Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Traveling Oregon and California in our VW Bus ... 2016

After years of wanting to visit Oregon, we were finally able to make it happen. My husband and I decided there's no better way to experience the beauty of our country, than traveling and camping in our VW Bus.

NOTE: I started this post a year ago! Pathetic. 

Day 1: Murrieta, CA to Sacramento, CA

Nothing to say about this leg of our trip except it took 9 hours (the Bus moves at her own pace). It was 104 degrees and the bus doesn't have an air conditioner. 

Day 2: Sacramento, CA to Bend, OR

Once we hit Mt. Shasta, the scenery became beautiful. We took a detour to Crater Lake. It was breathtaking with its deep blue water, snow capped mountains and fresh air. Our only regret, we should have stayed overnight and did some hiking. From Crater Lake to Bend ... nothing but miles and miles of pine trees. The air smelled fantastic!

Day 3: Bend, OR
Bend was everything we dreamed it to be. The Deshutes River runs through town. Bike trails, running trails and breweries oh my! Bryan and I fell in love with Bend. The people were so friendly. Bend has everything an outdoorsy person could ever want. We stayed at Tumalo State Park Campground. So green and clean. The smile never left our faces.

Our Bus met its twin! It wasn't hard to find the owner of the other Bus....his shirt kinda gave it away. 

Day 4: Bend, OR to Sisters, OR

On our way to Sisters, I insisted we stop at the Fun Farm. I found the Fun Farm on America's Roadside Attractions website. It's an eclectic antique shop that looked very interesting. I thought maybe I could find that perfect unique gift, but instead all we found was a man in the parking lot that told us it had closed down, but we could take photos of the "Farm." It was interesting, yet a "scary movie" feeling took over pretty fast. We thought for sure we were going to fall down a trap door to our deaths... Later I read that it had been closed down due to a drug bust. My husband said I lost the rights to picking out places to visit. I did, however, manage to capture some great photos.



Sisters, OR is a quaint little town. We were able to walk from our campground to downtown within minutes. We found an outside area with a food trucks, craft beer and live music. I
t was hard to leave. We met some interesting people and had a wonderful time. Deer roamed the town and our campground.


Day 5: Sisters, OR to Yachats, OR
We headed for the coast to Doug and Dee Dee's new home in Yachats. The drive was amazing. I got sick of hearing myself say, "It's so beautiful." 

The Oregon Coast did not disappoint. Doug and Dee Dee's new home was amazing. Yachats is a town comprised of 700 laid back, friendly people. Doug and Dee Dee's new home, located on coastal highway 101, directly across the street from the ocean was lovely. We immediately saw whales from their kitchen window. It was good to see old friends. They were wonderful hosts. 

Day 6 & 7: Yachats, OR
During our stay, we took several walks into town and enjoyed some pretty amazing seafood. We enjoyed the town's "La De Da 4th of July Parade" and several pieces of pie!

Day 8: Yachats, OR to Brookings, OR
We headed south down the coast. We camped at Harris Beach State Park. We were thrilled to find out we had the best campsite in the entire campground (Site #24). Look at that view. 

Day 9: Brookings, OR to Humboldt Redwood Campground, CA
We were sad to leave Oregon, but excited to see the Redwoods! Or first stop of the day was in Klamath, CA at the "Trees of Mystery." It was here that my husband met his twin. 

We took the scenic route, Avenue of the Giants until we came to our next stop, "Burlington Campground." If you've never been to the Redwoods, you must put it on your bucket list. I fell in love. The trees were magical. They swayed all night and made spooky noises. 

Day 10: Avenue of the Giants to Bodega Bay Dunes, CA
Ever see the movie, "The Birds?" Well, they shot that movie in Bodega. I found the church that was shot during a panic scene and pretended birds were attacking me. I thought it was a little strange when people were looking at me through the church window. Surely, I can't be the first person to do this?! Turns out, I had the wrong church.

Day 11: Bodega Bay, Ca to Reality, Hometown, USA....boo
Heading home from a great vacation is depressing. We drove through some beautiful wine country and saw San Fransisco through the car window. The Grapevine (I-5) was on fire as we drove through it. It was 100 degrees and our eyes were burning. Mother Nature, please send California some rain....

We put 2,300 miles on our 39 year old VW Bus in 11 days without breaking down. Miracles happen everyday. Even though we were basically living out of a vehicle for two weeks, it was one of the best vacations I've ever taken. Thank you Oregon, we feel in love with you...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Women's March ... What it Teaches Our Children

My best friend, Melissa, in Washington DC, showing her appreciation for being raised by her Dad, the right way.
"Hundreds of thousands of women filled the streets of major American cities to lead an unprecedented wave of international protests against President Donald Trump, mocking and denouncing the new U.S. leader the day after his inauguration.
Women activists, outraged by Trump's campaign rhetoric and behavior they found to be especially misogynistic, spearheaded scores of marches in the United States and sympathy rallies around the world on Saturday.
Organizers said they drew nearly 5 million protesters in all, far surpassing crowd expectations." - By Scott Malone and Ginger Gibson, Reuters

This morning, my husband and I had a long talk with my son, Jack, explaining to him why there were so many women marching and anti-Trump protests throughout the world yesterday. Lately, all Jack has heard is my husband and I screaming at the TV. A child can not learn from that. I want my son to see me outraged by what's happening to our country, outrage is an honest response, but peace is better. So, we calmly sat down to pancakes and a discussion. 

Teaching Jack, historically, is important, but teaching Jack to value all lives, to treat women with respect and equality, to be compassionate and that there is a damn hole in the ozone layer, is of upmost importance to our family. 

I remember, back in the 80s, when my mom would come home enraged that she couldn't go to dinner with her male co-workers at the Detroit Athletic Club, because she was a woman and women were not allowed. I remember when my mom came home from work, puzzled and angry, because she was treated differently in the workplace. I remember watching my mom graduate from the University of Michigan, as a single parent, the first person to ever go to college in our family. All those memories and experiences shaped me to become who I am today. I am a woman. I am educated. I am compassionate. I don't have a single cell in my body that is racist. I am a good person.

I am saddened that our country took a step backwards, way back, electing a person who demoralizes women and spews hatred and separation. I am proud of all those who are standing up for what they believe in.

It is my hope, one day, when Jack is a grown man, that he'll remember the outrage his mother and step-dad had when Donald Trump became president. That he will be treating his wife with dignity and respect and his co-workers and neighbors with equality. That, if he has to, that he too will be holding a sign, like Aunt Melissa's that reads, "My mom taught me right from wrong." 

Keep on peaceful protesting!
Jen, Bryan and Jack

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My First 50K Ultra Marathon

"If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try." - Seth Godin

A few years ago I started setting goals for myself that seemed "impossible" and challenged myself towards them. Last weekend I ran my first ultra marathon. I joined the ranks of some amazing runners at the Old West Trails 50K Ultra, which took place in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. 

50K = 31 miles. Yes, it's only 5 more miles than a marathon, but it's twice as hard. Running on trails was outside my comfort zone. Having never run on a trail before, there was a learning curve involved. After six months of training, I was ready to take on the challenge.
We arrived Friday and stayed the night in the Stagecoach Trails Horse Campground (literally steps away from the start/finish line). Here's my hubby setting up camp. The race organizers provided a nice pre-race dinner at the Lodge and a perfect breakfast in the morning.
Checking my Garmin (which stopped working at mile 5).
Here's the start line. Not too many people run these sort of distances....about ninety-five 50K runners in all. Minutes from the start it really hit me. I was so nervous! "I don't belong. Look at all these elite runners who all know each other. Did I train enough? How did I get myself here? What have I done? I don't fit in." Seconds later people were running. I didn't even hear a gun go off.  A kiss to Bryan and off I went, no time for self doubt. 
photo by Fernando Garcia
My nerves wore away fast as I fell in line. The first half of the course was absolutely beautiful. 
photo by cory schmelzer
I tried my best to look up and take it all in, but all I could do was steal a glance here and there. The trail was lined with jumping cholla cacti.
photo by Fernando Garcia
There I am heading into the canyon. I loved being on this trail with like minded people, breathtaking views and just being in the moment.

I made it to the first aid station, mile 8.10. My husband was there and so were the potato chips! Yes, that's right, during an ultra you lose a lot of salt so you eat potato chips while you run...how awesome is that?!
photo by cory schmelzer
Beautiful, but not something you would want to run into!
photo by cory schmelzer
Or this!
photo by cory schmelzer
Tiny little yellow and purple flowers everywhere....and bees! 
I am so happy!
photo by cory schmelzer
Who's thinking about sore feet when you are surrounded by these beautiful blooming cacti?!
Still smiling. See those mountains behind me....I was in them earlier! See that thick sand I'm running in...it sucked! This is mile 15.70, second aid station. Grateful to see my husband.
Two pounds lighter....and maybe not as happy.
From mile 18 to 22 the heat started to make itself known. I slowed way down. Around mile 20 a stranger (an angel on the side of the road) gave me a red popsicle. I don't know if I could have continued without that popsicle! The next aid station seemed like a mirage and I was running in the Sahara Desert. Is it a tent? Is it a car? No, it's a rock? Where are you aid station....
Mile 22 aid station: That's me wondering what the hell have I got myself into and my mom in her desert hat, supporting me. The volunteers were so helpful and friendly. They took my hat and bandana and filled them with ice. My wonderful husband refilled my pack and sprayed me with sunscreen. 
My body was depleted of sugar, so I loaded up on melon. That's Sandrine, a new friend who was also running her first 50K. The shade at the aid station was a blessing...I didn't want to leave.
That's me shuffling along. I could barley lift my feet because I felt like the squeaky Tin Man. 

Mile 22 through 26 were challenging. Temperatures reached 87 degrees. I had to run/walk more than I had planned. I went an hour without seeing anyone...just me in a vast, dry, hot desert. This is where the race was going to break me or make me stronger. I had to mentally talk myself through this leg. Finally, the last aid station was steps away (mile 28)!

A couple minutes in the shade, a water bucket dumped on my head via hubby, a hand full of oranges and some encouraging words from my family brought me back to life. 2.5 miles left to the finish line. I had energy to run it all the way in. 
7 hours, 22 minutes. Done. Elated. In shock. Tired. Need fruit. Will a beer go down? How bad am I gonna hurt? Did I just really do that?! Feeling OK. Surprised. Grateful. One of the best days of my life. Runner's high. Blessed. Happy. Happy. Happy!

You can't see them because they are standing in the shade at the Lodge to the left, but they are there....the other runners who came in hours before me are cheering me on through the finish line. It was one of the most overwhelming feelings of gratitude I'd ever felt.
I thought about a juicy cheese burger a lot during the race, but in the end it came down to a big bowl of pineapple. 

We ran through the wild west, so of course our finishers medals were made of leather! 

The biggest thank you to my husband, who spent every other Saturday following me on the trails on his mountain bike for hours on end. I WOULD NOT of been able to finish this race without his help. Thank you Bryan for being at every aid station (riding his bike in the heat) and being a pillar of support throughout this adventure. 

Thank you to my son, Jack and his cross country team at the middle school. I run with Jack and his friends three times a week...it's the best part of my day. 

Thank you to my friends and family for your support and listening to me babble about this race for months! Thanks mom and Fred for your support at the race. Thanks to the other runners, race director and volunteers!! 

Thank you to my running buddy Christina. I would not of made it to several of my early morning training runs without you! You are a wonderful source of inspiration and a phenomenal runner. You are a ball of positive fire and I love that about you! Congrats to Christina who rocked her second LA Marathon last weekend! And kudos to Laurel who also ran the LA Marathon, her very first! Way to go girls!!

During my many months of training, I was often asked the question, "Why would you want to even think about running a 50K?"

The answer is, "To see what is possible." That's why.

The 50K distance was the hardest race I've ever run, but it was also the most amazing thing I've ever done. Is the 50 Mile distance now in my horizon? You bet it is!

Love & Gratitude,