Friday, February 7, 2014

Ice Crystals and Skunks

After several days of total relaxation and decadence, I departed Sedona mid-afternoon on Saturday and stayed the night in Tucson.  This gave me a head start toward the long drive home, putting me 200 miles down the road, and leaving me with a couple of 500+ mile days for the next two days.

An eclectic mix of leftover food filled two of my grocery tote bags: chips, crackers, sliced ham and provolone cheese, Cheerios, Oreos, hummus, cherry tomatoes, a couple of bananas.  I hate throwing away good food!  I knew I could make a couple of meals out of much of this, and the non-perishables would  make it home with me, so no sense throwing it all away.  In Tucson I had dinner in my room, making a nice little meal of sliced ham and cheese with crackers, garnishing it all with the tomatoes.  I had Cheerios and a banana for breakfast the next morning.

My objective was to make it to Fort Stockton on Sunday, in time to catch the start of the Super Bowl.  I did, but just barely, missing the first 7 minutes of the first quarter - and apparently missing the exciting first play! When I left my villa in Sedona, I had a bit of leftover Merlot wine - maybe 4 or 5 ounces - and hated to throw it away, but also didn't want to chance the seal from the reused cork.  So I poured it into a cute little 8 oz water bottle, one that was given to me when I checked into the Ridge in Sedona but never opened.  I dumped the water out and in went the wine!

So now, at the hotel in Fort Stockton, I was enjoying chips, hummus, the rest of the tomatoes, and a glass of wine in front of the football game!

Monday morning I was awake at 2:30 AM with no luck falling back to sleep. I tossed and turned until 4:30 AM and then gave up.  I reasoned that if I went ahead and got on the road at 5:30 AM I'd be home by lunchtime and avoid the afternoon rush hour in Houston.

The deer are alive and well in West Texas!  I saw plentiful deer in the dark.  First was a giant majestic buck,  a few miles east of Fort Stockton, his rear in my direction.  He lifted his head and looked over his shoulder at me as I approached.  Then 30 or 40 more miles down the road I saw a small group of does.  Then the occasional deer or pair along the way to San Antonio, even in early daylight.

At one point, where the terrain began to get hilly, I began to notice the frosted landscape in the early morning fog.  The temperature was just below freezing and the pavement was wet from a very recent rain.  The fog was low, and was draped close to the ground, creeping up the hills. The grasses and bare branches of the low brush were coated in ice and everything had a pale sepia tone to it.  It was gorgeous!

A little further along, however, and I began to worry about black ice on the roads.  The fog was persistent and the temperature continued to drop, down into the mid-20's.  This weather persisted almost to Boerne, where the temps finally creeped up just above the freezing mark.  

PepĂ© Le Pew is in love!  For many miles I was "enjoying" the sights and smells of skunk road-kill!  Black and white furry smashed bodies littered the roadway and shoulder for miles and the scent never went away until I neared San Antonio.  Poor little guys!  February is breeding season for skunks and these guys will never get to enjoy it.

Home and the car unpacked, laundry started, and another medal for my 50 States-50 Half Marathon rack.  

Next up:  DreamCatcher half marathon in Grand Junction CO in early March!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Annual Running Community Give-Back

Browsing through the various web-based race calendars a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the Sedona Marathon, being held right here in town this weekend.  No, I'm not interested in running it, but it would be fun to volunteer!

I followed the race calendar link that took me to the race organizers' website and looked for the "Volunteers" tab or link.  There it is!  Perfect!  I selected a Friday volunteer slot, the 10:30-2:30 slot and marked it on my calendar.

More than a month passed by and as my trip to Sedona drew near, I wondered if the volunteer request went through.  But a few days before my departure for Las Cruces, there was an email from Donna in charge of volunteers!  This will be fun!

So Friday morning I got up early, got dressed, made breakfast, and then packed my wallet, cell phone, car key, some crackers and cheese, and a snack bar into my little hiking bag and headed for my car.  When I packed for this trip last week, I threw my warmest parka into the car, pretty much as an afterthought.  I was grateful that it was there on this chilly and cloudy Friday morning!

I headed the few miles north on 179 to the turn for parking at Tlaquepaque.  The wind was cold as I walked toward this quaint and attractive boutique shopping area.  I easily found the fitness expo, set up along the Calle Independencia and headed for the volunteer tent to sign in and get my volunteer shirt.  Cool!  A nice long sleeve red technical fabric shirt with some nice graphics on the front.  I pulled it on over my fleece but knew it was going to be too cold to go without my parka.

I was assigned to work the half marathon bib pick-up table with two other folks.

Even though the expo didn't start until 11:00 AM, folks were already showing up, hoping they could beat the crowds and get their race packets.  They came in waves; one minute we were idle, using the breather to chat, the next minute we were covered up with folks!

The three of us got a nice rhythm going, getting their waivers, looking up their bib numbers on the list, and then handing them their bibs.  I was impressed with the attendance of this race.  Several countries outside of the US were represented, and I met folks from Anchorage, Boston, Chicago, Canada, Japan, Washington, even Carmel IN, where I ran a race last year!

The organizers had a very nice breakfast spread for us volunteers:  fruit trays, muffins, quiche, coffee.  At noon, these trays were swapped out for trays containing more fruit, nice-looking sandwich wraps, and the muffins were replenished.  That was a nice touch!  And it ensured the volunteers did't have to stray too far in search of food.

Around noontime the skies grew ominously dark and the wind really picked up, blowing anything around that wasn't pinned down.  Then the rain started.  The canopies collected rain and each time a gust of wind blew through, the canopies unloaded their watery load onto anything directly beneath, including the sides and front of our table.  We quickly realized that we had to move the table back a bit and move everything in toward the center of the table.  Our roster of runner names was getting pretty soggy, as was the contents of the box containing the completed waiver forms.

With the rain came a noticeable drop in temperature.  We could see our breath and we were standing in a cold puddle of water.  But we kept busy and chatting with the runners as they claimed their bibs was fun and entertaining.  The time flew by and next thing we knew, the next shift of volunteers had arrived and we showed them the ropes and then said our goodbyes.

One part of me wanted to stay and help as I knew that the later in the afternoon it got, the busier it would get.  But I was cold to the bone and my feet were damp and freezing cold.  I didn't realize how relatively protected we were between the buildings on this main Calle until I headed toward the parking lot and that cold northerly wind hit me.  Brrrr!!

On the way back to my Villa, on impulse I stopped at the coffee house in Oak Creek Village and bought a cappuccino to bring back with me.

I started the fireplace and sipped on my cappuccino.  And when the cappuccino was finished, I broke into the Oak Creek Winery Merlot!

Tomorrow:  Making plans to leave a half day early and get a head start on the trip toward home.