Another Year, Another Picture [School]

I have forsaken my blogging duties for most of the summer–everyone needs a break, right? But today marks the start of the school in HP, so Speed, Layla, and Emma are transitioning back into their school routines. Predictably, Speed is not excited about his junior year. But Layla and Emma are. Layla’s excited about moving into 7th grade and the Middle School. Emma is most excited by 5th grade at the Intermediate School.

So with all that, I gathered the kids on the front steps for the picture that Speed hates. Amazing to see how much they have changed since last year.

As for why Madysen is still in this picture, I’m trying to focus on the positive. She’s still lifeguarding at the UP Pool through Labor Day. And then? I’m sure something great is in the works.

Posted in Emma, Layla, Madysen, School, Speed | 2 Comments

New School Year Mean New Header [Administration]

I used to make headers out of random pictures that I just found interesting–and that amazingly enough fit the extreme width/height requirements. But for the last couple of years, I’ve settled on using the first day of school photos taken on our front steps.  Someday, Emma’s head will reach everyone else’s level, I think. So here’s the 2011 edition taken this very morning.

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Scenery, Glaciers, And Bears–Oh My! [Vacation?]

We’ve looked at Holly’s excellence in the Mayor’s Marathon and our various activities in Anchorage that weekend, so let’s wrap up the trip with a Sunday excursion down the Seward Highway to see a glacier, some wildlife and general pleasant surroundings, and have a nice meal.

But in reality, our Seward Highway excursion started on Saturday night when Holly rented a car at the last minute (and at exorbitant rates). I wasn’t involved in the process, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t get frustrated when we couldn’t get it to start the first time we tried to use it. It was a terrible, terrible vehicle.

Anyway, on Sunday morning, we had one final meal (and coffee) at Snow City Cafe, before heading south out of Anchorage on the Seward Highway. We weren’t going the whole 127 miles to Seward, just the first 50 to the Portage Glacier. Nevertheless, the scenery is pretty great. The huge Chugach State Park on your left, Cook Inlet/Turnagin Arm on your right with the Kenai Peninsula across the water. It makes for a very pretty drive. Even with the severe cloud cover and rain that graced us.

At one of the early scenic viewing spots, I used the iPhone Photosynth app to take this panoramic photo. It did a pretty good job of stitching the photos together, but you’ll have to click on the photo to expand it to get the best view.

Just a few miles further, we saw a pack/herd/flock/whatever of Dall Sheep chillin’ on the hillside.

Seriously, the views are awesome.

We made it to the Portage Glacier, which is accessible by a 1-hour cruise on Lake Portage. Reportedly, the cloud cover made the glacier bluer than a sunny day.

I must have taken fifty different pictures of that glacier, but none appear to be especially more interesting than any other, so we’ll move on. Of some interest is this other glacier barely visible in the center of the below photo connected to the Portage Glacier about where this photo was taken in the 70s.

At the other end of the lake, icebergs from the glacier collect. Holly was much more interested in the icebergs than the glacier–and only partially because it was 15 degrees colder out by the glacier.

Just a bit away from the glacier is the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center where we saw lots of cool wildlife. In order of appearance below: Brown Bears, Wood Bison, Moose, Musk Ox, Black Bear, Elk, and Porcupine.

My favorite animal–fittingly on July 4th!–was the Bald Eagle. Just a cool animal.

On our way back towards Anchorage, Holly had wanted to take the Alyeska Aerial Tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska where you can–on a clear day–take in the panorama. But we wouldn’t have been able to see anything, so we stopped in for lunch at The Bake Shop in Alyeska for excellent sandwiches (and a root beer from Ft. Worth?).

We made one more scenic stop on the return leg–at Bird Creek.

No complaints about the scenery, but we were both exhausted from all our walking, our late nights, the driving–and someone ran a marathon. So we were ready to head home.

Posted in Holly, Me, Travel, Vacations | 1 Comment

Anchorage Without The Running [Vacation?]

We’ve already covered the headlining event from Holly’s and my trip to Anchorage a couple weekends ago. So here’s a quick look at our time in Anchorage itself.

We arrived Thursday night around 8 p.m. (11 p.m. Dallas time). By the time we got to the hotel, checked-in, and were ready for a meal, it was almost 10 p.m. But you could hardly tell by looking outside since it was absolute daylight outside.

We had dinner at Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill, which overlooks the water to the west and north of Anchorage. The sun was still far from setting at 11 p.m.

The food was excellent as was the service. We discovered that our server was a leukemia survivor who has stood at the base of the hill at mile 25 of the marathon for a decade and whom Holly was going to be looking for on Saturday. Holly was happy to have met her.

After that great meal, we walked back to the hotel at midnight. Along the way, we saw many fellows of questionable character, but because it’s broad daylight, you feel safer than you would in a normal city where it’s dark at midnight. It’s odd.

We got a late start to Friday with breakfast at the highly recommended, seriously full Snow City Cafe. Again, the food was great (snow crab cake eggs benedict!) as was the coffee. While waiting for our table, we walked down to the waterfront. Supposedly you can see Mt. McKinley in the distance, but I have no real idea.

There was a park along the waterfront with this baby beluga for kids to climb on. Not really relevant except that I recalled Layla used to sing a “Baby Beluga” song when she was little (see the 3:20 mark here). I don’t really remember it, but maybe it was this Raffi song?

After the great breakfast, we wandered around the compact downtown. A lot of touristy shops that don’t interest me much. But we did find some interesting things. Like totems in front of city hall or the courthouse, some building.

Holly and I were both surprised by the abundance of pretty flowers around.

The reindeer sausage stand in front of the federal courthouse was great.

Glacier Brewhouse came highly recommended, but I didn’t care for any of their five local brews that I sampled.

We had the LLS Team In Training dinner Friday night, which was fine. Amazing to see the 565 T-N-T runners in one room.  And because we are talking about Holly, we had to visit Walmart that evening for some last minute race items she needed.

Saturday was mostly spent running and watching others run. We did spend an hour downtown (getting another Snow City Cafe coffee, etc.) before the LLS T-N-T Victory Dinner.

After dinner, we went down to Ship Creek where Holly understood that the Salmon would be so plentiful that they would be stacked up ten deep in the water. But we saw nothing but clear water.

We spent Sunday out on the Seward Highway, but we were back in Anchorage just before our flight home. We stopped into Humpy’s Alaskan Alehouse, where Man v. Food’s Adam Richman actually conquered the Kodiak Arrest Challenge.

Nothing looked that good on the menu, so I had only another local brew by Midnight Sun, which was better than anything I had a Glacier Brewhouse (Holly disliked the super dive bar atmosphere.)

As the final exclamation point to our trip, Holly failed to get a snowglobe through TSA, which caused much teeth gnashing. But we made it home–at 5:50 a.m. Friday morning–with Holly leaving for a Speed/Gibson Lady and six kid cruise at 8:30 a.m. I went to bed.

Posted in Holly, Me, Travel, Vacations | 1 Comment

Holly’s First Marathon Is A Success! [Running]

If you’ve been paying any attention around here, you know that Holly has been training for her first ever marathon since February. The culmination of all that training was a few weeks ago, on June 18, when she ran in the Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage, AK. We spent an extra day before and after the race, but right now we’ll just focus on Holly’s marathon.

Even though the race started at 8 a.m., she had to be ready to go and in the hotel lobby at 6 a.m., which isn’t as bad as it sounds since it was 9 a.m. Dallas-time. (Of course, we had been up until after 2 a.m. Dallas-time, so it cuts both ways.) Against all running advice, she had on brand new (fancy) shorts, LLS tank uniform, and long sleeve undershirt. Holly is not one for taking the advice of others. Anyway, I saw her off.

As for the 26.2 mile course, here’s the route. Notice how miles 7 thru 17 is in the green area? Most of that is a gravel road through the forest just short of the Chugach Mountains. And then there’s a couple of terrible miles on a tow path.

But the weather cooperated, giving Holly a beautiful day in the low 60s with the slightest breeze. Locals were complaining about the heat, but Holly was very happy for it. Nobody from her training group in Dallas was running today, so she joined up with Robert, a Dallas guy that she had run with once and for whom this was his second race.

Robert’s wife Joan and I went to see them at the second spectator area at Mile 13. It was a bit of a hike out into the woods but far more direct than running 13 miles to there.

We were very excited to see them come around the gravel bend at 10:37 a.m.–halfway in 2 hours and 33 minutes. Not bad. Holly was looking and feeling pretty good.

I restocked her with some energy beans and refilled her gatorade bottles while she grabbed an orange before they got back to it.

Joan and I headed to the spectator spot at Mile 21, which took us less than 15 minutes by car. It took Holly and Robert a bit longer. Holly arrived, alone, around 12:10 p.m., still looking great.

She stopped for just a minute to say that she had separated from Robert at Mile 18, and then she was off again.

Robert came by 6 minutes later. Joan and I headed to the Finish Line, which was West Side High School, but you could still clearly see the mountains to the east of town.

There was an announcer at the Finish who didn’t really know what was going on. He would try to read finisher’s numbers to identify their name and hometown, which went fine. But on at least two occasions he mentioned that the marathon was seven–7!–miles. The first time I wasn’t sure what he said. The second time he said it as a guy finished the marathon–making this his 100th consecutive month of running at least one marathon. The announcer: “One hundreds months times 7 miles–I’ll let you do the math, but it’s a lot!” The number’s even bigger if you know how long a marathon actually is.

So that entertained me. Meanwhile, Holly was being differently entertained by the last mile, which is tough since it’s almost all uphill, including a series of switchbacks. The switchbacks give you the false impression that you’ve reached the top only to find more upward slope.

But she made it,  officially in 5 hours, 32 minutes, and 50 seconds.

And she got a finisher’s t-shirt and this sweet medal.

Robert finished about 30 minutes later.

Big congratulations to Holly for accomplishing this big task. Very proud of her. When Holly texted Layla to let her know that she had finished, Layla responded: “Did you win?” Not quite.

Two final notes. First, at some point, she stopped along the route and took this one photo of a creek.

Second, despite having just finished a marathon an hour earlier, when we got back to the hotel, she took a shower and was ready to go back out into Anchorage. I was ready for a serious nap.

Posted in Holly, Running, Travel, Video | 2 Comments

The Official Big Graduation Remembrance [School]

Whatever my duties around here, I’ve been quite remiss in fulfilling them at least since Holly ran her Alaskan marathon. And while I’d love to say that it’s because nothing much has been happening around here, I cannot tell that lie. I have been waiting on some official photos and such to come my way, but it’s been about 1 part waiting on stuff and 7 parts lazy. But all that ends today, probably.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a month since Madysen graduated high school. And while my photos and video of the happening were awesome, the official video and photo are, well, more official. But I’ve spared you the trouble of reliving all 150+ minutes by cutting down the ceremony to the best 3 minutes.

Wishing you’d have been there for the whole thing, I’m sure. And now for the official graduation photo.


Posted in Madysen, Portrait, School, Video | Leave a comment

Summer Is Underway; Marathon Is Almost Here [Running]

It’s been quite around here for a while. I’m kind of done with the archive thing, having put up the archives from January to April 2006. Just a few loose ends to clean up, I think/hope.

I’m still catching my breath after the whole graduation thing. Nothing much happened that next week, but last week was pretty crazy, starting with Layla and Emma’s big dance recital on Sunday night. You can’t take photos or video because they are selling those. I’m still trying to make my way through the 2000+ photos taken during the girls’ numbers and the DVD is on the way, so you can look forward to all that.

The next day had Layla in her new glasses, which along with her height really makes her look old. Madysen and Papa took off for a three week adventure to Barcelona and Tel Aviv (where they are volunteering with the IDF), but not before Madysen got into her first accident. Just a little thing, thankfully, but she rear-ended someone while she was rushing around at the last minute.

On Tuesday, Speed got a warehouse job, which is perfect for him other than the 7 a.m. start time.  On Wednesday, Layla and Emma went down to Houston to spend a couple of days with my parents.

But this weekend is really big. Tomorrow Holly and I head to Anchorage for her first (and only?) marathon on Saturday morning. She’s done a great job training (as far as I can tell) and she surpassed her fundraising goal, so thanks to everyone who provided support. I’m sure she’ll do great.

We get back around 6 a.m. on Monday morning at which time Holly and Layla and Emma are heading out to a big surprise something. Not knowing is killing Emma. I’m sure they’ll have a great time, but I’m glad I’m not going.

Posted in Administration, Emma, Family, Holly, Layla, Madysen, Running, Speed | 1 Comment