Tag Archive: usa 2014

It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Currently in my little kitchen there is Christmas cake in the oven and Christmas pudding on the stove along with a batch of delicious peanut butter cookies on the bench. It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas in my kitchen!

Speaking of food, I never got around to blogging about my American food experiences so you'll have to put up with it now. It was a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. I went in with high hopes and they were dashed pretty quickly when we couldn't find bread that tasted, well, anything like the bread we know and love here. It was hard enough trying to find bread without dairy in it and when we did it had a weird texture and tasted sweet. Ugh.

In Boulder M and I did a lot of our shopping at Alfalfa's as it was close to where we were staying (Chautauqua which was amazing as we were right at the start of the trails leading up into the Flatirons - although an hour and a half run in the hot sun the morning after we arrived might have been a bit much for my jetlagged body!). The variety was pretty cool but it did make me appreciate what we have at home. I really wanted to be a fan but couldn't.

We had more luck at restaurants and cafes though. One lunch I got a takeaway reuben sandwich (it sounded very American - I've never seen anything like it on a menu in NZ) from Leaf which was pretty good. Different, but good.

We checked out Wholefoods in a few places...they are so huge it was a bit frightening but the salad bar things are pretty cool!

There is also a pretty impressive range of vegan frozen desserts in these type of places, of which we tried a couple...

Once in Salt Lake City we attempted to visit every vegan eatery in town (well, all the ones that were open during our stay). First up was the Vertical Diner. After spending far too much at REI (not for the first or the last time on our trip!) A then took us there for lunch. I loved this place from the moment we walked in. The menu is fun and the food was super yummy. I wished we could have gone back.

Clockwise from top left: a burger but I can't remember which one, Jerk Chicken Burrito and another burger of some description!

Dessert was definitely a must (hey, we had to try as much food as possible!)...

A banana split sundae and a strawberry brownie sundae - delicious.

Next up was the City Cakes Cafe for lunch whilst exploring Salt Lake City on our own. This place looks like it provides a lot of the vegan cabinet food we saw in other cafes and Wholefoods in the area. The lemon bar was delicious but I wasn't a fan of the more lunch-type food we ordered.

Clockwise from top left: a lemon bar, Mac n' Chezah and a Black Bean Burger

One evening M and I headed into town to Sage's Cafe a more fancy dinner. M ordered the mushroom stroganoff and I ordered the raw cashew pad thai and we agreed they were both exceptional. Plus the service, from memory, was excellent. If you find yourself in Salt Lake City I would really recommend Sage's.

Again, dessert was essential...

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Madness and the Tiramisu. Definitely worth it,especially the tiramisu.

The final cafe I checked out was the Frisch Compassionate Eatery where I got the special of the day which was some kind of spicy 'chicken' nacho dish and the most giant cookie I have ever seen in my life! The nachos were pretty good but I think I would have preferred plain beans to the mock chicken and by the time I came to eat the cookie I think I was over sweet food. The menu here looked pretty awesome though.

You couldn't really go wrong with Mexican though, even in the City Creek Mall. And corn chips here are so much more delicious than most we can buy at home.

On the whole though we did most of our own cooking. After Boulder we camped in Leadville for some altitude training before the rogaine (when you live at sea level it's a bit of an adjustment!).

The first morning we cooked up some terribly awful pancakes made from some boxed mix we found at a supermarket. They may have looked all fluffy but they tasted pretty awful! But the boys did try their hand at flipping them much to our entertainment.

Camping by Turquoise Lake was beautiful with the added bonus of a track going right past our tent for an easy morning run...followed by a swim in the lake.

Back in Salt Lake City we made pizza once my parents arrived and I got to try out some vegan cheese. It sort of melted but not like some of the pictures I'd seen and it kind of tasted a little bit plasticy (am I being too fussy here? Give me some of the European or British vegan cheeses any day...I don't care if they don't melt). The pizza was delicious though despite the cheese and the weird mock bacon we tried.

The best food of the whole trip though was definitely all the fresh summer berries, especially when out adventuring...or lazing in the sun!

Mountain biking in the hills above Park City. Perfect riding for me as it started with a big long climb up to the top (and then a punnet of raspberries of course!).

Exploring Mt Wolverine in the rain then meeting my parents and R checking out all the lakes.

And the best bit? Lazing around by a lake after eating far too many berries (if that is actually possible).

There, no more USA trip posts now. I think I'm done (and now hopelessly behind on everything since then!).

The Doctor, Lake Silenceo and "Spoilers!"

For those of you who watch Doctor Who, you probably know that the start of Season 6 is set in America. There was one Skype conversation with my brother, R about where it was filmed and he just casually mentioned that at least some of it was definitely in Utah, like the state he is living in. Then began a bit of fun looking up where each of the locations actually were (if you're interested, this site is very useful). I had a crazy fantasy that perhaps, when we came over, we might actually get to see them but I didn't actually imagine it was going to happen.

So, on the evening of our second night in Yellowstone, when R suggested a 4 day trip to Southern Utah (and Arizona) to check out each of the 4 filming locations, I was so ridiculously excited I went a little bit hyperactive! Before you get the impression that it's only me who's the Whovian in this group though, let me assure you that R and A are also big fans.

So there we were, on the road in search of sunshine and Doctor Who. Unfortunately the weather didn't start off so great and we had a rather wet and cold explore of Canyonlands before retreating to Moab for the night.

Next morning and the real adventure begins. You don't have to drive far out of Moab before you encounter the Hole In The Rock which was a creative and pretty cool detour before onwards to our first site (and possibly the hardest because we forgot to bring any decent pictues with us to check we were in the right place), the Valley of the Gods.

The Valley of the Gods is an isolated area with huge buttes, towering pinnacles and the classic red rock desert barrenness that feels like it stretches on forever. We drove through the windy dirt road in search of site #1, pretending we were chasing down Amy with our SUV. To say it was hot would be an understatement!

Next site, the classic Western shot of Monument Valley. Easy 'cause it's right on the main road.

Then onwards into Monument Valley itself for our first desert campground. As a side note, it's quite hard to get your pegs to stay in properly in a desert. Got car sick on the drive round the buttes so M and I got out and ran instead. We met the others for a desert picnic as the sun went down.

Nice morning for a run round a mitten right?

Site #3, Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, is not something you could miss. It's really quite huge. R even organised us all a tour of the dam. It's super high security so we had to go through metal detectors and empty our pockets and all that to be let through but you do get to stand on the dam itself (and check out some of the inner workings lower down - very worth it).

Quick trip to the Horseshoe Bend...

...then it was on to the 4th and final site, Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell - or, as we knew it, Lake Silenceo. This place is amazing. It's hard to get your head around the fact you are camping on a beach, in the sand, but you are actually at the edge of a large canyon in the desert that's been turned into a lake by the dam. It's beautiful.

Our drive back to Salt Lake City was along the beautiful Cottonwood Canyon Road before the storm rolled back in. I think on this trip I fell in love with the red deserts. We have nothing even close to this kind of thing at home and to me it looks and feels like another world. I still can't believe it's real. America is amazing!

Desert heat and freezing rain

Jeepers, it's October already and I haven't posted any more of our USA adventures. Too busy with adventures back home (and getting sick...sigh).

Right, well let's get going shall we?

After the rogaine, my brother (R) and his wife (A) took us on a pretty awesome road trip. Firstly we headed over to the Badlands 'cause who doesn't want to see an alien landscape and bask in the intense heat of the desert right?

As an added bonus we got to test out our new tent for the first time (the Big Angus Fly Creek UL2 - nice and lightweight for upcoming cycling adventures but, umm, pretty thin!).

Oh, and see some pretty cool animals. Big horn sheep are definitely more exciting and scary looking than the sheep we have at home!

We also got some brilliant views of the night sky. I was amused during the astromoner talk that night when they were asking us what the most well known constallation in the night sky was. Ummm, the Southern Cross right? Oops, wrong hemisphere!

How about a trip to the Devil's Tower next? You can laze in a hammock too (until you get told to take it down). First time in a hammock too. Awesome. We've been missing out for so long!

Then it's onto more driving, and into the rain too just to make it a little bit more exciting (and a lot colder...to make sure that I get to use all of the far too many clothes that I brought on this trip). A nice wet, dark arrival in Yellowstone is the perfect time to practice putting up your tent with the fly first. Thankfully there are no photos of me crawling around underneath setting it up!

Morning dawns a mixture of rain and delicious icy coldness (possibly sarcasm but one can never be sure) which means it is the perfect day to go animal spotting, geyser wandering, exploring and picnic just as darkness and the storm approached.

Oh yeah, and go run up a little hill to get a better view of the Grand Prismatic Spring (then bush bash down the other side of course).

The weather showed no real signs of abating (despite small patches of sunshine) so after another night in Yellowstone we drove through The Grand Tetons...

...and onwards towards the Doctor.

Mountain lions and fallen logs

In which L and I see a mountain lion and stumble over far too many fallen trees.

So the "main" purpose of our trip to the States was for me to compete in the World Rogaine Champs in the Black Hills of South Dakota (in other words, a good excuse to visit my eldest brother and his wife who live in Salt Lake City!). Plus the furthest afield I'd ever been up until this point had been bashing around in the bush somewhere in Australia so it was probably about time I headed off overseas somewhere like everyone else seems to do.

This is not the first time I've competed in the World Rogaine Champs. My first time was in Cheviot in 2010 a few years back. But this time was a rather more serious approach as L is amazing and we had the potential, if we had a good race, to make it onto the podium. Yeah, just a little bit of pressure. Mostly though we just wanted to do the best that we could (and not get eaten by a mountain lion or bitten by a rattlesnake). I hadn't had the best build up to this race either with a foot injury earlier in the year meaning I had to do a lot of cycle training instead.

The day before the race was supposed to be relaxing but ended up being stressful with M having to take the place of one of the other guys in the Open Men's team at the last minute. We'd both not had the best sleep that week either which was starting to worry me. In the afternoon my brother and his wife arrived which helped keep my mind off the following day a bit though.

Race morning and I'm not sure if many of us managed to stomach breakfast all too well. I was so nervous (and worried about M...silly me!). We arrived at the event with lots of time and managed to find a space at a table in the big tent next to some Aussie teams (3 of the 4 were actually ex Kiwis!) and nervously awaited map handout. Once we got our maps though it was all go. It didn't take us too long to plan our route as there seemed to us to be a clear part of the map that we wanted to be once it got dark (the north east corner) so we planned our (highly optimistic) route around this.

L and I pre race. Yep, the map is huge but bear in mind we'd already cut it down a bit too. Good for hiding under in case of rain right?

About 11:45am we were all ushered into the start area for an anxious 15 minute wait until the gun went off. It looked like there were a large amount of teams heading to the same first control as us (#25) so we set off fairly fast in order to not get held up in a queue. Seemed pretty successful. What always amazes me is how quickly teams spread out and how, despite there being something like 500 other people out there, we were mostly by ourselves by the 3rd control.

And we're off...the line of runners heading off to control #25. It's somewhere up in the bush there.

It all started out so well for the first hour but then the heat started to get to me and I found I couldn't seem to keep down any food other than chomps. Fortunately I was still able to drink so I wasn't getting dehydrated but I was losing energy fast. We tried sitting down for a couple of minutes at a time in order to help get food down but it wasn't working. Heat and incredibly rough terrain was not helping but I'm pretty stubborn when I want to be so there was no way I was giving up. We made it to the first water stop around 6:30pm, later than we'd wanted (although the terrain was turning out to be even rougher than the model map had been which seemed almost impossible!). There were people there to greet us and a note pasted on to the water barrel from L's partner and I think you could have actually seen our spirits lift at the sight of a friendly face. I managed to get down a gel and a few of L's corn chips and then we were off.

Darkness hit around 8:30pm (we had just made it to #74, determined to get there before requiring headlights) and we were faced with our first night control (#64), an incredibly vague spur in the middle of thick bush. Nailing that was an incredible boost for the spirits. We were heading back out through the bush after that control when L suddenly stopped and bent down to pick up a stick, telling me that I ought to do the same. It was then that I saw the eyes watching us from under a fallen tree. Not too far from where we were standing I could make out the shape of what could only be a mountain lion, pretty much my biggest fear for this whole trip. We started making as much noise as we could and had our whistles at the ready whilst slowly trying to make our way back out to the track. The eyes kept watching us the whole way. It was only once we'd gotten back out onto the track that, after checking we could no longer see it, we started running, turning round every now and then just to double check. We nearly scared ourselves to death at the sight of a deer and the way our headlights lit up the reflectors on the track posts.

After a rather long stretch of not getting any controls (not that I suspect we could have navigated all that successfully to them anyway as it took a long time for the panic to die down!) we were back into the bush for some more vague controls to test our night navigation! Finally, around midnight, we made it to #41 and the easier navigation. Oh, and our friends G&T who were also not having the best of races. We headed round the next few controls together which boosted everyone's moral before leaving them to go our own way. By this stage I could stomach a little bit more food (mostly just tofu and a few crackers so not ideal but better than nothing) so I was feeling a bit more on the planet.

Some time not long after 6am though we both had managed to develop incredibly sore feet. I've had sore feet in these events before but nothing like this. A change of socks, more vaseline and some pain killers brought about a small amount of relief but still, at times we were reduced to a hobble! I think in the last couple of hours we could have been a lot more aggressive but we just couldn't handle the foot pain and had decided that as long as we finished after 11:30am then that would just have to be enough.

L and I at the finish.

I can't tell you how relieved I was to finish, take my shoes off and sit down...24 hour rogaines are such painful things. Why do we do them?! But even better was seeing my brother and M at the finish line cheering us on.

This event was by far the toughest terrain I've ever been in (just the continuous battle through endless fallen trees for hours on end) but despite the pain and exhaustion it was actually really fun. We both agreed it was an excellent course (if not the greatest of maps) and we can now add mountain lion to the list of animals seen (although I think I would have preferred not to have seen one!). I definitely learnt some lessons and I have a long way to go in terms of figuring out a fail-safe food plan...sigh.

Yep, I sure was happy to be finished. I almost look fresh in this photo but I sure didn't feel that way!

There should have been a prize giving within an hour of everyone finishing but somehow there was a rather large technical disaster with the results and so we had to wait about 2 weeks for the results to be announced. So much anticipation! Somehow, despite having a pretty rough race, L and I managed to take second place in the Women's Open grade. My medal arrived in the post a few days ago but it all feels rather surreal without having a prize giving.

Thanks to my awesome brother R for the photos!

Vegan cheese with too many shoes

Yep, we're finally back in the land of the long white cloud. Well, actually we've been back for just over a week now but my head is still all over the place.

I have returned with more vegan cheese than I can possibly cope with (well, only 3 packets but to be honest I'm over it all ready...I definitely prefer the european vegan cheese sorry!) and chocolate-covered pretzels! The guys in bio-security at Christchurch Airport weren't too worried about that but they did have a laugh at just how many pairs of sports shoes I kept pulling out of my bag. I feel like we bought the entirety of REI and Backcountry home with us!

Anyway, I have much excitement to tell - from encountering a mountain lion in the dark to exploring Southern Utah in search of Doctor Who - but right now I need to go to bed so you'll have to wait to hear those stories.