The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the category “Travel”

Run Wild Missoula Race Review, Part 1

Summer marathon weekend! Hooray!

My husband had mapped out hiking and other activities for him to do with the kids while we spent a long weekend in Montana.  We had plans with my running partner and her family for the weekend.  We packed the car and drove off.

The drive went well.  We stopped for some photo opps in Glacier National Park and continued to Missoula.

P1090017  P1090020  P1090021

Upon arriving at our home for the weekend, we settled in, ate dinner and took a walk around the neighborhood.  Missoula is a lovely city.  People were welcoming, polite, helpful.. all good things.  My husband mapped out a hike for the next morning.

When the sun rose the next morning, I was tempted to join JB for his morning hike but decided not to risk it.  Besides, Jen and family were arriving that day and I wanted to be sure that we had food for everyone.  Also, I had to check that we had not sprawled throughout the entire house, leaving no room for her family. JB had a great time on his hike and took the boys with him the next day.

Friday evening came and the grown-ups went out for the Missoula Beer Run.  I understand it is a bit of a tradition the weekend of the marathon.  Tour guides from the community welcome any runners to the Iron Horse Brew Pub.  We divided into groups by the distance we were planning to run and headed off, (after downing a delicious beer from Iron Horse).  Our tour guide was full of information about the city.  He told us stories about the parks, the university, restaurants and local folklore during our short run. Very nice (free) event put on by the running club in Missoula.

Missoula Hammock

Saturday was the usual prep for Jen and I.  We ate, rested, went over our race plans and such.  A good sleep and then..  Part 2.

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Hometown Run

I have been doing reasonably well keeping up with runs while on vacation.  The weather has been hot so the runs have typically been pretty early in the morning, before the heat and humidity set in.

Running was never really my “thing” when I was a kid living in this small Wisconsin town.  I played tennis for the most part and some other organized sports in school.  Every now and again I would go for runs while between sports seasons or when I needed to get out of the house.  Usually my dad would accompany me.  He said it was because he liked to run, although I think it was just to be sure that I was actually running and not getting into any trouble.  Well played, Dad, well played.

Anyway, back to now.  I have become a runner of sorts so I had my mind set to at least 4 runs per week while on vacation.  So far, so good.  Good for now, as I am in my hometown and I know where I am going.  We will see what happens on a little road trip in a few days.  Running through my hometown has been a refreshing trip down memory lane.  As I pass houses that were once inhabited by friends and may still be the home of their parents, many memories of good times growing up came flooding back.

Today while crossing the street I saw a driver that resembled a friend from high school.  So deep in my thoughts that I said to myself, “His parents must have gotten a new car. Didn’t his mom have a little yellow Mazda?”  Ridiculous, of course, because we are old enough to buy our own cars, and the Mazda is most likely long gone.  When the car turned and I saw the personalized plates, I was brought back to present day, albeit briefly.

I have not been running a set route, just kind of going wherever the wind takes me.  This morning I approached the middle school, thinking of awkward dances back in the day, followed by Park Plaza Pizza (so yummy).  Crossing the street, there was the church where I was confirmed and spent many a Sunday morning and Christmas.  Heading back to my parents’ house, memories came into my head of the summer when Jenifer broke her foot and consequently the theme song for our summer was “I Want to Ride my Bicycle”.  There was the house that hung the Halloween costumes in the attic window, which totally freaked out Julie and I as we walked by one Friday night.  I came into contact with two running groups, one of teenage boys and one of teenage girls, and for a fleeting moment I tried to recognize the kids.  Do I know any of them?  Of course not.  I passed a few houses where I once babysat children and wondered where they all are currently living.  I also thought of school teachers as I passed one of their homes.  Band trips, tennis meets, homecoming, prom…

Things look a little different in my hometown but one thing is certain. LakeShore Drive is a good morning run.  So if you are in the greater Beaver Dam area and see a 40ish year old with a ponytail poking out of a white hat of the next couple of weeks, please wave or beep.  Or better yet, lace up your shoes to come run with me and we’ll catch up.

Roland Garros, Mom and Me

Due to the French Open championships this weekend, it seems timely to come to terms with something that has been on my mind for a while.  It happened years ago, February 2004, in fact, when I left JB with two children to go to Paris with my mom, her sister and friend.

We play tennis is my family.  While other girls may have had posters of Scott Baio or John Stamos in their rooms, (its was the 8os, no doubt), I had pictures of Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Gabriela Sabatini.  As a result, it only seemed natural to visit Roland Garros while in Paris.

Let’s back up..  as I noted in a previous post, (click <HERE> ), one of the most dangerous things my mother can say is, “I’ve been thinking…” because it usually means that we are getting on plane and going somewhere.  Okay, so maybe not dangerous, really, as I have benefited a few times from her, um, thoughts.. but you get the idea.  So she calls me in the winter of 2003-04 and says she found a super great deal to go to Paris for five days and wants to know if I will go with her.  Her sister and friend may be in as well.  I ask JB if he minds flying solo for a few days while I skip about Paris, eating crepes and drinking wine.  He agrees.  WOOT!

I had never been to France and did not (do not) speak French, so I bought some CDs to learn some basics of conversational French.  I listened and learned while commuting to work and felt like I could reasonably get along in Paris.  At least, I knew how to ask for directions, greet people and read a map.  A little nugget for all those traveling to France – learn some French.  Be polite.  It goes along way.

So anyway, about a week before we set off on out little adventure, Mid became sick.  Actually, alot sick with RSV.  Any parent knows of which I speak.  It’s a respiratory virus that you can’t treat with antibiotics.  Mid, then all of 7ish months old, sat and wheezed.  He had a fever.  I was nervous about leaving the country.  I took him to our (totally awesome) pediatrician.  He made the diagnosis and gave me the treatment plan.  I asked, feeling all sorts of mom-guilt, “I have a trip planned to Paris in a few days.  Should I still go?  Will he be OKay?”  SO MUCH GUILT.  Assured by the physician that Mid would be over this wheezing, feverish yuckiness within a week, I pressed on with the planning.

The day arrived for us to leave Chicago and head to Paris.  I felt guilty.  I had never left my children for this long and although I know that JB is perfectly capable of caring for our children on his own, I was afraid I would simply miss them too much.  My mom continually offered me an out.  I did not have to go, she understood, she is a mother, too.. all that.  We boarded the plane in Chicago.  I looked out the window.  The plane backed away from the jetway.  I started to cry.  “It’s too late,” Mom said, “we are on our way.  JB is going to be fine.  You planned for every minute of every day.  He is a good father.”  I nodded.

So, to Paris.  We had a blast.  We did almost the whole city in five days.  Notre Dame, River boat on the Seine, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Basilique du Sacre’-Coeur (highly recommend, feels like you are getting hugged by Jesus Himself), Moulin Rouge, Bastille, a bunch of other museums, a little art fair along the streets of Ernest Hemingway in Montparnasse..

And then Roland Garros, the site for the French Open tennis tournament.

“Do you think we can just walk on to the grounds?”

“Of course,” replied Mom.  The gate was open so we wandered in.  The site was much smaller than I had imagined.  I had goosebumps. I was standing on the very ground where tennis greats have walked, played, won championships.. it was almost too much.  We walked up to the entrance for Centre Court.  It was just.. open.  There was no gate, no lock, it was just open.  The court was not set up and you could tell they were doing some construction.  Nevertheless, we walked toward the entrance.

A delightful British woman came out of nowhere and greeted us.  Or, more likely that she came out of the offices located on the right, but I didn’t see the offices until later.  We were totally busted.  I mumbled to Mom that no way we were going to be able to walk on to Centre Court.  She mumbled back, “nobody is scared of a grey haired woman, just let me talk with her.”  This made me a little nervous, as I am pretty sure that she offered me up to a French Police Officer in order to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe as it was closing just the day before, but I went with it.

A couple of minutes later we were standing the middle of Centre Court at Roland Garros.  Are you kidding me?  The net was not up and there was construction equipment stuff in the stands, but I did not care.  I stood with my eyes closed.  I imagined a crowd and Chris, Martina, Gabby and I playing doubles.  So cool.  The British woman returned and let us know that we would need to get back to the public areas.  As we left, I lifted my arms to the roaring crowd empty stands and smiled.

We returned to the United States tired and pleased with our trip.  I had a couple of bottles of wine with me a little Eiffel Tower I bought at the street art fair.  All was well on the home front as well.  Mid was over RSV without implications and Girl had barely noticed I was gone.  JB took a much-deserved nap.  I went through pictures with my daughter and showed her the stuff I had bought for her.  Someday I hope to take the kids to Paris and show them the Champs-Elysees and all that is the grandeur of Paris.  Especially Roland Garros.

So there.  My last post was about how I have lied to my kids to get them to eat healthier.  Today I tell you about the time I left the country when my baby boy was sick (and he will someday remind me, to be sure).  I am glad that is out in the open.

Guilt?  What guilt?

DogSledding, part 1

My daughter had a group trip to Banff for dog sledding and other fun activities.  Would I chaperone?  Are you kidding?  I jumped at the chance.  First, I had never been to Banff.  Second, we are in a new country, where we have not yet developed close relationships and therefore not comfortable sending my daughter on a camping trip to the mountains.  Not comfortable because, third, we are not camping people.  So, this is how the weekend went.

Friday – we head off in our car to the designated shelter.  The Girl turns on the radio to a station I usually do not listen to, (I am a public radio kind of woman).  In a few minutes, we are jamming out to Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” like nobody’s business.  The radio stations eventually go away and we switch to my iPod.  The jamming continues, only now we are singing along with the Wicked Soundtrack, (she’s Glinda, I’m Elphaba).

Saturday – early wake up for breakfast and getting ourselves ready for dog sledding.  I can’t speak for any of the girls in the group, but I am totally psyched.  The morning is clear, crisp, and with the right gear, toasty warm.  Perfect.  The Howling Dog Company (http://howlingdogtours.com/) comes to pick us up and we are off to the site for some fun.  Our team was Dixie, Wyatt, Hailey, Pine, Gabby, Clyde and Maggie.  Great dogs.  Upon our arrival, they are jumping around and barking, begging to harnessed up for the run.  Our musher showed the girls how to harness the dogs and then allowed them to do one of the dogs. The Girl got Gabby all harnessed up, but to be honest, I think that Gabby could have probably done it herself and then harnessed a couple of kids along with her.  These are clearly well cared for, smart animals.  Along with Phil, our musher, they took us along trails in the mountains to a lake where we shared hot cocoa and cookies.  Who doesn’t love hot cocoa and cookies?  The scenery is breathtaking.  The weather is perfect for some singing and dancing on the ice, (really? yes, really), before heading back to our vans.  When we return from the dogsledding, my daughter starts in, begging for a dog. 

The afternoon is spent wandering the streets, attempting to complete a scavenger hunt.  This was a lot of fun with the girls, especially for a first-timer in Banff.  We learned about the city, the sights within it, and all talked about what to do the next time we visit. Great job to the group leader that put together the hunt.  And huge kudos to all those throughout the city that assisted us with our quest.

Sunday – after a brief stop at one of the candy shops in Banff, we head for home.  The car ride home was a bit quieter than the car ride to Banff, most likely due to the fact that the Girl had been up late (WAY past her bedtime) both nights and was tired.  I am so excited about the entire experience that I am planning a trip in my mind for our entire family.

All in all, a well-organized outing with a terrific group of girls and parent helpers.  She will say that I am just sucking up, but the leader and her organizational skills are amazing.  Everyone was well-prepared, due to her instructions and when we had hiccups, (which always happen with a large group), she involved the girls on how to solve the problem.

Clyde says, "let's gooooo!"

Of Dinosaurs and Badlands

When we prepared our sales pitch to the kids about moving, we fully understood that each child had a different button we needed to push to get their agreement.  For the Apprentice, it was the promise of hockey.  For the Girl, new adventures hiking and skiing in the mountains.  For Mid, it was dinosaurs.  So far, we had made good on our commitments to the Apprentice and Girl.  But for Mid, our promise of dinosaurs was starting to appear empty.  So this weekend, although my daughter begged to go skiing in the fresh powder (to be honest, I wanted to as well), we made good.  We took the family to see some dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the Alberta Badlands.

As we started out, we explained that this was going to be a bit of a car ride.  “How long?” Apprentice asked.  “About an hour and a half,” I replied.  A little bit into the ride, he asked for the first of many times, “How much longer?”

“About an hour,” I replied.

“That’s forever!”

“Actually, it’s the time of two Spongebob Squarepants episodes,” Mid reasoned with him.  This appeased the Apprentice.  I am not proud to admit that our concept of time directly relates to Spongebob and iCarly.

In any case, we were on our way.  I was beginning to get suspicious of the directions JB had printed off google, as we seemed to be headed further and further east into nowhere.  I was sure that at any moment we would cross into Manitoba or Saskatchewan and be lost for days.  Then, out of nowhere, the earth opened up into this massive, striped ravine and we started to descend into the thick of it.

“We’re almost there!” JB exclaimed.  Really?  I thought to myself.  Because from where I am sitting it looks like we are headed underground, below wheat fields.  Harumph.

The ride through the quaint town of Drumheller, Alberta, was entertaining with all the touristy shops with their dinosaur signs and whatnot.  And after crossing the Red Deer River, we arrived at the museum.  Folks, if you ever get to Alberta and have the slightest interest in geology or dinosaurs or paleontology, you must visit this museum.  The scenery surrounding the museum is right out of your textbooks explaining sedimentary rocks, erosion and ice ages.   When inside this museum, you are witness to excavating work, dinosaur fossils (that have been recovered mostly in Alberta) and hands-on exhibits explaining all of it.  In a word – amazinglyeducationallyrelevant.  Not a word?  Okay, I can’t do it.  I simply cannot explain the entire place in a word.  My kids were taken by the hands on exhibits about the Jurassic periods, ice ages and the like.  For those that are visually oriented, there were interesting videos about the landscape outside.  For those that just like to read the information, everything was displayed in a way that you could read about it and examine it in detail.

 

We went through museum, (though it feels weird to call it that, because everything begged your participation, not just your observation and acknowledgement), soaking in all kinds of information.  Where were/are all these fossils found?  Why are they found all together?  Why are they in those contorted positions?  Some dinosaurs really moved in herds?  How did it all end?  Are there any remaining creatures from this period?  Who are the scientists that study all this stuff?

There was a significant display of Women in Paleontology, which was great for my daughter.  Many were women from the late 1800s and early 1900s that could not be published or publicly recognized because of their gender.  Although many made brilliant discoveries, their work was published through someone else, (a man).  My kids and I had a conversation about the sexism of this practice and why it was “stupid” (to quote Mid).  There were also biographies still in the works as these women continue to work with the Royal Tyrrell Museum or within the science of paleontology.  Did you know that there is scientist that researches how dinosaurs and reptiles smell?  Or how their brains function?  Amazing.  But I digress.

After a walk through the inside, it was time to go out to the walking trails.  We will definitely be back to the Badlands in the summer, because today we only able to walk about one kilometer of the trails due to the weather. (It has been a warm, sunny winter, but this IS Canada, eh?)

As we headed out, JB and I were pleased with the day.  We had made good on a promise, (‘There will be dinosaurs, a lot of dinosaurs”), our kids had a fun, educational day away from the television and we found a great place to visit again and again.

We called this one "The Treehugger", but it is actually a Prosaurolophus.

I should probably note the pictures in this post were taken by me.  Our family was not compensated by the museum, we just had a great time, learned alot and I felt the need to share.  However, if an organization would like to compensate me in some way by reviewing their stuff, please contact me.  I’m not that way.  Below is a link to the museum’s website for your perusal or for you to ignore, your choice.

http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com/

New Year Celebration, Texas Style

Another Christmas and New Years holiday have come and gone.  This year we made the decision to spend the holidays with family in Houston.  The decision to see family was easy, although the plane tickets were expensive.  Also, my brother in law’s house was already full with his parents and sister.  To add a family of 5 seemed a bit much to expect.  However, and perhaps against her better judgement, my sister in law (SIL) said, “C’mon down, everyone else will be here.”  So we went. And let me tell you, it was a blast.

Our first night involved many adult beverages and laughter with my two SILs, documented on Facebook for the entertainment of many.  The second night was New Years Eve and friends of my inlaws were nice enough to welcome our family into their home during their NYE party.  The crowd was fun and welcoming.  I was especially thankful for the teenagers that took the younger kids for ping pong and games while the grown-ups got to know each other. I would like to think that we made a few new friends for our next visit.

We hit the space center, which is a must see for any trip to Houston.  My husband and I were awestruck and nostalgic of the space shuttles and space program in general, while the kids asked how they can become astronauts.  The Downtown Aquarium proved to be quite of bit of fun as well.  The kids learned about sharks, pet some rays and we enjoyed the rides on this sunny, warm day.

As we prepared to return home, I got a little nervous.  This was our first vacation after our move.  Would the kids be excited to head back to their new home?  Or would they ask if we could return to Wisconsin?  My husband asked if they were excited to go home.  All replied that they were having a blast with their cousins and family, but were ready to go home to their friends.  After taking a deep breath, I asked who and what they were looking forward to when we got home.  To my relief, they all talked of skiing, hockey, Calgarian friends and our new home.

Here’s to an eventful 2011.  I am looking forward to what 2012 brings us.  My best to all of you in this New Year.

World Traveling Grandma Strikes Again

Those of you that read this blog and also know my mother are aware that she is a traveller.  Not a tourist, but a traveller.  She takes everything in, enjoys every moment and finds humor in some really strange circumstances.  She reads about the places she is going so to be aware of customs and respectful of the people guiding her.  She will talk with about anyone about just about anything.

I had no idea she would consider the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die a checklist.  Nor did I think that watching “The Amazing Race” would give her ideas about places that she simply must visit.  She has been on all seven continents at least once and every time she embarks on a new adventure we hear the same story.  “After this, I am done travelling.  I have seen everything that I would like to see.”  Inevitably during her trip she makes a new friend and gets a new idea about somewhere else.  By the time she is on her way home, she is starting to plan her next adventure.

Case in point, she and I traveled to China a couple of years ago.  The plane ride from Chicago to Beijing was brutally long and she talked about how this was the last long plane ride she could do because she was “getting too old”.  We had a great week exploring Beijing and Xian and as we had our last breakfast in China, she informed me that I need to pack my kids and get them to Europe before her and my dad get too old to travel with us.  JB and I joke that whenever she starts a conversation with “I’ve been thinking…” or “Say, I have an idea….” someone is going to be boarding a plane, train or boat in the near future.

She has become quite adept at seeking out a place where she can check email and send me a message of her whereabouts and how things are going.  Even somewhere in Zimbabwe she was able to find an internet cafe and shoot me an email about Victoria Falls.  I love getting these emails, not because they are tales of exploits from faraway countries, but because they are so brief and to the point.  Most recently I received this email..

Good morning, We arrived in Ecuador last pm.  Everything is going well.  Mom

The past emails have been just as concise.

Hope all is well with you and family.  We made it to Ireland without any problems.  Driving a straight stick on the wrong side of the street can drive you CRAZY.  This is great.  The castles are fabulous.    Love Mom

We are headed out on the boat tomorrow to Antarctica.  Very windy, waves up to 30 feet high.  I’m scared.  Love Mom

and my personal favorite from Jamaica..

Had a nice lunch with a Vince Neal person.  He is a singer in a band called “the Crue” or something?  Have you heard of him?  He’s quite nice.  Love Mom

Here’s to my awesome mom.  She continues to teach me about testing my comfort levels, exploring new places and making new friends.

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