Salt Lake City – Day 4

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Thanks to the previous day’s bus tour, we had decided we wanted to head back into the foothills and explore the botanical garden & natural history museum. So Maryland mom arranged for a one day car rental and took off after breakfast to the airport to go retrieve what would truly be our own personal van (because sometimes the hotel van was actually out shuttling OTHER clients around – how rude!).

Oh, another note as to how we decided what to do on Sunday – thanks to the dominance of the Mormon church in SLC, a vast swath of the city is closed on Sunday. So we had to plan our outing and our meals around those closures.

Our first stop was the botanical gardens. It was cold, windy & sometimes threatened to rain, but never did thankfully. There were also some gorgeous looking running/hiking trails right behind the museum which would have been much more palatable for me to complete my morning run, but I didn’t find out about them in time (hence the misery of the treadmill which I shall never repeat). I had to complete 4 miles that weekend and I am GLAD it was only 4! My knees & ankles hurt for 3 days after that awful run.

Anyway….it was a gorgeous day and as you can see from the dozens of photos below, the gardens were beautiful. The highlight for us was playing Pooh Leaves at the bridge over the creek (it’s Pooh Sticks in the original story, but we didn’t have any sticks handy so we settled for leaves). I just love that photo that Seattle mom took of the rest of us peering over the railing to see which leaf came out from under the bridge first! Of course, my most favorite photo is the one of all of us in front of the most enormous canopy of bright yellow leaves I’ve ever seen on one tree. It just worked out nicely that we chose our own clothing colors wisely to perfectly set off the yellow background :)

The Natural History museum is right next store and they had a lovely soup/sandwich cafe in it so we stopped there for lunch and then wandered through their exhibits learning a bit about the Great Salt Lake and many of the dinosaur fossils found there. The museum also boasted a special History of Horses exhibit which really interested Maine Mom since her youngest is quite passionate about horses and riding. Then there was the rooftop terrace with the most sweeping view of the Salt Lake City basin out to the lake itself. Breathtaking.

Dinner that night was at a lovely little indoor/outdoor cafe/bar that Florida mom found (after figuring out what was actually open on Sunday nights!) I do remember what I ate there but sadly that’s because it wasn’t all that good :(  Kind of rare for one to complain that there’s TOO much flavor, but that was how it was with this stuffed chicken breast dish. Ah well, the fancy beer and the creme brulee for dessert made up for that quite nicely!

As always, we wrapped up the night chatting away in one of our rooms feeling a bit sad knowing it was our last night. We did come up with a long list of potential east coast locations for next years gathering which gave us something to look forward to.

Salt Lake City, Day 3

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Day 3 started out just like Day 2 – only this time since we had a plan in mind on how to start off the day, we got ourselves out of the hotel a little bit earlier :)  The shuttle dropped us off about 2 blocks or so away from where the bus tour was located which worked out fine since we scoped out where the shopping area was on our way. The next available bus was far enough out that we time to walk across the street to the Nordstroms e-bar for a quick, light lunch before hopping on the bus.

Now, this is where I should tell you that our tour bus driver was a bit of a crank. Ok, perhaps a major crank! There was a video that was set to play in coordination with the route which played over the sound system so that even those of us who chose to sit in the back (and where else would you sit? It was a gorgeous day and if you wanted to take pictures, it gave the best views!) However, Mr Crank Pants thought that HE was the Source of All Knowledge quite superior to the canned video dialogue. And, perhaps he was – I mean, admittedly when we could hear him, his interpretation of history & perspective on the Mormon church and the local politics of the area was very colorful & entertaining and most CERTAINLY not covered in the video!

However, when we spoke up about being unable to hear him he EMPHASIZED that he wasn’t ALLOWED to STOP the bus for any long periods of time and they didn’t provide HIM with his OWN microphone to enable him to drown out the video or the traffic noise SO all he could do is shout and if we wanted to hear him we should MOVE UP FRONT!!

Yeah, no thanks :/

He also drove that bus as if he thought he was guiding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (for all my Disney fans, you know what I mean, right?!) which meant that a lot of my pictures are off kilter or blurred and I am kind of surprised I got as many decent ones as I did! Heck a couple of times as we crested over a hill almost all of us in back threw our arms up over our heads as you do when on a roller coaster because it seemed like the right thing to do! Still, it was a great way to see the highlights of Salt Lake City and as a result we figured out where we wanted to spend our Sunday.

After surviving the bus tour, we went back across to a place of serenity – Nordstroms :) We left Florida mom there trying on UGG slippers while the rest of us wandered the length of the mall just for fun. A final meet up at the e-bar for more refreshments and then we called for shuttle back to the hotel.

We actually had to take a (shock!) cab out to dinner! Oh, the horrors of paying for a ride! Dinner was at the Copper Onion which was a rather hopping bar/restaurant which a copper ceiling and, since we were seated near the open kitchen, the smell of onions grilling (it lived up to its name). I…cannot remember what I had there! I do remember having a couple of lovely mixed adult beverages. I also remember that since this dinner was not as long as the last, we got back to the hotel in time to sit in the Jacuzzi after. And it was from that vantage point that I could look up into the tiny gym area and see the Torture Device that was waiting for me on the morning of Day 4 ;-/

Salt Lake City, Day 2

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Friday morning we met in the hotel eating area for breakfast and 8am………and didn’t move from our spot until after 11:30am!! With no set plans it was just so comfortable and easy to sit and talk the morning away, so we did! We did actually have loose plans – we knew there was a hop on hop off bus tour and we had spied the Family History Library across the street from the temple square the night before and all wanted to pay it a visit. Since it was now time for lunch, we decided to move the chat session out of the hotel and walk across the street to an Indian Restaurant (seriously, just set us down somewhere with easy access to food and we could happily sit there all day together!) It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t wow me either – it was buffet style so we could choose what we like though so once I settled on one or two not-to-spicy items, I filled up on them.

From there we went back to the hotel and asked if the hotel shuttle was free – it was – and what felt like our own personal mini-van service took us out to the center of town again and dropped us outside the temple square. Since this was our first time there in the daylight, we wandered around a bit enjoying the gardens and architecture. For whatever reason I had put my phone away and didn’t take any photos so the gallery will be sparse today. However, I did remember to bring my prescription glasses in my purse which is rare for a daytime outing, but it paid off. As we paused while Florida mom admired the main temple architecture details (surrounded as it was at it’s base by one of what seemed to be a dozen wedding parties milling about taking photos), I noticed that among a row of small pillars half way up something was moving. After trying in vain to figure out what it was without my extra vision, and after Seattle mom said “I think it’s a bird, but I can’t see it’s head” I dug out my glasses to find a beautiful peregrine falcon grooming itself! It would tilt it’s head back to preen it’s back which is why it looked so odd at first. So while the others looked at the building details, Seattle mom and I marveled at the falcon and I gave her a quick ID lesson on the falcons in the U.S while she looked up on her phone to find that this was one of the “Famous Salt Lake City Peregrine Falcons.” Well, that was news to me, but I really happy I got to see one. Of course we spent the rest of the weekend trying to spot them again with no luck. Seattle mom thought everything that was crow sized flying in the air was a Peregrine :)

Finally we made our way to the Family History Library. The Mormons have been so thorough at documenting their own family lineage, that their efforts spread out to gather census data & compile family trees for everyone. Their library boasts the most complete set of genealogical records anywhere. Every time people visit them and spend even an hour researching our own families, we help them connect together missing links of family trees. I signed up for a free account to begin my own search and after an hour I had traced and built out my dad’s family tree back into the 1900 census and was pretty close to pulling it even further back for both his sets of parents. When I turned to my mom’s though, we could only find records of her on the 1932 census and I never found her mom or dad beyond that – even after the LDS docent attempted to help me by signing into a different system which is not free outside their library. A mystery…..it sure was fun! Other’s in our group found ship’s manifest info for family members coming in from other parts of the world. It was VERY easy to see how some folks get lost for hours in this research!

Dinner that night (yes, transported via hotel shuttle – loved them) was at an exclusive restaurant that was not easy to get into.Maryland mom succeeded after a couple of attempts to get us reservations at 6:15. It’s a good thing they were earlier! Forage is a restaurant that exclusively serves a multi-course tasting menu of items. One of my photos below is somewhat blurry shot of the dishes served to us that night. The only choice you have is either to tell them if you have dietary restrictions – they quite easily provided substitutions for those – and whether or not you will have the wine or juice pairings. Most of us chose the juice pairings (see those prices? Yeah, we didn’t want to blow out our food budget on the 2nd night!). Each course was brought out by a chef and was described to us as it was being distributed. Same with the juice pairings. We all felt as if we were experiencing a lesson in eating that night. It was so relaxed (a 2.5 hour meal), yet intellectually and gastronomically stimulating! I am not sure I have ever been so in tune with my taste buds. Worth every penny.

We contemplated a visit to the Jacuzzi, but it was too late so we met instead in one of our rooms and chatted until Midnight-ish and agreed to reconvene with the intention of taking the bus tour on Saturday. That is, if we could just leave the breakfast area….

Photo gallery below (you know the drill):

Freshman shenanigans

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*We interrupt this Salt Lake City set of posts in progress – these photos were too rich not to share right away!*

While I was in SLC, Alex’s rugby team drove in to Tuscon, Arizona to play U of A in rugby. Both squads have enough players on hand to have both an A and B side game. The A game counts, the B game doesn’t but it gets players some game time. Alex will mostly play B side in the Fall. He also might not always play at the 9 (scrum half). That day, he was put in at one of the Wings (#11). He said he had fun, but both the A & B squads lost. It’s going to be that way. UNM is only just getting back into the D1A level and they will get beat up pretty good when they play in their league.

Anyway….a very generous lady travels with the team and takes photos. I was thrilled to see she took pictures from both games. I started to notice some strangely shaved heads in the A game photos. And quite honestly I passed right by about three photos of my own son before I realized it was him. Apparently they had freshman initiation last weekend. It was his idea (he claims) that the newbies should all shave their heads partially for this road game – and then just take it all off after. So, temporary. Not sure he expected there to be photo evidence!

I think that was a rather brilliant idea – he needed a haircut (I was actually thinking of taking him to get one when I go visit next weekend because I knew he was pretty shaggy when we dropped him off – no need now!) and while he may not have chosen a completely bare head, at least it was free and some fun was had from it!

Enjoy (click on the photos for full sized version)

Salt Lake City Day 1 – August Moms 2014

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This year there were five of us traveling to Salt lake City for our annual gathering. After having missed the last two years due to high school football, I was thrilled to be able to rejoin the group! I didn’t care WHERE it was!

As it turns out, Salt Lake City was an excellent choice. We stayed in a Springhill Suites near downtown that was just fantastic. The staff there were the best and hey, free breakfast AND a free shuttle. Not just for airport runs either – the shuttle also took us and picked us up from downtown all weekend long. With just five of us, it worked out perfectly since we could all fit.

By 6pm on Thursday we were all settled in so we hopped on the shuttle and had them take us to the Mormon Square. Prior research had revealed that Thursday night rehearsals of the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir were open to the public. They started at 7:00 and went on for 2 hours and people could wander in and out. So, we started out there and hunted around for a simple spot for a light dinner. In one of the many large buildings within the square, we found a lovely sandwich shop with hot soup, salads and turkey pot pies.

And thus began a conversation that did not truly stop until the first run back to the airport on Monday morning! In between we occasionally remembered to go the places we wanted to go, but it was touch and go a few times!

Anyhow – we wandered leisurely through the square to get to the choir hall and  sat down for about an hour to listen to beautiful sounds. It was a bit amusing as the conductor would stop them and chastise them or give them instructions and encouragement. We couldn’t always hear everything he said since his back was to us, but he was wearing a microphone so we would catch bits and pieces. He also turned to address the audience now and then, to thank us for watching and to tell us about the upcoming choir events. They mostly rehearsed snippets of pieces, but when he would let the full choir and symphony finish a piece to the end, you could not help but get chills. There really aren’t proper words to describe it.

Back at the hotel, we turned in relatively early given that everyone had traveled that day and agreed to meet up at 8am for breakfast the next morning in the hotel.

Stay tuned for Day 2!

Pics from Day 1 – click on thumbnails for full sized versions:

Back to racing!

Sunrise at Ventura Cove
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No, not me – my friends :)

OK, so I did do a super hilly mainly single track trail 10k a couple of weeks ago that was in a canyon right behind the high school. My ankles might still be sore from all the bracing I had to do to keep my footing going up and down those hills!

And yes, I did sign up to do the Holiday Half Marathon again the end of December. Oh, and I did meet my goal of running 500 miles in a year (Here’s my Nike+ app results taken on Sunday – I downloaded the app on Oct 1 last year):

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However…..Renee is now coaching some new clients/friends and they are participating in their first sprint distance triathlon in a couple of weeks. I tagged along as they did a run through of swimming/biking/running and the transitions in between. That’s how I got in the last 4.2 miles I needed to hit 500 for the year :) After what has been a BRUTALLY hot and humid summer, they thankfully chose a very lovely Sunday morning for this and I really enjoyed getting some pictures of the bay and the birds.

One month later – an update from our UNM Lobo!

Team photo from the Santa Fe victory.
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Because he is male, what I have to report is mostly via choppy text messages, but….

One month after drop off and class start, he thinks all of his teachers a great. So much so that even though his math class creates a conflict with rugby, he didn’t attempt to switch out because he didn’t want to lose that teacher. I’m really impressed because this also has turned out to be the only teacher giving out regular homework. All other classes are apparently weekly assignments and quite manageable.

He has 5 classes – Calc B, English Comp 3, Intro to German, Physics & Computer Programming. Earliest class start is 9:30am, but he has evening classes 3 out of 5 nights.

Now, rugby – he wasn’t sure he would play, but after a team meeting and practice or two he was sold on it again (which I suspected would happen). It’s a great band of brothers to have instantly. Many are locals with cars so if you need to get to Wal Mart for some quick snacks/supplies, it is great to have a ride. So far though, it seems that other than Wal Mart and a Rugby team trek to Santa Fe, he hasn’t been off campus much! He asked for a TV about a week after move in since he ended up without a roommate and he figured out he had time even with class to play some Xbox now & then. It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the TV was delivered and he hasn’t had it hooked up to the in room satellite service! When I asked why he said “rugby & math”. Hah!

Anyhow, he wont play a ton in games this Fall – he’s an out of shape (especially for altitude) freshman with a lot to learn. The Santa Fe tournament was all local New Mexico teams and the Lobos won. Since there were multiple games, he was able to start the first 1/2 of one game. He said he played terribly and was light headed from the lack of oxygen. That was Labor Day weekend. They were off the rest of the time until today when they officially start the D1A Fall season against Air Force, a ranked team (UNM is not ranked). At the last update on the team twitter account they were losing 45-14 :( Not unexpected really. Alex most likely didn’t play. I’ll check in with him tomorrow about it. They play next week in Wyoming (wow!). He’s not sure if he will be on the travel roster or not, but I do love that he’s participating in something that will get him out to see other parts of the country!

Anyway – he said he’s quite happy/comfortable with everything overall. So, yay! Here’s some photos I stole from the UNM Rugby Facebook page – proof he is alive and active :)

A page from today's digital game program.

A page from today’s digital game program.

Roster page from the program.

Roster page from the program.

Team photo from the Santa Fe victory.

Team photo from the Santa Fe victory.