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    Archive for August 2009

    Racing Weekend

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Racing day, it's racing day,
    Racing day, it's racing day!
    It's not sausage casing day,
    Today's the day we race.
    ~ from Born to Play by The Backyardigans

    For us, it was more like racing weekend! On Thursday, after dropping off Benjamin with Grandma Chris and Grandpa Ed who graciously watched him for us, Mike and I began our busy racing weekend. As I mentioned before, I had volunteered to be a part of the Ragnar Relay Race as a SWAT team member, which means that I managed a major exchange of the race. I had to be in Modena, Wisconsin, which was a tiny town in the middle of the Wisconsin side of the river.

    View Modena Town Hall in a larger map
    I got there at about 8am, met with my volunteers, receive instructions from other SWAT team people and began setting up the exchange. It had rained my whole drive out there, so we were all afraid of the possible weather, but it turned out to be a great day. Dark clouds would roll overhead, but they'd break up before getting to us. It was sunny on and off all day, but apparently more sunny than I thought because I came home with an unexpected, horrible sunburn. The whole day was a lot of work, but so much fun. Basically my job was to make sure everything was running smoothly, that the volunteers were doing their jobs, and that the runners were staying safe. I was there late into the night, my feet hurt, I was sunburned, tired and sore - but I'd gladly do it again!

    As I was just getting to sleep (or so it seemed), Mike was waking up to get himself out to the Rochester Half Marathon, a big race here in town. He was using the race as part of his training for the Twin Cities Marathon. Luckily it was a gorgeous day and he had a good run. Later in the day we were able to enjoy lunch before heading out to Red Wing to pick up Benjamin from Mom and Dad. On Sunday we took the time to recuperate from our vacation, catch up on housework and just relax.

    We have just one week before Benjamin starts orientation at his new school. We are all nervous and excited. This weekend all three of us will be experiencing a Minnesota tradition by attending the State Fair. Benjamin hasn't been there since he was small enough to ride along on Mike's back. It should be interesting!

    Things we learned along the way...

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    • While revitalizing the country, road construction is still a big pain in the butt, no matter what state you're in.

    • Runzas, though a Nebraska staple, are disgusting.

    • Markers do not make for good coloring tools on a road trip unless you're trying to decorate the inside of your car.

    • When you drive up to a dodgy restaurant and you think, "it could be okay, let's try it" - it is probably NOT okay.

    • Even at 75 mph, it still takes forever to drive across Nebraska.

    • There are a lot of "slug/punchbugs" in Colorado. 4-year-olds will notice all of them.

    • There is no need to plan to spend more than 20 minutes at Wall Drug.

    • Small, simple, free and local sights are just as special as BIG, expensive and far away "attractions."

    • Sometimes the maid will steal one of your bagels.

    • Don't forget about timezone changes when planning how long a drive will take.

    • No matter how many times you say it, POUDRE (pronounced Poo-der) is FUNNY!

    • Beef: It's what's for dinner...in South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa.

    • You can make every great photo op better by placing a smiling 4 year old in it.

    • Just when you think you've driven a long way, you see a car from a state that is thousands of miles further away from home than you.

    • There is no sense in turning the radio on in South Dakota, Wyoming Nebraska, or Iowa. That is, unless you like country or Christian stations.

    • 4-year-olds CAN endure 10 hour drives.

    • Parents CAN endure 10 hour drives with 4-year-olds.

    Goodbye Mountains

    We said goodbye to Colorado's Rocky Mountains on Monday by spending the day in Fort Collins and driving up Poudre Canyon. Before a busy work schedule caused us to cancel, Mike was planning to run the Fort Collins Marathon back in May, which runs down the canyon and we wanted to check out what he had missed. Early on into the drive we both realized that he NEEDS to do this race someday. It is gorgeous. No, gorgeous is not the right word. See for yourself:

    Since Fort Collins was unusually busy with a festival all weekend, we didn't feel like we fully experienced the town, so we went back Monday afternoon. We strolled around the shops, stopped for drinks at a really cute outdoor patio and even did a bit of a treasure hunt. A lady at the visitor's center gave us a list of murals throughout the downtown area done by local artists. Benjamin had been studying the list since she gave it to us and was very excited to locate some of the paintings. His favorite was an adorable depiction of sheep on a utility box:

    Benjamin finding his favorite "mural" on the art walk in Fort Collins

    Sadly, on Tuesday morning we bid farewell to Colorado and began the long stretch of driving through Nebraska. The drive was uneventful - for obvious reasons - we were in Nebraska. We did, kind of, stop off at the Great Platte River Road Archway. Have you seen the movie About Schmidt? Jack Nicholson rides up the escalator during his character's roadtrip. Seemed appropriate that we stop, but when we saw the admission prices ($10 per adult) and because we were not sure exactly what was beyond that escalator, we decided to skip it. Benjamin thought that what he saw for free was great, so we got off pretty easily.

    We arrived at our hotel in Council Bluffs, IA (just over the river from Omaha) at about 8:30pm. 587 miles total for the day, we were zonked. Grabbed a quick bite at Applebee's and were in bed by 10. We left the hotel at about 9am in the morning, drove through torrential rains, but were home in Rochester at about 4pm. Benjamin is in bed and Mike and I are enjoying our ability to watch tv at a normal volume with all of the lights on. The trip was WONDERFUL, but we are happy to be off the road.

    Homeward Bound

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    View Larger Map

    Made it through Nebraska, but it was a long day in the car. Spending the night in Council Bluffs and then will be headed home again tomorrow after some continental breakfast in the morning.

    And THIS is why we are here.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Exploring the Front Range

    After a relaxing evening of staying in our hotel room due to bad weather and tired travelers, we are off for our most physical day of the trip. Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park are on our itinerary today. We are looking forward to some mountain air, snow capped peaks, maybe some yellow aspens, elk and one of our most favorite towns on earth. Should be a great day!

    Yesterday we strolled through Old Town Fort Collins where they are having a fun summer festival. Melissa Etheridge played last night for free, but we stayed away from the crowds. We spent the afternoon enjoying New Belgium Brewery, home to Fat Tire beer. We had reserved tickets online for a tour and it was a lucky thing that we did. It was unbelievably crowded and all of the tours were full. The tour was one of the -- if not THE -- best brewery tours we've been on. The tour guide, Trevor, was extremely knowledgeable and the tour was organized like a well orchestrated song. Mike and I must have looked like the worst kind of tourist, snapping photos at every opportunity with each of our cameras, but everywhere you looked was a great photo op. Our Flickr photos will show you exactly how many shots we took, I've only uploaded about 1/2 of what was on the cameras.

    Welcome to Colorado!

    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    We are settling into our hotel here in Fort Collins this morning. The task is to decide what to do for the day. It is supposed to rain today with possible thunderstorms, but we won't let that stop us. We have a reservation to tour New Belgium Brewery at 3:30, so I think we'll spend the rest of the day exploring the town. The plan for tomorrow is to head out to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is free pass weekend, so hopefully the crowds won't be too crazy!

    I've added some photos from the last leg of our trip. We visited Storybook Island as planned - which was ENCHANTING! Benjamin had a blast exploring the park. Then we drove further into the Black Hills to Hill City, which had a small Main Street that we strolled. We roamed about the prehistoric age up on Dinosaur Park later in the day and finished our time in Rapid City with dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Company.

    Friday morning we packed up the car again and added some more mileage through desolate but beautiful eastern Wyoming. You can see for hundreds of miles across the ranches. Amazing.

    View Larger Map

    Fort Collins

    Friday, August 14, 2009

    We have arrived in Fort Collins as of 6pm today. Our trip odometer reads something over 1,030 miles. We have driven through rain, hills, mountains, endured drivers from all over the country, listened to half of a book on cd, colored reams of paper and stopped at many amazing and interesting sights. We even ran into some friends on the Main Street in Hill City, SD. Mike's former manager and dear friend, Betsy, and her husband and our friend and super runner, Judy Weller, with her husband just happened to be in the same place at the same time as us outside of a store in Hill City. The two ladies are running Leading Ladies this weekend and came to the area a little early on their motorcycles to explore. How crazy!

    We are off to eat some dinner in just a minute, Benjamin has informed us at least 10 times that "He's HUNGRY!" I'll write more later...

    Hello from the Black Hills

    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Familie Schmitt survived the 650 mile drive from Rochester to Rapid City and are happily planning their first day of vacation. We made stops at the Mitchell Corn Palace, Wall Drug and the Badlands along our route. The drive through South Dakota is a fascinating one with billboards for Wall Drug and western towns dotting the horizon. It reminds me of my childhood drives to Florida with See Rock City and Lookout Mountain ads along the way. Benjamin is handling the long hours in the car amazingly. He is impressed with everything. "They have free breakfast in the hotel?!?" "THERE IS A POOL -- OUTSIDE?!" "WALL DRUG IS SO FUN!" What a treat for us.

    Lately, Benjamin has an annoying habit of beginning every sentence with "Hey!" - for example, "Hey! There's a big truck!", "Hey! I wanted to finish those fries!" or "Hey! My crayon just fell on the floor." So we've been asking him constantly to stop saying "hey". Somewhere along the last leg of our drive (from the Badlands to Rapid City), for the 100th time, he yelled out "HEY!" -- or so we thought. Mike turned around and began yelling at him to "STOP SAYING HEY!" Benjamin began to cry and somehow spitted out "I wasn't saying HEY! I was talking about the stuff for horses: HAY!" Mike and I immediately found ourselves in a fit of laughter and eventually even Benjamin, who had been crying, was laughing, too. There were rolls of hay all over the farms, waiting to dry out or be picked up or whatever it is farmers do with those things and he was just pointing one out. But hey - maybe he'll think twice about saying that again! Haha.

    We are off to Storybook Island today. The temperature is supposed to reach 100 degrees or close to that. Sunblock and hats have been packed.

    T-Minus 8 Hours...

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    In 8 hours we hopefully will be departing for our adventure. Of course, the best part of not having to catch a plane is that if we leave at 7am instead of our planned 6:30am - WHO CARES! Haha. We have an approximately 8 hour drive (stops not included) ahead of us for our first day.

    BUT - we are armed with new coloring books, cds, snacks, drinks and yes, even DVD's (to only be used as a last resort!). We are prepared - I think. I will be blogging along the way, so look for more frequent updates than usual in the next 7 days.

    Turtleman Triathlon - Jessica's spectating report

    We knew we were walking into a situation that may not be ideal for watching Mike and Joe compete in the Turtleman Triathlon in Shoreview on Saturday. Jen and I decided that we'd do our best and if the weather turned sour, we'd watch from the safety of her car. Mom and Dad met us at the intersection of Churchill and Tanglewood, on both the bike and run courses, with their big golf umbrella. It was raining, but only a little on and off, so we unpacked all of the kids (AJ, Benjamin and John) and began cheering on the cyclists. Soon after we arrived, Joe cruised by. We all banged our thundersticks, waved our pom-poms and rang our cowbells. The athletes seemed very genuinely happy to have us there. Due to the weather and the nature of the race there were probably not many spectators out on the course, so many of them expressed heartfelt thanks for our cheering. A little while after Joe, Mike came by on his bike. He seemed very focused, which probably had something to do with the wet conditions and many, many turns along the course.

    Good morning!

    After all of the cyclists had gone past us, we all relaxed a bit, the boys ran around and we continued dodging raindrops. An Excel Energy truck pulled up near us and the guy inside told us that he was there to fix a transformer on the power lines across the street and that we should probably cover our ears when he fixes it because the noise can be quite loud. The boys were full of excitement and nerves at this site. He got out his long pole and replaced something on the electrical stuff at the top of the post. Sure enough it sounded like shotgun went off and a big spark popped out. It was actually pretty cool to watch. Funny thing is though that a little while later, the transformer blew AGAIN (this time we were not warned to cover our ears) and the guy had to come back for a second attempt at fixing it.

    Good morning!

    Runners soon started coming toward us and we all moved out of their way and began to cheer them on. A couple of minutes later, Mom noticed an ominous look to the skies both west and north of us. The clouds were literally rolling toward us and they were moving FAST! It is amazing how quickly you can pack up chairs, a stroller, misc. stuff, a 1 year old, two 4 year olds and 4 adults when it looks like danger is approaching. We managed to get everything and everyone in the car before the storm hit. After the worst went through, we took turns hopping in and out of the cars to watch the race. It was raining buckets. The points on the ground where the sidewalk slants into the street were HUGE puddles of rain. The poor runners had to run through this awful weather and here we were ringing our cowbells out in the same conditions. I thought they appreciated our cheering when they were on the bikes, but now the racers were stopping to thank us. We tried to lighten their spirits by telling them "Just a little rain, you can do it!" This brought out many smiles. It was great. We saw Joe run by and a while later Mike. At first I was concerned that he had not come by us as early as I had expected. I had no idea that they had canceled the race and was afraid something bad happened. I was relieved to finally see him and to see that he was pushing forward and having fun - in typical Mike style!

    We had quite the adventure! And it was fun!

    (Mike's race report is below...)

    Turtleman Triathlon - Mike's race report

    We had awful weather Saturday morning in Shoreview. My brother, Joe, and I were up at 6:15am in White Bear Lake to get ready for the race. We packed our gear and bikes the night before so we could take advantage of a little extra time in the morning to indulge in more sleep. Sadly, the weather, clouds, humidity and temperature surely did not make it look like a good day to compete. Nonetheless we set out to make the most of the day.

    Good morning!

    We showed up ready to compete in all three events - which wasn't meant to be. Everyone had their wetsuits on the bike racks in anticipation to swim a 1/2 mile. Unfortunately, lightning and bad weather forced the race director to cancel the swim all together in an attempt to get the bike and run legs in before the next storm front came through. So we ran through the shallow end of the beach with a record "swim" time of 37 seconds - though my knees never touched the water. Next we transitioned to the bike for a wet and wild bike ride. Everyone had to watch their turns to be sure not wipe out. As expected, it started raining about 2 miles into the bike ride. This made the already curvy course into a "mind the turns" kind of ride. We had no less than 13 turns during the 21.5 miles bike ride. One could barely get into their zone before slowing down for yet another turn. Though I don't fault the race directors, I would not say I enjoyed the topsy-turvy round-a-bouts we were forced to endure. In the end most finished the course without incident - though there was more than an usual number of people on the sidelines with flat tires. Thankfully it was no one I knew!

    Good morning!

    Next it was time for the run... I set out with an absolute downpour of rain in my face. I had to use my hands as wiper blades just to see what was coming next. It turns out due to in climate weather, (forecast for hail) the race directors decided to call the run off. Most everyone (besides myself) turned around after mile 1 to head for shelter. I decided a long time ago (about mile 12 of the bike ride) that if they canceled the official race, I was going to cross the finish line - race sanctioned or not. I did not train this much for this long to have it canceled on me. I kept running past the crowd of people who turned around so I flagged down a crew of volunteers who were under a bus shelter keeping dry. I told them I was going to finish the course and wanted to know where the next turn was. They told me to run to the next stop light, turn left and keep running until I saw the next set of volunteers. I made a B-Line!

    In the end I caught the back end of the crowd who were "sanctioned" to finish the race...and even passed few along the way. Joe was cheering me on to push push push and run hard to the finish....which I appreciated. Of course it was my first and best time competing in an "Olympic" Triathlon race. Next time I hope I can actually put my face down in the water and make the race a 3 event sport.

    Good morning!

    Summer is dwindling down

    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    The days of summer are becoming fewer and fewer. It doesn't help that this summer is going to be unusually short for us due to a big change in September. Benjamin has been accepted into a new school. He will be leaving daycare and moving on to a traditional school schedule. Mike and I have been curious about the Montessori philosophy for a while and so we toured a school and fell in love. It will be a little sad for us to leave the daycare that we have been at since Benjamin was just 3 months old, but it is time for him to move onto bigger and better things.

    He will be attending his new school Monday-Friday from 8am-3pm, which means that I also have to change my work schedule so that I can pick him up when school is over. Unfortunately this means that I will have to give up part of my four day weekend and will now be working Mon-Thurs from 8am-2pm. But that also means that I will have Fridays all to myself, which will be BEYOND strange for me. We are sadly going to lose our "stay at home Mommy" days, so I've been trying to take advantage of the few days at home that I have left with him. This change will move his first day of school up a year. We were preparing ourselves for this to happen in another year, so it may be tough. We are still waiting to get our paperwork from the school about his schedule, but his first official day of school will be September 8th.

    On Friday I let Benjamin choose what he wanted to do from a small list of options. He picked going to a park and going on a hike. First we had a little picnic at his favorite park, "the really fun park" aka Three Links Park and he played around on the equipment there. Next he wanted to go to Quarry Hill Nature Center so that we could hike their trails and he could look at the nature-related education stuff in their building. They have a magnifying camera that projects whatever bone, fossil or animal body part you put under it onto a television-like monitor, which he LOVES. His interest in learning about science and nature is so fun. We took each animal part (like a turtle tail or chicken foot) and compared them to the live animals. Then we headed out for our hike. I think we hiked about 2 miles around the trails before Benjamin decided that he was too tired to continue.

    Saturday was an early morning wake up for all of us. Mike did his training run and Benjamin and I volunteered for a water stop for the runners. For some reason, every single time we've done a water stop, it has been a moderately crummy day. Saturday morning was very unseasonably cold and cloudy. Benjamin mostly stayed in the back of the Rondo watching a movie on my laptop while I poured the water and Gatorade for the runners. The morning tired all of us out, so we spent the day inside, relaxing.

    Here is what our water stop usually looks like:

    To make up for our lazy Saturday, we filled our Sunday with a day trip to Northfield, Minnesota, home of St. Olaf and Carleton colleges. It was a gorgeous day! We had lunch at Beef O'Brady's, which we all enjoyed. Then we walked around the downtown area and hopped in and out of some shops. We visited both college campuses and Mike and Benjamin spent some time running around the big center field of Carleton's campus. The whole day felt like a mini-vacation, it was great.

    While we were in Northfield, we came across a brown paper bag along the side of a neighborhood road that said "Cukes - FREE." Not being one to pass up anything free -- or vegetables, Mike stopped and picked them up. Monday night Benjamin and Mike pickled some of the cucumbers. Benjamin is an expert vegetable peeler and though he didn't like the finished product, is very proud of his "cooking" endeavor.

    A lovely August day...

    Sunday, August 02, 2009

    brought to you by Familie Schmitt:

    Spent the day in Northfield, MN - about an hour's drive from Rochester. We had a splendid time. More details to come...