You Could Be Anywhere in the World Tonight…

Last we checked in, I was on my way to go see Hamilton in New York. Well, that happened and it was ridiculously good and now I have nothing left in this world to live for because I will never get to go to New York to see Hamilton again.

I think instead of crumbling into ennui due to my bleak Hamilton-less future, I shall instead regale you with the story of my trip.

A few months ago, Alex told me he wanted to get me and a friend tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway for my birthday because I love Hamilton so much. He told me he’d use his hotel points to get us a hotel and that I should proceed with making plans.

I told him that I never wanted him to tell me how much he spent on the tickets and got in touch with my friend Jen, who lives in Minnesota and talks ALL THE TIME on Facebook about how much she loves Hamilton. For those of you sad that I didn’t take you on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, let this be a lesson to you that you should be fanatical to the point of annoyance in any interest you share with me because apparently that is how I select companions for fun things.

Jen and I had tickets for Wednesday June 21, but headed up that Tuesday because you don’t want to have a travel delay and not make it to the show. That’s why I built in a 36-hour cushion for just such travel emergencies. You can’t take chances, you know.

I took the train and Jen took a plane and a train and we planned to meet at Penn Station at 11 am. I can’t speak to Jen’s long odyssey to get there, but I made Alex give me step by step instructions on how to arrive at the train, board the train, stash my luggage on the train, sit on the train, give my ticket to the train guy, not get off at any of the other two Penn Stations we passed prior to the correct one, how to identify the proper Penn Station, and how to detrain.

It’s hard to travel alone.

Fortunately, everything was as described and I successfully managed to get on the train and snag a window seat.

Photo of me in the window seat

Although I was not clever enough to get a non-sun side of the train. That wasn’t in Alex’s Power Point presentation.

Jen had an arduous trip, involving a 3 am wake-up, an airplane, Newark airport, and NJ train transit. I took a nap in my seat.

Photo of a train inside a station.

I’m autistic, so here’s a photo of a train I took as we pulled into the train station.

Jen was already there and we sent a series of texts saying things like, “I’m by the Dunkin’ Donuts,” and “I’m by the Dunkin’ Donuts too,” and then I twirled in confused circles for a while and finally we spotted each other and exchanged sweaty hugs and jumped up and down a little and then we went outside to get a cab to our hotel and I decided that New York is terrifying and I am a rube.

I wasn’t quite ready to start embarrassing Jen in public yet, so I don’t have any photos of this part of our trip. Instead I will insert this photo from slightly later in the day so you can get a mental picture of us.

Photo of me and Jen.

I’m lucky that Jen is a really easy person to hang out with because I am terrible at people-ing. She seems to be much better at it than I.

We checked into our hotel room, de-sweated a little, then headed out to what Jen described as “the best place on Earth,” aka Chelsea Market, land of any kind of food you want. It turns out that the kind of food WE wanted was pasta served IN A BOWL MADE OUT OF CHEESE.

Pasta in, well, a bowl made out of cheese.

I didn’t understand most of the menu but I knew almost all of the words in the description for the above dish, so I ordered it and the waiter was all, “That comes in a cheese basket,” and Jen was all, “Imma need a cheese basket too,” and it turns out that cheese baskets are delicious but incredibly filling and I still rue the fact that my basket defeated me and I couldn’t finish it.

Before we did that though, we wandered the entire Chelsea Market, including the best store, The Filling Station, that sold many flavors of, among other things, salt and vinegar. The last time Jen and I had been together in person, we had established that salt was a waaaay more valuable mineral than fancy gemstones, so she insisted we go there and taste all the salt.

It was amazing. I got a little overexcited and ended up with four containers of different flavored salt, a little salt spoon, and some pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Jen ended up with a burned tongue because I told her she should taste the spicy salt and she accidentally ate two grains instead of one, like the sign suggested she do, and thus began a string of questionable actions taken by Jen just because I told her to.

A wooden box with a Hamilton scene woodburned into it. There are four salt jars in it.

At the hotel, I put the salt in a little Hamilton-themed wooden crate that Jen had asked her dad to woodburn for me. The Schuyler sisters are on the other side. It is AMAZING. I think he could make a gajillion dollars selling them to the public.

I’d purchased the vinegar because Quinn has recently discovered balsamic vinegar. I told him over the phone that I’d bought it and he asked me to locate and buy “a salad kit” for him before I came home. I did not.

We were near the High Line, so we decided to go there. We walked to one end, then we turned around and walked all the way to the other end, with a middle stop to sit on a bench and people watch for a long time.

For those of you that don’t know, the High Line is an old elevated rail line that has been turned into green space full of people, kinda warm water fountains, vendors, and questionable art. Or at least art that is smarter than Jen and me combined.

Photo of a train track surrounded by plants.

People, water fountains, vendors, and art not pictured.

We also spent some time walking along the Hudson River, where we were reprimanded by a random lady for standing too close to the railing and scaring the seagulls away. Although I have a feeling that Hudson Bay seagulls aren’t afraid of a lot of things and certainly not me.

Tuesday was mostly a day that involved eating, resting, eating, resting, and then more eating. We rested at our hotel for a while before we headed out to the East Village to eat risotto for dinner because we apparently will travel long distances for delicious food, especially if it is risotto. And delicious it was, although instead of putting a bread basket on the table, the restaurant we went to put out a basket full of rice cakes. It was a little weird. I mean, I get that their thing was rice, what with the risotto and all, but still.

We were finishing our risotto and talking about how neither of us are night owl/party people so we were contemplating going back to the hotel when I said, “Or we could go find a place to eat dessert.” Well. It turns out that Jen and I agree on the need for dessert in our lives. I Yelped dessert bars and there were TWO within 0.2 miles of us. New York, man.

We chose the dessert tapas place where they recommended the three-tapas selection for two people. That’s obviously what we did because who are we to argue with a menu?

Three photos: 1. A little pan with a marshmallow cookie topped with pretzels, ice cream, and fudge; 2. a little pot filled with what looks like dirt and a little plant sprig next to a tiny pitcher of sauce and some red sorbet; 3. four squares of white dessert with chocolate crust next to strawberries and chocolate crumbles

I can’t even tell you how good this was. Each one was so creative and so delicious and I think I’m still full from eating all of it.

After that, we were done for the evening. We slept in the next morning, which was great and because it was Hamilton day, we didn’t want to do anything that would take too much time, so we decided to go to the Nintendo store and Rockefeller Center because our kids are nerds and we wanted to get them souvenirs.

First, however, we obviously needed to eat. It seems like everyone in New York is all, “Ramen is the greatest; you’ve gotta eat ramen,” so even though I was nervous about it, I agreed when Jen suggested we eat that for lunch. (We slept reeeeeaaaaaalllllly late.)

I could have told you it was not going to go great when we started eating and Jen immediately started talking about worms and then when I told her that I have a thing about worms and it was not helping with my noodle consumption, she made a smooth segue into talking about her dog’s “exploded anal gland” and I did a real-life, actual spit take.

It turns out that ramen, which is basically a big bowl of surprising ingredients all mixed in together in broth, is not really my thing. I was, however, glad that I tried it and comforted by the fact that we were following up by sharing a giant doughnut. Also the wall next to me was covered in a chain curtain and it was really fun to touch and stroke as I tried to not think I was eating worms.

We walked through Times Square first, stopping briefly at the Disney Store, where I encouraged Jen to make bad shopping decisions that I am sure made her daughter very happy. Then we went to the Nintendo store where we both made bad shopping decisions that made our children very happy.

2 photos: 1. Me standing next to a giant Donkey Kong statue 2. me croching next to a Pikachu sitting on a pokeball statue

Also both Jen and I did all kinds of embarrassing things at the Nintendo store, but only I have photographic evidence of it.

We wandered around Rockefeller Center after that. Jen was on the lookout for Rachel Maddow and I was trying to take a good photograph of a pigeon.

four photos of pigeons, none of which has the entire pigeon in frame.

Neither of us were successful.

We ended up sitting outside and talking for a really long time and doing some more people watching. It was really nice. Also, eventually I got the money shot of a pigeon.

Photo of a pigeon.

STRUT!

We browsed around some more and happened by the Swarovski crystal store where I found the nicest, most glittery place I’ve ever been and I made Jen sit there for a while so I could pet the crystal drape and sit in rainbows.

A couch covered in crystals in front of strings of large crystals.

Now I just have to convince Alex to build me a nook like this for my next birthday.

We decided to walk past the Richard Rogers Theatre on our way back to the hotel so we would know where it was. Obviously we walked down the street juuuuuuust as all the Wednesday matinees were letting out, so it was a total mob scene. Regardless, battling crowds did not dim our excitement.

Selfie of me in front of the theatre with Hamilton signs. I look excited.

I like that if you look closely at my sunglasses lens, you can see Jen.

Ticket time was 8 pm, so naturally Jen and I returned and were in line at 6:50. Because that’s how we roll.

Jen and I outside the theater in front of a Schuyler sisters mural

Look how bored and unexcited we look.

What time is it?

Screenshot of my Facebook post when I checked in to the theater and it says I am attending Hamilton. I've written "Fuck yeah, I am."

SHOWTIME!

They let us in the theater at 7:30 and told us to take an immediate right turn. Then the next usher we met said, “Oh let me take you down here,” and then there we were. At our seats. In the fifth row.

Jen and I in front of the stage in our seats

You know, NBD.

It was ridiculous. We spent some time texting Alex all-caps notes of excitement and thanks, including the following photo, which pretty much sums up how both of us were feeling.

Jen holding up her playbill. She looks delighted.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

The seats around us started filling in and I breathed a sigh of relief as someone short sat in front of me. Shortly after Jen did the same. I’d been worrying about the person who was going to sit in front of me ever since Alex had bought the tickets. I was less worried about the person who was going to sit in front of Jen, but it’s nice that it worked out for her too.

The stage

I know everyone says it, but I think you’re required to say it if you go to the show, so here it is—the room where it happens.

Then we watched Hamilton.

As Gina said on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Hamilton. Was. Amazing! How is no one talking about this musical? It’s so good.”

The show was phenomenal, you guys. It really was. I know there is so much hype around it, but I had absolutely no disappointment. I thought all the actors did wonderful jobs and I liked how they put their spin on the roles. I was rapt the entire time. It was hilarious and inspirational and heartbreaking and I know just how lucky I am that I was able to go see it. This was my very first Broadway show and it was amazing. I have a million thoughts about the show and my poor family heard them all, but I don’t know that I can communicate how much I loved it in written words.

When we were walking out, Jen and I both agreed that we could sit down right there and then and watch it again without being the slightest bit bored. Both of us had apparently gotten a little sad a few songs from the end because we knew it was almost over. It was really incredible.

I didn’t imagine myself to be a “hang by the stage door” kind of gal, but it turns out that I am. On our way out, we passed the door and were all, well, me might as well wait. Then we made an immediate transition into ridiculous squealing fangirls. We saw a couple of the ensemble cast and then the actors who played Laurens/Phillip (below in the P. Ham hat OMG) and Lafayette/Jefferson. They were both so nice and wonderful and didn’t even make fun of us for our ridiculous squealy, grinning selves.

two photos: 1. Me and Jen with the actor who plays Laurens/Phillip 2. Me with the actor who plays Lafayette/Jefferson

How adorable are they? (Answer: super adorable)

Josh Groban was performing in something next door and came out of an adjacent door while we were waiting. There was lots of screaming from that crowd, but we just couldn’t be bothered, except for me to note that Groban likes his ladies to pop. (Bonus points if you get that.)

We wandered/floated back toward our hotel and we decided to stop to get some food and when we passed a 24-hour diner with giant cupcakes in the window, we made our decision. After all, we were only about 15 minutes away from my birthday.

A cupcake with rainbow sprinkles next to a diet coke

The fact that this is my ideal late-night snack should tell you everything about me that you need to know.

We woke up the next morning full of statements like, “Hey, remember that time we saw Hamilton?” and “Life is pointless now that we don’t have Hamilton to look forward to,” and “OMG, remember that part when [insert minute but oh so meaningful observation here] happened and it was fucking brilliant?!”

Then we went to breakfast and ate cheese and ham on toasted bread and life began to have meaning again. We were going to MOMA that day because we wanted to make fun of art that we didn’t understand. I have been to New York several times but I have never taken the subway because no one has ever given me step-by-step instructions on how to do so, so Jen declared that we were going to do it and I became the coolest, most casual New York City subway rider ever.

Four photos: 1. Me making an excited face at the entrance to a subway station; 2. Me giving the dorkiest thumbs up in the world in the subway station; 3. a selfie of me and Jen on the subway; 4. me on the subway

See also: I was no longer reluctant to embarrass Jen in public. I AM THE WORST.

I might write an insightful piece about the art we saw at MOMA later, so I’m not going to go too deeply into our visit here other than to say it took me about 45 seconds from entering the museum to be reprimanded by security for getting too close to the art. This reprimand is a thing that happens often to me, but even so, this one happened faster than usual.

I also want to post this photo of Jen contemplating modern art because it is maybe my favorite photo of all goddamn time.

Jen looking at a weird statue in a box. She looks quizzical.

This photo is fucking everything to me. It really sums up our afternoon at the museum. Look how hard she is trying to understand. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!

I also saw my favorite painting of all time, which was really exciting and also made me wonder how MOMA defines “modern” art, seeing as how this was painted in the 19th century.

Me next to Van Gogh's The Starry Night

Although I guess if your museum can acquire this Van Gogh, you take it whether it fits into your mission statement or not.

I also found my favorite wall curtain at this museum. Fortunately no one reprimanded me for getting too close to it because I stroked it like it was my cat.

Photo of a curtain made of strings of metal beads.

Sooooo pleasing.

I think those three photos really sum up our museum trip well. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Hamilton store across the street from the Richard Rogers Theatre because it was closed by the time we finished jumping up and down at the stage door the night before. It was there that Jen took her turn at encouraging me to make bad purchasing decisions, none of which I regret at all.

Photo of Quinn lying on my floor covered in a Hamilton-themed blanket.

After this happened within minutes of my arriving at home, I had to take steps to ensure that it never happened again because Hamilton blanket is MINE.

I also really enjoyed the Hamilton in-joke on the door of the store.

Sign taped to a door that reads "Thanks for visiting...We will see you again soon! You'll be back...Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da de da dat dat da...etc."

I am thoroughly amused by you and your overpriced products, Hamilton store. Let me throw my money at you!

We spent that evening having dinner with one of the families that Jen had provided surrogate services for seven years ago. No photos or long stories here because not my family/not my place to do so, but I’m just sayin’ if they ever wanted to adopt me, I’m available because they were delightful. Great couple, great kids, AND once they found out it was my birthday, they busted out candles and sang to me. My only regret is that Jen almost tricked me into eating octopus. Fortunately, I was able to pawn it off on the 7-year-old sitting next to me.

Friday dawned with the knowledge that we were going home in just a couple of hours and we hadn’t eaten any bagels yet. We rectified that with a jaunt to a delicious deli and I utilized my newfound skills at blending in as a New Yorker by taking photos of tall buildings…

Photo of the New York Times building with a red and white streetlamp in front of it.

I mean, was I NOT going to take this photo of the pokeball streetlamp?

politicized rats…

Photo of me in front of a truck on which is a giant inflated rat.

You guys! It’s Scabby!

and the sidewalk.

Photo of a stencil on the sidealk of a cat head.

I am almost ridiculously embarrassing to walk around with, but it was a cat on the sidewalk—you KNOW my kids were going to want to see that.

It took Jen and I a really long time to find the actual Penn Station we were looking for because there is a building across the street from the actual Penn Station that is labeled as Penn Station, but is really a post office and home to the Long Island Rail Road. We were wandering through the post office and I was texting Alex to ask him how to find the trains at Penn Station and he was all, “Um…follow the signs? What the fuck is wrong with you?” and I was all, “I NEVER GOT MY RETURN TO DC ON THE TRAIN STEP-BY-STEP POWER POINT I AM LOST AND WILL HAVE TO LIVE IN NEW YORK FOREVER AND EVERY TIME I TAKE A PHOTO POINTED UP SOMEONE TRIES TO SELL ME A BUS TOUR AND IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE I AM PICKED OFF AS A RUBE AND MY BODY SHOWS UP IN THE HUDSON.”

Or something along those lines.

No thanks to Alex, we eventually found our way to the right place. Jen set off on her way back to the airport and eventually home. I bought a slice of pizza, because I was in New York and needed to do so and I dropped an entire piece of pepperoni down my shirt because I am the most embarrassing person in the history of people.

It also turns out that to get on a train from New York to DC, you really have to throw some elbows and jockey for space. Because I’m an asshole, if I get on a crowded train and there are empty aisle seats, but one of those empty aisle seats has a purse on it because someone is obviously trying to not have to sit next to someone, I will insist on sitting there. I bet you didn’t know exactly how passive aggressive I am, didja?

I’m a good seat mate because I hate people though, so I think it all balances out.

Big thanks to Alex. Big thanks to Jen. Big thanks to the cast and creators of Hamilton.

Photo of a building with an eagle in front of it, two American flags, and a pride flag.

Big thanks, New York. You were good to us.

Viva la Résistance!

Just like so many of you, I went to the Women’s March on Washington today.

What an amazing thing. People marched all over the world. The magnitude of the marches was incredible. I am so proud of protestors for standing up for what they believe. It was a joy to see all my friends on my Facebook feed and their photos of the march or their messages of solidarity for those of us who were able to go.

The idea of going into DC with a gazillion other people pretty much sounded like my worst nightmare, but I wanted to add my body and my voice to the crowd. (Calling congressional offices to express my opinion also sounds awful, but I’ve been doing that too. I hope you are as well.)

Fortunately, I found a couple of good people to go with: Sam and my friend Sunday.

Photo of Sam, Sunday, and me at the Women's March.

We were a good team.

We were going to try to meet some other friends, but it was completely impossible to get anywhere there. By 9 am, we’d wormed our way up to the side front of the crowd, but then discovered that our friends were (of course) on the opposite side of the street.

We did see Jesse Jackson though.

Photo of Jesse Jackson at the march.

Sam: “Who’s Jesse Jackson?” Urgh. I needs to do some edumacating. Once we got home I gave Sam an assignment to research both Jackson and Gloria Steinem before Monday.

The three of us spent a lot of time wandering around through the crowd. We saw a lot of great signs. We saw so many beautiful people. We witnessed nothing but courtesy and friendliness. We were able to hear some of the speeches, but there were so many people there that it was difficult to see the big screens or hear.

Photo of a sea of people in front of the capitol.

So. Very. Many. People.

We did not, however, see food. At some point I realized that I had my child with me and I should feed him and also, maybe more importantly, feed myself because I was hungry too. We then began to wander with a little more direction. Unfortunately when there are so many people crammed together, there is no food without big lines. Eventually we found a CVS and made up a lunch of potato chips, cheese sticks, nuts, and candy.

Photo of Sam sitting on a railing eating a handful of chips.

Am very good mother.

We spent some more time walking around and talking. After standing in the cold for so long, it was starting to get chilly. I had told Sam to wear a coat, but he insisted that his sweatshirt over his t-shirt would be fine. I tried to insist, but he was having none of it.

Sometimes I hate being right.

I bear hugged him for a long time to keep him warm but then he finally took me up on my offer to trade his tiny, thin sweatshirt for my awesome, warm coat.

Photo of Sam wearing my coat with the hood up.

Am VERY good mother.

At some point after one, we began to look for a bathroom. Because it was, you know, a women’s march, there were like 15 porta potties and a thousand people in line for each of them. Our trek led us near our Metro station and since we were pretty tired by then and Sam was definitely ready to go home, we decided to head out.

We didn’t know it at the time, but there were rumors that there were so many people at the march that there was no longer any room for an actual, formal march. I think people might have marched later, but we were there until 1:30 or so and although there were definitely people marching off the published route, the main march hadn’t started.

It was absolutely exhausting, but I am so glad we went. Thanks to Sunday for letting Sam and me tag along at the last minute.

We all know that one protest march isn’t the answer. There is a lot of real and tangible work to be done. But it is a powerful symbol. And today was powerful indeed.

Race Report: Oceans 50 Relay

I was lucky enough to be able to get away to Florida last weekend with a bunch of my running friends (Team MLC, represent!) to run a relay race. It was really good to be in a pretty place with a fun team activity and good people. I left town last Thursday, arriving in Jacksonville at 10 pm, just in time to be picked up by local heroes Lyda and Bob who took me to Lyda’s beach house where we promptly went to our respective beds. We’s old.

The next morning was for beach walking, my favorite part of which is watching the funny birds who run around in the surf.

Photo of sand and the ocean and a little bird walking there.

I relate to these little birds because they look like they kinda wanna wade, but then the water gets too close and they run away, but then they want to get close to the water, but NOT REALLY! I do all that too.

I spent a lot of that first beach walk wondering if I should collect some shells for my kids because last time we were down there, Heather collected shells for her kids and I didn’t and I told my kids about that and Quinn OBJECTED strenuously that he had no shells but collecting shells involves a lot of bending over and looking at things and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that kind of commitment when instead I could just not mention shells to Quinn and all would be well, but I ended up deciding to collect shells and I then I totally enjoyed it and went home with a gallon-sized Ziploc full of them.

Team MLC members Marc and Heather arrived at the beach house just before lunch, which was great, and then we came back to the beach and collected more shells. Heather and Lyda walked in the water and got all wet.

Photo of the beach. Heather and Lyda are in shorts wading in the water.

My view from where I plunked myself on the beach, making an effort to touch as little sand as possible.

I sat on the beach in the sun looking like I was dressed for an entirely different season than my friends in my jeans, but it was warm and nice and decidedly un-wet.

Photo of a sandy beach. You can see part of my leg in the photo and I am pointing to a spot on the sand about six inches away from my leg.

The water mostly stayed far away from me, but one wave came up to the point where I am pointing in this photo. Nature almost touched me.

After that beach walk/sit, our final team member, Marisa, arrived and we drove off to the hotel where we would be spending the night prior to our race, which was about an hour away from Jacksonville in a place called Flagler County.

The race is the Oceans 50 Relay and I would highly recommend you run it. We had a six-person team and the race is made up of 12 legs, so each of us ran two. The whole thing took us eight and a half hours and no one had to sleep in the van or worry too much about stocking supplies for the race. The race was super well organized with really friendly volunteers and easy logistics. Plus! This race was set up so all but two of the exchanges had real, actual bathrooms with running water. Ten out of ten, highly recommended.

Team start times began at 5am and ran as late as 8 am, but because we’re us, our start time was at five (five. a. m.) but we were supposed to report to the start line an hour before start time so we could get our safety briefing (four. a.m.) which meant I needed to set my alarm for 3 am (and 3:15 am, then with the snooze, 3:24 am). (three. twenty. four. a. m.) Needless to say, I was in bed and asleep by 8:15.

I need to take a moment to mention that all day long I’d been finding little notes in my luggage. Alex, who has never done anything like it before, wrote me a series of encouraging little notes and put them in my shoes and in with my running clothes. I found my favorite one right before I went to bed for the night. He based it off of our team t-shirt, which I’d designed. See if you can guess which one Alex drew and which one I did:

Two photos: (1) A notecard on which is drawn a weird oblong with arms, legs, and a face. It says "Go Team MLC!!" with an arrow pointing to the oblong above words that say "Really bad banana!!" with the exclamations making a smiley face. (2) a green shirt with a super cute yellow banana on it surrounded by various wild animals and writing that says, "Team MLC will run through anything for a banana."

I’ll give you a hint: The banana I drew looks like a banana.

Somehow our entire team assembled in the hotel lobby at 3:45 as instructed and we blearily made our way to the start line where we learned such important safety details as “follow the route signs facing you, not the ones facing away from you” and “if it is pitch black, wear your head lamp and reflective vest.”

Marc totally failed the safety briefing by the way. The guy explained how the exchange number was the same as the number of the leg preceding it and then immediately asked, “What exchange comes at the end of leg two?” and Marc yelled really loudly, “THREE!” Fortunately, we were not immediately disqualified.

Lyda was our starting runner, so we lit her up like a Christmas tree and situated her at the start line.

Photo of Lyda wearing a safety vest and a lot of lights, looking up at a banner that says START, only she's looking at the back of it.

“Wait. T-R-A-T-S?”

Then we waited around tapping our feet impatiently waiting for it to be 5 am.

Photo of four people standing in the dark.

Patient. And in remarkably good spirits for 4:57 a.m. (Heather, Bob, Marisa, Marc)

Soon enough it was 5:00 and Lyda set off with the rest of the starters. There were 5 or 6 other teams that started at the same time that we did, but by the time we started leg 2, she was ahead of all but two of them.

We got a little lost looking for exchange #1, but we eventually found it before Lyda arrived and saw that leg two led off down an unlit trail that was Pitch. Fucking. Black. There could have been anything down there. It was intense. Fortunately that leg belonged to Marisa, who took off with a bounce in her step and, hopefully, a knowledge of basic self-defense maneuvers to protect herself from people and gators.

Leg three was Marc’s and was what everyone referred to as “The Swamp Leg.” While the rest of the race was on roads and paths and was more or less flat, this leg was on a trail with hills and roots and rocks and, according to the race packet, maybe even a boar. The race organizers time runners on this leg and give a special prize to the person who runs it fastest because it is so challenging. And! If your start time is 5 am, you get to run it IN THE DARK.

Photo of me standing by a sign that says, "Graham Swamp Conservation Area East Trailhead" The sun is rising behind me.

Heather took this photo of me while Marc was running the swamp leg. I assume it was even darker in, you know, the swamp.

I was runner four, so when Marc suddenly popped out of the swamp (in first place now!), I grabbed the baton and took off. I could tell there was a runner behind me, but I was determined to stay in front of him for as long as I could.

Team MLC is scrappy and we have some speedy runners on our team, but we tend to get passed by other teams who catch up to us and surge ahead. I am often the one who is passed. I wanted to keep this guy behind me for as long as possible on my four-mile leg.

I could feel him getting closer as I passed one mile. I decided to try to stay in front until I got to two miles. Eventually I realized that he had fallen back and I was secure in my first place spot. I kept my speed up though and came into my exchange almost four minutes faster than I had estimated.

Photo of me running.

Me being speedy.

I passed the baton to Heather, who took off only to be called back by the volunteer at the exchange who said she was going the wrong way. She knew she was going the right way, but got rattled enough that she came back. Fortunately another team who had run the race before was waiting for their runner and told her to keep going her original way. They were our angels.

Our van sped off to meet her at the end of her leg where two things amused me to no end.

Marisa in a coat, long pants, hat, and gloves.

(1) Marisa, who lives in MONTANA, freezing in Florida.

A rock. There are posts on either side of it and there is a hole in the middle through which a chain anchors it to the ground.

(2) This rock that was chained to the ground. First I tried to figure out WHY it was chained to the ground then I tried to pick it up and steal it. I failed in both endeavors.

Bob took up the baton at the rock and headed back the way Heather had come and we rode off to meet him. It turns out that the exchange that Heather had left from gets used as the start of two different legs, so that is why the volunteer got mixed up. Fortunately we had it all figured out by now so by the time Bob gave Lyda the baton and a kiss to start her on leg 7 of the race, we were all set.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed this race, the race guide had led me to believe that we were going to see all kinds of fun animals, like alligators and maybe peacocks and even otters, on the course. I saw one dead, smashed armadillo.

It was disappointing.

But not too disappointing, because Team MLC was on fire, continuing our streak of being awesome. Marisa took the baton from Lyda for the next leg, which included a really tall bridge in what was starting to become the hot sun. She persevered though, cruising into the next exchange to hand off to Marc.

I was running the next leg, a six and a quarter long route that had one turn and a reeeeeaaaaaally long stretch along a straight road. I was expecting Marc to come down the same long straightaway that I was going to head out on, so I was surprised when he burst out of a side trail, sending me down my road before I even knew what was happening.

I ran 0.8 miles, took a left turn and started down my long road at which point I was passed by some teenager from a team that was apparently made up of high school running champions. She giggled as she passed me and quickly left me in the dust. We never saw them again.

My exchange was on the sidewalk of the road I was running down and it came into view, like, FOREVER before I got there. I felt like I was running toward it for a million years without it getting closer. I stayed pretty close to my estimated time for this leg at 11:30 min/mi, which I still consider a pretty good pace for me.

I passed off to Heather, who set off on perhaps the hottest and least shady leg of the race. The real bummer though was when she took her one right turn and was confronted with another really tall bridge to run over. That must have been demoralizing to run up to. And over.

Once she arrived at her exchange, Bob was our only runner left. Happily it was really hot by this time and he was wearing a black shirt. Good planning, Bob. He headed off for his leg, which included running back up the bridge and down a set of stairs. We meandered off to the finish line which was at Flagler Beach.

Photo of a beach with a pier. There is a roof on which is painted "Flagler Beach"

I can’t even imagine living in a place where going to the beach in November is a possibility.

Well, actually, the finish line was on a sidewalk across the street, but that wasn’t as pretty.

A sidewalk with finish line flags.

See?

Before too long we saw Bob cruising down the sidewalk and we all fell in line behind him to cross the finish line together. We ended up coming in 32nd of 45 teams (not bad for us!), but we were the second team to cross the finish line (GREAT for us!).

Photo of all six of us wearing our banana t-shirts and medals and smiling.

Team MLC is the greatest. Each of us super rocked the Oceans 50.

The race organizers had food and beer (and real actual bathrooms—Best. Race. Ever.) for us at a restaurant at the finish line. We ate and then drove back to the beach house where we took turns in the single shower with the tiny hot water heater. Turns out we are just as good at showering quickly as we are at running, because everyone got hot water. Yay, us! We really are a team. :)

We left earlyish the next morning to fly back home, making this a whirlwind trip. It was really good for my soul though to be out in the fresh air doing something I love with people I love. I am really glad we were able to do it. Thanks, Captain Heather, for doing such an incredible job organizing us. Thanks, Bob and Lyda, for hosting us. And thanks, Marisa and Marc, for just being generally awesome.

Photo of sunrise over the ocean, grass, and some palm trees.

Thanks, Florida.

The Three Mudketeers

I have a group of friends that I run races with. You might be familiar with them from my Facebook race selfies. Four years ago I could never have imagined that I’d have running buddies. That’s a whole post of its own. I love them.

Between all of us, we get a lot of emails advertising races in the area. We send them around to each other to see if we want to participate in them together. Usually we are able to come to some sort of agreement about how fun a race is going to be and how we should run it together.

I recently sent one out that advertised the Frederick Mud Dog Run. No one bit.

But then I was all, “Aw, obstacle course races are so fun!” and “They’re not hard!” and “I’ve done them by myself but never with anyone and I think it would be really fun to do one with someone,” and by then everyone just felt sorry for me so my friend Lyda signed up.

Then her husband Bob signed up without understanding much about the race past the fact that it was a 5K.

No one else was kind/dumb enough to join us.

Race day was a couple of weekends ago and we all showed up at the start line scrubbed, fresh, and ready to go.

Photo of me, Bob, and Lyda before the race.

We would not be so clean again for quite some time.

Lyda and Bob had, by this point, spent a fair amount of time circling and fretting, both literally and figuratively. To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure that they were still going to be my friends after the first mud puddle.

Incidentally, the first mud puddle is where Lyda learned to keep her mouth closed when you jump into muddy water. That’s a tough lesson to learn.

While she was learning that, I was learning how hard it is to climb up a slippery, muddy slope, even if someone is giving you a hand as long as your foot keeps getting stuck in the mud bog you are standing in.

We had a really fun time, mud, blood, and all. We climbed walls, forded streams, walked across seesaws, and ran between every single one of those obstacles and more. We were awesome. I laughed a lot, even when Bob teased me about all the mud and smeared some on my shoulder. I got back at him by smearing mud on his face. Unfortunately for very many reasons, my finger ended up in Bob’s mouth, which shut him up pretty effectively. (Sorry, Bob.)

Two photos: one of Bob covered in mud climbing out of a bog. One of Lyda sitting on a mud bank grimacing.

See? See how much fun they had? Don’t they look happy?

I kid them of course. They rock. They defeated each and every obstacle with vigor and good cheer. My guess that it would be fun to do an obstacle race with other people? I was right. These two are cheerful and tough—two things I also consider myself to be. We were a good team.

We were a good team even when we came across the bog filled with deep mud that we CRAWLED across. It is maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done. It wasn’t even soft mud either. Under eight or so inches of mud there was no shortage of sharp branches that left little cuts up and down my right shin.

I was really happy when I got to the other side.

Photo of me with arms raised at the end of a field of mud. My arms are muddy past my elbows and my body is muddy past my waist.

At least none of us lost our shoes in there.

It wasn’t all mud though. Roy Rogers restaurant was a sponsor of the race, so they created an obstacle where they mixed BARBECUE SAUCE with the mud.

Barbecue sauce. Imagine that for a moment.

Photo of me and Lyda army crawling under a net. There is a Roy Rogers banner above us.

Look how cute we are even covered in mud and BBQ.

We finished happy, victorious, and with all our glasses and hats intact.

Two photos: One a close up selfie of the three of us covered in mud; the second is a full body shot of the three of us covered in mud.

At this point, I refrained from pressuring my friends into signing up for the zombie version of this race that takes place in October. That will come later.

We dropped some stuff in the car and headed back to the finish line for two very important things: our free beer and a hose—a hose with a very long line. We opted to get our beer first.

Photo of Bob and Lyda sitting at a picnic table laughing and drinking beer.

I love this photo. I love my friends.

Standing in line waiting for the hose was way more fun once we were a little tipsy and I was able to function again because I’d used the beer to clean off my fingertips because if there is one thing I can’t handle, it is dry dirt on my fingertips. You’d think I wouldn’t do these kinds of races with that sort of sensory issue. To that I say I am a bundle of delightful and infuriating contradictions.

There were a lot of people in line for the one operating hose. We patiently stood there until it was finally our turn. Chivalry isn’t dead and/or I was whiniest and Bob used the hose to clean me off first. Then Bob hosed off his wife.

Photo of Bob leaning down and aiming the hose at Lyda.

It must be awesome to have a friend like me around to immortalize moments like this when you’re hosing down your wife’s butt.

Then, just as Bob was ready to hose himself off, the water pressure dropped and there was no more water and so Bob had to drive home covered in mud. No good deed goes unpunished.

It was right around this time that I started feeling even worse about putting mud inside Bob’s mouth.

I had such a good time with my friends—and I am happy to say that they are still my friends, even after I quite literally dragged them through the mud.

Photo of muddy me giving a double thumbs up.

 

Race Report: Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Alternatively titled: Weekend Report: Pittsburgh and My Friends Are Awesome

I’m not going to keep you in suspense.

Photo of me after the race standing in front of a "2016 Finisher" backdrop holding my medal and wrapped in a space blanket.

I finished the Pittsburgh Half Marathon!

Thanks for waiting so patiently for me to write my race report, seeing as how the race was May 1. I hope you waited appropriately.

My friend and I clearly waiting in front of a sign that says, "Please do not wait in this area."

My friend Bec and I are brazen scofflaws.

I arrived on Friday afternoon for the Sunday race and checked into the tiniest, cutest little hotel room in Pittsburgh. I mean, first I walked in little circles in front of a confused check-in clerk because I’d patted my jacket pocket for my wallet, panicked when I didn’t find it, come to the conclusion that it was still in the car, started off to retrieve it, then found it in my pocket—the very pocket I’d originally patted.

Things turned around though when I got to said adorable room. I took a selfie and then texted Alex to tell him I was never coming home. I was on the 12th floor and had the best view from the hotel. All my friends were on the 11th floor and had views of roofs and walls and other hotel rooms.

Selfie of me in front of my window overlooking a park in Pittsburgh.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. There are going to be SO MANY photos of me in this post. I am sorry.

My friends Lyda, Bob, and Heather were also running the half marathon and Heather brought her whole family, which was fun. Plus! My friend Bec and her kids were in town, which was totally delightful because even though neither of us lives in Pittsburgh, we got to hang out in Pittsburgh.

Friday night I went out to dinner with Lyda and Bob and we shared this amazing poutine tots dish that changed my entire world view about tater tots.

Photo of my beer next to a plate of tater tots, cheese, BBQ meat and some other delicious stuff.

Hey, look! I’m not in this photo!

Maybe the best thing about going out of town and having your very own hotel room is that after dinner you get to go to your room (alone) and lie in your bed (alone) and surf the internet (alone) and maybe watch some Hulu (alone) and then eventually fall asleep (alone).

But as day follows night and naps follow parenting, people follow solitude. Saturday morning I met up with my running people and we walked several blocks to find a packed bagel restaurant with a line out the door and stood there for 30 minutes to order bagels even though there was another location of that very same bagel restaurant literally in our hotel lobby. I did get to hang out with my friends though and the restaurant refilled my soda for free, so it really worked out fine.

After breakfast, I got to hang out with my buddy Bec and her kids. Because I was running a half marathon the next day, we decided to wander aimlessly all over Pittsburgh on foot. We visited all of the major sites, like the ticket booth for the incline and the little dinosaur ride in the weird empty mall and also that intersection where I made that fucking amazing u-turn the last time she and I were in Pittsburgh together.

Photo of a sign that reads "PAT employees permit parking only," but because of the window it looks like it says "FAT employees"

No one was parked in this spot outside the incline ticket booth (even though I think that first letter is supposed to be a “P” for “Pittsburgh”).

Photo of me in a yellow dinosaur kid ride.

Bec took this photo on a prior trip to Pittsburgh. The dinosaur has since been moved, but we were able to find it nonetheless. Our detective skills are fucking impressive.

Photo of me pointing at an intersection.

The scene of my u-turn triumph.

Yeah, for real, those are the things we went to see. We are not exciting people. I suppose that is what happens when two people not from Pittsburgh try to go sightseeing in Pittsburgh. We also went to a CVS pharmacy and told the store clerk that Bec had come all the way from Australia to go to the CVS. I’m starting to think it might actually be true.

From there, I rejoined my runner friends and related hangers on and we headed over to the runners expo to pick up our bibs and swag.

Photo of Bob, me, Lyda, and Heather posing in front of a pretend bridge labelled "Pittsburgh Marathon."

See us? See how ready to run we are?

The expo was like a more frustrating Easter egg hunt where there is only one egg and it is in the form of a headband that doesn’t cost thirty dollars and doesn’t have a joke about running for beer on it. (Hint: It will be at the last booth you visit.) Also, I made everyone go to t-shirt pickup first when we were required to go to bib pickup before we could get our shirts and they were on total opposite sides of the giant expo. That was me, paying it forward, making my friends walk a lot the day before a half marathon as well.

We also took in the view of Pittsburgh, which is way prettier than a city with “pit” in the name should be.

Photo of the river in Pittsburgh and a yellow bridge.

I don’t know if we ran over this particular bridge, but I do know that the half marathon sent us over a bunch of them. At one point, I didn’t even know which side of the damn water I was on.

After all of that, I went back to the hotel and took a nap. Because I needed to regain my strength before I headed back out to eat more food with my running people.

Now, I could tell you all about the delicious spaghetti I ate at dinner or how looooooong it took the valet to let me trade my car for that little piece of paper they give you, but I think instead I will tell you about the balloons.

Because we had two delightful young women with us, the roaming balloon animal artist (let’s just gloss over the fact that this restaurant apparently has a balloon animal artist for dinner service) approached our table. One of Heather’s daughters asked for a rabbit and the other one asked for (wait for it…) a snake.

But, and this is the important part, someone asked him to make me a mouse. Because these people know me. Sadly, one of the other balloon animals was a natural predator.

Photo of a small balloon animal mouse being vaguely threatened by a fancy balloon animal snake.

If I’d made a balloon animal snake, it would have been a straight balloon with dots Sharpied on the end for eyes. It probably wouldn’t have had eyebrows.

I saved him though.

Then I went back to my hotel room (alone) and slept some more. It was lovely.

In fact, Saturday was such a nice day that I almost forgot I had to run 13.1 miles the next day.

I was up early on Sunday morning so I could choke down my pre-race food, which includes chicken salad that I’d brought along from home. If you’re ever looking for something unappetizing, stare down chicken salad at 5:45 in the morning. But that is my pre-run food and it works for me and I wasn’t about to change it up before a half marathon. So choke it down I did.

It was supposed to rain, but at least it was warm, so it could have been worse. We walked toward the start line where Heather peeled off for her faster people starting corral and I headed to the back corral, which was NOT close to the start line.

Photo of the back of Bob and Lyda's heads. The start line is waaaay off in the distance.

There are Bob and Lyda in the foreground and there is the yellow start line arch waaaaaaaay off in the distance. We’d already come a fair distance from Corral D by that point.

It started to rain right before the race started, but it didn’t rain long and the air remained the perfect temperature. Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. What I could have asked for is a third porta potty break before I started running, because I spent the first EIGHT MILES thinking about how I wanted to pee but I didn’t want to stand in line.

I finally stopped after about 8 miles and waited in line for nearly ten minutes. It KILLED me. Up to that point, I had been making really good time. Frankly, I am still pissed that I stopped when I did and for that long. Practically instantly after I had gotten back on course, I started seeing rows of unoccupied porta potties with no lines.

Seriously. Still mad.

I gotta tell you though, training properly for a race is the shizz. I felt so good running that damn race. I really enjoyed it.

Photo of me smiling mid-stride.

Also notice my headband on my wrist. Thank God I purchased it at the expo.

I can understand how people get addicted to half marathons. Although, to be fair, I did take a substantial break while I waited for that porta potty, so I’m sure that didn’t hurt my stamina.

The Pittsburgh Half Marathon course is largely flat, which is awesome, but there is a hill at mile 11.5. I had been thinking about that hill for MONTHS while I was training. I purposely ran up and down a gajillion hills on training runs so that I’d be prepared for this one hill. In my mind, I was all, “This hill is hard, but it’s nothing like what that hill will be like at mile 11.5 in Pittsburgh.”

I may have overprepared.

I was aware of the hill, but I ran up that motherfucker—past, I might add, a LOT of people walking up it. (I also walked past the bystanders offering cups of beer to runners because, really? They wanted me to barf right there?) Now, when I say, “I ran,” what I mean is, “I ran reeeeeaaaalllllly slowly,” but I ran. Yay, me.

Then there was a downhill stretch to the finish line, which was killer, especially when I saw Heather’s family cheering from the sideline and I was able to run over and give them high fives. (Except I missed your hand, A, and I apologize for my terrible aim.) There is no better motivator than seeing someone you know on the course cheering just for you. Thank you, Team P! It was the perfect way to end the race.

The crowd support in Pittsburgh was really wonderful throughout the race. I don’t think there was anywhere that didn’t really have people cheering. And the support stations were fantastic, well spaced, and stocked with really cool people.

But. There was something that happened right around mile nine that eclipsed all of that. Remember Bec? She had told me she was going to come down and cheer me on and I knew she was going to be right around mile nine, which is one of the hardest miles because (a) you’ve run nine miles but (b) you still have to run a long way. I started scanning the crowds for her because I didn’t want to miss her if she’d come all the way out of her hotel just for a 30-second moment with me.

Dudes. I couldn’t have missed her.

And you have no idea. Just no fucking idea.

Photo of two people in full-body chipmunk costumes. They are each holding a sign. One says, "ROYGB!" and the other says, "FULL FORCE STIMEY!"

There are so many inside jokes in this photo that I couldn’t even begin to explain them to you.

That is Bec and her friend Dawn, who I don’t know, but who was delightful enough to answer yes when Bec asked her if she wanted to dress up as a chipmunk for the race and cheer on someone she’d never met.

When I saw them, I think I jumped three feet in the air, started screaming, and then ran directly toward them. I don’t think I tripped anyone but I don’t know for sure because I kind of blacked out from wonder for a second. After that, I had to give them hugs, even Dawn, who introduced herself as I wrapped my smelly, smelly, sweaty body around hers. Sorry about that, new friend.

I still can’t believe I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo with them. I so wish I had one. If anyone is planning to go support a friend at a race, you might as well give up now because it’s already been done and done better. I smiled about them and their ninja chipmunk outfits all the way to that hill at mile 11.5. Thank you so much, Bec and Dawn. I hope you had as much fun out there as I did when I saw you. You rock.

I think that is about it. My official finish time was 2:45:07, which still makes me so mad. (Stupid bathroom line.) I think if I hadn’t stopped, it would have been about 2:37:00 or so, which is by no means light speed, but makes me happy. According to my Garmin, my moving time was 2:35:28, which is an 11:40 min/mile pace. Fuck you, bladder. And lesson learned.

Said lesson: Even if you just peed six minutes ago, if you start to wonder just before you cross the start line if you should go again, YOU SHOULD. Okay, no more excuses, no more bitching. I ran a half marathon in 2:45:07 only walking through water stops and I am damn proud of myself.

Photo of me with my medal.

This is so not the most flattering photo of me, but it captures my happy just after the finish line and I love it.

Now, after finishing a half marathon, you don’t get to immediately sit down. You have to walk through a long finisher’s chute where you are handed things like bananas and water and a space blanket. I shuffled through there feeling pretty good and headed over to the spot where I knew my friends Bob and Lyda were meeting up.

Me wrapped in a space blanket

I was always skeptical that space blankets really helped keep people warm. I kinda thought it was a big hoax perpetuated by the space blanket industry and runners who were afraid to speak out against them. Turns out, they really do make a difference. I’m a fan.

Shortly after I took this photo, all the micro injuries and soreness that I hadn’t felt yet started to kick in. I located my friends and then we hobbled back toward our hotel.

I was staying through Monday morning, but Heather and her family and Lyda and Bob were leaving after the race, so we had a post-race shower fest in my room and said our goodbyes. My friends departed to slowly cramp up in their cars, while I stretched out on my bed for a nap. I definitely made the right decision.

I had made this decision so I could see Bec and her family again, which was also the right decision.

I left the next morning to drive home by myself, taking with me happy memories, a sore knee, a heart big with love for my friends, and encouraging signs that now live in my office to remind me of my friends and my achievements. All I left behind in Pittsburgh was a tip for the maid and a small balloon mouse.

A Taste of Spring

The great thing about running a race in Florida in March is that you get to go to Florida in March and it will be warm and happy and also the only time ever that you will be grateful that it is humid.

Seriously, it was awesome.

I was with my friend Heather (of Disney fame) and my friend Lyda (of my trip to run a race in Florida fame) and we stayed at Lyda’s family’s house on the beach.

Photo of me with a big smile on my face. I am standing in front of the ocean.

It was TERRIBLE.

I kid. It was wonderful. And there were many exciting things about this particular beach.

Like this jellyfish… (and all the other dead jellyfish strewn all over the beach)

Photo of a jelly fish on the sand.

I touched it. Then I felt sad that it was dead.

And these shells…

Photo of a big pile of shells on the beach.

I didn’t collect any because I didn’t think my kids would want any and when I got home, Quinn was all, “Where are my shells?”

And this crab guy…

Closeup of the beach with some shells and a small brown crab.

He was an anomaly though. I only saw the one.

These adorable birds…

Some birds on the beach. There are sandpipers in there and maybe some other birds.

I think some of them are sandpipers, but I don’t remember if the sandpipers are the big ones or the little ones.

And pelicans!

A pelican flying through the sky.

I know this is a terrible photo and this pelican isn’t actually ON the beach, but IT IS A PELICAN AND PELICANS ARE COOL.

This stick family…

Picture of sand with five stick figures (my family) drawn in it.

It took me WAY longer than it probably should have to draw these stick figures.

Sand…

Selfie of me on the beach with a very grumpy look on my face.

I find sand to be very upsetting.

These goofballs…

Photo of my friends Heather and Lyda.

Hi friends!

All of that great beach stuff happened on Friday. Then on Saturday we had to run nine miles, like saps.

Photo of four women runners.

This is before the race. Please to notice our friend Holly who didn’t stay with us, but did run with us.

After the race, we ate everything that we could find in Jacksonville. And I made my friends pose with every weird animal sculpture we encountered.

Two photos. One of Heather posing with a brightly painted jaguar sculpture; the other of Lyda sitting on a brightly painted sea turtle.

My friends are good sports.

Sunday was Sightseeing Day, also known as Lyda Faces Her Fears Day. Seriously. We did everything that Lyda found frightening on Sunday.

We started by doing an elevated obstacle/zip line course over an alligator park. Also, it turns out that elevated obstacle courses are vaguely terrifying.

Photo of Lyda and Heather standing on a platform in a tree. I am walking up a series of "stairs" leading to the platform. The stairs are dangling from cables.

Can you see the terror in my posture? I can. Can you see how relaxed my asshole friends are on their stable platform? I can.

That said, courage is not about not being afraid, but keeping on even when you’re scared. ‘Round about halfway through the course I got my shit together and transitioned from terror to fun.

You know what is NOT terrifying though? Ziplines.

Photo of me mid-air on a zipline. I am making a happy face at a camera.

Holy hell that was fun.

After we finished the “45 minutes to an hour long” obstacle course that took us a good hour and a half to get through, we headed off to tour the alligator farm.

Photo of Heather and Lyda watching alligators in water from a wooden boardwalk.

For the record, Lyda isn’t afraid of alligators.

Photo of Heather crouched down with her head inside the open mouth of a fake alligator.

Neither is Heather.

No, the alligator is not real.

The alligators were cool, but I really enjoyed the hayseed tortoise they had there.

Photo of a giant tortoise with a piece of hay sticking out of his mouth.

It is *great* to be inside my head. I find myself to be extremely amusing.

There is a lighthouse near the alligator park and on our way out, Lyda was all, “Ha, ha, I assume you don’t want to climb the lighthouse,” and Heather and I immediately replied, “Yes. Yes, we do,” which was unfortunate, because Lyda doesn’t care for stairs you can see through.

Photo of me making a face as I lean out over a spiral 15-story staircase made of black metal stairs, each step of which is made of metal with round holes cut in them so you can see through them.

Fifteen floors, friends.

The lighthouse was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I like lighthouses. I think they’re neat.

Photo of a convex mirror. In it you can see a lighthouse reflected with me, Lyda, and Heather standing in front of it.

I bought a little wind chime model of this lighthouse. It makes me happy. I also bought some fudge in the gift shop. I don’t know why they had fudge, but who am I to question their logic?

Selfie from the top of the lighthouse.

This is me at the top of the lighthouse.

When I got to the top of the lighthouse, I found some tourists talking to a staff member about the efficacy of said lighthouse as a safe place during the zombie apocalypse. I’d found my people. Even if they thought zombies couldn’t climb stairs. (They obviously can. They’re just not very good at it.)

We left for the airport on Monday at the crack of damn dawn, but it was even kind of worth it because we walked out of the beach house to this amazing scene:

Photo of a hammock suspended between palm trees in a pool of light. The photo is otherwise dark except for a crescent moon in the sky and reflected on the ocean.

Note: the reality of this photo was about 800 times prettier than this picture.

Photo of an airplane wing in front of a sunrise.

Then on the plane, I annoyed the hell out of my window seatmate (Heather) by elbowing in front of her to take 17 photos of the sunrise.

That is our trip to Florida. We arrived back in Maryland to what suddenly felt like extremely cold and grim weather. I gotta say, I see the appeal of living in a tropical place. Spring is a-coming to Maryland finally, but it was really nice to get a little preview.

Thanks for putting us up, Lyda, and for suggesting the race. Thanks for putting up with me, Heather. You guys rock. I had a blast.

A Word About the Albatross

I have an old college chum that I love dearly. For reasons that will become clear later, I will refer to her as The Albatross. The Albatross is a Badass. Please take note of the capital “B” on that word.

Photo of a large white bird swimming in water.

This is an actual albatross, not my friend The Albatross.

The Albatross is hardcore. At some point she discovered cycling and she fell in love with it, going on cycling adventure after cycling adventure, as well as any number of non-cycling escapades. My favorite is the solo cycling trip she took from coast to coast of Australia.

Yeah. Badass.

Her badassery is not the only fabulous thing about her. She is an all-around really cool person too, but that’s not what this is about.

I had the good fortune of getting to crew for The Albatross more than once for what used to be called the Furnace Creek 508 (and now seems to be called just the 508). That race was a 508-mile bike race through Death Valley. Apparently the course has changed a little since the era my friend raced it, but it continues to run 508 miles through the desert each year.

The 508 is where The Albatross became The Albatross. See, the 508 doesn’t assign numbers to racers, but instead gives them animal totems. I think my friend got the best one.

The Albatross killed her previous races, regardless of result, especially considering how punk rock her approach to them was—and trust me, it was. She also put up with preeettty unknowledgeable and haphazard crews with very little complaint. That is where the hardcore part comes in.

The reason I bring all of this up now is because The Albatross is flying again. She’s racing the 508 this weekend, presumably with a crew who knows something about bike racing and bike repair. I don’t know if she’ll see this before she races, but I hope she knows how many happy, fast, flying thoughts I am sending her way.

Friend, you are amazing. Go get that 508. Fly, Albatross. I love you.

UPDATED: She did it!!!!!!!!!!!!! She crossed the finish line in 41 hours and 48 minutes. That is a hell of a lot of bike riding. You rock so hard, friend!!!