Things that may have take decades, even centuries to discover had he not done them.

In the history of the world, there are only a few people who could be considered great.  He was one.  Maybe a few Biblical guys.  Sir Isaac Newton.  Galileo.  Amundsen. Hillary. Columbus. Yeah, there were a bunch of important guys who brought us discoveries, changed life as we know it, industrialized countries, advanced science.

But what of the rest of us?  Billions of people, yet only hundreds of REALLY memorable ones.  The rest of us get to live out our days in relative anonymity, going from one place to the next, being the "cogs in the wheel," so to speak.  It bothers me a little bit.

Face it.  I'm never going to make an Olympic team.  Probably not be mentioned in a history book anywhere.  The world's population keeps getting bigger, and that means every day I become a smaller and smaller proportion of it.

So what to do? I can't have a big effect on the world.  I can, however, have an effect on my little corner of it. I can help people become healthier through training and exercise.  I can help educate my grandkids. I can inspire other people through my writing.  LOTS and LOTS of good things to accomplish.

It's a rough draft, but what I'm trying to get at here is that we ALL can do positive things to make the world better.  Helping someone who needs it.  Loving someone who needs it.  Counting our own blessings and sharing them with others.

I was constantly in awe, as I read of his life, played with machines he had designed, studied his drawings.  His life and his works inspire us centuries after his death.  If we all just live as if the things we're doing will be having effects on others long after we're gone, I'm pretty sure we'll make the world a better place.

Now, for 2010

Yeah, don't be fooled.  I just finished my 2009 in review thing a couple minutes ago.  I dated it Dec 31, but it's already Ground Hog Day.
The end of 2009, I had run 38 states plus DC on my second time around the US doing marathons.  I had visited the highest points in 37 states.  And I had a collection which includes at least one beer glass from a brewery in 35 different states.  This year is about working toward completing the collections.
I started the year with a trip.  Central Michigan University, my alma mater, was playing Troy in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on 6 January.  It was the opportunity I was looking for to get out of the cold, collect a few glasses, and go to my first ever bowl game.
The cheapest flights I could find went into Pensacola, FL.  Nice, since I didn't have a Florida beer glass yet.  After landing, I headed straight for McGuire's Irish Pub and Brewery, where I enjoyed some decent beer, hung out with a few guys watching the Orange Bowl.
Off to Mobile the next morning.  I was hoping to collect a glass from a brewery there, which, unfortunately had closed only a week before.  Alabama is proving very elusive in my quest for a microbrewery there.  Oh well.  I went across the street to HopJacks, where they had lots of good stuff on tap.  I got the lowdown on the brewery across the street while enjoying lunch along with some Sweet Georgia Brown (Atlanta Brewing Co.) and some Andy Gator (Abita Brewing in Louisiana).  I stopped on the way out to visit with a few people wearing maroon and gold, one of whom turned out to be our quarterback's father.
The "getting out of the cold" thing wasn't working well.  I had fun anyway.  Seats high up, near the 50 yard line gave me a great view of the game.  I met Chris Turner and his son before the game outside the stadium, then ran into them again on the way to my seat.  Turns out we were right beside each other.  So we enjoyed the game in the near-freezing temperatures, watching a perfectly-scripted 44-41 double-overtime win by our favorite team!  Fire Up Chips!!

I got in the car and headed for Arkansas, alternating between driving and sleeping.  By 11:00 the next day, I pulled into Bosco's Brewery on President Clinton Avenue in Little Rock. Lunch with a "Bosco's Famous Flaming Stone Beer" was just what I needed before heading a little farther west.  By about 4 that afternoon, I reached the summit of Mount Magazine, elevation 2753, and the highest spot in Arkansas.  I headed south to El Dorado, hoping to pop in on my old friend Knox White.  No answer, and the house was dark, so I guess I missed him.  A night sleeping in a bed was quite comfortable for a change, watching the National Championship game and eating a pizza before going to sleep and preparing for the next leg of the trip.
Early Friday--turns out it's only a little over an hour or so to the high point of Louisiana.  I headed south, and by about 8:00 had made the arduous climb to the summit of Driskill Mountain, elevation 535 feet.  OK, maybe not so arduous, but what the heck.  At least you have to walk a mile to the high point.  In the snow.

Back in the car, to Jackson, Mississippi, for the Mississippi Blues Marathon.  As soon as I got to the expo, I ran into a couple of friends from the Costa Rica trip last September, Kenneth Williams and John Aikin (aka Big Foot).  Spent a bit of time talking with Bill Rodgers and Dane Rauschenberg at the book signing table.  Lots of friends were there, I found, since there was another opportunity to run a marathon in Mobile on Sunday, so a lot of 50-staters were doing doubles.  I figured I'd have enough by the end of Saturday, so I didn't sign up for Mobile.

The marathon was 18 degrees at the Start.  Nice course, some of the most polite course volunteers I've ever seen, with a few butt-kicking hills in the last few miles.  A half mile from the end I saw my first dead runner on the side of the road.  Chris Brown was running the last leg of the relay.  His team was already out to where he was, along with the EMTs who were working on him.  I paused for a minute, starting to get tears in my eyes, then realizing that I was powerless to help.  I went on.

After taking my stuff to my car, I went to walk through the lobby one more time, and ran into old friend, John Dietrich.  We went out to get some late lunch before going our separate ways.
During the past three days, at least three people had told me about Southern Pecan Beer from the Lazy Magnolia in Kiln, MS.  OK, I needed a glass from Mississippi, and I needed to head south anyway.  I drove to Kiln to the brewery.  Which, I found, isn't a pub.  It's a garage on Stennis Air Force Base.  So I drove back into Kiln and went to the Jourdan River Steamer bar and had a pint of Southern Pecan and some supper while watching my 4th football game of the extra-long weekend. Oh, and a pint of Rebel Ale as well.  (I had to get the Lazy Magnolia glass through the mail a week later, but I HAD been there.)

It was a leisurely drive back to Pensacola along the Gulf Coast, on a sunny morning that was even starting to warm up a little.  I made a cursory drive around Mobile but didn't happen to intersect the marathon course anywhere, so I just went on to Pensacola and back to McGuire's for lunch.

As I turned in my rental car, the Avis attendant looked up at me when I told her the mileage on my car.  "You've driven 1500 miles?"  "Yeah, that's about right."  A short flight and a long layover in Dallas had me watching yet another football game, which ended just a minute before they called us to board the flight.  So in the first week of the 2010, I had a great time.  Collected three beer glasses.  Climbed two state high points.  Ran my 3rd Mississippi marathon.  Watched my team win a bowl game.  Came home to find the lovely Francine.  Life is good.

and the adventure continues....

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year In Review 2009

Not a bad year.  I started off still hobbling around a bit from the two knee surgeries I had in 2008.  Oh well.  Still had my good attitude, I suppose.  Still, I started the year wondering how long I want to continue doing marathons so frequently.  I decided to keep my at-least-one-per-month streak alive at least until I got to 100 months.  At the beginning of the year, the streak was at 70.

I started the year with a trip to Vegas, running a marathon out in Boulder, seeing the Hoover Dam, discovered that there's a Lappert's Ice Cream shop in Las Vegas--one of my favorites!  Finished the marathon with Yolanda, the woman who set the world record in 2008 for the most marathons in a year.  She let me cross the finish line a step ahead of her, but I edged her out on chip time to finish DFL in the marathon.

Lots more marathons ensued - 17 in all.  Highlights--Bataan Death March in White Sands, NM--maybe one of the most inspirational I've ever done.  A double weekend in June, including Iowa and South Dakota on the same weekend, with a trip to the Iowa state high point thrown in.  Marathons, mountains and microbrews with one of my best friends, Paul, on a weekend that we didn't go to Brazil as a result of a visa issue.  (i.e. neither one of us bothered to see if we needed one in advance.)  Another trip to Vegas and a middle-of-the-night marathon at Area 51.

Paul and I did a "make-up" trip to Costa Rica, since we had to use our airline tickets for something, after all. We ended up running into a few old friends there, and managed to meet a bunch of other fun people, as well as a couple of raccoons.  Zip lines through the jungle canopy were pretty nice.

MY FIRST MAGAZINE COVER!!  I made the cover of Michigan Runner for the September-October issue!!!  My mom and dad are so proud.  Autographed copies are available.  :-)

Francine's daughter Rachel got married in October in Niagara Falls, Canada.  Fun weekend, with a nice Sunday morning run along the river, fireworks over the falls, and an icy plunge into Lake Ontario to complete my diving into all five Great Lakes.

And then, the 2009 Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon.  We grew to over 3800 participants this year.  Approaching critical mass, I think.  The staff was better than ever, giving me a lot of time to really enjoy the weekend.

I'm trying to finish my second time around the states doing marathons, so I'm concentrating on getting to the states I haven't done twice already.  This year I managed to run marathons in 12 different states, collect beer glasses from breweries in six states I didn't have already, and visit the highest points in Texas, Delaware, New Jersey, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Virginia.  37 done, only 13 to go.  38 states and DC done on my second time around the states for marathons.  Lots of more fun to be had in 2010.

and the adventure continues....

Well, that's the short version.  Check some of my earlier blog entries for some more stuff

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Tradition Starts

The day after the marathon, we went to Founders for a get-together with our Boot Camp group.  Gary VanDyken (lifetime runner) challenged my memory.
"Do you remember back in 2004 getting an email with the 'Top 10 Reasons Sandy should be allowed to run the half-marathon'? "
We filled up in 2004.  We were at Millennium Park, so we didn't have the capacity for as many people.  If people asked, I was trying to accommodate them--we even figured out shuttle busses from outlying lots.  I'd usually say yes to any good story, with "You owe me a beer,"  thinking someday we'd get together for a beer somewhere.  When I got that email, same deal. 
The next day, as I was working at a coffee shop, Gary walked in with an application, cash, and a bottle of beer.  OK, I'm liking this guy already.  Bringing a bottle of beer wasn't what was on my mind, but it seemed like a really nice idea when it happened. 
"I walked in and set a beer down on the counter."
DO I REMEMBER?!?!  That moment changed my life!  The start of something big!  I put a note on the Race Day Instruction page to bring a bottle of decent beer along as a gift for the race director.  It worked.  That's where the tradition got started.  Since then, runners from all over have brought beer.  And since then, after every race we've had great micro brew from New Holland Brewery.  It's a tradition.  It's part of the fun. 
And now, I know who started the tradition.  Thanks Gary!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Nobel Prize Nomination

Stuff Sneaks Up on You.
So, during the build up to the 2009 Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon, something surprising happens.  President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, I was busy working on the marathon and didn't watch the news, which left me totally in the dark about WHY.  I'm not getting into politics here--maybe it was totally deserved, maybe it wasn't.  There are people who figure out that stuff.  I'm not one of them.  (I did see a pretty interesting theory though.)
So, I'm thinking a couple days ago, I'll never win a Nobel prize.  Even in my most testerone-inspired delusional visions of grandeur, I wouldn't imagine such a thing.  Then yesterday I checked my email.
 Subject:  Your Nobel Prize Nomination
Hi Don!
Thought you'd be interested in seeing this!
Happy running!
Yeah, I know.  It's all baloney anyway, but I think I love this girl.  I'm honored, humbled, and thankful.  

Friday, October 02, 2009

Road Racing Jones: Don Kern, Director Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon

Road Racing Jones: Don Kern, Director Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon

Road Racing Jones: Don Kern, Director Metro Health G.R. Marathon

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Don Kern
This periodic feature of The Rapidian will reveal the road racing jonesing* of Grand Rapidians.
My record is doing four marathons in a month. Usually it is at least one.
I've run a least one marathon every month for 79 consecutive months.
I never have to do that build up thing. I'm always tapering.
I've run all seven continents three times; 21 countries and all 50 states. This is how I see the world.
Last year I arthroscopic surgery in both knees, so I'm not as fast as I used to be. I need to pay attention to the healing process.
I'm just a kid yet, I'm having a blast,
I don't have any doubt, that on any day I could get out of bed and run 26 miles and be just fine.
I have won my age group a few times, those are usually small races where not a lot of people in my age group showed up. They could have! I'll take it when I can get it.
Started running in 1994, beginning of track season, my daughter was on the team and I went out to run two miles on the track with her. Found I could run two miles without stopping. Started building up a little bit. Ran a 10k on Labor Day for my first race.
Never was in track in high school. I had asthma as a kid, my mom was pretty protective of me.
I earned my high school varisty letter in debate.
It was about 30 degrees in Antarctica, like running a trail run in Michigan in the winter.
Oh my gosh! The Inca trail to Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes. I was up there, looking down into the ancient city of Machu Picchu; there it was, right in front of me! My heart was in my throat, my breath went away.
Every marathon has its own character. Some are better, some are worse. They're all different, there are some I just get through. But they all have their good stories.
There's always something out there to enjoy, be thankful for, cool people to meet.
There's always a memory with every marathon.
I don't ever go to a marathon where I don't see people I don't know. Went to Beruit for a marathon in 2007, ran into four freinds I knew there, didn't know they were going to be there.
Anywhere in the world I run a marathon, I'm going to run into somebody I know.
The biggest criteria for choosing a marathon is going to a place I've never been before.
I'm a master of the speed vacation.
If you're doing it on foot, you can see the mountains, the scenery or the coastline (like Big Sur) and take it all in for 26 miles.
I make a point of visiting microbreweries along the way.
* Jones or jonesing: a strong need, desire or craving for something. An obesession; a burning desire. The undeniable passion or love for someone or something.
Courtesy of Urban Dictionary.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Marathons, Mountains and Microbrews - Michigan & Minnesota

Alternative titles:
(What I did when I didn't go to Brazil)
(We're Going With Plan B)

"Right now, we should be walking down the beach looking at hot Brazilian babes," Paul said yesterday, as we pulled off for lunch in the middle of Wisconsin. "Yeah, but Plan B wasn't bad either."

It all started out to be a great adventure to South America. Perennial traveling companion Paul sent me a text on my birthday last month, wondering if I wanted to run Rio on the 28th. Sounded like fun. We booked the trip and signed up for the marathon.

On Friday, I headed for Paul's place in Chicago and we took the train out to O'Hare. Check in. "Do you have a visa?" It turns out that while most of the South American countries will let you get an entry visa at the airport, Brazil won't. We called the local Brazilian Consulate. Six days minimum, and that's if you come in during the three hours they're open on Tuesday or Thursday and come back to pick it up during the three hours they're open on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

So, here we are at the airport, trying to figure out how to make the best of the situation.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....

The lovely Francine is getting ready to head to Charlevoix for a marathon tomorrow. After a check of other international and domestic marathons we might do, we decided the best plan was to head for Charlevoix. We got on the train back to Paul's, and into my van. It was about a five hour drive plus a stop or two for gas and food, and at about 9:30 we arrived. Francine was happy to have our company, so happy in fact, that she proceeded the next morning to blow away her age group by about 20 minutes. About a half hour later, Paul and I crossed the finish line.

Well, just doing a marathon in Michigan instead of Brazil wasn't quite enough. Since we were already up north, Paul and I said goodbye to Francine and headed UP north. To the Upper Peninsula, that is. We stopped on the way up at Legs Inn in Cross Village for a beer and a snack, then headed across the Bridge and across the UP to L'Anse, Michigan.

We stopped at the Marquette Harbor Brewery in Marquette for dinner and a pint on the way there, and enjoyed the Lake Superior scenery on the way.

Mt. Arvon, the highest point in Michigan, is only about 20 miles or so east of L'Anse, and we headed out on Sunday morning, driving on roads that gradually diminished in width as we got closer to the trail head. It was only a half-mile hike once we got there. At only 1979 feet, Mt. Arvon isn't all that hard, but if you're going to do all 50, you have to do the easy ones too. At least they make you walk a half-mile uphill to get there. The worst part was the mosquitoes! I think I was about a pint low on blood as we returned to the car.

Check off another thing from my list. Next--Swim in each of the Great Lakes. So far, I've done Michigan, Huron, Erie. And look, here's Lake Superior. We drove back to L'Anse, pulled up to the public beach, and jumped into the VERY COLD water. Refreshing would be a good word. Significant shrinkage would be a good phrase. Lake Superior. Check!

On to Duluth, Minnesota, then northeast along Lake Superior about 90 miles, then north into the wilderness for about 22 miles to the trail head for Eagle Mountain. We barely got out of the car before the Minnesota State Bird (the mosquito) started attacking us, draining even more of our blood. We decided to keep moving, since the faster we walked, the less they drank. The rain was steady but not hard as we followed a rocky trail to the top. We ran into a couple from Texas coming down that we had seen earlier on Mount Arvon, and they were kind enough to share some skeeter-dope with us.

Most of the actual climbing happens in the span of about 15 minutes, and that started right about the time we left our Texan friends. We had to search around a little at the top to find the actual high point, since on the rocks the trail tended to disappear. But after just a couple minutes we had arrived at the top of Minnesota!

The wind started picking up and getting colder, and we wondered if we were going to get some serious weather as we headed down the mountain. My bigger concern was if we could get back to the nearest brewery in Duluth so that I could collect a beer glass before they closed for the night.

Eagle Mountain, the high point of Minnesota, elevation 2301 feet. Check.

We got back to the car and shut the doors before any more of our six-legged friends could get in, and started following the directions on my GPS back toward Duluth, rather than just following the road we came in on. Unfortunately, the GPS turned out to be kinda stupid on the little roads, and after driving on continually worse and worse roads and coming upon a small "lake" in the middle of one and turning around. Fine, we'll go out the way we came.

So, after a bit of detouring, a back window that we couldn't see out of from all the mud that had splashed on it, and a 40-minute-longer-than-it-should-have-been drive, we got back to Duluth to Fitger's Brewery. The kitchen had closed, but the beer was still flowing. A pint of Parr's Porter really hit the spot. I asked about beer glasses, and the bartender brought five different designs, none of which matched the beer I just drank. So, I had to drink a pint of Big Boat Oatmeal Stout before I could justify the glass I had just picked out. Darn it!

Collect a beer glass from Minnesota. Check!

We got a referral for a Pizza Luce and had a great pizza before heading back south. By that time is was about 1:00 a.m. We got just into Wisconsin for a few minutes and stopped for the night. I don't think either of us took more than a few seconds to fall asleep. It was a good day. Two mountains, one Great Lake, and a micro brewery.

By late afternoon, we had traveled the length of Wisconsin, and pulled back into the driveway at Paul's condo, completing a full circumnavigation of Lake Michigan. I headed for home, where the lovely Francine awaited my arrival.

Plan A was travel to Rio, run a marathon, and be tourists for a couple days. Oh well. Rio will still be there. Plan B included marathon #179, state high points # 34 & 35, Great Lake #4, and 32 state beer glasses!

and the adventure continues....

Monday, June 15, 2009

Marathons, Mountains and Microbrews - Iowa, South Dakota

Fear. Well, maybe that's a strong word, but I was really wondering what was going to happen. It was my first double-marathon weekend since 2007, and my first double since having surgery on both knees.
The mission--collect a beer glass from Iowa. Run the Marathon to Marathon from Storm Lake to Marathon Iowa. Run the Swan Lake Marathon in Viborg, South Dakota.
The reality? Pretty much like the mission, only more fun. I left Thursday night to get a few hours in and make Friday a little more leisurely. I called Paul in Chicago, went to his place, and watched the Lakers come from behind to beat the Magic while enjoying a couple beers with one of my best friends.
Four a.m. on Friday morning, I got up, took a quick shower, and headed out to beat the Chicago rush traffic (by about 3 hours) and headed for Iowa. Turns out that the road took me within about 10 miles of Charles Mound, the high point of Illinois. I drove up there just in case there would be a way I could visit that one too, however, it's on private property with only restricted times to visit. The signs said closed, and not wanting to mess it up for future high pointers, I respected the signs and decided to do it another time. At least I know how to get there though.
On to Waterloo, Iowa, where I visited Becks Sports Brewery and enjoyed a lunch and a pint of Red Dragon Ale and another of Thirsty Buzzard Cerveza.
A few hours later I pulled into Storm Lake, site of the Marathon to Marathon. This is year 14 for their marathon. Back in year two, I ran this marathon, and met Lois Lind, a very sweet older lady who, along with her husband, started the marathon. He died before the first one, but she remained, as race director. Since then, she's been promoted to "Spokesperson" and is still there, shaking hands with finisher and sharing her love for life with all of us.
Though I may have had reservations about running two consecutive marathons, I didn't have any reservations for a place to stay. The whole town was booked up. I had stuff in my van to sleep on/under, but stopped by a small motel just to ask. They were "almost full" but told me to check back in an hour or so.
After picking up my packet, I called back. YES! There's a room. Cheap too!
Watched the Redwings lose the Stanley Cup along with new friend, Gordon Bennett in the lobby of my motel. So much for the home team.

The Marathon to Marathon is a nice little run (less than 200 in the full marathon) through prime Iowa farm country. At 6:00 a.m. we headed out.
Well, let me describe the course. You run around the block. You head east. You head north. You head east. You head north..... Eventually you turn west and run about 3 blocks to the finish line in Marathon, Iowa. OK, the course isn't very interesting. But the people sure are nice. I hooked up with four young girls, three of whom were doing their first marathon. We ran together for a couple miles before they dropped back. With about 4 miles to go one of them passed me. Then a couple more. I managed to hold off the fourth one.
At about 14 miles I caught up with a bunch of crazy 50-staters, who were singing, joking, taking lots of walk breaks, enroute to helping Mark Rudnicki finish his 50th state. I hung with them for a bit before going on ahead.
Felt good all day, though I was taking it easy and making sure I was replenishing as much as possible along the way. I finished in about 5:17, got a shower, had a real nice lunch sitting with my young-babe friends and then joined a few other double-marathoners on the shuttle back to Marathon.

Chapter 2.
I got back to my van and headed north for Hawkeye Point, the high spot of Iowa at 1670 feet. Yeah, yeah, but if you're collecting high points, you have to take the easy ones with the hard ones. Looking at my Garmon Nuvi in my car, it looked like I could just go north to 130th Street and head west 3 miles. Unfortunately, it was a "Class B" road, which in Iowa means someone packed down a path through a field and you enter at your own risk. I made sure to keep my speed up as much as I could and still keep things under control. By the time I reached the high point I had so much black mud packed under my wheel wells that I still haven't dislodged it all after arriving back here to GR. Had I approached from the west, it was paved roads to within about 100 yards. Oh well--guess I'll know better next time.
Hawkeye Point is pretty nice--they have a mosiac compass face on the ground, and five poles with signs pointing to each of the other state high points along with distances.
My legs felt good. What's wrong here?
I arrived a couple hours later at Swan Lake Christian camp for marathon number two. Again, I had no reservations, but for $15 I got to stay in one of the bunkhouses there. I went to bed pretty early after the pasta dinner and didn't get up until about 4:30. Another 6:00 a.m. start, and marathon #2 was underway.
I ran the whole first half with Tom from Omaha, and we managed to pass the miles pretty quickly. At least it felt that way--I was still taking it pretty easy. After he turned off to finish the half, I set my sights on the string of people I could see off in the distance. I had been following a guy in a white shirt since the start, but couldn't quite close in on him.
Going through the aid station at about 14 miles, one of the guys was saying, "Powerade, water, ... BEER" I picked up my head at that one and said, "Don't be messin' with me now." "You want a beer?" "Yeah!" What the heck, it was after 8:00 a.m. He grabbed me a MGD64 out of the cooler and I enjoyed it for the next half mile. I caught a couple of early starters, then headed down a long driveway they call the "keyhole" which goes to the end and around a flagpole. The guy in the white shirt was on his way out as I approached the flag pole. I told him I was going to try and catch him. He said, "I hope not."
We headed back onto the gravel roads, out about a mile, turn right and go out three miles to the 20 mile mark. I could see the guy in the white shirt, and every time he'd take a short walk break I drew him in just a little more. Almost to 20 and I made my move. We talked for a bit about the guy in the blue shirt ahead of us, and I took off after him too! I set my sites on Jeff and Nel, my next two victims. After catching them we stayed together through mile 25, talking and getting acquainted. We were going for sub 5:30, Jeff doing his second marathon of the weekend as well. They stopped for a walk break and I headed for home. I picked up my beer can to drop it back with the people who gave it to me earlier. When I got there, I had this flash of inspiration. I had them get me a beer and 3 glasses and waited for Jeff and Nel. We toasted our marathon and downed the beer before doing the last half-mile or so. I was pushing at that point, figuring I had blown the 5:30, but what the heck. A beer with some new friends trumps a few seconds off my marathon time. Still, I was running strong, feeling great, and at the end of 52+ miles in two days. Wow! Finish line in 5:30 and a few seconds. Close enough!

So, I guess my fears were unfounded. Now I have no more excuses. Guess I'll have to work and get myself back to my normal 4:30 marathon time. That's marathons in states 35 and 36 (second time around). State high point #33. And on the way back through Des Moines, I collected a beer glass from the Rock Bottom Brewery, where I enjoyed a nice pint of Lumpy Dog Brown. That's beer glass state #31.
and the adventure continues....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Marathons, Mountains and Microbrews, Part 2

Well, I tried to get into the pasta dinner, but the place was jammed and they didn't have room for me.  Imagine that.  I decided to head back to my hotel and find something on the way.  Bertucci's!! My favorite pizza place.  More from nostalgia than anything--Mark Boyce, a friend from Boston, took me to Bertucci's after I finished my first Boston Marathon in 1996.  Good memories.  So whenever I'm out east and find a Bertucci's I go eat there.
But, you don't come here to read about me eating pizza.  (Why do you come here, anyway?)  The Christiana Healthcare Delaware Marathon, Sunday morning.  Big goal for the day: be under five hours for the first time since I started having my knees operated on.  
They rearranged the course this year.  In the past, it's been a 10-mile loop followed by a bunch of short loops repeated 5 times or something like that.  What was in my brain is that they were going to do the 10 mile loop twice instead, then the short loops.  
The race and the rain both started at the same time.  Flat short loop to the west for the first two miles, then we headed east.  The rain was steady and the wind was right in our faces.  There was one block of buildings where the wind-tunnel effect nearly blew us backwards.  Fortunately it was short-lived.  
After only a couple miles, I found Edson Sanches, a guy I first met in Caracas, Venezuela.  He was going easy this week in preparation for running Comrades next week, so I was able to keep up with him for a few miles.  We ran together into a nice park area, then crossed the river on one of those nice bouncy pedestrian suspension bridges.  I didn't know whether to expect hills on the course or not.  Definitely hills.  We set off through a hilly section and I lost Edson.  Rather, he lost me.  We went through a little neighborhood, seemingly farther and farther away from the starting area.  I kept wondering how we were going to get back there in only 10 miles.  Then we headed off into a business area.  The math wasn't working.  Finally, I realized that the signs for the second loop were acutally 13 miles off from the signs for the first loop.  Seems like a guy as smart as me would have figured that out a few miles back--say maybe at mile 1?  OK, so it's a half-marathon loop, followed by another one.  Now the math is making sense.  But the confusion sure made it seem longer.
Heading back to the end of the loop, we ran past the 25 mile mark and the 12 mile mark, and then started uphill for about 4 blocks.  The half-marathoners soon turned off to the finish as we were directed back onto the riverwalk for our second time around.  I was moving well and a little ahead of my 5 hour pace.
Funny thing about hills.  They always seem bigger the second time.  And longer.  I didn't remember that we went around quite so many blocks near the 21 mile area.  I kept checking my watch and doing math, making sure I worked hard enough to keep under five hours.  It was starting to be a struggle.  I had a bit of emotional capital invested, however, and really wanted to finish within my goal time.  By 23 I had enough time in the bank and enough gas in the tank to do that.  Just concentrate and resist the urge to take a break.  Mile 25.  I know we'll start up hill soon.  I looked ahead.  The up hill section seemed way longer than the first time.  Finally starting downhill, I knew I'd finish under 4:58.  The 26 mile mark.  Usually you can see a finish line from the 26 mile marker.  Not here.  Down the street, turn left, then turn left again before you see the FINISH LINE.  My friend Harriet yelled for me when I turned the last corner.  Nice--final time was 4:57:55.  
A few good eats, a Michelob Ultra, and a conversation with RD Wayne Kursh and Steve Boone from Texas, and I headed back for a quick shower and a quick nap.  One more thing to accomplish this weekend.  I need a beer glass from New Jersey.  Since my flight was in Newark, I headed up to the Gaslight Brewery and Restaurant in East Orange.  What a satisfying meal.  French onion soup and a seared salmon steak salad.  And a couple pints of Black Bear Lager.  Yummy!  Marathons - 34 states the second time around, 176 total, 75 consecutive months.  Mountains - 32 state summits.  Microbrews--beer glasses collected from 30 states now.
Headed home tomorrow morning, where the lovely Francine awaits my return.  :-)

and the adventure continues....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Marathons, Mountains and Microbrews

Impatience. That's what I've been feeling lately. It happened when I was about two-thirds of the way to doing marathons in all 50 states. Now it's twice as bad--I have marathons in 34 states for the second time around. I also have summitted 30 of the state high points. So, I'm now in Delaware, indulging my impatience by knocking a few more things off my list.
I arrived at Newark, NJ airport about 9:30 last night, and headed north to High Point State Park, the location of the most unoriginally named of the state high points. High Point. Elevation 1803. Approaching the park from the south, the obelisk monument at the top is well lit and visible from several miles away. Unfortunately, the gate was locked so I'd have to come back in the morning.
It's only about five miles to the New York border, where I spent the night. In the morning, no monument to be seen. Not much fog until I got to the park entrance, but then everything fogged in.
Well, it's a not-very interesting story from there. I drove to the monument, parked and walked about 100 yards or so up hill to the highest point in New Jersey. Hung out with a couple kids who were filming a little school documentary.
Next stop, Wilmington.

I enjoyed a relaxing drive south through Pennsylvania and into Delaware, straight to the Iron Hill Brewery for some lunch. Oh, and a pint of Pig Iron Porter and another of Ironbound Ale. I sat at the bar talking with a runner friend Kenny, and another guy who was a member of the brewery's mug club.

Turns out the Delaware high point is only about five miles from my hotel here. I followed the easy directions and arrived right at the spot. Only the second lowest of the state high points, at 488 feet, Ebright Azimuth is really just a USGS marker on the edge of a sidewalk, and a sign a few feet north. I took a couple pictures and went to leave before being caught on the way back to my car by Doreen Kupchick. She owns the house across the street and is the self-appointed guardian of the pinacle of Delaware. She offered to take my picture by the sign, and then shared with me many stories of the high point and the people who had visited there.
And the high point is only about 200 feet south of the Pennsylvania border. Back in the 1960s, the TV show Candid Camera set up there and told people coming in from Pennsylvania that because Delaware is a small state and there wasn't enough room, they'd have to wait until a car drove out before they'd let one in.
Doreen also knew of nearly every rock or bit of dirt that had been moved or rearranged anywhere around the area. The "high point" isn't really very well defined--more of a little plain rather than a hilltop, so there are ongoing discussions of where the "real" high point might be.
She started to tell me about an Austrian guy who had done all kinds of things, climbing, marathons.... Sounds like Helmut, I said. She showed me a picture of him in a magazine--I told her about him. Helmut's a good friend who I met on a trip to the North Pole. So I got to share a couple stories with her as well.
We parted after a very pleasant half-hour or so. State high points 31 and 32. And a beer glass collected from Delaware.
Tomorrow morning it's the Delaware Marathon.
and the adventure continues....

Monday, May 04, 2009

More Misc Stuff

It was early in the morning.  The coffee shop I was headed for wasn't open yet, and I was jonesin' for a blueberry muffin from Starbucks.  I parked across the road in a spot that, during business hours, is a loading zone.  The traffic lights were still blinking instead of doing the normal green-yellow-red thing.  The White Walking guy wasn't wasn't awake for the day yet, so there was no one in the little box above the crosswalk to tell me it was ok to cross the road.  Guess I was on my own.  Fortunately there wasn't much traffic.  
They've changed the muffin wrappers at Starbucks.  A square sheet of paper shoved into the bottom of a round muffin tin.  The sides of the muffin go straight up, instead of mushrooming out like they did when they used the regular cupcake cup papers.  They don't put as much of that crumbly stuff on them either.  I think it screws up the ambiance.  I don't like the change.  Their coffee's still the best though.
I stood at the corner after leaving the coffee shop.  The Red Hand telling me, "NO!  Don't come across now.  Wait for the little White Walking guy.
There wasn't much traffic.  I went across the road.  The Red Hand be damned!

I crossed the road.  I didn't die.  It's going to be a great day.

I have these moments that I break out into laughter.  It's the total amusement with the coolness of my life.  
I was hiking across the ridgeline in the Patriot Hills one time.  Patriot Hills is a very small mountain ridge--maybe 2 or 3 miles long, that protects an ice runway in Antarctica.  I was there for a marathon at the South Pole.  While we had some time, a bunch of us were hiking across the length of the ridge.  I suddenly started laughing.  Doug looked at me and said, "What!?"  I told him.  "Right now, my friends are back home, going about their normal day, working, dealing with the day-to-day stuff, and I'm here, walking along a mountain ridge in Antarctica!"  
Pretty freakin' cool, I think.
I was standing alone in the airport in Tromso, Norway, wondering how I was going to get into town, where the registration for the marathon was, where I was going to stay when I got there.  
A guy there who seemed to be looking for someone spotted my Columbus Marathon shirt and figured maybe I was one of the people he was looking for.  I wasn't.  But while he waited for two other runners that he'd never met before, we struck up a conversation.  He was a race staffer, there to pick up a couple runners from the airport.  He offered me a ride, dropped me off at race headquarters, and pointed out the information desk so I could find out where a nice place to stay might be.
I was there for the Midnight Sun Marathon.  Because it was so expensive to get an international funds money order, I decided to just wait until I got there to register for the marathon.  So I showed up in Tromso for one of the northernmost marathons in the world, with no registration, no place to stay, and no advance notice.
My friend from the airport told his buddy at the local newspaper.  He tracked me down at my hotel, interviewed me, and came out and took my picture.  I was in the paper the next day--an American who had just showed up to run their marathon.  I was getting quoted in Norwegian.  I don't even speak Norwegian.  
A sad moment this morning.  My friend Susie's mom died this weekend in an accident.  She was 80.  My thoughts are with you Susie.
It's my responsibility in life to help move the human race forward.  I don't know if there's anything after this--I'm thinking there isn't.  But whether there is or not, it's my obligation to help people become more than they are--to help our species--my fellow human beings, actually move ahead.  That, in my ideal world, is what I'm moving toward--to make everyone I come into contact with a little better, a little stronger, a little more capable, a little more confident.  (From "Devotions for Athiests" by Jackson Timbers)
If you're not well fed, you're in no position to feed others.  If you're not full of life, it's hard for you to fill other people.
It's important for us to do things to feed ourselves--not just physically, but spiritually.  We need to have big dreams and goals and work toward them.  
In the process of accomplishing big things, you bring other people along with you.
(Incomplete thoughts--I'll edit later)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Little More Miscellaneous Stuff

Stuff I almost got away with:

I convinced my sister one time that Hank Cartwright was the guy who invented faucet handles, and that's why they always have H and C on them.  "I kid you not!  I always thought it stood for Hot and Cold!" she protested.  I was cracking up.
Here's a good rumor:  The band Toto was actually formed by a couple of members who had left the band Kansas.  They named it that because "I don't think we're in Kansas any more."
(totally bullshit!)

One of the things I thought was neat when I read "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is that it seems that Douglas Adams figured out a way to work every clever thing he had ever thought of into the book.  So, I've started carrying a digital recorder around with me, so I can capture those brilliant moments that the universe keeps sending to my brain.  Then I can record my cleverness to share with the masses.  Aren't you lucky?  

I have a friend who was praying one time when he was a young man, and suddenly had a divine revelation that there really isn't anything up there.  Hard to figure out where the divine revelation came from, eh?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon

This one just made my list of favorites.

White Sands, New Mexico.
The morning started early at White Sands Missle Base.  We were instructed to be there by 4:30, and had a continental breakfast at the starting area.  By 5:15 I decided to walk the half-mile back to my car and rest for a bit before the 6:30 opening ceremonies.  
The ceremonies opened with the color guard and the National Anthem, as we prepared for the event ahead of us.  Much of the field was military, wearing full uniforms.  In the "Heavy Division" corral they were checking their packs, weighing to make sure they had the full 35 pounds in them.  I had switched to the light division to give my knees a break.  I'll try the pack next time.
We were told about the rigors suffered in WWII by those who were surrendered to the Japanese and marched for days, many dying along the way, some surviving only to be blown up in unmarked boats by our own unknowing forces.  Veterans of that march were with us, now old men who continue to keep that memory alive.  
An inspirational speech by Director of the Army Staff Lt. General David Huntoon was followed by a very solemn roll call of those Bataan survivors who have died just in the last year.    
The opening ceremonies ended with this, written by Frank Hewlett in 1942:

"The Battling Bastards of Bataan, 
No Mama, No Papa, No Uncle Sam, 
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces, 
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces, 
And nobody gives a damn!"

Then came the start.  They led veterans from Bataan to seats in the start corral, where they would greet us as we moved to the start line.  Then came a moment that had tears streaming down my face--soldiers who had lost limbs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam were led out as a group to start the march with us.  Pride in those who sacrificed so much, sadness that we get into wars, or joy that because of those who served and lost so much make it possible for us to be free all came together at that point.
We started the marathon on the base, on pavement for about two miles, then we started off across the New Mexico desert.  Loose sand was kicked into the air by the 5300 people, and we were off on a dusty trek.  At an easy trot, I was passing a lot of people, and after about an hour I was out where the field was a little more spaced out.  Still, at over 4900 feet elevation in sand and dirt it was slow going.  
We continued on that surface through a flat section until about 8 miles in.  Then we turned onto a road, and before we saw the 9 mile mark had started up a long, gradual hill.  The hill would end just before we turned off onto sand/gravel near the 13 mile mark.  Now it was rolling a bit, but still generally uphill for another mile or so.  
Near 14 miles they were having a barbeque where you could buy hotdogs and hamburgers.  Next year I'm taking money with me.  I stopped there and sat on a cot to dump the sand out of my shoes for the second time, then continued, starting a generally downhill section that would tie back into the paved hill we had climbed, somewhere just before 19 miles.  I read the name on the back of a soldier's cap--Huntoon!  That sounded familiar.  I turned around and saw the three stars on his uniform--it was the general who had spoken at the opening ceremonies.  I stopped to shake his hand and ran along with him for a while.  We talked for around a mile, comparing marathons, talking about my son-in-law in the Guard, and working our way along the course. The downhill got a little steeper and I went on my way.  The wind started picking up even more--New Mexico is one of the windiest places in the country.  As I turned onto the pavement, I was cruising along nicely, and for a few minutes entertained the thought of finishing in under six hours.  Then at around 21 miles we made a right turn onto the gravel/sand and headed uphill for about half a mile.  We approached the top of the hill, thinking it would soon get better as we headed down.  Wrong.  As we turned off to the gradual downhill, we were in the loosest sand of the day.  Running and walking was about the same speed, with no push-off in the loose sand.  It was about a mile before it firmed up and we were back on the more firmly packed surface.  
The course was taking its toll, especially on the young soldiers wearing backpacks.  I encouraged several of them as I went by, frequently talking them into coming along with me for a while.  The wind picked up even more, sand blew into my eyes and I felt the grit in my teeth.  We headed straight into the wind as we approached the 25 mile mark, then on around a few more curves and approached the finish.  At the 26 mile mark I tapped a guy who was walking and said, "Come on--only two tenths to go."  At 26.1 we picked up another guy, then a woman, and four of us ran across the finish line.  
I learned a lot that day--the sacrifice that others made, the toughness of so many people, the importance of a leader to set an example.  And I came to a fuller appreciation of those who have sacrificed so that we can be free.
My finish time was 6:16, a good time for my condition and for that course.  The final finisher, wearing a 35-pound pack, came in around 14:44.  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Guadalupe Peak

Marathons, Mountains and Microbrews - Guadalupe Peak
Early morning Saturday I left my hotel in El Paso for the two-hour trip east to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home of Guadalupe Peak (8749').  I have the whole day to get up the mountain, then up to White Sands to pick up my race packet for tomorrow's marathon.

I planned to stop at a convenience store for some drinks, snacks, and a bit of breakfast on the way, but as soon as I got out of town there was nothing to be found.  From the outskirts of El Paso to the Park, there is absolutely NOTHING open!  In fact, there is practically nothing anyway.  Just a long stretch of road through a beautiful desert.  As I drove east, the sky brightened and the mountains in the distance started to take shape.  I arrived at the visitor center around 7:20 and found that they wouldn't be open until 8:00.  Fortunately, I found a Coke machine and got three cans of liquid refreshment for the climb.  Back near the trailhead, I was able to pick up a bottle of PowerAid.  Between that and the packet of Jelly Belly Sport Beans I had with me, it would have to do for the calories I'd need to burn on the hike.

The trail was well marked.  However, only a few feet after starting on the trail there's a marker telling you to turn left for the Guadalupe Peak trail.  Which I missed.  I walked a little way, but it just didn't feel like the right direction.  Oh well, I'll give it a few minutes.  I scared up a couple of deer after a few minutes, and was just enjoying the walk on a beautiful, clear morning.  After about 15 minutes I decided it was definitely the wrong trail and turned around.  Good move.  Back nearly to the trailhead, I saw the small signpost, angled slightly in the direction I was coming from, telling me where the trail I should have been on was.  I tossed my fleece jacket back in the car, met a guy named Bob who was there to hike the mountain with a backpack, and we started up together.
Well, after a short but pleasant conversation, it was clear that in my unencumbered state I would be able to go a lot faster, we parted ways and I headed up the mountain, passing a few other climbers on the way up.  It's a constant series of switchbacks on a well-maintained trail, and the going was pretty easy.  I took my outer shirt off after a short time, but the cold wind frequently had me thinking of putting it back on.  Then I'd turn another corner or the sun would come out a little more, and I was warm enough again.  
It was hard to see exactly what the goal was, because Guadalupe is actually behind the mountain you start climbing up.  After about an hour and three-quarters I had worked my way around the back side and could see the peak.  I knew there was a campsite a mile from the peak, and wondered when I would find it.  That would give me an idea of how much longer it would be.   
In spots the signs on the trail alert people to "dismount and lead" if they're riding the trail, due to the cliffs.  Those are the places that I would stay close to the inside--the drop could be pretty drastic if one happened a little too close to the edge.  I started down a little section with some cliffs on the right, and a little bridge through the saddle between the mountains.  Then it was another series of switchbacks.  Still no campsite.
After the series of switchbacks, I came to a little gap, and approaching it couldn't see any trail beyond it.  Once I got there, it was a sharp right turn to the other face of the mountain.  I could see some railings, and wondered if that was the campsite.  Only a couple hundred more yards, I rounded a little bend just past those railings, and there was the high point marker, a silver pyramid place there in 1958 by American Airlines.  There were three other guys there who had recently summitted.   Turns out the campsite isn't very well marked (In fact, I couldn't find it on the way down either.) and I had completely missed it.  We took a few pictures and signed the logbook.  I headed back down.
The trail was well populated--I think I passed 6 or 8 groups of hikers who were on the way up.  More deer jumped out of the brush in several places on the trail.  Signs had warned of mountain lions, but fortunately (or unfortunately) I didn't see any of them.  My total time for the climb was just over 5 hours, including my little false-start.  It was a beautiful day in Texas.
My 30th state high point.  Only 20 more to go.  Five of them are the really hard ones, though.
On to White Sands, NM ....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Maybe I'll be a Bum All My Life

Here's a thought.  I keep thinking I'm going to write more, post more stuff, gain a large following of fans.  Then a month goes by and I haven't even made one freakin' blog entry.  Dammit!
I'm reading A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Cool stuff.  Ten years ago, I knew the meaning of life was 42.  I came up with that without ever knowing who Douglas Adams was.  So I guess I'm just confirming a great cosmic truth or something.  Whatever.

Anyway, anyone who publishes a trilogy that contains five books has got to have a pretty good outlook on things, I suppose.

Cool quote:  “Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Lots of other good philosophy going on too.  You would think that Adams knew George Bush while writing a lot of the stuff.  He gives some pretty interesting insight into how governments work.
I'm still waiting for Dan Houts to write that comment on my January 22nd blog entry.  (hint, hint)
I started raking my yard yesterday.  I have a tolerance for such things at sometime around two hours.  So, if we have enough real nice days that coincide with my time schedule, I may get the whole thing done by around July or so.  No promises.
My grandma is almost 95 years old.  She had a bit of a setback lately, but she's coming back strong.  I keep telling her that if she lives to be 100, the president will send her a birthday card. I think that would be pretty funny, given her somewhat old-school attitude toward people of other races and that it will probably still be President Obama when she turns 100 in 2014.  Maybe I could write to him and have him send one this year.  Hmm....
Stimulus Packages--
I'm still not feeling very stimulated.  
Maybe I'll start doing some podcasts.   Then instead of not doing blog entries, I could also not do podcasts.  

Life is still good.  Until later...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marathon Don is Back! (Or at least coming back.)

It was the Last Chance for Boston Marathon--a 26 one-mile-loop course around an office park in Dublin, Ohio.  Some would call it boring.  That's only if you haven't run it.
The day was beautiful.  Around freezing, a little breezy, sunny at the start.  I was there to get in an inexpensive marathon for February to keep my marathon-a-month streak alive.  Chuck Engle was there--it's his hometown, and he couldn't find anything else to run that day, I guess.  I always love seeing this guy--he's fast, but not snobby about it.  Everyone likes him.  
The first loop is a little long--we make up the .2 miles at the beginning.  As I crossed the timing line for the first time, Chuck breezed by me, already two miles into the race.  I made it my goal to get at least half-way done before he finished.  
Halfway through mile 10, my best friend Paul met me and ran a mile with me.  He's working a big job in Ohio so he came over on Saturday night to hang out.  The three breweries we checked out the night before didn't seem to have any bad effect on my running, fortunately.  
After 11 miles I caught up with Lois Berkowicz.  She was running her 296th marathon that day.   I was a mile ahead of her at that point, and we ran together for the next 3 or 4 miles before she stopped for a bit.  We caught up with Larry Macon, the guy who set the world record last year for running 105 marathons in a year.  He was running with another guy named Gary.  Soon I had finished my 13th mile and was in the middle of mile 14 when Chuck flew by me for the final time, finishing in 2:35.  And I was past halfway!  Made it!
Soon, it was 16 miles.  I still didn't feel like I needed to walk.  A little more and I was in single digits.  Still feeling good.  My endurance is coming back!  
I caught up with Bernie Finn and his daughter Jennifer.  Bernie was doing the half, and Jenn was having a rough day, so she had stopped to walk with him.  Bernie has the distinction of finishing DFL in Grand Rapids last year, and was proudly wearing his Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon jacket.  After Bernie finished his half, I caught up with Jenn again, running back and forth with her for her last couple of miles.  When I finished mile 22 Jenn had just finished and I stopped to give her a hug and shake hands with Bernie.
At 2 1/2 miles to go I came upon a young guy who was struggling.  He was walking slowly, arms tucked inside his sweatshirt.  "I'm going to drop out," he told me.  He was only 3 miles behind me.  He wasn't trained for this.  "No, you're not!" I told him.  He ran with me for a little bit, and I told him how he'd be second guessing himself on Monday if he dropped out.  He dropped back, and I wondered if I had gotten through.  About a minute later, he came running by me.  "Thanks."  I caught him as he started his next mile, and told him that in an hour he could call his mom and tell her that he had just finished a marathon.  It seemed like I had just been through the line -- like the miles were getting shorter.  Nice.  My legs still felt OK, I had no desire to walk, no questioning my abilities like I've had for the last couple marathons.  I crossed the line for the 25th time and raised my arms.  The guys thought I was finishing.  "Nope.  I'm just practicing for my next time around."  Mile 26.  Party time!
I finished in 5:22.  Not a big deal, for sure, but it was my best post-knee-surgery time, and I was running strong all day.  Guess I need to do a little speed play and get myself back to 4:30 shape before too long.  Should be fun.
After my shower I went back to the course.  My young friend was nowhere to be found.  He was done!  I went into the post-race food area to congratulate him and hang out with the few people I had been running with who were still there.  Nice time.  
I have now run at least one marathon in each of the last 72 months.  Bragging a little, maybe, but I'm pretty proud of that.  I gave myself permission to end the streak at 100 months.  Just need to stay healthy between now and then.

and the adventure continues....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This is a test

I'm trying to enable podcasts on blogger.  Here's my first attempt.  It's one of my Marathon Minutes from September.  It's about my life list.  Click on the title above to listen!

I was kinda hoping for a little "player" icon or something, but it seems to work like this.  I haven't stopped experimenting yet though.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

25 Things

I wrote this on Facebook yesterday.  It was a fun little exercise.  25 Things.

1. My nickname is Marathon Don. I got it around 1998, after I had run marathons for 19 months in a row.
2. I've run marathons on all seven continents three times.
3. I'm 52 and I still have a grandmother. And grandchildren. One time I took my grandmother and granddaughter to the Ionia Fair and got a picture of both of them together on the merry-go-round.
4. Granddaddy (Claud Washington Fults, my great grandfather) is my favorite ancestor. He used to raise fighting cocks. He also invested in some cemetery plots in Indiana, which we still own but are pretty much worthless.
5. I had asthma when I was a kid.
6. I was on the high school debate team. We went to the state finals once, where we really got our clocks cleaned.
7. I hate living with cats. Or dogs. Or most any other animal. I don't think one animal should own another one. 
8. I hope our new president does a good job.
9. I can't find a religion I like, that's why I'm a Third Reformed Antagonist. It's really hard to be a hypocrite when you make up your beliefs as you go along.
10. I have a list of over 100 things that I'm going to do in my lifetime. I keep checking things off and adding more.
11. Don't worry, your sister isn't on the list. No. Wait.
12. I have my own website, Every once in a while someone writes to me and complains that they just wasted half the morning reading my stuff. It makes me feel good.
13. I hang out at the YMCA in downtown Grand Rapids.
14. I like beer. I'm collecting a glass from a brewery in every state. 
15. I don't drink a lot, but I do drink frequently. I figure that if I pace myself I can keep drinking my whole life.
16. With the help of a lot of other people, I put on the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon. This year it's on October 18th.
17. My favorite movie quote is, "If you had a face like mine, you'd punch me right in the nose. And I'm just the person who can do it." It's from an old Laurel and Hardy movie.
18. I have about six people who I refer to as my best friend. Depends on the context, I suppose.
19. I drink yuppie coffee. I live in a yuppie area. I like it.
20. My coffee maker grinds the beans automatically. Pretty freakin' cool.
21. I'm heterosexual. Actually, I come from a long line of heterosexuals. 
22. In high school, I played chess every day. My junior year I kept track of every game I played. I still have the tally sheets. I beat one guy in study hall 104 straight games. He wasn't very good.
23. The last game of chess I played was in Antarctica in December 2007. I lost.
24. I run with a bunch of really cool people. I think the average IQ of the group is around 130.
25. I saw at least three eagles yesterday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up

My old friend Dan Houts called me today and told me about a Bible study he went to lately.  The discussion started with "What did you want to be when you grew up?"  

It was a pretty inspirational story that Dan told me after that.  I told him that he needed to write it down and send it to me.  Knowing that he reads my blog, I figured maybe he'd write it and publish it a comment at the end of this entry.  How 'bout it, Dan???

Stay tuned to be inspired everybody....

2008 In Review

Every year I have only one New Year's Resolution -- to have at least as much fun this year as I had last year.  2008 proved to be the year that ended a very long streak.

Now, it wasn't because it was a bad year.  It just wasn't as fun as 2007, when I ran marathons on seven continents TWICE.  (I'm the only person who's ever done that twice in a year).

It was a great year though.  In January I started off with a trip to Florida with the lovely Francine for the Goofy Challenge--running a half-marathon on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday at Disney World.  We also threw in the 5K on Friday with Carly.  My biggest running weekend of the year, it turned out.

Somewhere around the end of that month, I must have twisted my left knee on some slippery roads and I tore my meniscus.  

Running was painful in February.  In fact, it was my lowest mileage month in several years.  I still managed a marathon that month, but it was pretty slow.

Sometime in March, I found a house for sale--a great deal on a 5 bedroom house in Forest Hills.  I knew it was right when I saw it, and the end of April we closed the deal.  So now I'm living in a cool house in a great neighborhood with a beautiful woman.  Life is good.

I managed to keep up my marathon-a-month streak, but after running the Bayshore Marathon in May and doing some hills a few days later, my left knee--which I thought was on the mend--returned to painfulness every time I ran.  After our climbing Mt. Marcy and running a marathon in Lake Placid in June, I decided it was time to have my good friends at Metro Health get involved.  A little physical therapy, an xray and an MRI, and they referred me to Dr Theut for a little arthroscopic surgery in July.  

My marathon streak was at 64 consecutive months at the time.  July would be 66.  I told the Doc that I was going to try and keep the streak alive.  I was willing to drop out if I needed to.  But 17 days after the knee surgery, I ran the Carrollton Marathon the last weekend of July.  SLOW.  But FINISHED!

On the way up some stairs to do hill repeats one lunch hour, Francine slipped and broke a bone in the back of her hand.  She had a plate and screws put in it, then the next day we flew to Montana for a vacation in August.  We did a very hot, slow, and hilly marathon (They even gave us a pin at mile 19 when we got to the top of a particularly difficult hill!) .  Francine got lots of attention for being all taped up from the surgery--but she finished with flying colors anyway.  We also took Carly to Glacier National Park.  

The Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon (my biggest project of the year) was fantastic.  Over 3000 runners, plus a kids marathon that involved nearly 1000 kids.  It was great.  

Two days later, on October 21, I had my right knee done as well--just to clean out a bunch of the stuff that was floating around in there.  What the heck, I had met my deductible for the year anyway.  

Mike Schwartz, my old college buddy, wanted to get away for an adventure.  So, in November, we drove about 3000 miles, climbed to the highest point in 6 different states, visited about 8 microbreweries, and spent one night at my friend Brent's house in Cheyenne Wyoming.    (read November blog entries for the whole story)  

Then, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I did the Flying Monkey Marathon in Nashville and kept my streak alive for another month.  Month #69.

My beautiful granddaughters spent two nights with us at Thanksgiving.  Aunt Carly had a great time, and Thanksgiving night I went upstairs to find Carly, Ashley, and Amber in their bathing suits in the shower.  The shower curtain as outside the bathtub, of course, so there was water everywhere.  Oh well.  Still, I have LOTS to be thankful for.

Also, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunt Mary, both my kids and Katie's three girls came for Thanksgiving dinner at our new house.  We took five generation pictures.  We ate turkey.  

After totally missing the Christmas season in 2007, I got through the whole thing this year feeling like I still wanted more.  I suppose that's good.  And on 28 December, the lovely Francine and I ran a marathon in Springfield, Missouri.  Two more months and I'll have 6 years in a row of at least one-a-month marathons.  And Francine will have two years of a marathon every month.

14 Marathons.  Seven new state high points.  Only one night spent outside the US (when we didn't get back to Montreal in time for our flight and spent the night there).  A new house.  A successful GR Marathon.  Not a bad year.  

What's ahead for 2009?  Who knows?  I'm starting a new streak though--to have more fun this year than I had last year.  

and the adventure continues....

The New President

Tuesday I got ahold of Dan Manning and invited him over to watch the inauguration.  It was fun having someone there to discuss things with as they happened.  We drank a couple beers, ate some munchies, and watched the first Black guy get sworn in as President of the United States.  

This won't solve all the racism in the world, but it certainly won't hurt.  We've cleared another big hurdle.  

Now, I hope he can be effective, help pull us out of our economic problems, end as many wars as need to be ended, and whatever else he needs to do to be successful. 

So, we watched the whole thing.  We stood up when they sang the National Anthem.  And we're hoping for the best.

Windows and stuff

About a year ago, I bought a new notebook computer.  It works good, but a few small issues.  For example, the screen saver never worked.  The screen just stayed on all the time.  Also, every time I'd go to a client site, I'd have to put in a password to get to their systems, even though I had checked the box to say "Save the password" the next time you sign in.  They were only minor inconveniences, so I said the heck with it.

Then about a week ago, my screen saver just started working.  And today, when I signed in at Michigan Chief Sales, it didn't make me enter a password.  I don't understand it.  Usually Windows gets worse over time.  This time it got better.  I'm kinda happy about that.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On the way to Missouri

Actually, we're in Missouri now. Icy roads as we approached Chicago kept us from stopping to see Paul on the way through, so we just continued on to St. Louis last night.

Dinner at the Morgan Street Brewery. Before I got back to the table, Carly was already working on her first beer. Root beer, that is. Fisk, made here in St. Louis. Meanwhile, I settled for one of Morgan Street's Red Lagers. Nice.

After dinner we drove a few more miles and checked into a Drury Inn. When we got to the room, Carly went to the window. "We've got a great view! Steak and Shake, Bob Evans, Taco Bell..."

Christmas day was nice. Christmas eve with Francine's family--tons of kids, grand kids....

Christmas morning. Francine got me a great coffee maker that grinds the beans and then brews the coffee. It makes really great coffee. :-) At 8:00 we ran with the Grand Rapids Running Club, and then went to Marge's Donut Den. A great start to the day. When we got home I thought about a nap, but found the movie, The Bucket List, on On-Demand. I've been wanting to see it for a long time, and I wasn't disappointed. Go see it if you get a chance.

I cooked a small turkey and a gigantic squash and called Chris to invite him for supper. A nice, low-key holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stuff from Misc Notes I Should Have Recorded Already (yet again)

22 November - Five years ago tomorrow I ran a marathon in my 50th state. It was my 87th marathon. It was a very special day that I shared with a very special woman.

Five years later--my whole life is different. Different house. Different wife. Different business. Better? Big time!


Marathons, Mountains, and Microbrews--where it all began:

Marathons--15 October, 1995 in Chicago

Mountains--1993 in Tasmania, I hiked up a mountain with Robert, Adrian Moll, and Steve Pullen near Hobart. Great day. More recently, probably inspired by Knox White while on a trip to Antarctica in 1997. About a year later I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Microbrews--Sometime around 1999, hanging out with Shawn Sweet at Founders Alehouse. Yes! There's more to life than Bud Lite!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Great weekend - but no running.

Snowbound! The weekend was a little longer than I had planned on--with all the snow Friday I spent quite a bit of time shoveling out. In fact, living on a street that's low-priority for the snow plows, I'm thinking it might be a long winter.

Friend Don showed up and helped push my car into some other tire tracks so that I could at least get back into my driveway. THANK YOU!!!

On dry roads, my tires would have been good for another 10000 or so. With the current conditions, it was time for some new tires. So after a few phone calls, I ended up at Belle Tire Friday afternoon for some new rubber. Much better!

Saturday morning--It was Santa Claus Girls delivery day. Over 13000 kids got presents Saturday as a result of their efforts. AMAZING. Our YMCA Service Club helps plan the routes and organize packages for them. We also help by directing traffic in the parking lot and by carrying packages to cars. Each delivery route has 14 stops, and we had around 350 routes! Very inspiring!!

I got home to find Francine shoveling. The road trucks had finally been down our street and piled about three feet of it into a wall in front of our driveway. I hate to think how many cubic feet of snow we had to move just to get our mailbox accessible again, as well as to get our cars in and out of the drive. After a bunch of shoveling, our neighbor DJ came over. "Can I help?" He went home and got his lawn tractor--with a blade on the back and a scoop on the front! WOW! It's amazing what you can do with the right equipment. THANKS!!

My girls came over Saturday afternoon. Ashley had to be in a wedding the next day--she's 7, and was the flower girl. Amber, 4, and Alexis, born Wednesday of Labor Day week, spent the night. Amber and Carly get along famously, so there was lots playing and dancing and singing going on. Lex is smiling all the time and sticking her tongue out, and has learned to burp without puking on me, which is a vast improvement since Thanksgiving weekend, when I went through quite a few shirts!

The big event was Sunday. My son-in-law Shawn along with the National Guard 125 Charlie Company returned from Iraq. We went to the ceremony at the Delta Plex to welcome them home. In spite of the nasty weather, extra plows were deployed at the airport and along the route to make sure our boys came home. Katie heads the Family Resource Group for the National Guard here, and so was key in planning the event. So I had lots of cause to be VERY PROUD of both of them.

We stopped and picked up a couple presents that Francine had ordered for her bosses, and then took Carly to the Mexican Telephone Company for lunch. (Taco Bell) Then came home and enjoyed a nice nap, snuggled on a sheepskin in front of the fireplace with the lovely Francine.

Not bad for a cold, wintry weekend in Michigan. Today, however--I'm buying a snowblower.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Interesting Quote

In light of the present financial crisis, it's interesting to read what Thomas Jefferson said in 1802 :

'I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.'

Friday, December 05, 2008

Car Companies

OK, I'm going to say something about the car company bailouts.

First, I'm disgusted with the car companies in general. Probably with most publicly traded companies, in fact. No one seems to look at the long term. If the Big 3 AND the unions had looked ahead, they may have realized that sooner or later we need to develop alternate fuel vehicles, concentrate on economy, and maybe not commit to continuing to pay people from current revenue streams long after they're retired and not contributing anything to the company any more.

Now, with so much debt that it can never be serviced, they're asking for $34 billion worth of LOANS (more debt) to get them out of the current situation. How exactly is that going to help in the long term? My opinion is that it won't. It'll just prolong the problems for a while.

We have some pretty good bankruptcy laws in this country that would allow GM to restructure, get rid of a lot of debt, etc. Would it hurt? Sure. The shareholders would lose all their money. But they've lost most of it already, so that's just going to finish it off.

Meanwhile, our governor is busy lobbying for the bailout. Of course she is. She's governor of a state that hosts the automotive industry. She keeps asking who would buy a car from a company that's in bankruptcy? Remember United Airlines? Who would fly on an airline that's going bankrupt? Silly question, right? United went through the process, the shareholders got wiped out, but the company is still in business and moving in good directions.

I expect the Congress will bail out the car companies. Oh well. I hope it works if they do.

Meanwhile, let me talk about something cool the car companies do. They all have agreed on how far apart to space the holes so that we can screw our license plates to them. Then all the states agreed to make license plates with holes the same corresponding distance. Pretty good, eh? The whole freakin' country agrees on something. How often does that happen?

Imagine a state like Wyoming deciding to make their license plates with holes a different distance apart. That could be an effective way to keep people from moving there.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Stuff from Misc Notes I Should Have Recorded Already

I went to Aunt Erna's funeral about a month ago. She's my mom's aunt, the wife of my Grandpa Lloyd's brother Lawrence. Last summer we went to her 90th birthday party.

Everyone had nice things to say about her, like at everyone's funeral. No one ever says bad things about the dead at their funerals. In her case, I doubt that there IS anything bad to say. She was one of the nicest people in the world. You can tell that if you meet any of her kids (my mom's first cousins) or grandkids. They're ALL nice.

The funeral was almost joyous. Her suffering was over. Whatever would happen to her next would be better. What a nice person.

I hope people will have nice things to say about me like that. I also hope it isn't for about 50 years or so.

(I really don't like the song, "How Great Thou Art." Might be because I've heard so many people slaughter it in my lifetime.)
Regarding the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon, of which I'm the race director:
"If you aren't having the best marathon experience ever, we aren't doing something right."

I need to do a "viral video" that catches on all over the country because it's clever, funny, or just plain wierd.

Jacques Cousteau said this: When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.

When I was at Ben Burk's place in Rapid City, I had a pint of Brown Cow Ale at the Firehouse Brewing Company. Then I had a pint of Firehouse Red.

Elections, Races, and other random thoughts

Granted, it's not until January 20th that President Obama takes office, but it still looks like he's moving in good directions. At least I hope so.

Of course, there's the usual racist BS going on. I hate that. Yeah, we elected a Black guy president. I think that's good. Not because he's Black. Because the American people took that out of their decision making process.

I know--some people say he's only half-Black. So what. He looks Black. That's cool. I like that we have a whole bunch of races in this country. It makes life more interesting. Richer. Me? I'm just a plain White guy. Mostly WASP. But then, one of my great-great grandmothers was an American Indian. Another one was Dutch. I think there were a few Germans in there somewhere.

I don't like the term "Native American" when it's used to refer to American Indians. I have to go back five generations before I can even find one ancestor who wasn't born in this country. I figure that makes me as "native" as anybody. I also don't especially like any Hyphenated-American designations. I'm not suggesting giving up our ancestors, but once we're Americans maybe we should keep our eyes on making the future better. (Call yourself whatever you want though.)

After travelling to about 30 countries, I'm always thankful for the richness that the world has to offer. Every country, every race, every sub-culture has something interesting to add to the mix. Even travelling to other parts of the U.S. we find a whole lot of differences. Driving through the "Bible Belt" a couple weeks ago, I cruised the radio stations and was able to find either religious music or country music. Rarely a rock and roll station to be found. The waitresses around there all call me "Honey" or "Sugar" even though they just met me. It's a friendly part of the country.

Coming home from a trip to all seven continents for marathons last year, I was connecting through an airport in Tokyo and for the first time in about a month I heard some Americans talking. It reminded me of how much I missed home. Good old American Black and White people, talking in accents I could understand. It was nice. Made me homesick.

I like that our government is moving in directions where people are no longer "tokens." It's getting so that people are chosen more for their abilities and merits and less because they belong to a particular race or gender.

Our country is getting better. I'm not blind to the faults we might still have, but comparing 2008 to the 1960s it's amazingly different. We're moving in good directions. Let's keep moving.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Marathons, Mountains, and Microbrews

Yes, you know those are my three "hobbies" by this time. So now, all I need is a marathon to make the month complete.

It would happen on November 23 in a park in the southwest corner of Nashville. The Flying Monkey Marathon! It was just a little affair--only a couple hundred runners allowed, and a race director who (believe it or not) may just be crazier than I am. I had to contact RD Trent Rosenbloom to get in, since registration had closed a long time before, but he welcomed me.

Also, I ran into old friends GW and Linda from Colorado--my former shipmates aboard the Ioffe in last year's first trip to Antarctica.

Race morning was COLD -- around 27 degrees. But a nice day and not too windy, so after the race started it was comfortable. The course--ALL HILLS for 26.2 miles. There's an 11.2 mile loop that we ran both forward and backward, with a little more thrown in along the way. Since I wasn't familiar with the area, I never really knew which direction we were going. It was only up and down.

Somewhere around 12 miles I caught up with a guy named Max, and we spent the rest of the race getting to know each other and solving the world's problems. Finally, with only two people still behind us, we finished around 6 hours 37 minutes.

Slow day. Yes. However, only 4 weeks earlier, I had my second knee surgery of the year. And, in spite of that, I kept my marathon-a-month streak alive at 69 months in a row. Now I'm working on getting back up to speed, strengthening my legs, and getting my marathon times back to around 4:30 before another six months goes by.

So there you go. Month of November held seven state high points, about 9 or 10 breweries, and a marathon. Not bad.

And next November? I'm thinking of going back and giving the Monkey another try.

and the adventure continues....

Route 66

The final leg of the journey would start the afternoon of November 18th as we headed south to Amarillo and then to Route 66.

After stopping in Tulsa for the night, we hit the road fairly early, with the intention to get back home before the day was done. LOTS OF DRIVING. We got off the freeway again as we approached Kansas, and went back onto the two-lane version of the old Route 66. There are only 13.2 miles of it, cutting across the southeast corner of the state, so I wanted to travel the whole thing.

It was also a scouting mission, of sorts. Perhaps at sometime we could do a marathon, starting in Missouri, following Route 66 through Kansas, turning around at the Oklahoma boarder and heading back for just-slightly-long marathon. I think it would work well.

Back to the freeway and across Missouri, and I was getting tired of travelling and determined to be home for the night. Our only stops were at an outlet store along the freeway near Lebanon, MO, and then in St. Louis, where we had lunch at the Morgan Street Brewery along with a pint of their seasonal Pumpkin Ale. The brewery is practically in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch, so I got to see that as well.

Around 8:00 Chicago time I dropped Mike off at his place in Skokie, and headed for home as fast as I could get away with. Well, actually I didn't quite get away with it, but the Indiana state cop let me off with a warning.

Did I say that the final high point was a couple days earlier? Well, probably the best high point of the whole trip was the welcome home I got from the lovely Francine. But, that's a whole 'nother story. :-)

and the adventure continues....

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

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.