The Kid is Alright – Albuquerque Weekend

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A much needed visit to New Mexico to check in on Alex. Texting & weekend phone calls just weren’t enough especially since we dropped him off on Aug 17th and he wont be back in town until Dec 13th. I needed a visual in between those four months!

The weekend was just perfect. I landed in town right as he got out of his last Friday afternoon class at 2pm. I rented a car and got in to the hotel by 3pm and was picking him up to go dorm room supply shopping by 4pm. We found a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner to combine World Series viewing with food and then went back to my hotel to finish watching the game and play a round of Phase 10 (no, I didn’t remember to pack my cards – yes, they had it at the Wal Mart!) I dropped him back off at 9pm and prepared for the most challenging part of my whole weekend: a 6 mile Sat morning run.

Since I’m training again for a 1/2 marathon I need to run longer distances on the weekends. I REFUSED to do another round on a treadmill after that awful experience in Salt Lake, so I did a google search to find safe running trails/routes in the area and up popped the Albuquerque Road Runners Club. This very active group of runners have planned weekend runs and it just so happened that Sat the 25th was a 6 mile run at the Bear Canyon Arroyo trails. Visitors welcome the site said, so I emailed the organizer to let them know I would be dropping in and the response was immediate & welcoming. Still, I was nervous meeting them at 7:30am on Saturday! Luckily the meeting spot was 10 minutes from my hotel (just about everything was that weekend as it turned out – seems like there’s about a 5 square mile radius of the town with the University in one corner and all other places we wanted to go were contained in there.) My biggest challenge was the run itself – turns out this “older” group of runners were all quite seasoned at altitude distance running and were quite easily setting a 9-10 min mile pace. Meanwhile, there was me – a 10-12 min mile runner at best down at sea level! There was one other runner who was slower, but she only ran with us for 3 of the 6 miles. I felt bad about making them stop and “regroup” for what must have seemed like forever to them waiting for me to catch up, but they were all really very gracious and even applauded me as I came in for the final mile :)  When I checked my phone, I had actually completed the route at just under a 12 minute mile pace, but let me tell you, it FELT like I been moving through molasses and there were several times when there was literally no oxygen in my lungs.

From there it was on to a quick breakfast & cleanup and then I picked up Alex from campus to drop him off at the offsite rugby pitch for the afternoon’s matches. Then I went to buy a chair to sit in because there was no way I was going to stand all day after that run! I left the chair with him to use for future games. Normally the team plays on a field on campus right by his dorm, but for this match they were on a large group of fields near the airport. There were 2 games. The A side which was the main event and then the B side for the younger players (like Alex). They were playing Colorado State which was ranked #10 at the time. UNM is not ranked and in fact is win less within the D1a west division, but that was to be expected. Still, the A side got close a few times and (we think), the B side actually won! I didn’t care – it was just so nice to be back out there watching Alex play again in person :)  We had a quick dinner after and then I dropped him off to go socialize…err…party…errr..bbq…errr….well..it’s rugby! Apparently the Colorado team stayed the night and joined them at their party and everyone was “chill” and had a great time. The house where they gather is about 2 blocks from the dorms – I saw the route – it’s perfectly safe and well lit and an easy stumble back in the wee hours of the morning :)) (again, it’s rugby!)

We regrouped back at Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch on Sunday and some leisurely football viewing and then made our way out to the Sandia Peak tramway to ride up to the mountain peak and watch the sun set over the Albuquerque basin. Then we had dinner up there with a view of the twinkling city lights below. When I dropped him off Sunday night, there was not even a hint of sadness. He will be home for semester/winter break in 6 weeks and now I have seen with my own eyes that UNM really is the perfect spot for him. He’s got everything he needs either on campus or just a block or two away and the rugby team is a great match for him socially. Some of them also live on campus so he walks with them to weight training and practices and meets them for meals. The bottom lines is, they are a great bunch of guys. Fun loving of course, but also smart enough to keep priorities in order. The main reason for the party that weekend was because one of them is graduating at the end of this semester and this was his last game with the team. He’s in good hands with them.

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.