Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rebounderz: Hurst, TX

Now that my children are grown and gone, I generally try to avoid places that attract large herds of kids.  Truthfully, I don't even like to be seated next to children in restaurants lest they end up staring or crying or puking or driving their parents insane.  But, now that I have grandchildren, the tide is turning again and I find myself at places like Rebounderz.

Rebounderz is an "Indoor Trampoline Arena".  My son, who is in his early 20's, posted on Facebook that he had a lot of fun here with friends last time he visited Texas. So, I thought I would take my 5 year old granddaughter here and we could bounce the afternoon away while waiting on my parents to get home from work.
The timing of our visit is somewhat out of my control as I don't live here anymore and am only in town for work.  When that happens, I always work in a visit with Kendall.  I had a theory that since we were going on the last Friday before school starts and after lunch that it wouldn't be crowded.  And that was generally true (although now having been there, I can clearly imagine a weekend afternoon here in all of its hellish glory).  In fact, when we found the trampoline area reserved for those 5 and under there was no one in it.
The bored teenage employees were all in the next "ring" over and seemed put out to have to stop their personal conversation to come over and supervise Kendall & I.  The young man supervising this area says you have to be 5 or under to be in there (which clearly I am not) but he will "make an exception" since he doesn't think she wants to play by herself (Kendall has a bracelet that identifies her age range).  A few minutes later a boy of about 2 climbed in with two girls who are probably 10 or so and their presence in this restricted area is not challenged after the mother explains they are "watching him".
The individual trampolines are small and Kendall quickly grew tired of bouncing from trampoline to trampoline with me and wanted to go over to the "dice pit" as she calls it.
Kendall abandons bouncing and simply races across the trampoline into the pit.
But then she doesn't want to get out.  She wants to crawl around in the pit and starts trying to "find the bottom".  This isn't going to work because other people, including two women who are probably in their 30's, are waiting to jump in (they execute toe touches and other cheerleader style jumps on every turn they take - which was several).
And because Kendall is so small she frequently gets stuck or has difficulty managing the "dice" so the employee manning the pit keeps having to climb in and help Kendall get out.  She also tells me that I can be anywhere Kendall can go, including the ring I was just told I wasn't really supposed to be in.
I had to talk Kendall into trying the basketball area.  After she made the very first shot she basically threw the ball straight up and then covered her head to keep from getting hit.  This ring has just two goals both with the small trampolines you see here.  The other goal is higher but not by much.
Basketball rounds out the only trampoline places Kendall can go as "5 and under":  The one ring, the dice pit and basketball.  Not that many places.  There are other rings for kids of varying ages that have a lot more kids in them.  There are only a few parents/guardians/people like me who accompany the kids around or even in some of the rings but mainly there are moms (and a few dads) sitting around on benches or on the floor glued to their phones and/or tablets while trying to ignore the complete chaos around them.
When you arrive you fill out a waiver on a bank of computers if you haven't done this in advance on the website.  Several of these were having technical problems and some people were just not computer literate so there was an employee running around trying to help out.  After that you pay to jump.  Fees are by the hour and fortunately I only paid for one because she didn't stick with the bouncing for more than maybe 30 minutes.
"Get your purse, Grandma!"  She was "dying of thirst" and "pretty much starving".  I have already heard the starving comment once since I picked her up barely an hour ago.  The purple bracelet will tell them when our time is up (they make a general announcement once an hour over the loud speaker listing the color that's time is up).  The white one is her 5 and under identifier.
Ahhh, much better.  Except for the 6 televisions all playing different kid's stations, the kids running around the snack bar and the blaring rock music being piped across the entire facility.
Kendall is done with the trampolines and wants to move on the arcade which we happily have all to ourselves. 
I watch her play numerous rounds of Fruit Ninja and then this happened:  Jackpot!
Until the machine ran out of tickets.  This girl could not get it working.  Luckily another employee got it fixed and just in time too since we ran the game right next to this out while waiting.
The Grand Total

The Loot:  1 Mystery Dum-Dum, 1 mini slinky in rainbow colors and two horses, one blue and one purple.  "The blue one is for Elsa, Grandma".  If you don't know who Elsa is, you apparently don't know a single child in America.
In my opinion, the trampoline part of this place is targeted to older kids, say 10 and up, or to 20 something boys with the mentality of a 10 year old (yes, you Blake).  The music is too loud, the employees too young and wishing to be anywhere else but at work (or at work but not expected to work).  The price was reasonable for this type of venue.  I spent $14.99 for an hour and the lock, a few dollars on a blue slushy and $10 on tokens which netted us some cheap toys. 
But this is what I really paid for:
Time alone with this girl. 
One day I will be gone or too embarrassing to be seen with in public so I have to take advantage of doing things with her now.  She may not remember the blue horse or the slushy or the dice pit or even remember going to Rebounderz with me someday.  But I hope she remembers that her grandma was there to do fun stuff with once upon a time and wasn't afraid to get in there with her and jump.
Would I ever go back to Rebounderz?  No, not if I can help it.  But then again...I do have 2 other grandkids.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Naked Bike Ride: Missoula, MT

When my friend Joanne recently mentioned that The Naked Bike Ride was coming to Missoula, the immediate conversation between David and I went something like this:

Me:  We have to go.
David:  I don't think so.
Me:  How can we not go?  We have to go.
David:  No.
Me:  Hmmm, maybe it would be better if you didn't go.
David:  If you're going, I'm going.
Me:  No, I think you should stay home.
David:  I don't think so.

There was some debate both here and at David's job over what kinds of nakedness one might see.  Will this be a bunch of hard core biker hardbodies?  My opinion was no, that there would be all kinds.  You can be the judge later because, yes, be forewarned, there will be photos. 

And I should clarify now.  We did not participate in the ride.  There are two reasons for this.  1)  We don't own bikes.  2)  I don't even like it when my bra straps show so there is no way I would ever be in public in any way, shape or form, doing anything naked.

When we first arrived we went to the bridge on Higgins Street, which is in the heart of downtown.  There are a group of people gathering by the old depot with their bikes.

No nakedness yet.  A few of the men had their shirts off but that was it.  We stayed there for a while watching people in the river trying to surf and tubing.  Not much happening on the bike ride front.  This seems like it is going to be the most un-naked naked event I have ever been to.
Others start joining us on the bridge.  One man approaches us and asks what we are taking pictures of.  Really?  I am pretty sure he knows why we are here.
This guy came prepared.  Unlike me and David, I think he might be here out of more than curiosity.
So the bike riders in the parking lot take off (riding) and a new guy next to us says, "I knew they'd chicken out".  This ride happens in other cities and it was a big deal in the newspapers that it came here.  The article I read yesterday said even though the city approved it that didn't negate the ordinance against lewdness and the jurisdiction of the sheriff's department or the highway patrol inside the city limits.
This guy is the boldest we have seen in just his underwear.  I don't think that is what the man in the lawn chair was hoping for.

So we leave the bridge and go down the trail a ways thinking maybe we missed the main part.  There are other people with lawn chairs and generally loitering about so we decide to wait and see what happens.  Then we hear cheering and we see them across the river in a neighborhood.  We hurry back to the bridge just in time.
Here they come.  And there are a LOT of them.
And most of them didn't chicken out.  Most were completely nude other than shoes.
This older gentleman kept his black socks on.  And let's don't forget the ball cap.  Wouldn't want to get a sunburn on his scalp.
Some people were partially clothed, girls in tutu's, guys in jock straps.
Or "Caution" tape.  That looks really uncomfortable.
As I said, I could never do this.  I have always been excessively self-conscious about my body.  I wouldn't say I was jealous exactly but I can't help but want to say "you go girl" to women that aren't.  This lady had a sign on her bike that reads, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." 
We did see one protester holding a sign but it was completely unrelated to this event.  Something to do with the university and curriculum.  Let's just say that no one was paying him any attention.  When we were looking his direction there was a woman bending over.  David was stressing a little, he wanted her to stop.  It was like that episode of Seinfeld.  There's good naked and then there's bad naked. 
I was more interested to see what he would do.  The answer?  Nothing.  The police around downtown appeared to be there just in case.  It didn't seem like any of them planned to get involved with any of the riders.  David saw a couple of cops on bikes early on but they had their clothes on so I didn't bother photographing them.
Probably my favorite photo from the event.  When I looked at these in the car on the way home I thought this was going to be a good one to share as it captured the good-natured spirit of the participants without fear of offending anyone.  Then I got home and brought it up on the bigger computer monitor and BOOM...there it was, staring at me from under her armpit.  Quit looking so hard.  I blurred it with editing software.
I did see this one kid and a few people, including this kid's dad, with baby carriages behind.  I said to David, "Blake (our son) would be mortified if we were naked in public for any reason".  David said, "I would be mortified if I were naked in public for any reason."
On the way home I sent Joanne a text since she declined to come with us.  I said, "That was awesome!".  She replied, "I don't believe you."
I will never look at riding a bike the same way but I'll tell you the same thing I told her:  Any event that can make a person smile and/or laugh is worth attending.  The riders and I did both.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Logger Days: Darby, MT

You are going to quickly find that more of my stories and events are closer to home now that I am traveling a little less.  My company finally agreed to give me some help so I can say home a little more.  Ironically, I was home for a whole month this time and David was gone for 3 weeks of it.  So at the end of week two, my friend Joanne took pity on my solitude and invited me to accompany her and her visiting family to the annual Logger Days event about an hour down the road in Darby, Montana.

When I was growing up and considering possible college and/or career paths, it never even remotely came to my attention that Lumberjill (female Lumberjack) was an option.  Now I know that there are people who participate in this sport on college teams and adults who compete and are sponsored by companies that make chainsaws and axes like Stihl.  In fact, if you go to the Stihl webpage, you can find a link to their Timbersports team (suspiciously devoid of any Lumberjills at the moment).  They also had a link for "gear" but sadly this was only t-shirts and koozies, not a place to buy the chainmail toe protectors or chaps the competitors wore.

So even though I was woefully unaware of this option growing up in the city the way I did, my friend Joanne must think that I am exactly the kind of Jill they are looking for since the mentioned - twice - that we should get me signed up for next year.  I wasn't sure how to feel about that comment.  Was it a complement?  An insult?  Were the other people around me thinking the same thing?  Maybe since she has seen the machete I own first hand, she doesn't see it as a far cry for me to get an axe and some saws and go to town.

But the Jill's didn't look like either of us expected.  They looked very...regular.  None of them were very tall.  None were muscular.  Most looked like someone you would see walking through the Walmart parking lot on their way in to get groceries for the week.  And I mean even the way they were dressed.  Only one woman stood out as a competitor.  The others could have been in the stands and you wouldn't have known the difference.

The Jill to beat.  You could tell this before you even saw her do anything.  Something in the way she carried herself - very confident.  I looked her up later, Erin Lavoie.  She owns a Crossfit Gym (what else?) in Washington and holds two world records in the event pictured here:  The Underhand Chop.  She also holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most Christmas Trees chopped down in 2 minutes.
Here she is again, I think this event was called Single Buck.  The man in the red shirt is putting something down (water, WD40?) between the blade and the wood and when she gets far enough down, he will put a wedge in.
Even most of the men looked pretty regular.  There were only a couple that were big and most were wearing pretty regular looking clothes.  The guy in the photo above in the background wearing the black tank top is a competitor.
We are regularly encouraged by the emcee to cheer but I find myself so fascinated watching them that I generally forget about that part.  I am also a little distracted because we are right in the sun and I am the kind of person who could burn sitting in the shade at midnight. 

In this event they must chop into the "tree", put this board in and climb up to stand on it and do it again.  They chop in three times and stand higher and higher (about 8 feet by the end if I remember correctly) on this platform while they chop the top off.  Most of these events are timed and there are multiple heats.
There were other people competing...this guy just happened to be in a good spot for me to take photos most of the time.  This is the Cookie Stack.  They start with their hands on the top of the column.
Then they use a chainsaw to cut "cookies", as many as they can in the allowed time.
The cookies then must be transferred - without using your hands - to the next log over.  There were two methods.  Some moved one cookie at a time and some cut a bunch of cookies and moved a whole stack.  The problem was that sometimes when they got right to the end, the cookie would go flying off.  If you had a stack of 5 they would all fly together.
Several of the women competitors had the same last name as a male competitor.  Married couples?  Brother and sister?  Mother and son?  Not sure but it makes sense that this type of sport might be a family affair.  I think I might be able to get on board with this quicker than golf.  I wonder where you can buy one of those saws?
Ax throwing.  I bet I could get David to put me a bullseye out back.  We have plenty of room and our neighbors aren't that close.
Father and son competitors.  This one was easy to figure out since they were Junior and Senior.  Junior looked pretty intimidating with his giant chest and mohawk.
Next year - yes, I would absolutely go to this again - I will be prepared with an umbrella or to sit in one of the few shaded bleachers unless of course I am in the program in which case I will wear more sunscreen and a ball cap.  I wonder if Stihl gives them out free to their Jill's?  I might have to check into that.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hiking to St. Mary's Peak: Near Victor, MT

It's been a while.  More than a while, over a year since I have written here.  A lot has happened and I have thought to write many times but didn't.  The reasons aren't important.  I'm back now.  I may go back and cover some of what I missed...I may not.  But this is a good place to start.

On Friday I say to D,  "Maybe we could go for a hike tomorrow".  He says okay.  We have a book of all of the trails - which are numerous - in our area.  At dinner, we mention to our friends that we are considering a hike and Steven suggests St. Mary's.  There is a lookout tower at the top.  I assume he has been up there.  I assumed wrong.  Later I find out they had only heard people talk about this trail, they had never actually done it themselves.

We arrive at the trailhead about 9:15 after an 11 mile drive on a pothole-filled, rocky dirt road.  David said he felt nauseated from his breakfast sloshing around so violently.  He has the aforementioned book with him and has read that the hike is rated as "moderate", that there is a spring a little over a mile in and the wilderness boundary is a little over two miles.

The lookout is at 3.8 miles according to this sign and the book.  Remember, that is one way.
We have hiked much further than that since moving here and I don't feel any concern that I can't do that distance.  But we are still at the car.  The hike isn't what I consider scenic in that you are mostly in the trees.  A lot of the hikes here run next to a river, creek or lake so there is a view of and the sound of the water.  The trees are pretty thick and you can't see out across the mountains or the towns below other than during occasional breaks.  Not that I am looking around much.  The trail is steep and in places, very rocky.  At one point D checks some app he has and the trail is at an 11 degree incline.  I would think that somewhere between 8-12 degrees was pretty consistent the whole time.  There was one area where you level out a bit but it doesn't last long.  I do try to enjoy the beauty of this trail, even if it isn't what I expected, as much as I can while I am stopping for very frequent breaks to catch my breath. 
There are a lot of trees here that have either burned or have had some type of disease.  The bark is gone and there is a distinct twisting to the trunks and branches.
Several varieties of wildflowers grow along the trail.  There are differences in what we see at the bottom compared to what is at the top.
This one I actually know the name of:  Beargrass.  I'm not sure why it is called that but I am on alert for bears and have my bear spray with me.  On the trip down I see something black standing with its front paws up against a tree and my heart jumps a little as I think it might be a bear.  It turned out to be a big black dog.
As I mentioned, I am taking a LOT of breaks.  I liked to think that I was fit enough for this but that is clearly not the case.  Maybe the altitude is a factor but I don't know.  I have never been this high before.  I am pretty sure I have never been as high as where we started the hike at about 6800 feet.  All the years I lived in the Dallas are I was close to sea level.  I have only lived here 18 months and our house is at about 3600 feet.  I get winded quickly and my legs feel like lead.  And did I mention this trail is steep?
It's a little hard to tell that D is in this photo due to the color of his clothes.  He is right to the tree line.  Probably wishing he hadn't brought me along.
By the time we reach the wilderness boundary I feel really worried about the food and water situation.  We both have water on us but only about 20 oz each.  I had breakfast consisting of 1/2 of an English Muffin and a little peanut butter about an hour before we left the house (not even close to enough considering what we are burning).  I have a Kashi bar in my backpack.  D has a package of 8 cheese crackers and a protein bar.  We left the trailhead about 9:30 am.  It is pushing noon.  I feel weak and shaky.  I am stopping more frequently.  I have consumed about half of my water and hate to use more because we aren't to the top and we still have the walk down to consider.  D has already shared 1/2 of his crackers with me.  The voice inside my head is busy making mental lists of things I hate at the moment:
  • My hiking stick
  • My shoes
  • My pants (which are too big and too long)
  • My backpack
  • Bumble Bees and Horseflies
  • Rocks
  • Dirt
  • The voice inside my head
We meet a couple going the other way and she tells us we are about an hour from the lookout tower.  She says they have been coming down for 45 minutes. 
In the distance I spot a lake.  One of the bright spots on this part of the trail for me as I am more and more tired.  The book says this trail is best in late September because the haze common to this time of the year here will be gone.  Today is one of those hazy days.
The couple said that when we clear the tree line we will see the tower.  We will lose it in the switchbacks in the final part of the trail but at least you know you are almost there.
I SEE IT!  No really, it is up there at the top of that ridge.
We are a little closer. D says that when we get to this next part he thinks it will level out.  That gives me hope because I am still stopping constantly and feeling weaker and weaker.  Putting one foot in front of the other feels so hard.
It doesn't level out.  And it is time for a confession.  I have tried to get D to hike ahead and I will catch up.  I feel terrible.  My body is tired and achy.  I am dehydrated.  I am hungry.  On this part of the trail he could see me if he looked back and there is not likely to be a bear around and if there was, I have the spray.  About 20 people and half a dozen dogs have caught and passed us.  I feel like I am going to cry and have felt that way for a little while now.  I even put my sunglasses on so he wouldn't see if I did.  We stop and I drink some water and try again to get him to go on.  I really want to be left alone in my misery.  He refused.  I cry.  He can't help but see. 
I had this exact sensation once before.  I was in the hospital and they had given me anesthesia and I felt like I was going to cry.  I told the nurse and she said - go ahead, it does that to some people.  So, I choose to believe that altitude sickness does that to me.  It makes me cry.  It helps to let it go because holding it in the last little while has made it harder to breathe.  D suggest we head down.  NO WAY.  It is right there.  I can do this.
And I do.  And it finally levels out.  It is also 62 degrees here at the top so it feels great, almost cold with the wind.
Officially the top at 9335 feet.
Truthfully, since my cry, I feel a lot better.  I know I can make it back, regardless of the food and water situation.  It won't be easy but I feel confident I can do it.  Without stopping or complaining.  In my defense, I tried to keep the complaining to a minimum.  I didn't always succeed, but I tried.
The gentleman manning the watchtower lets me take some photos inside while we talk.
He has a small stove and a box of what appears to be dried meals.  There is a very small mirror on the wall in case he wants to see himself or shave?  There are measuring cups hanging from a nail.  The space is very small and this is his entire living/sleeping area.
Nice view from the bed though.
This is the scope he uses when there is smoke.  He said you look through this end and line up the smoke with the cross hairs on the other side.  Then you take the compass heading along the outer ring and call to Hamilton (the nearest town of any size) with the information.  Then you try to pinpoint the exact location of the fire by using the map and counting peaks or using other landmarks.
He also has this map that folds down from the ceiling.  He is showing how using a string that comes from the location of his tower he can cross reference that with the information from other towers to try and get an exact location of the fire.
I don't get to ask most of the questions I have.  His phone rings and he takes the call (which appears to be a personal call) so I leave the tower to look around before we head down.  I did have a lot of questions though:
  • How long do you stay up here at a time?
  • How do you get your supplies up here?
  • What do your supplies consist of?
  • What does one do to get this job?
  • Do you like your job?
  • Do you ever get bored?
  • Do you like that people hike up here to your "house" or do you wish we would all just stay away and leave you alone?
  • What's it like when storms come?
  • How many fires have you personally seen?
  • Do you have lights or do you simply go to bed when it gets dark?
  • What if you have to go to the bathroom and it is dark?
  • What if you have to go to the bathroom and people are here?
There IS a toilet.  In this photo it is a wooden seat to the right in the bushes.  It isn't well concealed, there are no walls, no door.  Anyone would see you sitting there.  The direction it faces ensures you would see someone coming well before they saw you but still.  I couldn't do it.  I don't even want D in the next room when I am in the bathroom.  But, he might have the best view ever.  No need for reading material.
Time to head down.  There are 4 college-age girls that pass us on the way up and I let them pass on the way down.  They talk non-stop.  I don't want to go down the mountain listening to these chatty cathys the whole way.  D and I don't talk any more than needed most of the time when we hike.  I like to hear the birds and the wind.
The trip down is much easier than the trip up and we do make it with almost no stops.  The only problem with going back down is that every few hundred feet a bumble bee or horsefly will come to check you out by trying to fly in your ear.  I have to take off my ball cap to swat them away.  They are persistent and annoying.  When we see the spring I feel almost elated.  I really have felt fine since I cried and D shared half of his protein bar with me but I am very tired and ready to be at the car.  It took us about 3 1/2 hours to hike up and just over 2 hours to hike down.  We learned a lot on this hike, mostly about what not to do.  And I learned that one person's "moderate" is another person's "strenuous".
We are filthy, tired, hungry and thirsty.  Unfortunately there is still the drive back down the 11 mile road where you feel like your spleen is being relocated before we can stop at the nearest place to eat, a Subway.  I am sleepy and since I drove up, D is driving down.  But what I really feel more than sleepy is a sense of calm.  Maybe I needed to push myself that far.  Maybe I needed to cry for no reason.  I am happy that I made it to the top, even if it was hard. 
My friend Joanne asked if it was worth it. 
When you are standing on top of the world, it is hard not to feel that it is worth it.