May 22

Giveaway: Spartan Race!

Last year, I had the MOST fun that I have EVER had at a race while running the PacWest Spartan Sprint. You can read about that fabulous time here. The Spartan Race series is basically an obstacle mud race. And I can’t even express how very fun it is!

I am a Spartan! Aroo!

I am a Spartan! Aroo!

I had so much fun last year, that Husband Saign and I registered to run it again this year! About a week after we registered, I was contacted by the good people at the Spartan Race series and offered a free entry. SO….I paid for my entry, but I’m here to offer a free race entry to one of you!

I climbed easily to the top...and then slid back down because I couldn't

I climbed easily to the top…and then slid back down because I couldn’t

Here’s what’s amazing about the Spartan Race Series:

  1. You don’t know what to expect. The race organizers don’t tell you how many obstacles there will be, or what the obstacles are. They just tell you to show up, and you get to be surprised!
    A guy flying off the slip-n-slide!

    A guy flying off the slip-n-slide!

    spartan 7

  2. Rules. I LOVE rules. At the Spartan race series, you either MUST complete an obstacle or you will be forced to do burpees. It’s just! It’s fair! It’s challenging!

    Burpees

    Burpees

  3. Teamwork. Last year, I ran the race all by myself, and it was really, really fun to have strangers help me! I have yet to run the race with people I know, but I imagine that it also will be fun to do this WITH people that I care about.

    Do you see how rocky that hill looks? It hurt!

    Do you see how rocky that hill looks? It hurt!

  4. Jumping over fire. Seriously. It’s REALLY cool to jump over fire like a super hero. (Though this year my goal will be to keep my eyes open during the jump – it really hurts the eyes!)spartan 17
  5. Beer. The race ends with beer. So that’s always good!

    Free post-race beer!

    Free post-race beer!

I’m giving away a free race entry to any of the Spartan races in the United States. I also have two discount codes: MEMORIAL for up to $40 off, which is ONLY good for this weekend (Memorial Day weekend), and SPARTANBLOGGER which is good for 10% forever (or for 2015).

Enter this awesome giveaway through Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 17

WHAT?!! A PR! Snohomish Women’s Run 2015 Race Recap

Three years. Three years I’ve been trying, hoping, wishing, and wanting to get a half marathon PR. It seemed impossible.

But guess what? It wasn’t impossible, because I JUST DID IT! I finally beat my previous half marathon time of 1:54:55! (I got this time back in 2008, when I was thinner and stronger and younger).

How did I do it?

I have no freaking idea. I definitely wasn’t trying for a PR until after the gun went off and I found myself struggling to stay behind the 1:55 pacers. I was feeling good, and wanting to go fast, so I decided to just go for the PR. AND I DID IT!

One month ago, I was in Africa, where it was relatively unsafe to run most of the time. I did the best that I could to find ways to exercise while in Africa, but I came back home feeling like I had lost some cardiovascular strength. Despite the fact that I felt slow and weak while in Africa, during many of my runs since returning home, I’ve found myself thinking, “I feel strong!”

Three weeks ago, I emailed the Snohomish Women’s Run race director and asked for a free entry. (I don’t usually ask people for free things – he had already promised me a free entry if I blogged about the event). After he sent me my discount code, I signed up…and then realized, “Oh! That’s in 3 weeks!” I hadn’t run for more than an hour for quite some time. Oh well, I figured that if I did one long run 2 weeks before the race, I’d at least have enough strength to finish the half marathon.

Then two weeks before the race, I ran just under 11 miles. I was surprised that I felt strong for the entire run, and felt like I could keep going when I got to the end of the run.

Then race day arrived. Like I said, I’ve been feeling strong lately. If I thought logically about the miles I’ve been putting in, I wouldn’t be sure that I could run even a sub-2. But if I just went by feel, I knew that I was strong enough to go for a sub-2. When we lined up at the start, I lined up just in front of the 2 hour pacers. The gun went off, and the typical shuffle-shuffle-shuffle to get to the start happened. When I finally reached the mats, I pressed “start” on my Garmin. Hmm. But it didn’t seem to start. So I pressed “start” again.

As we went off running, things felt slow. So slow. Why was everyone going so slow??? I looked down at my Garmin: 12:20 pace. WHAT? Why were we going so slow? I sped up. This time when I looked, it said, “8:00.” Huh??? This is very confusing. It still felt slow, but I decided that I should probably choose to not pass the 1:55 pacers. I often have to rein myself in during the first mile of a race.

After a few minutes, I looked at my Garmin and realized: IT WASN’T TRACKING ME. Whoops. Turns out that it HAD turned on when I first hit the timing mat, so when I thought I turned it on the second time, I really turned it off.

Obviously, since I had the sub-2 goal in mind, having no idea where we were at in the race or how long I had been running was a bit confusing and disheartening.

But then I remembered: The pacers! I could stick by them! I was still just behind the 1:55 pacers. I decided to stick with them at least until we passed a mile marker so that I could get some sort of idea of where I was at in the race. We ran on a bit and I heard a beep from one of the pacers’ watch. “8:45, right on target,” she said. That was great to hear, but I couldn’t help but notice that we hadn’t passed the mile 1 sign yet. When we finally hit the 1 mile sign, I pressed the “lap” button on my Garmin, so I could now somewhat track where I was at. I estimated that I ran between 2 and 3 minutes before turning the Garmin on properly.

So, I continued. At first I kept the 1:55 pacers a little bit in front of me. Then at about mile 2.5, I let them know, “I’m going to try to keep up with you. If I do, I’ll probably PR. I didn’t really train to be able to PR, but I’m going to try.” The two women pacers introduced themselves to me, and let me join their conversation. The miles flew by. The pace felt comfortable. I kept getting confused about how far we had gone, because when I’d look at my watch, it would be way ahead of where I thought we were. I’d think to myself, “Okay, we’re almost to the 4 mile point,” but then I’d look at my watch and realize that we were passed the 5 mile point. (I think that this was partly because my watch was off on distance anyway because of my timing-mat watch snafu, so it pushed me to stop obsessing so much about how far we had gone, instead I just peeked at my pace on my watch every once in awhile).

At about Mile 8, I started to feel a little tired. But, I was surprised to realize that I didn’t hurt. Usually by mile 8, something is hurting and I’m running through some sort of pain. In this case, I felt fine, just a little tired.

We ran on, and I continued to enjoy the company and conversation of the pacers and other ladies around me. The mind game started somewhere around mile 11. Overall, this course is a fantastically fast and flat. But towards the end of the race, there’s an out-and-back that involves going downhill for the out, and going uphill for the back. As we were on the “out,” running downhill, I started panicking about the turn around. One of the pacers asked me how I was doing. I told her, “I’m freaking out about running back up this hill!” (And I wasn’t lying. I was internally panicking about whether or not I could make it back up without losing the PR I was working for).

The pacer told me just what I needed to hear. “Relax,” she said. As soon as she said this, I let some of the tightness and stress leave my body. “We’re almost to the turn around, and then you just have to run back to where we started. You’re almost there.”

It turned out that she was right. We turned around, and it was a very slight uphill. At the 12 mile point, I took off a little bit ahead of the pacers (with my Garmin telling me an inaccurate time, and the pacers’ watches beeping prior to the mile markers, I was a bit paranoid…plus I felt good, like I could run ahead). That mile wasn’t fun, it was somewhat painful, but the “hill” was no problem at all…in fact, it didn’t feel at all like a hill. I’m pretty sure that I just had an end-of-the-race panic and imagined a steep hill where there was none. On the way back “up,” it felt mostly like flat ground.

And then: Finally, it was there! The finish! I checked the clock. I would PR! I would PR! I picked up my pace in the chute, but didn’t pass the girl in front of me like I typically do. I’m actually pleased that I didn’t pass her, because usually I feel like my speed in the chute is a clear indication that I didn’t work to my full potential.

1:54:12.

I FINALLY DID IT! A PR by over 40 seconds!

Super happy about my PR!

Super happy about my PR!

A HUGE thanks to the Snohomish Running Company for the free entry (You can still use code RUNFUNDONE to save 10% on the Snohomish River Run coming up on 10/11/2015), as well as the Seattle Green Lake running club pacers!

I’m seriously so, so happy!

May 10

Africa Adventure 2015 Day 6: Cape Town to Namaqualand, South Africa

I woke up panicked because yesterday when I checked in to the hotel, I was told that I would have a roommate from the tour, but when I woke up this morning, she was NOT there. (And she wasn’t in when I got home last night). I only slept for 3 hours, but I was worried about her and couldn’t get back to sleep. I checked with reception, and learned that she was alive and sleeping in another room. Whew. That was a relief…but I couldn’t get back to sleep after all that good-morning panicking.
Trying to get everything organized to leave was a bit of a disaster, but I eventually got everything figured out. The truck wasn’t leaving until noon, so I had a little time to get out and see a few things in Cape Town that I hadn’t yet seen. I stopped by bo-kaap, a cute little colorful neighborhood. It was cool looking, but a little awkward, as it was a whole bunch of families just trying to do life, and then all these tourists taking pictures of the peoples’ homes.
Bo-kaap

Bo-kaap

I then walked down to Truth Coffee, which is a coffee shop that I read about prior to coming to Cape Town. It has a steam punk theme, so the decor is industrial in spots and intricate in others, and the waiters and waitresses wear steampunk themed clothing. It was super cute. I tried to discretely take photos, and as a result, my pictures weren’t so great.
Truth Coffee

Truth Coffee

I then headed back to the hotel because it was almost time to leave. I got lost on the way, which was a pleasant experience, as I was able to see parts of Cape Town that I hadn’t yet seen.
The "table cloth" was over Table Mountain

The “table cloth” was over Table Mountain

Mount Nelson Hotel

Mount Nelson Hotel

We loaded onto our huge 22-person truck. There are only 8 of us, so we have plenty of room. I fell asleep on the drive, and learned that I missed seeing a lot of beautiful vineyards and mountains.

First truck pic - Englishman Craig, Aussie Laura, and Norseman Andreas.

First truck pic – Englishman Craig, Aussie Laura, and Norseman Andreas.

I was shocked when I arrived at our campsite. It was a vineyard called Highlanders. It was gorgeous – green grass to sleep on, vine fields, wine tasting, a pool, and hot showers. I was expected to be camping in dirt, so this was very much a pleasant surprise.
Our first campsite

Our first campsite

We had a lovely time bonding as a group during wine tasting. Our cook, Wilson, cooked for us while we were tasting (usually we will have to help with cooking, but today they gave us a break).
View at the vineyard

View at the vineyard

Aussie Steve poses for a silhouette wine tasting photo.

Aussie Steve poses for a silhouette wine tasting photo.

sunset

sunset

Dinner included a spicy vegetable soup like a curry, which I promptly spilled all over myself when I attempted to sit, but missed my chair (classic Becky to do something embarrassing on the first night). We then had rice and beef and veggies. Delicious. Then I swam, did laundry and showered while the rest of the group swam and drank. Everyone seems very nice, and I’m excited for the adventures ahead.

Every night Cook Wilson would start the evening off by saying, "Good Evening," though with his Kenyan accent so it sounded better. Then he'd explain to us what our meal was that night, and would say, "You are welcome." This was the first night that he did that.

Every night, Cook Wilson would start the evening off by saying, “Good Evening,” though with his Kenyan accent so it sounded better. Then he’d explain to us what our meal was that night, and would say, “You are welcome.” This was the first night that he did that.

May 08

Oh Dang. Marathon #3.

Last year, I ran my second marathon, and it went really, really poorly.

There’s just no way around it. Marathon’s are hard. They hurt.

So, I decided that Marathon #2 would be my last.

But…I kept getting pulled back to the marathon. Not because of running, but because of something much more important to me: Life.

Staying alive here in the States is generally not too complex of a thing. Most Americans access to food, clean water, medicines, and safe housing. In contrast, in many places around the world, it is extremely difficult to get even the most basic needs met. In fact, access to clean water can be a very difficult thing. About 768 million people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. Children and women often walk five to ten miles a day to gather water that isn’t even safe to drink; water that can make them sick. More children die from diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation than almost any other cause.

So…this is important to me. And about a year ago, I started volunteering with a charity organization called World Vision. They do a lot of relief work around the world. When my volunteer supervisor found out that I like to run, he started talking to me about how I should join Team World Vision to raise money to help people around the world gain access to clean water.

After some thinking (and some protesting), I realized that my supervisor was right: I should join Team World Vision to help with the clean water crisis. So I did.

It’s official. Marathon #3 is happening. I’m running the Portland Marathon on October 4th, 2015. More importantly, I’m doing it as part of Team World Vision. I’m pressuring everyone that I know to give me just a little bit (of course, I’ll also take a lot bit) of money to help bring clean water to people who need it most. Fifty dollars is enough to provide one person access to clean water for their ENTIRE LIFE. (Of course, people can give more or less than $50. It’s just kind of cool to know the specifics of how effective your money can be).

Team World Vision!

Team World Vision!

So, give some water, give some life. You can read more about my reasons for running for Team World Vision, and can donate here (I encourage you to do so).

You can read all about how World Vision runs their water programs here.

Give LIFE!

May 02

Africa Adventure 2015 Day 5: Cape Town, South Africa

Today was sightseeing bus day! Guys, I LOVE sightseeing busses! It’s a fun way to see a city and learn a little history as well! Today I rode the double decker tourist bus with my friend Polish Lucas. Our first stop was Kirstenbosch, which are botanical gardens. It was really beautiful. We explored for a while and then ate lunch at the gardens.

Polish Lucas is so happy to spend the day with me!

Polish Lucas is so happy to spend the day with me!

 IMG_5591 IMG_5599Our next stop was a vineyard where we did some wine tasting. Sitting in the shade overlooking the vineyards was fabulous. It was also fabulous peeing at the vineyard, because it had a huge picture window overlooking the vineyard. I have never used a more beautiful bathroom.
view from the bathroom at the vineyard.

view from the bathroom at the vineyard.

IMG_5594We then stopped in Houts Bay where I had a fun time kicking around in the water. IMG_5399 IMG_5624We hoped to visit Camps Bay, but forgoed this because of time constraints and and fog. It made me really sad to see such a fun little beachside town, but know that I wouldn’t get a chance to visit.

 

We ended the tour at the waterfront, and once again I felt really sad that I couldn’t take more time to explore.

V & A Waterfront with Table Mountain in the back

V & A Waterfront with Table Mountain in the back

IMG_5514Then something huge happened: I got to meet my tour group! I was surprised and relieved to learn that there would only be 8 of us on the tour. I was ecstatic to learn that our tour guide, Chris, is from Zimbabwe. (I was scared that I wouldn’t have a local guide). The group seems to be pretty nice as far as I can tell. I’m the only American, and it’s always nice to meet people from other countries.

Tour Guide Chris at our first team meeting

Tour Guide Chris at our first team meeting

 After our meeting I had a goodbye dinner with my friends from the hostel. The highlight of the dinner was when I suggested that we have a Chopstick Challenge, in which we try to pick up various objects with chopsticks. Swiss Micah decided to experiment with picking up a full wine glass. He spilled it all over Belgian Gretchel’s purse, which made her very angry. It was hilarious, not because Gretchel’s purse got damaged, but because it was such an obvious consequence to trying to pick up a full wine glass with chopsticks.
IMG_5556

These fantastic Germans.

These fantastic Germans.

The evening ended at karaoke. There was a cover charge, which Micah decided to negotiate about. It was a very funny argument:

Micah: how many songs will I even be able to sing?
Bouncer: as many as you want. You can sing and sing all night.
Micah: And you’re open til 5am?
Bouncer: no, we close at 2.
Micah: Ah! But you told me that I could sing as many songs as I want! I want to sing songs until 5am! So you see, it’s not a very good deal!
In the end, they gave us a small discount, and we found ourselves in a club with a lot of space, but very few people. This actually made it a lot of fun because I didn’t have any stage fright. Also, sometimes people would struggle with their songs and it was such a small group, that you could just jump on the stage and help them out.
Superstars.

Superstars.

I had a great time, but was happy when the bar closed so that we could go home. Unfortunately, South African Jo’s car had a flat, and it was a disaster trying to fix it! The disaster started when we couldn’t remove the spare from the trunk – it turned out that it was bolted down, but I’m telling you, I looked, and I couldn’t see any bolts. Then we couldn’t get the hubcap off because in the case of this car, there is just a little removable part of the hubcap just over the bolts, so you don’t remove the entire hubcap. An hour later we finally changed the tire and I said my final goodbye to my best friends of three days. I really am sad to be leaving them.
Tire.changing.fiasco.

Tire.changing.fiasco.

Apr 21

Africa Adventure 2015 Day 4: Cape Town + Boulders Beach + Cape Point, South Africa

Capetown has so much to see and do that I want to cry both with delight because it’s wonderful to be here, and sadness because I have so little time.

Today I joined some fellow hostellers on an adventure to Boulders Beach and Cape Point.

I'm not sure what awesome thing I'm doing in this photo.

I’m not sure what awesome thing I’m doing in this photo.

Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach

Johnny Bravo and Cap'n Crunch...er...I mean, Lucas and I.

Johnny Bravo and Cap’n Crunch…er…I mean, Lucas and I.

Boulders Beach is basically a penguin home. They have certain areas that are penguin-only and other areas that are meant for humans and penguins to mingle. The problem is that penguins aren’t actually all that great at mingling. They kind of just lie around a lot, and certainly didn’t seem interested in being my friend.IMG_5169 IMG_5174

I was feeling a bit disappointed as I gazed at penguin after penguin sunbathing and preening. Until…one of them decided that it was time for a swim. In fact, he wanted to get into the water fast! He ran towards the water, but as we all know, penguins cannot run, they can only waddle quickly, and that he did, and it was the cutest thing ever. That little speedy waddler made the visit to Boulder’s worth it.IMG_9567 IMG_9621 IMG_9606 IMG_9601 IMG_9590

We went on to Cape Point, which is apparently where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It was pretty, but most striking was how windy it was. It truly felt like I was being slapped by my own hair.

View from Cape Point

View from Cape Point

Ouch! Hair hurts!

Ouch! Hair hurts!

IMG_5210We got home feeling very tired, so I was surprised when my Polish friend, Lucas, suggested that we hike up Signal Hill to see the sunset. Of course, I wanted to do this. Of course, I also wanted to make it into a picnic.

We picked up some wine, some plastic wine glasses, some chicken, some sides, and our friend Swiss Micah, and headed up the hill. Somehow the hike turned into a taxi ride, but I’m not one to complain.

Polish Lucas and Swiss Micah = my very best friends for 3 whole days.

Polish Lucas and Swiss Micah = my very best friends for 3 whole days.

IMG_5232

It was a really wonderful evening! We enjoyed our food, chatted, and watched the sun set. After the sunset, we stuck around and took some photos of the lit up city below.IMG_9649 IMG_9650

IMG_9657 IMG_9682IMG_5295We tried to catch a cab home, but none were available at the top of the hill as we had hoped. Since we’re all foreigners, none of us have phones that will work in South Africa. We determined that the only option that we really had was to walk down the hill. None of us were really comfortable doing this, but we didn’t have any other brilliant solutions. Micah hilariously decided that we should carry our plastic wine glasses to use as a weapon/intimidation tactic. I thought a plastic cup was a rather useless weapon, and further might suggest to potential muggers that we were drunk and vulnerable. I suggested instead that we carry our metal forks, but Micah told me that this was ridiculous, saying, “no, those forks are useless.” He insisted that I put the forks away.

We walked for a bit, and then a truck pulled up next to us, “do you want a ride?” a friendly female voice asked. Are you kidding me? How does this happen? We gratefully piled into the back of the truck, and I chatted with the kind couple as we travelled down the hill and back into town. I just can’t believe how very generous this couple was. When they dropped us off, they both got out of the truck to shake our hands and say goodbye. Capetonians are so friendly.

 

New Animals Spotted:

– African Penguin

Apr 19

Africa Adventure 2015 Day 3: Cape Town, South Africa

Today was an amazing day! I convinced my hostel-mate, Polish Lucas, to walk up to the Table Mountain cable car with me. The walk was really fun! We got to see increasingly more of the city as we climbed higher. The sun was out, the skies were blue, and it was a lovely day!

My breakfast view

My breakfast view

Polish Lucas and I walking. Don't mind his shirt, he just wishes that he was American.

Polish Lucas and I walking. Don’t mind his shirt, he just wishes that he was American.

Lion's Head - View on the walk up to the cable car

Lion’s Head – View on the walk up to the cable car

Cape Town as seen from above

Cape Town as seen from above

We rode the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. When we got to the top, we were super disappointed when we found ourselves trapped in a cloud! We couldn’t see much through the cloud. We wandered around for a bit, and eventually the the cloud dissipated a little. It still wasn’t the view we dreamed of, but we could see a bit, and Polish Lucas tried to convince me that the clouds were adding drama to our photos.

The cable car

The cable car

IMG_9513

I bet it looks really cool behind that cloud!

I bet it looks really cool behind that cloud!

This is a Dassie. It's a scary large rodent.

This is a Dassie. It’s a scary large rodent.

IMG_9495

The cloud is starting to move! I can see Lion's Head!

The cloud is starting to move! I can see Lion’s Head!

IMG_5042IMG_4985 IMG_5017 IMG_5048Later that afternoon, three of my new friends and I hiked Lion’s Head, which is a great hike in which you gain views of Table Mountain, the city, the beaches, and the ocean. It was hot, but overall the hike was going along swimmingly until we reached a point in which we had to climb a small rock face with metal hand/footholds to assist the climb. I know that it doesn’t sound scary, but I’m afraid of heights, and I was TERRIFIED! My heartbeat got faster, I started shaking, and I second-guessed each step, sure that I was going to fall to my death. Oh.my.goodness. It was a very unpleasant feeling. This little rock face climb was over in less than a minute, but my autonomic nervous system was in high alert, and I continued to feel uncomfortable and panicky for the remaining hike to the top. Finally, after a few minutes at the top of the mountain, my body calmed down.

Micah climbing up the scary (to me) part.

Micah climbing up the scary (to me) part.

The view from the top was amazing! There were quite a few little rock formations sticking out over the cliff, and immediately, Swiss Micah scrambled out on one and demanded that we join him for a picture. Oh my goodness, what an amazing photo it would make, but I was so scared! Eventually I coaxed myself out onto the rock and then squeezed my eyes shut while our hiking mate, Norwegian Lisa, joined us for a photo. I’m really pleased that I got myself out there! What beautiful views!

Micah is apparently not afraid of heights.

Micah is not afraid of heights.

Cape Town 360. Okay, More like 180.

Cape Town 360. Okay, More like 180.

This was terrifying. But look at that amazing view!

This was terrifying. But look at that amazing view!

a.maz.ing

a.maz.ing

View from the top of Lion's Head

View from the top of Lion’s Head

We hiked back down the mountain, and hailed a cab to take us a short little distance to our hostel. Often in South Africa, you haggle over the price of the fare before getting in the cab. Swiss Micah was arguing with the driver back-and-forth. During this argument, the driver explained that the price was so high because “You are heavy.” Hilarious. This is what I like about the people of Capetown. They are friendly and relaxed, and right away your conversations can start with a playful banter. After some arguing, the cabbie agreed to drive our extremely heavy bodies the .75 miles back to our hostel.

Lisa and Micah hiking back down

Lisa and Micah hiking back down

For dinner, we decided that we wanted African game. The German’s (Simon & Raphael) and Polish Lucas and I went to Arnold’s where we enjoyed Warthog, springbok, ostrich, and crocodile. It was fantastic! The meats came with little yield signs so that we knew what we were eating.

Raphael and I at dinner. (Wearing my versa-faux).

Raphael and I at dinner. (Wearing my versa-faux).

Pumba! Delicious!

Pumba! Delicious!

It was a super great day!
New Animals Spotted:
- Dassie

Mar 30

Africa Adventure 2015 Day 2: Cape Town, South Africa

 Flying into Cape Town was super cool! Our pilot took us out over the ocean, so we got great views of many of the sites that I’ve read about: Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, and Robbin Island. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great view of a city when landing.

IMG_4873.JPG
Starting out in Cape Town was a bit tough at first. I got to the hostel and met a few people, but no one invited me to do anything with them. I walked down to Long Street, which is a big shopping and restaurant area. I am happy to say that (for the most part) I felt safe on my own. The disappointing thing is that there were lots of things that I would have liked to take pictures of, but didn’t because I didn’t want to pull out my camera and draw unwanted attention. In a 45 minute walk, I had 4 different people ask me for money or follow me while giving me compliments. However, I found that walking quickly and not responding was an effective way to ward them off. I think hearing my American accent might have encouraged them.

 IMG_4879.JPG
Things improved in the evening. I talked to a lot of strangers at the hostel in hopes of making a friend. I played Jenga with a group of Aussies. The hostel was giving out free beer, so that was a great excuse to hang out. A Belgian woman named Gretchel made dinner for herself and a Swiss guy named Micah, and they let me eat their scraps. I know that sounds bad, but I was so jetlagged, I didn’t feel much like eating. I ate a potato and a little bit of salad.
After dinner, more friends joined us, and I ended the evening chatting with 3 German friends: Nicholas, Simon, and Raphael, Swiss Micah, and Polish Lucas. Most importantly, we’ve made plans to have adventures together tomorrow! In the morning I’ll be going to the top of Table Mountain with Polis Lucas, and in the afternoon, a few of us will hike Lion’s Head. The funniest thing is that when Swiss Micah invited me to hike Lion’s Head, and I agreed, he double-checked with me that I was really coming, since, “you are American, you might just say yes and not mean it.” Apparently Americans are flakey??? He must not have met a Midwesterner before! Not only will I be there, but I’ll be early!!! ;)

Mar 20

Africa Adventure 2015 Day 1: Munich

I am taking the world’s most round-about way to Capetown, which means the entire journey will take me around 40 hours by the time it’s all finished. To top it off, I left the day before my birthday, and will land the day after my birthday. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my birthday!

Since it is my birthday, I decided that I should try to leave the airport on a layover in Munich to do something fun. Much to my surprise, the Munich Airport actually has a little handbook that reviews things to do on long layovers! I found in the “four hours or more” section that I could go the the world’s oldest (still running) brewery: Weihenstephan in Freising.
My layover was 5 hours, so I decided that as long as customs took less that an hour, I’d try to get to the brewery. I was shocked when customs took about 5 minutes. (It was also my first time getting my passport stamped on my birthday!) 
And I was on my way! I knew that there was a bus into Freisburg, but I was scared that I would get lost or have to walk through a sketchy part of town to get to the brewery, so I took a cab. It was a pretty entertaining ride – the driver tailgated and drove fast anytime that he could, and yet it felt really smooth because the cab was (of course) a Mercedes. I was shocked when I arrived at the brewery and found that the cab cost was 25 euro! That was half of the euro that I had withdrawn for my little birthday excursion!

I then made into the adorable little brewery. It had candles lit along the walls, old brick, and cute little archways with strong solid-wood furniture tucked into each little arch. The waiters and waitresses wore traditional dirndl and lederhosen. I chose their darker wheat beer, and 3-cheese spaetzle for dinner. It was lovely.

The adventure happened after dinner. Since it had taken half my Euro to get to dinner, I was worried. If the ride to the airport was even one more Euro than the ride from the airport, I wouldn’t have enough money to pay my fare! Therefore, I decided to try to take a bus to the airport. I knew that there was a bus that went to the airport from the main bus station – I just had to try to walk to the “downtown” area to look for the bus station. I reasoned the Freising was likely similar to most European cities in that there would be signs pointing to the bus station at every corner in the city center. I looked up the word for “bus” in German before I left, so that I’d know what to look for on the signs; “autobus” or “bus.” Okay! I could remember that!
The sun was just starting to set when I left the brewery. I began wandering the streets, aiming in the direction that I thought was the town center. I saw plenty of other people walking alone, and the town felt very safe, even as darkness fell. As I walked, I watched out for places where I could ask for help if needed. At the same time, I knew that if I asked for help, if probably end up having the person call me a cab, as I doubted that I’d be able to get directions to the bus station that I could actually follow (both because of a language barrier and my poor sense of direction). Soon enough, I found the city center! I saw all kinds of wonderful shops that I would have liked to visit had they been open. At each intersection, I expectantly looked to the signs, hoping to see one that said “autobus.” Each time I didn’t see one, I got simultaneously more worried and more excited. THIS is what I love about travel: trying to solve a puzzle, exploring a new place, and not knowing what’s next!
 
Then I saw it: a sign that pointed to “bahnhof.” Bahnhof. That sounds right…I think. Hof means house and bahn….well, I don’t know, but it’s in the word autobahn, which is related to vehicles.
I decided to follow the signs and hope that they got me to where I needed to be. My heart sank a little when I got to an intersection with no sign, and I worried that I had passed the bahnhof without realizing it. However, at the next intersection the sign was there again, and suddenly I remembered that I could look up the word “autobahn” on my translator app. I did so, and read the word, “station.” That sounded about right! Then I saw it! A train station with a whole lot of taxis lined up outside. I was so relieved! At least I knew that I could get a cab if I couldn’t find a bus!
I went inside the station and then had great confusion. There was a kiosk in the corner, but I was pretty sure that it was selling train tickets, not bus tickets. I then found a schedule that said the train for the flughafen (airport) leaves every hour on the hour. I looked at my clock: 7:03. I had just missed it! But where was “it” anyway? Where was I supposed to catch the bus? I then noticed a sign above the door with a picture of a bus and an airplane and an arrow pointing right. I went out the doors and saw a bus to the right that said “flughafen.” I’d done it! I found the bus!
I ran to it and got on, asking the bus driver “flughafen?” Which he confirmed. And then, “how much?” The problem is that I don’t know any German numbers, so I couldn’t understand his response. He finally pointed to the number for me on the computer, “2,70.” I awkwardly tried to get out my Euro, and in the process sent coins flying all over the bus. Meanwhile, I wasn’t totally sure that I understood the cost, so I rambled on in English while the bus driver took off driving with me  still fumbling with my Euro. The bus was super quiet and I knew that I was THAT American tourist. I found a seat and reassured myself that it was okay. Yes, I wish that I could speak German so that I didn’t have to be such a dummy. But, I had successfully wandered an unfamiliar town and navigated my way to the airport. What a fun birthday adventure! (Also, why does the bus cost 10% the price of a cab ride?? Crazy!) 
Happy birthday to me! Onward to Capetown!

Mar 17

EuroBikeTrip 2014 Day 6: Back to Konstanz. Germany

Biking was hard today. I’m not sure if my legs are just tired after a full week of biking every day, or if the wind made things bad for me. Nevertheless, we had a beautiful ride, and the sun came out occasionally.

Bodensee with some tulips!

Bodensee with some tulips!

Seriously, I wish I could be as cute as this village!

Seriously, I wish I could be as cute as this village!

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We really lucked out for lunch today. Our bicycle path took us through a park in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. It was around noon, and we were hungry, but we just had to guess where a grocery store might be. We guessed correctly, and quickly found a Spar! We then went back to the park where we had left the bike path, and I suggested that we go deeper into the park to get closer to the lake. We did so, and my goodness! It was the most beautiful park that I have ever seen! There were beautiful old buildings, wildflowers, wildlife (frogs and a friendly duck), a boardwalk, a petting zoo, and of course, views across Bodensee. We had a lovely picnic lunch there.

View at the park

View at the park

Wildflowers and fun buildings in the park!

Wildflowers and fun buildings in the park!

We sat at the shore and ate lunch!

We sat at the shore and ate lunch!

Soon enough, we were back in Konstanz. We went to my favorite gelato shop, and the guy there recognized us right away, and began speaking to us in English. I am not sure if a holiday should be considered a raging success or an utter failure when the dessert-man is your best acquaintance.

Back in Konstanz!

Back in Konstanz!

Out hotel has a kitchenette, so we were able to make a delicious meal of spaetzle and gnocchi, fresh fruit, and Orvieto wine. I spent two weeks in the beautiful town of Orvieto, Italy a few years ago, and hoped that I’d be able to find some Orvieto wine on this trip. I did….for €2.  (In case you’re wondering, the bottled water that they insist on serving me with my meal in restaurants is typically €3-4, so I felt particularly happy about this).

Dinner made in our hotel room.

Dinner made in our hotel room.

After we ate our fantastic hotel-made meal, we headed out to a bar on the waterfront, and enjoyed some bier and pretzels.

Saign and I drinking beer and eating pretzels on our last day in Germany

Saign and I drinking beer and eating pretzels on our last day in Germany

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Countries Visited Today: 1, Full-day in Germany! ***

Kilometers Biked Today: 30 ***

Total Kilometers Biked for the Trip: 162 ***

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