Saturday, February 28, 2009

Swamp Romp 2009

I haven't been up to much lately, so I'll turn this post over to Zac's exploits. Today was the annual Swamp Romp over at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base. The trail is about six miles long with mud pits and stretches of swamp along the way. It was a team run, where each team consisted of six runners and the whole team had to cross the finish line together. I think the only requirement was that each team had at least one active-duty service member, but many of the teams consisted entirely of service members. Zac's team consisted of five other guys he works with, one being a civilian contractor. I decided to go and provide moral support, because, well, that's what I do.

Zac and I woke up at 4:30 and hopped in the car at 5:00 to go pick up a fellow team member. We drove the 35-40 minutes over to Kaneohe and met up with the rest of the team. Apparently I was the only spouse/girlfriend/child/friend of our team who was nuts enough to get up that early in the morning to sit around and wait for guys to run through mud. I'm glad I did go, however, as I was able to play photographer.

The race actually started around 7:00, but due to the large number of teams it took quite a long time to get through all the checking-in processes. (Hence our need to get up so dang early.) You know how I mentioned that each team had six people? Well, there were 344 teams.


6 per team x 344 teams = 2064 crazy ass people who want to run through mud on a Saturday morning.

A lot of teams were wearing their old camouflage pants and team t-shirts, but a few groups got creative and fun and wore matching costumes or outfits. One group wore suits and ties, another group wore bib overalls. One group of guys wore muumuus. One team of Marines consisted of two female members and four male members - they all wore matching pink spaghetti strap tank tops with their camo pants. For as ripped as those Marine men were, I don't think anyone was going to give them crap about wearing pink tank tops. Here are our guys:

Project for next year: A brighter, more colorful team t-shirt. Notice the duct tape holding down their pockets. Their boots were taped, their pockets were taped. Mud in pockets = extra weight when running. Mud in boots = icky.

Instead of having everyone start at the same time, thereby clogging the course, they staggered the start time letting three teams leave every 30 seconds or so. Here's five of our six starting out - I didn't plan on my shutter taking so long to click so accidentally cut out one of the team members:

That's my guy, rocking the 159 number. He also was charged with having the tracking chip strapped to his boot. He performed admirably. The course started and ended at the same location, but most of the course was out of sight so after the race started I just had to wait until they showed up at the end. About 90 minutes later, here they are finishing up:

While it looks like they are assisting a wounded comrade, they are actually in the process of linking arms. You had to have linked arms to cross the finish line if you wanted your time to count. Here they are, proud of themselves:
Smartly, the fire brigade was there to hose down the participants when they were done. Zac heads into the spray to clean up:

The guys did well. They seemed happy with their time and, more importantly, they had a good time. Zac is already looking forward to next year. I'm going to try to convince him they need some cool t-shirts, if not pink tank tops.
Kisses for the victor.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Back from Guam and planning the next adventure

Besides the sunburn he incurred while snorkeling, Zac got home from Guam safely. He was gone for a couple of weeks - long enough for us to have a nice break from one another, but also long enough to miss each other. Most of our relationship has been long-distance, beginning with dating between OK and MN, then engaged and married between El Salvador and MN. Zac got done with ES and came up to get me in MN back at the end of August and we've been together since then. Six months! That's the longest we've ever been in the same place at the same time. So far very little of the newlywed shine has worn off, which I'm grateful for. There have been some growing pains, for sure, but I come out of each hiccup with a renewed sense of . . . happiness.

[Jeez Louise, I'm living under the military helicopter super-highway this morning. They keep roaring back and forth over my head. No, we're not being invaded. I promise I would tell you if we were. While it isn't anxiety-inducing, it is a bit distracting.]

Zac and I are planning a trip to Australia which is really exciting. It's quite expensive, but we figure that we're about as close to it as we'll ever be so we had might as well go now. It's still a frightfully long flight from Honolulu to get there. Due to it's distance we're going to be taking a couple of weeks down there. I suppose it's a sort of honeymoon. Many could argue that living in Hawaii is a long-term honeymoon, but while I'm living a life of leisure pretty much daily, Zac is working a lot and it would be nice if we both have an excuse to sleep in late.

We're not exactly sure what all we're going to see when we're there. We're taking the safe route and spending the two weeks in Sydney and Melbourne. Maybe not the most creative places to visit in Australia, but we really didn't want to over-extend ourselves by trying to hit a bunch of places/cities in two weeks and getting burnt out by our itinerary. This way we'll have a rental car and two home bases that we can use. We're hoping to see some national parks, tour some cool stuff like the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, drink some Foster's and hopefully catch a rugby or Australian rules football game. (I'm not even sure they're in season right now, but we think it would be a hoot to go to a game.)

The dates haven't been finalized yet, but we're hoping for sometime later this spring, which would be fall Down Under. I can't even imagine how many photos I'd end up taking. If I take 200 on a four day trip to the Big Island, I could easily come back from Australia with a couple thousand. I wonder if has a deal for that - first 1,000 4x6 prints regular price, second 1,000 free?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Home, rested

I'm back on Oahu after a fun-filled trip to Hawaii. Bernadette and I had a blast, seeing lots of new things that frequently awed us. We flew out Monday morning and came back Thursday night. I was pretty much wiped out for Friday and I used Saturday to do all the stuff around the house that I didn't do on Friday. (I also spent Valentine's Day evening with Bernadette and some of the other girls - movie, dinner, Wii. Good times.) So now it's Sunday and I have some time to blog.

We flew into Kona and took the morning to drive over Volcanoes National Park. The weather was just fine until about half-way there when it went downhill. Soon it was raining steadily and visibility was close to nothing. We were going to spend the first two nights 'camping' up at the Volcano. Originally we were going to use a tent, but the weather was wetter than we hoped so we ended up springing for a cabin at the same campsite. We dubbed it, affectionately, as our "Birdhouse". It's primary purpose is to keep out wind and rain with no frills attached.

After settling in to the cabin we ended up going to a local winery to do a tasting. Then we drove down to Hilo to have supper. After some yummy Thai food we realized that we were pretty tired from the flight and drive so we headed back to the Birdhouse to catch some early Zs. We hoped for better weather the next morning but Tuesday morning was just as gloomy. We decided to go down to the coast to see if we could find some better weather. And better weather we found. Along with some cool lava fields and snorkeling spots.

After our fun in the sun we had supper and then headed out to the lava flow to watch it after the sun set. It was more active than the last time I saw it. The steam plume was bigger and the orange glow was larger and brighter. The county employees said that the night before there had even been some lava spurts that were visible. We didn't see anything quite like that, but between being mesmerized by the glow and the moon-less star-filled sky we enjoyed the night.
The next day we were heading back to Kona. When we woke up we were delighted to see that it was a crystal clear morning up on the volcano. We decided to view the Halemaumau crater and hike the Kilauea Iki crater before we left, since the weather was so nice. I was stunned at how cool everything looks when you get a clear day up there.
The hike across the Iki crater was fun. It was about a four mile loop. You descend along one side of the crater and then cut back across the middle of the crater floor. (Or top of the lava lake, depending on how you want to look at it.) Then you have to huff and puff your way back up and out of it. There was some amazing stuff to look at along the way.
Bernadette climbing around the vent that fed the crater:
The crust of the lake:

Me, in proportion to the crust of the lake:
The lava lake isn't totally cooled yet. It's pretty much solid, but there's still home heat. As the rain water gets trapped in all the nooks and crannies of the lava rock, it gets heated up and comes out as steam. I was climbing around one of the steam vents when I got a good look at some cool old lava flow:
After we finished our hike across the crater, we went and looked at a lava tube and then decided it was time to head back towards Kona. We had a variety of places to check out en route, as suggested by our kick butt travel book. We found some cool beaches, and stopped off at the southern-most point of the United States. It's very windy there, and if you fall in the ocean you're probably not going to run into anything until you hit Antarctica.

Here's one of the black sand beaches we found. I learned that black sand beaches are rare because the black sand is caused by the lava cracking when it hits the water. Once the black sand is washed away by the surf, it's gone. It can't be renewed unless there's more lava flow. No new lava - no new sand. This is unlike most brown sand beaches where the sand is continuously created by the critters in the ocean. (Like fish eating coral and excreting it - behold, new sand!)

The southern tip of the Big Island, and the US. The surf was pretty awesome.

We got into Kona and after some supper and a margarita, we collapsed into bed at the hotel. Too much exercise, too much fresh air. The next day we decided to stay in the Kona area and check out a few local beaches. We were pretty tired and didn't want to venture too far. We also were flying out around 7, so we didn't want to be rushed at the end of the day. We found another beach with fantastic snorkeling. Bernadette had the underwater camera and I was just puttering around, looking at the fish when all of a sudden I caught Bernadette trying to get my attention. That's because this guy was cruising by:
Now, these green sea turtles are endangered so you're supposed to keep your distance. But that's kind of hard when they shoot by you. They are much more agile in the water than I am. This guy didn't seem to mind the four of us that were staring at him as he cruised by. We saw a lot of cool fish that day and a second turtle. I hope Zac and I can go back to try this spot out again.

After a 40 minute flight back to Oahu later that evening, I was home by about 9:30 Thursday night. I was exhausted but I thrilled that we had such good luck with weather and our outdoor activities. It was a great trip and I can't wait to get back. It did take me a full two days to recover from all that excitement and activity though.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hockey, Guam and a second shot at Lava?

At the moment I'm watching the Gophers play the Badgers (boo hiss!) in hockey. Today's broadcast is highlighting the 1979 NCAA Championship Gopher hockey team. Between periods they played highlights from the final game of the WCHA season and the WCHA Championship game, both between the Gophers and the ND Sioux (boo hiss!). The highlight reel is fantastic. I get the feeling this reel was made maybe 12 hours after the WCHA Championship game, as it appears to be born of 1979 as well. The late 70s (almost adult-movie-ish) background music, the black lines from flaws in the film, sub par lighting and the obligatory old-school voice over. (Think Keith Jackson.)

I love this footage: cheerleaders wearing outfits that actually cover their breasts, belly and butts, Gophers with hockey hair poking out from beneath their faceguard-less helmets, Herb Brooks rocking some mighty fine suits, and shots of the old Barn. Sigh. How I miss that place. I'm not knocking the new Mariucci arena. The old place just held a lot of memories for me.

Zac is en route to Guam as I type. Navy stuff for two weeks. He'll be 20 hours ahead of us when he lands. 20 hours??? I know. It made my brain hurt to figure it out as well. You see, Guam is only four time zones away from Hawaii. HOWEVER, it is on the other side of the date line, so . . . Actually, I'm not sure what that all means. I think there's a wormhole or some sort of tear in the time continuum. All I know is when he took off at 3:30 pm Hawaii time today (Saturday) it was 11:30 am Sunday in Guam. So I'm not sure if he can buy the Honolulu Advertiser before it's even printed or if he can bet on horse races like Biff did in Back to the Future.

While Zac is working/playing in Guam for two weeks, I'm going to be heading back to the Big Island with Bernadette for a few days. She wanted to try camping over there for a couple of nights. Her husband is also heading to Guam so we figured it was a good time to go explore the Big Island. While she and her husband have been here for 18 months, they haven't ventured over to the Big Isle yet so she's hoping to get a sense of the place so she and her hubby can head back at some point. We're planning on camping a couple nights and spending the last night in a hotel. As this is a trip primarily planned by Bernadette, there will be copious amounts of exercise involved. Hiking two days, kayaking another. I'm sure I'll either die there or come back looking like a rock star.

On the up side, it sounds like some of the lava flow might be back in Volcanoes National Park, so we might to get a little closer to it. Of course Zac was disappointed that he might be missing out on lava viewing. If it is, in fact, flowing in the park I suppose I'll be heading back to the Big Island again at some point in the future. Not that I mind. A 45 minute flight for $45 is a little easier to stomach than a five and a half hour $700 flight to California. I'll take my adventure where I can afford it for the moment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This concludes hostess duties for awhile

My folks are off. They are heading to the airport to return to Minneapolis as I type. I cried when they left. It's hard to say goodbye. But we had a good time and I feel relieved that they got to see that I'm okay. I'm not too skinny, not too fat. I'm eating square meals. My house is clean(ish) and my husband dotes on me. They got to see me laughing and smiling and at ease in my new state of residence. You know how parents are: they worry. They're your parents, whether you're 3 or 13 or 30. And they want the best for you. So while I'm sad to see them go, and I'll miss them terribly until we get to spend time together again, I was so happy to have the opportunity to show them our happy little home on our island in the Pacific.

Aloha, Mom and Dad.