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A culinary road trip?

Friday, 30 August 2013

Early yesterday morning Emma and I headed out for my a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,MN, for my sometimes annual physical check up.  After several frustrating moments the night before trying to upload the latest maps on my GPS, I was successful and it took me on a slightly different route this time to Rochester.  I guess the upload was worth it as it scooted me around all the construction that is going on in the Twin Cities.

By about 3:00 I arrived at my oldest son Dan’s home, and was surprised to find his wife, Crystal, home.  She has been touring the country most of the summer as a sort of expeditor for a famous singing group.  I wish I could remember their name, but it’s The ‘something’ Brothers.  I hate it when I draw a blank like that.  I’m not familiar with them, but that’s not surprising.  It just came to me that it might be the Jonas Brothers?

Anyway, she is often gone from home pursuing her career.  She is quite a good cook, so this road trip may have more of a culinary trend to it than a medical one.


Here’s what Crystal whipped up for dinner last night.  Tasty pork loin on a bed of couscous with with roasted green beans and eggplant.  I love it when somebody else cooks, and I’ve never had couscous before.  Made me kind of feel like I was visiting the Food Network channel.  In love


The multi-talented Crystal with her hubby, Daniel.

I was headed for the Mayo Clinic early this morning without breakfast for my annual check-up.  The Mayo satellite clinic that I go to is about 20 miles away.  That’s where my family doctor, DR. K., that I’ve dealt with for over 15 years, practices.  Even though I tried to get an appointment with her more than a month ago, they said she was not available.  Instead I was scheduled with some young doctor I didn’t know.  I wasn’t thrilled with that since I’d then have to go through all of my history and explain my lifestyle of the past seven years.

It seems Dr. K. is serving in a more supervisory capacity these days with training in new doctors in their residency years.  Imagine my surprise when Dr. K. stepped into the examination room and said, “Judy, how is life going in the motorhome?”  I was thrilled, and we got right down to the nitty-gritty.  I was poked, prodded, got a pneumonia vaccine, had blood drawn for the usual tests, and was on my way in short order.

Then of course, it was off to the Gonda Building at The Mayo Clinic in downtown Rochester for my mammogram.  They’ve streamlined things there as well, and I was in and out in less than a half hour.  I’ve been checked out and given the go ahead to continue living! 


Late this afternoon, Crystal and I met Dan at the Chau Noodle Restaurant.  I’ve never eaten Vietnamese food before, so this was another culinary first for me.


We started off with Vietnamese spring rolls as an appetizer.  They are wrapped in rice paper, totally edible, and come with a sauce that we used a spoon to drizzle through the middle of the spring roll since we were sharing the sauce bowl.  (Crystal is the one with experience here to teach me about this cuisine.)


For the main course, Daniel and I shared an order of PHO TAI.  It’s a beef soup with rice noodles, lemon grass, cilantro, green onions, and thinly sliced beef.  On the side is a plate of fresh basil leaves, bean sprouts, jalapeno peppers and line slices that can be added as you like to the soup.  I, of course, skipped the peppers.  The serving was enormous, and I can’t imagine one person eating this whole huge bowl.  Both of us ate our fill, and still had a quart to take home.  There were also sauces to dip the beef slices into. 

For me, my first impression was that the broth was delicious.  There was a taste, though, that I really didn’t care for.  I eventually figured out that it was the lemon grass.  If I could have this dish without the lemon grass, I would really like it.

This post is getting rather long, but I wanted to mention what I’ll be doing this evening and tomorrow morning.

_MG_9188Remember the furry “Three Musketeers” from my last visit here in July?  Yes, from left to right that’s Buddy, Georgie Girl, and Emma.  I like to think of them as the two young lunatics and one calm old dog.  I’m babysitting them all tonight while Crystal and Dan have a night on the town together.  They will return tomorrow.  I’m thinking this may be more challenging than grandchildren!  Wish me luck…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: The Making Of An Adventure Film

A few weeks back I posted a video called This is Backcountry, which was a fantastic short film that summed up why many of us enjoy the outdoor lifestyles that we do. It was an inspiring, beautifully made clip and if you haven't seen it yet, I definitely recommend you click on the link above and watch it now. If you've ever wondered how these kinds of films are made then you'll enjoy the video below which features some great insights into how this project came to fruition. You'll see lots of passion and dedication not to mention more of those amazing outdoor playgrounds that we all love.

Video: Unicycling Down A 14,000-Foot Peak In Colorado

Last Saturday Max Schulze was up before the crack of dawn to hike to the top of the 14,278-foot (4351 meter) Grays Peak in Colorado. He reached top in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset and then started a remarkable descent on a unicycle. The video below shares some of the footage from that ride which looks like it would be a fun one with two wheels but I'm not sure I'm ready to try with just one. This is quite the display of skill and agility. Definitely not an endeavor for the faint of heart.

Colorado 14er Muni: Grays Peak from Maxtron on Vimeo.

Himalaya Fall 2013: Teams Gathering In Kathmandu

It is hard to believe that the summer has nearly passed and it is time for the fall Himalayan season to begin. As I write this, teams are now gathering in Kathmandu for the start of the season, which is much less active than the spring but still draws hundreds of climbers to Nepal and Tibet. Many come to sharpen their skills ahead of an attempt on Everest next year but plenty visit the Himalaya during the fall to take advantage of a more relaxed, quieter atmosphere.

At the moment, the Himalaya are still shrouded in the storms that come along with the monsoon season.  Those rains will pass away soon however, opening up safe access to the big mountains in the days ahead. Some of the more popular summits for the fall include Makalu, Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. Everest sees few visitors this time of year, although there are occasionally a few teams who attempt a fall summit on the world's highest peak.

Our friend Alan Arnette will be atempting Manaslu this fall and today he'll begin the six-day trek beginning in Sama Goan. But before he left Kathmandu, Alan and his team met with none other than Ms. Elizabeth Hawley, the Grand Dame of the Himalaya herself. He wrote a great blog post about that encounter a few days ago, which you can (and should!) read here. He has entitled the post "A Morning with a Legend," which seems apt considering Ms. Hawley's stature in the mountaineering community.

For those who don't know who Ms. Hawley is, she is pretty much the authority on Himalayan climbing. For decades she has kept a definitive record on who climbed which mountains and generally a summit isn't official until she says so. She has a reputation for a keen mind, a sharp tongue and a long memory. Even now, in her 89th year, she can still make hardened men tremble under her scrutiny. She is a fascinating woman and it seems like Alan's encounter with her was a memorable one.

A number of the teams are now en route to their respective mountains and we will soon start to get reports on their progress. Typical of Himalayan expeditions they'll first begin with the acclimatization process over the coming weeks before waiting for weather a window to open for a potential summit bid. While it won't be nearly as active as it is in the spring, it should still be an interesting time in the big mountains.

Stay tuned for regular updates as expeditions get underway.

London2London Via The World: Sarah Changes Course, Heading To Alaska

It has been a couple of months since we last checked in with Sarah Outen, the British adventurer who is attempting to complete a self-powered circumnavigation of the globe. In my last update, Sarah had just returned to the water and was embarking on a row across the North Pacific from Japan to Canada. That leg of the journey was expected to cover 7500 nautical miles (13,890 km) and take months to complete. But earlier this week she announced a change in plans that will see her now make landfall ahead of schedule.

If you've been following Sarah's Pacific crossing you know that bad weather has hampered progress and in recent day she's had a difficult time covering any significant ground. Her slower than expected pace left her with the real possibility of being stuck in the North Pacific as the seasons begin to shift. Autumn and winter will bring all kind of challenges including more frequent storms and much colder temperatures. With that in mind, Sarah and her team have made the decision for her to turn north and head toward the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. The plan now is to go ashore on one of those remote islands and than eventually island hop via kayak all the way to the mainland. Once there, she'll climb back aboard her trust bike and start cycling across North America before attempting to row the North Atlantic sometime down the line.

Sarah's circumnavigation attempt is called London2London via the World because she set out from that city on April 1, 2011 and it will eventually be her finish line as well. The journey began with a paddle down the Thames River and a crossing of the English Channel. After that it was onto the bike, with a ride covering some 11,000 miles (17,702 km) across Europe and Asia that eventually ended in Choshi, Japan. From there, Sarah returned to the ocean and began her row across the Pacific, but a tropical storm put a halt to the expedition, forcing her to temporarily abandon the attempt. That took place in the summer of 2012 and in the spring of this year she set off once again with the intention of finally reaching Canada. That doesn't seem likely now, which is why she has changed direction, but this slightly altered plan will still allow her to complete her goal of traveling around the globe completely under her own power.

As of today, Sarah still has 330 miles (611 km) to go before she reaches the Aleutian Islands. That means she could be out on the water for several weeks yet depending on the weather conditions. Once she actually arrives at the islands she'll need to find a safe place to land, which can be a bit tricky for any boat. After that, it seems likely she'll wait for spring to begin the kayaking portion of the Pacific crossing. By the time she wraps that up, I'm sure she'll be ready to get back on her bike.

Video: Trailer For Ski Film Elevation

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Where I live the temperature today is expected to hit 100ºF/38ºC. It's hot and muggy which makes the arrival of the trailer for the new ski film from Powderwhore Productions entitled Elevation all the more welcome. At least it gives us some hope that winter isn't as far off as we think and cooler weather will soon be here. It doesn't hurt that his film looks to add adventure back into skiing with some backcountry excursions that should be amazing. The Trailer below gives you a hint of what to expect. The full film will be available on DVD October 1 with digital download coming soon.

Video: Three-Year Old Kills It At The Bike Park

If you're looking for a healthy dose of cute today you'll want to check out this video of a three-year old taking his push-bike for a spin through a terrain park. The little guy does pretty well all things considered, although there are a couple of wipeouts near the end. The kid will probably turn out to be a prodigy and in a few years we'll see more videos of him bombing down much bigger terrain. For now though, it looks like he's having a great time. We should all have this much fun on our bikes.

Mountain Quiz: How Well Do You Know Famous Peaks By Sight?

The Wenger Blog, a site that I regularly contribute to, has put together an interesting post that will surely test your knowledge of famous peaks. Their Mountain Pictorial Challenge presents us with images of 25 iconic mountains and provides and a brief clue as to the identity of each of them. It is up to us to then try to guess which mountain is in the image before mousing over the photo to get the correct answer.

This is a fun little challenge to say the least and the answers range from completely obvious to quite challenging. I was able to guess about 20 of the of the 25 correctly but it wasn't easy to say the least. You'll really need to know your stuff if you're going to get these right and the hints are only helpful some of the time. I don't want to give too many of the answers away suffice as to say that most of these are very famous mountains indeed.

Even if you don't have much of a clue about which mountain is which, you'll probably still enjoy the post anyway. The photos are quite lovely and some of them will inspire you to want to head out to the mountains soon yourself. There is nothing like a snowcapped peak to get your sense of adventure flowing.

I recommend having your morning coffee before getting started on this little "quiz" as it will likely tax your brain some. Good luck and post your scores in the comments below.

Yukon River Row: From Whitehorse To Dawson City In A Rowboat

The Yukon River Quest is an annual canoe and kayaking endurance race that runs 440 miles (708 km)  from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the Yukon Province of Canada. Over the years the race has evolved into one of the better known endurance paddling events and for good reason. It is a difficult, demanding competition that pulls in paddlers from all over the world.

This year the race took place from June 26-30 with 49 teams completing the course during that period. But the fastest time for completing the course doesn't appear on the official leader board. That's because a two man rowing team took to the water a few hours before the official start of the race to see if they could cover the distance faster than the teams in their canoes and kayaks. You see, rowboats aren't officially allowed in the race and in order to test their speed, the team of Steve Price and Colin Angus had to unofficially enter the competition.

Rowing in a 16-foot long boat designed by Colin himself, the two men set out just after 2 AM on June 26. The hope was to set a new speed record for covering the distance between Whitehorse and Dawson City but that attempt came up just short. The two rowers completed their journey in 50 hours, 50 minutes, which is just shy of the 49 hours, 32 minute record set in 2008 by a six-man canoe. Strong headwinds on the infamous Lake Laberge probably kept them from officially setting a new mark, although they did put up some impressive stats none the less. For instance, Steve and Colin's time was the fourth fastest ever recorded and the second fastest for a two-person team. It was also the fastest time recorded the past five years and nearly five hours faster than the best time in this year's official Yukon Quest race. Unlike the teams officially entered into the race, they also finished without any type of support and did so without ever stepping ashore, something that has never been done before either.

Part of the reason that Steve and Colin made this journey down the Yukon River was to show what a good rowboat is capable of. These types of boats can be incredibly efficient out on the water and the two men feel that they are often overlooked as a mode of river transportation. Their efforts were certainly eye-opening at the YRQ where they clearly performed far better than anyone else in the event.

To read a full report of their adventure checkout this blogpost that has more details on what it was like to row the Yukon.

The Rest Of Everest Episode 194: Buring... Stuff

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

It is Wednesday, which means its time to get your weekly fix of mountaineering in the form of a new episode of The Rest of Everest. This week the team is starting to look at possible summit bids on Broad Peak and after a final acclimatization round, they're back in Base Camp for a rest while keeping their eyes peeled for possible weather windows. And since this video web series doesn't pull any punches in terms of showing what expedition life is like, we get to see how the team deals with full latrines. Lets just say it involves kerosene. You won't find this kind of insight anywhere else!

Video: Himalayan Speed Training With Ueli Steck

There is no question that Ueli Steck is amongst the best mountaineers on the planet, in no small part because of how he prepares for his big climbs. The video below gives us a glimpse of that preparation for an expedition in the Himalaya. The video was just posted by Mountain Hardwear last week but the footage was shot a few years back prior to Ueli's showdown with the Sherpas this past spring. That encounter has reportedly turned him off from returning to the Himalaya anytime soon, but from this clip it is clear that he loves Nepal and the big mountains there. Something tells me Ueli isn't finished with the Himalaya just yet, but for now we'll have to settle for these images of him in the Khumbu Valley.

Two Teams Still Navigating The Northwest Passage

Yesterday I posted an update on the Last First expedition in which it was revealed that the team was pulling the plug on their attempt to row the Northwest Passage this summer. The four-man crew is en route to Cambridge Bay, which is a long way from their intended stopping point at Pond Inlet. Poor weather and an inefficient boat design resulted in slower than expected progress conspired against them to keep them from reaching their goal and within a few days, they should be off the water altogether. But it turns out that the Last First team isn't the only one paddling through the Passage this summer and while their journey may be coming to an end, there are two other teams who are pressing forward with their adventures even as the summer starts to wane.

First up, we have the team of Cam Webb and Matt McFadyen who have dubbed their journey the Beyond The Circle expedition. The two men set out in July from Inuvik in a small 17.5-foot (5.3 meter) rowboat that also happens to be equipped with a sail. This gives them the ability to harness the power of the wind when the can, allowing them to make better time in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. It hasn't exactly been a pleasure cruise for Cam and Matt so far but they seem to be enjoying their time out on the water and are making solid distances most days. They still have about half of their 2000-mile (3218 km) voyage to go, but they seem determined to see it through to the end. Watch for regular updates to their blog with more news and information on their progress.

The other Northwest Passage crossing attempt is by the Reve de Glace ("Ice Dreams") team, who are attempting to navigate the entire journey in a tandem sea kayak. If successful, they'll be the first to accomplish that feat in a single season. They set off from the village of Tuktoyaktuk in northern Canada and are paddling some 3500 km (2175 miles) to reach the tiny hamlet of Igloolik, which falls on one of the many waterways which gives entry into the Passage itself. The two men on this NW Passage attempt include Sébastien Lapierre and Olivier Giasson who hope to complete their journey in just 80 days. Find out more on their website, which is French but can be easily translated to get updates.

What is interesting is that all three of the teams, Last First, Beyond The Circle and Reve de Glace, are all roughly within the same area at the moment. The difference is that the Last First team is ready to go home, while the others will continue ahead. Hopefully the two teams that will continue on will stay safe and reach their destination as intended.

Many thanks to reader Steve Price for sharing these expeditions with me.

Tales From The Empty Quarter

Yesterday I shared a video teaser for a documentary film coming out later this year called Into The Empty Quarter. The film follows adventurers Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron as they follow in the footsteps of the famous explorer Wilfred Thesiger on a 1000 mile (1600 km) journey across the Empty Quarter – a massive desert that stretches over parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. We'll have to wait until this fall for our opportunity to see the movie but we can learn more about that journey now thanks to a story written for The Clymb by Alastair himself. 

The article, which you'll find by clicking here, provides plenty of insight into what it is like to trek through one of the hottest and harshest environments on the planet. The two men were inspired to attempt their expedition due to tales of Thesiger's exploits in the region, and Alastair says he had been planning such a journey for more than 15 years. In truth, he was probably dreaming about the Empty Quarter since he was a child and he first learned of the British explorer's exploits. 

Alastair and Leon knew that in order to make the trek on foot they would need to get creative. So, they built a homemade cart that was capable of carrying all of their gear and supplies, and most importantly their water. When fully loaded, that cart weighed nearly 700 pounds (317 kg) and the two men spent just one day training with it before leaving for their start in Oman. 

Just a few hours into their epic journey Alastair and Leon discovered that their cart was practically useless. When loaded with all of their supplies, it was nearly impossible to steer. The entire adventure was in jeopardy before they even truly got underway. They spent three days looking for a fix and for someone that could help them implement it. When they did, they were able to launch the expedition in ernest and what followed was at time glorious and heartbreaking, exhilarating and exhausting and inspiring and frustrating all at the same time. 

Read Alastair's account to get the fully story and you'll have a greater appreciation for what they accomplished. It'll also get you more excited to see the documentary when it is released in a few months too. 

Another 19 posts painted today

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A couple of days ago, my blogger virtual friend Merikay wrote about Re-Learning to See.  It got me thinking.  I always try to see the little details around me during my days, but a reminder to stop, and look, and wonder, is always welcome.  So as I headed out to paint my 19 posts for the day, I kept that in mind.  I hope you enjoy what I found today.


There was a pretty heavy fog around this morning as a result of the rain last night, and the abnormally high temps and humidity.  I just had to stop the truck and admire these delicate spider webs that were made so visible by the foggy dew.  Each of us creatures on earth make our own way through this world, but what beauty and symmetry I observed in the high branches.  Yep, it was one of those times to stop, and look, and wonder…  Of course, the guy in the Speedy Delivery van gave me on odd look, and probably didn’t appreciate me stopping in the middle of the road with my door open.  Disappointed smile

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After I finished my first four posts in the blazing hot sun, I headed across the street to paint the more shaded gate posts for the River Road Trail.  The gate was bordered on each side by large boulders left by the glaciers in times long past.  But I just had to wonder about these bluish lichens that were living on the boulders.  I sure wished I had my friend Jack’s macro lens when I took these shots.


When you are out painting posts by yourself for six hours a day, you have a lot of time to ponder things.  This sign made me ponder.  Do you see what’s wrong with this picture?


Yeah, some idiot with a shotgun decided to take a blast at this sign that designates a handicapped accessible fishing pier.  What’s up with that?  Can anyone explain to me why some people think it’s so macho to shoot at signs?  In my mind it ranks right up there with throwing your trash out your vehicle window.  However, I’d like you all to notice the beautiful stain job on the sign posts!  Open-mouthed smile

73 Tamarac NWR, 201329

I tried to identify the wild flowers in tonight’s post, but after consulting my Minnesota wildflower book I’m still not sure.

IMG_9411 IMG_9416

I’m hoping the guru of Minnesota wildflowers, and fellow blogger that writes Far Side of Fifty, will help me out here. 


I also found some little red berries ripening.  They looked luscious, but since I don’t know what they are, I wasn’t about to taste them no matter how much I was tempted.

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So, it was a day observing and enjoying the little things in life as I made my way through painting today’s 19 posts.  Thanks, Merikay, for the reminder.

Since I’m leaving on Thursday for a weekend down in Rochester for my Mayo Clinic appointments, I decided to do a load of laundry tonight in preparation.  I figured I’d just hang the clothes out on the line tonight, and they’d dry tomorrow during this continued hot spell.  What I didn’t count on was hanging the clothes out just at dusk.  Uff-da!  I was reminded in a very short time that the mosquitoes are still here in full force at dusk, and I was wearing shorts.  You can guess the results.  I have to quit now to scratch my legs!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: Highlining Over Moab

I enjoy a good adrenaline rush from time to time, but I'm not sure my heart could take highlining across an open canyon. This looks crazy scary, even with safety lines in place. In this video the craz-...err I mean... brave participants are waling a thin rope above a large chasm. Definitely not for the feint of heart.

Video: Into The Empty Quarter HD Trailer

Last year, adventurers Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron set off on a journey to cross the Empty Quarter, a massive desert in Arabia that stretches throughout parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It was a 1000-mile (1609 km) journey on foot into one of the most remote places on our planet as they followed in the footsteps of Wilfred Thesiger, a British explorer who famously traveled through the desert on his best known expeditions.

This fall, a documentary about Alastair and Leon's journey will be released. That film is entitled Into The Empty Quarter and it will give us, the viewers, an opportunity to witness their adventure first hand while catching a glimpse of the amazing desert that enthralled them and Thesiger. The trailer for that film can be found below and based on what is shown here, it looks like a movie we won't want to miss.

Rowing The Northewest Passage: The Last First Expedition Nears End

One of the adventures that we've been following this summer has been the Last First expedition, which is the attempt by four men to row the Northwest Passage from Inuvik to Pond Inlet. The team got underway back in July and had hoped to cover some 3000 km (1865 miles) along their route. Now, 70 days into the journey they're just hoping to hold on and make their way to an abbreviated finish line in Cambridge Bay. That end is in sight, but like all things have been with this expedition, the final few days won't be easy.

The team is made up of experienced adventurers who all have previous experience on difficult expeditions. The crew consists of Kevin Vallely, Paul Gleeson, Frank Wolf and Denis Barnett. They've been rowing a specially built 25-foot rowboat through the Arctic with the hope of reaching Pond Inlet for days, but they simply haven't been able to travel as fast and often as they would like. This summer has seen more ice in the Passage than was previously anticipated and frequent storms have often hindered their progress as well. As a result, there is no possible way for them to reach their intended destination before the season comes to an end.

With that in mind, they've pointed their rowboat towards Cambridge Bay and hope to reach it sometime in the next few days. But before they can row back to land they must first address another problem. The  team's fresh water supply has become contaminated with sea water and they must replenish it with some fresh water first. Today they will stay close to the shoreline while they search for a stream with which they can refill their water tank. If that can be quickly and easily taken care of, they will then proceed towards the end.

Judging from their latest blog entries I'd say the boys are ready to be done with their time in the Northwest Passage, even if it means they won't be completing their original objectives. It has been a difficult and demanding journey that has tested them in ways that they didn't expect. Progress has been painstakingly slow or nonexistent at times, which has been a constant source of frustration. If the weather holds and the seas cooperate, they should reach Cambridge Bay within the next 3-4 days, bringing an end to their row.

Keen Launches "Build Your Own Shoe" Option

One of the coolest things I saw at this year's Outdoor Retailer gear show was a sneak peek from Keen on their new option to build your own custom version of their classic Newport Sandals. In a cool behind the scenes demo, I got an early look at a website that would allow customers to choose colors for various parts of the shoe, including the laces, soles and even the individual straps. At the end of the demo we were told that the new website was in beta testing but would go live soon, and true to their word, Keen launched the "Build Your Own Keen" option last week and I was fortunate enough to get the chance to take it for a test drive.

The Newport is the perfect shoe for Keen to use to introduce this new option. After all, is the sandal that put the company on the map and has remained a mainstay in their line-up for the past ten years. This is a shoe that is durable, comfortable and versatile enough to go with you just about anywhere and my aging pair have been with me on many adventures. The close toed design makes them a great option for hiking trails, paddling rivers or just kicking around camp. They're even stylish enough that you'll enjoy wearing them on your urban adventures too.

Knowing what I know about these shoes and Keen's new option for building your own custom designs, I was eager to see just what the new website would allow a customer to do. I was not disappointed. Choosing from numerous color options and patterns I was able to create a one of a kind pair of Newports that aren't likely be matched by anyone who crosses my path. The colors options allow you to be as conservative or wild as you want and it is possible to select each and ever individual strap, giving you the ability to create some truly outrageous looking shoes.

The site is incredibly easy to use, but more than that it is also incredibly addictive. I hopped on to see what it could do figuring I'd spend 10-15 minutes putting together something that I liked. An hour later I realized that I was never going to complete my order unless I stopped playing around and made some tough decisions about which color combos to go with. I eventually did just that but not before lamenting the various choices that I had to reject in favor of my final choices

Building your own custom Newport sandals will set you back $130, which is $30 more than buying a pair off the rack. Not bad for a pair of shoes that is completely built to your specifications and expresses your own individuality. Keen says that it takes approximately 2-3 weeks to get your shoes after they've been ordered and my pair hasn't arrived yet. Once they do get here, I'll do a follow-up post with my thoughts on the final project. I suspect it will be indistinguishable from any other pair of Newports in terms of quality and comfort, it'll just happen to be of a design of my own creation.

Try your hand at building your own custom Keen sandals by clicking here.

Back in the saddle again

Monday, 26 August 2013

Yep, it was post painting time for me once again this morning after the staff meeting that lasted better than an hour.  The temps are up, the humidity is up, but I’m on a mission to paint all of these posts before I leave here next month.  When I can leave first thing in the morning, I generally get 20 various posts painted before I fizzle out. 


By the time I got out of the meeting, gathered my supplies, and gassed up the refuge truck, it was 10:00 o’clock today.  That didn’t bode well for reaching a 20 post average.

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Of course I always bring my cameras along, and that meant I had a nice view of this young bald eagle today near the Chippewa picnic area. 


A couple of weeks ago, this youngster’s constant screeching for food about drove me nuts for three hours as I painted all of the posts around the picnic area.  I was happy to see today that it has finally fledged off of the nearby nest, and wasn’t quite so vocal.  At this stage in their life, they probably weigh more than their adult parents.  It has a lot of learning to do in the next 4-5 years.  I wish it well, and hope it learns its lessons well enough to be one of the survivors.

I only got 11 posts painted today before I had to return to the rig for a fresh set of clothes.  It was into the 90’s by noon, and with the humidity and stillness of the air, my clothes were soaked through with perspiration (I’ve been told ladies don’t say sweat Winking smile). 


After lunch, I made my weekly circuit of the refuge roads to restock all of the brochures in the kiosks.  It always amazes me how many brochures are taken each week.  I think lots more people visit this refuge than gets recorded.  I’m pleased to know that, buy it still surprises me since we’re a bit off the beaten track.

I found another pair of trumpeter swans with two rather young surviving signets today.  It’s almost September, so I hope they have enough time to grow up and move on by the time the lakes start to freeze. 

There’s a severe thunderstorm watch posted for tonight.  Emma and I just got back into the rig from outside before the skies opened up.  With as dry as it has been, I hope we get a good easy rain tonight.  With the skies rumbling away, I put Emma in her thunder shirt.  It sure seems to help her quit that constant pacing that drives me up the wall.  All the noise from the thunder made me remember what my mother told me when I was little.  She said all that noise was people bowling up in heaven.  I guess the fall bowling leagues have started…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy  

Video: Beauty In The Eye Of The Beholder

These timelapse videos keep getting more and more impressive. This most recent one was shot in the Canadian Rockies, Southern Appalachians and the Sierra Nevada Ranges and as we've come to expect it is three and a half minutes of eye candy. If you're looking for a beautiful way to wind down a Monday, you'll certainly appreciate this short film.

Eye of the Beholder from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

Video: NASA Remembers Neil Armstrong

Yesterday marked one year since the death of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon. In tribute to the quiet astronaut who stayed mostly out of the limelight in his later years, NASA released this touching tribute video. The song is aptly entitled Tranquility Base by Eric Brace and it is the perfect background music for some amazing photos from the moon.

Explorer Announces Expedition To Tibesti Mountains In The Sahara

Irish explorer Jeremy Curl has announced an interesting and ambitious expedition and is asking for support on Kickstarter to make it a reality. Curl is hoping to make a journey deep into the heart of the Sahara Desert as he goes in search of a seldom contacted tribe that lives there and to document some of the oldest rock art on the planet.

Dubbed Expedition Tibesti 13, the plan is to visit a remote volcanic region located in northern Chad that is home to the Tibesti Mountains. This long chain of peaks features a series of summits that rise above 3000 meters (9842 ft) and form a bit of an oasis from the harsh desert that surrounds them. The slopes of these mountains provide a bit of a respite from the Sahara, giving the Toubou tribe, which is sometimes called the Tedu, who live there a place to graze their animals and grow some meager crops.

Because the Tibesti Range is surrounded on all sides by 1000 km (621 miles) of desert, they are seldom visited by outsiders. The Toubou have lived there for more than 2000 years and have managed to maintain their culture even in the modern age, thanks in no small part to their isolation. The mountains have served as a fortress for the tribe for centuries, helping them to maintain their way of life with little interference from the outside world. Something that is becoming increasingly unique across the globe.

Curl would like to visit the Toubou villages and document their way of life, while also photographing and cataloging the extensive rock art that exists throughout the region. Some of the art work is estimated to be more than 10,000 years old and it often depicts a world that is very different than the one that is found in the Tibesti Mountains today. The images on the caves show indigenous hunter and gatherers in their daily lives but also animals such as giraffes and elephants that simply don't exist there now. It is a record of change in the Sahara and a portal into our past.

As mentioned, Curl has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund this adventure. He is seeking £6000 ($9350) to get his expedition off the ground and as of today he has earned roughly £930 ($1450) towards that goal. There are still 27 days to go in the campaign however, so there is a good chance that he'll achieve the numbers he is looking for. You can find out more about Jeremy's adventure in the video below, which includes a message from the explorer himself.

I have to admit that I have a bit of mixed feeling about using Kickstarter as a method for funding an expedition. On the one hand, Curl's story is a compelling one and I'd love to learn more about the Toubou people, but on the other hand I'm not sure I agree with asking others to pay for your adventure. It is a slippery slope to say the least and obviously this approach circumvents the traditional sponsorship methods used in the past. In the long run, I suppose it is just another way to get an expedition off the ground and as long as the backers don't feel cheated then it is all good. Lets hope that is the case here.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Update: Tejay Wins!

Yesterday the USA Pro Cycling Challenge wrapped up in Denver, Colorado on a flat and fast stage that favored the sprinters. It was a fitting way to end the seven day event that continues to improve every year and grow in prominence on the cycling calendar. As usual, the race offered plenty of climbing and altitude for the riders to contend with, but the course was set-up this year to let the sprinters shine as well and one man certainly took good advantage of those opportunities.

As we suspected on Friday, it was going to be tough to catch Tejay van Garderen, who held a 30 second lead over his closest rivals. Saturday and Sunday's stages were not conducive for others to try to make up that time so it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would head for the finish line with the Yellow Jersey on his back. That proved to be accurate and van Garderen went home as the winner. Second place went to his BMC teammate Mathias Frank while Tom Danielson of Garmin-Sharp locked down third place.

In the race for the other jerseys, it was Peter Sagan of Cannondale who proved to be too tough to beat in the points competition. The sprinter walked away with a victory on four of the seven stages, including yesterday's final ride through Denver. The award for the best young rider in the race when to Garmin-Sharp's Lachlan Morton and the King of the Mountain jersey was awarded to American Matt Cooke riding on Team Jamis-Hagens Berman Presented by Sutter Home (how's that for a mouthful?).

That wraps up another great race for this three-year old event that has become a popular one with riders. Each year, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge continues to draw some of the best riders in the world and the future for the event seems bright. Lets hope the race is around for a long time to come.

Just melting away here

Sunday, 25 August 2013

When I got back from running to town on Friday, the temps had risen into the 90’s.  I thought perhaps we were done with those hot humid days up here for this year, but the heat wave is supposed to continue until at least Thursday.  It’s not cooling down enough for my tastes at night either.

So, I’ve pretty much spent the weekend indoors with the AC on.  Yesterday morning, Steve was scheduled to pull out of here and begin his journey to the Pacific Northwest.  As he was hooking up his toad, I mentioned that the wind seemed kind of strong.  He headed out anyway.  Personally, I would have sat still for another day.  The winds ended up being gale force, and some of my outside furniture and a rug took flight during one of the tremendous gusts.  I never even considered putting out my big awning to shade the rig.  It would have ended up in Canada, I think.  I even pulled in my small awnings over two of the windows on the driver’s side of the rig.  The wind was that strong all day.

Then, this morning, about 5:00, a real thunder buster rolled through out of the northwest.  Made me sit up and take notice in bed.  Thankfully it didn’t last too long, but the winds as that little front moved through really got things rocking.  It was really more noise and wind than productive rain, but of course I had accidentally left the driver’s side window open on the car.  Sad smile  The seat was quite wet and covered with pine needles that had flown in.

Since it was going to be too hot for me to do any sightseeing this weekend, I decided to do some cooking instead.  I have some favorite recipes, but they make enough for a family.  With my travels beginning in about a month, I thought I’d get some dinners frozen for driving days on the road.

IMG_9386 IMG_9388

I seldom if ever put recipes on this blog, but this casserole is so tasty and easy, I thought some of you ladies might like to try it.


1 10 oz. can of chunk white chicken, drained

4 cups frozen broccoli cuts (I use one bunch of fresh broccoli tops)

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

3/4 cup mayonnaise (don’t be using Miracle Whip, now. Winking smile)

1  teaspoon of lemon juice (I didn’t have any, so put in a squirt of wine instead)

1 teaspoon of curry powder

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I love cheese, so I probably use a cup)

Bread crumbs

Layer broccoli in a 7”X11” baking dish.  Top with chicken.  (Since I also love mushrooms, I also add a layer of drained whole button mushrooms)  In a separate bowl, combine soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and curry powder.  Spread the soup mixture evenly over the layers.  Finish by sprinkling the cheese on top and adding a light coating of bread crumbs.  Cover and bake at 350* for one hour.  If desired, place under broiler until lightly browned.

Now, I only have a convection oven in the rig so I baked it for 55 minutes.  I probably should have only baked it for 45-50 minutes, but I like the crusty part on the edges.  I also serve it over brown rice, spaghetti noodles, or even toast.  I think it’s hard not to go back for seconds, but I controlled myself…

The plan today was to make some pork stir fry chow Mein, but I just wasn’t in the mood.  So instead I just boiled up some fresh shrimp, put them on ice, and enjoyed them in this heat with some fresh sliced tomatoes.


About the only other thing I did this weekend is to get started reading this book.  I’m finding it quite enjoyable.  It helps if you’re interested in birds, but you don’t have to be an expert by any means to read it.  I’ve decided to quit reading it for now so I can take it along next weekend to read while I’m waiting for my Mayo Clinic appointments.  Women’s Day and Sports Illustrated don’t do anything for me in waiting rooms.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

A busy couple of days

Friday, 23 August 2013

Yesterday morning, I once again got ready to lead the “Refuge Excursion Tour”.  In the past, no one has shown up to take the tour on the days I’ve been assigned.  However, I was happily surprised to find three people show up for the excursion yesterday!  I was back in my element of imparting information about the history and purpose of Tamarac NWR.  I had a grand time telling them about how this refuge came about, and the work of the CCC Camp that was located here as the refuge was established back in 1938.

73 Tamarac NWR, 201328

We also visited the Chippewa (Ojibwa) burial ground and spirit houses that are located on the refuge.  The holes in the burial structures are where the spirits of the deceased left the area on their four day journey.  The first day was spent traveling the prairies, then on to the plains.  The third day they spent traveling over the mountains, and on the fourth day, they entered their happy hunting grounds.  I assume that since the spirits of the dead have long ago left, the Chippewa do not maintain these burial sites.

When the white man came to inhabit the area, logging of white and red pines was king.  The harvested logs were floated down the Otter Tail River, and evidence of the Roller Dam Site is near the burial ground.  I then took them on a back road trail in hopes of spotting a wolf, but we didn’t have any luck there.

In the afternoon, I went back to Gary Lee’s Collisions Repair shop, and finally got my driver’s side door handle fixed on the toad.  What a relief it has been not to have to crawl over the seats to open the door.


The Tamarac annual Volunteer Picnic was happening for dinner yesterday.  This is a celebration of the work all of the volunteers do for the refuge.  RV resident and local volunteers are honored for their contributions to making this a welcoming refuge.  With 400 volunteer hours here, I took in quite a haul of thank you items.


Among them is this book written by Kenn Kaufman.  He is well known in birding circles for publishing his field guides to North American Birds.  I’m thinking this will be an interesting read.


But I think my favorite award is going to be this  small Leatherman Tool on a US Fish and Wildlife Service keychain.  It’s very reminiscent of a small Swiss Army Knife I once had.  Lots of little pull-out tools in the handles, and it folds up into a compact little rectangle.

This morning, it was time to do a couple of loads of laundry and hang them out.  A trip to town for groceries was also in order.  Have you ever come home from the grocery store with something in your bags that you didn’t purchase, and was possibly from the person ahead of you in line at the checkout?

IMG_9382Well, this was my little bonus today upon emptying my bags.  Can’t you just imagine me with red and black painted nails?  I can’t even remember the last time I used nail polish, and it certainly wasn’t black and red!  And Minnesota Twins decals?  Spare me, please…  What the heck was I going to do with this?  Then I remembered that my son Andy’s wife, Kelly, is a died in the wool Twins fan.  Aha!  I’ll be heading down to Rochester for my every other year physical at the Mayo Clinic next week, so I think I’ll surprise her with this little gift. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: Richard Bangs Swims With Whale Sharks

Our friend Richard Bangs of Adventures with Purpose fame has shared a wonderful video with us today. It was shot off the coast of Cancun where Richard had the opportunity to go swimming with whale sharks, something he describes as the underwater equivalent of going on safari. This looks like an amazing experience and one that has now been added to my bucket list. Really amazing stuff.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Update: Tejay Leads Heading Into The Weekend

As I mentioned a few days ago, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is underway in Colorado where some of the best bike riders in the world are squaring off on a course that offers plenty of climbing at altitude. It has been a solid week of riding already, but yesterday's stage was one that put the real contenders out front and ready to duel for the win.

Heading into the weekend there is a familiar name at the top of the leaderboard as American Tejay van Garderen holds a 4 second lead over his teammate on Team BMC Mathias Frank. In third place sits Janier Alexis Acevedo Calle, 30 seconds of the pace, while Tom Danielson and Lachlan Morton, both of Garmin-Sharp are further back in 4th and 5th place respectively.

Tejay has been riding well this week and he looked very strong and confidant on yesterday's leg during which he took over the Yellow Jersey. It'll be tough to beat him as the riders turn towards Denver, which will host the final leg of the race on Sunday. That one is designed for the sprinters to take center stage, which means if anyone is going to crack van Garderen, they had better do it today or tomorrow.

Today's stage is a short one. It a 16 km (10 mile) time trial that is tougher than it sounds. The first half of the ride will be fairly flat and fast, while the second half is all uphill. In fact, it climbs about 516 meters (1694 ft) in the last 8 km (5 miles). Considering the fact that Tejay is viewed as the best time trialist amongst the top contenders and he's a strong climber, he shouldn't give up much ground today.

That leaves Saturdays 185 km (115 mile) stage 6 between Loveland and Fort Collins as the place for someone to make a move. It features plenty of climbing (more than 3657 meters/12,000 ft) but potential headwinds could make the riders feel the pain even more than those numbers indicate. It also happens to be a down-hill finish, which would allow any potential contenders to be easily swept up. In short, it's tough to see anyone catching van Garderen as this point, but it isn't over until it's over.

In the race for the other jerseys, Cannonadale's Peter Sagan is the current leader in the Sprint category while Matt Cooke is the King of the Mountain and Morton is the Best Young Rider. Whether or not any of them will be able to hold on to those honors will also be learned this weekend.

It has been another exciting race this far. Great to know that the event continues to get great crowds lining the roads and plenty of fans following along at home. Lets hope this race stays healthy for years to come.

Video: Hit The Road In India On The Mumbai Xpress

The Mumbai Xpress is a 1900 km (1180 mile) race across India that takes place over 13 stages between  the cities of Mumbai and Chennai. The catch is, the race is run in tiny little rickshaw vehicles that don't seem built for such a long distance. Recently, two friends - Ric Gazarian and Keith King - competed in the race and have now released a travel documentary of their experience entitled Hit The Road: India. The movie is available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and various other digital distribution sources and follows Ric and Keith on this grand odyssey across India. Judging from the trailer below, it looks like it was quite the adventure.

Hit The Road: India - Trailer from Manana Films on Vimeo.

Casting Call: Naked And Afraid Season 2

Want to be a reality TV star? This may be your chance. Yesterday an open casting call was put out for season 2 of the show Naked and Afraid, which is a Discovery Channel program although the press release said it will air on the National Geographic Channel.

If you're not familiar with the show, each episode features a man and a woman being dropped off in some wild place completely naked and left with the task of trying to survive for 21 days. Some of the locations from season 1 include the Serengeti, the jungles of Costa Rica and the island of Borneo. Each environment presents unique challenges to the people who are dropped there, including how to find food and water, building a shelter and finding some makeshift clothes.

Metal Flowers Media is handling the casting call and they're looking for men and women over he age of 18 who want to take part in this survival show. They are quick to point out that this is not a realty competition. Those who are selected to appear in an episode will be taken to their destination and dropped there for 21 days, where they must learn to survive off the land. Those who make the cut will be paid for their episode and during the casting process they'll be flying finalists to Los Angeles to meet with the producers.

If you have any interest in being on the show contact Naela Duarrani-Linday at naela@metalflowersmedia.com. Who knows, you might become the next Les Stroud or Bear Grylls, although I don't recall either of them doing a nude scene. I'd have to demand a stunt butt.

Here's an example of what the show is like for those who haven't seen it.

5000 Mile Project: Couple Running The Length Of South America

On July 28, David and Katharine Lowrie set out on a run like no other. The pair have hit the road to run the length of South America. Yes, you read that right. They are planning on running south to north across the entire continent and they're doing so to raise awareness and funds to protect the wildlife that lives in threatened areas there. Their expedition is aptly named the 5000 Mile Project, as that is the distance that they will cover before they are through. (That's roughly 8046 km for most of the world.)

The began their epic adventure last month by setting off from Punta Arenas, Chile, the southernmost settlement in South America. They'll now work their way north through Patagonia, crossing between Chile and Argentina as they go. Eventually they'll cross into Bolivia before continuing on to Brazil, where they'll face one of the biggest challenges to the expedition – a crossing of the Amazon Rainforest. If successful there, they'll emerge into Venezuela and finish the journey with a run to the Caribbean coast.

The Lowrie's hope to wrap up their journey approximately a year after they started. That seems rather ambitious considering the difficult miles that lie ahead. The couple aren't just out on the road running unencumbered. They're pulling specially designed carts behind them that carry all of their gear and supplies as well. David and Katharine are hoping to cover roughly the length of a marathon each day (26.2 miles/42.1 km), which is a challenge but highly feasible while on roads. But once they hit the Amazon, things will be completely different and much more difficult in general.

The husband and wife team have undertaken the 5000 Mile Project to raise funds for Asociacion Armonia, BirdLife International and Conservacion Patagonica. The hope is to collect enough money to help fund the purchase of threatened habitats in South America to protect the wildlife that lives there. As part of the project, they are also recording the various animals they see along their run including the many bird species that inhabit the continent.

Their efforts don't end there however. They've also launched the BigToe Classroom which contains lesson plans and projects for teachers to use with their students to get them engaged with conservation projects as well. There is even a way to contact David and Katharine and set up a video conference call with them directly from the road.

You can learn more about the 5000 Mile Project in an interview that the couple did with Explorers Web earlier in the week. You can also follow along with David and Katharine's blog or on Twitter and Facebook.

Video: Beautiful New Zealand Timelapse

Thursday, 22 August 2013

New Zealand has a reputation for being a beautiful country with plenty to offer the outdoor enthusiast. The video below certainly bares that out with some stunning landscapes captured in timelapse. The footage was captured over a three month period during which filmmaker Shawn Reeder took more than 100,000 photos. The results pretty much speak for themselves.

Oneness New Zealand from Shawn Reeder on Vimeo.

Kilian Jornet Sets New Speed Record On The Matterhorn

Ultrarunner Kilian Jornet continues to demonstrate that he is amongst the best endurance athletes on the planet by once again setting an impressive new speed record. This time he made short work of the Matterhorn, crushing a record that has stood for 18 years in the process.

This latest test of Kilian's athletic abilities also marked the final phase of his Summits of My Life project. The speed attempt started and ended at the Church Square in Cervinia, Italy with the turn around point being the summit of Mount Cervino, which sits at a height of 4476 meters (14,685 ft). The round trip journey covered 17.48 km (10.86 miles) with a total ascent of 2469 meters (8100 ft). Kilian was able to cover that distance in a time of 2 hours, 52 minutes and 02 seconds. That easily beats the previous record set in 1995 by Bruno Brunod, who finished he same route in 3 hour, 14 minutes, 44 seconds.

As always, Kilian never fails to impress. The guy is simply an incredible athlete. This latest record comes on the heels of him setting a speed record on Mont Blanc in July when he ran up and down that 4810 meter (15,781 ft) peak in 4 hours, 57 minutes and 40 seconds. That was 13 minutes faster than the previous best time set by Pierre-André Gobet in 1990. I guess it would be an understatement to say that he's had a busy and productive summer, huh?

Congratulations to Kilian for another amazing run. Thanks for reminding the rest of us that we are just mere mortals.

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