Saturday, September 29, 2012

Almost time to hit the road again!

Less than three weeks from now  I will be in Chicago to dogsit Mr. Casper for a week then hit the road exploring the Midwest for 11 days.  Then the piece de resistance...seeing Sir Paul in St. Louis, Missouri.  Yes he suckered me in again.  What can I say...yeah yeah I know I am nuts.  I've known that for a long time but beats having a boring life.  I will be gone for nearly four weeks.  Yeah yeah I know I said I was going to cut the trip down but what could I do?  So now Columbus is back in the that means I can knock off five more state capitals which is good.  Not sure next year will see me in the all but never say never...I've certainly learned that!

Right now the schedule is Chicago for ten days then on to Frankfort, Kentucky overnight, Indianapolis for three nights, Columbus for three nights, Springfield, Illinois for two nights and Jefferson City for one night.  Then meeting up with a friend(s?) in St. Louis for four nights.   I am still finalizing details but I think it is going to be an awesome trip.  I have booked airbnb places in Indianapolis and in Columbus  - don't they look cute?  On the down side they have cats, not dogs but oh well...the price is right!!!  The hosts sound great and it will be fun to meet them.  I am staying in hotels the rest of the time due to lack of hostels in the area - except of course in Chicago where I will be rooming at Terry's place with my buddy Casper.  Bed and breakfasts stateside tend to be Inns which are normally beyond my budget.  Once in a while I will splurge and treat myself to one but I've got too many jaunts planned to do that this time. 

If that wasn't enough Victoria is cancelled and it's now Vancouver at the end of November to see Sir Paul again.  What could I do...a ticket in the 15th row came up and I couldn't say no. Who knows how much longer he will tour and I do love his concerts so much.  Sigh...however I have booked into the YWCA hotel which is right near B.C. Place so the price is right.  I will meet up with a friend or two there, do some walks, have a Murchies tea run as well as so some intensive research on  Purdy's Christmas chocolate and who knows what else. And I will be by the ocean again even if it will probably be a dull gray ocean pelted by rain!!  However the Victoria half is still on my bucket list. 

It's been a fantastic summer.  And the Indian summer just keeps on lasting...needless to say I am loving it.  I've had three super weekend getaways since my last long jaunt so I don't have the 'GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE' feeling I normally have but I am looking forward to having another adventure.  That said I am enjoying being home in late September which is unusual for me.  I love the changing colours and the fall suppers and especially the beautiful weather!!  A walk in the park every day I can manage it and afternoons on my huge balcony with a cup of tea and a book. 

Anyway back to researching my trip!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A weekend in the beautiful Cypress Hills

I have a confession to much as I have traveled the world I really haven't seen much of my own province.  We traveled to Moose Jaw when I was a kid to visit my dad's mother there.  Trips to the beach?  Maybe one or two thanks to a dad who didn't like eating outside and a mom who hated the water! Their idea of a holiday was driving to the mountains! (definitely NOT Saskatchewan terrain)   There was a family trip up to Waskiseu in 1982 but that's about the only place we ever visited besides Moose Jaw! . Thanks to my walking club I have been to a few different places such as North Battleford (not just driving through on the way to Edmonton), Batoche, Wolseley, Yorkton, Weyburn, Saskatoon and more. 

I have always wanted to visit the Cypress Hills in south west Saskatchewan - I have been to the Alberta side but never Saskatchewan.  So when my friend Dena asked me if I wanted to spend  the Labour Day weekend with her and her family at their 'cabin' in the Cypress Hills I jumped at the opportunity.

View from Dena's "cabin"
Dena's daughter Hali kindly gave me a ride out there and we chatted pretty well non-stop the whole way out as she loves to travel like me.  We met Dena at her mom's house and the four of us went to the Star Cafe in Maple Creek for supper.  Her mom and I had the fish and chips and enjoyed them but unfortunately Dena and Hali did not particularly enjoy their meals.  Dena was a naughty girl and paid the bill while I was in the toilet (now I know there was a method to her madness when she kept urging me to check out the bathroom).  I then drove to Cypress with Dena.  An amazing shift from prairie to forest an an amazing increase in altitude. We drove immediately to Dena and Randy's "cabin".  Yeah sure it's a cabin Dena!   It's a honkin' big house!  It was amazing - absolutely beautiful.   They are immediately across the road from Loch Leven and the boat rental shack.  Lots of canoes and paddle boats on the lake!   That evening after a walk around Loch Leven we had a bonfire outside followed by a soak in the hot tub.  Bliss!!! 

View from Lookout Point on a cloudy morning
The next morning after breakfast Randy and Dena took me on an auto tour of the area.  We visited  Lookout Point (highest point in Saskatchewan) and also Bald Butte - it was cloudy and so even if we had climbed it we wouldn't have seen much.    The smell of the Lodgepole pine was amazing and Dena and I picked cones off the ground so I could have a momento of my time here.  (they are now in a clear glass vase on a shelf in my living room)   We drove around the Centre block of the park to see the campgrounds and Amphitheatre and then Randy dropped us off at the visitor centre.  I had my one and only encounter with a moose there - a stuffed one!  We then picked up Hali and drove over to the west block of the park - we took a road over that was fairly rough and not navigable if it was wet. The Cypress hills are not true mountains but are rather the remnants of erosion of a Tertiary plateau of sediment formed during the initial uplift of the Rocky Mountains. We visited the Conglomerate Cliffs which were beautiful.  
Conglomerate Cliffs

View from Conglomerate Cliffs

View of Fort Walsh

Quote from Wikpedia:  "Because they formed a suture zone between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets, the Cypress Hills are the northernmost point in North America that remained south of the continental ice sheets during the Wisconsin glaciation"   We then drove over to Fort Walsh - we didn't go in as they have been there lots and I have been to enough North American forts to last me a lifetime!!  Fort Walsh was set up in 1875 as a base for the North West Mounted Police - now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police!   We then headed to the Cypress Hills winery for lunch - cheese and bread accompanied by a glass of Saskatoon berry wine - for me anyway!
Cypress Hills Winery

Dena, Randy and Hali - the Saskatoon wine was delish!

 I liked the wine so much I bought a bottle as well as another one (after a short wine testing).  The winery is lovely. 

 From there we headed back through Maple Creek to the cabin.  Dena and I went for a walk along one of the trails by her house.  What used to be a favourite place to see moose and deer is no more as there is a zip line which of course is punctuated by screaming people.  On the way back we visited the Cypress Hills resort. Very nice!  We relaxed the rest of the afternoon - well some of us did!  We had a beautiful barbequed steak dinner and Hali's friend Amanda joined us. Another sit down by the fire - this time with a London Fog! Then to bed. 

The next morning after a fabulous breakfast of French toast and bacon Randy and I went for a two hour walk in the area. We went on the Lodgepole Trail and Whispering Pines trail - we did see some deer and thought we'd seen a moose - turned out to be cows!!!  It was a lovely walk - poor Randy had to keep waiting for me between taking pictures and my vertigo with going down hills.   Thanks Randy for a great walk!!!

View along the hike
Beautiful scenery

Back to the cabin where I relaxed on the deck with a book.  Later that afternoon Dena and I went back to the Cypress Hills Lodge and went to an estate sale.  Lots of photographs and paintings but I wouldn't know where to put them so I settled for a photograph album for five dollars!

That evening we had home made chicken wings - delicious!!!  We then took a final walk around the lake and the area across the lake from the cabin.  I got some great shots of the lake with my phone.

Dena and Hali

A fisherman!

Late the next morning we drove into Maple Creek and raided Dena's parents' garden (ha, ha - just kidding!).  Dena's mom gave me some delicious cherry tomatoes as well as a huge honkin cucumber.  Then Hali and I hit the road back to Regina.

Thanks Dena, Randy and Hali for an awesome weekend!!!! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My half marathon journeys

The day before yesterday on Sunday September 9th I completed my 15th half marathon.

I finished with a time of 3:47:36 (I am a walker) which thrilled me to death.  I pushed myself a little harder than I usually do and I beat my last half marathon time by 18 minutes.  Despite a one hour massage I am still feeling the effects of that "push"! This was close to my "normal" time before the weight gain and foot problems.  So I am very happy.   What made it even sweeter is that my friends Linda, Sarah and Brenda were there with flowers to greet me after I got my medal.  Very emotional especially as Linda won't be living here next year and this  the ONLY time she will meet me after a half marathon.  (unless I do one down Carolina way...hmmm....)
My friend June took this right after I crossed the finish line

My friend Eilleen and I after the race - Eilleen and I have entered A LOT of half marathons together. We walk separately and celebrate together later.

I called a taxi to get to the start as I did not want to walk another 3 km on top of 21 km.  The taxi driver asked me "why do you do such things" and I said "because of the thrill you get when you cross the finish line and get the medal".  And it's true.  It is impossible to explain the feeling to someone who has never done it or has never wanted to do it - or someone who says I'd only do it once and then that's it.  Kind of like having a child I guess - something I don't know about and never will.  The feeling of accomplishment and pride in yourself when you cross that finish line and get that medal around your neck cannot be described.  For me it is a very addicting feeling.  I love the routine of training and feeling myself grown stronger every week. 

The race itself is a journey.  Everyone is different.  I prefer to walk my races alone... I want to experience the different emotions of the race that come up - excitement, pride,doubt, fear, sadness,happiness, anger - it's all there!  I don't want to be distracted by mundane chatter.  I always seem to have friends in the race if it's a local one and love to get together with them before and afterwards but for me the race itself is a lone journey.  I want to be in the moment.  Although sometimes the moment is accompanied by my MP3 player...when the going gets tough the MP3 player comes out.  Or if there are some people walking behind me with an especially boring conversation going on!  I love having people catch up to me or catching up to them and having a few minutes of conversation and then off we go.  I still remember conversations I have had with other walkers in previous races - such as one about cemetery plots (she was from New Orleans and could not believe people elsewhere actually BURIED their dead underground- how gross!) in Mobile, Alabama. 

Yes my wanderlust and love of half marathons has taken me all over North America:  Mobile, Alabama as mentioned above, Las Vegas, Whidby Island (off the coast of Washington), Calgary, Toronto (special because my niece ran the half while I walked it), Deadwood, South Dakota, Ottawa and various races here in my home town. 

While in Ottawa I bought myself a t-shirt that states simply "There will come a day when I can not do this, today is not that day".  I wore it Sunday and I plan to wear it to every long walk I do for as long as me or the t-shirt lasts. My aim is to be a very worn out old lady but one with lots of stories to tell. 

Will I do it again?  If you had asked me yesterday I would have said no but now...maybe...I am sure by the end of the week it will be OF COURSE!!!  Bring it on!!

A bit of bliss in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

While I enjoyed my tour of Sri Lanka I also found it exhausting.  It was nothing against the tour - it hit all the spots I wanted to see an...