Sunday, October 03, 2010

Yellow River State Forest - Day 3

We woke to frost on the ground. Whoa! I told you it was cold! Lorrie got up and got the fire started again. That certainly helped. Emma Blue had drunk most of the rest of our water through the night so we decided to just pack it up and head out to the car where I could make breakfast with the water we had there. Of course we had to sit and enjoy the fire for a little while first. And we had some dried fruit and nuts to keep hunger at bay. We were able to pack up pretty quickly though the tent was still pretty wet from the frost. Then I shook the rainfly and accidentally got the sleeping pads wet. While Lorrie was in the tent. Oops!

We were out of there around 10:30am. We walked back toward Ash Trail but then took a left toward "Headquaters." lol I love signs with misspelling! Must have been made by someone in New Yawk! Not a statement on New Yorkers' spelling abilities... just say "Headquaters" out loud and you'll understand.

So the uphill singletrack we did yesterday became downhill singletrack today. Yay! That was much easier. Though I know eventually downhill can become very difficult and painful, it did not this time. We made it out to the car in about 45 minutes. Not bad! When we got there some people from the other campsite that we'd waved to as we left were sitting at their car. Apparently they had taken the Fire Tower Road and it was much quicker. But we weren't looking for quick as we wanted to draw this out as much as possible. As we were changing clothes and getting things put away, the group of girls with their leaders also came out. They were very excited about being back at the car and were very cute about it!

Back on the road toward home, we stopped at a cafe along the river in Lansing, Iowa for some lunch. There were still many signs of the flooding from last week apparent. On the road and home. An awesome first backpacking trip for Lorrie and a great Birthday Backpacking Trip for myself!!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Yellow River State Forest - Day 2

My birthday! What a great way to wake up... in the woods! It was cold and overcast! Not what the forecast had forecast. Oh well. Got the fire going again. Breakfast of rice and dried fruit for us and kibble for Bear Bell... Emma Blue's trail name given her by Pam on the Superior Hiking Trail.

We slowly started packing things up to get moving. Of course it takes us a little longer because we're not that experienced. But I feel like we have packed well. I was worried that we might overpack... especially me! But it doesn't seem to be the case. Off we went down the single track toward more double track. On the way out of the camping area, we spoke briefly with a couple and their 2 large dogs who had camped in the first area. Not about anything in particular... just a quick good morning chat.

We went back to the entrance to the equestrian campground then turned left to cross the bridge over the river. We followed that double track with cornfields on the right and the river on the left. It was really quite beautiful with the changing of the colors. This road became somewhat hilly... rolling I guess they're called. Eventually we passed a turnoff to what looked like singletrack to the Fire Tower. About 2 miles in or so, there was a turn off toward Brown's Hollow Camp. We took that and were soon in the middle of that campground. Again 3 fire pits but a very large open area not separated by anything. It was about 12:30pm by this point so we needed to decide whether to go on, eat lunch and go on, or just stop here to camp. We decided to eat lunch and go on. There were already 3 tents in one area and it seemed a little too open for our liking. Of course, we had no idea what the next sites would be like but we decided to chance it. For lunch, chicken with curry on pita. Different than what was for dinner. In fact, until I just wrote that I had forgotten we'd had chicken with curry for dinner and lunch. Got everything packed up again and were on our way. More rolling doubletracks. Not far from the campground, an older couple asked to take a photo of Emma Blue because she's just too damn cute for words with her pack on. Up and down a bit more until there was a sign for Ash Trail to the left. The trail was totally covered by leaves such that I wasn't really sure it was even a trail. But I could see another sign ahead and according to the map there were no other turnoffs to the left like this. So... down into a steep ditch and back up to singletrack almost entirely covered by leaves. This was the steepest part of the trip so far. The trail ended up being relatively easy to follow. Periodically we would stop and look for a sign further ahead to indicate we were going the right direction. We always were so the markings were adequate. We eventually got to the other end of that Fire Tower trail that we had passed and ran into a group of about 10 young girls with 2 women leaders. Cute! They also asked to take photos of Emma Blue. Her head was getting almost big enough to fit her big ears at this point! ha! Another 1/2 mile or so and we were at the entrance to Camp John Schultz. There was only 1 fire ring and there were already 3 tents in the space. So we worried that the other site might have been better. Then Lorrie realizes there is another area. That area has 2 fire rings and no one is camping there yet. So we grabbed the one we liked and got set up. Got the fire started right away in case it started getting cold like it had the previous night. It got colder!! While we were finishing setting up, 3 young guys showed up and took the other fire ring. Stereotypes popped into both our heads about the noise and such they would cause. Aside from some early loud F-ing this and F-ing that, they were great campground companions. Gotta watch those stereotypes!

Dinner was salmon couscous. Yummy!! Then Lorrie brought freeze dried cheesecake with chocolate chunks for my birthday cake. YUMMY! My gifts were an eton Scorpion (orange) , travel National Park Yahtzee, and an iTunes card! Awesome! I guess my other gift was that Lorrie carried them all in a gift bag the whole time. lol So we took out the Yahtzee game and started playing on a log. While I was shaking the can at one point, a family of hunters were "sneaking" by. They jumped and looked at us like we'd scared away their game. But we'd seen no "game" except Yahtzee! lol Good thing they weren't twitchy!! It would suck to be killed by a hunter in the woods on my birthday. I have to say, it was very strange to be sitting in a campsite with hunters walking by with rifles. It didn't feel terribly safe to me. As it got darker, it got much colder. The forecast called for low 50s. I have no idea. But it was cold! So into the tent we went where we watched "Get Him To the Greek" on my little iPod Nano. lol An amazing thing! Interesting movie... combination of very funny and very very disturbing. I'm not sure I would recommend it.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Yellow River State Forest - Day 1

Emma Blue prepares to get going (date is a month off)
Funny how easy it is to load a car with just 2 backpacks and a small bag with clean clothes for when we get back to the car. We dropped Tori off at the kennel. NOT an easy thing! Though it looked like she'd be in a nice quiet place and they promised she'd get some good social time. "She'll be fine" became our mantra.

We headed south toward Iowa. Yep, Iowa! The backpacking capital of the world. Ha! Well, it was highlighted in the 1996 Outside Magazine. So I thought we'd take a shot.

We drove east on I-90 toward LaCrosse. Our lovely GPS, whose name is Paddam, told us the wrong exit number at the right location. So we missed it. Oops! Decided to make lemonade our of lemons and had some lunch across the border in Wisconsin. Then we drove along the Mississippi on the Wisconsin side most of the way. It was beautiful though there was still some evidence of the flooding from last week. We crossed into Lansing, Iowa, which was the cutest little river town. At that point, we were only about 20 minutes from the parking lot. Awesome! About 3 hours drive time.

We got parked and everything organized. This is where inexperience reared its head. Just for a second though. We didn't have a great map of the area. The maps online and the map they had at backpack parking seemed to be lacking in some detail. And, if it was accurate, it would be about 4 miles to our first campsite. So we decided that I would drop Lorrie and Emma Blue off where the trail crosses the road and then walked from the parking lot to that point without my pack. So that's what we did. Turned out that was a pretty good decision. Though it also turned out that we probably would have had enough time to do the initial part of the trail as well. That's okay... I think it was better to listen to my gut. So off we went.

It took just over an hour to get to the first site, Heffern's Hill Camp. The trail was mainly fire road, gravel. We had one river crossing that was pretty low and neither of us got our socks wet. There was quite a bit of horse manure on the trail. Which is just gross anyway but even worse when you have a dog that likes to roll around in it! We were able to prevent that. This part of the trail allowed horses (obvious!) and bicycles. The campsite was at the top of a small inclined trail which allowed only human (and dog) foot traffic. No horses or bikes. There were 3 camping areas each with its own fire grate. At the 3rd site, there was also a warming shed for skiers. Though I considered putting our tent up in that just so I didn't have to use the rainfly. It was a little too far from the fire to go with that thought though. This 3rd site is probably the best for a larger group as well. The other 2 were big enough for small groups.

After getting everything set up, we decided to go explore. As we got toward the bottom of the hill, we noticed a group of men shooting their guns. We weren't sure if there was a shooting range or if hunting was allowed. Turns out that you can hunt anywhere in the Yellow River National Forest except campgrounds. Hmm, not too reassuring. No rule about shooting *toward* a campground. I saw nothing about seasons for hunting there so I don't know if this is something we would experience any time of year. If so, it's not someplace I'll be in a rush to go back.

After the gunfire died down, the wind picked up and there were some rain sprinkles. We had chicken curry for dinner... freezer bag cooking. Lorrie gave it a 4.5/5 tents! Pretty good start for her first backpacking experiencing. Though the fire was keeping us warm, it seemed the rain was going to force us into the tent. It was still pretty early so we did some reading. I have chronic difficulty sleeping the first night backpacking and sometimes camping. It's VERY annoying! The longer I stay awake, the more I start hearing ominous sounds. You know... squirrels stomping, birds dive bombing, lots of things that aren't really happening. And then there's the one-armed man with a hook who just escaped prison. He's usually around somewhere come midnight. Another problem is that if I'm awake in such a small space, so is Lorrie. That's just how it works. Emma Blue was up a lot too. I'm not sure what her deal was. But I think she got more sleep than Lorrie or me. lol

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jesse James Bicycle Tour

Distance - 48.75 miles
Time - 3.35.47
Max speed - 39.0 (Sogn Valley Road. Whoa!)
Avg speed - 12.5

It was a cold morning so I had a really difficult time knowing what to wear. Lorrie woke up early with me and rode to the Middle School in Northfield with me. So it wasn't like I could take a bunch of stuff and then choose. Though I did request that Lorrie carry a backpack with a little extra stuff. Spent some time in the school waiting for Daryl and Jeanne as well as getting my photo take with the Jesse James Gang (cutout).

Once we got everything ready and were on the road, I was very happy with my choice to keep my long sleeves on and my knee warmers. It was COLD! I was a little nervous about riding with Daryl and Jeanne as they ride much more frequently than I do, longer distances, and usually together. But we all stayed together pretty well. They were doing the 100 mile while I was doing the 40-mile, which turned into 45-mile somewhere on a later form and then at the start was billed as a 50-mile. That made me a little nervous too! lol

The best moment was flying down into Sogn Valley at 39 mph. Sorry Mom! lol I was ready to do the uphill part of that road as well and was really psyching myself up for it. But then we turned right at the base of the climb. I had simultaneous feelings of relief and disappointment. I was ready for that damn hill! Couple rest stops along the way and eventually I turned back toward Northfield while D & J headed further out to do the other half of their ride. That moment was relief with no disappointment!

Lorrie and Emma Blue were waiting for me at the Middle School when I got back. This was the longest ride I've done this season. But it's a logical next step with the build up I've been doing. The weather seems to be getting colder so I'm not sure how much more I'll be out. We'll see!

I'm glad I finally did this ride! It's funny that I haven't done this ride in my backyard in the 3 previous years that I've lived here. I can't remember why! Probably something to do with my back. Arrgh! My only complaint is the limited rest stops... especially the length to the first bathroom stop. There are a TON of sponsors for this ride. Where is all that money going?? Otherwise it seemed like a well put-together event. Maybe next year I'll be able to do the 100-mile.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Cannon Valley Trail from Red Wing

Red Wing to Cannon Falls to Red Wing

Distance = 39.12
Time = 2.52.45
Max speed = 21.0 mph
Average speed = 13.6 mph

Suffice to say... popular trail on Labor Day. lol In other words, if you want to go at all fast, don't do Cannon Valley Trail on Labor Day! It was a good ride but there were SO many people and I never knew how common it was for children to ride in a zigzag pattern!

STILL SO CLOSE to 40 miles but not quite. I was supposed to meet Lorrie at Caribou in Red Wing, which would have given me 40. But she was nice and met me at the trailhead. Arrgh! lol Guess I'll have to count on the Defeat of Jessie James Days ride for my 40 miles!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two Harbors Scenic Route

Distance = 39.41 miles
Time = 3.09.36
Max speed = 28 mph
Average speed = 12.5

A weekend in Two Harbors! A ramshackle little cabin right on Lake Superior. Though the inside of the cabin was actually quite clean and well-kept... it was the outside that looked like it was going to collapse. lol I think I'm ready for 40 miles. That seems like so much compared to what I've done the past year with my back and calf being such pains... literally! So off I go around 11am with the intention of making it the entirety of the scenic route into Two Harbors. I did! But I wasn't going to make 40 miles with just that so I went through Two Harbors. And then beyond. Until I got to a hill that I was going to go down... knowing I would then have to come back up in no time. So I stopped for a break and then turned around. There was a car show going on in Two Harbors so I saw a lot of old cars going by while I took my break. Going back seemed much more difficult. Once I got back to the scenic route, there was a pretty major headwind that knocked out a little of my energy. So I just chugged along. I have always known I would finish what I started. But the last five miles or so were actually quite painful. I ran out of Accelerade around that time and was getting low on water. Though there are restaurants along the route where I could have refilled if it had been a major problem. As I rounded the corner and saw the sign to our cabins, I realized I was not going to make 40 miles and considered riding past just to make that happen. Then I decided that my legs were toast and my ego is well-intact. So I stopped. My legs were a little rubbery but I eventually recovered and we headed out for a wonderful, though very slow and late, dinner out. Success!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Northfield to Farmington

Distance = 31.11
Time = 2.23.38
Max Speed = 25.0
Average Speed = 13.0

Funny thing happened on this ride! The ride itself was great. Though I made the mistake of started out around the height of the heat of the day. Maybe 11am or so and was out until just after 1pm. This may be a little too much information but I was also PMSing, which generally means I feel a little weaker than I usually would. So... heat and weak. Not a great combo. But it still felt like a great ride... for the first half. Also remember that I am just now building up my mileage so I am not "fit" just yet. But I'm doing okay there. Nearing the half way point, I start getting this gurgling in my stomach and I can't believe I'm going to get sick. Then it goes away. At the halfway point near an Apple Orchard, I find a very large tree to sit under so that I can get some shade before heading back. And then it hits me! I really am going to be sick! So I hid my bike and found a place near the woods where I didn't think I could be seen well. SO fun! I was there for a little longer then decided I needed to get going to see how I was feeling. Apparently that did the trick because I felt fine afterwards. lol I stopped at Dairy Queen to refill my water and throw some cold water on my head and neck. Then off I went to get home. It wasn't my worst ride ever but I'd say it's down there! (=

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cannon Falls Trail - Cycling

Cannon Falls Trail from Cannon Falls

Distance - 20.19 miles
Time - 1:30:31
Max Speed - 24.5
Average Speed - 13.3

Again, taking it slow and easy. Two days on the bike this week. Yay!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sakatah Singing Hills Trail - Cycling

Sakatah Singing Hills Trail - out and back from Faribault, MN
Distance - 20.06 miles
Time - 1:31:35
Maximum - 19.5 mph
Average - 13.1

So I'm back on the bike. Finally! I'm taking it slow. 20 miles. That's it! My calf has felt better but I'm very aware of it when I'm pedaling. I know it takes time and I need to build up. For now, just happy to have the option of riding. Next... swimming. Then, with a little luck... running!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Myre Big Island State Park - Day 2

I was up early again today. I don't know why! I am definitely not a morning person. But being outdoors does get me up a little earlier than usual much of the time. Well... and the dogs wanted out too. So I got the fire going and made some breakfast for us. Then we relaxed a little while. Definitely the theme of this weekend! I've gotten more reading done on this short camping trip than I usually do on longer trips where we're active the whole time. At some point, a dog (a hyper hunting dog type that I don't know the breed name for) came running to our site and right at Tori. She's blind remember. So we get pretty protective of her. Lorrie and Emma Blue were collecting some kindling but Emma heard something going on and pulled Lorrie out of the woods and ran over to check on Tori and look for the intruder. It was cute. The dog's owner apologized and everything. So that was fine. But I still felt compelled to suggest he put his dog on a leash as is the law/rule/expectation/etiquette when camping.

Around noon, we decided to go for a little hike. So we loaded Tori into her stroller (she has difficulty walking), got Emma Blue situated with her leash, and took off. We walked out toward the backpacking sites and made it to the entryway before turning around. It had gotten in the high 70s so it was pretty warm and very sunny. Awesome! We turned back and spend some more time reading and relaxing before packing up around 4pm to head home.

It was an awesome albeit short trip. We ended up being the only people on our loop and the only people aside from the camp hosts in that campground within the State Park. There were many more people in the Big Island campground. There were few bugs at all. Which works great for me as I seem to be the bite magnet! Lorrie saw one tick, which freaked her out. But it was as we were packing up so it didn't last long. It did initiate a very thorough checking of all of us when we got back home though.

Can't wait to get back out there for more than one night!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Myre Big Island State Park - Day 1

We had planned to go camping on Friday, April 15th. But for some reason, the knowledge that it was supposed to get below freezing through the night deterred us. I think we both blame it on Tori... the blind elderly dog that we are so gentle with. But the truth is, she has so much hair that she'd stay warm in the Antarctic without shelter. And, she's got so much gumption that we never actually need to be *that* gentle with her. So. It's us. We. are. wimps!

So today...

I was up at about 5:45am feeding and emptying the dogs. We had wanted to get going early so I just stayed up. If I'd gone back to bed, I probably wouldn't have woken up again until 9am. Or later. As it was, with finishing packing, eating breakfast, showering, stopping at the bank, and stopping for coffee, we were on the road by 9am. Good job gang! We got to Myre Big Island State Park a little after 10am. We drove around the White Fox campground and also the Big Island campground before agreeing we wanted the same site from last year. White Fox Campground #89. It was very cold when we got here. I don't know the temp but I know I put on my big down winter coat for a little while before I warmed up as we set up camp. We got the Queendom up with little difficulty except deciding which way to orient it. Then I realized I had forgotten the vestibule. Oops! Once that was done, we (*I*, really) decided to put up our new Kelty Noah's Tarp 9. Now *that* was a challenge! Took between 45 minutes to an hour to get this "simple" shelter up. The main problem with the Nite Ize Figure 9 attachment thingie that makes tightening it a cinch. I had a Youtube video on my iPod with instructions that we watched over and over pausing, rewinding, fast forwarding until we could finally see what the heck he was doing. Just a suggestion... when making an instructional video, DO NOT cover your work by placing your hand between the work and the camera. Here are some instructions for the Figure 9. Once I got the knot thingamajig figured out, we had to work out the two poles. I'm still not sure it's right as the middle is a big sunken. And I had to support one of the poles with a tree. The other 2 corners are tethered to the ground and a tree. I'll have to practice with it at home. I'm just not sure how one person could put this thing up if there are no trees around. Once we got that up and everything into the tent that needed to be, we got a fire going and set about relaxing.

It was pretty windy but the temp got warmer and warmer. I graduated from my down jacket to my down vest then to a sweatshirt and finally just a t-shirt. That's my temperature gauge! We did some reading then I took a nap. Can it get much better?? My parents came to visit and for dinner around 5:30pm. Hot dogs and burgers over the campfire. Well, except for the 1 hamburger Lorrie dropped into the campfire! LOL Potato salad, fire grilled vegetables, sun chips in their new noisy compostable bag, and chocolate cake for dessert! My mom sure knows how to camp! (= We sat around the fire and chatted while we burned papers from my EPPP studies. That was fun! My parents have been gone all winter so this is the first time I've seen them since Christmas. They left when it started getting cold. Smart! It was a nice visit and great to be outside away from TVs and computers.

We stayed out just a little longer until about 10pm and then made our way in to the tent. Lorrie is doing some reading but I am too tired. We tried out the new REI candle lanterns and they worked great! Emma Blue is bundled up in her sleeping bag on a dog bed and Tori is in her big orange personal tent. Everyone seems content!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Montreal - Urban Hiking - Day 4

A travel day. I've seen all I can see this time around. But I definitely would like to come back. I know there are some places outside the city that I would like to backpack and camp. It just wasn't time for that yet so I got to hone my urban hiking skills. Haven't had to use those for a little while! Flights were all on time and travel was SO easy. People were friendly for the most part and it all went smoothly. I noticed right away how noisy Americans are and how attached we are to our devices. I think the French or the Canadian or the French-Canadian way suits me better.

Not bad for a last minutes "what's on sale" kind of trip! I'll definitely be doing that again!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Montreal - Urban Hiking - Day 3

Got up early again. But after breakfast I slept a little more before I got going. I think my subconscious was protecting me from the cold it knew was out there waiting for me! I was up and out by about 10:30am and headed for Vieux Port de Montreal (The Old Port of Montreal). It was 18 degrees. I was thinking Celsius. But no, that was Fahrenheit! Yikes! There were a few people out running but not many tourists like me taking photographs of everything. I walked as far as I could get along the trail. But at some point I must have veered wrong because I ended up at a construction site. There are still photos to be taken there but not exactly what I was looking for. Then, I saw a few people on the other side of the tracks (heheh) and knew that's where I was supposed to be. So back I went a little bit. I finally saw someone running where I thought I wanted to go so I followed him. I made my way to the Quai de l'Horage, which is a clock tower at the end of the Prom de Vieux Port. Spent some time there taking some photos and looking all around. There was a Molson plant nearby, which to me screams, "CANADA!" There was the Pont Jacques-Cartier, a bridge in the distance and a roller coaster (La Ronde). I walked back closer to the water and got a glimpse of some ships. It's clear there is not nearly as much activity today as there would be on a warm spring or summer day. But that's okay with me! As I was finishing along the Prom de Vieux Port, I came up some Cirque du Soleil tents. Things were being adjusted just enough that it seemed they'd not been there long. I'd seen no advertisements for shows so maybe they hadn't started yet. Then I thought perhaps this is where they train. It is a Cirque afterall and why not Montreal? I never found out the answers to my questions. Seems no one was paying them much notice at that time. But on their website it shows they will be performing toward the middle of April. Guess that's why I didn't see much advertising just yet. That would have been a nice surprise for myself! Anyway, it was cold and I needed to stop standing there contemplating. I made my way up Jacques-Cartier where the street was being blocked off for something. The weekend maybe. And then went back to my hotel after several hours out in the cold along the water. My fingers were frozen and I needed to thaw out and plan something warmish for my afternoon.

After an hour of thawing, I headed to the subway and the Stade Olympique. I had to switch trains at one point. Yikes! But I did fine. It still amazes me how quiet this subway station is. Partly because the people are quiet but also because the train is on tires. They look like regular truck tires. Seems the cars are held into place by metal wheels going sideways. But as far as braking and such, the tires seem to be the focus. So there's none of that metal screeching sound. Quiet. I was taking photos of the station and signs once I got off and a young man followed me. "Madam! Madam!" He thought I'd been taking his photo and I had to assure him that I was more interested in the structure than him. (=

The Stade Olympique was amazing! I spent a good amount of time in the Centre de Natation (Natatorium... swimming pool). I just kept thinking about all the amazing things that happened there in 1976. A lifetime ago. I didn't get to see the track & field or the gymnasium. I think I might have broken down in those. Bruce Jenner's heptathlon win and Nadia Comenici's perfect 10 were the big events during that Olympics. I did see the soccer stadium, which now belongs to the professional soccer team of Montreal, the Impact. Unfortunately I got to the auditorium just a little too late to ride up the tower. But just seeing it was amazing enough. The Biodome is also on the grounds. After a couple hours meandering around the grounds, it was time to leave. I wasn't sure about this neighborhood but I didn't think I wanted to be there at night alone.

Heading back to where I transferred trains, I decided to jump on yet another train and see where that took me. It ended up taking me across the Fleuve Saint-Laurent (river) to Ile Saint-Helene (island) and then to Longueuil where the Universite de Sherbrooke is. As we stepped off the train, I heard the most noise I have heard since I've been here. There were about 10 teenagers waiting for us to disembark and they all had flowers they were trying to sell to raise money for something. I couldn't understand that part. It was also the fastest I'd seen people move since I'd been there! The noise died quickly and it went back to it's usual quiet. I spent a little time there and realized I was on the other side of the Pont Jacques-Cartier (bridge) and the La Ronde (roller coaster). That was a nice surprise. There wasn't much around there within walking distance so back into the station I went.

I made my way back to the Place d'Armes stop and got out from under ground. It was getting to be dusk so I figured I should eat something. I decided to try out the oldest bar in North America. It's actually the place where the first liquor license was granted in North America. Le Saint-Gabriel, depuis 1754. I just had seared tuna and a Crown Royale and Coke. They were actually full but were nice enough to take a small table from a large group to let me sit there for a short while. Who says the French are rude?? They were very nice to me!

I wasn't there long as I wanted to make the last show at Basilique Notre-Dame. That sounds funny! Like it's Vegas or something. But no, it's actually a Basilica. Yep, Catholic. And yes, I chose to go there. They were having Et la Lumiere Fut (And then there was light). It was a history of Montreal and the Basilique Notre-Dame using actors (cheesy acting I might add) and beautiful lighting. As they described how each part of the church was designed, they would light up that portion in a variety of colors. It was quite dramatic and very difficult to describe in words! After the show, they gave us some time to wander around taking photos. Most amazing to me was the organ! It was the original. With some improvements and repairs of course. But it was monstrous and so beautiful. And there I learned the history of Montreal and the Basilique de Montreal. Fascinating!

Coffee. Then back to my hotel. Twelve hours running around town makes a girl tired!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Montreal - Urban Hiking - Day 2

I am not a morning person. Though I think that may only be when I'm working because when I recreate, I do tend to wake up earlier than usual. Today was no different. I set my alarm for 8:15am to be sure I got my free breakfast by 9:30am. Hey... I'm on a budget. Give me a break! I woke up about 7:00am and got up by 7:30am. So I started my whole day ahead of schedule. This is a good feeling! The two things I had planned for today were the Leonard Cohen Artworks exhibit and an Edgy Women performance. And so I started walking. I walked from rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste to rue Notre-Dame to rue Saint-Laurent to rue Saint-Catherine where the Cohen exhibit was. I got my first real glimpse of Basilique Notre-Dame of Montreal on that walk. Wow! I am not Catholic and the Catholics don't like me. But that structure is amazing! The minimalist side of me sees the disgusting excess but the artistic side can see how amazing it is. On Saint-Laurent I walked through Quartier Chinois (Chinatown). A colorful and dirty surprise. I hadn't looked at the details of the maps so that I would have this exact experience. Surprise! The foods on the sidewalks were varied and beautiful. The graffiti was creative. There was no particular smell. I get the feeling I was there too early for the sweet scents of food cooking. Saint-Catherine is known as Gay Village. But that wasn't on my map for some reason. What's cool about Canada is that even a Gay Village looks just like everything else. Gay people don't stand out there. Two men holding hands is no big deal. But I suppose it's still nice to have "a safe place" where one can say her community congregates. What I saw was mainly working people and students getting where they needed to go. Most of what I heard was French. There was very little English. It enveloped me in my own bubble and I loved hearing the singsong of their accents. Even the homeless people asking me for change sounded beautiful. I usually like to urban hike with my iPod on. I think of it as my soundtrack to the place and moment. But here, the soundtrack coming from the streets and the people was so much better than anything I could have created in a playlist. I also noticed that there weren't as many others on their phones or with headphones on as I have seen in other major cities.

I like the city sounds
Cacophonic at the same time
It's soothing to move with it
To be part of it
Maybe I'll cause a honk!

The highlight of my early morning was happening upon a place that served bubble tea. I don't know why. But I love bubble tea! I used to drink it as a treat when I lived in LA. But I haven't found a place in Minneapolis or St. Paul that serves it. It's been a few years. So I went in and ordered myself a Watermelon Bubble Tea. The bubbles weren't fresh, they were a tiny bit hard on the inside. But since it's been a few years, I still ate them. Or do you drink them? As I sat there, I looked over my map to see where I was and where I might like to go before Cohen. I was close to University of McGill so I headed up rue Guy to Boul de Maisonneuve and then up McGill College to the main entrance. I visited Musee Redpath where they were exhibiting dinosaur artifacts and a monstrous Japanese crab.

Then it was time to make my way toward the Cohen exhibit. I worked my way through the city streets to find the Galerie Lounge TD. I spent a little over an hour looking at his works. They also had his music playing. Good combination! His work is sarcastic and funny. Sometimes a little serious... usually when it comes to women.  I enjoyed it immensely. I also thought that this artwork would never have been shown or been ranked so highly if it had not come from him. Does that make sense? Because of his music and poetry, he is sort of a shoe-in in the art world. But still... I'm glad. Because, like I said, it was enjoyable. I bought the exhibit poster as well. That's not significant. Except that the woman minding the exhibit spend a good deal of time trying to find something workable to hold the poster so that it would not be ruined in my flight home. I realized quickly I was dealing with a perfectionist. Which was charming in French. Yeah, everything seems charming in French when you don't know the language. She could have been calling me a selfish rude American for all I knew. lol But I don't think so. She finally figured out a box situation that seemed suitable to her. I took a few more moments in another part of the galerie to look at some photographs mainly regarding breast cancer and mastectomies. There were some other photos too... mainly nudes. But the most poignant were women who'd had single or double mastectomies. Clearly still women with intact "womanhoods." It was beautiful! And then... I headed back to the hotel. I meandered mostly but did make sure to go down a side street within Chinatown. A funny thing happened on my way. I stopped to take a photo of a fire escape dragon painting and a woman pulled over and asked me directions in French. I didn't know how to say I didn't know. lol But I heard "Notre-Dame" so I put up 2 fingers and pointed left... it is two blocks to the left. She nodded, said "Merci" and was on her way. I had given directions in French on my first full day in Montreal. A proud moment! heheh I walked 5 hours this morning.

Back in the hotel I took a short nap, showered, and got ready for my theatre outing. But more importantly, I had to get ready for my first subway ride! I'm not sure which I was more excited about! lol The subway was SO easy. My only problem was I couldn't read the ticketing machine. These kind of experiences are good for me. I have a Ph.D. so I don't have much trouble getting around in my world. What must it be like not to be able to read or find things easily. Now I know. Though I understand I still have privilege even when I don't speak the language. Anyway, I had to get help from an attendant. He was very nice. I explained myself way too much! But I got my ticket. And off I went. I didn't have to change trains at all so that was good. The theatre was very close to the station so I got there very early. Which was good because I hadn't purchased a ticket yet. I didn't want to charge it because I didn't want to give Wells Fargo the satisfaction of their idiotic surcharge. (= Then I walked around the neighborhood, which was more residential than anything. Across the street from the theatre... a bike shop! I knew I would find one at some point. I went in and Rocky Mountain mountain bikes were the main attraction there. Makes sense to support the local bike maker. It was tiny and crowded. I loved it! They didn't speak much English and were very busy so I just browsed. I kept trying to find something.... ANYTHING... that I need or might ever need. But I couldn't. So I left empty-handed. I am questioning the truth of my bike addiction if I truly couldn't find anything. lol Afterwards I walked down to rue Saint-Denis, which is supposedly a beautiful street with lots of shops etc. I found a nice enough looking park that was not well kept. Though it is spring and the melting snow may be revealing this dinge. Garbage day is clearly tomorrow so there were lots of garbage bags along the curb. I left the area pretty quickly.

En On was the performance I was seeing. It was 3 women doing different individual performances. The first was Yumiko Yoshioka who did what I interpreted as a birth, life, illness, death, and spirit performance while wrapped in saran wrap and Halloween webbing. I found it frustrating! All that trying to release herself from the webbing and saran wrap. Arrgh! Just cut it off already! But that is part of the struggle of life, right? The next was Karen Sherman who is actually from Minneapolis. She did a performance about awkwardness that I think I need to bring to my college for students to watch. It was quite funny! Finally was Lise Vigneault whose performance I'm not sure I can explain or describe. Basically, it was about her boyfriend having a lot of stereotypical gay characteristics and her denial of his true sexual orientation... and possibly her own. That's the best I can do. Ya just had to be there! (=

And then I went home. At night. Alone. On the subway. And it was fine. I felt pretty safe. It was about 10pm or so on a weeknight. So there were not many people out and about. The walk from the station to my hotel also felt pretty safe. I feel like my American city living has tainted me for trusting urban areas. LA, Houston, and Denver did me no favors in that regard. But I lightened up a little... whilst keeping my wallet tucked away. I stopped at Starbucks (boooo) on my way in because I couldn't find a local cafe that was open. And that is where my first full day of urban hiking in Montreal ends.

You can find more photos at my Flickr.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Montreal - Urban Hiking - Day 1

Today was mostly about traveling to Montreal. I haven't flown internationally in awhile. Though I figured going to Canada would be a good place to start. So here I am... in Montreal. Dropped everything off my suite in Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal) then took off walking. I started by going east on rue Notre-Dame and then down Jacques-Cartier. I was getting dangerously to the Vieux Port de Montreal (old port) and decided to avoid that area for now. So I headed back ouest (west) on rue Saint-Paul. Beautiful old building on narrow cobblestoned streeets. I love that! Just walked around getting my bearings and looking for some food. I eventually found it in an Italian restaurant. I was so hungry, I forgot to look at the name of the place! lol But the meal was great. I slowly made my way back to my hotel, grabbing a caffe' along the way,  got myself settled, and am making a plan for tomorrow's adventure.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Cross Country Skiing - maybe the last

Possibly our last ski of the year. The weather is getting warmer and warmer so the snow is becoming less ski-able. There was a bit of ice on the bottom of the more worn tracks. But the tracks were still deep so we went FASSSST on some parts. Fast for us anyway! ha! That, of course, made the downhills interesting. It was dusk so the top layer of snow which had been melting all day, became a crispy layer. Just another speed inducer! Yay! It was a beautiful end to the season. But I'll hold out a tiny bit of home for another snowfall that will allow us to get out there again. In the meantime, I need to get our bikes in for maintenance!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cross Country Skiing

I had Friday off so I took the opportunity to go cross country skiing in the Carleton College Arboretum. There was no one around since it was during a weekday. It was beautiful and quiet. I'm definitely getting better at skiing. Though definitely not where I was many many years ago when I was skiing all the time. What I'm having the most trouble with is skiing downhill within the tracks. As I pick up speed, I start to get scared that I won't be able to stop because I can't snowplow within the tracks. So I step out of the track to snowplow and slow down. But stepping out of the track seems sometimes more dangerous than just going with the speed. When we first started skiing this year, I would stop at the top of every hill, even the small ones, and get my courage up. At least now I don't pause before going. Progress! It's just nice to be out in the fresh air... 10 degree air no less!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

City of Lakes Loppet

We purchased our new cross-country skis from REI and with them got free entry into the City of Lakes Loppet REI Tour. The REI Tour was a 10K recreational ski amidst the much more competitive races through the Minneapolis area. We had to park pretty far away but they had buses organized, very well organized I might say, to get us to the start.

We took our time and enjoyed the scenery. There were a few racing jerks who snapped at us for being in the way. But that's whatcha get when you put first-time tourers with racers. We were just part of their course. Most of the racers did not fit that "jerk" category. One guy even said we were doing great in his speedy fly past us! lol

The volunteers along the route were awesome! There were firepits to keep them, and us if necessary, warm. It was such a nice day out but I still can't imagine standing there for hours handing out drinks to the racers.

So we finished in a couple hours. Because it had taken us so long to finish, there were a ton of spectators there to cheer us on. Well... not us really. But we were finishing not long before the freestyle racers. So we got our medals and were politely escorted to back of the finishers area. lol BUT, because we were in the finishing area, we got to see some awesome finishes up close. That was very cool!

Afterwards, they provided a warm tent with great soup and freshmade bread by Great Harvest along with some vendors. So we stuck around for a little while before getting back on the bus to head home.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Cross Countrying Skiing New Year's Day

We decided to bring in the new year on cross country skis! What a great plan! It was about -15 by the time we got out there. We decided to go into the Arboretum so maybe we'd be blocked from some of the wind. Even with the cold, it was SO beautiful to be out!