Category Archives: Adventures

Run For Your Life!!

So, I did it again. I signed up with Amy and Jeremy to do an obstacle run. Only, this time I’ll have people…er…zombies running after me. While the zombie infested obstacle course isn’t until March of next year I’m already sweating it! The idea of people running after me, even if it’s just to capture my flag, is making me break out into hives. I’m slow…very slow! I think even the bumbling zombies could get me!

So, you add some obstacles into the mix and you’ve just upped the ante to something more than I think I can pay! However, I am still going to give it my all! I just may end up with a “Dead” medal at the end instead of a “Survivor” medal. I’m ok with that. There are two ways you can die: 1) the zombies take all your flags and you don’t find a health packet to help or 2) you skip one of the obstacles. I had to skip the walls the last time so if there are any walls this time, I may be screwed before I even start! I have to admit I’m not exactly sure why zombies are all the rage now and I don’t particularly like the zombie shows, but this race was intriguing. Can I survive? I just have to train myself not to hit the zombies as they’re trying to grab my flags!

Watch this video and tell me that this doesn’t look like fun!

 

Microsoft Surface

We ordered a couple of Surfaces for work prior to the release date. I’ve been playing with one of these for a couple of weeks now and I’m really enjoying it more than I thought I would! Now, it still has a ways to go but I think Microsoft is on the right track. They just have to make sure they are vigilant about putting out timely updates and getting the app store to grow more.

***Disclaimer…I took these photos with my iPhone 4 so I do apologize for the poor quality of some of them.***

First of all, what is the Surface? It’s a Windows 8 tablet (runs Windows 8 RT) that has a nifty little (optional) cover/keyboard with it.

I have an iPad 2 (which I really like too) that I tried to use a bluetooth keyboard with but the lag between the key press and when the character showed up on the screen was just too much for my taste. I was pleasantly surprised to see that wasn’t an issue for me with the Surface set up. This is more than likely due to the fact that the cover/keyboard isn’t bluetooth but rather connects with an interesting magnetic slot/dock (not sure what to call that!). It was very responsive and I was able to type without the frustration I was getting with my iPad set up.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself though! Let’s look at the packaging. It looks like Microsoft took a bit of a lesson from Apple and made their packaging sleek and clean.

In the photo above, I had already removed the device. What you see there is the plastic sleeve and quick set up guide. The tablet itself is a little oddly shaped. It’s more like a wide-screen format than the other tablets out there. While it doesn’t really bother me now, it was a bit awkward at first. Especially when reading books on the screen!

Speaking of, the screen is very bright with vibrant colors. I was very pleased with how clear it was. The set up is easy, but it can be a little slow. I think Microsoft can probably speed that up a bit. To pass the time they show you some short cuts on how to use the tablet, but this was also a little confusing because I wasn’t sure if it was wanting me to do the actions it was showing or if it was just a slide. It’s just a slide!

 

The store has some of the big players, such as Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Angry Birds, etc. However, they are still missing a few of the top apps (I’m waiting for Words with Friends and Instagram. Both of which Microsoft is working on). I also found the store a little difficult to really navigate well. It works much better if you’re just searching for a particular name using the search function than it does when browsing. While the offerings are still relatively small compared to Apple and Google Play, it is slowly but surely adding in new apps daily.

If you prefer the look of the traditional desktop, you have a desktop tile on the start page that takes you to your desktop.

It takes a little getting used to not having the start button, but in about 30 minutes of playing with the Surface I felt pretty comfortable navigating around. Click on the folders to get to your normal computer windows.

If you need to search for something you can either use the search in the upper right of the Libraries window, or you can swipe from right to left on the right side of the tablet to pull up the overall search feature, the settings, and to see the clock.

There are two things that I really like about the Surface. 1) The calendar. It’s very clean and crisp. I found it extremely easy to navigate and add/edit appointments.

#2) Is the built in easel!

I LOVE this thing! Even if I don’t want to use it as a computer with the keyboard, I can prop it up on a table and watch a movie on Netflix or play a slide show of my pictures. I wish my iPad had this little lovely!

All in all, I’ve been impressed with the quality of the build, the battery life, and how well the Windows 8 RT functions. I fully expected quite a few bugs (wouldn’t be unheard of with Microsoft!) but it seems like they put a lot of forethought into this product and kudos to them. I won’t be buying one for myself any time soon, but I more than likely will after they release the second generation and have added a lot of new features.

OHHH…did I mention this puppy has a USB outlet? Yep, that’s right…you can use a flashdrive to transfer files, pictures, whatever you want between your computer and the tablet. That’s pretty awesome! I also like the fact that you can access your sky drive from the tablet as well. Those with Windows 8 computers and the tablet will be pleased with the integration. I just bought a Windows 8 computer and I’m trying to get used to using it without the touch pad! I also got myself a Windows 8 Phone, which I love! Still waiting for Instagram…but other than that, I’m very pleased!

I think Microsoft is on the right track with the Surface and I can’t wait to see what else comes from this!

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

Many years ago I went with my parents to Zion National Park where we attempted to hike Angels Landing. My Mother and I made it to Scout Lookout but that was as far as we went. My Father tried to go to Angels Landing but turned out when he realized how tough it was going to be. Now that I’m in better shape, I decided that I wanted Mike and I to tackle Angels Landing this year. I had already climbed a rock wall this year, surely I could hike this trail!

One of the stops on the shuttle trail takes you to the trail head for the Narrows. From this stop, you can see the Great White Throne (left) and the end of Angels Landing (right). We weren’t able to actually see anyone, but I’m sure there were people there!

Mike and I started the hike around 7:40-8:00 AM. The shuttles will drop you off at the Grotto, where the trail starts, before the visitor center opens so if you want to hike this trail with minimal direct sunlight, I recommend starting early! I had just learned the day before that the hike to Scouts Lookout was 2 miles, not 1, and the hike to Angels Landing was .55 miles, not .25. So, the entire hike was twice as long as I had expected! The total mileage will be 5.4 miles.

As we were on the shuttle heading that way I started getting more and more nervous. I always get nervous before races and this was pretty much that same feeling. What if I couldn’t make it? What if I had to tell my friends and family that I had to turn around? All of these thoughts were going through my head but I managed to keep them turned down enough that I didn’t chicken out!

From the Grotto you cross over the street to the steel bridge.

The first part of the trail is by far the easiest! So, enjoy it while you can! You’re well in the canyon on start and the views from the bottom are almost as beautiful as from the top! It follows the river for a bit and we saw some wildlife.

The trail slowly starts angling upward heading to Walters Wiggles (a ton of switchbacks that aren’t nearly as fun as the name implies).

These Whiptails (not sure if that’s the right name or not but we saw a restaurant in town with a metal version of the lizard, by that name, so that’s what we called them!) were all over the place!

After going up a few of the switchbacks, I took a break to shoot a picture from where we started.

I stopped to take several -ahem- picture breaks…yeah, picture breaks!

And…the wiggles just kept on going!

We finally came upon a section of the trail that went between two mountains and was relatively flat, which enabled us (me, as Mike seemed unshakable) to catch our breath some. It was quite pretty and cool (since the sun wasn’t shining through yet).

 Just when you think  you’re almost to Scout Lookout, the smaller wiggles attack. Holy Steepness, Batman! I had to stop a lot more on these tiny switchbacks than I did the larger ones. You can’t see how many are left, so just when you’re thinking you’ve got to be close to the top you’re faced with yet another climb.

Then finally, you reach Scout Lookout which isn’t very big but it’s big enough for someone to wait comfortably while you finish the hike to Angels Landing, or eat a snack or lunch. The views are quite nice from here as well!

If you look to the right you can see the trail to Angels Landing, as well as the Great White Throne.

I sat down for a bit while Mike decided to go check things out. By check things out, I mean he climbed to the end to see if it was something he thought I could do! My legs/muscles weren’t tired at all (which was an improvement) but my breathing was horrible. Between my throat issues and the higher altitude (I’m a flatlander!) I was fighting for oxygen. That’s Mike in the white T-shirt and jeans.

While he was climbing, I was watching the chipmunks scurry around. They kept checking out my water bottle and hoping I’d give them food. Sorry little guys, but I’m not feeding the wildlife!

The rise of rock is a little misleading from this angle. It doesn’t look that bad.

I was able to use my 42x zoom to see Mike on the top ridge! I love my camera. At least I knew he’d made it that far!

This is the ridge he was on, right at the end of the trail.

Soon enough I saw Mike back close to the bottom waving at me to come on. On my way to the start, where the chains begin, I see this sign. Yep, in the last 8 years 6 people have fallen to their deaths. That’s almost one a year. Not very comforting!

As I sat at Scouts Lookout, I saw several people start the climb only to stop and go back down. As I got closer and started climbing, I understood why. Yes, there are chains there for your use, but the chains don’t go from beginning to end. They kinda stop and start in different places. In fact, there is one spot where there are no chains and it’s not very clear where you need to go. When in doubt, just keep going up.

After climbing what felt like hours (was more realistically just about 15 minutes) I could see the daunting task still left ahead. I’m not necessarily afraid of heights, but I’m afraid of falling. I’m a bit of a clutz, so I was concerned that I’d be one of the people who made a wrong step and tumble to my death. My game plan was to just keep my eyes on where I was stepping and not look over the edge too often. Since it’s only one way up and one way down, we had to move over several times to either let people pass going up or going down. It was at those moments I’d look around and snap some pictures.

There were several spots on this trail that had drop offs right next to the trail.

Take this spot for instance, only about 3-4 feet of a rock bridge separate you from…

…this.

The climb was slow and strenuous. I was asked a couple of times if I had asthma and even had someone offer me her inhaler, so I know I was huffing and puffing pretty good! Mike, on the other hand, is part billy goat and had no issues. We had come pretty far so far and I was feeling pretty confident I was going to make it, finally!

See?! I told you these guys were everywhere, even way the heck on the top of the mountains.

We finally made it to the end! You can sort of see where we started the trail (center) here.

The view was gorgeous. There was a 360 degree view of Zion Canyon! By the time we got to the top it had taken up 2 hours and 15 minutes. The sun was starting to glare down and was quite hot most of the way down too.

You can see the river winding through.

From the top, the Great White Throne doesn’t seem as high up! Proof that I actually did make it. That’s right…I was able to quiet the doubting voices and push through. Even Mike wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it to the top, but I proved him wrong too! He didn’t tell me that until we were done though, which I was thankful for.

There were a lot of people taking their time at the end, enjoying the views, taking pictures, re-hydrating, and refueling. Mike and I stayed for a bit. After all, how often are you going to get views like this?!

But, in the end, we knew we had a long way to go to get back to the start again!

Was it worth all of the huffing, puffing, and discomfort to hike Angels Landing? Yes, it was. It was worth all of that and more to prove to myself that I could do it. Will I hike it again? Maybe eventually, but not any time soon! The total time of the hike was 3:51:04 (of hiking, that doesn’t count the times we stopped at Scouts Lookout and at the end of Angels Landing). If you plan on giving it a go, wear sunscreen, start early, and take plenty of water and food to keep your energy up.

Oh Yes, I Did!

As I get older, I’m starting to understand just how important it is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. However, it also gets harder and harder to make that push! My Mom and I try to get together once a year on a trip. The past two or three years we haven’t been able to because she retired and didn’t have it in the budget. This year though we went on a cruise to Alaska and had a great time.

Prior to the cruise date we bought a couple of excursions. She let me pick them out because she wanted me to do things I would be interested in. I just don’t think she thought I’d be interested in extreme sports!  Ok, so maybe it’s not extreme, but it is extreme enough for both her and me. In Skagway, our last port in Alaska, we had a rock climbing, rappelling, and zip lining excursion planned. Mom had been talking herself out of it from the time we bought the tickets, but I kept telling her she was going to at least try it. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer!

As the time for our adventure got closer I started getting more and more nervous. Our driver picked us (and 6 other people) up at the dock and shuttled us to what looked like the middle of nowhere! 

Our guide, Mel, was such a small girl and I remember thinking “you’re going to keep me falling? I’d squash you!” but they assured us it has nothing to do with the size of the person holding the rope but the technique used. Since we were beginners (me, mom, and Pam from North Dakota) we went to the shorter part of the wall (50 feet). I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but I thought the beginners would have an easier wall to climb, not just a shorter one! This wall was flat and very intimidating!

 

Pam went first, and it looked very difficult but she made it to the top so I decided I could do it too. Once Mel knotted me in the rope my stomach was churning. I got about a foot off the ground and was stuck. I couldn’t see anywhere to put my feet or hands next. I kept telling her I was stuck and couldn’t go anywhere. Mel pointed out what she said were foot holds, but to me they looked like pebbles sticking out from the wall. Supposedly a jut the size of your thumbnail will hold you….haha…right. I wasn’t that confident! So, down I came and we moved over a little bit where it looked like there may have been more options. Once I started on that side and remembered to keep my body close to the wall everything went much better. If you stick your butt out…it becomes the center of gravity and you will fall! It took me a while but I did it! I made it all the way to the top and touched the chains!

  

 

Coming down was just as scary, maybe even more so because you’re having to trust completely in the person holding the other end of the rope. But, once my feet touched the ground, I was so excited to have done it! It was one of the best feelings I’ve had in a while.

 

Once Mom was able to push her fear aside she finished as well. I was so proud of us both! Now, would I do it again? I’m not sure…it was scary as hell but it may not be as scary the second time around. The zip lining was a blast! I will definitely be doing that again when I get a chance!

In a Funk

I am in a funk today. You ever have those? The ones where you just want to run away screaming from all humanity and hide in a cave for a week?

Last week I sent an email to a co-worker asking her opinion on a question. It was a simple question, or so I thought, that would just require a “Yeah, that works for me” or “No, I’m not comfortable with that.” Either way, it was no skin off my nose I was just kinda thinking out loud via email. Apparently, that’s not necessarily the best thing to do. It turned in to this big deal and I’m still not quite sure why. But…it is what it is.

That, along with a bunch of other small stuff is just building up to a crescendo. Eventually, something has got to give. The question is what. If I can just make it to May, I’ll have 9 days off while I’m floating on a big boat toward Alaska and I can’t wait!

This brings up another stress point, however. My habit of overeating on vacation is gnawing at the back of my mind. I’ve made a lot of healthy changes over the past 2 years and suddenly I’m worried that I’m going to lose all of that if I decide to indulge a little bit. That is just plain silly! Or is it? There is a strong possibility that I could overindulge one too many times and not workout while I’m cruising, which then would put me in the “I’ve screwed up so badly what’s the point? I’m always going to be fat.” mindset and THAT could very well be my downfall.

Source: theportuguesewaterblog.blogspot.com

So, what’s a girl to do? Think it through and visualize how I want to be while I’m there. I’m usually an all or nothing girl when it comes to stuff I’m hooked on. For example, sugar (52 days and counting) and diet coke (3 years). Does that mean that I won’t ever eat sugar again? No, realistically I know that’s not going to happen! However, I need to be more aware of what sweets I do decide to eat. Instead of eating chocolate covered strawberries, almond M&Ms, chocolate cake (see a theme here?) I need to pick one dessert that will be rich and luscious and the ONLY item I allow myself that day, or maybe even for the week. If I keep trying to mentally prepare myself, I think I’ll be ok!

What tips and tricks do you have for surviving vacation without gaining weight?

Need a laugh? Or just an idea for long flights?