Monday, February 20, 2012

Dead Runner Conference

Way back when I bought my first Mac computer, I discovered a group of running addicts who had formed an internet email group called the Dead Runner Society. Ever since then I have been very involved with reading, posting and discussing all manner of topics with these people. Once a year the group meets for a World Conference. I have previously attended two of these and it was very interesting to meet people with whom I had been interacting on the internet. In addition, I have met some of these people at races and when they visited my area or I was in the area where they lived. Usually, when I have come face to face with these people, I immediately felt like I had known them for a very long time. This has been especially true with the invention of Facebook where we have been sharing photos.

Since Thursday, Hollie and I have been in Austin, TX for one of these Conferences. This has been quite an experience. I think there were 57 people registered. We have spent quite a bit of time eating, running and just hanging out together. It is amazing how these people immediately become friends and it will make our future communications so much more meaningful. This experience is not for everyone. Many people would not be able to relate to us or would want to do so. But, for me, this group has become a huge part of my life.

Hollie is not a member of the group in that he does not post, nor does he lurk. That does not keep him from feeling that he is a “member” because I frequently discuss with him some of the group’s discussions. I really have appreciated how the group has accepted him while we have been at the conference. I guess I should have expected that because they are such sharing people. How could they not be?

We will be leaving Austin in the morning and will go to Houston to visit a friend for a couple of days. We should home by Friday. I’m ready since we will have been on the road for almost a month.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Now in Burnet, TX

I am way behind in writing my blog. My excuse is that for the past week or so, I have not been able to send email or post. I'll attempt to catch up.

From Feb 5-8 we were at a campground in Lajitas, TX which is near Terlingua in the Big Bend Country. The campground is a part of the Lajitas Resort which is a large development right on the Rio Grande. It was the dream of a TX oilman who thought he could attract big money people to the area, by offering condos, homes and other high end lodging. He also built an airport, hotel, a variety of shops, golf course, etc. The project has never been a success. The original developer lost interest or died and his children eventually sold it to another dreamer who added an equestrain center, luxery RV park, expanded the golf course, built a huge restaurant and more condos and homes. After 5-10 years he ran out of money or lost interest and it was once again sold.

The current status of the "resort" is that it seems to be hanging on, although there were not many people there. The golf course is in sorry shape due to lack of rain, the various shops are open limited hours and the big restaurant is closed. The RV park was very nice and was about half full---mostly snowbirds or people interested in mountain biking or hiking.

We enjoyed our stay as the weather (with the exception of a day or two of high wind) was absolutely beautiful. Mostly, we just enjoyed our walking, running and biking in such wonderful conditions. One night we went to Terlngua to eat at the famous Starlight Theater. It was 2 for 1 burger night and the placee was packed with locals. It was interesting to observe the people as they came in and made their rounds greeting their friends and neighbors. There was going to be a man and woman providing entertainment by playing and singing, but we left before that started.

While in Lajitas, one day was spent driving the scenic river road to Presidio. Presidio is sometimes the hottest place in the US and it is a fairly busy border crossing.

When we left the area on Feb 9, our camp host had told us to stop in Terlingua to eat breakfast at India's Bakery and Cafe. This was a "hole in the wall" place, but the food was really good and the prices were very reasonable. We visited with the owner and learned that due to the current economic situation, she is barely hanging on, but is determined to mak a go of it. We ended up buying a small cake to take with us.

From Feb 9-13, we were in Alpine, TX at The Lost Alaskan RV Park. This was another very nice park and we met some interesteing people, especially a couple who were biking/camping from Mesa, AZ to New Orleans. They ended up staying a couple of days and Hollie and I visited with them quite a bit and I found that we had much in common as they were avid Grand Canyon hikers and that is one of my passions.

While using Alpine as our base, we took day trips to Fort Davis and Marfa. Each of these towns have significant history in the development of the West and we especially enjoyed walking around Marfa. In Fort Davis, we ate lunch at a small cafe that had the best burritos that I have ever tasted.

In Alpine, there is a famous baseball field/park (Kokernot) which is a miniture of Wrigley Field. It was built in the 1940s by a local rancher, Herbet Kokernot, who then founded a professional baseball team. They were called the Alpine Cowboys. I'm not sure how long that team lasted, but the park is still in wonderful condition and is used by the University and the HS for their games. In fact, on Sunday whe it was extremely cold, Sul Ross was playing a game.

We had planned on leaving Alpine on Feb 12, but the weather forecast convinced us that we needed to stay another night. As it turned out, that was a good decision because we would have been driving in snow and ice. On Sunday, it was cold and some freezing rain. Since I wanted to run and Hollie wanted to bike, we went over to Sul Ross University and talked our way into their fitness center where I ran on the treadmill and Hollie used the stationary bike.

Yesterday we drove from Alpine to Burnet, TX where we are now staying with Mason and Janie Honeycutt. We have known them for over 30 years. While living in the Houston area, Janie and I used to teach/coach at Stratford and Westchester HS and we had our conference period and lunch periods back to back which gave us enough time to run most days. We also did many miles on the weekends and ran several marathons together, including the Boston Marathon. Last night, we got to their home with just enough time to go for a run and that brought back many memories. Janie is the kind of friend that you can not see for years and simply pick up where you left off. We have also recently done a couple of Grand Canyon Service Projects together, so we are still good friends.

We will be with Janie and Mason until Thursday morning when we will drive to Austin where we will be staying at Mckinney Falls State Park and attending the Dead Runner Society World Conference and I will run the 5K which is a part of Austin Marathon weekend. The conference is a yearly meeting of runners who correspond by email. I have previously attended meetings in Tucson and Albuquerque and it is really fun to meet people with whom you have had frequent and lengthy email communication. More on that later...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On the Road Heading to Big Bend

We are once again on the road with our travel trailer. This time we are heading to Big Bend National Park, Texas Hill Country, Austin and Houston. We will be in the Big Bend area beginning Sunday where we will be staying in Lajittas from Feb 5-8 and in Alpine Feb 9-11. Then we are on to Austin Feb 16-20 and Houston for Feb 21 and a couple of days before heading back to Hattiesburg.
On Wednesday we left Hattiesburg about 2:00 pm. We waited until major thunderstorms had cleared and our plan was to drive to Baton Rouge and stay in a Wal-Mart parking lot. That worked well and we were on the road early Thursday morning.
Thursday night we stayed at Village Green State Park just outside Lumberton, TX. This is a very small and very quiet campground with lots of nice walking/running/biking trails. I usually do not run trails, but these looked so appealing that I decided to give it a try. It probably was not the smartest thing to do since Hollie was going on a long bike ride and would not know exactly where I was running. I took the risk because the trails were loops and I figured if a took a tumble, I could probably crawl back to where someone would find me. As it was, I did not take a tumble, although I once did a four point contact by tripping, but catching myself with my hands and actually remaining on my feet.
The trail was sandy and shaded and mostly without the usual number of roots waiting to trip me. I took it really slow and tried to pay close attention to my foot placement. I did not worry about my pace and just enjoyed the scenery and the different feeling that running on trails gives. I ended up doing 4.5 miles. I first ran 2 miles and then did the “almost fall” after which I walked .25 before getting back to running 2.5 miles.
Thursday we drove from just outside Beaumont, TX to about halfway between Houston and San Antonio. When we left the Village Green State Park, we took back roads to East Houston before picking up I-10. I cannot imagine how we tolerated living in the Houston area for over 20 years. I really shouldn’t say that because we had good jobs, good schools and at that point in our life, it was just fine. It’s just that now that we have lived in a small town, it is hard to tolerate the traffic and the planning that must be done just to get *anywhere* in a timely manner.
We stopped at a Sam’s near Katy and were amazed at how much has been built and how things have changed, although we have been back 5-6 times since we worked in the Katy area. It’s just a shock to see the growth and building that has taken place. Houston seems to be booming!
We stayed the night at Palmetto State Park near Gonzales. There had been about 2 inches of rain the day before so the area was very wet, with all the trails closed. So I did not have the temptation to see if I could do a run without tripping/falling. This is another small park so much so that I had to do my run on roads outside the park. It was supposed to be a rest day from running and I usually do yoga on those days, but that was not possible while in a small travel trailer in a very wet park. So I ran and walked the roads, getting in a total 6 miles.
Saturday night we stayed at Seminole Canyon State Park near Comstock, TX. We arrived at the park later than we had anticipate and it was very windy, cold and the area is very hilly. I had run for 7 straight days so I decided to go for a walk so that I could meet my self-imposed minimum of 30 minutes of exercise for 100 straight days. I am also attempting to average 100 minutes over the course of the 100 days. I ended up walking for 60 minutes and then stretching for 5 so I got a total of 65 minutes for the day.
When we arrived at the park headquarters, I had noticed a sign that said "Wi-Fi available here" so after dinner I decided to check and sure enough, out there in the middle of nowhere we had wi-fi.  It was nice to catch up on email and news.
Today we drove to Lajitias which is on the Rio Grande just outside Big Bend. I have visited this area several times before. In fact, years ago two of my female friends and I caught a ride in a row boat and went across the river to the Mexican village for dinner. We then got the little Mexican guy to take us back to the US. Of course, that is now impossible to do with all the security worries.

When we got to our campground, we discovered that we had somehow lost the bottom/base of one of the front jacks for the trailer. By the time we figured out how to set up our trailer with that part missing, I was cold, hungry and not in a mood to run. But, because of the 100 Day Challenge in which I am participating, I quickly put on my running clothes and took off---very slowly and stayed that way for the entire run. I ran 5 miles and walked 1.5.

This campground is advertised as an "RV Resort" and so far it seems to be one of the better places that we have stayed. The restrooms were individual rooms, there is a large meeting room, a TV room, Wi-Fi, cable TV (not working) and an outdoor pool---a little cold for that.

I think that tomorrow, I will just hang out around this area and maybe checkout the "town" before going back to Big Bend on our remaining days.