Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Surprised on the Trail

Since July I have been trying to get into better shape and healthier (mainly because my doctor keeps yelling at me and also because I haven't been feeling all that great), so I started walking.
Spur Trail
I have been using the Spur Trail in Rancho Viejo. When I first started I was walking 1 to 2 miles each morning. Slowly I began increasing my distance and eventually I was walking the entire length of the trail in and out which yielded me six miles round trip. I try to walk everyday and I really enjoy the solitude and it is the perfect way to start my day. So now that it is winter I thought I would end up not wanting to get out in the cold and walk, but so far I am still walking and the cold isn't bothering me. I guess when it is snowing I will probably not go out and walk but that won't be too often. It has now been around 4 months since I started walking and now I am walking either 6, 8, 10 or 12 miles a day - it all depends on how I am feeling. I am feeling much better and I have lost 30 pounds so far. I still have a ways to go but I am sure when I go for my next doctor appointment he will be pleased with the progress. I have also lowered my blood pressure and hopefully my cholesterol (I won't know about that until January).

So this morning I hit the trail at 7:30am and I ended up walking ten and a half miles. The trail was very quiet this morning - I only saw four people during my walk.
My new little friend.
I walk the Spur Trail for three miles and then I turn right onto the Rail Trail and walk the distance I feel up to (usually I go 2 to 3 miles on this trail) and then I turn around and retrace my steps back to my car. I use Map My Walk on my phone which talks to me at each mile and at the end I get a report on how many steps I have taken, how many miles I have gone, how many calories I have burned and my pace per mile. Recently I was given a FitBit as a present and that gives me steps, miles, calories and stairs climbed. So I have a good record of my exercise and activity. I think the phone and the FitBit both give me something to work for. Each morning I can make a goal depending on how I feel and that works out great. This morning shortly after my phone told me I had walked nine miles I was caught off guard and surprised enough to squeal a little. At first I thought there was a stick in the middle of the trail but as I got closer the 'stick' moved, by this time I was about ten feet away from the 'stick'. I quickly jumped back as I realized that it was a rattlesnake. It coiled up and was rattling nervously. When I felt I was a safe distance away I took out my phone and snapped a picture. I stood there for a few minutes but the snake didn't seem to want to leave the trail - so I made a large arc off the trail to bypass this surprise visitor. This was so unexpected since I thought that when it got cold the snakes went into hibenation and this was why I first thought it was a stick. Finishing my last mile was a little less relaxing as I kept watch in case there was another visitor. I still had a great walk and a good morning even though I was unexpectedly surprised.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Payette River Scenic Byway

It's our last day in Idaho and we decided to take a drive. We started west of Boise in Eagle and took ID55 north which is the Payette River Scenic Byway. The byway is about 111 miles going from Eagle to New Meadows. The drive goes through Horseshoe Bend, Banks, Smith's Ferry, Cascade, Donnelly, McCall and New Meadows. The road is sometimes narrow, mostly two lane with passing lanes and pull offs, and has lots of incredible views. I had read that this road could get pretty busy during the summer months but even though there was some traffic it wasn't bad. It seems that there are lots of things to do along this drive. Things like riding the Thunder Mountain Rail, white water rafting, hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling, cross country skiing and zip lining.
We started our drive somewhere around 7:30am but we didn't get far before we decided to stop for some breakfast before getting on ID55. Thomas spotted a diner so we turned off and stopped at Eddie's Diner between Boise and Eagle. The place is decorated in 50's style and the staff was very friendly. We enjoyed a great breakfast and then started our drive. The first bit was a little bland but quickly turned into rolling hills where we climbed and went over a pass and then down into a valley where we drove through Horseshoe Bend. We passed the depot for the Thunder Mountain Rail and contemplated taking a ride but then decided we just wanted to drive - maybe next visit we can take the train. As we left Horseshoe Bend we eventually entered more mountainous terrain with tall pines all around us. The road curved its way along the Payette River offering us incredible views. We drove through Banks and Smiths Ferry - both of which are very small and you miss them if you blink. Then just north of Smiths Ferry we came upon Rainbow Bridge. A beautiful single arch concrete bridge spanning the river. I made Thomas stop before the bridge so I could take a few pictures. We continued our drive up to Cascade where we stopped at Lake Cascade State Park for a chance to get out of the car and stretch our legs. After 30 minutes or so we were back in the car and driving north. Leaving Cascade the landscape changed to more flat land with mountains in the distance. Here we were greeted with fields of either wheat, hay or alfalfa (I am really not sure what it was) and a plethora of cows. The just before we entered McCall the scenery changed back into mountains and pine trees. We drove through the town just to get a feel for how it was laid out. At the far end we turned around and stopped at Rotary Park. This is a small park with a tiny beach on the shore of Payette Lake. We only were here for 10 minutes or so and we headed back into town. After finding a parking spot we stopped at the Chamber of Commerce for maps and suggestions for where to get some lunch. We then spent some time walking around and window shopping before stopping for lunch at My Father's Place. We stopped here because we noticed when we first drove through town that there was a line waiting to get in - so we thought it must be a pretty good place. It is a small little burger place and we waited in line about 20 minutes. We ordered hamburgers and onion rings with extremely thick shakes. We sat outside and enjoyed our food and people watched. Once done with the food we walked around a little more before returning to the car and heading back to Boise.
The drive back was a little quicker because we didn't stop as much. I really enjoyed this drive. Very peaceful and relaxing and fantastic scenery. Back at the hotel we started packing things up since we leave for home tomorrow morning. It has been a nice trip but I will be glad to be back in  Santa Fe.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An Afternoon in Prison

Thomas had a full morning at his conference but he was free for the afternoon. So we agreed to meet back at the hotel room around noon. I spent the morning letterboxing - well trying to letterbox. You can read about my misadventures at Boise Boxing - Day 2.

It was around 11:40am when I arrived back at the hotel and Thomas came in at 12:10pm. We were both hungry so we decided to get something to eat before we went out for the afternoon. We headed in the direction of where we had plans to go this afternoon and ended eating lunch at The Trolley House. After a good lunch of salads and sandwiches we headed toward our destination. We first stopped at the Idaho Botanical Garden. Unfortunately it was closed for the afternoon for a concert. So we left there and went a little further up the road to the Old Idaho Penitentiary. But before we go inside Thomas ended up getting a work call and had to spend about 30 minutes on a confernce call. When he was finished we went inside. First we watched a video about the history of the prison. Then we took a self guided tour of the place. The prison has a very interesting history but the layout of the buildings seemed weird to us. It was like they really didn't plan things and just added space as it was needed. Maybe it was just us but it didn't seem like a good setup. Anyway we still enjoyed the place and it was a nice way to spend part of the afternoon.

When we left the prison we headed for the hotel and we both decided we wanted to get some ice cream since the temperature was at 94 degrees. So we parked the car in the hotel garage and then walked to Ben & Jerry's a few blocks from the hotel. We had our ice cream and just sat and relaxed for a while and then we headed back to the hotel. We both sat and read for an hour and then we discussed whether or not we wanted dinner. Neither of us was hungry so we decided to stay in and relax. This gave me time to get my blogs done and kind of organize some things. Now I need to get to bed and sleep so I can try more letterboxing tomorrow.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Relaxing Day in Boise

Well today was our first full day in Boise. Thomas was busy with his conference most of the day so I was on my own - at least for the morning. I wasn't in a rush to get started this morning so I ended up  watching the news and having a cup of coffee before heading out. Around 8:30am I got my things ready for the day and then decided to walk a couple of blocks from the hotel and look for a breakfast place. I quickly found Goldy's Breakfast Bistro. I sat at the counter and had more coffee and ordered an omelet (with ham, swiss cheese and tomatoes), hash browns and an english muffin. The food was so good and a large portion - I wasn't able to eat it all. Now that I was full I walked back to the hotel and got the rental car so I could go out and letterbox. I spent the rest of the morning and a small portion of the early afternoon letterboxing which took me around the town. You can read the details at Boise Boxing - Day 1.

Around 2:00pm I returned to the hotel and walked to The Lucky Fins and met a couple of people for drinks at the bar. At about 3:00pm Thomas and the other spouses joined us. We visited for a while and then we all returned to our respective hotels to rest and get ready for dinner. At 6:00pm we met everyone at a great steak place called Barbacoa's. Everything about the place was incredible. The decor was beautiful and colorful and done in a Spanish theme. The atmosphere was festive and fun. The menu was varied and with lots of choices and then there was the specials. Four of the people in our group had the "Hot Rock" Filet - a 10oz filet with cognac sauce and a side dish. They bring the steak to the table on a wooden board with a flat stone that is heated to 700 degrees with the filet on top of the stone. Then they light the cognac sauce and then pour it over the filet. They all said it was delicious. Another person had the Rib Eye and someone else had Filet Mignon Tips with Fettuccini. They both loved their dishes as well. I ended up with one of the specials - egg noodles mixed with crab, prawns and filet tips in a creamy walnut sauce - so, so good. We had a great time and were too full for any of the desserts they had - we watched when other people ordered a dessert and it was brought out - everything had the most incredible presentation. I would go back to this place in a heartbeat - the only thing was that it was on the pricey side - but worth every penny.

After dinner we returned to the hotel to get some rest - Thomas has a really early morning tomorrow. He was in bed as soon as we got back but I stayed up for while getting a few things done but now I need to go to sleep - it has been a long day.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Visiting the Moon

Today is our second day in Idaho and we have the whole day free - Thomas doesn't have anything until 6:30pm tonight, so we decided to take a road trip. We left Boise around 7:00am and headed east on I84 and then took US20 towards Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve between Arco & Carey, ID. Along the way we stopped at AJ's Restaurant in Mountain Home. After eating we continued our drive to the park. Before reaching the park we stopped at an historical marker about Goodale's Cutoff to look for a letterbox. Unfortunately we didn't have any luck! So we got back in the car and made our way to the visitor center at Craters of the Moon. Here I got my Passport stamp and bought some postcards and a patch. Then we left the center and entered the park - we paid our fee and got a map of the park and started the loop drive. This park is amazing - a completely different landscape from anything I have seen before and the name is very appropriate. We made our first stop at the North Crater Flow. Here we took a 0.3 mile loop walk through the lava flows. I was amazed to find out that there are many different types of lave flows. Spindle Bomb, Tree Mold, Pahoehoe Toe, Aa Lava and Pahoehoe Ropes are just a few of the different flows. We completed our short walk and then got back in the car and made our way to Devil's Orchard where we took a 0.5 mile nature trail walk. Next we stopped at Inferno Cone, Spatter Cones and Big Craters Area. There was lots to see and learn at this spot and the views from several locations was amazing. First we did a steep 0.4 mile walk up to one of the cones where we got our first views. Then we took a very short walk to an observation area and then we walked about half a mile up the North Crater Trail to the top of a hill for more incredible views. After this we returned to the car and made our last stop at the Cave Area. The walk to the caves was about a mile roundtrip. There are four caves here - Dewdrop Cave, Boy Scout Cave, Beauty Cave and Indian Tunnel. We went to all except Indian Tunnel. We looked into the caves but didn't actually go in since you need a permit and a flashlight and we didn't have either. I did look for a few letterboxes but came up empty handed each time. Not sure if I just missed them or if they were gone. Anyway, we really enjoyed this park and we were glad we decided to take the 2 hour and 45 minute drive. Our trip back to Boise was uneventful as we were just trying to get back to the hotel so Thomas could make his reception. I just had a relaxing eventing in the room. Now time to get some rest so I can explore Boise tomorrow.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Boise - The Capitol & Downtown

We are in Boise, ID for a few days so that Thomas can attend his annual WASHTO conference. Our flight from Albuquerque was early this morning so we had most of the day to do some things in Boise. Once we landed and got our bags we headed to the rental car counter and got our car. From the airport we headed toward our hotel - The Grove Hotel in downtown. It was close to noon at this time so we looked for a restaurant along the way. We found the Willowcreek Grill. We had some great sandwiches and it was perfect to get us through the afternoon. It was still too early for us to check into the hotel so we decided to head to the Capitol and take a tour. The outside of the building is typical of most state capitols with large columns and a beautiful dome. After taking a few pictures of the outside we made our way into the building. We entered through the front and were on the second level. The first thing I noticed was that there wasn't any security checkpoint. I actually love when it is like that. I feel that we have gone completely insane when it comes to security and having to go through metal detectors and pass belongs through x-ray machines take away from the experience - so I was very happy to feel this welcoming atmosphere. The next thing we noticed was how white and shiny the interior was. There was polished white marble everywhere and I mean everywhere - the floors, walls, columns, staircases - everywhere. At first it seem beautiful and bright but as we walked around it became a little uncomfortable. We started discussing why that was and we both felt it was too stark and clinical. I personally felt like I was in a giant mausoleum. A little while later we were still talking about the feeling of the place and I noticed that there wasn't any artwork or statues (except two on the fourth floor) or pictures. We started our tour on the fourth floor where the Senate and House galleries are located. and then worked our way down until we reached the Garden level where there is a visitor center and gift shop. Here I got my Capitol Collection stamp and some information about the Capitol. Don't get me wrong - we really enjoyed the building and it is very beautiful just very stark.

We left the Capitol and walked over to 8th Street to the Capital City Public Market. This is a Farmer's Market that happens every Saturday from April to December with loads of vendors. We walked about six blocks looking at all the booths. Since we were flying home we didn't buy anything but we enjoyed visiting the market. After about 40 minutes here we made our way to the hotel to get checked in. We are staying at the Grove Hotel in downtown, next to the Boise Center where Thomas' conference is being held. After getting settled in to our room and resting for a short time we decided to take a walk downtown and get a bite to eat for dinner. We weren't that hungry so we opted for teriyaki bowls at Yokozuna Teriyaki. When we were done eating we decided to walk around the downtown area for a while before heading back to the hotel. We ended up stumbling on an alley completely covered with graffiti art. We found out it is called Freak Alley and people have been painting murals and leaving graffiti for about 10 years now. Here are a few pictures that I took . . .

And here are some more websites where you can see more of the art and read more about the alley . . .

See the Street Art in Freak Alley in Boise, ID
Freak Alley Gallery Breathes Life into Boise's Art Scene
Freak Alley and Boise's Public Art
Freak Out in Boise's Freak Alley Gallery
Take a Walk Down Freak Alley in Downtown Boise

It has been a long day and we are both tired - time to get some rest for tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Win for Equality

Today the Supreme Court announced their decision on same-sex marriage. This is something that we have been waiting to hear about for a while now. I am over joyed that they have ruled that same-sex marriage is now legal nationwide. Thomas and I were legally married back in October 2004 in Massachusetts. Then in June 2013 the Supreme Court struck down DOMA making our marriage legal through the federal government. Later that same year (December 2013) New Mexico legalized same-sex marriage which made our marriage now legal in the state where we live and in the United States. We were extremely happy when these happened but we also realized that other same sex couples in the U.S. still didn't have that right and if we decided to move to another state we may lose the legality of our marriage. But as of today we no longer have to worry. I can honestly say that when growing up I never imagined that some of the rights and benefits we have gained would have ever come to fruition in my lifetime. I have so much hope now that the citizens of this country can begin to open their hearts and minds to accept diversity in all of its forms. I am thankful for all the people who have fought for this new right and put themselves out there so that my voice could be heard and I am thankful to the five Supreme Court Justices that voted in favor of same-sex marriage. You can read the decision at Obergefell v. Hodges. Here is the last paragraph of the decision . . .
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.
The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered."