Happy. Healthy. Heathen.

Traveling, training, thinking, talking, typing



The one with all the pretty pictures

In the last post I wrote about getting out here, but I don’t think I wrote enough about what Sam is doing.

He’s had an internship since September with the Maui Bird Recovery Project, which I linked to in the last post.  Here’s their Facebook page – give them a like, and a donation if you’re so inclined.  Sam has spent a lot of time in the field planting trees that support the bird recovery.  He and his crew are helicoptered in to remote areas and plant seedlings of the trees.  His internship is almost at an end, and in late January he’ll go to Crested Butte Colorado where he’ll work until the spring and he goes back to Salida, CO, as a river ranger.

He’s had housing as a part of his internship, but for the 2 weeks of Christmas and New Years he’s had a housesitting gig in a charming place just outside of Paia, HI, which is near Kahului.  It is in a beautiful setting, and today’s post is simply my afternoon walk around the house.  If I had the mad camera skills (and the mad camera) of my girl Suzy Q. Steen I could do a better job of capturing all the beauty, but you’ll have to settle for my iPhone wannabes.




The house is situated by this beautiful ravine
The house is situated by this beautiful ravine



See the little guy pretending to be a bean pod??
See the little guy pretending to be a bean pod??




Don't think I didn't want to.  They're the landlord's.
Don’t think I didn’t want to. They’re the landlord’s.



sunset across the ravine
sunset across the ravine
These boys.
These boys.


Happy, happy, happy New Calendar!

Thanks for reading!

Paleo post, part 3

Today is the vegetable post.

Eat them.

Thanks for reading!


OK, I’ve already covered the hardest part – the No Grains and No Sugar part.  This next one is an affirmative rule, and it’s one you can learn to love.

We should eat vegetables every day.  Lots of them.  Lots of different kinds of them.  You already know they are loaded with good stuff – nutrients, vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals.  There is research showing that vegetables with their phytochemicals can be helpful in fighting cancer.

Additionally, there are SO MANY different kinds of vegetables, which becomes important when you eliminate grains and sugar as a way to keep your food interesting and new.  There are only a few types of animals we eat, and because the Standard American Diet (aptly abbreviated to SAD) is so full of grain-based foods, if you do make a transition to a more traditional diet, you are likely to experience a feeling of depravity, and all those veggie varieties can help with that.

imagesimages-1So whether you have a big salad of fresh vegetables, or a stew or stirfry full of cooked vegetables, shoot for having them at 2 meals out of 3, or maybe start with one big meal of non-starchy veggies every day.

And I have good news about your next question.  While we’re ditching the croutons and shredded cheddar cheese, we’re adding good fats so you can have some kickass dressing on that big ol’ salad.  Here’s a recipe for homemade mayo (stay away from the ooky grocery store stuff) that can serve as a base for scads of dressings.  I make you a personal promise that it will be the tastiest mayo you have ever tried.

You can also add olives, nuts, chopped boiled eggs, a protein, and even fruit.  You may, like me, find that your salad meal is your favorite meal of the day.

For your cooked vegetables, try roasting almost any vegetable for the best flavor (400 degrees, one layer deep and tossed with sea salt and olive oil, 12-25 minutes depending upon size of pieces).  This gives broccoli, asparagus, kale, squash, brussel sprouts, and zucchini a crunchy, roasty flavor.  Another personal promise that you’re gonna LOVE this.

Fruits can also be a part of a healthy paleo diet.  I’m going to address this further in the post about Fat (to come).  Some fruits are high in sugar (bananas, apples), and you remember from the Sugar post that this can create a problem if we eat too much.  But Gayle, you rightly ask, how does that fit with the whole Paleo mentality?  Aren’t we supposed to be eating similar to our ancestors, and wouldn’t they have eaten fruit?  Why yes, they would – when they could get it, which would be when?  Seasonally.  (Just like veggies, by the way).  And the fruit that would have been available would not even have resembled a big juicy Red Delicious.  Finally, remember that we are building a diet that is healthy, not just historic, and too much sugar, from any source, leads to an insulin response.  Get to know the sugar content of fruits (and vegetables), and eat them as toppings, or see them as they treat they are.

Probably everyone has heard the analysis of whether or not to spend the extra for the Organic label – that if you are going to peel it (bananas or pineapples), non-organic is suitable; for leafies or veggies that are hard to wash, or whose peel you plan to eat (spinach, lettuces, sweet potatoes), go ahead and spend the extra.  Here’s my thought on the Organic issue:  I consider this issue to be about Tier 3 or 4 as it relates to priority.  If you’ve taken grains out of your diet, eliminated dairy, if you’re eating grass-fed meats and quality fats, THEN worry about whether or not your strawberries are organic.

I think a better focus is to seek LOCAL sources for your fruits and vegetables for at least 3 reasons – it supports local farmers and not superstores, it reduces the energy cost and carbon impact of transporting food from sometimes thousands of miles away (banana, anyone?), and the produce does not have to be genetically engineered to survive the journey and handling it takes to get to you.

By the way, corn is a grain, not a vegetable.  Beans are legumes, not vegetables.  A potato, while botanically a vegetable, is nutritionally a starchy tuber.

One more time I’ll state my disclaimer – this information I’m sharing is what I accept about nutrition science, and it matches pretty squarely with my own experience with my own health and nutrition.  This might be a good time for me to post this link which addresses the book The China Study, whose claims contradict Paleolithic nutrition science.  Denise Minger is a rockstar in the movement – here is her 2012 presentation at the Ancestral Health Symposium.

Next up:  Dairy!  One of the hottest topics within the Ancestral Health movement.

Thanks for reading!


Paleo Post, part 1

I’m still in Vegas with my girlio, helping her apartment and job hunt.  The mini-update is:  it looks as if we have found her an apartment.  It’s about 5 miles from the strip, is gated and secure, and we should get her moved in tomorrow or Tuesday.  She’s begun the job application process by getting her Alcohol Card and Health Card, and all of the online applications filled out.  She’s optimistic about getting work, and is really excited about getting settled into her little Vegas home!

However, I want to post today about nutrition.  I’ve gotten a lot of response from folks since I posted about our experience with the Ancestral Health Symposium.  A lot of the response has been from my friends in the skeptic community.  I’m going to try to explain my position on this a little better, but it makes me so proud to be part of this group of skeptics who don’t accept information without evidence.

First, let’s work on the word.  The issue over the word “Paleo” reminds me of the flame wars the secular community has over the word “atheist” versus “any-self-identification-word-other-than-atheist” (agnostic, freethinker, humanist).  So many arguments against “Paleo” nutrition focus on this one word.  These arguments make a valid point.  I have a Portuguese friend who says that rules are divided into Theory and Practice (with his lovely accent those words are Teeory and Prrrractice).

In Theory, Paleo nutrition is a way of eating (and movement, and other things but we’ll focus first on nutrition) that is based on what we know about  human evolution.  There’s even an effort within the community to switch to the term Evolutionary Nutrition.  The theory is that we base our eating on the way of eating that allowed our ancestors to have survived to reproduce and thrive.  Paleo refers to the era when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, before the Neolithic era of agriculture (Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel, is an awesome book (and Pulitzer Prize winner) that explains the history of human societies).

However, in Practice, almost nothing we eat modernly is the same food our ancestors ate.  Not the bananas, not the brazil nuts, not the beasts.  Unless you are harvesting wild mushrooms, or fishing pristine rivers, or hunting wildebeests, you are eating modern versions of all of those ancient foods.  So I will agree with the “Paleo-busters” who assert that there can be no true Paleo diet because there is not true Paleo food.

There is a large part of this movement (and I don’t speak for anyone but myself) which is attempting to shift the focus from selecting our diet based solely on our ancestral heritage and more on what the food actually does when it enters your body.  In studying the effects these different nutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) have on our bodies, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of human physiology and anatomy, and how our systems function separately and in harmony.

You remember from high school biology that we have cells –> organs –> systems.  Remember that we have 10 systems:  respiratory, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive, gastrointestinal, integumentary, urinary, immune, endocrine, and circulatory.  Each system is dependent upon the others, and the general health of the person is an accumulation of the health of each of the systems.  The things we do with and put into our body affect the systems, and therefore the whole body.

The process of figuring out what different foods do in the body is a challenging task, because of the interconnectedness of all the systems and the unique physiology of each person.  I have no scientific background, but even as a layperson I have found sufficient research to show that certain foods have a MORE healthy effect on the systems and certain foods have a LESS healthy effect.

So now here’s the rub.  What is healthy and what is unhealthy?  This is where the strength of skepticism comes in.  Conventional wisdom has always been a big red flag for me, and never more so than in what is considered a healthy diet.  Leaving aside for a moment that the government that provided us with the food guide pyramid is the same government that subsidizes corn, sugar, and soybeans to the tune of billions of dollars a year, let’s first look at the standard American diet with a critical eye:  assuming that the average grocery store reflects what the average American eats, 75% of the items in a grocery store contain corn or a corn product.  Even the beef, pork, and chicken from the grocery store are ultimately corn, as they are fed corn for all or most of their lives.  In his pivotal book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan describes the history of the plant we know as corn, and how our industrial food supply is so dependent upon it, and how very unhealthy it is for humans, and the animals we eat, and humans again when we eat those animals.

Additionally, there is enough evidence to convince me that grains are inflammatory.  Inflammation, in turn, is very damaging to our body (also here) (and here).  There is a also syndrome known as leaky gut syndrome that results in increased intestinal permeability, and it is thought that grains contribute to this, which in turn leads to bad stuff getting into one’s bloodstream.  Finally, there’s some research that suggests that processed carbohydrates can light up pleasure centers in our brain so strongly that it mimics an addiction for some people.

This post is going far longer than I intended, so I’m going to have to break it into several posts.  I’m going to do it this way.  In summary of what I’ve said so far, there are several components of what the Ancestral Health movement endorses.  Over the next few posts, I’m going to personalize those factors according to what I think are the most important.  In the movement we call this N=1, and there is huge focus in the movement on self-experimenting.  This is because each of us has in our past a heritage based on climate and geography and the food that would have been available to our ancestors, and the digestive enzymes we would have evolved to accommodate that supply.

Here’s Gayle’s short version of How To Eat:

1.  Eliminate grains, whole or processed.

2.  Eliminate sugar.

3.  Eat lots and lots of a variety of vegetables, particularly the green leafy kind, and a limited amount of low-sugar fruit.

4.  Eliminate dairy.

5.  Eat meat from grass-fed cows, pastured pigs, free range chickens and eggs, and wild-caught fish.

6.  Eat healthy fat in the form of avocados, nuts, coconut, and olive oil.


While I’m working through all this, I may decide to change the sequence, or add to, the above list.  Also, this is only the NUTRITIONAL arena of the Paleo movement, which is only a portion of what contributes to our overall health.  So much more to come!

Thanks for reading!



AHS, Day 2

Another information-packed, nutrient-rich day at the Ancestral Health Symposium.

The first session of the day was titled: Parasites are Paleo:  The Hidden Cost of Modern Hygiene.  This one was a test of our skepticism and critical thinking I’m always talking about.  The universe of micro-organisms that populate our bodies inside and out are a delicate balance, and when we cropdust internally or externally we kill indiscriminately, and that’s not good.  Some of these guys aid our health through digestion or skin health.  Our children are growing up in the Purell environment and we don’t yet know what the results of that are going to be.  Statistics are showing that when our children are exposed to dirt and mud they have a lesser incident of allergies and asthma.  (Please know that this is way oversimplified, and I’m linking to the lecturer’s website/book because much of this is new enough to me I can’t speak authoritatively.)

Don't bust me on this - I have no idea what this bacteria is...isn't it a cool graphic?
Don’t bust me on this – I have no idea what this bacteria is…isn’t it a cool graphic?

I attended another session called Survival Panel, mostly out of interest for son Sam, and his interest in survival skills.  This was a panel looking at the hunting/gathering activities that our ancestors would have engaged in compared to the movement/stressors/nutrition we have modernly.  Guess what?  We are pretty far removed from those skills.  One of the questions after the session asked the inevitable question about eating insects, which of course is a big topic in this group.  As broadminded as I pride myself in being, I’ve got a huge ick-factor about this I’m struggling with.

Nature is red in tooth and claw
Nature is red in tooth and claw

Next was a really interesting lecture about the Rise of Monotheistic Religions as a Cultural Adaptation to Infectious Disease.  Many religious edicts relate to cleanliness with regard to burial, ritual for food preparation, sexual rules, etc that may have helped religions keep a stronghold through this hygiene code through religious authority.  The lecturer for this, John Durant has appeared on the Colbert Report talking about the health of hunter/gatherers.


Lunch break at a Paleo conference was:  water buffalo meatloaf, potatoes, squash and zucchini in olive oil, salad, and kombucha to drink (yeah, the potatoes were a surprise to me too – more on that later).  The meatloaf was wonderful, and provided by one of the vendors.  I’m still amazed at how beautiful everyone here is, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching people interact during the meal.  I have no idea why I have no picture of this – too hungry, I guess.

Then we had that poster session I mentioned.  Folks were invited to present their research (on a poster, duh) informally in a mix-and-mingle area where they could chat and explain their research.  There were several N=1 posters – folks who have applied paleolithic nutritional science to themselves for a period of time (mostly about one year), and did extensive data gathering.  Weight loss, lowered blood pressure, more energy – all of the typical health markers improved for these experimenters.

After lunch we went into a panel discussion about the Ketogenic Diet and Athletic Competition.  The rock stars on this panel were Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson.  Mark came in 4th in the Hawaii Ironman on a ketogenic diet (a fat-burning rather than glucose (sugar)-burning diet).  We hung on every word of this one.  It appears that one may lose the top, highest performance (top speed) but endurance increases dramatically.  This makes sense in light of the evidence that our muscles can only retain so much glucose (enough for about 30-45 minutes), but our fat stores, even on a lean person, are massive.  Son Sam and I are doing an Ironman together next year (looking at Chattanooga in September 2014), and it’s my intention to train on a cyclical ketogenic plan.


Dr. Georgia Ede presented a session about Nutrition and Mental Health that blew me away.  Because carbohydrates create inflammation in the body, her research is centered on studying whether or not this inflammation, that eventually may lead to diabetes or some kind of autoimmune disorder, may also have an effect on mental health.  She was very cautious about even inferring connections, but her research is so promising in connecting diet to some of these diseases (ADHD in particular), and fits with the statistics of what our children are eating.


Then we attended a very sobering session about Malnutrition and Starvation in the World, and about how we, the global human community, can help to feed the world.  The conventional wisdom is to produce more grains.  Dr Alyssa Rhoden spoke about how to reclaim some parts of the world from the desertification that comes from growing corn and return it to grazeland, and to grow more diverse organic vegetation.  This topic is political and ethical as well as economic, and I’m including this link and this link if you are interested in more information.

No monocrops, no grain subsidies, no big agra
No monocrops, no grain subsidies, no big agra

The last session of the day for us was an introduction to Pasture and Grassland Ecology.  I am particularly interested in this, since my little slice of paradise in Tennessee includes 8 acres and all the animals whose pictures I’m always posting on Facebook.  I already have my little garden, and the chickens provide beautiful eggs, but even if I never eat another animal off the land there, I would like to restore the topsoil and care for the groundwater as much as I can.  Our lecturer for this has a blog:  grassbasedhealth.  His topic included the question:  Is An Ancestral Diet Sustainable?


So that has been day 2.  Just a side note:  we’re not just attenders of this conference, we are also working here as the Investigators for Code of Conduct Violations.  While all of that is super top secret, I can say that we have not been very busy.  Correlation does not imply causation, as we know, and it has been nice being able to attend the lectures.

Today is Eliott’s birthday, so our dinner tonight will not be Paleo.  Don’t be hatin.

Thanks for reading!

Ancestral Health Symposium

So here’s where I am this weekend:

The Ancestral Health Symposium

This is the third year of the symposium, but it’s my first time to go.

The premise is that when we can use an evolutionary prospective, we can develop solutions to our contemporary health challenges.  The title Paleo as it applies to nutrition is too vague and is really kind of an inaccurate word, but it’s still a word that gets thrown around and is accepted shorthand within the movement.

Couldn't play it straight.
Couldn’t play it straight.

So first: the demographic of attendees.  There are about 600 people here.  At any time in a store, or on a street, or at a conference, or on a campus, the folks you see reflect the statistics of America’s population:  35% obese, 69% overweight (including obesity).  Not in this room.  These are fit people.  Fit does not mean slender – these people look strong and healthy.  It is a younger group – Eliott and I are in the older 20%, easily – but even the older folks look this way.  It’s a refreshing view; I didn’t realize how “normal” it is to see those statistics every day in real life until I was in this conference room.

A stock image, but you get the drift.
A stock image, but you get the drift.

Most of the speakers are MD’s and PhDs.  Check out this detailed schedule.  I don’t have a science background, and a few of the presenters today were a smidge over my head.  The topics today were:

The Paleolithic Prescription

This was presented by the two MD’s who are considered the “grandfathers” of the modern Paleo movement, who have been researching the hunter-gatherer diet for their entire professional careers.  This one was a little sciency, but I hung on the best I could, and took notes on their suggestions for more papers and books to read.

The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature

I loved this one.  Dr. Gad Saad examined our modern consumer instinct that has gone awry, and what it reveals about our primal nature.  It gives context at least to how we’ve gotten where we are, even if it’s unsettling.

Your ovaries know what I'm talking about.
Your ovaries know what I’m talking about.

Sexual Fitness and Women’s Fertility Cycles

Another great session.  This examined sexual selection from an evolutionary standpoint, and how we’re massively altering this with our reliance on synthetic hormones, both for men and women.  I’m particularly interested in this because of my 4 young-adult children and their long-term health.


High Fructose Corn Syrup Litigation Status

Fascinating session by the plaintiff’s attorney in the lawsuit filed in New York against the HFCS manufacturers on behalf of a teenage girl w/type 2 diabetes, claiming that HFCS is the cause of her developing the disease.  I had an instant flashback to my first year of law school and Torts and Strict Liability/Failure To Warn.

Satan's urine
Satan’s urine

Find Your Why

Highlight of the day.  This young man, Kyle Maynard, was born with a congenital amputation who has become a motivational speaker, and is a proponent of the Paleo lifestyle.  He recently became the first person to “bear crawl” up Mt. Kilimanjaro.  It took 13 days and his presentation today was about that challenge.  Please click through to his page and read about this spectacular young person.

Awesome.  What's your Why?
Awesome. What’s your Why?

The hall of vendors has been wonderful – sources of grass-fed beef, home-gardening aids, and the newest buzz-product Kombucha (kind of a fermented tea that adds beneficial gut flora).  Tomorrow also includes a posters’ session, which are like mini-breakout sessions, I think.  In between speakers, we have these little 3-minute movement sessions by Adonis- and Venus-like trainers.

About 3 months ago, Eliott and I did this Whole30 experiment.  It’s 30 days of absolute clean eating:  local and organic grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, local and organic vegetables and some fruits, and healthy fats.  No sugar, no grains, no alcohol.  It also include other paleo-lifestlyle pieces regarding sleep, timing of meals, and movement.  It was both a lot of fun and a real challenge.  It was pricey, of course, to buy all that fresh, local food (and lots of time to prepare and cook it), and it was a new skill, but we LOVED it.  We felt fabulous, had huge energy, no physical symptoms of our ages (!).  It’s extremely difficult to do while traveling, but we’ve continued to do a modified version at home (like I’m not going to have cocktails at sunset).  The authors of the Whole 30 book are here for a presentation and panel tomorrow.

From my personal food porn file
From my personal food porn file

So anyway, that’s what I’m doing til Sunday.  My brain’s on overload but I’m lovin it.  To my Murfreesboro crowd – I’ll be home in time for Glenda’s moving-to-Vegas-and-selling-her-art party on Sunday afternoon.

Thanks for reading!

Tour de Boro!

What a beautiful day for a bike ride!

Today was the Tour de Boro (although honestly it was more of a Tour de Christiana), a leisurely spring ride through the rolling hills of Rutherford County, benefitting the organization Special Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides therapeutic rehabilitation and professional nursing services to children with special needs.  It’s also a great way to kick off the spring riding season!

Because of a weather front that moved in last night, it was a bit dodgy getting up at 6:00 to 39 degrees.  But get up I did, and off to Barfield Park I went, bike on rack, coffee in hand, ready to get my ride on.

Within minutes of arriving and checking in, I heard my name called, and looked around and saw my friend Allison.

Alison has been a friend and a client for 5 or 6 years.  We chatted a minute and decided to ride together, as it seemed like we would ride at about the same pace.  We had the most delightful time riding and talking.  I’d like to share a bit of what she shared with me.

Alison and me
Alison and me

Alison is a veteran and has recently become involved with Ride2Recovery, an organization established to help injured veterans overcome obstacles they face, through the sport of cycling.  Alison has done a ride to NYC, the California coast, and the Gulf coast.  She shared some stories about some of the folks she has ridden with.  R2R provides and modifies bicycles for any manner of disability, and through donations and outside funding, there is no cost to the veteran.  Non-veterans are invited and encouraged to attend the structured rides offered around the country throughout the year, although there’s a fee associated with that.

She said the exertion, the camaraderie, the accomplishment are all helping her to process her overseas active duty experiences.  Specifically she said it helped her see that all of us, with our strengths and weaknesses, are all beautifully imperfect, and that each person’s life is of their own making.  My friend Alison has since spent a month or so in New Zealand, taking in the sights of that spectacular country.  It’s also led her to sell her home and work toward accomplishing a personal dream of owning her business.

I hope you’ll visit the website and consider whether this fits into your charitable giving.  We don’t always get to see how our contributions work, but today, for a few lovely spring hours, I got to see just that.

My friend Alison
My friend Alison

Thanks for reading!

Running with the grand!

What a wonderful thing!

Yesterday was the Zoo Run Run, the annual 5k through the Nashville Zoo.

This was a run chosen by my beloved massage therapy school posse in an effort to show that the caretakers take care of themselves too!  We preach health and fitness and nutrition and stress reduction every day to our clients, and it is past time for us to live what we teach.

The squeeze and I had registered for the race together, but business took him to California for the week, so I ended up with an extra registration.  I also ended up with the grandson for a sleepover Friday night.  When I offered him the opportunity, he was ALL. FOR. IT!! After all, as he reminded me when I ordered him a Little Boy’s Hot Chocolate from Starbucks, “Gammy, I’m not a little boy.  I’m 8”.

So after Friday night’s Snacks n Movie on the big couch (Cheerios and milk, and Stand By Me), and after helping me do some work at my gym on Saturday morning, into our warmest running gear and off to the zoo we went.

First thing was registration, checking in to get our race bibs and tshirts.

Representing my school too!
Representing my school too!

Then it was visiting vendors, and seeing runners in animal costumes, or animals in runner costumes, picking up a few freebies, and petting the animals brought out for just that.

I think there's a pony under all that shag.
I think there’s a pony under all that shag.

Then we had a few minutes to stretch before they called us to line up with 2000 of our closest friends, and it was time to get our Zoo Run on!

Race Face!
Race Face!

3…2…1…GO!  We shot right out of the corral at, well, a fast crawl, til the crowd spread out a little, then it was full speed ahead.  My race strategy was this:  I was sure I could outrun him, even if I am a little older, so I was going to let him run til he was tired, then we would walk/run the remainder of the race.  That’s exactly the strategy we implemented, but we added a few short stops for animal pics.

Some kind of a red-haired pig or something - neither one of us could remember the name of this cutie
Some kind of a red-haired pig or something – neither one of us could remember the name of this cutie

Then we came upon the elephants – they were magnificent!

Look closely to see the big guy behind us!
Look closely to see the big guy behind us!

Then it was the kangaroos, then an ostrich, the zebras, the cats, and finally the flamingoes!





Then, in one final, reserve burst of speed and energy, he tore across the finish line, arms raised in victory, cheered on by the crowd!

He did it!
He did it!

I am so proud of the little guy, and we’re already talking about our next race.  I once made a promise to my kids that whatever they would allow me to participate in with them, I would do my very best to do.  That promise has taken me to the top of black diamond slopes, down rapids that scare the hell out of me, to runway fashion shows, and up rock walls.  Now I’ve made the same promise to my grand.  I can’t think of a better way to stay healthy than that.

Our celebratory cones at the "ice cream place with the two lips".  Took me a while to figure out too.
Our celebratory cones at the “ice cream place with the two lips”. Took me a while to figure out too.

Thanks for reading!

Albuquerque, part 1

And they are the source of my adventurous spirit.

My parents are on their 4th consecutive month of motor home caravaning of the summer.  They first did the Lewis and Clark caravan for the months of June and July.  To translate from RVspeak:  caravanning is a group of motorhomes, mostly retired folks, who plan and organize trips around the country, anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months.  My parents have done over 35 of these trips over the last 20 years or so, including the Viking caravan up to New Brunswick, the Canadian trips – Polar Bear sightings included, Alaska, the Yucatan, Baja, numerous Civil War trips, and this one, the Southwest Adventure.  Dad serves as the historian on both the Lewis and Clark trips and the Civil War ones too.

Daughter Amy has a conference in California next week, and I’m going to join her for a few days of fun.  In the meantime, Mom and Dad knew the Balloon Festival was coming up and had been asking me to join them, so…

sweet mother

This festival is the premier festival in ballooning.  There are over 500 balloons, thousands of spectators, and is said to be the most photographed event in the world.  It’s a full 8 days, and there are activities all day every day.  The liftoff field is adjacent to the brand spanking new Balloon Museum, to which I willingly devoted 3 hours of my life today.  Did you know that during WWII Japan sent 10,000 balloon bombs toward the US, 1000 of which have been recovered, and some of which may still be in remote areas?

This morning we spent several hours, beginning predawn, watching what is known as a mass ascension.

trying to zoom with camera phone

First was the spectacular sunrise liftoff, then we enjoyed all the different balloons:

They have to call him Aaron, since “Elvis” is copyrighted

Made of awesome.
Wells Fargo

So here’s the deal…the RV is parked in a giant field with several hundred other motor homes (Mom calls it Bonnaroo for retirees), but no hookups – no electricity or water.  This isn’t too big of a problem normally for a self-contained motorhome, but generator curfew is coming up in 15 minutes, and I have a couple of hours of studying to do tonight, off my Mac battery, so I’m going to cut this post into two pieces, because there are so many good pictures I want to add.

Tomorrow is several hours at the Indian Pueblo Culture Center in the morning, then a turquoise museum in the afternoon, then another balloon event in the evening.

So til part 2….thanks for reading!

Warrior Dash 2012

Because it’s fun, that’s why.

Start here.

The pictures at this site are so much better than any I took, and there’s video too, so take a glance at that to get an idea of what this race is like.  TL; DR:  5k with obstacles.

I did this race last year for the first time, and just loved it.  It’s right up my alley – all fun and mud and games and mud and beer and mud.  Costumes are a big part of it too, so this year we spent all of 9 minutes pulling ours together.

Hat tip to Sam Jordan for Eliott’s:

Senior Chippendale
Yep, it’s an LBD.

I wish I’d taken a better picture of the fishnet stockings with the running shoes.  And ours weren’t even the best costumes there.  I didn’t take my phone onto the grounds because that’s the Mud Zone.  The site has some good shots; the best we saw were a Pebbles and BamBam couple, complete with clubs and hairbones.  We saw a team of Oompa-loompas, lots of tutus and vikings, and tutus on vikings.

The race started with a series of hills/ditches with mud that were easy, but the mucky mud at the bottom was a real shoe-eater.  Next came a commando crawl under barbed wire, but it was hands-and-knees height, so that just created muddy hands and knees.  Next, we had an over-under obstacle which wasn’t too bad – the “over” was a wall about 4 feet high, the under was barbed wire around 2 feet high.  I got a dress strap caught on one, but Eliott untangled me and off we went.  Then there was a series of webbing, kind of like boxing ring ropes (that’s a guess – I don’t believe I’ve even felt the strappy things around a boxing ring).

I’m sure these are out of sequence now, but somewhere along the way there was a field of tires, and junker cars laid end to end so it was hood/roof/trunk/hood/roof/trunk.  The trickiest one for me this year was the rope climb – kind of an A-shape that rose about 25 feet in the air.  One side was a ladder-type slant that you climbed down; the upside was a sandpaper-covered slope that you climbed by holding on to a rope.  The trick was not the climb up, nor the climb down, but the transition over the top.  I flattened out too soon, with my center of gravity on the rope side, and with no leverage for my legs, I was left with just powering over with upper body, like when you push up on the side of the pool to get out.

As you near the finish line, there were two jumps through fire (not kidding), then the final mud pit.  Mark Twain described the Mississippi River as:  “Too thick to drink, too thin to plow”.  Capt Clark (of Lewis and Clark) said:  The water we Drink, of the Common water of the missourie at this time, contains half a Comn Wine Glass of ooze or mud to every pint.  Yeah, that’s about what it was like.  Even a visit to the fireman’s hose after the race was over only took off the thick top layer.  It took 2 showers after that for the water to run clear.

The race organizers have cleverly designed the timing-chip-for-a-beer trade, and of course turkey legs and pork sandwiches were aplenty.  This race is pricey, plus a hefty $20 parking fee, but if you know that ahead of time, you can limit that by carpooling, and registering on time saves a bit too.  Wave starts are every 30 minutes all day long.

Nice and clean pre-race

I will go back and edit if our official race photos turn out – for now, this is the best I can do:

smelled as good as they look

See you at Dash 2013!

Thanks for reading!

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