Time has flown and I never did get around to posting the last of our trip to Chicago. I loved our time in Chicago and can’t wait to go back. We saw so many neat things and it was a real joy to see and hear the diversity of humanity. As with any important thing that needs to be commemorated, I wanted to somehow mark my territory, so-to-speak.
I suppose many people have marked territory in Chicago as a dog-on-a-walk might, but my preferred method is to lick stuff. You remember…I lick bells and cannons and statues. Well, I liked Chicago so much, that I licked two big and important things… Calder’s Flamingo and Cloud Gate (the Bean)!
I cannot explain my behavior here…it was the euphoria of such a magnificent experience I suppose, but I have now claimed both installations as part of the “It’s-been-Licked” network! And FYI, I didn’t get sick afterwards!
A few weeks ago, Isaac and his school band went to Chicago to play a special performance in the Chicago’s Symphony Center. We drove separately as we didn’t want to ride the bus and he didn’t want us tagging along separately. So, we made a family-1 affair of it and had a lot of fun touring around Chicago seeing the sites and having a great time!
We did stay in the same hotel as the band…The Palmer House Hilton in downtown, right near Millennium Park. The hotel is listed as an historical landmark and I can see why…it is a beautiful hotel and well worth the experience! I loved being able to step outside and see the “L” pass by. We could walk to almost everything. I especially love that part.
We had Chicago deep-dish pizza the first night at Giordano’s. I typically do not like deep-dish as all of the bread wears me out but it was a cool ambiance and the flavor was really great! I especially loved to start off with a Chicago staple as well! I know Jon Stewart gave Trump a hard time about eating New York pizza with a fork, but with deep-dish, we had no choice!
Abigail, Emily’s parents and I braved the Sky Deck in the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). The Sky Deck is a set of glass push-outs near the top of the building where visitors can step out into what seems like thin air at 1353 feet up! It was really neat to do and the views were simply amazing. To me, the Sky Deck was so high up that it didn’t feel like a scary thing at all. It was sort of like flying in a plane…I think 100 feet would have been more scary. Anyhow, it was worth the trip. We bought a City Pass there which gave access to a lot of the cool exhibits throughout the city and saved us a lot of money.
We walked around in the cool air a number of days and nights and saw Calder’s Flamingo, Cloud Gate (aka the “Bean”), and the Chicago Board of Trade. Really, Chicago is a fantastic city to visit. We took in the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. There is just so much in Chicago and it is a shame we didn’t have a lot more time to really take in more of the city. We spent some time seeing Van Gogh’s work in the Art Institute but that was only the tip of the ice berg of the famous works that are housed there. We saw American Gothic and Nighthawks and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. We saw Monets and Picassos and works of the ancients. It is truly a remarkable collection which I would like to further explore.
Finally, we did get a chance to actually lay eyes on Isaac and his his fantastic band play fantastic pieces in a fantastic hall! I think they were all so very proud to play and their love of music was quite evident! I so enjoy seeing Isaac and everyone in the band in tuxeudos / formal dresses and I am very proud of the hard work that led them to be able to play at this venue.
Even though it snowed while we were in Chicago, it was a marvelous trip and one I would love to repeat!
Earlier this month, Abigail, my precious little baby, had another birthday. It was a big one…the big thirteen! My adorable baby has turned into…a teenager!
I do not know if I am lucky or what, but aside from first thing in the morning 🙂 , Abigail is an absolute joy. We were out of state on her birthday so didn’t get to properly celebrate, but we will remedy that this weekend.
Like most teens, she loves to listen to music and see movies, but where she really shines, I think, is that she is capable of and really enjoys thinking about all sorts of interesting subjects. She has opinions on politics and the future, and the world around us and can elucidate her thoughts very well. I always say that I don’t think I ever progressed, mentally, beyond age 13, but then I see how mature Abigail is, and I think I over-estimated my mental age. She makes me so proud and I am happy to welcome another teenager into the world!
Last weekend was the University of Charleston (WV) half marathon. I like to run, but I have typically only run in 5K races around the area. I had never run a half marathon, so when I heard about it, I knew I wanted to run.
I am a fairly new runner, having started in March of 2015 to run with my daughter. At the time, we were planning to train together to prepare her for X-C season. She does nothing in the off-season but I kept running. I didn’t follow a plan per-se, but I run 3-4 days per week for an average of probably 25 miles per week. About 6 weeks ago, I somehow screwed up my posterior tibialis so my mileage dropped some. I ran a mix of hills and flats which is probably what messed up my leg. I have run a number of 5Ks locally since starting running.
The race was managed by students and faculty as part of a sports management class. As such, they seemed to really do things cleanly (with the exception of their website). I had a lot of communication via facebook and email regarding the course, volunteers, aid stations, etc. They took great pride in advertising that local artists were making the finishers medals and prizes…it was very cool. Packet pickup was easy the night before and ran smoothly. On the race day itself, I wanted to be onsite at 7am for an 8am gun. As I said, I am inexperienced but I like to be early even though this was not a huge race. I needed to pee 25 times before lining up, etc. The weather was pretty crummy…40 deg F and rain at 7am. Snow was forecast for later in the day so the expectation was for miserable conditions. I got to the University of Charleston at 7 and we were greeted by a ton of volunteers. I may be making this part up, but I swear I heard there were 300 volunteers. Inside the student union where we waited for the start, the crowd was good though thinner than expected. At packet pickup, I asked how many were regsitered and was told around 300. Earlier in the week, they had advertised that they had crossed 200 runners, so I assume they were correct in the 300 number. I later found out that there were 127 finishers. I am certain the weather kept a number of people away…seems odd that 180 didn’t show but who knows? A few people I know who I saw at packet pick-up were not at the race so at least a few stayed home. Anyhow, about 15 minutes before the gun, the rain stopped and the temp help steady…so it was sort of perfect for racing.
Miles  to [3.1]
I didn’t know what to expect, never having raced a half so I found a 2 hour pace group and started with them. It was ok, but within a half a mile, I knew I wanted to speed up. I increased my pace to around 8:40 per mile and found a friend. We talked for a mile but he started to slow and I was feeling good so I speed up to around 8:20 per mile. The rain started although not bad…it was one of those rains that makes you wet but you don’t really notice it. I settled in on that pace and found a woman right ahead of me who was very steady so I just ran with her. About 2 miles in, the first water station came up and a large number of university students were having a great time listening to 80s music. They were playing my song (well, it seemd like it was being played for me) as I ran by…Danger Zone. I give the volunteers a lot of credit…they came out in good numbers with great signs and cheered on everyone! Basically, the course runs from the university along the Kanawha River so it was really pleasant to watch the river flow by. There were 3+ volunteers at every intersection and every turn so it was very clear where the course was. Miles were well marked and actually corresponded with my gps watch. The course was USATF certified which was pretty cool for such a small and new race.
5k time: 25:50
Miles  to 
I was concerned that this race was going to be a little boring as it was through neighborhoods and was a double loop course. I don’t know what possessed me, but I chatted a little with a few people as we ticked off miles in the middle of the course. I am usually pushing pretty hard on a 5k so don’t talk at all, but I didn’t know what to do here so I decided to pass a little time. Generally, people were happy to chat and they made more conversation than I did…2 miles flew by and I didn’t have any problems. My pace had stayed pretty steady around 8:10 at this point
Miles  to 
I decided to try to drink a little gatorade at around mile 9. I never drink gatorade as I am a water guy and generally not a drink-on-the-run guy at all. Something possessed me to try though so I grabbed a cup and put it to my mouth and promptly spilled it all over myself. I think I was more tired than I realized. The woman with whom I was pacing was feeling it too and we traded the lead back and forth a few times. We stayed pretty solid at 7:50-8:00 pace. The course was very flat which was nice, but the wet was starting to bother me too I think. Being a dummy, I forgot to tape my nipples so I was getting raw around this point. I won’t have to learn that lesson again…rain + cold + distance = blood spots on my shirt. Anyhow, I still really commend the race volunteers and police officers…they were great about cheering and played some great 80s tunes…some Cindi Lauper tune was blaring as I ran through the second time!
Miles  to [13.1]
I was all turned around as we wove through the neighborhoods along the river so I only had a sense of where I was based on my watch…my pacing woman and I were both pretty tired at this point and I could feel both my hamstrings and my calves starting to fade/pull. I figured that worst case, I could walk depending on what happened so I decided to keep pushing. We both ran the last mile or so into the finish about as fast as we could…we kicked it down to a 7:30 or so pace. She faded about a quarter mile out but I was still ok…ok being a relative term. Rounding the building in front of which was the finish line, I caught a guy and passed him which gave me mixed emotions…I hate when people do that to me, but I loved placing one spot higher than I would have. Originally I told my wife to expect me around 2 hours, so when I rolled in at 1:47:38, she was not exactly expecting me but she was able to get her phone out to get a few pics.
I grabbed a banana, a water and a cookie after they hung my finisher medal around my neck. It was a really cool medal made of ceramic by a local artist (and some university students). I was sort of sad in a way to finish. As this was my first half, I was over the moon excited in the days and weeks leading up. My saintly wife had to have been done with me for all of the talking about my strategies and questions about how I should run, what to wear, etc. I guess you never forget your first time and this half will always be sort of a cool memory. I didn’t know what else to do at the end so I lingered a little bit and we finally decided to just go home. I iced and put on some compression socks and generally relaxed all afternoon.
This report was generated using race reportr, a tool built by /u/BBQLays for making great looking and informative race reports.
It’s hard for me to write this, not because I am displeased, but rather because I cannot believe it is possible. Yesterday, Isaac passed his driving test making him our street’s newest driver. It seems like he is still my precious little boy, but he has gone ahead and grown up (into a fine young man…who now has a driver’s license!) and is finding his freedom!
In WV, as elsewhere, a person can earn their driving permit when they are 15. Isaac was kinda interested, but not really. I sort of had to push him to take his permit test because I wanted to have plenty of time to drive with him while he was still at home. Lots of kids these days are disinterested in driving I guess, and some parents don’t make their kids get their license until they are older. That’s ok, but for me, I wanted him to have more experience under my tutelage so we got his permit soon after his 15th birthday
We drove a lot under different conditions as I wanted him to experience many aspects of driving with my eyes helping him merge, see hazards, etc. Isaac has a car for his use and has spent a good bit of time getting used to it and has done an absolutely fantastic job of learning how to drive. He seems to be very conscientious and aware of things around him. I knew he was ready to take the next step.
I was most concerned with whether he could pass the parallel parking test. We put it off quite awhile, but it was time. I gathered a step stool and a large box to work as markers to practice and asked him to watch a few quick youtube videos while I got the stuff loaded into his car.
We measured out a parking bay near our house. I figured the youtube video would give him some general info, but that I would have to explain and demonstrate how to properly parallel park. We decided to just let him try it once, and lo and behold, he parked beautifully on the first try! I kid you not! I didn’t believe it so I jumped out and made him do it again…and he did it again. All-told, he did it 15-20 times with only 1 failed attempt so we called it a night. Two nights ago we went to the actual testing location to practice on the space the tester uses…same story. He parked several times flawlessly, so we knew it was time.
Emily took him after school and he passed beautifully. The tester said he was the first person she had passed all day…and that was at 5pm…that’s rough. Anyhow, we went out to eat and celebrate, but Isaac was anxious to get back home to dump me off so he could drive around some.
He can’t haul friends yet until he is accident-free for 6 months, but he wanted to go out on his own. It was one of the harder things I have done recently, watching him drive off all by himself. He rolled his eyes when I went into Dad-mode, “You’re gaining freedom and I am giving up control over you…and it’s hard…be careful” Eye-roll, “Yeah Dad, I know…” Eye-roll. It’s all good though. He drove around our area for an hour and returned, obviously excited and a little tired. I can still remember both the thrill and exhaustion of the first hundred times driving solo. He’s growing up though and learning to manage both very well. If you see him on the road though, don’t honk or wave…I need him to focus on the road!
The Greenbrier Resort and Hotel is a bit of a legend in WV. The Greenbrier is located in White Sulphur Springs, WV, where rich folks used to come to drink/bathe in the sulphur waters in the area. People believed that there were medicinal powers in the water so they flocked to the area to cure all sorts of things. Of course, amenities built up around as the influx of people grew and the Greenbrier Hotel was built. It’s a palatial structure situated on 11,000 or so acres and it caters to all sorts of outdoor activities including pheasant hunting, horseback riding, off-road Jeeping and high-end golf. The PGA holds the Greenbrier Classic there each Summer and it draws all sorts of golf-y folks.
People still travel from far and wide to partake of the ambiance of the area and it truly is beautiful in the Greenbrier Valley area. We have visited Lewisburg as well as the Greenbrier Hotel to do the bunker tour, but we had never stayed at the hotel itself before.
Some have said that I am a bit thrifty. Emily calls it other things, but I prefer to find a value whenever I can. A few months before Christmas this year, I saw that the hotel was running a special deal on a weekend stay in January. It was perfect! We could stay at the hotel and take in all that is the Greenbrier, and I could feel content in having gotten a “bargain”. Please note that the Greenbrier’s special price was a “bargain”, not a bargain. It still cost us around $500 for two nights, but we had a nice enough room and the opportunity to stay!
Upon our arrival, a gate-man had a card for our car with our name already printed. He ushered us through to the grand entrance where bellhops grabbed our bags and hustled them inside out of the snow. I couldn’t bear to pay the valet so I parked the car myself…at least 100 miles away…in the newly falling snow/rain. But it’s good…and definitely cheaper.
Anyhow, we received champagne and our room keys and were good to go. All checked in, we decided to explore the massive building. There are ballrooms and great foyers. Enormous fireplaces burned delightful fires and the atmosphere was rich. There is a dress-code at the Greenbrier which we followed to the letter, but it appeared that not everyone bothered. I was a bit disappointed, frankly, that people chose not to follow the rules and that the hotel allowed them to get away with it. I normally hate dress-code stuff, but it just felt right there…like people should be dressed up.
Anyhow, we caught a live singing performance where a really talented group sang a variety of tunes and did a great job interacting with the crowd. We clapped and sang along like good tourists…it was a blast!
We took the bunker tour again and visited all of the shops (or are they shoppes?) in the Greenbrier. The weather was not amenable to our touring the grounds or doing many of the outdoorsy things, but we really enjoyed the time to lounge around and talk and read. All-in-all, it was a nice trip.
The only complaint I had was with the food. We chose to stay in and eat at the hotel. It was convenient and part of the experience in my mind. It cost more for four of us to eat three meals than the room cost and we didn’t eat high-end at the hotel. Food was really expensive there. We ate breakfast at the main dining room and both the food and service were really great. Lunch and dinner, however, were no better than what we would have gotten at Applebees, but at 3x or more the price. Both service and food were average which was a shame for how much it cost…live and learn I guess.
Anyhow, I would like to go back and visit in the Spring when I am sure the place really shows its beauty. I am not much of a golfer but I hear that part of the fee includes a guy who will stand out in the fairway and watch where the balls land. For golfers, the savings in lost balls may make up for the expense in the food department!
I am glad to have stayed at the Greenbrier and look forward to the continued improvements that the fairly new owner is making after years of neglect by the previous owner!
Like about a quarter of the US population, we got hit by the snow event named Jonas 2 weekends ago. For at least a week beforehand, we heard hype and warnings and altered forecasts. At first, I think we expected a good snow but not too bad as predictions seem like they are often overblown, at least around here. As the week wore on and we grew more and more tired of hearing about the storm of the decade, it became apparent that we were going to get a good covering with a really good chance of a wet snow which would lead to widespread power outages.
Starting Wednesday or so, people started to really pound the grocery stores to stock up on milk, eggs and bread…I guess to make their emergency French toast. We shop on Sundays most times so we avoided the mess, but I hear a lot of places were cleaned out. Thursday was a really weird time as all forecasts pretty much pointed tot he same thing…we were going to get a lot of snow. I went to the office on Friday morning as usual. The sky was dark but there was no snow at that point. Almost on the hour, at 9. the snow started. I think by 9:07 we had an inch. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but it came quickly. We closed the office by 9:30 and by 10 when I left, it was questionable as to whether I would make it home. My car had no problem, but lots of folks in two-wheel drive vehicles were pretty much screwed. I weaved through a developing parking lot on the main road up the hill to my neighborhood.
We hunkered down and basically waited and watched. Snow piled up very quickly. Fortunately, the temperature didn’t rise enough to produce the wet snow they expected so we never lost power. We stepped out occasionally to measure snow, but it was accumulating so fast that we quickly gave up.
Saturday morning, we found that it was still snowing, but not nearly as hard. I tried to open my front door at some point but found it was snowed closed. I had to go out another door and shovel my front door open. That sucked a little. I took a few quick measurements which pretty closely coincided with the official measurement of 18.6 inches when it was all said and done. I measured as high as 21 inches but all things vary of course.
The city was a bit of a mini-disaster as people had abandoned cars all over. Plow trucks were working hard but we don’t usually see snow this deep and fast so they just couldn’t keep up, try as they might. We started baking cookies Saturday sometime and baked our way out of butter so, by Sunday, wanted to get out so we could bake/eat more. Our road had not been plowed at all though, and we figured that, with the chaos all over, they wouldn’t be getting to us any time soon. Our driveway is maybe 50 feet long and very steep. We started with it, hoping that would entice the plow trucks to come and plow us in, much like washing a car encourages rain.
Finally, we decided to just go for it and we shoveled out our neighborhood road from our place to the main road which was somewhat passable. I’d say that road is maybe 100 feet long where we were interested. My wife, my amazing workhorse of a wife and I shoveled out the road as well. It wasn’t a lot of fun, but we had eaten a lot of cookies so figured it balanced out pretty evenly, calorie-wise.
First the driveway
A lot of roads are still not passable, but I was able to get to the office. Schools are still closed, wisely. The biggest problem now, is where to put the snow that the highway crews are plowing. Our road was finally plowed out after dark, about 60 hours after the snow started. That’s not terrible with all things considered, but I am glad we dug out ahead of time. Let’s hope it takes at least another decade before we see this again!
So I didn’t do a great job of sticking with my declaration that I would post more. My diary has been fairly quiet lately and that is a drag for me. We did have a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s season and are racing towards the most important of all holidays, Groundhog’s Day!
Anyhow, I took a bunch of pictures of stuff we have been up to lately…
I love our fireplace area at Christmas…we still put out cookies for me Santa to eat
We pretty much only do sugar cookies at Christmas…and I mostly eat them in dough form leaving few to actually make it to the oven. The kids “decorate” them in interesting patterns.
And by patterns, I mean globs and piles…which makes them perfect to eat!
Best Christmas present ever!
I buried my nephew under his new blocks. I loved those kind of blocks when I was in school…We had a large, ride-able wooden train in kindergarten that we used to drive through great walls made from similar blocks. Anyhow, we had a lot of fun “hulking” out from under these blocks!
My brother mentioned that he always wanted the game Operation as a kid. We obliged this year although it is a much different game now. Still, they talked trash and left a watch or two inside the body…it was good fun!
Sober…all of us, sober. We do New Year’s with Emily’s folks. It’s a great time and we made it clear until midnight!
Somewhere during the holidays, we replaced two windows in our house. All together, I think we have replaced 21 windows or something like that. We have become old hands at it. It made a huge difference in both warmth and sound control. It’s always so striking to see a gaping hole in the house.
Well, we have had a busy few weeks lately including the crummy snow storm. I have lots more pics to post soon. I hope you are dug out wherever you are!
My baby turns 16 today. I started off his day with the well-known, “Sweet 16 and never been kissed.” Cooly, he replied, “Yeah, let’s just go with that.” How can it be that the tiny baby so long ago has turned into a nearly grown man?! And just who did he kiss?! Anyhow, this is a big year for him and Emily and I are so excited to see what comes next!
Some pics with his friends from his Winter Concert last night:
We have been busy with lots of stuff as I mentioned before and most of what we have been doing revolved around my coaching soccer again, the kids doing stuff in band, and work related obligations.
One thing, though, that I have been doing is a little different from that. Back in April, my company sponsored a 5K to benefit the local chamber of commerce’s scholarship fund. I ran a lot in high school as a member of the soccer team, but after that, I really didn’t run again. I decided to give running another try so I could train with Abigail who is on the middle school cross country team and so we could both run the 5K.
As I posted before, we ran the 5K which was pretty fun. What surprised me, though, is that I really enjoyed running. My first race nearly killed me as I pushed probably too hard, especially for the shape I was in. The thrill of racing and actually not embarrassing myself made me want to do it again though. My time in that first race was 27:30…not a bad time and it piqued my interest. I wondered if that was my max or if I could get better. I know I am not old yet, but I am not young either.
Since then, I have continued running and have come to really enjoy it. I tried running with music but it drives me crazy. I prefer to listen to my breathing and to the birds and the squirrels. I like to look up at the sky at the clouds or keep count of just how many people pick their noses when they drive. Someone asked me what I think about when I run (assuming I must get bored). Sometimes I think about this or that, but most times, I literally think about nothing. I sort of zone out and occasionally take in a sound or a sight, but I don’t really ponder life’s deeper meanings or worry about stressors. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.
I sort of like running after dark through neighborhoods. I quietly cruise by homes and hear people talking or watching tv. I can smell a steak cooking a mile away and people make a lot of popcorn in the evenings. I run 2-3 nights during the week and most times it is after dark. It’s quiet then and even easier to zone out and the stars are pretty amazing when I take the time to look up.
I try to do a longer run on Saturday mornings. Emily and the kids sleep in most weekends. I have always been an early riser so it sort of works out perfectly. I may run 8 or 10 miles on Saturdays before they wake. When I start to smell bacon cooking on my trail, I know people are waking up and it’s about time to head home.
I really like racing and my best 5K time from a few weeks ago was 22:10. It’s a little harder to zone out on race day as I get pretty wound up waiting for the starting gun. During the race, it’s all about keeping myself from running too fast the first mile and then having nothing left for the next 2 miles.
I do not think my goal in running is only to race, but it’s a nice side benefit. What’s better, though, is that I have met some pretty cool people and stand amazed at what people can do, physically. I ran my most recent race with a 60 year old man, a new friend of mine. We talked about our plan for the race as we stood in the starting chute, but we both had doubts about whether we could pull off what we had discussed. We ran a pretty fast race and he and I stayed together throughout and we ran just under the pace we had decided on. Before running, I never dreamed a 60 year old man could run a race, let alone a pretty fast pace. Older men then he ran even faster than we did though and did it with apparent ease. Of course, they were not new to running, but age didn’t hold them back one bit.
This is a meandering post, but I think it sort of mimics my thoughts on running. My mind wanders about how I will age and what I think about (and what I don’t think about). I like to be exposed to new people and especially people who don’t fit my stereotypes. I also like an occasional shot of adrenaline that comes on race day rather than during rush hour!