Thanks, Big Guy

I am a worrier. It’s an unfortunate family tradition. But when we brought our big guy, Bentley, home from the shelter I had no worries-except how to get him in the car. But we did.

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He tolerated his bossy little “sister”, Abby who frantically announced in a decidedly unwelcoming manner that she was the boss.  She had apparently overlooked the fact that he was about ten times her size.  But Bentley calmly waited for her to accept him and in a few days they were best buddies.

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Despite weighing more than anyone in our family, he never threw his weight around.  In fact, the day we met him at the shelter the very fact that he calmly walked out of his pen past hysterically barking dogs on a loose leash and kept turning around to look at us melted our hearts and sealed the deal that he was the dog for us.

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While Abby would and did eat anything she could scavenge, including a herd of chocolate reindeer that allowed us to enjoy Christmas morning hospitality at the emergency vet, Bentley had a laissez-faire relationship with food. Although he could have helped himself to a DIY counter top buffet at anytime, he exhibited perfect dining manners.

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Our first dog, Murphy, would routinely burst through almost closed doors to emphasize her enthusiasm for being outside.  Bentley preferred that any door or space he passed through offer an extra-wide berth.  The concept of nudging a door a bit to slip through apparently never appealed to him.  We appreciated this trait since in reality we wouldn’t have had the final say on the matter anyway.

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As the years went on, Bentley was devoted to us, and we to him.  Sure he could fling his drool truly impressive distances. Yes, tumbleweeds of fur were omnipresent in our home no matter how much I vacuumed. But we loved the big guy. However, as docile and doting as he was with us, we learned that he didn’t always embrace non-family members in the same way.

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So my worrying began. I became hyper-vigilant about ensuring that Bentley didn’t have close encounters with visitors. I worried that he would greet people passing on the road too enthusiastically.  I worried he’d be impolite at the vet’s.  But always, unfailingly, he was passionately in love with his family.

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All I had to say was, “Where’s Hannah?” and Bents would perk up and look out the window in anticipation of her arrival.  Bentley greeted Amelia like a long lost friend whenever she returned to our home.  And Bentley enjoyed a special bond with Mike, overlooking the fact that Mike had initially been skeptical about adding the big guy to our menagerie.

Bentley even eagerly accepted new family members. Amelia’s husband, Matt, and Bentley played an adorable game of “How Much Dangling Drool Can Matt Endure” as well as the ever-popular “Cover Matt’s Suit in Fur” adventure. Todd quickly won a special place in his heart and Bentley would pop up every time Todd drove in.

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So when Bentley was diagnosed with osteosarcoma three years ago we were devastated. We were warned that he probably had only weeks or maybe months left.  But fortified with his handful of pain meds he kept going…and going…and going.

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We had our mental quality of life checklist that we visited frequently. Yes, he was happy! Was he enthusiastically greeting us?  Absolutely! Did he still enjoy going outside and making his rounds around the yard?  Definitely! Yikes!  He would even periodically playfully bounce up and down, an alarming sight anytime in a 140 lb. dog , but one which sent us running to squelch his enthusiasm to avoid the possibility of his fragile bones snapping.  But yes, Bentley was still enjoying a great quality of life.

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But, I worried.  How will we know it’s “time”?  How will we get him to the vet? How will we deal with Bentley, a grumpy vet patient under normal circumstances, when he was in distress? Will our aging Passat Wagon that we had purchased specifically for him and adorned with the BIGDOG license plate still be running when we had to bring our big guy in?

Eventually, we knew the inevitable was approaching.  The number of good legs Bents could use were dwindling. Getting up was really becoming a challenge.  He was even becoming cranky with Abby which was totally out of character.  But he still seemed happy.  He gobbled up the slices of deli meat I hand-fed him.  He still greeted us at the door when we returned and he always rolled over for a belly rub.

And then it was clearly time. Bentley went outside after struggling to stand up.  He wandered into the barn, took a drink from a water bucket, and went to lie down in his favorite spot.  When I heard some little yelps I went out to bring him in. But he couldn’t get up.  I tried all of my tricks, even attempting to lift him.  But he couldn’t get up. Todd drove in and I was sure he would get up.  But he didn’t.  Hannah came home, but no luck.

Now the worry about when was over but how was looming.  We had inquired about at-home euthanasia and had assumed that would be the plan.  But it wasn’t.  As we huddled outside with Bentsie covered in horse blankets on the coldest most blustery day of the season it became clear that we were going to have to bring Bentley to the vet.

All four of us were with him and able to lift him on blankets into the Passat.  We gave him one more car ride-one of his favorite activities.   When we arrived at the vet clinic the staff worked with us to gently sedate him in the car so that he slept peacefully while we carried him into the office.  We kissed the black spot on the top of his big furry head as tears ran down our faces and he quietly slipped away from his pain.

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Besides leaving us with years of memories and undoubtedly weeks of slobber and fur reminders, Bentley gave me the surprising gift of enlightenment.  I hadn’t needed to worry.  All of those seemingly insurmountable challenges that I had fretted over had resolved perfectly.  Sure, things could have gone differently.  But they hadn’t and my worrying hadn’t made the difference.

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Experiencing this revelation in the midst of this tough time was completely unexpected. Our hearts are heavy and there is a huge void in our lives. But I am determined to honor Bentley’s time in our lives by consciously deflecting needless worry and mindfully embracing this gift as I move forward.

Thanks, Big Guy!

 

 

 

Run for Texas

 

Although we live in Maine, far from Harvey’s path of devastation, we have close family and friends living in Houston. As the days of destruction unfolded while Harvey bore down on Texas, I found myself completely wrapped up in the events.  I eagerly awaited the emails from family recounting their experiences. Facebook posts marking family friends as safe were a relief.  Unbelievably, all of our family and friends escaped significant flooding to their homes. However, the impact of Harvey’s wrath continues for countless others.

One of the interesting outcomes from our quest to run a race in every state is that when we hear a reference to a place we have visited we have visual and experiential memories of the location. This is true for Houston.  Amelia, Mike, and I ran the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon a few years ago.

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We were treated to wonderful southern hospitality by all of our Houston family and friends and had an opportunity to experience the city, which we loved.

When this article from Runner’s World magazine showed up in my email yesterday I eagerly scanned it for ways to help people affected by Harvey.  The article is packed with information and links to ways to contribute to the recovery efforts.

The Run for Texas virtual 5K or 10K idea caught my eye. If I signed up for every virtual race offer I get each week I’d be running a marathon.  The promise of another medal for running at home has never tempted me to participate. However, this run felt different. The description states that 100% of the race funds from this event will go to the American Red Cross and the Texas Diaper Bank.  I clicked the link and signed up.  I was pleased to see there is an option to make an additional contribution beyond the $5.00 entry fee.  I printed out my race bib, although opted not to wear it on my morning run.  I think our neighbors already think we are a bit crazy so the sight of me running past with a piece of computer paper pinned to my shirt would probably have solidified their conclusion.

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The skies were filled with dark clouds as I started out.  The now insignificant dregs of Tropical Storm Harvey were due to reach us later in the day.

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I went past the familiar sights along my route and used this quiet time to focus on the cause for this run.

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Although I’m not in a position to physically volunteer to help out in Texas, running this virtual race did help me feel like I was “doing something”. Of course, me running 3.1 miles doesn’t make any tangible difference but pairing that with my donation to the cause somehow felt more significant.

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I’m probably the only runner not using a Garmin to track my running but I liked having this visual of my run as I crossed the finish line (AKA stopped running at my mailbox).

Our good friend, Terry (who also happens to be Amelia’s mother-in-law) is a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo volunteer.  She forwarded an email from this organization which provided additional links to ways to help with the Harvey relief efforts.  I chose the Houston SPCA. As a family with our own small menagerie, the photos of animals caught up in this horrendous event were especially poignant. When we listened to stories of people needing to evacuate their homes we imagined what that might be like if we faced a similar situation. Thoughts of how we would deal with our dogs, cats, and pony made the scenario extra scary and daunting.

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Returning from my run I felt pleased to have taken action to begin making my small contributions to help those impacted by this historic event.

I’m glad we know people in Houston who most importantly are safe but who will also be able to provide us with personal insight into how we can continue to make meaningful contributions to the recovery efforts as time goes on.

Here are some links to just a few of the ways to help:

Run for Texas

Runner’s World: Here’s How Runners Can Help With the Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Houston SPCA

American Red Cross

Have you considered making a contribution to help out with Harvey recovery?

Have you ever done a virtual race?

A Morning in Maine

 

As we’ve traveled across the United States on our quest we have been delighted with the opportunity to see a multitude of varied landscapes.  But we have also enjoyed being unofficial ambassadors for our state of Maine.

Yesterday I checked out of my daily routine and soaked up a beautiful Maine summer day.

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An early morning run in our neck of the woods started the day off perfectly.

Arriving at my favorite local beach early ensured plenty of quiet seaside space.

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The clouds and waves seemed particularly mesmerizing.

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Although typically “going to the beach” is virtually code for “sitting in the sun reading”, this visit I spent more time watching the waves swell and crest and the clouds drifting in ever-changing patterns.IMG_1561IMG_1560.JPG

The Maine ocean water is almost always numbingly cold even in the middle of summer but a brief dip into the surf provided instant refreshment from the day’s heat.

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When this little guy ventured close I took some time to assess him more closely and found his knobby knees somewhat hysterical.  His feet made me think he had snapped on tight little flippers at the ends of his tiny stick legs.

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Taking time to soak up nature was the perfect way to spend a morning.

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If you haven’t been to Maine I wholeheartedly recommend a trip.  And if you live here, I urge you to be sure to savor our spectacular home.

Have you been to Maine?

How do you embrace your natural surroundings?

Where is your favorite place to enjoy summer?

 

 

8 Days, 7 States, 6 Races

Our quest to run races in six states in eight days started with a boom…Boom Island Brewery Beer Run in Minneapolis, actually.

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“It doesn’t get more simple than this: walk / jog / run … drink beer … and raise money for local non-profits!” 

That first line of the race website described exactly what we were looking for and when we arrived at the brewery we knew we had made a great choice for our first race. Instead of handing out race bibs with numbers, we were given a blank bib and asked to write our answer to the question of the day.

“What would you bring to a desert island?”

I answered:

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And my sweetie wrote “My Swiss army knife” which made my choice even better! It  was amusing to read other runners’ answers.  “Beer” was absolutely a popular suggestion.

When the race started at 11:00 a.m. the temps were already in the 80’s.  IMG_1189

The not very shady but otherwise pleasant course crossed the Mississippi River twice before heading back to the brewery where we were treated to beer, music, and other festivities.

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There were a number of shirt options to choose from.  I think the one I chose perfectly describes our quest.

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We were happy to add another glass to our collection.

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Earlier in the summer a perusal of our trusty runningintheusa.com website had enlightened us about Mainly Marathons.  It is a company devoted to helping runners reach their goal of running races in every state by organizing a series of races on consecutive days in various regions around the country. By offering races mid-week in adjoining states it’s possible to run in up to seven states in a week.

We signed up for four races in their inaugural Prairie Series.

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Our first race of their series was in North Dakota. This race actually ran in Minnesota and North Dakota and runners were able to choose which state they wanted it to count for. All of these races start at 5:30 a.m with an optional early start at 4:30.  Although we had happily opted for 5K races, many runners were doing half and full marathons.  The temperatures were sweltering so the early start helped runners beat some of the later day heat.

All of the Mainly Marathon races are held off-road in parks, at schools, and similar locations.  Runners do a specified number of short loops to cover the designated distance for the chosen race.  The races we did had loops of about 1.3 to 2.2 miles.

They use a rubber band system in which after every loop you pick up a rubber band to keep track of your distance.

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We gathered with our fellow runners in Minnesota for the start of our North Dakota race.

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Before we walked across a short bridge to North Dakota where our race would start we received our instructions:

“Take this Dixie cup and run with it back to the rubber band table and then head out on the full loop.  Turn around at the zebra cage and come back for the next rubber band. When you are finished with your race go to the timing table and say, ‘I’m done!’ and they will give you your time.”

These are, without a doubt, the most unusual directions we have ever heard at the start of a race.  To be honest, we were a bit foggy about the details, but we followed other runners and asked volunteers as we went along.  We did turn at some sort of cage in what I believe was the Chahinkapa Zoo  but alas, there was no sign of a zebra although we did hear peacocks.  We also heard thunder which got progressively louder and was soon accompanied by flashes of lightning.  Part way through our race it began to rain but we were able to enjoy a rainbow and sunrise before it began to pour.

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The next morning as we entered the park in South Dakota the sight of figures with single lights on their foreheads moving silently towards us was a bit eerie and made us think of aliens for an instant. Quite a few early runners were already on the course.  As the sun rose we were once again treated to a beautiful sunrise and a scenic location.

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In all of these races there is one main aid station that runners go past as they do their loops.

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Since we were only doing 5Ks we didn’t need much but there appeared to be an extensive selection of food, drinks, (including individually marked bottles and cups for specific runners) as well as first aid and comfort items like bug spray, sunscreen, and Vaseline.

We finished our portion of the Mainly Marathon series with races in Nebraska and Kansas .

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We found the runners and volunteers to be exceedingly kind and encouraging.  No one was disparaging to us for “only” doing 5Ks. The atmosphere was very low-key.  There are no awards for placing.  In fact, given the number of loops that runners complete I think it would be hard to keep track of who was ahead of you.  Timing is casual-no chips, just a volunteer at the table at the end who gives you your time when you tell them you have finished.

The medal system is quite a collection of hardware!  You start with a medal and then add state medallions as you complete them.

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We really appreciated the opportunity to run consecutive races in neighboring states to avoid making multiple trips from home. And we found the series to be virtually stress-free (except for remembering how many loops to do and where the course went).  But I think we’ve probably done our last Mainly Marathons race.

Mainly Marathons is a for-profit organization (although they noted that they do donate a portion of their income to “various organizations”) and our impression of the event was that the focus of the runners was to complete their races.  While those are entirely acceptable reasons for races, we missed the feeling of participating in something beyond our own goals. One of the most rewarding parts of our quest has been to run races which benefited specific causes.

While planning this trip, Mike wisely suggested that we run a couple of races that were not part of the series in order to participate in events that had other beneficiaries. As the week progressed and the Mainly Marathon races became “repetitive and redundant” (note the Gilmore Girls line) the thought of running in a “real” race was refreshing.

The Head for the Cure in St Louis, Missouri was our final race and it was exactly what we had hoped for. This race, which is one of many held by this organization, is devoted to raising awareness and funding to support the brain cancer community. As soon as we arrived we felt a bit of relief to once again be running for a cause other than our own quest. The race took place in Forest Park which is a gorgeous venue.

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Despite sweltering temperatures

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the race organizers were prepared to keep runners comfortable.

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The race route traveled through quiet tree-lined roads in Forest Park. The addition of hills after four totally flat prairie races along with the heat made this race a bit more challenging.  But we persevered and were thrilled to cross the finish line and complete our 34th state race.

There were many groups gathering to run in honor of loved ones.  The stories presented about survivors after the run were incredibly poignant and really reiterated our feelings about wanting our races to benefit a meaningful cause.

We were surprised to hear our names called during the awards ceremony.  I (amazingly) won first place in my age group and Mike won second place. This unexpected bonus completely topped off the fabulous experience of this last race in our week of traveling the prairie states.

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In eight days we traveled to seven states and ran in six of them. We opted out of the chance to run in Iowa since we had checked that state off in an unexpectedly terrific experience at the Lagomarcino Cocoa Beano race in October 2015.

Once again, this trip provided us with the opportunity to run some terrific races and see new areas of the country-and an extraordinary amount of corn!  More about our travels in the next post.

State: Minnesota

Date Run: July 15, 2017

Quest Race #: 29

The Bottom Line: The Boom Island Brewery Beer Run was the perfect run to start our 6 state adventure.  We loved the idea of writing an answer on the bib instead of being assigned a number.

States: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas

Dates Run: July 17, 18, 20, 21, 2017

Quest Race #s: 30, 31, 32, 33

The Bottom Line: Running four races in four states in five days was an excellent way to check several states off of our quest list. It also gave us an opportunity to experience a totally different kind of race. This was our first opportunity to run a race with a Dixie cup and rubber bands!

State: Missouri

Date Run: July 22, 2017

Quest Race #: 34

The Bottom Bottom Line: Running in a variety of types of races during the week, culminating with the Head for the Cure, completely solidified how important it is to us to have the races we run benefit a cause much more significant than our quest. Looking back at all of the races we have done since starting this quest, the ones that are most meaningful are the ones where we felt our presence had benefited something much grander than our adventure. And we are looking forward to many more.

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans-Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon

The following entry is our last post about a race that we ran prior to starting this blog. Although it is ridiculously belated, our trip to New Orleans was one of our absolute favorites on this quest so I am sharing our adventures to perhaps inspire others to add it to a travel checklist.

We figured that running in New Orleans would be fun.  And it was.  But experiencing NOLA, as we learned it was referred to, went beyond our expectations.  In keeping with our goal of escaping from Maine winters, Mike had proposed the Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans in February 2014.  We dutifully put in our long miles despite desperately cold temps and snowy roads.  As we trudged along, visions of a warmer climate kept us going…literally.

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We arrived at Hotel Provincial on Rue Chartres and were delighted to find that the city was decorated for Mardi Gras although the height of the season was still a few weeks away.

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After a few minutes in the room, we hopped on the elevator to head out to the packet pick-up.  We were excitedly chatting when we realized the elevator wasn’t moving. Pushing buttons did nothing to change this.  We were stuck in the elevator.

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I snapped a photo while we waited in the elevator to capture this moment…and to help distract me from my impending claustrophobia.  I had the hotel number in my phone and amazingly there was service in the elevator

“Hello, I’m calling because my husband and I are stuck in the elevator and we wondered if you could help us out.” They said they would call the elevator repair people and offered to send someone over to us while we waited. Shortly, we heard the pleasant voice of the lovely employee dispatched to attend to us.  She kindly offered to sing to/with us but we opted for small talk. In a surprisingly reasonable amount of time, the elevator repair people arrived.

They worked for a while but we remained contained in our little space. Eventually, after some movement, the doors opened and we found ourselves at eye level with the floor. Although we could have hoisted ourselves up and out, they cranked some more and the next time the doors opened we walked right out – back at the floor where we had started. We took the stairs down a flight and saw the employees that had been sent to keep us company chatting outside the closed elevator doors. We introduced ourselves as the couple that had been stuck in the elevator, thanked them for their help, and left the building.

We boarded a trolley for the Convention Center where the packet pick-up was located.   Another couple about our age sat across from us and mentioned that they were running the race.  We told them we were running, too. They told us that the woman was trying to run a marathon in every state.  We told them that we were trying to run a race (albeit not a marathon) in every state, too. As we chatted, they told us their son was getting married on June 7th and we said our daughter was getting married on June 7th, too. At this point I began to worry they thought we were some sort of copy cat weirdos despite the fact it was all coincidentally true.

After picking up our packets we returned to the vicinity of our hotel to look for a place for dinner.  The Palm Court Jazz Cafe  looked intriguing and they had a table available so we went in.  We were exhausted, having begun our travels from Maine before the crack of dawn, and gratefully relaxed with a drink while a band assembled on the stage just feet from our table.  When we heard the first notes of jazz music I began to realize just how integral music is to New Orleans.  The music was absolutely phenomenal.  We truly couldn’t stop exclaiming over our good fortune to have happened into this spectacular restaurant with amazing food and unexpected and absolutely fabulous live jazz.

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We returned to our hotel, took the stairs to our room, and fell into a blissfully deep sleep.

The next day we walked the few blocks from our hotel to Jackson Square. Those blocks were lined with quintessential New Orleans architecture.

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Jackson Square was filled with artists, performers, and musicians.

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As we strolled along we encountered a young man sitting behind an old-style typewriter perched on a tiny table.  His sign said, “Pick a subject. Get a  poem.”  We, of course, told him about our quest.  He told us to come back in half an hour and he’d have a poem for us.

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This is one of our most unique and cherished travel mementos.

A number of canine friends caught our attention.

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This dog lay perfectly still and drew a great crowd and plenty of donations for his “proper burial”. When I bent over to add my dollar he turned his head and opened his eyes which elicited a laugh from the spectators.

Although we didn’t venture into the Lower Ninth Ward where Hurricane Katrina had wreaked the most devastation in New Orleans nine years earlier, the impact that catastrophe had on the city was still widely evident. Artisans in Jackson Square used materials salvaged from the wreckage to create works of art.  Bookstores sold reading material on the subject. The event was mentioned in conversations. Virtually every aspect of the city offered a reminder of what the residents had endured but also reflected their strength in rebounding from this tragedy.

On a much lighter note a bonus of our trip was an opportunity to visit with Victoria, a great friend of Matt and Amelia’s who would be a part of their upcoming wedding. Not only had she provided us with a fabulously detailed list of possible places to visit and things to do while in the city, she also arranged to take us out to dinner at a popular seafood restaurant, Superior Seafood.  Mike and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening and Victoria’s gracious company and conversation.

It was still dark the next morning as we left our hotel to walk to the race. The streets were foggy as other runners silently joined the stream of people heading to the start until a veritable parade of runners poured into the staging area.  The race was organized by corrals and we walked several blocks and turned down another street before reaching our starting spot.

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The scenic course traveled through various New Orleans neighborhoods with musical entertainment including jazz, rock, Cajun, blues, country and high school bands lining the course.  We particularly appreciated the sense of divine support from the gospel singers clad in choir robes as we approached the finish line.

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We crossed the finish line in our traditional hand-in-hand fashion.

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Although there was some post-race entertainment, we were ready to hit the town to truly embrace NOLA after having refrained from all of the “fun” the city offers prior to the race.

We  celebrated with po’ boys and a Hurricane,

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a drink that the day before we had enviously watched people sip while strolling through the streets.

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Our spur of the moment decision to take a pedicab tour provided us with an unexpectedly rich insight into New Orleans.

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Our driver recommended Three Muses on Frenchmen Street for dinner.

027 (3)The restaurant was cozy and lively, offering a variety of music, delectable food, and opportunities to easily converse with fellow diners seated inches away. We loved it. On our walk back to our hotel we gathered with others to watch several boys tap dancing on the sidewalk. This was one of many impromptu performances we enjoyed during our stay.

We loved immersing ourselves in New Orleans.

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This description of a potential residence caught our attention.

The food,

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the architecture,

and the culture

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created an experience that made our run in Louisiana particularly fabulous.

As we reluctantly checked out of our hotel the next morning we were amused that the desk clerk encouraged us to write a review of our stay on an online site.  We thought that perhaps she was a tad optimistic given our elevator adventure. But actually that experience had just added a fun story to be woven into the myriad of others that are giving dimension to these quest journeys.

State: Louisiana

Quest Race #: 16

Date: February 2, 2014

The Bottom Line: The Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon was a flat, festive race but New Orleans itself was the true prize in this trip.

 

 

She won!

I heard the text ping as Mike and I headed into the second mile of the Shamrock Run in Richmond, VA.  Although I didn’t look at the message then, I was pretty sure I knew what it would say. When Amelia ran back to us from the direction of the finish line she confirmed what I had quietly been anticipating.  She was the first female finisher!

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We had known that Richmond would be the site of our Virginia race ever since our niece, Annie, moved there a few years ago. When we chose this race in late January, Amelia signed up for the race, as well, and Hannah and Todd signed on for the trip. Having run the majority of our quest races on our own, it was such a treat to have Amelia’s husband, Matt, Hannah and Todd, and Annie and Sam braving the chilly temperatures and cheering us on.

Having personal photographers was an added bonus. Annie snapped this shot of Amelia at the start.

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And Hannah captured this photo as Amelia zoomed to a win and PR finish. I love the outline of her shadow.

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Amelia had been putting in the miles and hard workouts to attempt a PR.  We were thrilled that she had accomplished her goal and that we were all able to celebrate with her.

My winter training was decidedly less stellar but we had a good run and were pleased with our finishing time.  I even ended up with third place in my new age-group.

Hannah took this photo of Mike and me finishing. We’ve decided she should always come along.  We love her company and she took one of my best finish line photos.  Plus having her take pictures alleviates the need for our signature awkward post-race selfie.

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I think that the person behind us looks a bit like a leprechaun, albeit a big one.

We were a bit dismayed to hear the announcement at the starting line that they wouldn’t be holding an awards ceremony after the race as they had advertised on their website. They had also promoted post-race live music at the brewery.  That didn’t happen either. But since we had our own enthusiastic crew to celebrate with we toasted Amelia’s win and enjoyed having the opportunity to share our race experience with family and friends.

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We had plenty of time for other fun throughout the weekend. Annie and Sam provided outstanding hospitality and expertly steered us to one perfect restaurant or activity after another.

Lunch at Union Market,

fabulous ice cream at Charm School,

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Charm School is filled with nifty old school (literally) touches.

cocktails at  the Quirk Hotel

 

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and dinner at Vagabond on Saturday topped off with a leisurely visit to Carytown on Sunday provided us with a well-rounded sampling of some of Richmond’s delights.

Sure, venturing to unfamiliar locations, exploring the local venues, and chatting with strangers on our own has resulted in many memorable adventures on our quest. But having the opportunity to spend the weekend with people we know and love and celebrate Amelia’s win truly made completing our 28th state race awesome.

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State: Virginia

Quest Race Number: 28

Date Run: March 12, 2017

The Bottom Line: Running a race accompanied by family and friends is something we hope will happen again.  With 22 states left on our quest list there should be plenty of opportunity for more festivities, great photos, and fast finishes.

Onward to Oregon

Some portions of our Washington State and Oregon trip were planned in advance. We had registered for our races and made reservations at two hotels.  But we had opted to leave some flexibility in our plans. There was so much flexibility, in fact, that after our visit to Mount Rainier National Park we had nothing else on our agenda for a few days.

Thanks to this priceless Mother’s Day gift from Hannah,

img_6990and a bit of research we eagerly headed to Walla Walla, Washington.  Besides being a stellar wine area, I just couldn’t resist being able to say I had been to Walla Walla, Washington.

Leaving  Mount Rainier National Park meant re-entered “civilization”.  Cellphone service suddenly returned in a barrage of pings as day-old messages popped up from our daughters. They were checking in to see if everything was alright since they hadn’t heard from us in 24 hours. As much as we appreciate modern technology, once we had realized there was no service on the mountain we had stepped back from our typical urge to share our spectacular experience via Snapchat, texts, and Instagram. We snapped photo after photo but delayed sharing the experiences until we had left which meant we were truly able to immerse ourselves in the moment.

As we continued on our drive we suddenly realized that the landscape had changed dramatically and unexpectedly from verdant woods to this.img_3142

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We drove through miles of rocky hills that were punctuated by acres of irrigated vineyards and orchards.

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There were scores of buildings like this along our route with wooden or plastic apple crates stacked stories high.

We stopped at a road side market selling the famous Walla Walla onions.

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Tired and hungry as we drove down Walla Walla’s tree-lined streets that hot August night, these signs assured us the trip had been worth it.

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A dinner of scrumptious sandwiches at Olive paired with a glass of wine from their expansive wine list revived us.

img_6865The next morning we enjoyed an early run through neighborhoods close to our motel. Having an opportunity to see the regional architecture in new locales is something we have appreciated as we’ve been on this quest.

We loved the quirky coffeeshops that we spotted throughout the trip.  Living in Maine, we can count on a Dunkin Donuts every few miles.  However, we were much more impressed with the individual creativity of these western caffeine kiosks.

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img_3208-2We were determined to take advantage of at least one of the multitude of tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla before heading out to our next destination. As a result, we were in the Spring Valley Vineyard tasting room at 10:30 in the morning…and we weren’t their first customers.

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Although we had chosen Spring Valley due to their early opening time, in retrospect we didn’t think we could have made a better choice.  It is a family-owned and operated vineyard whose history in the area goes back for generations.  The wine tasting was extensive, sophisticated, and delicious and the staff was cordial and impressively informative.

Although the layout of numerous tasting rooms within a few downtown blocks makes it conducive to multiple samplings within a single stroll, we were content to hit the road and head towards the Columbia River Gorge.  I had made reservations at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon before leaving home to celebrate our 37th anniversary (a day early). As we drove to Hood River the landscape was mesmerizing once again. The wind turbines were everywhere. We couldn’t stop exclaiming about them and, of course, taking more pictures.

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Once we arrived at the Columbia River we were even more enthralled.

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The hotel was exactly what I had hoped for with its elegant, historic accommodations, gorgeous views, and impeccable service.

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As we settled into our riverside room we were treated to an opportunity to watch scores of windsurfers who were zipping along at alarming (to me) speeds. We had read in our road trip book that this area offers some of the best wind surfing in the world.

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The placement of the hundreds of wind turbines along the river now made even more sense.

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The view from the dining room where we enjoyed a delectable  dinner and breakfast was gorgeous.

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We wished we’d had time to embark on a bicycle wine tour offered from the hotel.

Although we were reluctant to depart the next morning we were looking forward to our next race in Bend, Oregon.

Along the route a last minute decision to pull off the road into the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint provided us with a spectacular view of another river gorge, some enlightening information about how the bridges were constructed, and the most dramatic signage we had ever encountered.

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As we approached the canyon we were relieved to see a solid, waist-high rock wall along the edge.  Thinking of the sign that claimed that “many dogs have died here” we could only imagine wildly hyperactive canines who upon scaling the wall well over their heads had inexplicably flung themselves over the edge.  Thankfully we could see no way a pup could inadvertently venture too far and slip into the gorge.img_3202

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A display beside the canyon documented how the bridge was built out from each side until it eventually met in the middle.  They showed photos of workers casually traversing a single plank suspended between the two portions.  Just looking at the black and white photos left me feeling woozy.

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If you look closely you can see the bungee cords hanging from this bridge.  We watched several people take the plunge.

We had chosen the Deschutes Brewery Twilight 5K Run as our Oregon race without realizing what a popular area Bend, Oregon is.  We were envious of the throngs of people who were swimming, tubing, and paddling down the Deschutes River that runs right through town.  We regretted not planning to add more time here in order to take advantage of this spectacular vacation spot.

As the name suggests, the race was run in the evening.  I ALWAYS run in the morning, usually before I eat anything and never having had more than tea and toast.  So I was consciously calculating what and when to eat prior to the race.

As we drove into Bend we chose a restaurant online and carefully followed our GPS directions to the location.  When we arrived at Bangers and Brews I was dismayed to realize they only served sausages…and beer. How had that not been obvious to us?  I chose what I thought would be a mild order and hoped for the best. But, alas, I have learned that consuming sausage and beer, even hours before a race, is something I will never do again.

But despite that unfortunate lunch choice and a toasty starting time temperature, we were psyched to be spending our anniversary evening at a race.

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We started on the grounds of the Deschutes Brewery and made a loop along the river. The course was scenic and often shady and the route gave us a sampling of the fun this area offers. We ran past people stand up paddle boarding down the river, enjoying cocktails on riverside decks, and generally savoring the gorgeous summer evening.

Mike was a great sport and stayed with me despite my snail pace although he was in much better shape and could have cut several minutes off of our time.

However, we finished hand-in-hand on our 37th wedding anniversary and completed our 27th quest race.

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The plentiful beer and great music made for a festive finale. We met a couple from Florida who were spending the summer in Bend.  As we often do, we filled them in on our quest and I think we inspired them to give it a try, as well.

 

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Our final destination of our week-long trip was Portland, Oregon.  Since we had no reservations yet we used part of our driving time to peruse a number of online sites and apps such as Hotel Tonight, Priceline, and Hotwire to get a good deal on a nice room. We have had great luck with websites that offer you a guaranteed star-level and city area without learning which hotel you are booked in until you commit to purchase the room. We like the suspense, not having to make the final choice, and knowing that we’ve gotten a terrific bargain.

We ended up at Hotel De Luxe which is a boutique hotel within an easy walk of the popular Nob Hill district. The room had nifty features to support the “Hollywood’s Golden Age” era feel that is the hallmark of the hotel.

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The lobby

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Vintage music was playing on this retro radio when we entered our room.

We appreciated the efforts to “set the scene” including this new take on “Do not disturb” and “Please make up the room” signs as well as the creative bar cart.

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Portland was uncharacteristically hot the day we were there.

img_6893 After a short walk to NW 23rd Street we revived ourselves by slipping into McMenamin’s Ram’s Head for a fabulously refreshing cocktail. img_6890

Then a stop at Salt and Straw satisfied  our yearning for something cold and sweet.

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Making a choice from this menu was a challenge.  Enjoying our choice was not.

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It was easy to see why this establishment was a hot spot on a sweltering day.

We made reservations at Papa Haydn then returned later in the evening for an absolutely perfect dinner to top off a completely fabulous trip.

img_6897It seemed fitting that this view of the mountains, which had truly been omnipresent throughout our trip, would provide us with our parting image of Washington and Oregon as we flew home.

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Quest Race #: 27

State: Oregon

Date: August 18, 2017 (our 37th wedding anniversary)

The Bottom Line: Running a race on our anniversary was the absolute perfect way to mark the day. Embarking on this quest to run a race in every state has brought us immense pleasure and  tons of surprising adventures together.

We loved visiting Bend and Portland.  The Twilight 5K was a festive, scenic race. We only wish we had spent more time enjoying all that the regions have to offer.