Thursday, April 26, 2007

Running with Armadillos

I am blogging you all (sorry, y'all) from the great state of Tejas! I'm back in San Angelo for work, more wind turbines!

West Texas really is gorgeous. Especially this time of year with all the wild flowers blooming and valleys a luscious green. Red clay valleys and beautiful blue skies! I love it here! Plus, toss in a high of 80 degrees and it's downright agreeable here.

Here's a shot from one of our proposed wind turbines:

After my work out on the mesa was done, I decided to go for a run in the only local state park, San Angelo State Park. I found out about it by looking at the website of the local running club, the Road Lizards. They look like a fun group, hopefully on my next visit I can meet up with them for a run! Anyways, the park was great, lots of running trails, however, a little light on the signage, so I felt pretty lost, and with rattlers out there, I was a bit nervous. The highlight was definitely seeing a couple of armadillos just hanging out. Those are some pretty awesome creatures! I've definitely never seen those in the wild before. All in all, a great run, and a great time in Texas! However, I'll be very glad to get back to Minny. I've been traveling too much lately.
Best souvenir: a pretty sweet bumper sticker I think you'll agree!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Divas of the Ballet

So, perhaps you all (and by you all I mean the 3 of you reading this) are expecting a Boston Marathon recap... Well, that will wait until I have some more photos to share.
My trip to Boston/NYC was great, punctuated of course by an unforgetable experience in the Boston Marathon. But beyond that, the trip was about seeing old friends and getting back to the East Coast. I had a great time with Al and her family. We saw some of the downtown sights in Boston and went to their Science Museum. It's a lot like the St. Paul Science Museum in that it's definitely directed at kids, but of course that made it all the more fun!

Then I went to New York for a couple days to visit Joel and Mary. I did some of my usual NYC activities: see Central Park, and, well, EAT a TON! I had deep-fried pizza, gelato, hot dogs, lots of bagels and my favorite NYC delicacy, NUTS-4-NUTS.

If you've never experienced NUTS-4-NUTS, you are missing out. It's the tastiest treat I can possibly imagine. I prefer the roasted peanuts, but the cashews are delicious as well.

We all went to a Yankees game too, the highlight being finding free parking in front of Yankees Stadium! Unfortunately the Yankees won, but it's an historic stadium that won't be around much longer, so it was great to see it and cross the House that Ruth Built off my list.

The New York highlight, however, was going to see Grandivas, a gay ballet with men in drag. The dancers are amazing, all professional ballet dancers. I've never seen so many men on point at one time before! I've only been to a couple ballets before, but this was definitely the best ballet (and the funniest) I've ever seen. If any of you are in NYC while this ballet is playing, I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Classic Nor'easter. Mariners, get off the water!

"Worst conditions in the history of the Boston Marathon."(Boston Globe article from this morning)

Boston Marathon Website (you can follow along with me on Monday!)

In other news, it's a gorgeous sunny day in Beantown right now! Time to go enjoy the sites! (and some tasty pasta on the North End.)

Oh, and my previous time goal at Boston...I hereby revise my goal to SURVIVING the race. If I do that, I will consider it a success!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easter/Birthday Recap

What? Blogs 2 days in a row? That's almost worth checking every day!

So Birthday recap... Well, I had one. Now I'm old(er). One of the kids at tutoring last night guessed that I was 29. That hurt. It shouldn't really hurt much since I'm 28, but apparently I'm at the age now where I do NOT want to be mistaken for someone older. So please feel free to call me immature. I'll take it as a compliment.

Birthday was fun. I had a wonderful birthday breakfast at Anodyne with my friend Erin, and my coworkers (Tim, etc.) took me out for a delicious dinner at Al Vento! I love that place, definitely my favorite restaurant in MN. If you've never been, you have to go and try the 3 seafood antipasti. Just trust me, it's the most delicious thing you'll ever eat. And it's the best Italian food this side of Anna Maria's.

On Saturday my running club came over post-run for birthday cake, bagels and Peace Coffee (so delicious, that might just turn me into a coffee drinker!) Janelle and I share a birthday (week) so we celebrated together. Deb brought this awesome cake!

Here's a close-up on the cake (look who's winning)!

Good times all around, and I love having people over at my house. Which is good since the very next day for Easter I had 28 Meisners at my house for Easter! The Meisners are a great family. We love to spend time with each other, really, we do! We have big family get togethers all the time, next one is in May. Strange, we all get along! And the family keeps growing too, and that's a lot of fun. Meisners come early, stay late. So my house was inundated with family for about 8 hours on Sunday, but it was just a ton of fun. Then I led a group of 15 or so on our now traditional post-dinner family walk (recent tradition, I've started this since I moved back, inspired by the Weans' post-Thanksgiving walks that I used to do back out East). We went over to the Falls (imagine that!) which were beautiful. I got this great picture of my little cousin Zach playing by the falls (note Sea Salt in the background).

Then we returned home and ate ourselves sick with desserts. If there's anything the Meisners do better than anyone else, it's desserts. I'm still feeling ill!

Don't those look delicious??? I had 2 of each.... I love family dinners, is there a better excuse for gluttony than celebrating that Christ is risen?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Have I mentioned this yet?

I'm getting really excited for the Boston Marathon! It is 6 days away. If you want to follow me online (start time is 10am Eastern, 9am Central on Monday April 16), you can go to the website and use my bib # 2398.

I'm putting down my goal here right now, although I know that's a dangerous thing to do! My running has felt great the past 6 months, and I've had a couple races that gave me real confidence, especially my 1:24 in less than ideal conditions at the Frozen Half Marathon. My PR is a 2:58, so I'd like to beat that, but really, my goal is sub 2:55 (NYC qualifying time). That's 6:40 per mile. Is that possible? Check online or come back to this blog in a week to find out!

Kirk sent me this elevation profile in hopes of scaring the crap out of me. He succeeded. This is scary.

I've also been checking the weather out there. I promised myself I wouldn't look at the forecast until Thursday, but I cheated and looked on Sunday. Not too bad, high of about 50. The possible showers concern me, but not much I can do about those.

However, beyond running the marathon, I'm looking forward to seeing Boston, NYC and hanging out with Alison, Joel and Mary. It's been a while since I've seen any of them, and seeing them is a guaranteed good time!

Ok, I just read this post, and it is definitely the lamest one I've yet written. I'm hereby re-enacting my self-imposed ban on blogging about running. It bores even me.

Next post will hopefully be an Easter recap. 28 people in my little house! Photos to come...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

What's the Matter With Texas?

Or was it Kansas...?

This post is a big shout-out to Mike I'm An Iraqi. May it never be said I only speak ill of Tejas.

The past year or so I've been traveling a lot to West Texas for work, wind turbine-related projects. Basically I help design the site layout, and these are some big sites too, oftentimes 100 square miles or so. The first couple trips are fun, and seeing the mesas of the caprock of West Texas is interesting, but after a while, it's a little boring.

I've mostly been going to the Amarillo area, but this past week I went to Sterling City, which is about halfway from Abilene to San Angelo, or about 5 hours west of Dallas. This trip came at a really busy time for me, so I wasn't really looking forward to it, but I had some interesting experiences that more than made it worthwhile.

Texas is an interesting place. I think Texas can be boiled down to, "Bigger is Better." Everything is Texas is HUGE! The highways are big, the overpasses are enormous. Even all the highways have frontage roads that are basically highways running on either side of their highways. And the people are bigger, much bigger. I thought Minnesota was the land of giants, but nope, it's Texas. It seems everyone is 6-6 and could play linebacker. I'm not suggesting Texans are fat (5 of the fattest 14 cities), because they don't seem fatter, just BIGGER in every dimension.

But I stumbled on new proof that TEXAS is bigger. At the DQ for lunch one day I ordered a Blizzard and a medium diet coke. This is what they consider a medium drink.

What the...??? Are you kidding me, a MEDIUM???? You should have seen the jumbo sized cups they had. Wow! (note the TX logo on the DQ cup, quality!!)

On a side DQ issue, I love the fact I work less than a mile from DQ HQ. Knowing DQ is from here makes going to DQ on the road feel a little like home, even if the cup has the state of Texas on it.

The other thing about Texas, is that while I have heard that Texas is a great place to go biking out in the country (and the road biking looks phenomenal there, other than the wind), the running sucks. Really sucks. Monday night in San Angelo I wanted to run an hour and get a feel for the town, so I decide to go running. The front desk directs me to these roads that are for "running". Well, running along side roads that are all 50 mph speed limits, no sidewalks, and little lighting is not my idea of a safe run. After 20 minutes of dodging traffic and potholes, I saw a VERY friendly cop who directed me to the ONE residential road that wasn't basically a highway. I did one-mile repeats on that and was happy. That's the other thing about Texas. EVERYONE is friendly. I LOVE TEXANS (well, not those who claim to be from Crawford, but that's another post). From my first trip to College Station in college to now, I have found virtually every Texan to be friendly and overly helpful. We may claim Minnesota Nice, but Texans don't need a slogan, they're just naturally good-natured.

The last fun thing from my trip was the work itself. It was BEAUTIFUL up there on the mesa being 600 feet above the land below. The cacti were blooming, everything looked green, the playas had water in them. It's a great time of year to be in West Texas. Every direction I looked I saw beautiful and inspiring views. It's nice because the wind turbines haven't been built yet, it's all just open land now, nothing obstructing the views. However, I'm not the only one who enjoys West Texas this time of year. So do the rattlesnakes! The drillers killed a big one the first day we were on site. And this is what we saw on Tuesday right after we got into our truck after inspecting a potential wind turbine location:

And right after that, we hiked about 2 hours through the most remote portion of the site. From that time on, I stopped appreciating the views off the mesa and started staring at the ground before I took every step!

So to recap...
Texas sucks because:
  • Running (in cities) is messed up
  • Things are too big
  • They're all Republicans (one quick story, for the hotel's continental breakfast, I was the only one there and so I changed the news to CNN. The hotel worker changed it to FOX and said that they're only allowed to show FOX NEWS. Ridiculous.)
But really, Texas rocks because:
  • It's freaking beautiful in a desolate sort of way
  • The people are fantastic
Overall, I'd put Texas at #2 on my places I love to visit but would never live, right behind NYC.