Opener – Transitions

Summer/Fall 2019

Catching up and boy there is a lot to write about. Writers block hits hard. I honestly view such statements like that with a little skepticism and brush it off thinking that how hard is it to put things on paper ‘a la’ blog post?

Well I can truly state as a matter of fact that no matter how much there truly is to write about I found it difficult to sort subject matter in order to start filling in the blanks. Ever try to go grocery shopping with half the list in your pocket, and which list you were to grab for what specific grocery store to start with makes it a little hard. Yeah yeah I get it. Go to one place, and grab everything and that’s that.

Not gonna happen, and as usual scatter brain happens more often. Glad I’m not in advertising for I’d have lost my job. Now with a little more effort this time around I have found that slowing down and scribbling ideas here and there have helped to paint a bigger and clearer picture. This is one of those clear picture moments.

I had started a running program at Cf Spero gym, and had been increasing distances, drills, and skills for the runners to prepare them for them running a half marathon, or 10k in the trails in the coming October race. Most had rarely if ever ran in a true trail so I asked them out on the team in the Cook County Forest Preserves near Palos Park, IL. This is an expansive trail network, and many a mountain biker and biker, and trail runner loves to train in all year around.

There are easy trails, moderate, and the hard trails. It’s not as hilly as other places I’ve raced before but you can surely train your heart out here if you’re smart. Getting back to my runners…. we had a plan of attack. Step one was locating our location, and trail head. City folks looking for an opening in the woods…. it is a blessing that these trails are well marked, but with late summer early fall setting in there has been good over growth due to rainy season here so on the trails, and the footing was challenging, and trail signs are hidden on a few turns so keeping your eyes peeled was step two.

Their first run in a trail was a success! Officially this was a five miler and some gps watches show it to be around 5.5-6 miles. Either way success. Lessons taken away that day:

  1. Gym shoes are just that, for the gym
  2. Heel striking isn’t going to get you anyplace faster, just more tired
  3. Trail shoes save lives (sliding backwards on muddy slopes averted) unless you’re wearing #1
  4. Hydration packs need to have water in them to work
  5. Hydration bottles can also be lost during your run while wearing #1 and not averting #3
  6. 5 mile loop is not a straight out and back ( you can’t fit triangle in square)
  7. Having electrolytes to take ‘during’ run is negated if you leave them in pockets
  8. Share the trail motto is lost on bipedals with pedals
  9. Skirting danger going up hill while said bipedals think they’re in Moab
  10. You can run, relax, zone out, and be happy on a trail. Racing or training.

See, I’ve made my first top ten list. 💥

I do believe that sharing such experiences with other people help to foster a sense of belonging and comradery few other things can. Sure you can knit in a group, but can you do it while running a 10k in beautiful sunlight and friends along? Nope, those pesky needles will get you every time.

Trail race #1 – Ragnar Northwoods in Wisconsin 9/21/19

Have you ever run a race when it’s so hot you never stop sweating? How about a race that is just plain humid all of the time that you’re just soaked without even trying to get sweaty? I see a few heads bobbing and hands are up yelling Amen!

We had a blast! The village has a fire pit going all day long, and even before we started our first run we stood by this heat only to see steam bellowing out from our bodies due to the humidity clinging to everything on us. You can only imagine post runs around the fire laughing our butts off telling our tales and drinking coffee, eating at the craziest hours, and trying to help the next runners for their leg.

Have you ever run a Ragnar trail race? Fun! Three loops consisting of 1) Green – short 3.1-4 miles b) Yellow – 4.1-5 miles and c) Red – 6.1-7 miles. Technical difficulties do differ on each depending what part of the country you race. I met up with my Ragnar Kentuckiana team from 2018 and we just had a better time in general.

Man oh man, we had a blast! Eight runners, tents, coffee everywhere and very nice Runners village. Food trucks, and since I’m always hungry while I train, or race this was my utopia for the weekend. Oh, did I mention they had beer?

My fiancé, Brian, Natasa, David, Laura, Annie, Becca, and I rounded out the Spero ‘Gio’s wrecked runners’ crew. Yes, they aptly named the team after me. How kind…lol

Some of us are experienced runners, and some not so much. However they got into the groove of running that they forgot that it is not as treacherous and difficult as they had made it out to be while they were out there in nature on all times of the day. The trick was just to keep their wits about them especially at dusk and overnight runs are mentally draining. They spooked the wildlife more than the wildlife spooked them during those night runs, but they don’t believe it when to,d that fact. They’ve sworn that the heard a wolf, bear, or Sasquatch on the trail with them this night runs.. lmao! But, you just never know right?

Pre-Race
9/19
Rear – Laura, David, Natasa, Brian
Front – Nene, Annie, me, Becca
Team – Gio’s Wrecked runners

Finished – but not over. We had one more race to do in October and back to training when we got back.

Fall / Winter Trail Racing

Well coming off the trails in Wisconsin we dialed in our trail running skills in Palos Park Trail System once more to keep our momentum going. Running more than 10 miles on the trails while being more efficient and effective on our running speed and cadence. We had a few new runners for this late fall race in Galena, IL Oct/19.

On this weekend we had the option of three distances. A 5k, 10k, or half marathon. Five of us raced the half while four more raced the 5k. Nicely groomed trail, and almost flat and shaded. Late warmer temps had runners shed their outer shells and ran fairly fast on this little trail.

Coming from the Northwoods with minimal rest and recovery I thought I could tackle this 1/2 marathon without skipping a beat. Well, not so fast my body was telling me very early on. Half marathoners staged first on this 27F morning and I was not a happy camper. Cold, and feeling very stiff we started our run. Sun was peeking out between he trees only teasing us with some light and zero warmth.

My hat, shell, and gloves stayed on when we hit a few icy bogs on the trail and knew right away that this was gonna be a rough one if I hit these bogs, and I’d feel colder if I did. Not my ideal running situation while I was just getting warm. Well, to no avail with runners somewhat tightly situated on the trail some of us hearty souls took one for the team and sloshed through those bogs and kept on cruising. Feeling cold, it took me to the 10k mark to finally shed my shell and stash it in my pack somewhat.

The shell stayed on my shoulder straps and it would not budge. Upon shedding the shell I began to feel my Right IT bad fire like crazy. No build up of discomfort or indication of hip tightness at all just boom! Here I am big boy! Whatcha gonna do!? Well, I continued to run, walk, stretch, and repeat that process around a half dozen times to stretch and curse my tight hips, all the while I hydrated to stem any possible cramping that may arise from this. I thought long and hard about just walking the rest of the distance, but I was not gonna give in and just walk.. I made up my mind that I would finish regardless of my discomfort.

I made it back to the start line and knew I had 5k left. Regardless of the hobble, shuffle, and pain I would not stop to stretch until I crossed the Finish line. When I did finally cross that line I was fatigued, and in pain. We took our medals, some pics, and then I tried to walk a few steps (26 total) to the top of the bridge / sidewalk to grab some food when at the first ten steps I took my body lit up like lightning bolts on both IT bands bilateral knees and hips. My body was having none of this stair climbing nor walking in general. So, what did I do? Heck I walked with Nene next to me for 800m to the restaurant and finally sat down to drink as much coffee as possible not caring about anything else except that there was food coming my way and I could relieve my pain with copious amounts of coffee until we walked 1200m back to the car and head back to the hotel to take a Hot bath. Purchased epsom salt, and Skor chocolate to take the edge off. Yes, cho-co-late! My pain killer of choice.. I have my type of meds and you have yours. 😛

Post bath what would any sane human do? I’m not sane so we went to a distillery that a friend referred me to and had an adult drink. Man did it hit the spot. No, not buzzed just felt the warmth inside that was missing and we headed back to the the hotel and then grabbed some food. Time well spent.

Would I do this race again? You bet! I love Galena, and plenty to do there. This year we’ll sty a bit longer and have great time to enjoy the festivities they have after the race. Halloween weekend with parade, and costume contest to be had.

L-R- Gio’s Wrecked Runners
Eleni, Tom, Nene, me, Aurora
L-R: Gio’s wrecked runners
Aurora, Eleni, Mark, Nene

Chicago Veterans Ruck March 5/24/19

There are times where you feel anxious, or butterflies prior to an event that you’re participating in that will make your preparation for such an event either fruitful or regrettable. I’m happy to state that my butterflies were there, but not so much as a nervousness due me questioning whether or not I have trained properly, and am I wearing the right equipment for this event.

The morning started at Chicago’s Union Station for our ride to the start line which was at Henry Kalk Park, Glenco, IL. Just getting off the train and the registration/ check in tables are 100 yds away. Well, one good thing deserves another right? Well, the morning of the event it had been forecasted to be gloomy, rainy, and cool. What we did get was very rainy, lighting, and thunder.

While getting off the train, it opened up on us. Yes, it just kept on coming, and not a shelter in sight except for the volunteers, and food areas. With standing water, mud, and a bit of a wind we just had to come to terms that we were going to be uncomfortable sooner than later.

Everyone involved had a great attitude towards the situation fully knowing that being uncomfortable was par for the course so we all took it in stride. Heck, once the colors were presented, our national anthem sung, and a speech given it was time to ruck and roll. A 20 mile ruck with weights of your choosing is what makes this event all encompassing. We’ve had children, and adults with their school bags and gym shoes , and the elderly with nothing on their backs. You get this done the best possible way you can in the time you can.

Our team of five had a two females, and three males. Each wearing a ruck or backpack that suited their ability to accomplish the goal of 20miles. We had no illusions of trying to keep up with the ROTC HS / College kids. Nope, my ego was checked when I registered. With that being said we did pass many people on the route who were much younger than us and finished much sooner also.

Typically due to improper footwear I’d lost nails the last two years, and no I’m not posting pics of them although I did take pics of my feet. This year I wore the shoes I’ve been training in for over six months I’ve broken them in, so they’re so comfy and wide. I’ve worn many brands of shoes for training, and have found them to be very solid, zero drop, wide toed, and look odd. I dig them. They’re the Altra Superiors 3.0, but the link will give you the 4.0’s. I’m gonna grab them next for my trail half marathon in October.

Selene, she wore the Altra Lone Peak 3.5. Solid shoes, and man do they make a difference. Not having any foot issues is a big deal in such an event as this, and we’re two happy people because of it. They did not break down with 50lb on my back, and that’s not including water, food, or extra gear.

We rucked through beautiful neighborhoods, and walking past the Baha’i House of Worship It’s a beautiful building outside, but you’re gonna drop your jaw when you go inside.

Our lunch stop area (designated) in Evanston, IL we had a chance to do foot care. Change socks, check for blisters and such items to be taken care of. Someone decided to get a little warmer by using a garbage bag to get warm.

Well fed by our volunteers, we donned our gear and headed out. Warm? Not really, still a lake breeze keeping the temperature at 55F/13C all the time. The wind at times was nasty, until we were on Sheridan Rd, by Rogers Park until way past Loyola University. Once we got to Hollywood beach, game on for windy, cooler, and a little sunny. By that I mean that it was brighter and no rain. Rucking on the lakefront path is always a treat except when the idiot bike riders think their higher level of riding a bike fast is greater importance than the pedestrians they barely miss hitting. Dickweeds!

Once we passed the uptown area, past Montrose harbor, and cricket hill the Rucker’s were very spread out, and you could tell everyone was determined to make it. No matter what. Blisters, and body aches be damned! Supporting each other whether or not we knew each other is of more importance than being a lone wolf in this event. Words of affirmation is one thing, but get words of encouragement from strangers really lights their, and my fire. That’s why I keep coming back, to give back.

Once passed the Nearing The totem pole we were stopped and greeted by a bud of of Weber’s whom he had served with and started to give us beer. Heck, I was thrilled and thirsty so I of course enjoyed a can, and carried another just in case I felt thirsty sooner than later. Actually I felt good after that, I had just taken my CrankSport eGel. So, my carb load went up and I felt goooood!

Once we made it to our last obstacle, which happened to be a bridge to cross over Lake Shore Drive at North Avenue Beach, we were feeling it for sure! My legs ached pretty bad, but we were determined to either hobble or crawl to the finish!

Selene took a video of struggle but we were laughing at our level of discomfort. Old geezers doing work! 😂

One the funniest things that happened was when we were resting waiting for others to finish and hydrating with my beer of course I started to get cold. So I said I’m going to put on another shirt to warm up. While trying to put in over my head I couldn’t lift my arms and got stuck. As if on cue Weber, and Selene began to laugh hard at my demise but wouldn’t help. My inability to don a shirt was due to the crush line injury on my traps by the ruck. So, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

They laughed so hard they couldn’t reach their cameras to take a pic. Good thing.

As far as equipment this year as last events went here is the load out.

My faithful ruck from GoRuck in the GR1 has been such a sturdy piece of well made equipment that has been dragged, thrown, swung, smashed, soaked, and in all weather conditions to boot. It’s tough I tell you. Very much so, that hauling this ruck for prolonged period of time (7+ hours) it does not lose its shape. Shoulder pads are very well padded, and my suck factor was well reduced as I lugged 50lb for 20 miles that day.

It may sound like a product review, but not my intent. It’s a statement of fact to instill in anyone starting out in any endeavor such as this to go out and try out many rucks, and read plenty of reviews. One purchase, no regrets, and plenty of time had working out with or using it as a EDC bag.

I hope to have more participants next year to join us, maybe it’s you?

See you then,

Magister Nosce

Planning and executing

I’ve spent the past two weeks prepping, doodling, writing, and finalizing a 12 week running program. Of course it’s nothing too detailed since it’s going to be presented as an outline for the participants at the gym for those that want a goal race after the 12 wk program runs its course

The focus of the program is really how to teach/instruct clients on the basics of running technique. I teach clients to improve their hip strength, hamstring pull, and make less noise while running. This is not a Big deal for veteran runners unless they themselves have some chronic pain, or need to improve their running technique where I am asked to assess/evaluate then proceed to have them work on re-learning how to move with one skill at a time.

Getting outside and running is a great release for many involved, and stress relief if you’re not training for a coming race is something they look forward to. There are times when a direct correlation of following a plan reduces the stress involved as to what distance, or focus points one should cover is not something they have to worry about. They just follow the plan, execute the drill and are non to displeased to find themselves running better and finding that there is enjoyment to be had.

What do you look forward to when you train, whether it be in the gym, or outdoors? Is it the physical aspect of doing something, or a mental release that you actually look forward to when you participate in such endeavours?

Go out, find what makes you happy while being in the moment to find release in the physical realm, or a mental check. Emotionally, I believe both the psyche and physical exertion work on releasing such toxicity at times that I look forward to the iron game and really let out my anger, or sadness during and intess bout of lifting/CF.

While running, I entertain my past running career. Racing both in road/trail races and how they both are similar in a small way and differ greatly depending on distance and location of course. Who can beat a trail race with great scenery? While running along the Chicago lakefront really is a fantastic treat as long as you’re not being run down by the idiot bike riders!

Go out, train, have fun both in the box or outdoors.

My Prio shoes.  Excellent zero drop shoes I've run with, and have even grabbed for my HIIT/CF WOD's

See you soon,

G

A last minute ruck

I went ahead today to complete a challenge that was cancelled in the early part of October. It was the 12mile time trial ruck.

I expected to do it alone, but decided my boy Gunner would be bored at home so I decided to feed him well, and hydrate him prior to leaving the house.

Beautiful trail day with overcast sky, slight cool wind blowing at my back for the first half of the trip. The colors are what get me moving outside even more this time of the year. I’m a fall baby and it shows. I had conversations With people at certain times this year about training in different temps, and found myself coming back to solidify my stance on the Fall/Winter time of the year where I can train harder and much longer.

Nature changing and preparing itself for darker, cooler, and icier days ahead. Those changes are what I love about this time of the year. Cooler temps means wearing wool tops, and a windbreaker even when it’s in the 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. You’re gonna sweat, so wear the proper clothing and just enjoy yourself.

Well, walking with a dog is no big deal really. All you have to consider is time, distance, people and other dogs especially the untrained ones. Other than that it’s great! Speed rucking, and with me loaded down with 50+ pounds on my back, and him on a leash makes it a very interesting day on the trail.

He kept up really well until we saw a Big buck crossing the trail, and all he wanted was to chase it. Umm, nope! We trudged towards mile three where the video below was taken. He’s enjoying life, and loves the outdoors. What dog doesn’t?

Once we got to our turnaround point we sped up just a tad more, from 3.5 pace to 3.9 pace. Man oh man I’m feeling that decision right now. Everything’s aching, swollen, and lost two nails one on each foot, and they’re from the same digit respectively. I’ve lost toe nails from those toes before. No big deal, just get over the fact that your hurting on the ruck march, and suck it up.

You’ll live, and the good thing is that a Hot epsom salt soak helps immensely after such an event. Yes, the nails are off, and before you ask why? This is why – It hurts to walk with nails that have been pulled upward of the nail bed every step you take.

So, I take them off. Simple. Fast. Clean. No more pain, or discomfort. They grow back, and most of the time growing them back isn’t a pretty thing since they don’t grow back perfect.

Well, back at the trail from beginning to end:

Trail – Salt Creek Trail

  • Start – Brookfield Woods
  • Halfway point – Wolf Rd
  • Finish – Brookfield Woods
  • Once complete we walked way slower, had him do his business then back home.
  • Once home, he drank water like he’d never had a drop over a week. Funny, I took a bowl, and water for him to drink out of, but instead he just turned his head in disgust! It made me laugh. Should’ve taken the pic of that. I was just spent.

    We ate lunch at home, 4 eggs, and a bowl of barbacoa taco meat that was left over. Heck, it was gourmet for me!

    Until next time kiddos! Kicking my feet up while he snores! Will need more food also!

    Oh, just might take a dram or two of Rum. Why not? 🥃🤔🤫

    P.S. Hydration is key to seeing something like this through, and so does electrolytes from Cranksports. It helped so much! Get on it people!

    Vacation 10/18, Part 3

    We’re officially en route to Daughter #1. Driving on route 52 that is winding, scenic, oh my the towns we go through where the speed limit goes from 55mph immediately to 25mph without much of a warning at all!

    I was expecting maybe one or two places like that, and as it turns out most all of the twins were like that except maybe one where there were plenty of warnings of reduced speeds ahead. But, that very first one made me laugh because your coming in from a decent downhill angle into town, then a radar is pointed at you telling you of your speed which is fifty feet from a sign that tells you the speed limit is 25mph.

    What was funny is that once you slow down to the required speed limit there is a cop ten feet past the radar with another radar pointed at you also just in case you missed the giant speed read out you just passed. Well, they do need to make revenue for their towns don’t they?

    I liked the entire drive into Dubuque, and once getting into their city limits I really enjoyed the rural setting of a growing city. This city has escaped a lot of fanfare yet it has a nice appeal to people looking to have cafes, restaurants, a busy downtown and growing commerce area. I dig the area and it’s showing promise.

    Once we were in town, Selene (‘Nene), and I strolled inside the Kennedy Mall to do some window shopping and kill some time prior to us heading into our last resting area for the remainder of our vacation. We also had enough time to drive into downtown Dubuque where we ended up going into one of my favorite Java joints called Jitterz. There we met daughter #1. Shared a meal, and it’s funny how in a very short time almost caught up with local events, and happenings in Dubuque.

    once we parted ways we were finally headed to Mainstay Inn and Suites. Nice, cozy place with a kitchenette, microwave, and small underutilized coffee maker with their in house coffee. I brought my own coffee from Guatemala called Café Léon Regiones Blend Especial. I am in Love with this coffee blend. It’s smooth, with small hits of chocolate, and and spices. It is very aromatic. I can drink this all day. Safe to say that I will be ordering sooner than later. The first pound was a gift from my parents that went to Guatemala on their annual trip.

    The first thing we had to do and in order was to get out of our smoke engulfed clothing, and shower. Powerful jets of hot water hit me and it was fan-freaking-tastic! After the shower it was time to unpack everything for this stage of the trip, (yes, different go bags) and it was welcomed treat for clothes that were not smoke infused. Not that I minded the scent of campground fire place, but the looks from the locals, and questions of the retail shop employees showed us that we were in need of a scrub down, and change of attire. It was funny to see their faces, and ask us questions about what we were just up to since we had a very particular scent about us. Hahahahaha.

    Once showered, and changed into clean clothes ‘Nene went to do laundry, while I sort of started to organize my thoughts, and pictures for the blog.

    But, I do love her curls. Yet, she hates them. Kinda hard to see in certain angles, but they’re there. After growing her hair back from treatment (her story and blog post) this hair is naturally curly, and soft. She’s never had curly hair ever in her lifetime. To my amazement it’s pretty darn cute.

    Once you read her story you’ll be in Total amazement of her journey. It’s cool I tell you.

    Now, once we’re finished with the laundry and organizing of pics, and blog write up blah blah blah….. we are off to have a meal with my daughter. We all decided to have a Thai dinner at Pete’s Thai Kitchen. ‘Nene ordered a Basil fried rice, daughter #1 and I ordered the Roasted Duck Curry. Yum! Delicious doesn’t even come close! Well prepared, and good serving size! Jasmine tea to top me off. Thai coffee for D#1, and Pop for ‘Nene.

    We headed back to our room after dinner, and had one of the beers I purchased in St Louis. It was a good ending to our day. Traveling from campgrounds to city wasn’t all that bad, and the beer closed my day fairly well.

    Wanting not to be rushed to do anything the next morning, we grabbed breakfast downstairs in their dinning area. Not bad for a continental breakfast. Your typical, waffles, cereals, milk, yogurt, banana, bagel, juices, and of course tea and coffee. We took what we could eat, and not binge. Have you ever had those moments where everything you ate was good enough to have just double the amount because you’re traveling and it’s justified. I was close, those waffles called to me….. lol.

    Well, once back upstairs there was winding down, storing / uploading pics and videos and as much as I wanted to nap it’s just not in me especially when I wanted to log everything we’ve done so I began to write the posts of our trip. She napped while I got the mea of the data complete. No easy task, unless you count the mini writers block I have encountered from blog two to this one.

    We scheduled a dinner with daughter #1 and her boyfriend at a downtown eatery that’s hot with the business types, and college crowd also. It’s called 1st and Main, and it’s located exactly at First and Main in downtown Dubuque.

    Prior to arriving to our dinner reservation we were pretty hungry early around 3~4pm so we asked where we could have and truly enjoy a Chicago style pizza? We were referred to Marco’s Pizza & BBQ. Wow, we were so impressed we left nothing on the platter to give anyone a sample once we’d finished.

    Now, of course it looks as if I’d eaten all of the pizza alone by those pictures-provided. You would not be so far from the fact since we looked at each other and agreed that given another opportunity o re order it’d be a Large or extra large pizza. That’s how good it was. Sausage, peppers, garlic, spicy sausage, pepperoni, and bacon all over.

    Three hours later we made it our dinner date with daughter #1, and her boyfriend. We were not that hungry (more like she wasn’t ), but I ordered an appetizer of meatballs with a garlic vinaigrette sauce. Wow! This place was just starting to liven up when we arrived around 8pm. Yup, late one for us but well worth the company!

    At this restaurant the good stuff is on the meals they serve from Italian, to bar food. One particular hamburger they sell has peanut butter on it. According to daughter #1 it’s very good, as she licked her fingers… ha! Yes, yes you thought the fried egg was over the top huh? Well, they also have a wide selection of wines, beers, and top shelf liquors/ spirits……🥃🍾. We shared a few good laughs, caught almost up to current events, and work stuff, but sadly we had to go our separate ways.

    Our last day in Dubuque has finally arrived, and I’m bummed. I love spending time with my kids, watching them interact with / in their world makes me very proud of how they’re growing even more in their roles as adults. God has Blessed me very much. We share breakfast together at a Hy-Vee restaurant located within the supermarket itself. Eggs, salmon, waffles, you name it we’re eating it. Lol. It was affordable, and delicious!

    Well, the time has come. Time for our see you laters, but never Goodbyes. We have already checked out of our Inn prior to meeting up with daughter #1, so it’s onto the expressway and ride back east to Chicago. Yes, it’s a short hop back home, and bittersweet. During our ride back home I pondered how it’s be to move to St Louis, or Dubuque to work and live.

    It’s way cheaper, and communities are good. One down south, of course is very urban, with the infrastructure getting better, and it’s warm. All the while the Northern one is more rural and it’s tech businesses are growing very quickly, so this is very promising for this quiet town.

    The jury is out, and so are the resumes. We took a short stop to grab a needed break, bathroom included and snacks. She took an ice cream cone, while I had M&Ms that were coffee flavored! Oh, let’s not forget the skeleton Cheetos she elected to eat only after putting together the skeleton first.

    Once back in Chicago near O’Hare, I bailed and took an earlier exit so that I can cut through the city streets to get home faster rather than sitting in traffic more, or longer than needed. Waiting for a light to change, being Friday rush hour traffic ‘Nene noticed something on the side of the road in the Forest preserve. Immediately she pulled out her camera and took video, and pics of a few deer eating near the curb.

    Well, we made it home in record time! I really did not miss the stupid drivers, and rude people. Truly, this trip reinforced to me how people differ in different places that really are not that far from each other. It’s an eye opener. Not surprised though. It’s something you deal with daily so you’ll you begin to ignore it because it’s so commonplace. Manners are out, and the me me me is in.

    Not my idea of being neighborly, but I won’t change myself or lose any peace due to someone else though.

    Once we walked into our apartment with some of our belongings we were welcomed properly by my lil’ boy Gunner!

    I have tried plenty of times to get some of the videos from my GoPro to edit, but it just crashes. I’ll continue to find a way to make a video of this trip that we documented on these three posts, so possibly in the near future we’ll be able to find a way to make them , and share them with you all.

    Until next time kiddos!

    Vacation trip 10/18, Part 2

    En route to Bellevue State Park, IA. Well, leaving early morning from St Louis, MO was uneventful. Just plenty of trucks swerving just outside the city limits and just over The Mississippi due to some heavy crosswinds. An event better observed from afar than to experience up close and personal.

    There were plenty of vehicles experiencing the winds on the I55 corridor this day, when upon reaching a long stretch of the road we saw a school bus being passed on the left by a semi, and the wind caused the bus to swerve not only into the trucks lane but also onto the shoulder. It was buffeted left and right up until the truck had passed it by a length and a half where the bus driver finally got it under control. Thank God it missed smacking itself onto the ditch or the truck.

    Traveling on this road we found ourselves at a CrackerBarrel Restaurant! Woohoo! It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten here (not location) where I really dig the wall art, locations are remote of course, but the fireplace, nick-nacks, and candies are well worth my stop. We ate well, and since Selene was craving it since we started our vacation she was very happy we found one on our trip Northbound toward our next destination.

    This trip took us into the middle of Illinois’ farm lands, then into a scenic route in Iowa where we witnessed some the effects of the Mississippi rivers’ flooding. We were getting sporadic signal on our phones so getting weather updates were a tad sketchy. However this route was incredible, with a closed off section where my little car ended up performing like a mini 4×4 for a stint in Iowa.

    We drove North on Route 52 with some of the most incredible vistas, and dips, dives, and curves with colors to match a picturesque fall painting. Sunny, cotton ball clouds, and barely any traffic to speak of. Loved every minute of it entirely. With the winding roads, farms left, and right of the road with Red barns that are a staple of this trip. I will most definitely place this route on my top five list.

    We arrived at our location provided by our GPS provided Google maps app, and it was of course Not the location for our campsite. There were signs directing visitors to their office, yet there really was no office to speak of, much less personnel on premises to assist anyone that day.

    So, we drove into town and since we needed ice (not really) I drove into the gas station, paid for a few bags of ice and had a quick conversation with the attendant where she informed me that they not only sold beer, but whiskey! I was so happy and giddy, that I not only paid for the bags of ice, that I proceeded to get into the car and was going to drive off until Selene asked if had the ice. Yup, I was so distracted by the knowledge of them selling whiskey that I forgot all about the ice. Video

    Well, on the way back onto the route I had assumed was our campgrounds we noticed another vehicle driving like we were, as if lost trying to find something… we drove further south than what the GPS/Google maps took us at first and found our campsite. It was a nice little spot, which was located just outside the modern bathrooms/ showers but no hot water at all.

    The campsite we had reserved was very open to the elements especially the wind that was blowing pretty steady, and the temps were dropping mighty fast. The site was okay, not too small but large enough to set up the tent and a cooking pit with a swivel grill top to cook on an open fire which made it a pleasant change of pace than trying to cook atop the logs. I did like the grill top to place cooking items on so I don’t burn my hands.

    Well, the first night we had tacos, and a lot of Cholula hot sauce on them. Man, tasty doesn’t come close to what this was in my mouth. Those tacos went down fast, along with the beer I purchased in St Louis. Scottish ale beers. I’ll have to find the actual bottle brands because they are very good if you’re into Scottish style ales. Purchased them at the Craft Beer Cellar locates in Clayton, MO.

    Here are three of the remaining bottles from a set of six I purchased:

    De-li-ci-ous! They are an acquired taste, but if you’re willing they are well worthy of your palate.

    Well, we froze our butts off the first night at camp when the temps hovered around 30F. To be honest, we were much colder standing outside setting up camp, and cooking/eating than actually being inside our tent snug in our sleeping bags. Her bag was rated to 20F, while my bag as rated at 40F. Guess I’d chosen wisely about stashing extra camp clothes to wear inside my bag just in case of an event such as this.

    Heck, we were warm inside the three season REI tent. Plenty of mesh for air circulation 😳🤔 and a warm fleece blanket thrown atop the bags to help ward off anything the clothes and bags did not take care of. The icy wind was constant, and man I needed to use the bathroom mighty bad so I made sure I got it taken care of prior to jumping into the tent to crash. Someone (shall remain unnamed) 🤫🤭🤣😂 did not heed my advice and woke up around 5:30am to frost everywhere.

    Once the sun came up we started prepping breakfast. I had fire pit duty. The good thing is that when you light a fire with wood the night before you will end up with something in the pit that will light faster the following day, and it’s much easier than trying to light wet wood to begin with. There was enough charcoal, and believe it or not some of it was still warm which meant I had a great chance of starting my fire fairly quickly. Love kindling that’s very dry since it makes lighting the larger pieces of wood much easier.

    Breakfast of champions was bacon, eggs, served with croissants! Woo! That was good. Had my multiple cups of coffee that is always freshly ground in my hand grinder, and my aero press to make the coffee. Delicious!

    Once we downed the breakfast it was a game of “let’s get the signal to get messages in / out for the next step of our journey”. It was funny trying to find a spot when’re there is any type of signal to your phone, and once we had it it was gone just as fast. Anyone experience this type of frustration? I don’t necessarily appreciate driving long distances just to grab a signal or WiFi from the gas station but that’s what needed to be done so we did. We also grabbed some more firewood. Heehee, I like my fire pit so much I like to feed it.

    Well, once we had a signal we reached out to daughter #1 as to our location, logistics, and itinerary for the next stage of our trip. Well, as sketchy as the sending was, and our reception was even worse. That was until we were able to communicate via voice that everything was cemented. But getting that magical antennae to work took concerted practice and Selene is a Star! Here she is as the human antenna used in order for me to speak on the phone. Love her!

    Planning, communication, and logistics taken care of she began the arduous process of getting our last resting spot for us in IA! Man, the logistics of where to stay, and for how long are frustrating especially when people advertise something online and you call to reserve that spot. Turns out it’s a hook and bait scheme for travelers. Like an apartment in Airbnb (I will not advertise this one) quoted a price per night that actually doubled in price once we selected the payment for the reservation.

    We were not very happy, and sitting in front of the bathrooms where the signal was strongest Selene took to making reservation of the room in Mainstay in IA. Much cheaper than the one Airbnb’s advertised in Galena to reserve. Also it’s much bigger, and it has a kitchenette. Sweet! Score! Oh, did I mention it has a real bed? I love camping, and backpacking much more. However a real bed will never be out of my comfort zone when traveling.

    Well the reservation was done, and daylight was dwindling I started to make the fire a tad larger for cooking our dinner. Let me give you an idea of what food should look like, and as a reference the large pot in the picture is a 5qt so imagine if you will the size of the meat that is placed in the fire grill. Arrachera for him and her wrapped in foiled with yellow onions, and seasoned with Adobo. That’s how we roll, and made plenty of tacos with that meat. Man, now I’m getting those meat cravings once again while writing this.

    That was freaking delicious! I wanted to take pictures of what it looked like, but once we started to eat everything planned went out the window! Well, we spent the last night in Bellevue and finally saw the park/DNR employee drive around and basically just wave hi, and check on the water pressure of the spigots, but that was about all the interest they had about the campers around there. We did meet a couple from Texas, they were very nice.

    Once the night came we started packing up our site, and getting the large items ready to head out the following day so as to not have much to do the following day and give ourselves a cushion of driving time to our final destination to see daughter #1. Stopped at Richman’s Cafe in Bellevue, with a good selection of breakfast foods, and fast service. The ladies in the diner sat together while their husbands sat part from them and just had a great time sharing stories, meals, and coffee.

    It was a collection or retired game warden, fish and wildlife administrator, and an active Warden and other town officials sitting there having a great time. Funny guys, and you can tell by their vibe that that is how their neighbors are treated also. A place I’d like to come back to again. The game Warden came by our table and introduced himself and we chatted for a bit about camping, hiking, and hunting. Yes, we covered it all with a span of five minutes. Cool people.

    We finished eating, took our time driving up Route 52 towards Dubuque, and man the scenery!

    We took videos on our GoPro en route to Dubuque. The colors, shades, and scenery are pale in a picture. You’re going to have to experience this yourself….

    Stay tuned for Part 3……this is where I’ll post the links to the videos on the GoPro but it maybe edited for time of course.