Oct 11 - Moving day #1 is complete. We had some stuff here in St. Pete that my mom was giving us and whole bunch of stuff to take up to my sisters. Marty is doing fine navigating the 26ft truck and our friend Carl and my dad helped us out a lot. Moving day #2 is tomorrow, where we'll drive up to Orlando and unload our storage unit. We have hired 3 guys for 3 hours for some additional help.
Oct 1 - We're back stateside after traveling for a little more than 24 hours. Really, a trip to Europe doesn't take that long, but since we stayed in Amsterdam our last night (trying to avoid expensive London), we started our tavel from there. All told we also spent about 8 hours of our trip either waiting in lines or sitting at airports. I know it sounds like a lot, but the travel part really isn't that bad at all. Maybe because we've done so much of it this year, but the long plane rides feed you a lot and keep you pretty well entertained (Northwest had individual tvs in every seat with with 20+ movies and games). You just have to have the attitude that yes, there will be a lot of lines and a lot of sitting around, so get yourself a good book and don't let any of the stressed out complaining people bother you. Anyways, we did volunteer to get bumped from our London flight yesterday because they were offering quite a sweet deal (about $750 each, hotel room, and guaranteed flights for the next day) but unfortunately we weren't called. Marty was all for it and both me and Joy were a bit indifferent. It definitely was a nice deal, and one we could actually take advantage of - how many times do they ask for volunteers and your sitting there thinking, oh I would totally do that but I have to get home and do xxx. My only hesitation was that I'm leaving on a 6am flight out of Tampa to Colorado Springs on Tuesday morning and that would've been cutting it close to try and get any type of good sleep. Now I'm at my dad's back apartment waiting for my mom to come pick me up so we can go to the movies together. Marty, the great coach that he is, woke up at 5 this morning and drove over to Cocoa Beach to watch several of his athletes compete in a triathlon. We only got to bed around 1am after all the travel, so I imagine he'll sleep pretty hard tonight.
Sep 29 - Last night in Europe! Here are some of my thoughts:Things I Will Miss
Sep 28 - Bruges is a really cool city. In both mine and Joy's guidebook, they warned that the town is quite touristy, but still should not be missed. They were right, and we're having a great time here. We took in another beer tour today (!), actually it was very interesting. Joy and I also did a tour of a chocolate museum, and my immediate family will be getting some very yummy Belgian chocolate. You all can thank me later. Marty and I also found a nice running path along the canals this morning. I'm still convinced that running is one of the best ways to tour a city.
Sep 27 - We left Zurich yesterday and arrived in Amsterdam in the late afternoon. After a nice tour with all of our luggage (minus one of Joy's bags that didn't make our flight) we found our hotel. It was in a 650 year old building and it was pretty cool. To get to our room we had to climb down stairs that was more like a ladder. Amsterdam is a really cool place - bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation and you really have to be careful that you don't get hit by anyone (my guide book informed me that there are about 737,000 people in Amsterdam, with an equal number of bikes). The canals and architecture make it a very beautiful city. Coffee shops, as they are called, are everywhere and just walking by you are hit with their pungent sweet odor. We took a walk through the red light district last night, which was filled with tourists gawking at the infamous section. Very interesting place. Today we visited the Van Gough museum - Joy and Marty really enjoyed it. I'm not saying I didn't, but I just don't have that appreciation for art that most people do, I guess. I like to look at pretty paintings, but I can't stand there for 10 minutes analyzing each brushstroke. Plus, it was crowded. Still neat to see, and it wasn't very expensive. Next we hit the Heineken Brewery and took their tour. This would be my 4th brewery tour of the year, so I was a little skeptical. How many times was I going to hear how beer was made and how THIS brewery had the best water? But I was wrong in my assumptions, and this tour was much more interactive and very fun. We checked out of our hotel and we're now on a train heading towards Bruges, Belgium. We've read that its a pretty cool medieval town but that's about all we know.
Sep 24 - We're back at Joy's Aunt's house, enjoying some relaxing days and homecooked meals. Small world, my mom and Joy's aunt actually graduated in the same class at Boca Ciega High School. We're off to Amsterdam on Tuesday morning, then to Belgium for 2 days, back to Amsterdam for our last night and then we head home midday on Sep 30th. This is our last week of Trippin06, but we have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and we're both excited to get back to the US.
First on the list, I leave on Oct 3 to attend the USAT Coaches Clinic in Colorado Springs. Perhaps I can pick up a few clients in the upcoming months and keep expanding OSB. It would be great to work alongside Marty in the comforts of our own home, or wherever we may be at the moment :) However, I will be looking for a job once we get settled in North Carolina. Speaking of North Carolina, we'll be unloading our storage unit on Oct 14th and driving up to NC on the 15th. We're both looking forward to unpacking once we get there - it will seem like we're getting a whole new wardrobe after wearing many of the same clothes all year long. I have felt very out-of-style for some time now!
Sep 22 - This morning we woke up fairly early, caught the bus, then the U-bahn into the main train station, stowed our luggage in a locker, and took a tour to the Concentration Camp of Dacau. Everyone should go and take a tour of one of these. Little had changed since it was in operation and spooky doesn't begin to describe how you feel when you're standing in the roll call square with guard towers all around. It really makes you realize what priveleged lives we live. We've heard that Auschwitz is probably the most intense camp you can tour, but Dacau seemed pretty intense to me. Interesting, we spent some time with a friend of Joy's cousin, and she was telling us that all throughout school, German children are constantly bombarded with their history - the Nazi party and the atrocities that were committed. All school children are taken on tours of concentration camps, I believe more than once. Obviously, this is a good thing. It seems far too common for a country to sweep their messes under the rug and not talk about what really happened.
Sep 21 - Oktoberfest is awesome. We are staying in a hotel a bit on the ourskirts of Munich, but with excellent public transportation, we get to the front entrance very easily. And our hotel has an awesome free breakfast so we even think its totally worth it to have to travel a bit. Oktoberfest is like an enormous state fair with lots of big beer tents. Most people wear the traditional outfits, I almost feel out of place walking around in jeans. We did some rides yesterday and one was like none I've ever done before - it had better have been good for the 7 euros we paid to get on it! The beers here are huge and the pretzels are even bigger. We're having a lot of fun talking with complete strangers we meet (its helpful to have Joy's cousin with us who is fluent in German and English). Today we're going to go back and spend too much money on souvenirs.
Sep 19 - After 17 days of travel, our luck finally ran out with the weather. We took a train into Salzburg yesterday and it was pouring when we got here. It let up long enough for us to walk through the village and check out different shops and the castle, but it was only for a couple of hours and then it started up again. It rained all night and its still raining this morning. We're getting ready to take a Sound of Music tour, and hopefully we'll still get to see some neat places even with the crappy weather. There was a Sound of Music bike tour we all wanted to do (when I say we all, I mean Joy and myself - I doubt Marty has any preference), but opted for the bus tour when we saw the weather. Anyways, another funny thing, along the same lines as us accidentally getting to watch part of the Vuelta, the UCI (cycling) world championships are here, beginning today. We won't really be able to see anything, but they've already set up a lot of stuff so we got some pictures of the start/finish lines for the road race, and the litte time trial starting box. It would've been a lot of fun to watch some of the races, but we'll be in Munich by that time, eating pretzels and drinking beer.
Sep 17 - We had an interesting start to the day this morning. Marty and I went to the lobby to get some coffee and there was a man down there without a stitch of clothing on! He was kind of wandering around and the staff quickly got him out of there. Sanyo met us and saw us off on our train to Vienna. The three of us really had no clue what we were doing and we got very lucky to meet a nice lady from Berlin who had been living in Vienna for the past 3 years. She showed us where to go when we got off the train and helped us buy some bus tickets, she even walked us to the tram we needed to take to get to our hotel. Marty and I went for a nice run to a castle nearby - it was unbelievable how big the gardens were and we're going to try and run there tomorrow morning because it was so great. We walked down the street for awhile (major shopping, I was drooling the whole way) and wandered around another palace and museums and gardens - all these kings were really over-the-top. Vienna seems like a very nice city, we just don't have the opportunity to spend anymore time here. When we were planning our trip we decided to take trains from Budapest to Munich and figured a night in Vienna and Salzburg would be cool. Maybe we'll get to come back someday. Tomorrow we're off to Salzburg where Joy and I are going to try and convince Marty to take the Sound of Music tour with us :)
Sep 16 - We got back to Budapest and the cousins took us all over to see some of the sights at night. We've had a lot of fun with them this past week. Peter had an early flight out to Italy so Sanyo took us around all day today. We are so thankful to have him as our own personal tour guide - being a tourist is very tiring! We saw the castle, Hero Square, the Hungarian Statue of Liberty, museums and a lot more. We've got a ton of pictures, including a bunch that Sanyo took of us when we weren't looking. I'm not sure how many I'll be able to get up, but I'll work on it tomorrow, maybe on the train to Vienna. Hungary has been a lot of fun; not someplace I think many Americans get to visit, and I'm glad we were able to.
Sep 15 - We're on the train back to Budapest - we had a great time in Nyiregyhaza and were fed nonstop. Really good food, too. Marty's second cousins took us all around and kept us very entertained. We even hit a karoake bar last night and belted out some old favorites while the Hungarians looked at us strangely. Joy was able to visit the local firestation and trade patches and talk with the guys (Sanyo has been a most excellent interpreter for us). One of their neighbors who is a retired fireman came over for dinner with us. He was very friendly and talkative. He wanted to know how much the US knows about Hungary and what we think of them, and then in one breath he would tell us how he hated the US and in another he would tell us he wished he lived there. It was interesting and annoying at the same time. Everywhere we've been this year, people seem way too eager to tell us how horrible our country is and what they think is wrong with it and after awhile I've grown quite weary of it. I know we have lots of problems and I wouldn't defend things that I disagree with just for the sake of it, but I haven't figured out why people insist on telling us how terrible we are. I don't make it a habit of telling people from other countries where I think they have gone wrong. I can only think that some of the reason for all the talk is because of some sort of jealousy? I understand that a lot of what our politicians decide affect most of the world and realize that this is also where people are coming from,and I suppose I'm a little tired of hearing it from eveyone. I'm not the president and I know we can do things to make our country better. Preaching to the choir maybe? Discussion is good, but it seems discussions with people from other countries is difficult because I think what they want you to say is that you denounce any and all things American and that we are death to the world. Okay, maybe that is over the top. I guess the best advice to hold onto is if you want to keep your friends, don't discuss religion or politics. So I just smile and nod and agree with them more than I want to because it just seems easier sometimes :)
Sep 13 - We took the train into Nyerghaza and were greeted by Marty's cousins (Sanyo's mom and aunt). A little English and lots of smiles were exchanged. Then they drove us to Marty's Aunt's apartment where they fed us like we hadn't eaten in months. Marty's Aunt is 80 and she is the sweetest old lady (and doesn't know a lick of English). The meal was started off with a small shot of liquor which is customary in Hungary - I hate shots but this one was tiny and I didn't want to be rude so I threw it down. Then we had some Goulash soup, cabbage and pepper rolls, and dessert. They must have been cooking for us for quite awhile and we were really appreciative. We took a quick nap and then Peter (Sanyo's brother) took us a for a run in a local forest. Once we came back we were again fed like horses and then Sanyo and Peter took us to a pool hall where we all displayed our horrible skills. For one last drink they took us a to a bar/club and it could have been 'Anywhere, USA' in there. The clientele was very young, though - probably between 16-22 but it was like being in a club back in college with 5 cent beers. American music was blaring loudly and everyone dressed just like you see back home. Globalization moves fast.
Sep 12 - Marty's cousin Sanyo picked us up at the airport in Budapest and has been a great tour guide for us here. A lot of people do speak English, but its very nice to have him as our translator, especially in restaurants. He took us around the city in the afternoon - we saw the Danube River (Splits Buda and Pest) Parliament, and lots of statues of men who looked mean. When we were flying in we saw the old, ugly block housing from the communist era, but the city seems to be doing pretty good for only getting rid of communism in the last 20 years. At least they're trying. We stayed in a hotel right in the downtown district where there are lots of shops, bars and outdoor cafes. We have once again been blessed with gorgeous weather - so far on this entire trip I have overestimated how cold I thought it would be. We'll see how the second half of the month goes! Anyways, they definitely have a problem with grafitti everywhere, which never helps a city trying to be more cosmopolitan. And maybe its just me, but I haven't gotten the vibe that Hungarians are necessarily very happy people. But don't get me wrong, it seems like a very neat city with obviously tons of history. We are on the train now to Nyerghaza (I didn't spell that right) which is where Marty's aunt and cousins and other second cousin is. (Sanyo is Marty's second cousin, although he is 28). We'll be back in Budapest on Friday and stay Friday night and Saturday night before taking a train to Vienna, Austria.
Sep 11 - Yesterday we ran along the Rhine River, it was beautiful. We flew into Zurich on Saturday night and were picked up by Joy's cousin Tina. As luck would have it, their little German village of Hohentengen was having their annual wine festival. Everyone from the town comes home for the festival, as well as everyone from surrounding villages so it was quite an event. We had some traditional German food (bratwurst, sauerkraut, and some yummy cheese bread that sounded like rocketcliff, but wasn't spelled that way). Almost everyone we met also spoke excellent English - after traveling a bit in these countries, it really makes you motivated to learn another language! I really wish I also had the ability to speak in something other than English. There was only one guy who (drunkenly) came up to us and went into a very animated story in German. It took awhile for Joy's other cousin to finally tell him that we were Americans and only spoke English, to which his face lit up and he asked, "Vot time eez it?!" and "Sanks very much!" Obviously, he wasn't as proficient as many of his counterparts and those were the only phrases he remembered. It was a late night for us so we slept in on very comfortable beds in a quiet room (our first in what seems like several days).
The next morning Joy's aunt took us a to a winery where they were having an art exhibition. Everyone was very nice and the weather was gorgeous, although we didn't understand any of the speeches or the tour that was given :) In the afternoon Tina took us for our run along the Rhine. We took a bunch of pictures and I hope to get them up soon. It was an awesome run on trails with some short hills. After that we visited with some of their friends (and met a girl who spoke 4 languages proficiently and another pretty good, geez I'm stupid). We went back to the festival which was much quieter and had some more traditional German food. We're all looking forward to coming back here on the 22nd to spend some more time and see more of the sites. In the mean time, we're sitting in the Zurich airport waiting for our flight to Hamburg and then into Hungary.
Sep 9 - We're sitting in the Bilbao airport now, waiting to board our flight to London. Bilbao is in the Basque country of Spain, a region that is sometimes volatile with separatists. They even have their own language which is completely unknown in origin. We've had a good time in Spain all in all, but we're looking forward to our next trips. Some things that would take some getting used to if you were to spend some time here - dinner is very late, in fact, a lot of places don't even open until 8, and dinner is typically eaten around 9 or later. Culturally, people just stay up a lot later, small children included. We experienced this first hand the past two nights as people came back to the hotel around midnight and then kept on carrousing late (early?) in the night (morning?). The hotel didn't have air so all windows were opened. Food is also pretty different - not exactly the food itself, but what is on the menu. Typically for lunch, you will get a set plate consisting of hamburger, salad, a fried egg, and possibly some fries. You could also get some racciones which would be like ordering small appetizers, for instance, a sandwich with cheese, some sausage, and bread. You would split this with your table and the bill would be quite cheap. We all thought this was great for a few days but then realized that this was the menu in every restaurant and by yesterday we were all craving something different. Luckily, we found an Italian restaurant and Joy and Marty had pizza and I had some tortellini. It seems that if we were here for maybe a month we would very quickly pick up the language. Even in just our short trip we've all gotten much better with words and phrases. Plus, there wouldn't be anyone to talk to in English over here so you would be forced to learn quick! I would definitely recommend this region to come and visit, especially if you want to totally get away from everything American and enjoy a new culture.
Sep 7 - We're in Somo, Spain right now, our last stop before we leave the country on Saturday. Yesterday we hung out at the beach in San Vicente, got a run in and I even went in the water (it was only 72 degrees). We did see some topless women out there, but most were in their 60's it looked like. Today we got picked up in a van at our hotel and were driven to the top of a mountain. We met some of the other people who are also on the tour but their's is a 7 day one, so we hadn't seen them yet. We got to the top and had a nice long descent, through cute villages and into Somo. About halfway, we took a small detour down a dirt road to a mountain stream with a watering hole. It was chilly but we all dove in and acted like a bunch of kids. In the shallow area there were a ton of fish that would try to kiss your feet (more likely bite, but they felt like kisses). It tickled and felt weird. For the next two nights we're staying in an old farmhouse that has been converted into a bed and breakfast. Marty keeps calling it a castle because that's what it looks like - its very neat.
One thing we've really enjoyed about Spain are the prices. Everything is pretty cheap - beers for one Euro, dinners for the three of us for 22...too bad all of Europe won't be like this! On Saturday we have a long travel day; we're leaving early out of Bilbao, Spain and flying into London, Stansted. Then we're taking an expensive taxi to get us to Gatwick airport which is where our flight to Zurich is out of (we have a 6 hour layover, so we should have plenty of time to get there - the airports are not close). We'll get into Zurich around 7:00pm and then head over the German border (about 15 min away) and stay with Joy's Aunt and cousins. We're only there until Monday morning when we'll head to Hungary, but we'll back to stay with them longer towards the end of September.
Sep 5 - This morning we rode our bikes from Santillana del Mar to San Vicente de la Barquera. We are all riding heavy, hybrid bikes and the terrain is quite hilly so we're getting some good workouts in. We had a nice time in Santillana and we're figuring out how to ask for things and how to order food. We've learned that the northern coast of Spain is a big destination for Spaniards, consequently, hardly anyone speaks English. The bike route today was awesome. We took a lot of back country roads and road through cute little villages. A lot of the houses are straight out of medieval times and have beautiful flowers in every window. We also got to see some very old churches along the way, as well as lots of beaches. The weather was perfect; a bit overcast and not very hot at all. I really can't imagine a better way to see this part of Spain than on a bike. I think we're really getting the chance to see an incredible place most people don't get to experience.
Yesterday we had a free day in Santillana so we took a ride out to a nearby beach community called Saunces. It was very hilly! When we got back we headed into town and got some lunch and then went into the "Pain and Torture Museum of the Spanish Inquisition." It was interesting in a horrific sort of way. The most disturbing part was reading how many of the devices are still used in practice today - during war or for police interrogation. After that we all took a nice long siesta (we're trying to fit in).
For the next 2 nights here in San Vicente, we're staying in a nice hotel right along the water. This town is much bigger than Santillana and has lots of cafes and restaurants. Tomorrow we're going to take a ride to the beach for some fun (and Marty and I will probably also do a run). We were eating tapas in an outdoor cafe this afternoon when the Vuelta went by. There was a breakaway and then the main peleton followed about 10 minutes later. Joy and I both got some great action shots since we were standing right near a corner, but all of mine are back views. It was a lot of fun watching them all go by! And for the record, before I hear it from the peanut gallery - Marty and I each only brought one cycling outfit. So yes, we are wearing the same clothes in all of those pictures!
Sep 3 - We flew into London (Gatwick) at around 10:00am on Saturday. Rich picked us up and we dropped off our luggage at a hotel close by. Then we took a train into the city and got to see a lot of the famous London sights - Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Parliament, Picadilly Circus, Tower of London - we had a really great time! It only sprinkled on us a little and got quite chilly once the sun went down but it was very nice out. We had a great time hanging out with Rich, and him trying to be our guide when he didn't really know his way around London either. We were dead tired by the end of the night and fell asleep very quick that night.
This morning we got a free breakfast at our hotel - a fried egg, beans and a big gross sausage. I felt like I was back in Australia again (no offense, John and Bron, you know I loved it there). I ate a lot of toast instead. Rich took us to the airport and we flew into Santander, Spain. The guy in charge of the bike tour picked us up and took us to our hotel in Santillana del Mar. This little village is awesome; the main street is all cobblestones and no cars are allowed. It is straight out of the medieval times and they even have a torture museum. We successfully got dinner with the help of our spanish phrase book, dim memories of high school, and Marty's bad mexican accent. We had a lot of laughs trying to speak spanish to ourselves and the waitresses. The bike tour sounds like its going to a whole lot of fun and we're going to see some great towns. It turns out we will be able to see the Vuelta go by, so we're going to try and find a hill so we can cheer on all the drug cheats. Just kidding. Maybe.
Sep 1 - We leave today out of Tampa for London. One stop in Detroit and then into Gatwick Airport. Its a 7.5hr flight from Detroit to London - no big deal compared to our flights to Australia! Marty's friend Rich is going to get us from the airport and then hang out with us until we leave for Spain (on Sunday afternoon). We're only taking one computer with us and internet coverage could be spotty but we'll try to update as much as possible while we're gone.
Aug 27 - My good friend from high school, Joy, is traveling with us on our European tour. She came over on Friday so we can hammer out our itinerary - we booked several hotel rooms and flights. I'll update our travel itinerary - check it out here. Like a good credit card company should - I received a call within hours of all the bookings, checking to make sure all the charges were correct. I suppose it looked fishy when Air Berlin, EasyJet and foreign hotel names popped up.
Aug 23 - I know many of you may have read about this, but here is the whole listing of our nation's angriest cities. With Orlando being number 1 (my residence for the past 8 years) and St. Petersburg being number 2 (my residence all my other years), perhaps I'm an angry person?! $%*&@$#!!!
Aug 21 - We had nice family weekend at Atlantis in the Bahamas. The resort is amazing with shark tanks and a waterpark and aquariums everywhere. The prices are also amazing - we went to a Johnny Rockets on the property and my chocolate malt was $6.95. We also did a little shopping and Anna did some good bargaining and she walked away with a 'Coach' clutch and I walked off with a 'Kate Spade' purse for next to nothing. You gotta love the islands!
Aug 18 - Off to the Bahamas!
Aug 16 part B - The closing went fine and then we had a nice run at Umstead Park. We decided to stay in Savannah tonight since we didn't get out of Raleigh until after 1:00. For about the zillionth time on our trip, my good friend Katy hooked us up with a sweet rate at a Marriott, so we'll sleep good tonight and get a good breakfast in the morning. We took a drive into Savannah's riverfront and like a couple of bloodhounds, we sniffed out the only brewpub in the area. It doubles as a Savannah's most haunted establishment, but that was just a bonus to the excellent food and beer. I had their Porter Stout which had a chocolately flavor - not quite as good as New Zealand's Speights, but it still received high marks from me. It's fitting that we'll end our last night on our US tour at brewpub - with another sampler for Marty. I know many of you will be happy to know that he didn't wear his maroon polo shirt.
Aug 16 - We're closing on our house this morning in Cary. We're both very excited and happy with how everything has turned out. Still not sure when we'll get to move up here, but it could be as early as mid-October now.
Aug 14 - We have come full circle. No, we're not back in Florida just yet, but we are in Raleigh, so we've completed our trip around the US. I think we went through 23 states. We'll be heading back to Florida on Thursday or Friday (we haven't decided yet, but we may stop for a night in Savannah, Georgia after hearing lots of good things about the city). And where are we off to next? Friday we leave for a 4-day trip to the Bahamas with Marty's dad and step-mom and Anna & Tim. I'm really looking forward to another vacation inside of our vacation. We spent last night and most of today in Virginia visiting my sister Heather and her family (hubbie Sean and two extremely cute, curly-headed girls). It was a quick visit but we had a great time hanging out with them and got a delicious home cooked meal. Sean got us into the pool that's on the naval base so we got in a nice swim, too.
Aug 10 - I can't get that Billy Joel song out of my head, the one about Allentown, PA with the verse that goes, "spend their weekends on the Jersey shore..." Marty and I are spending the weekend on the Jersey shore. We got in yesterday afternoon and watched the girl lifeguards compete in the 'South Jerseys' which is a big deal lifeguard competition around here, primarily for bragging rights. The guys compete on Friday in Ocean City and we're going to go down and watch that, too. Saturday is a lifeguard reunion and then Sunday we're going to drive to my sister's in Virginia. Our US tour is coming to a close, but we still have quite a lot of stuff to look forward to :)
Aug 8 - Tonight we went into downtown Philly for some authentic cheesesteaks. We went to Gino's, which is right across the street from Pat's. Both made national news a few weeks ago for refusing to serve people who didn't speak English. Then they took us to a really cool bar on the water. Marty and I have been lucky getting over to the east coast - we were following the 'cool front' the whole way so we never had to deal with all of those hot temperatures everyone was dealing with all last week. The weather was great out tonight.
Aug 6 - We're currently in Pittsburgh, PA. The past couple of nights we pretended to live the high life while crashing at the Campbell's beautiful house in Niles, Michigan. Niles is very close to South Bend, Indiana - home to the greatest university in the US. I was real excited to show Marty around campus but we also needed to meet up with his aunt and uncle and we didn't have enough time. So we made a promise to come back up, hopefully for a football game. I did apply and was accepted to Notre Dame back in high school, but didn't think I was fast enough for their cross country team and was also nervous about the frigid winters. I'm sure my parents at least appreciate the fact that I saved them a few dollars by going to school with scholarships instead! Tomorrow we're off to Philadelphia for a few days. I've never spent any time there so I'm hoping we can take a look around before we head to the Jersey Shore on Wednesday.
Aug 2 - We stayed in Fargo, ND last night and will be driving to just south of Madison, WI tonight. We got in a swim over at the Fargo YMCA and I got to hear some genuine Fargonian (?) accents, just like the movie (Hi! How are ya?!). Yesterday in our drive from the eastern edge of Montana to Fargo we stopped at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Our good friend Dan in Orlando recommended a visit here and it was pretty cool. The park wasn't crowded at all and since we had already bought the Nationals Parks pass we figured why not? We got up close and personal with bison and prairie dogs and took a short hike to get some ridgline views. We'll be sitting in the car all day today so I'll probably resize some of the pictures and put them up on our site tonight. One other thing worth noting after all of our traveling and beer tasting...I've taken a liking to many of the seasonal summer microbrews we've been sampling. Some of the ones I'm quite partial to are Huckleberry 'n Honey, Summer Honey, and New Belgium's Skinny Dip. I had a Bud Light the other night and was actually disappointed! Marty is so proud of me.
July 31 - Great Falls redeemed itself this morning with a nice long bike path. Glendive, however, is just as suspected. A dive.
July 30 - Glacier National Park was awesome. Marty and I did a 2 hr hike to Avalanche Lake and back and saw several 'too used to people' deer. We were going to drive all the way through the park but a fire at the east end prevented us from getting all the way through. Instead we took the long way around and then took a two lane road into Great Falls. The road barely had any cars on it and we literally drove through several towns that couldn't have had more than 75 people total living there. Great Falls is one of Montana's bigger cities but it is pretty much a ghost town on Sunday. We did manage to find a good place to eat after some searching. Tomorrow we're driving most of the way across Montana to a tiny town called Glendive. Expectations won't be too high there.
July 29 - I just finished putting up a bunch of pictures from our bike tour on our travel picture page. We drove from Missoula to Kalispell this afternoon after getting a jog and short swim in (no biking - it felt weird). We tooled around downtown Missoula a bit and its a very nice little city. Tomorrow we're going to check out Glacier National Park. We don't have any plan but hope to find some nice hiking trails once we get there. After the park we'll drive to Great Falls and from there we'll start our trek back across the US.
July 27 - Last night we stayed in Ennis and tonight we're in Three Forks. We rode from Ennis to the Lewis & Clark Caverns where we took a nice (and long) tour through the caves. We went through hallways, saw huge rooms, slid down a little slide and duck walked our through a portion of the cavern. I'd never been in one and it was definitely impressive (and cold!) Our hotel tonight also has a wireless internet connection, as have most that we've stayed at. If we don't have wireless, our cell phones have worked which also means our internet computer card usually works. I definitely didn't give Montana enough credit in that department. Tonight Marty and I are getting another massage and then having dinner with all of our new friends at the KOA. Since they're staying at the KOA instead of a school, they'll be serving beer - yay!
July 25 - We are currently in Dillon, Montana (population 3,572 - this is a big city, folks). Montana is beautiful and Marty and I are having a really nice time out here. Last night we camped in Jackson, Montana (population 38). I don't think I've ever been in a smaller town than Jackson, but I still managed to get a delicious milkshake after our ride. We did get our tent up without too much trouble and even have a picture to prove it! (I spoke to my dad and he said he had this vision of us sleeping on our air mattress with tent pulled up like a blanket because we couldn't figure out how to pitch it). I have a lot of pictures to put up, but with limited internet coverage and access to the computer, it may be awhile before I get them up. Marty got some good ones of us trying to ride our bikes down the road into an oncoming cattle drive. So about camping - it wasn't too bad, but I have to admit I really didn't get a very good nights sleep. We just couldn't get our air mattress pumped up to where we would've liked it, so it was more like a waterbed. It also doesn't get dark here until literally 10pm and we were very close to a bathroom that had the noisiest door. With almost everyone camping last night (hotels were not easy to come by in Jackson) you can imagine how many times we heard the bathroom door open and slam shut. It did cool down quite nicely so we got to snuggle up in our warm sleeping bags. The riding has been good, but I'll talk about that on my triathlon page.
July 23 - We made it to Darby, Montana. Population: 710. The ride was very nice today and Marty and I made really good time. There was about a 1,000 ft elevation gain but it was over the entire 66 miles so you really couldn't tell. We left at around 7:20 in the morning and it was a touch cool out, and we were definitely some of the last to get going. These bike tour groupies like to get going early so they can stop and smell a lot of roses. They had 2 water/snack stops for us and a nice lunch stop and the course was well marked. We are currently at Bud & Shirley's Motel. We met them right when we checked in - they have been married for 56 years and they are the sweetest old couple you can imagine. Shirley is super cute and has to use oxygen from time to time, and Bud is missing an index finger - I didn't ask but figured that's what you get when you live out in Montana you're whole life ;) They have a little diner attached to their motel which serves great, greasy food (and milkshakes). The main street is tiny, as one might expect in a town of 710. And, most places are either closed or looking to sell. It is Sunday, so that might be why they are closed, but we also heard that Bud & Shirley also would like to sell their motel. So if you are in the market to run a tiny motel in a tiny town in Montana, here's your chance.
July 22 - We spent the night in Bozeman, Montana last night. Nice litte city and we found the Montana Ale Works. Today we drove into Missoula and got checked in for our bike tour which starts tomorrow morning. The company, Adventure Cycling, has been running tours for 30 years and it shows. There are 140 riders on our tour, and every meal is catered and there are 2 massage therapists that will travel with us. Marty and I signed up for 2 half hour massages already. I'm looking forward to the tour, especially since the head guy told us that tomorrow there is an ice cream parlor that serves great milkshakes at a place called Bud & Shirley's. And guess where we're staying tomorrow night? Bud & Shirley's motel :) This is the motel that when Marty called to make a reservation the young girl who answered put the receiver down and yelled, "MOMMY! Someone wants to make a reservation!" I won't be bringing my computer so I'm not sure how many updates I'll get up. Marty is bringing his, but depending on coverage and priority (his is much higher since he actually has work to do) my updates may be few and far between. But stay tuned - I'll be back soon.
July 20 - We had a nice day here in Cody, Wyoming. We first had some brekkie at Grammy's Restaurant then headed out for a bike ride - we road away from Cody towards Yellowstone. We didn't get to Yellowstone because its a good 50 miles away and we had a massive headwind. Coming back was a lot of fun, though. We also stopped at the Buffalo Bill Dam and took some dam pictures. Oh that joke never gets old. Our bike tour starts on Sunday in Missoula, Montana and although its supposed to be a 'camping' bike tour, we opted to book hotel rooms instead. The only problem was that in one city, all hotels were booked. All 2 of them, that is. Apparently there was also a wedding that night so we are out of luck (although I do have our name on the waiting list at both hotels). So we hit the local WalMart and got some camping supplies. Essential items like sleeping bags and a tent. I told Marty to hang onto the receipt because I'm hoping against all hope that someone cancels their reservation and we get into one of the hotels. Barring that, I think one night of camping won't kill me - and who knows, maybe I'll even enjoy it? By the way, when we were booking our hotel rooms, we often got asked, "Oh, are you part of the bike tour?" So we aren't the only ones not wanting to rough it too badly. We're going to be averaging like 60+ miles a day for 7 days straight so you can't blame me for wanting a real bed and shower.
July 19 - Yesterday we drove from Cheyenne to Dubois and it was surprisingly very beautiful. Dubois is a tiny town of just 962 residents but it has a really cute main street that looks like its straight out of the old west. Its not cheapy looking either - we got lucky picking this little town off of the map. We drove on into the Grand Teton National park and it was spectacular. We decided to do a hike/run around Jenny Lake and some other trail and it was much longer than I had bargained for and at 7,000 feet altitude I got quite tired. I think we got some really good pictures and I'll be working on resizing and getting them up on our picture page. While we were running we saw a black bear and her cub eating - it was awesome. Then we drove through Yellowstone where we saw buffalo (or were they bison?), a female moose, and a steam vent. We're in Cody, Wyoming right now where we not only have free wireless internet, but great cell phone coverage (which we've been lacking for the last couple of days). Cody also seems like a really neat little western town - so far I'd say we are really enjoying our US tour.
July 15 - Check it out. Our next home is #5 on Money Magazine's Best Places to live. We actually spent most of the afternoon and evening today at the #1 spot, Fort Collins, Colorado, where I caught up with some old friends David and Gina Robinson. It was so great to see them again! I hadn't seen them for about 13 years, when they left central Florida and headed out to Colorado. I also got to meet 2 of their 3 kids and they were so cute and nice. Almost made me want to have kids now...just kidding! :) We toured the New Belgium Brewery when we got into town and then found a pool after checking out downtown a bit. We met them back in town for dinner and dessert. Fort Collins really does seem like a great city. I think that's where we'll move next.
July 14 - Boulder, Colorado is pretty awesome. We ventured into their downtown last night and they have a great pedestrian mall that had literally all walks of life. They had tons of cafe's, pubs, and stores, as well as sidewalk performers (probably just bums but still entertaining) and people you couldn't help but stare at. I saw a chubby guy dressed as tinkerbell riding his bike down one of the main streets through downtown. We were told today that quite awhile ago the residents of Boulder voted to not expand past the city limits, and then went ahead and bought up all the open space surrounding the city. What this did was preserve the city itself and its quick to get out and into open spaces and nice roads. However, what it also did was heavily inflate housing prices around here since they won't build out anymore. There isn't any sprawl which I'm sure they would've had had they not voted in this way. This city has too much too offer to not have sprawl. So if you want to live in a place with great riding, hundreds and hundreds of trails for running and hiking, skiing 30 minutes away, a pretty temperate climate year round, and a cute downtown, you need to have a whole lot of money.
July 13 - This morning Marty and I drove to the top of Pike's Peak. We were going to take the Cog which is a train up to the top, but it was sold out when I called. Driving up was fun and we were able to do our own thing and keep to our own schedule. The views were great - the summit is 14,110 feet and it was 33 degrees at the top! After that adventure we drove to Boulder which is where we'll be until Monday. We're staying at Chautauqua, which is kind of like a camp for adults and families. There's a dining hall and cabins everywhere. We're staying in a room in one of their lodges. It has a small kitchen which is nice for us. Its pretty old, but very clean. It also doesn't have any air condition, but its very pleasant. I think its going to be a lot of fun staying here! We're right at the base of the Boulder Flatirons so the scenery is great.
July 11 - We're down in Colorado Springs right now, which is where we'll reside for the next 2 days. We had a great ride with one of Marty's clients this morning in a park that was full of cyclists in south Denver. The Rocky Mountains were our backdrop and it was cool enough for me to have on arm and leg warmers. As most of you are aware, this is actually a brewery tour, and we hit another last night - the Big Horn Brewery. Marty had their sampler and then some. We bought a collectors glass (Butt Face Beer, does it get any better than that?). Tonight we're going to head to another brewery in Colorado Springs which another of Marty's clients recommended.
July 10 - I put up a few pictures on our travel picture page. Hopefully we'll start getting some more good ones in the next few weeks.
July 9 - Marty and I are currently driving through Kansas in the rain. We'll be crossing this state for most of the day today. For the past 4 nights we stayed right in downtown Kansas City - unfortunately, neither of us were very impressed with the city. I think it needs to undergo a major revitalization. The downtown was pretty much a ghost town and we had trouble finding anything that was open on any night. We were lucky enough to find a nice burger/bar joint on Friday for lunch and two other bars on Saturday night, but there wasn't a whole lot going on anywhere. Even when we left this morning there were absolutely no cars on the road. I'm not sure what people do there for fun. Anyways, we're on our way to Denver. We'll be staying in around the area for the next week - Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder to be exact.
July 6 - We had another uneventful, easy drive today into Kansas City. The scenery was not quite as pretty as yesterday but really not too bad either. We got here at 3:30 Central Time so we've had lots of time to get some food and relax. All this driving is actually quite relaxing and I haven't minded it as much as I thought I was going to. Not much else to say today. Tomorrow will be spent running around picking up our race packets and then dropping off our bikes at transition area (I really hate that - no bike warm-up for Saturday). We're staying at the Fairfield Inn (free wireless internet yay!) in downtown which turns out to be not very close to either the host hotel or the race site. This is a good thing. We haven't seen one triathlete yet (even on the drive over here. I guess everyone is flying)
July 5 - We were in 5 different states today. We left North Carolina then went into Virgina, West Virginia, Kentucky, and we're staying the night in some little town in Indiana just west of Louisville. It was a actually a very pretty drive and we made really good time. Sirius Satellite radio also helped - I got it installed in Marty's car yesterday afternoon at Circuit City. Tomorrow will be a much shorter drive into Kansas City, via St. Louis. Hopefully traffic is as nice as it was today.
So although Marty and I have a lot in common, get along great, and tend to agree with each other, there is one thing that continues to make me shake my head in disappointment. I love basketball - I played from the time I was 11 until my senior year in high school. I really love watching college basketball. March Madness is one of the greatest times of the year. Growing up in my house, the news wasn't on at night - ESPN SportsCenter was. Marty, however, doesn't share my passion for the sport, and consequently, we hardly ever watch basketball anymore. He also thinks ESPN is a four letter word, I think. He doesn't get excited about great college match-ups and over the past 6 years since we've been together, I haven't been very involved in anything with basketball. But, I'm still a big fan. Here is how a conversation went in the car today:Me: Marty! Look, its the exit for Rupp Arena!
Okay, just kidding. Our marriage is not that tenuous. But I can't believe my own husband not only had not heard of Rupp Arena, but didn't know where Pete Maravich went to college. Next he'll deny knowing how many points Pistol Pete averaged in college. Everyone knows that, right?
July 4 - Happy 4th of July! Marty and I successfully put an offer on a house we really liked and it was accepted. It is very cute with a great layout and good character, and it has an awesome backyard with a huge deck. We're very excited about it, but we won't actually move into it until the end of the year. The sellers are building a house and it won't be built until then so they are probably going to turn around and rent the house from us once we close. This works out great for us and them since we have a lot of flexibility as to when we move up here. The town of Cary is very nice - they have been very strict with businesses and so most everything is set off the road and looks very nice. Even the McDonalds is brick and doesn't have huge golden arches out front. The roads are wide and we saw literally hundreds of cyclists this morning (although we're thinking there must've been some sort of organized century ride, but still, its great to see so many riders out). The house is very close to a park with several running trails, and under 5 miles away from a huge state park that has many, many miles of trails. The triathlon shop Inside Out Sports is just down the road and another cycling shop is around the corner. There is even a brewery a few miles away ;) If we can deal with the winter, I think we will really like it up here!
July 2 - Marty and I made it safe and sound up to Raleigh. It wasn't without some very stressful moments though, as my car decided not to cooperate for most of the drive. Neither of us really know much about cars, but it was very jerky and the RPM needle was fluttering everywhere. My 'service engine soon' light came on pretty quickly, and then started blinking which is not a good thing. But what do you do when you're still 6 hours away from our destination? Thankfully it got us here, and Marty's car was waiting for the relay exchange. We'll be driving his car from now on - my sister has been babysitting it since we left in January. Today was a very successful day of house hunting and we found two house that we really like. They both have pros and cons, and right now we can't decide which is better. Tomorrow we're going to see some more houses with a different realtor. Its pretty exhausting!
June 30 - Marty and I are cleaning and packing up right now for our Cross Country Tour 06. Its always hectic packing, especially when you know you're going to be gone for a solid month and a half. I'm not as worried about packing this time around as I was for our trip that started in January. In one breath we'll complain about all the chains around the US, but for once I'm glad that they'll be there. Pretty much wherever we are we'll be able to find a Wal-Mart or CVS or something like it and know what to expect. We'll know where to go to buy cheap items and we'll know how to find them. Convenience is a great thing in some instances. For the most part I'm anti chain but it sure does make life easier sometimes. When we were traveling around Australia at one point we both were kind of wishing for some familiar chains so we knew what type of restaurant to eat at. Usually we would get annoyed at the same restaurants in every city across America, but for once we were both hoping to see a Chili's or TGI Fridays because it was late and we just wanted some typical food without surprises. At the same time, I'm hoping we get to sample some good old mom & pop eateries along this tour coming up!
June 26 - Bloody hell! I just watched Australia lose to Italy in the World Cup. The Socceroos were my adopted team since I probably knew more about them then the US team. I know that's horrible but that probably just makes me a typical American. I think I read that the US team was actually good this year but in a very tough bracket (but doesn't everyone say that about their bracket?). Maybe someday we'll catch up with the rest of the world and become soccer fans. Anyways, I was pulling for Australia and was flipping back and forth between their game and my favorite show (What Not to Wear, for those of you who are paying attention). I caught the penalty kick that Italy won on and let out a yell of disappointment that I could hear all the way from Sydney even though it was something like 4am there. They kept showing live footage of Sydney and it looked like there were huge crowds watching. Going to be tough for the Aussies to get up for work after that, but maybe everyone will just chuck a sickie. That's Australian for calling in sick ;)
June 23 - As you can probably tell, we've both been slacking in the update department. Its just that not much has been going on since we've been residing in St. Pete for the past few weeks. Next Saturday we'll start our 'cross country tour.' First we'll head up to Raleigh to check out some houses, then we'll drive over to Kansas City for Nationals which is on July 8th. I'm apparently not very good at geography because I was very surprised when I found out that the drive from Raleigh to KC would take about 20 hours! It doesn't look that far away! We'll stop somewhere along the way, just don't know where yet. After KC we'll head to Colorado where we'll bum around for a few weeks - maybe spend some time in Wyoming and then have some fun at the bike tour in Montana (which seems more intense than I originally thought, but it will still be fun I hope). After that we'll drive to Michigan where Marty will race the Steelhead Half Ironman and I'll do a bike relay. On to Philly/New Jersey to hang out with Marty's lifeguarding buddies and then back through Virigina, NC and into Florida. Its a lot of driving. Good thing Marty and I like each other. One thing I've learned this past year is how to pack effectively. We'll be in a PT Cruiser with 2 racing bikes and a couple of racing wheels, a cooler and luggage. We can't afford to overpack with the limited space, but I think I've worked out an outfit system for the 6 or so weeks we'll be gone.
June 18 - Did the Madeira Beach Mad Dog triathlon this morning - I first did this race in the early 90's when I was about 12. I haven't done every one of them, but we try not to miss it because it is such a good race, and basically in my hometown. We were down in Sarasota on Friday night hanging out with our friends Shawn and Jen - its so nice to come home and get to catch up with people. We've also been in contact with a realtor in the Raleigh area and things are definitely looking good up there. We're excited to get up there in early July and check out some of the houses we have our eye on.
June 14 - Today we had a tough broken brick session out at Fort Desoto. Holy humidity! I ran a bunch of errands and tried to cross off things on my to-do list and before I knew it, it was time to head out to Pass-A-Grille Beach for the weekly Mad Dog open water swim and run. Marty and I just did the swim and the water was so nice. The after-party they have is always good and then Marty and I watched a beautiful sunset on the Gulf of Mexico. What a great day.
June 13 - Did you all read Marty's update about the X-Men movie from June 12 (on his triathlon page)? He can't help it - he's a geek at heart. But you gotta admit, he's entertaining!
June 11 - I had a good race this morning at the Subaru Womens Triathlon. I ended up 1st overall for all the women. I felt good on the swim and was first out of the water, but was swimming against self-proclaimed non-swimmers in the elite wave so don't think I'm getting a big head or anything. All those women are fantastic bikers and runners so I knew I needed to put as much time on them as possible. I've always said I'm a good triathlete-swimmer, but against real swimmers I don't stand a chance. Anyways, the bike was good. I felt pretty strong and I think I did much better on all the corners this year (and there were a lot of them!). I was still first going into the run and had a fairly big lead so I just stayed relaxed and tried to keep good form. I was pushing it but wasn't trying to kill myself. The run was a bit short - 2.9 I think. If it had been a 5K I think I would've been around 19:35 and I'm happy with that. It was fun having Marty there to cheer me on!
June 10 - We're back in St. Pete and we're staying put for the next 2 weeks. I'm glad to just sit here and relax for a bit. Tomorrow I'm racing in the Subaru Womens Triathon right here in downtown. It will be interesting to see how I do after our weeks off when we were traveling in Australia and NZ. I've been feeling good lately in workouts but you never know. I am looking forward to racing so that is good. They're already talking about the first tropical storm that could make its way into Florida in a couple of days. It may not even be a tropical storm, maybe just a depression, but of course the weather people are just eating it up and making a big deal about it. Basically, we may get some rain and little wind. Maybe. Other than that, someone recently told me it looked like I had put on weight - no girl is happy to hear that!
June 7 - We've been getting in some great quality time with our friends in Orlando. Last night was night 3 in a row in downtown Orlando. Marty's swimming group set up a happy hour and then some of us stayed out after. I remember why I was a bit sad to leave and travel back in January - we know some really great people here. I'm also enjoying riding my new Felt S22. It definitely seems more responsive cornering and feels lighter than my old bike. I get to test it out this weekend at the Subaru Women's Triathlon in St. Pete. Tomorrow morning we're off to Miami to visit with Marty's dad and then we'll be back in St. Pete for a couple of weeks to relax. That will be nice after all of this running around.
June 3 - Wow, we've been going nonstop since we've been back. We barely had a chance to unpack in St. Pete before we had to pack back up and head into Orlando. We were busy getting things ready for the clinic which was today and got into Clermont on Friday late morning (the traffic gods wanted to welcome us back in good fashion so they made sure there was a nice big backup on the Howard Franklin bridge because of an accident - it took us an hour to get to Tampa from St. Pete). After meeting one of Marty's clients for a bike ride and short swim, we made our way over to Winter Park where I picked up my new Felt S22. Then we made it up to Anna and Tim's where we'll be staying for the next couple of days. Went out for a bite to eat and then into bed after finishing up some last minute items for the camp. We were up very early and in Clermont at 6:30am. The camp went really well - we had great campers and everything went very smooth. I think everyone had fun and learned some things. We're back at Anna's now but don't even have time for a nap as we're going to a party tonight (I know, poor us). Tomorrow, Marty decided to jump in the sprint tri in Clermont so it will be another early morning. I'm planning on doing a good brick out there instead of racing. The next few days will continue to be busy as Marty has several clients he has to meet, but we'll manage :)
May 31 - Back in sunny, hot Florida! After traveling for close to 31 hours (4+ hours longer than planned because of delays in Chicago...) we made it into Tampa at 1:30 in the morning this morning. My parents were great sports and were waiting for us all smiles. Not feeling very chipper right now but hopefully after some rounds of coffee and fresh air I'll feel better. Looking forward to seeing all of our friends in the next few days but am already missing the land down under.
May 28 - Back in Sydney for our final days. We had a slight delay this morning in Christchurch as heavy fog delayed us for about 2 hours, but no worries, mate! Bronwyn set up a farewell brunch for us at a local cafe with some of our friends here - thanks Bron! Yesterday we drove into Dunedin, which like all the other cities we went to in New Zealand had a neat downtown city center. We toured the Speight's Brewery which I'm sure known of you have heard of since they don't export out of New Zealand. Great beer, though. They were doing a limited time Chocolate Beer and it was delicious. I had never had one before but Marty and Shana had and they both agreed Speight's chocolate brew was very tasty. The next morning Marty and I actually did some short fartleks on our run (got to try to salvage some of our fitness after this 2 week long traveling binge!). Then we all went back into town and I found my first bagel place over here. Back home, you can't go two blocks without running into a bagel shop, but they are not popular over here. The Bronx Bagels hit the spot, and I actually ate breakfast and lunch there. We did a tour of the Cadbury chocolate factory and we all got lots of free candy - which was double for me since Marty gave me all of his. As you can see below, I did make updates while we were away, but I never had an opportunity to upload them to the site since wireless connections were not easy to come by. Marty finally found one our last day, but I didn't have my computer with me so I had to wait until today. All in all, New Zealand gets two thumbs way up. Anyways, we leave Sydney on Tuesday and get into Tampa Tuesday night. Today and tomorrow we're going to be busy packing and cleaning. So one part of our adventure is nearing the end but we have a ton more of fun awaiting us back in the US. I will miss this place and I can't wait to get back over here, though.
May 25 - When we got up this morning Marty called the skydiving company first thing. As luck would have it, there were still openings for the 12:30 booking. We went for a little jog and then made our way into town for breakfast. We wasted a bit of time and then got to the shop for our briefings. Everyone there was a first time skydiver so we were all a little nervous, but the folks working there were great. Marty and I decided to go for it all and we got the dvd and picture package. We would be jumping from 12,000 feet. Honestly, the thing I was most concerned about at this point was how cold it was! It was probably in the high 30's low 40's on the ground so I was unsure about how it would be 12,000 feet up. One good thing is that the cloud cover, although starting to come in, was well above 12,000 feet so we ended up having fantastic views. Marty and I were the third group to go up - 3 tandem skydivers, and 3 videographers were packed into the smallest plane I've ever flown in. The only time I was real nervous was actually back at the shop when they were showing us the dvd. Once we got to the dropzone I just started to get real excited. Definitely the hardest part was when my guy scooted us up to the open door and my legs were hanging out the plane. Luckily, he pushes us out the door because I'm not sure I could've! It was fantastic! The freefall actually felt like it went on for quite awhile and my videographer and tandem master sang happy birthday to me as we fell. I tried to smile and wave at the camera while also looking down and up and all around. Once the chute opened we did spins and floated down, enjoying the spectacular views. We jumped right next to the mountain range called The Remarkables. To you Lord of the Rings fans, this is Mordor. I am so happy we did this! Honestly, I wasn't sure I would ever go skydiving because the whole thing made me nervous but it was awesome. I think we'll both do it again at some point. Stay tuned for hopefully some great pictures. I can definitely say that this has probably been my most fantastic birthday ever. Tomorrow we're off to Dunedin which is on the other coast south of Christchurch. On the agenda is a brewery tour at Speights, and a chocolate tour at Cadbury.
May 24 - Wow. That's the best way to start off this entry. So we got into Franz Josef last night and it had started to rain lightly. This morning we woke up to cold rain and we were all a little bummed because we wanted to go see the glacier. We got some brekkie and hit an internet cafe, and just like that the weather cleared up and we were graced with an amazing day. We took the trail out to the Franz Josef glacier and it was great. I think we got some really awesome pictures out there. There are also waterfalls everywhere in this country - long cascades from all heights. For myself, I really think that this is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. We started our drive down into Queenstown but we also stopped to take a look at the Fox glacier, which was also nice. The drive into Queensown was incredible. I think everyone who visits New Zealand should do this drive. We took some pictures and hopefully they do a bit of justice. We got into Queenstown (also known as the adrenaline capital of the world) at around 6:30 and headed into town. Its very much an alpine town with a nice pedestrian mall filled with shops, restaurants and bars. Tomorrow Marty and I are going to see if we can book a skydiving trip. I can't believe I just wrote that because I've always been a little bit wishy-washy about jumping out of an airplane. Marty has been wanting to do it but hasn't been able to convince me just yet. Well, seeing as its my birthday and we're in the absolute best place to do it, I figured why not? The other option is to go bungy jumping (Queenstown is where it all started in the 80s). I probably won't be able to put this entry up until we get back to Sydney so you'll already know which we did.
May 23 - Greetings from New Zealand! We arrived in Christchurch yesterday afternoon and enjoyed a misty, semi-cold day. But we expected this. Marty and I found a pool and we both slugged through about 1K. Its amazing how quick you can lose the feel of the water when you don't swim regularly. Christchurch has a very nice downtown pedestrian mall with tons of shops and restaurants/bars. It was very cool and I really liked it a lot. Shana and Marty sampled many different beers and I tried to taste them all. I just can't keep up with those two. This morning we got up and went for another swim and this time we both felt a little better. My legs are also starting to come around from the half marathon so that is good news. Its no fun to hobble downstairs. Ironically, we ran into Scott Molina on our way out of the pool, so we had a little chat with him. Then we headed off on the road to Franz Josef. We crossed over the entire island and went south a bit on the west coast to get here. It was about a 6 hour drive but it was awesome. I really, really like it over here. Anyways, we went into the tiny town of Franz Josef tonight which also sported several nice restaurants, even though the town itself supposedly only has a population of 320. I'm guessing the population increases exponentially with tourists. One thing that we all like is things are cheaper over here as compared to Australia, and then you add in the even better exchange rate and you've got 3 pleased cheap-o Americans. Finally we don't feel like we're spending an arm and a leg to get some good grub and beers. Off to check out the glacier tomorrow (my first) and then we're heading further south into Queenstown. We'll be there for 2 days, so Marty and Shana will get to celebrate my birthday there with me :)
May 21 - I completed my first stand alone half marathon this morning. It was also the first time we've ever taken a bus to a race (I do love good public transportation!) It was chilly when we first got there, but once the sun came up the weather was great. This is Australia's largest 1/2 marathon with 5,000 competitors. The course was crowded, especially on the first lap. It also had one long hill, and at least 2 shorter steeper hills - so we hit them all twice. I ended up running a 1:33:30something, but I really have no idea what to judge it against so I guess its okay. I felt pretty good the whole way, didn't want to go out too hard and ran strong to the finish. My quads once again gave out on me the last 2 miles and the last little downhill was killer. Marty ran great. Its so nice to see him running without any hip pain which had been plagueing him for some time the past few years. Although I've pointed it out to him, he likes to ignore the fact that it also coincides with all his ironman training. I'm not too keen on all the training and racing for ironmans, but I digress. Anyways, while my quads were quite sore those last two miles, I took comfort in the fact that at least I wasn't running this half marathon in 95 degree heat after swimming and biking as many of my friends will be doing in a few hours back in Orlando at the Disney Half Ironman!
May 20 - I posted a few pictures from our trip to Cairns on our picture page. We took a lot more than I put up but I got tired of resizing.
May 14 - Shana made it here safe and sound. We took her on a jog around our neighborhood and then out into Manly at night. She was a trooper and just took a short nap during the day. John and Bron of course provided lots of entertainment for us. I woke up really early this morning trying to win some race wheels off of ebay, but it turned into a bidding war in the last minutes and I wasn't able to keep up. If anyone out there has some 700 clincher race wheels they would like to get out of their garage please let me know.
May 11 - We're starting to get organized and packed up for our voyage back home. We're both going to be sending one box each ahead of us to try and lighten our luggage load. We're already going to be checking 3 items (2 suitcases and our bikes) so we'll get hit with that penalty straight away - we don't need to be overweight, too! Coming over here we shipped our bikes since we were stopping in Hong Kong for a few days and then the Philippines for 2 weeks. There was no way we wanted to be lugging those enormous cases around the whole time. The problem we ran into was the Australian customs decided to charge us GST and customs duties which turned out to be a lot of money. 2 months, much paperwork, and several phone calls later we got the money refunded. Basically, there is just no easy way to fly with your bike. The airlines charge you up the wazoo and shipping is a pain. I'm hoping we make it back with everything and don't get charged any surprise fees at the airports.
May 7 - Our weekends in Australia our dwindling, so we made sure this past one was a good one. Friday night Marty and I took a bus into the city where we met the Bates'. They took us to The Rocks, which is where all the old pubs are in Sydney. We had our own pub crawl and got to go in some very cool bars. We also had delicious pizza and sat at the world's smallest table. We all had several body parts touching each person at the table, but we still managed to wolf down two large pizzas, garlic bread and beer. Took some pictures late at night with the Harbor Bridge in the background which came out pretty blurry but depicts how we were all feeling at that point :) All of our friends back home would be very proud of us for staying out as late as we did as we are known for calling it an evening before midnight when we go out. Saturday got off to a slow start, but we still managed to get in a nice long run and do some shopping for our little dinner party at night. I actually did the shopping and I also drove for the first time here (John and Bronwyn were nice enough to let me use their car in the afternoon). It wasn't too bad since I've gotten used to riding my bike on the wrong side of the road over here. The biggest things are checking your mirrors in places you're not used to, and remembering the turn signal is on your right not your left. Its hard to remember so you tend to turn the windshield wipers on when you're trying to turn. We had a lot of fun with our friends that night and I think everyone liked the dinner we cooked. I'm definitely going to miss these guys when we leave.
May 4 - Here's some news from down under that you guys back home probably haven't heard a lot about. Australia had its first soldier die over in Iraq. That in itself was surprising to me knowing that over 2,400 US soldiers have died. There is controvery surrounding Private Jake Kovco's death, who was shot by his own gun. Suicide was ruled out since the entry wound did not reveal a close range shot, but there is believed to be cover-ups about what exactly happened. Private Kovco was 25 and has a wife and two young children. It doesn't end here, however. The private company in charge of shipping Private Kovco's body back to Australia 'accidentally' sent a Bosnian civilian contractor instead. Can you say, Woops? The private company involved is Kenyon International. They have responded to many large scale disasters including 9/11, the Asian Tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina. Kenyon International's parent company is Service Corporation International (SCI). They were involved in the so called 'Funeralgate' in the US 7 years ago. They were "implicated in the recycling of graves at some of its cemeteries - removing bodies from sites and then placing other corpses in. SCI was also accused of descrating graves at a Jewish cemetery in Florida and disposing of corpses in nearby woodland, where they were devoured by wild pigs. At its worst the scandal threatened to drag then Texas governor George W Bush into the witness box, when he was subpoenaed by a state court." The case was settled with a class action lawsuit. How does a company like this get involved with shipping bodies back from Iraq? I'm not sure, but I do know that the owner of SCI, Robert Waltrip, is a former friend of George Bush, and in 1994, he donated $45,000 to Bush's relection campaign. All interesting stuff, and sad at the same time. Kenyon International, for their part, claim to be a separate entity from SCI and were therefore not associated with SCI's lawsuit. I would claim to be separate, too! If you want to read about these events (and this is where I've gotten all the quotes from) just search in The Sydney Morning Herald . I was waiting for Marty to go and rant about this, but he's been very busy.
May 3 - This is interesting. Thanks to my mother-in-law for alerting me about this recall for Bausch & Lomb's contact solution. I definitely have used their product before and it makes me wonder if this is why I was getting those bad cornea infections last year.
May 2 - Boy time flies! I can't believe its already May. May is a pretty big month for me because we celebrate our anniversary (May 15) and my birthday (May 25). This year we'll be at the Great Barrier Reef for our anniversary, and in New Zealand for my birthday. Not bad. Last year we celebrated our first anniversary in the mountains of North Carolina, which was also very nice. Speaking of North Carolina, we've been looking online at townhomes in the Raleigh area and we're both very happy to see that we're going to be able to buy something that is pretty nice. The sale of our condo has really helped us out, and that area of NC hasn't had skyrocketing housing prices like Florida has (just yet anyways). On tap for this week is, of course, training, hopefully picking up my new bike, and then meeting John and Bron in the city on Friday night. I think we're finally going to see The Rocks which is a famous bar area. Saturday night Marty invited several of our friends over for dinner and drinks. It will be fun, but I'm a little worried about cooking for 8 or so people when all we have is one small pan and 4 plates.
April 29 - Still having a good time down under, but one thing I'm definitely looking forward to when we get back to the US is going to a bar, having a light beer which means less calories, not alcohol, and watching some sports I actually know the rules to.
April 27 - Woohoo! It looks like Bri is getting a new bike! I've had my Cervelo One for 5 years and its served me well, but I'm looking forward to upgrading a bit. I'm going to be getting an Australian made bike called Azzurri. Full carbon with ultegra components. Its more of a road set-up that we'll convert to a tri set-up. Its always a tough decision when you're only going to have one bike whether you go road or tri, but since we're planning on moving somewhere with more hilly terrain the comfort of a road geometry makes sense. I'll post a picture of the new addition next week when I get it.
April 26 - After a nice bike ride in the morning yesterday, the Bates came and picked us up and we all went to the local RSL (Retired Serviceman League). We ate food, drank cheap beer, and played 2 up. I bet once, won $10 and called it a day. It was very fun watching all the gamblers go at it - it was a great atmosphere. 2 up is illegal on every day except for ANZAC day, so everyone gets really into it. The soldiers used to play it in the trenches in WWI - its really just a heads or tails game so its super easy. Now Marty and I are going to catch a bus down to the mall and watch a movie. Kind of like a real date!
April 24 - The past few days have been busy and fun. We celebrated one of our friends birthdays on Friday night with a fun group of people at a local Thai restaurant. Marty and I bagged out on a barbeque we were invited to on Saturday night because we were both quite tired. Sunday some friends came over for a bit and then we went to a cool outdoor bar called Newport Arms in the late afternoon. We've both been busy - Marty of course, with his athletes and me doing a bunch of administrative stuff for him. I'm also in charge of planning our next trips to the Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand (I know, tough job, but someone has to do it). It is time consuming, though. My sister Shana is coming over for a visit on May 13th, so we have a busy schedule once she gets here. We're planning on leaving 2 days later for Cairns (Great Barrier Reef) for 4 days, then coming back to Sydney to run the Sydney Half-Marathon, then leaving the next day for New Zealand, and then on May 30th Marty and I are outta here! I can't believe how fast it has gone, but we still have a lot to look forward to before we leave.
Tomorrow is ANZAC day which is a public holiday and its huge. ANZAC stands for Australia-New Zealand Army Corp and its basically a veterans day but it is taken very seriously. Seriously Aussie style, of course. Everyone is off of work and goes to bars to play some gambling game called two-up. Two-up, as its been explained to us, is basically a heads or tails game that you can lose or win money very, very quickly.
April 21 - We made it back to Collaroy this afternoon from our latest excursion. After Lorne we stayed in another nice little town along the Great Ocean Road called Apollo Bay. The next morning we got up and went to see some waterfalls which included a nice little hike among some very big and tall trees. The weather started to turn on us and rain started falling. We then drove into Port Campbell but decided not to stop and see the 12 Apostles just yet because the weather was really crummy. Port Campbell was the smallest town by far that we stayed in, and we practically had the whole place to ourselves as it seemed that things were starting to close for the season after the Easter holiday. It continued to rain and get colder the whole time we were there, so the next morning we skipped our planned bike ride and headed into see these 12 Apostles. Even though the weather wasn't ideal, it was fantastic, and we got some good pictures (although we both look a bit ridiculous in our choice of clothes). Marty drove for many hours and we ended up stopping in another nice town called Albury. Here we got a nice jog down the Murray river and a great dinner on their main street. Ever since we've been in Australia, Marty has always driven whenever we've had a car. They drive on the opposite side than we're used to and he's become very comfortable with it. The bad part is I have yet to drive down here, so poor Marty drove the entire time we were on this latest trip! I told him I would drive some but he doesn't want me to have to learn on the highway. I was a good front seat parnter, though, and didn't fall asleep once and tried to tell funny stories and jokes to him.
Apr 17 - Marty and I are in a very cute town along the Great Ocean Road called Lorne. As I look out on our balcony into the ocean, I'm amused to think about the fact that we're sitting here in southern Australia enjoying this part of the world. It's fantastic. Marty and I will talk about this whole trip sometimes - how it wasn't like we have some sort of trust fund or came upon a lot of money in the lottery or something - we just figured out a way to do it, and we went ahead and did it. Anyways, our journey so far down here had spectacular views which I got to enjoy from the car while Marty drove. The water we're looking at from our motel room is called Loutit Bay. I have no idea how to pronounce it correctly, but the way I'm pronouncing it, of course, makes me snicker every time.
Apr 16 - The race was fun and challenging today. It was cold, as expected, and Marty and I had plenty of time to sit around and shiver. They had the ITU juniosr start at 7, then a short sprint tri start after them, and then at around 8:00 the age groupers got going in the Olympic Distance. There were a handful of brave souls who didn't have wetsuits and still raced. They got big cheers from the crowd when they jumped in the water from the dock. Before my wave went off I chatted with a very nice girl from Queensland who had recently qualified for Ironman Hawaii 2 weeks earlier at Ironman Australia. After looking at the results I saw she did a 10:03 and won her age-group there. What a stud! Anyways, the water was cold. There's no other way to put it. Even with the wetsuit your breath was taken away and your feet, face and hands went numb. I felt good on the swim, and I think I was in the top 1/3rd of my wave, but glancing at my watch still showed an awful time, so I'm not sure what's going on. Either I'm a lot slower than I think I am; the swim was a tad long (Marty thought this might be the case); or, our swims back home are usually short. Take your pick :) I've been dealing with my small wetsuit by pulling it up way high on my arms and legs. This makes it very tight around my legs, but it allows me to swim my normal stroke. I ran out of the water and into transition. Then I began taking off my wetsuit. It took forever. I'm not exaggerating, I spent probably 3 minutes just trying to get the bloody thing off my legs and ankles. I was inches away from dq'ing myself and getting help from a volunteer or spectator. My fingers were numb, and then became tired after working at it for so long. I thought I may have to do the bike with my wetsuit forever attached around my ankle. I mean, certain species have shorter life spans than it took me to get in and out of transition (approx. 5 minutes!). It was a long run in and out, but still. I think 10-15 girls in my age-group passed me while I played tug-of-war with my wetsuit (I ended up winning, but it was close for awhile). I'm glad that I will no longer have to wear it since I've got a brand new sleeveless Medium (yay!) wetsuit waiting for me back home.
The bike had everything - wind, hills, rough roads, u-turns. It was challenging but fun. I was actually passing people which isn't something I often get to do on the bike. Passed a few girls in my age-group (who had probably come out minutes behind me in the swim...), but not too many. Passed a lot of 30-34 and 35-39 year old women as those were two of the waves right ahead of me. I felt stronger than Port Stephens, but am not expecting a great time. Time to start in on the speed work.
The run was nice. It also had everything - we started off on a paved path right next to the water, then did a bit of cross country and some hills, then looped back around and did it all again. I felt good and got into a comfortable rhythm and passed a bunch of people. I think I finished in about 41:45 which is okay for now. I have room for improvement and its good that I still felt strong but not like I was pushing super hard or anything.
This race was Australia's national championship race and it was very well run. My only complaint (and its a common one down here) is that once again, they only had gatorade or water at the finish. Nothing else. No bananas, oranges, nothing! Other than that, it was great. We watched some of the ITU race and boy can those guys run fast. Its unbelievable.
Apr 15 - Update! The water temperature for the race tomorrow has been measured at 59 degrees! DOH!
Apr 15 - When we travel down here, we can only get one internet connection and priority goes to Marty and his athletes, so I'm usually only able to quickly check my email. That's why I haven't updated yet, but after reading Marty's last two updates, I don't really have much to add - he did a good job of detailing out our travels so far into Melbourne. About an hour outside of Melbourne it started raining and it didn't stop until mid-morning today. It also got pretty cold - probably somewhere in the neighborhood of the 50's & 60's. The forecast doesn't call for rain tomorrow which is a very good thing. Racing a triathlon in cold weather is no fun, but racing when its cold and rainy brings a whole new level of suck to the equation. As it stands now, I'm probably going to be freezing my bum off once I get out of the water and onto the bike. I just may PR in my longest transition ever because don't think I'm above putting on extra clothes for a little bit of comfort. Can you tell we're not too serious about the race tomorrow? I'm thinking at least some arm warmers (or elbow warmers in my case) and maybe my sport beanie hat. Geelong (which is where we are right now) is about an hour away from Melbourne (which is where we were last night), so unfortunately we didn't get to spend a whole lot of time there. It seemed like a cool city with plenty to do. I mean, once I saw one of the high rise downtown buildings broadcasting the name 'Cadbury Schweppes' I knew it was a city I would like.
Apr 12 - With my knee and IT band acting up, I had to take some unplanned active recovery. I did a lot of icing and stretching and even put together an 'at home circuit' for some core body work and strengthening. I tested out the knee this morning on an easy jog to the pool and it felt pretty good. I'll keep up the icing for good measure, though. I did get in back to back 3K swim sessions which I haven't done in awhile so the forced time off was good. We're leaving tomorrow on our next road trip which I'm really looking forward to. And in case I can't call you - Happy 30th Shana!!!
Apr 9 - Biggest surf in 30 years! That was the headline in one of the local papers this morning. Yesterday they were urging all swimmers and surfers to stay away from the beaches because they were predicting large waves. You can imagine what happened next - every surfer and his brother were in the water today and spectators were out in droves. Marty and I walked down to Collaroy beach and then to Long Reef to enjoy the spectacle.
Apr 7 - We're all set for our next adventure that starts at the end of next week. I spent all morning and the early part of the afternoon booking all of our hotels, car rentals, and writing down directions (makes me appreciate my printer back home...). Anyways, we'll be setting off next Thursday heading along Princes Highway 1 towards Melbourne. We'll be breaking up the drive by stopping in some little fishing town called Eden. Then we'll continue into Melbourne on the next day and then drive into Geelong on Saturday. We'll do an Olympic Distance race on Sunday in Geelong and then head off on Monday to Lorne, Apollo Bay the next day, and Port Campbell on Wednesday. These towns are all along the Great Ocean Road which we'll take advantage of and bike a lot of because the views are said to be spectacular. In Port Campbell we'll be certain to check out the 12 Apostles which is somewhat of a tourist attraction. I booked all the hotels through online sources so it will be interesting to see how they all turn out.
Marty and I did a bit of a long run yesterday morning around Narrabeen lake which was quite beautiful. The temperatures are really starting to fall in the morning and at night. Unfortunately, I started to have a little twinge on the side of my knee which got worse as the run went on. I've never really felt anything like it but think it may have to do with my IT band. So I took it easy today and will just go for a swim in a little bit in the freezing ocean pool. I've been icing my knee and using our foam roller on my IT band, so I'm hoping if I baby it enough I won't have any problems. Now onto my complaint about the pools right now - the local pool we've been swimming at either doesn't have a heater or its broken because the water is pretty unbearable. I only managed a measly 1.2K in it the last time I was there. I was seriously cold. We swam in the ocean pool yesterday and I put on my wetsuit which is okay, but the thing really is too small for me so its not all that comfortable. So here I am, someone who would literally blow off any type of swim workout complaining that I can't get in good swimming because I'm realizing the season is really upon me and I am still SLOW in the water!
Apr 5 - This morning we got a bit of a late start to our bike ride as Marty had to talk to several clients on the phone. That's a good thing - business is going well! When we were getting ready, Marty realized he had a flat in his rear tire. We were finally off, and 20 minutes into the ride, I got a flat on my front tire. After all of this, we headed up to West Head, which I hadn't been to before. The road was hilly and slow, and I was feeling kind of weak, but the views once getting out there were well worth it. On our way back, we stopped at a little eatery and had some chicken burgers and a coke as I was experiencing a not so nice bonk since I only had water to drink the whole ride. We ran out of gatorade and I left my food on the kitchen table, so there's no one to blame but myself. Anyways, we got some decent pictures which I posted on our picture site. A big thanks to my mom for giving us her extra camera, which turns out to be way nicer than our previous one. And another big thanks to my sister Heather for getting it all together for me before I got on my plane back here. Other things that have been going on - we finally booked our return flight home (bummer!) and I'm planning our stops on the Great Ocean Road. Other than that, its business as usual over here. I actually hate that saying - it reminds me of the recording we would have at Lockheed when a hurricane was approaching or retreating. "Hurricane Jehosophat has passed over Central Florida. Everyone is without power and all trees have been blown away. It will be business as usual at Lockheed Martin and we will see everyone in the morning."
Apr 3 - I took a 5 hour nap when I got home on Saturday, and still had no problem falling asleep that night. We also changed our clocks down here, but since its the beginning of fall, we changed them one hour back. Now instead of being 16 hours ahead of Florida, we are only 14 hours. I thought I had conquered my jet lag yesterday since I was feeling pretty good all day but around 7:30 I began to get very tired. I was tucked into bed and fast asleep at 8. The problem with this is I was wide awake at 4:30 am! I guess this gives me time to clean up around here - Marty gave a valliant effort while I was gone but our place is still pretty messy. Yesterday morning we awoke to chilly temps for Marty's swim down in Manly. I got to use my arm warmers for the first time on the bike, and its very pathetic that the smalls don't stay up. I really need to start doing some push-ups or something. It turned out to be a very nice day and it warmed up a lot. We went back down to Manly in the afternoon with some friends to have some afternoon food and drinks. It was a great Sunday.
Apr 1 - Phew. What a trip. I was lucky enough to have the seat next to me empty from LA to Sydney this time around so I got plenty of leg room. There is something inately disturbing when you can board a plane, eat dinner, sleep for several hours, wake up because of turbulence, sleep for several more hours, and then still have 7 hours of flying time to go. I did watch the latest Harry Potter and Walk the Line - each entertaining enough to keep my attention. I also started and finished 'In a Sunburned Country.' Two thumbs way up! If you've ever been to Australia, live in Australia, thought about Australia, or have even heard about Australia I highly recommend it. It was fantastic and had me laughing out loud in parts which I feel is always a sign of an excellent book.
Mar 29 - My sister Shana flew in this afternoon, and Heather and my goddaughter Ashleigh got here on Monday morning. So I've gotten an unexpected visit with everyone at home. Tomorrow is grandma's funeral and then Shana is going to take me to the airport right after so I can fly back to Marty. I totally miss March 31, so luckily its not my birthday or that would be a real bummer. Once again, not looking forward to the long flights by myself, but I did get two books which I think are going to be interesting reads - two books by Bill Bryson; 'In a Sunburned Country' (recommended by my friend Cathleen) and 'A Short History of Nearly Everything.' I managed to lose my beloved eye mask, so hopefully I can get one at the airport and try to get a little sleep on some of the flights.
Mar 28 - I've been staying at my grandma's since I got here last Tuesday. It was unbelievable how fast she deterioted and it was hard to watch. She told me last week that she wanted it to go fast. It did go fast and this morning at 3 am, grandma went onto a greater place. I'm so glad I was able to get back here to see her when it mattered.
Mar 27 - My friends Amy and Katy drove down yesterday to visit with me and we had so much fun! I was so glad to hang out with them and catch up. When they left I got a little sad again but know that the time will fly and we'll be back here very soon. But, I'm still very excited to get back to Australia and continue our vacation.
Mar 25 - My dad, my good friend Joy and I went and did the Run for Shelter 5K in Ybor City last night. It was a nice little run with 300-400 runners, great post race food, beer, and giveaways. It made me laugh about the races back in Australia - the tri's there are very grass roots and you're lucky to get some fruit and water at the finish line. Marty's fraternity brother Brian Fusolo (I spelt that how it sounded, it probably is not spelled right) was the emcee and was fantastic on the mic, giving us all many laughs. I set out to have fun and tempo the race and just see how I felt. Not too much pure speed under me yet but I figured I'd feel pretty strong. The first mile I felt great! It felt easy! And when I got tp the mile marker and heard my time (6:28), I knew why - I was running too slow! I picked it up the second mile and split a 6:16, and then picked it up even more the third mile and ran a 6:06. Its definitely fun to run a race like that, feeling strong at the end and picking people off the entire time. I don't think I could've started out at a 6:06 because I just don't have that type of speed right off the line, but I'm happy I was able to cut down so much.
Since being back home, I've been able to enjoy a couple of things I've missed while overseas. The first was a thick chocolate malt. I'm a bit of a milkshake connoisseur and the milkshakes in Australia are not so good. They are very very thin even when you ask for it extra thick, so I was looking forward to having a good one here (compliments of Steak n Shake). I also had some poptarts - I haven't actually had them for a long time but had a craving for them down under and couldn't find them so of course the craving then intensified ten fold. I've also been able to watch one of my indulgences on tv - TLC's What Not to Wear with Stacey and Clinton :) Grandma has gotten very weak even since I've been home but I've been able to spend some more good quality time with her talking and such. It was definitely the right decision to fly home for this week and a half.
Mar 22 - I boarded my plane in Sydney and 26 hours later I was standing in Tampa. I was able to sleep for a few hours from Sydney to San Francisco (I did have a stop between Sydney and Chicago). I also plowed through a pretty good book and watched some movies. I'm staying at my grandma's house while I'm down here. It is sad to see her like she is and you can tell she is basically pissed off with what's going on. She has always been so independent and now she has to depend on everyone for literally everthing. But I am able to spend some good quality time with her which is the most important. I sure do miss Marty, though.
Mar 20 - I leave for my flights home this afternoon. I'm really not positive, but according to my itinerary, it looks like I fly from Sydney right into Chicago, then onto Tampa. That seems very far, so I'm thinking maybe we have a stop but it just doesn't show up on my online information. I'm looking forward to seeing my family but I'm definitely not excited about these long and lonely flights. I also hope I can get over my jet lag relatively quick - last time when we came into Hong Kong I slept for many hours several days in a row. We had a nice time in town this weekend. We had a fun dinner with some friends we've gotten to know over here and then on Saturday night Marty and I took the bus into Manly and went to a couple of bars - a lot of bars here are called hotels. Yesterday we got a nice long ride in on a new route we were told about. Lots of climbing but we both must be getting stronger because we both were fine with it. My swimming is still pretty much non-existent at the moment. Hopefully I'll get to Northshore several times while I'm home. I just don't have much motivation for swimming at the moment. I would much rather run or bike.
Mar 17 - Happy St. Patrick's Day! The holiday doesn't seem as commercialized as it is over in the US, but I have seen some banners outside of bars. So, I've been learning a lot because of the Commonwealth Games. At the opening ceremonies, England came out first (because Manchester hosted the Games 4 years ago). They were waving a flag I had never seen before so I was a little confused. Dumb, or not very aware of my world geography would be a better description. I was expecting the blue, red and white of the Union Jack, but this flag was white with a red cross. The Union Jack is Great Britain's flag, not England's. Great Britain competes separately here in the games, so you have England, Scotland and Wales with different teams. Northern Ireland is also separate. I then decided to brush up on my British knowledge since I guess I just dismissed Great Britain for England this whole time, but really it comprises England, Scotland and Wales. The UK then also includes Northern Ireland. Some islands you never hear about (or possibly I never paid attention to) that are also competing include The Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. They are not part of the UK or the European Union. They are British Crown dependencies. Confused yet? Because I think I still am! I am actually so dumb that I don't think I had ever heard of this Jersey until I got here. Marty was getting a haircut several weeks ago and there was an elderly 'British' couple there. Someone asked where they were from and they responded, "Jersey!" I remember looking at them for a minute thinking, 'They sure don't seem like they're from Jersey!' So see, this trip has been very educational for me.
Mar 16 - Marty and I had a really fun day today. We navigated our way into Manly like old pros, then hopped on the ferry that would take us to Sydney Harbor. We got some good pics of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. If you think that there is something a bit off on our pictures, you would be right. Somebody (and I won't name any names) has dropped the camera enough times that one of the buttons won't work. The camera accidentally got set on 'night time view' when we were trying to figure out how to turn the flash back on, and to take it off of this view requires that particular button to work. So, we are going to be set on this view forever until we get a new camera. I like to think it gives us an ethereal glow. Well, whatever to make myself feel better I guess ;) Anyways, onto the rest of our day. I know you are waiting with baited breath. So we get off of the ferry at Circular Quay (quay is pronounced 'key' here) and walk through downtown to get to the aquarium. It was crowded with great shops and cafes all around, much like you would picture any big city. We made it to the aquarium and it was pretty awesome. We saw all sorts of fish and cool exhibits and Marty was in his element saying hi to all his fish friends. They had an awesome seal and shark exhibit that was just like in the one Jaws movie. You got to go underwater and walk in one of those sealed tubes all the way around. We oohed and aahed the whole time (They were in different exhibits, I don't think seals and sharks would be very good together in a family friendly environment like that). After the aquarium we had a coffee at a dreaded Starbucks, but Marty wanted some real brewed coffee which you don't find over here. Then we got back on the ferry and stopped in Manly for some food (a kebab which is like a big pita filled with chicken or beef and anything else you want. They are not pronounced ke-bob like I thought). And then we finally got back onto the bus and made it home. I love the public transportation over here!
Mar 15 - The Commonwealth Games opening ceremonies are tonight. I've never known much about the Commonwealth Games since the US isn't in it - I just always knew that it was a competition for countries like Canada, England and Australia. Since we've been over here, we've heard all about the Commonwealth Games (they're in Melbourne this year). Its a pretty big deal, especially since Australia pretty much kicks everyone's butt all over the place in most competitions. I heard on the news they are hoping for 100 gold medals. And even though there are some 71 countries competing (an accident of history was one reporter's take), it really is just a competition between Canada, England and Australia. And I guess South Africa in certain events, like cricket (which I still don't understand the rules to). Just in case you were wondering, here is a list of competing countries. I'm glad that we're here during the Games - I love watching all the competitions, especially ones you don't always get to see on tv. And, swimming is one of the first events and there's nothing like Aussie swimming.
Mar 14 - Not much new going on here. I won't bore you with how much we enjoy living right by the beach with nice weather. One thing we've learned is the sun is very intense here. Much more so than it is even in Florida. Marty thinks I'm more tan than ever, but I can't really tell. We have resorted to using zinc on our faces when we go out for a ride or swim. It makes us look like a couple of ugly geisha.
Mar 12 - Aww, the race this weekend. Where to start? Well, first, we had a nice time the day before the race, hanging out with Liz and Todd, and generally just relaxing and enjoying the town. We picked up our packets on Saturday (yay! finally a t-shirt!) and got our stuff together that night. We got to the race site with plenty of time and when we got bodymarked we saw that wetsuits weren't allowed. Bummer - their rules must be more stringent then the US's because the temperature was probably about 75 or so. Definitely good for swimming, but not for treading water, which I'll get to later.
They are big on pre-race meetings, and wouldn't let us get into the water until they were done with it. All the women were set to go off first at 7:30, so after the pre-race meeting (which ended at 7:30), we all rushed into the water since we didn't know how much warm up time they would give us. It was a deep water start so all the women are hanging out in the water for quite awhile. They didn't have a microphone or bullhorn or anything so you weren't sure what exactly was going on. We treaded water for about 10 minutes and it got pretty chilly. I was afraid to swim much more because I wasn't sure when they were going to start us. It turned out to be a good decision because all of the sudden we heard a big yell from the pier, "HEY! GO!!!!" So we went. And we swam, and we swam and we swam. And when it felt like I had swum the designated 1500 meters, we swam some more. And then when it felt like I had swum the equivalent of a half ironman swim (2000 meters) we still swam some more! It is estimated that this 1500 meter swim was more like 2100 + meters. All I know is I felt like I was out there for just about ever, and my lips felt like I had eaten a big tub of popcorn. I don't know my split, but it was probably close to 40 minutes. Marty started in the next wave and he caught me before the last buoy - and his swim was 30:30.
Onto the bike and I felt fine. I still don't have another gear, just a comfortable fast gear and I felt like I could've ridden for another couple of hours. I guess this is what you feel like when you race in the middle of base-building phase. I'm sure my split was not spectacular, but hopefully I'll drop some time when it really matters. Then onto the run, and I wanted to be conservative because I've had some bad 10K's off the bike before and without much speed running I didn't really know how to pace it. It was a two lap run (5K each). I ran very comfortable the first lap and when I finished it and saw 19:04 on my watch I realized it must be quite short. I know I'm not in that type of shape. I was feeling good so I picked it up and negative split by 30 seconds and ended with a 37:30. A new PR! Yeah right! So this race had a super long swim and a short run. Not exactly up my alley. I bet its not often that in an Olympic distance race my swim time will be slower than my run time! I have no idea how I did in my age group but I know there were several girls ahead of me. This is part of their national race series so there are some serious competitors out there. I'm sure some of them got a good 10 minutes alone on me on the swim and then more time on the bike. Even so, it was a fun day and race. I'm very glad we did it.
Mar 10 - We're leaving in a bit to go pick up our rental car and then drive to Port Stephens (about 2.5 hours north of Sydney). We'll be doing an Olympic Distance tri on Sunday, and hopefully I finish this one! We're renting a apartment for the weekend with some friends we've met here in Sydney. Should be a fun weekend.
Mar 8 - Some of you have met grandma before. Some of you have even been lucky enough to have some of her delicious french toast. We ate lunch at grandmas everyday each summer, on any vacation day, and everyday we come to visit. She's a tough lady, born in the Bronx and still has a bit of a New York accent. Both sets of grandparents lived within a 1/2 mile of us growing up, so we spent a lot of time with them. Grandma is the only one left. She got sick after Christmas and one thing led to another and after a number of tests and waiting for results, it turns out she has stage 4 stomach cancer that has moved into other areas. There's nothing that can be done at this point. So yesterday, I booked a ticket home. This was definitely not on the agenda but there's no way I'm going to risk not being able to spend a little more time with her. She of course told me I didn't need to spend the money to come all the way home, but I could tell she was also glad to hear that I was going to be there. This is actually going to be the longest time Marty and I will have been apart in almost 5.5 years (10 days). I'll be getting into St. Pete very early in the morning on the 21st of March and leaving on the 30th to come back to Sydney.
Mar 6 - I'm finally earning my keep around here as Marty has put me to work copying and filing workouts from tons of spreadsheets. This will allow his athletes to really get the great benefit of training peaks. After our morning run along the beach and a nice breakfast at a local cafe, Marty and I are sitting side by side at our kitchen counter typing away at our laptops. We're also grooving to our vast selection of music on iTunes. Going to hit a masters swim workout this evening. I hope I don't drown - I only swam 1.4K all last week.
Mar 4 - I just finished putting up a bunch of pictures from Tasmania. Not all of our pictures, but a good bit so you can get a taste of what we saw. I wouldn't want to put all of them up because it would take forever, and I know that you all out there can probably only take so much of us anyways!
Mar 3 - Our plane ride back into Sydney was much more uneventful than our plane ride down to Tasmania - thank goodness! I'm glad to be back in Sydney, and a very special thanks to John and Bron for hiking out to the airport to pick us poor slobs up. Our last day in Tassie was fun - ran and swim a bit and then walked around and ate the rest of the day. We got to spend a little more time with Gordo and Monica which was great. It was great to get to know the two of them - such talented and dedicated athletes, but most importantly, genuinely nice people. Its always nice to meet people like them and I really hope they both do awesome at Ironman Brazil and that we run into them again in the not so distant future. Anyways, after reflecting on the bike tour a bit, I've decided I would do two things differently (and also do these two things if we decide to do another, which I'm sure we will). First, I would throw on a triple chain ring. I was able to get up all the hills I needed to, but to have that triple sure would've been nice for peace of mind and to be a little nicer to my quads. I didn't exactly have climbing gears on my bike and there were several passes that I really had to grind up. The second thing would be to outfit myself better! Monica and Gordo definitely got a laugh out of my pitiful biking gear which didn't have any type of bike specific warm clothes (arm warmers, leg warmers, booties, etc). All my warm stuff is old college running outfits which I would just put under or over my jerseys and shorts. This isn't the best attire since most of its cotton and gets wet quick and then stays wet. They helped me out with a list of essential items and I will be scouring the internet to get some good deals in the next months since I would imagine many stores might be running sales soon in the US.
Mar 2 - We rode another 70 miles this morning, up some hellacious mountainside to get us to a plateau that we were on for quite awhile. Actually, it was quite a pleasant ride - beautiful day, sun shining, tailwind for a bit (finally!) and good company. At the start I thought I felt horrible because even though we were just warming up I couldn't stay on Marty's wheel. I thought I was in for a very long day and it took me quite awhile to realize I had another flat on my front tire. After that was changed I felt much better. The last 15K were into the wind so that was very tough, but I definitely felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment when we were finished. I definitely couldn't have ridden this bike tour without Marty right there with me almost the whole way. He was a great bike buddy and it was a lot of fun to do something like this together. I can think of a number of couples from back home who should totally do something like this because I know they would have a lot of fun. Tonight, the four of us and our guide all went out to dinner one last time and we had a great time telling stories and laughing it up. Tasmania is a beautiful state and the bike tour really allowed us to see much more of it than we otherwise would have. I don't think that last year I could've even told you where Tasmania was - and I'm not sure that a lot of people we told about this trip really knew where it was either. That's another funny thing - they get a ton of American news over here and people are very familiar with our states and politicians and things of that sort, but there I was not even realizing that Tasmania was a state of Australia. Just another thing to make you realize how big this world is, and how small we all are.
Mar 1 - Yesterday we left Launceston and stayed overnight at Cradle Mountain. Monica and Gordo rode all the way there which was quite a ride with headwinds and several mountain passes. Marty and I did about half of the ride and then stopped at a wildlife park and got to see a ton of Australian wildlife, including Tasmanian Devils, Wombats, Wallabees, Kangaroos, Koalas, and Kookaburras. The drive into Cradle was awesome and I think I enjoyed it much more than I would've if I had been on my bike! We stayed at the Cosy Cabins which were quite cozy. It was pretty cold that night and this morning, but that didn't stop us from going over to the mountain and getting in a nice trail run/hike. Marty, Monica and I got lost but got to see some great views. I promise we'll put up some pictures soon - probably not until this next weekend though, once we get back to Sydney with a regular connection. This morning I skipped out on the first 50K and joined back up with the group to ride the remaining 50K. We got up Mount Gog which was pretty tough, but probably a little easier for me than the others since my legs were nice and fresh. I think its actually called the Gog Range, but Mount Gog sounds much more Lord of the Rings-ish, so that's what I like to call it. We're back in Deloraine which we rode through yesterday and tomorrow is our last day of the tour. Its something like 250K back to Hobart, so you can be sure I will only be doing a portion of that!
Feb 27 - We had a great dinner last night with our guide at the Pizza Pub. The pizza was just what the doctor ordered after that ride and I finished it off with an ice cream sundae. I ended up getting in 25 hours of training in last week, or 10 hours more than my previous amount. I felt it today when I started to go out for a run and realized that it wasn't going to happen on the pair of legs that had 25 hours of training in them. So I jogged a bit and then enjoyed the walkway that was on the side of the Cataract Gorge. Marty was incredibly excited about taking a brewery tour over at the James Boag Brewery. This beer is sold throughout Tasmania and is slowly making its way into the mainland. They are so popular that they can't keep up with demand at this point. The tour was pretty cool - I especially enjoyed the bottling and packaging part even though it smelled like a fraternity house. I also learned that bung hole is a real phrase - its part of keg. So all those years of my sister calling me a bung hole I bet she didn't realize what she was really calling me. Tomorrow we're off to Cradle Mountain which is supposed to be gorgeous. I'm sure we won't have an internet connection until we get back to Hobart, so until then, have a great week!
Feb 26 - Wow, the ride today was incredibly hard. If you like riding nonstop hills in cold windy rain, with chip-sealed roads, then this would be the ride for you. I would've cried on the very long mountain pass we rode up but that would've taken too much of my very depleted energy sources. All of us agreed this was one of those days we'll all remember for a long time - even Gordo who has put in some spectacular days in his Epic Camps. I had to call it a day after 60K and I'm glad I did since the next section consisted of more rain and steep hills. Had a nice picnic lunch and then drove into Launceston where we're at a nice hotel and even have an internet connection. Maybe we'll get a chance to throw up some of the hundreds of pictures we've taken along the way. Tomorrow is another 'rest' day and Marty and I will probably get in a run and swim and might check out the local brewery here.
Feb 25 - The penguin excursion last night was awesome! We saw the smallest species of penguins which used to be called the blue fairy penguins, but since this turned out to be not really politically correct, the name has been changed but of course the only name I can remember is the blue fairy. We saw them come over the rocks and start to waddle up the beach to their nests. Just in case you never knew, penguins waddle because they don't have any knee. Anyways, the trail we were on had tons of penguins everywhere and it was so neat to see them so close to you. Marty and I aren't very smart so we weren't able to take any pictures because we couldn't figure out how to turn the flash off of our camera. The sudden flash can blind the penguins for life. Still, we were so happy we got to go and see them even though it got us home kind of late. We got up early so we could get on our bikes before the winds kicked up too much and I now have a new personal best for my longest ride - 75 miles! We did take two breaks along the way, though. One for coffee and a muffin, and then one on the top of Elephant Pass for some pancakes. We rode into St. Helens and now we're getting ready to go for a short jog. My legs are pretty tired, but tomorrow I'm still going to attempt about 55 miles with some rolling hills and a significant climb. Tomorrow night we'll be in a city called Launceston which is the 2nd largest city in Tasmania. We'll be staying there for two nights and will finally get a pool to swim in.
Feb 24 - Yesterday we left Swansea and rode to Coles Bay. First though, we got in a long run - Marty and I put in about 9.5 miles making it our longest run of the year. It was a real nice run and we both felt relatively good. Then we had some brekky and headed off on our bikes. We stopped halfway at a winery where Marty sampled some Tasmania wine and had a coffee and I had some hot chocolate. We made our way down to Coles Bay which has quite the scenery around it. They have a small mountain range called the Hazards as a backdrop and beautiful bays and beaches. The four of us swam at the beach closest to us and the water was crystal clear. We even saw some stingrays. We're staying in a backpackers hostel which is interesting - definitely not my first choice for accomodations, but it does the trick for having a place to sleep. We had negotiated a slightly lower price for this tour and we think this is where it came out of. But, this is the only hostel we'll be staying at. Our guide, Michael, is an excellent chef and he's been making some awesome dinners for us at night. Today was a 'rest' day. For our rest day, Marty and I decided to rent some kayaks and we cruised around the bay for about 1.5 hrs, then we hiked over the saddle of one of the mountains and went and saw Wineglass Bay which was stunning. The hike itself was very challenging, and 2 hours later when we were finally finished my legs were whupped. Some rest day! Tonight the two of us are going to hopefully go see some penguins at another location just north of where we're at right now. Monica and Gordo are much more serious about their training (as they should be since they are gearing up for some important Ironmans) so they have been doing quite a bit more than us. Its interesting to see how pro ironman athletes have to train, and I can honestly say it definitely isn't for me. We're so glad they are on the trip with us, though. It makes it so much more fun.
Feb 22 - Day 2 brought us from Orford to Swansea. Day 1, I forgot to say, was from Hobart to Orford. Today I skipped the swim in the freezing cold water with the gang. I had a couple reasons - 1. The water was freezing cold, 2. I've swam 3 days in a row which is a lot for me, 3. Uhhh, it was cold? We then ran to a bakery and then got on our bikes for an absolutely beautiful ride into Swansea. It was rainy and chilly at the start, but it let up and we were left with a thick cloud cover. Clouds don't always lend well to pretty pictures, but at least we weren't going to get fried (the sun is intense, even in Tassie (Tazzie), as the locals call it). Once we got to our motel, our guide had all the fixings for a nice lunch and then we hit a coffee shop and the library for some internet time. So far we haven't hit a wireless hotspot yet so we're writing these updates everyday but they'll all go up at once once we can get a connection. So far we're having a lot fun on the tour. Gordo and Monica are great and our guide is very nice and has a wealth of Tassie & Australia knowledge. Sometimes I can't believe we're riding up the coast of Tasmania on the other side of the world from all of our friends and family. It certainly feels surreal at times.
Feb 21 - Day 1 of our bike tour and my legs are already quite tired. We ran with Monica and Gordo to the aquatic center, swam, and then ran back just like yesterday. The ride was pretty challenging with lots of wind and hills and chopped up pavement. But we made it! My biggest week workout/time wise ever is around 15 hours. Gordo predicts I blow by that by Day 4. Overall the ride was very beautiful - haven't see any real good wildlife yet except for a couple of roadkilled wallabies, but I declined to take any pictures of them.
Feb 19 - Bugger! I had my first DNF in 16 years today. My first DNF ever came at the ripe old age of 10 at a Seminole Park 5K cross country race. I lost a shoe in a muddy ditch and had 300 people trample over it. 10 minutes after everyone went by, we found the shoe and I walked back to find my dad. But I digress, today was a flat tire. I had a spare, but no CO2 cartridges. You're not supposed to take those aboard planes and we didn't find any yesterday. I think I had a pretty good swim, but it was very competitive out there. I can honestly say I wasn't feeling so spunky on the bike and the course was very difficult. One of the hills on the loop course was very very steep, and there were other hills and wind to contend with each lap. On one of the u-turns on my 4th lap I knew something wasn't right, and sure enough my front tire was flat. So I hoofed it back to transition and didn't get upset until I saw Marty with his questioning face. So it wasn't exactly how I would've liked to have raced today, but as they say, poop happens. I went for a run afterwards and felt good so there you go. Other than that, had some fun watching the ITU freaks fly around the course. They are fit.
Feb 18 - We flew into Hobart, Tasmania yesterday evening in what I will have to say was the most terrifying flight of my life. Really just the most terrifying landing of my life, I guess. A front was making its way into the region and our plane was pitching left and right and falling everywhere in our attempts to land. It felt like two giants were outside batting us around for fun. The pilot attempted two landings (with the awful word 'windshear' being tossed around) and then he went back up and circled around for awhile before making our third and thankfully, successful landing. After that was over we got our rental car and drove into the downtown area and found out quickly what a beautiful state of Australia this is. The bike tour is really going to allow us to see some great areas.
So tomorrow is our race and I'm not feeling completely confident at the moment. I've got some nagging soreness and know I haven't put in quite enough mileage to race great at this distance, but I'm just going to go off tomorrow with the main goal of having fun. What a fantastic opportunity to get to race in Tasmania! Not something the average American triathlete gets to do. The water temp is a chilly 64 degrees so I'm once again thankful for my wetsuit. We had to check our bikes in this afternoon and the transition area is in a huge wharf shed. Its like nothing I've ever seen before and we'll try to get some pics of it tomorrow.
Feb 16 - I was reading up on our race this weekend down in Tasmania. I have to relay all information to Marty or he won't know what's going on. The water temp will probably be in the 60's. Brrr. They have ITU Junior and Elite races, and the age group races are one of their two qualifiers for the World Championships in Switzerland. The Juniors go off very early; 6:30 and 7:15 in the morning. All women age groups start at 8 am, and then they have quite long intervals between the rest of the waves. Marty doesn't start until 9:45. The swim is 2 laps, the bike is 8 laps (with 3 u-turns each lap, aughh) and the run is 4 laps. I wonder if most races down here are lap courses like this? So far we are two for two. The bike description is two easy/moderate climbs and one short/steep climb. This should definitely be an interesting race!
Feb 15 - We've been watching the Winter Olympics just about every night. Granted, Australia isn't exactly a winter wonderland, and I would bet that their Summer Olympic coverage is better, but boy do I appreciate the US broadcast now. The past two nights we've been watching the snowboarding, and the announcers, although not lacking enthusiasm, are horrible about explaining just about anything to the audience. We still no nothing about how they score the event - like why did the guy who did a bunch of twists and flips get a lower score than the guy who just went really high into the air? There was no explanation of the different rounds. And if there was an Aussie in the event, they were going for the gold (even if there was obviously not a chance of that happening. Their girl snowboarder did get 5th, which is awesome). Everyone likes to complain about the human interest stories that the US stations like to do, but its better than not knowing anything at all! The announcers barely knew about their own athletes (occasionally they might say, 'So-and-so placed 9th at the World Cup in Argentina' but that would be it). I appreciate watching the in-depth short stories because it allows you to understand the behind the scenes of the sport and the person. And they don't always do it on Americans which is nice. It gets you more involved in the sport while you're watching, instead of just asking questions out loud to your significant other. If they weren't from Australia you'd be lucky to catch the name, and you wouldn't get any other detail. I guess its good to get a different perspective so you can appreciate what you get accumstomed to. For instance, why did the US snowboard uniforms look like old time baseball uniforms? I bet that was a little blurb that the US broadcast mentioned. Anyways, I'll have to make my final assessment after I see some more of the broadcast down here, but so far it hasn't been so good.
So that was kind of a sports gripe, but now I'll talk about something else. Kids. I know a lot of people who are pregnant right now and I know a lot people who are trying to get pregnant right now. And I think its great. As for me and Marty, I think that road is definitely still years away. Some people have said when we get back from this trip we may change our minds and we may. I don't foresee it right now, but I wouldn't count anything out. I'm just glad that we've waited or else we would never have been able to do something like this. I can only think of two people since we've been married that have told us to have kids right away. Everyone else said to wait, and I'm so glad we did. I realize sometimes you can't exactly control these things and you might end up with a surprise, but we're trying to not have that at this point. I honestly don't feel like I'm ready for kids (although I guess you are never really ready for kids). But I feel too immature and selfish right now. We will definitely have kids at some point - Marty's just going to be one of those old dads :)
Feb 14 - Uh oh, it looks like my days are definitely numbered of me beating Marty on the run! He had a great track workout tonight and was ahead of me by several seconds on everyone of our 800s. Its good to see him running without any hip pain finally. I was talking to some of the other girls at the workout and it turned out one of them had been to Orlando awhile ago and stayed in a hostel that overlooked Lake Eola. That hostel is now the Lake Eola Inn (I think that's what its called now) and is above Panera. Such a small world - that's where Marty and I got engaged. I went and got a library card today so I won't have to shell out too much money for books. Unfortunately, this library was pretty small and I was only able to find one book on the list of books people suggested. There are a couple of other libraries I can go to so I'll have to check those out, too. I'm looking forward to going down to Tasmania this Friday for the race and then for our bike tour after. We'll be doing the tour with Gordo Byrn and his wife Monica (Caplan) Byrn. Let me rephrase that. We'll be traveling with Gordo and Monica, but I doubt we'll see much of them on the bike!
Feb 12 - We drove to New Castle for the Foreshore Triathlon yesterday. We didn't even get lost which we are prone to do, and the drive was quite nice. We went straight to pick up our packets (no t-shirt! triathletes in America would be screaming!) and then went to our hotel which was like a budget/economy chain hotel and was way too expensive for what if felt like - a cabin on a cruise ship. Anyways, we had a great dinner at a cafe nearby and then lounged around.
We got up and rode our bikes down to the transition which was a first come first serve basis for racking your bike. The distance for the race was a 500 meter swim, 18K bike, 4K run. I was the first wave to go off (all women) and I had gotten my wetsuit on and much higher than the last time I tried it out and it felt great! I think I was in the top ten out of the water and I have to say it was all the wetsuit and not the swimmer. That thing seemed to be super-fast. The bike was 5 laps with 2 u-turns each lap which I was most concerned about since you ride on the opposite side of the road - which leads to the u-turns being backwards to what I'm used to, but I managed okay with them. The course got quite crowded as you can imagine, and we each got a big black mark on our arms to count the number of laps. A couple women passed me on the bike, but just right at the beginning and I passed them back quickly on the run. I could definitely tell that we haven't biked very hard yet as I couldn't even get my heartrate up too much like I normally can on a sprint, but I felt strong. Slow, but strong ;) Tying my shoes in the second transition was very time consuming. I really need to find some elastic laces somewhere down here. Anyways, got onto the run and felt pretty good for the lack of intense running I've been doing. I think passed 7 or so women and ended up maybe 4th overall. Results won't be up for awhile as it was hand-timed, but I'm pretty sure I was at least top 5 (2nd in my age group, total time 56:24). I outsplit Marty on the run by about 20 seconds, too. He also had a strong race and we came home happy about our first Australian triathlon performances. They gave big bath towels for awards, which was quite handy since we hadn't bought too many towels over here. So the race was fun, and pretty well organized. It was different not knowing a single soul out there, but we still had a great time.
Feb 11 - I'm sitting here drinking my coffee and eating my cereal while watching the opening ceremonies of the winter olympic games. Is it just me or are the opening ceremonies for the olympics always weird and boring? We only get 3 stations on our tv; 2 are a little fuzzy but you get used to it really quick. These are like NBC or CBS in the US. The third station comes in crystal clear but its some sort of international station, so sometimes there are some interesting shows or world news and other times its in a different language. They did have the SuperBowl on this channel which I thought was ironic since it was on ESPN back home. Here I am sitting in Australia watching the SuperBowl for free while back in the US you needed to pay for cable to watch it in your home. Feb 13 - Correction. Apparently, as some of you have pointed out, the SuperBowl was on ABC, a free channel. My mistake, I read on someone else's website that they didn't have cable and would therefore not be able to watch the game unless they went to a bar. I took that to mean that it was on cable this year. I didn't actually research the information, so just remember, everything you read on the internet is not true! Maybe we're not actually in Australia, maybe we're just sitting at home in Orlando pretending to be in Australia... Sorry you had to read that boring stuff Shana, please click HERE instead.
Feb 9 - We walked to the beach yesterday evening (only a 5 minute walk! can it get any better?). Marty and I swam in the beach pool there which is another pool right next to the ocean that is filled with sea water. Marty wanted to swim but I only really wanted to try out my wetsuit. Its a brand new Zoot WetSuit that I won at the Reebok Women's triathlon last summer. I never got a chance to try it out last year and seeing as I may be wearing it this weekend, but most definitely next weekend in Tasmania, I figured I should swim in it first. I was worried about it because I got talked into a small and I really think its too small. My fears were not unfounded as it is very tight in the water while swimming. It is, however, the most buoyant wetsuit I've ever swam in so hopefully that counteracts the tightness. I think I'll be able to suck it up for these two races and hopefully won't feel too bad. Luckily, I'm getting another wetsuit real soon. Another Zoot, but this time I ordered a medium, and its sleeveless. I'm on the Her sports triathlon team and they are totally hooking us up once again, and my dad is nice enough to send me some of the gear that has already come in. Besides a wetsuit we're also getting Asics running shoes, Zeal sunglasses, workout clothes from Sugoi, a fuel belt and all the GU you could ever want. They've really done an awesome job for us and I know everyone on the team is very thankful for it.
Feb 8 - Yesterday we went down to a local beach bike shop and got a beater bike for me. I definitely don't need to worry about anyone stealing this one as the main color is rust. It was cheap, and we wanted to get bikes we could cruise around that weren't our racing bikes. Marty is using John's K-Mart special, which although it has a nice red paint job, its pretty much a hunk of junk. At least he has a triple - I don't, and the weight of this bike coupled with the many hills around are forcing me to do a lot of big gear work.
We also found a website for the Warringah Triathlon Club, and most of their workouts are fairly close to where we are staying. Last night we rode our bikes to the their track workout. The ride over was nice, most of it being on a nature trail, and it took around 30 minutes. The group was smaller than the Y running club from back home, but they were all very nice and friendly. Some people did their own thing while others grouped up. There was a lot going on at the track at the same time, and there was an entry fee to get in. We had a nice workout and it was good to feel that burn of the track again.
Sometimes I wonder what people actually think of this travel blog. I'm not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but I wonder if people think that since I just get up here and talk constantly about myself and what I'm doing. Its really just meant for family and friends to catch up on us so far away, so I hope there isn't anyone out there that thinks that!
Feb 6 - We have officially moved into our own place! We had a really nice time staying with John and Bron, but I'm sure they're also happy to have their own space again. They were awesome this weekend helping us move and going to the store with us (The Ikea over here is as big as a small city). We are in a small northern Sydney beach town called Collaroy. We have just a short walk to the beach or several cafes and restaurants. It really is an awesome location. We ran last night and there is a great trail that leads you up to a cliff overlooking the other beaches. We're going to have a lot of fun running here. We also did the Manly 2K swim yesterday morning. Bron went in the water with me before my start to help me get in. The temperature ended up being 71 and it honestly wasn't that bad. I can't believe I'm saying that! It was shocking at first, but as far as swimming went it was quite nice. The water was very clear and you were able to see very deep. I saw lots of fish and some scuba divers. There were over 100 swimmers in my wave and I ran into the water slow and was practically the last one swimming - I thought everyone here was a good swimmer! Not so as I passed a ton of people out there, but that was nice for the confidence :) My arms were really sore with still 1/4 mile to go which was to be expected since I really just started swimming again this week.
Today we need to go buy some beater bikes so we can get around. John was letting us borrow one of their cars these past two weeks which was way nice of them, but now we're on our own. Luckily, almost everything we need is very close, and their bus sytem is very good so we shouldn't have a problem.
Feb 3 - I spoke to my sister-in-law, Anna on the phone a little while ago. She'd been going back and forth with a guy who put an offer on our condo and it looks like he accepted one of her counter-offers. Of course there are always things that can fall through, but we're keeping our fingers crossed. We weren't terribly stressed about not selling just yet because our payments were quite low but it'll be nice to not have to worry about it. She also told me that she's been enjoying reading our updates, but that since we've been in Australia its been back to being more about working out. She said that my friend Katy said something about her website would read something more along the lines of what she had bought that week from the store - Katy, I wish I could write about that, but my current employer pays me very little!
So onto the workout news ;) We had a nice ride this morning and ended up at a park that had a coffee shop so we stopped for some coffee. Its not coffee like I was expecting, but more like a cappucino or espresso. However, we did drink it while sitting on picnic tables watching two Koalas frolic around! We didn't have the camera this time but I'm sure this will be a semi-regular ride so we'll get a picture of them at some point. And next week we'll be doing our first triathlon down under. I think it could be ugly but I also think it will be a whole lot of fun. We need to find some quick laces soon or our transitions will be very slow.
Feb 1 Ė We went to our first masters practice last night. I have not swum that hard or that far in a very long time and I felt like my arms were going to fall off at the end. It was definitely good for me though. They swim opposite here (just like they drive) so that has taken a little getting used to. We should be able to move into our own place on Saturday so long as we get the wire transfer between our bank and the realty companyís bank done okay.
Weíre getting the hang of some of the Australian lingo and slight differences. Marty was talking about beer on his last post, but what he didnít mention is that their light beer is not light in calories, but half the alcohol. Milkshakes tend to be very thin unless you specifiy. A grilled cheese sandwich is a toasted cheese sandwich (and not called a Ďdongerí as John tried to convince me). Australians love toast and meat pies. Ketchup is tomato sauce. Swimming is on prime time. They have almost the same music over here, although some of the songs they have gotten much later than when we get them. TV shows are also almost identical. If they arenít the same shows we have in the US, itís a copy. I canít find frozen waffles in the supermarket! I love frozen waffles and Iím a bit distraught that I canít buy any here. Thongs are flip-flops, not underwear. Big W is WalMart. They have Target here, but itís apparently not as popular as it is in the US. I love Target because I can get cheap, cute clothes. The clothes at the Target here are not too cute. Prices are more expensive, but you have to figure about $2.50 off for each $10 with the exchange rate. Even with that, things are a little bit more expensive, but not the New York prices everyone told us about. Or maybe itís just that we are both cheap and look for the best deals.
Jan 30 - I'm happy we're back on our bikes and getting into shape again. Its been awhile and its freakin' hilly here, but I'm still glad to be out there! We rode up the beach on Friday in the afternoon which turned out to be a dumb tourist move as the traffic was pretty heavy and there were parts that didn't have a shoulder. We rode a much nicer route this morning that had a big bike lane almost the entire way. John and Bronwyn's house is up a bit on a good hill that is very popular with local cyclists. Even though we're up the hill a distance, it still took Marty and I 20 minutes to get to the actual top. I hope that all these hills will help my strength on the bike because I certainly need it!
Saturday was Bron's birthday so we had a barbeque here at their house. We got to meet a bunch of their friends and they were all very nice and easy going and fun. It reminded me of our group of friends back in Orlando (not quite as good, but you know, they are a tough group to beat). At the party we met a couple from South Africa who are both swimmers and the wife has gotten into triathlons so hopefully we'll get together and ride sometime. We haven't been able to find any local running clubs that do track workouts or anything so that is one thing that we're lacking, but we can run together so its not too big of a deal. We found out that the place we will hopefully be renting has a pool within walking distance and some adult swimming squads so that was definitely some good news.
Sunday morning Marty and John did the 'Big Swim' which was a 2.7K open water swim at a local beach. Bron and I watched - I'm definitely not ready for that long of an open water swim yet after my one workout in a month, but I think I'll give the 1K in Manly Beach a shot next weekend. The water was 70 or 72 and not one wetsuit was spotted. I'm in trouble. Also, not one shark was spotted which was also nice. And this morning we ran with John and Samson (their Malamute). Samson is the nicest dog - much nicer than the dogs we were with in the Philippines.
Jan 26 - Happy Australia Day! The 8K this morning went much better than anticipated. I was determined to start comfortable and have fun, not knowing how my stomach was going to feel. Luckily, I felt fine and was able to pick people off the entire race. I caught up to Marty at the 6K and we ran together until the end when I had a lot left in the tank so I kicked it in hard the final turn. I ended up running 6:39 pace! I was very surprised and felt fine afterwards.
John drove us to the race and being the sport that he is, he decided what the heck, I'm here, I might as well run, too. John was an excellent swimmer (still is) in sprints. He went to the Australian Olympic Trials 3 times and holds several masters records over here now. He ended up running great, too (his first ever road race). After the race we went to Bondi Beach for some breakfast (or brekkie as the Australians call it). Marty and John were going to be doing the iceberg relays at 11 that morning, so after brekkie we headed over to the beach pool. Many beaches around here have beach pools which are built right on the ocean and are filled with ocean water. They are cold! Marty estimated this one was 68 degrees. The freakin' Australians seem not to have any idea that this is cold water. Anyways, the icebergs are some sort of club that many beach towns have and they have these fun relays every once in awhile. They split you up into country and then have relays like the beachball relay (have to smack a huge beachball down the pool while you swim), the paddle board relay (lay on the paddle board and paddle) and the inner tube relay (swim with an inner tube somewhere on your body). They also have a regular relay swim at the end. Swimming is so big here and there are lots of members in the club, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are all good swimmers. More like they all just want to have a good time which is exactly what their relays were. It was very funny watching all of them.
Jan 25 Ė I thought I was going to make it out of the Philippines without getting sick as I didnít feel bad at all the whole time I was there. It was the one place we warned about many times because they donít have the best drinking water among other things. However, for the past few days in Australia, I have had quite a stomach bug which I can only imagine came from Cebu City (our last island in the Philippines). Luckily, we were prepared for this and already had a prescription filled to combat travelerís diarrhea. Iím feeling better today Ė not 100%- but much improved. This also explains why I havenít really updated in a few days as the only things I wanted to do was sleep or go to the bathroom!
So before we left Dumaguete City, Marty and I went into town one last time for some odds and ends. I really wanted to get a bikini since I managed to forget mine in Orlando and I knew it would be much cheaper to get one in the Philippines rather than wait until Australia. We also picked up some nicely priced DVDís. In the afternoon we all boarded a ferry to Cebu. We were under the impression that the ferry ride was only 2 hours, but we were apparently on the slow ferry and it took 4. It was also hot. They played one bad movie (The Haunted Mansion) and then proceeded to play bad karaoke videos! Towards the end of the trip while we waited another 20 minutes to dock, kids were running, jumping, and screaming down the aisles. Marty said this is what hell would be like. We did think it was pretty funny, though.
We made it to the hotel (Marriot) and cleaned up before we headed out for dinner and gambling. Cebu City is one of the larger cities in the Philippines and it has really nice buildings and then little shanty towns right next to them. We stayed out pretty late that night and got a good nights rest when we got back.
The next morning we had an awesome breakfast at the hotel and then took a short city tour in a taxi. We went to an old Spanish fort that reminded me of St. Augustine then to the Taoist Temple. Along the way we were able to see some of the city and boy there sure were a lot of street markets. People just set up camp on the sidewalks and sell anything and everything. After the temple, we went back towards the hotel and had lunch at the nearby mall before we went to the airport.
On our flight from Cebu to Manila we sat next to a guy who lived in Orlando. What are the odds? He works for IBM and is over in Cebu for 3 weeks and then back in Orlando for 1 week. He seemed to really enjoy it, though. Thank goodness we had plenty of time when we got into Manila because they donít make anything easy at their airports. We got our bags and then caught a taxi to the international airport which was a zoo. We waited in a very long line to check in with Qantas and went through quite a panic when they told us that our bags were 38 kilos over the limit and we would have to pay AUS $20 per kilo! This was due to the fact that we waited until we got to the Philippines to buy our ticket to Sydney which was cheaper than having an ongoing ticket. We mustíve looked pathetic enough to the next person we talked to because he just checked our bags and away we went. There were three different security checkpoints at this airport, none of which were very good.
The flight over to Sydney was uneventful other than the fact that I only got about 3.5 hours of very uncomfortable sleep. Martyís friend from college picked us up from the airport and drove us through the city trying to get us acquainted with the different areas. Him and his wife, Bron, have been awesome hosts. They live in a beautiful house north of Sydney and have been so nice to us since weíve been here. They even have an extra car that weíve been able to use until we find a short term rental. Their garage is off the main road (which is very popular with cyclists since its quite hilly) and then you walk down 121 steps to get to their house. Along the way youíll see very colorful spiders, an iguana, and some pretty birds. The weather was very hot the first day we arrived but since then its been very comfortable. Chilly actually after having spent 10 days in the hot and humid temperatures of the Philippines.
The rental search has been going well. We saw a place in Manly Beach which was just okay yesterday, and then another in the same area that was very nice. Manly is very popular and might be a little too crowded for us, but it does have a ton of shops and just about everything you would need. The other place we found was very nice Ė much nicer than even our condo in Orlando (and bigger, too!). Johnís friend is the realtor for this place and he said he would work something out for us since they donít usually rent them (they are trying to sell these particular units). Its in a quiet area right by the beach, but its unfurnished. John and Bron think they can give us almost everything we need, and the supermarket is only about 3K up the road, so we could easily ride our bikes to it (weíre planning on buying some beater-bikes soon).
Tomorrow is Australia Day which is kind of like our 4th of July. Weíre running in an 8K in the morning, but Iím definitely going to take it easy since I havenít been feeling all that great the past few days. Last night we went for a swim and my stomach lodged a protest after every 300 meters so I had to keep running to the bathroom. I obviously didnít end up getting much swimming done. Other than that, it seems like weíre going to have a great time here. Iím excited about getting back into shape and this is the place to do it! Now if only my stomach would settle downÖ
Jan 24 - We made it in to Sydney on the 22nd after spending a night in Cebu City. I'll go into more detail on a later post but right now I just wanted to get something up here and let you all know that we're here. We're staying with Marty's friends right now until we find a short term rental (which looks promising) and they have been awesome in showing us around and getting us familiar with the area. It seems to be pretty much an athletes paradise down here - we see cyclists and runners everywhere. We finally got out on our bikes yesterday and it felt nice. Its quite hilly where we are right now so that made it interesting the first time back on the bike in almost a month. The water is quite cold so I'm just going to have to suck it up and get used to it. I'll post pictures and write more later - now I'm going to go catch a nap :)
Jan 19 Ė We had a relaxing day yesterday and Marty was able to catch up on some of his work. We ran our usual route in the morning and then did a mini-swim workout in the afternoon. That night Lilian had a blind masseuse come over so we could get massages. Yes, a lot of masseuses over here are blind! Makes sense as they have a heightened sense of touch. I got a massage for about 1.5 hours and it was excellent. Definitely not as good as Melissa Hall back in Orlando, but for $3 I wonít complain.
Today Martyís dad took us out to lunch and then we went to the Forest Camp and got some nice pictures over there with the waterfalls. You can rent a room and stay there for a night or two, but it would be pretty rustic. It was nice and cool, though. We leave tomorrow for Cebu Ė we were originally going to try and leave in the morning so they could take us somewhere called the Chocolate Hills, but the ferry in the morning isnít running this month. So weíll go in the afternoon and check out the city, and then have a bit of time the next day before our 3 pm flight out.
Jan 17 Ė We finally secured our tickets to Australia. I donít think weíve ever spent so much time trying to book tickets before. For about 12 hours we thought we would be flying first class over there and I canít lie Ė I was pretty excited about that prospect. As it turned out, there were some cancellations in Economy so we are back with the rest of the herd. Ah well. Weíre leaving Jan 21st from Cebu Island and flying into Manila, before heading straight over to Sydney. In Manila we once again have to make our way to the other airport which is truly a royal pain in the butt (have to go through customs, get your luggage, get a cab, get to the other airport, check back in with bags and go back through customs). This is the stuff you deal with when you travel and Iíll easily suck it up so I can continue seeing the world.
Today we drove to Liliansí hometown which is about 1.5 hours away (about 50 miles). In her home city, Bayawan, we met her parents and other family members. We went out to the beach where she is building a house for her parents and had a picnic lunch out there. Then they took us around the city so we could see what else was there, and of course see some more great views. On the drive over, we saw lots of rice fields and it looked liked what I imagine Vietnam must look like Ė lush tropical vegetation with mountains nearby.
No time for exercise today as Martyís dad and Lilian kept us away for almost the entire day. Weíll do our normal running route in the morning and hopefully get in a little swim in the afternoon. Iím really looking forward to getting settled in Australia and getting back on the bike and in the pool.
In the past two weeks while weíve been gone Iíve managed to read 3 books. Reading is one my favorite hobbies, but not something Iíve been able to do much of the past few years. Iím going to try and make up for it on this trip. So please feel free to recommend any good books! Iím not fixated on any specific genre and like to read just about anything. The three books Iíve read so far Iíve really enjoyed. They were Night Fall by Nelson Demille, Human Capital by Stephen Amidon, and Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen. My next book is The Mayor of Lexington Avenue by James Sheehan. This is his first novel and it has been critically acclaimed by just about everyone. My dad bought it for me for Christmas Ė the author is from St. Pete and a Florida trial attorney (possibly retired, but Iíll have to check. I left the book in the car and will have to get it in the morning).
Jan 15 Ė We had quite the adventure today. Marty, his dad and I planned on taking a boat over to the nearby island, Apo. It is a prime diving destination and there are beautiful reefs all around. We got to the beach and boarded the small outrigger for the 30 minute trip.
If the US over regulates, the Philippines under regulates. Not that we feared for our lives or anything, but it is funny to see how things work down there. No life jackets, gasoline in bottles, random drivers, etc. The boat we were going to take had two car engines in it. One of them just didnít want to work, and the current and wind between the two islands is pretty fierce. Marty started humming the theme song to Gilliganís Island. There just wasnít any way we were going to make it across with only engine. Our two ship people turned it back around after quite awhile and headed back to the beach. Once back there, the owner was determined to get us across the ocean come hell or high water. He got on the boat and took us out again. The motor still wouldnít work, but he wanted to try and get us across on the one engine. No way. Even the one engine was put-put-putting quite a bit. Martyís dad told them to turn back around and we headed back in again. There was another boat so our people went to find the owner of that boat to see if we could take it. We didnít quite understand all of what they were saying, but it was probably a lot of negotiation but in the end everyone pitches in for one another over here and we were soon on our way to Apo.
Apo island is gorgeous. There is a tiny population and one resort that you can stay overnight at. The best rooms cost about $28 a night. The island is run on a generator or something and all electricity is shut off at midnight every night. Right when we pulled up to shore a bunch of women were there waiting for us, holding up t-shirts and wrap dresses and towels. Over here, people are very polite and they call everyone sir and maíam. In the accent, it comes out more like Ďmom.í ďHello mom! Would you like a beautiful shirt? Look at this one!Ē We told them we would be back by after we got some lunch. We walked over to the resort (which entailed walking in between two rock formations) and had a nice lunch in the shade enjoying the beautiful water. They could film a Corona commercial here if they wanted to. After lunch we walked back and were bombarded by all the women and girls selling us t-shirts. Martyís dad is a pushover and he bought a couple. It was very overwhelming having 7 women pushing all these different products in my face, and how can you say no to them? They are so nice and the shirts are super cheap and this is probably the only way they make money. We walked off with our purchases and made our way through town (more like a sidewalk with colorful plants, flowers, and huts on each side Ė I canít imagine growing up here! What would you do all day?) and got to the sanctuary where we would snorkel. Right off the bat when you walk into the ocean you have to float immediately on your belly so as not to step on any of the corral. I found Nemo right away! :) The reef was just as everyone described to us Ė beautiful! Tons of fish and live corral, vibrant colors Ė it was just as good if not better than what we saw in Hawaii. After awhile of snorkeling we made our way back through town and to our boat.
Of course the adventure couldnít just end there! There was a storm rolling in and the seas were quite rough. Our driver was excellent and we rocked and rolled through the water. It was rough and windy, and we got soaking wet again, but I knew we would make it fine. Even if we didnít, I was confident in my swimming ability :) Iíve been known to get seasick, but I didnít feel anything the other day when we went to the other island, and I didnít feel anything today. And I shouldíve with how rough it was. I guess Iím over that. We came home and took a nice hot shower and then ate some dinner. The plan for the rest of the night is to relax and finish my book.
Jan 14 pm - We're leaving in a bit for yet another party at a resort nearby. Today was very relaxing - had a nice run with Marty, ate some breakfast, then read a book for the better part of the morning and early afternoon. I read out in the gazebo for awhile until two geckos fell from the ceiling landing very close to me. I didn't want one to land on my head so I moved up to the deck/porch. There was a nice breeze from the ocean and the views were great. Are you getting tired of me saying that yet? :) For some reason, my allergies are really agreeing with me over here. Meaning, they are practically non-existent. And for probably the first time in my life! I think its a combination of being on the side of a mountain right near the fresh ocean. I guess Marty and I will have to live on a mountainous island for the rest of our lives. Played some tennis in the afternoon then cooled off in the pool.
Jan 14 Ė Yesterday morning Marty and I ran down a different road that was much easier to handle than the straight up the mountain road we ran up a couple of days ago. It was still hilly, and tough, but we could run the whole thing. When we got back the helpers had already prepared breakfast.
I went with Lilian down into town so she could run some errands and do a little shopping. I needed to get another pair of shorts and I found some at a store for 99 pesos (about $2). Lilian asked the girls working at the register what type of education they had. They were all very nice and friendly. All had college degrees; two were in computer science and the other was computer programming, yet they were working at a Wal-Mart-esque store. There just arenít jobs for them on this island. We asked about going to Manila and they laughed and said it would be too far, they didnít have any family there, and too much money for them to get there and live. It makes you really appreciate the opportunities we have in the US. It also makes you realize that even though most families are low income here, education is still extremely important to them.
Lilian took me to her hair salon and I got my hair cut pretty short. I really like it. With tip it cost 200 pesos Ė about $4. The same cut wouldíve cost $40-60 in the states. Unbelievable. We met Marty and his dad for lunch and then we went to play golf. They actually played golf and I mostly watched. I havenít really ever played and need to practice a bit before I go out there and swing from the tees. (I kept missing the ball when I tried) We came home and showered and then drove up the mountain and met some of their friends for a barbeque. It was much cooler up there and the views were awesome. This is a typical night for them; meet up with friends and sit around and talk. Its very relaxing, but I think Marty is getting bored.
Hope you all reading this have a great weekend! And I hope that youíre enjoying our updates. Marty and I are making our own updates without reading the otherís and we seem to be complimenting each other pretty good Ė when I forget something he mentions it and vice versa. His updates are much funnier, though.
Jan 12 Ė Today I swam in the South China Sea.
What an interesting trip its been already! And we still have many more months to go. This morning we all met up at one of Lilianís good friends to take a pontoon boat to an island about 1 hour away. To get to the boat we took an even smaller boat that some guys rowed to us. It was truly an amazing experience to go to the other island this way. There were about 10 of us and another 8 or so helpers and boat crew. When we got to the other island kids swam right up to our boat and climbed all over, jumping off into the water and having fun. These kids were obviously very poor but also very happy. They are all so beautiful, too! We swam around in the clear water, keeping clear of the sea urchins and jellyfish. We saw several neat starfish (one was electric blue) but hardly any fish where we were. They have really over-fished here. It was an extremely relaxing day Ė we hung out and ate and swam and hung out some more. Before we left in the afternoon two more little girls came on board and just hung out with us. I donít think they really knew any English, so Marty and I were trying out our very limited Filipino version. They mostly laughed at us. We gave them some snacks and they very hungrily ate them. Off in the distance we could see the next island to our south which is where a lot of Muslim extremists hang out (Mindinao). Off in the distance is about as close as I want to get.
Yesterday Marty and I ran up the road in front of the house. It was literally just straight uphill and very steep in some sections. We walked, jogged, and ran it, for a total of about 50 minutes. Just outside the house we are staying at are thatched huts Ė very eye opening. Lilian and Martyís dad then wanted to take us into town to give us a taste of the Ďmarket.í Itís kind of like a flea market, just down one strip of a street, and people come out and sell whatever every Wednesday. They were selling everything from livestock, to fish, to shoes. There was even a cockfight about ready to start at one point, but none of us wanted to watch that! There was freshly butchered meat hanging out for purchase, and big barrels of fresh caught fish. We then went for a relaxing lunch at a resort nearby. It was expensive for Filipino standards, but cheap for our standards. I had a pizza, garlic bread and two diet cokes and I think it was about $3. Just in case youíre wondering, I have been branching out on my food intake (minus the pizza, of course). I actually like most everything Iíve tried (except for the seaweed salad, too salty). The fruits here are so fresh and good. As are the vegetables. Once we got home Marty and I did a short swim in the pool in the back. I can only get about 7-8 strokes a lap, but its better than nothing.
Later that night Marty and I went to Lilianís friends house, Ophelia. This is also where we met for our trip to the other island the next morning. Anyways, Opheliaís son, Ben, was in for a few months from California, and he also had a friend who had just flown in, so we all went out to dinner. Great company and good food. Ben has traveled extensively and it was very interesting talking to him. This is exactly what I love about traveling to new places, you get to meet so many interesting people and hear about their lives. It really opens the world up to you, but it also makes you realize that we really are just about the same. I love it. The dinner we had was great Ė you walked up to the cooks and they had a number of different fish and meat on ice and you would pick out exactly which piece you wanted, tell them how you wanted it cooked, and then pick out your vegetables and salads and everything else. This is where I had some seaweed salad. We also had some salad that was made from the heart of the banana, I canít remember what it was called, but it was excellent.
After our boating trip today, Marty and I are taking it easy tonight. He had a lot of work to catch up on, and I really wanted to try and get some of our pictures up on the site (which I did). I also have quite a bit of email to answer back Ė Marty and I are sharing our internet time, but he gets priority since his time on the computer is a little more valuable right now.
I think tomorrow Iím going to go into town with Lilian and get my hair chopped off. Weíre going to play golf in the afternoon which should be interesting since my golfing experience is limited to miniature golf. Saturday weíre taking a boat to a different island where weíre all going to spend the night at some hotel or resort or something over there. Its great to be with family because they totally take care of you. I doubt if Marty and I were here by ourselves we would be doing so many vacation-like things. Iím definitely thankful for it!
Jan 11 Ė We made it to the Philippines! It was an early morning (woke up at just after 4 am) but it was fine because Marty and I were still going to bed quite early because of the huge time difference. We had plenty of time at the airport and finally boarded our plane to Manila. Then we sat, and sat, and waited and waited. Apparently, there was some mechanical difficulty with our plane and after many technicians and replacement parts, the decision was made to un-board and get on a new plane. They fed us while we waited, so it really wasnít a big deal. By the time we took off for Manila on our new plane, we wouldíve already landed had our original flight taken off. We had a good layover in Manila, so being late by that much didnít matter. And, Marty made an excellent point Ė it couldíve been worse; they couldíve noticed the mechanical problem while we were in the air.
Just a short hour from Hong Kong, we arrived in Manila. We then had to take a taxi to an airport that was just 5 minutes away, and get our reserved tickets from the terminal across the street. The airports were small and not very modern, but everyone was nice and we got everything taken care of. They do kind of feel you up when you go through security, though (they make the guys and girls go in separate lines). We flew from Manila to Dumaguete where Martyís dad and Lilian met us. The landing in Dumaguete was one of the scariest in my life. You are over water the whole time and then all of the sudden you land and they hit the brakes so hard! The entire plane was shaking and jumping all over the place and Iíve never seen so much smoke come off of the wheels. I really thought there was a problem, but when we stopped I realized it was just a VERY short runway. We walked down the steps and the airport was just one open room. Men were running all around wanting to get our bags and wanting us to take a taxi. Lilian and Mr. Gaal not only had their own car, but also a driver.
It is very cheap in the Philippines. Marty gave the guy helping us with our bags in Manila 200 pesos (about $4) and Mr. Gaal told us that was extremely generous. People only make $40/month, and are able to live off that okay. It is pretty poor around here, which is funny because most of the people are educated through high school, and many still have a college education. There just arenít many jobs for them here, so they really need to go out of country to make money. A lot do this, and then just send money back over.
So we drive up to their house, which is about 20 minutes away from the airport and up a bit of a mountain. The roads are not well maintained and there are kids and dogs wandering everywhere. Youíll see three people zipping along on a little motorcycle with no helmets, and one of those people might be a 3 year old. We finally got to their house, climbing quite a hill (weíre going to get great hill repeat workouts here!). The house is amazing! The views are spectacular! They actually have servants who have living quarters on their property. This is kind of weird because Iím a little uncomfortable asking them for a glass of water when I can easily go get it myself. Anyways, they are definitely living luxuriously here.
After a much needed shower, we went to another couples house where we had dinner and drinks and socialized. There were about 7 other couples there. The men sat at one table and talked golf and money and poker, and the women sat at another. The women are hilarious! Sometimes they would talk too quickly and speak only in Filipino, but one would always translate for me. They were quite a raucous bunch and really fun. Also, the food was excellent. I like Filipino food much more than real Chinese.
Thatís it for now. Weíll be sure to take as many pictures as possible and post them on our travel picture site. The pictures wonít be updated as much right now because we have to work off of Lilians computer, so whenever we get to an internet cafť weíll throw them up there.
Jan 9 Ė Yesterday we took the subway to what looked to be the financial district and walked to the Peak Tram. This is basically a trolley that takes you up to the highest Ďpeakí in Hong Kong. The trolley literally goes straight up the mountain, and I swear that sometimes we were at a 45 degree angle. At the top, we were able to see some great views of the city. It was foggy again, unfortunately, so the pictures donít quite capture it all. Iíve read in our guidebooks that its actually not fog, but pollution that comes down from mainland China. Its most common during the winter months. After getting some lunch and wandering around a bit on the top, we came back down and walked through Hong Kong park where we saw no less than 7 bridal parties getting their photos taken.
We took some more pictures, and to the astute observer, yes, Iím wearing almost the exact same outfit in every picture. Its chilly here (they actually have a very similar climate to Orlando, only during the winter it does stay cold, instead of just being cold for a few days). Anyways, the Philippines is tropical and its summer in Australia right now so I didnít want to pack bulky winter clothes. So weíve just been layering up and my last layer always seems to be my gray fleece jacket, which is in every picture!
We got some more good American food for dinner and I dined on a warm chocolate chip cookie with ice cream on top for dessert. It wasnít quite the pizookie in Phoenix, but I managed to get most of it down. Today weíre going to catch a ferry to Macau, which is an island fairly close by that has lots of gambling and tourist areas. We leave in the morning for the Philippines which will hopefully go okay. We have a flight to Manila, but once we get there we have to get a taxi to a different airport and make it to the island where Martyís dad and stepmom are. Here is an excerpt from her email, AT THE DOMESTIC AIRPORT TERMINAL YOU PICK UP YOUR TICKET AT THE EXPRESS TICKET COUNTER ACROSS THE ENTRANCE TO THE TERMINAL (ABOUT 20 FEET). AFTER YOU CLEAR THE CUSTOMS GO TO THE TAXI STAND ACROSS THE EXIT DO NOT TAKE ANY TAXI BUT THE TAXIS FROM THE TAXI STAND WERE YOU HAVE TO PREPAY ABOUT 150 PESOS ($3.OO) RIDE TO THE DOMESTIC AIRPORT.
At the end she writes: GOOD LUCKÖÖÖÖ
I hope its not as James Bond as it sounds! Oh yeah, we also got a nice run on the treadmill on the 31st floor overlooking the city. Very cool.
Jan 8 Ė Yesterday Marty and I had breakfast here at the hotel. Like most nice hotels, the breakfast is totally overpriced. Iíve never understood how you can stay at a regular hotel, like a Holiday Inn, and get a free continental breakfast, but you stay at a nice hotel and they charge you an arm and a leg. I had French toast, which was surprisingly good (not as good as grandmaís, of course). They also gave me a side of fruit with some yummy yogurt or something on top. They charged $10 for coffee! Then we went exploring around our hotel and walked through Victoria Park, which we ran in later. They have this neat little area where there are all sorts of pebbles in the ground and it winds around and you walk on them in your socks. Its apparently very good for your health (Although I donít really know why, I guess pressure points and that stuff). So my feet are tender and it was a bit painful, but all the Hong Kongians (okay, I just made that word up) were walking around like it was nothing. When I put my shoes back on my feet did feel good, so maybe there is something to this.
I accidentally took a 3 hour nap while Marty was working. I couldnít believe it Ė I really donít take this many naps! And I felt like I only closed my eyes for 3 minutes. I know one thing, I could never be a flight attendant. I obviously donít deal well with jet lag.
We grabbed some dinner and hung out and Iíve decided that most people here are not the most friendly to westerners. Not that theyíre mean or anything, but they definitely donít go out of their way to talk to us. This morning, we unfortunately had McDonalds for breakfast and then searched around for a Starbucks. We found one quickly but they didnít open until 8:30! (It was only 7:30 at the time). That would never fly in the US; Marty was dying for his caffeine fix. It isnít satiated on a small cup alone.
Marty is now talking to some of his clients on our Skype account. It is amazing, you hook up a little headset with a microphone and talk through your computer. The connection is incredibly clear, so if any of you are missing my voice, I can call you :) Iíve also resized some more pictures and put them on our travel picture page. Iím going to try and keep that as up to date as possible so you all can see what weíre seeing.
So have a nice night or day, or whatever you may be having right now. Iím going to have a nice day, and continue my rapid descent into terrible athletic shape. It will be nice when we get settled somewhere so I can start working out regularly again.
Jan 7 Ė Yesterday our short nap turned into an 8 hour nap. Oops. I guess we were more jet-lagged than we thought. I could have slept even more but Marty wanted us to get up and move around. It was a good idea and once I got up I realized I was pretty hungry.
Our first order of business was getting some Hong Kong money, which we were unable to do at the airport. We went to the subway station which was about a 3 minute walk from our hotel, and Martyís ATM card worked this time. So either the machine at the airport just wasnít working, or his bank had intervened. We breathed a sigh of relief.
We hailed a cab and like a dog sniffing out a meaty bone, Marty was able to get us to a brewery, where I happily dined on a cheeseburger, French fries, and a Corona. As many of you might know, Iím a pretty picky eater, so all this traveling will be good for me. I always think this, anyways, that itíll be good because itíll force me to eat things I normally wouldnít. But when it all comes down, like last night, all I really wanted was good old American food. The Hong Kong dollar is about a factor of 7 to our dollar, so it was funny to see our HK$300 bill.
It was pretty cold out, maybe mid-40s or 50s, but we decided to wander around in the area we were now in. We ended up in Times Square, which is frankly very similar to NYCís Times Square. Lots and lots of shopping, lots and lots of people. The girls here are very trendy! Two popular styles I kept seeing were the boots worn outside the jeans, and chuck taylor all star sneakers. Seeing all their different styles really made me want to do some shopping, but I donít think my sugar-daddy will be into that J
We went back to our hotel, and stopped into their bar where there was some rockiní karaoke going on. Asians really do apparently love this stuff. It was close to midnight, and I was getting very tired again, even with my long nap, so I went right to bed and right to sleep. Its 5 am now, and Iím finally not tired! Weíre going to wander around the city today, and hopefully get some exercise in.
Jan 6 - Marty needs to set it up so we have separate travel logs, but this will do for now. All of our flights over were fine. Our
luggage arrived which was one of my main worries since we were switching airlines in San Francisco. We took Cathay Pacific from San Fran to Hong Kong and
it was a nice flight. They were apparently rated the number one airline on some survey last year. They were definitely not number one in space as we
were packed in there like sardines, but each seat had its own little tv with 40+ channels, so that definitely helped time go by. Marty and I both took an
Ambien and were able to get 6 or so hours of sleep on the 14 hour flight. I'm surprised I'm not as tired right now as I thought I would be, but I'm
doing okay. Our hotel is very nice, and we're on the 22nd floor. When we look out our window we see several apartment complexes that are at least as tall.
The area itself is quite remarkable with