Road trip: Niagra

While this road trip was in a van, it was not a #vanlife road trip. We rented a 12 passenger van for Kelly’s dad, sister and her family Loci and the boys, and us. So 9 of us in a 12 passenger van to Canada! At least we broke the drive on the way up by stopping after 4-5 hours, but on the way back it was one straight shot!

Before we got to Niagra, we did stop in Buffalo at the home of the original wing:

Make that 250 million!

We have a lot of photos, but I’ll try to capture just a few things. The 1st evening we just walked around “up top,” and didn’t venture down. The shots from there are not that exciting, so I won’t share them.

The next morning, Kelly and I got up and did an exploratory run, so here are some shots from that:

We found just a few Canadian Geese in Dufferin Island park!

But then we got our 1st views of the powerful falls!

Later we caught up with everyone and walked around more, but also made our 1st (of 3!) ventures up the Skylon tower. (We bought a day and night pass, but then found our tour the next day also included another trip up!)


The tower does some funny photos:

Later we drove to Niagra-on-the-Lake on Lank Ontario which was quite a nice little town, and stopped at a couple wineries on the way back.

The next day we had quite the tour planned! We would meet our guides at 8:30 in the morning, and the first stop was a surprise — back to the Skylon tower! After that, we Journeyed Behind the Falls (well worth it!), drove north along the river, and then got to venture out on the famous Hornblower, which brings you right up to the falls!

Later we ate at the locals’ recommendations (Chucks – reasonable prices compared to most other options) and a few of us ventured into the Myrtle Beach-like section of town:

The next day Kelly and I ran from Canada to NY! We ran the 1.5 miles from the hotel to the pedestrian bridge, and even though we had our passports (required), we did not have the $1 toll! ūüė¶ So we ran back to the hotel, picked up some dollars, and headed back. I’m so glad we got to see the NY side – well worth it! Niagra Falls State Park in NY was really nice, and we got to see the US side of Horseshoe falls, Bridal Veil falls, and the American Falls, all from a different perspective.

We liked it so much, we talked the rest of the gang into going that way 1st, on the long drive back so they could see it too.

Lots of amazing rainbows on the NY side!

Kelly had the ACCS conference in Atlanta, so we dropped her off at Buffalo International, and the remaining 8 of his drove the 11 hours back to NC. It was a long drive, but we survived.

Maiden Voyage

Well, there’s a bit of a back story I’ll expand on some day, but for now, let’s just say we got started on van life a little earlier than anticipated. This new category of posts will cover our van life trips.

For the maiden voyage, we just went one night in our new conversion van (rv) to Cedar Point Campground, near the mouth of the White Oak River, in the Croatan National Forest. The camp ground is relatively small with just 40 sites on two loops, but it was well-equipped and quiet. We had electrical for the van, but the water was a faucet shared between a couple sites and didn’t have a hose connection for us, so we used the water on board. (We thought we had run out of fresh water, but alas, we probably just didn’t know to use the water pump – lesson #1 learned). Other than that, we are starting to get the hang of all the features of the van, but still have a lot to learn!

The camp ground itself wasn’t super exciting, but the Cedar Point Tideland trail was beautiful. Over the evening and morning we were there, we ran, rode, and paddle boarded all around. Here are a few photos:

The next day after we packed up, we went over to Emerald Isle and hung out on the beach and in the rented home of one of Riley’s friends for the day. Emerald Isle is a beautiful beach, and we all got a little too much sun.

Tetons days 1&2

Kelly and I celebrated 25 years of marriage by heading to one of our favorite places, Grand Teton National Park. ¬†While we had wanted to backpack the Crest Trail, we were too early in the season. ¬†The park ranges had told us we’d need to carry ice axes and know how to self-arrest! ¬†We opted to do some canyon backpacking instead — in one canyon, then out to the next. ¬† We still want to go back to do the entire Crest trail some day — but now know that needs to be mid to late July to (very) early September!

We flew in to Jackson Hole and had a couple nights at a fantastic Bed & Breakfast, Teton View B&B. ¬† (When we landed in Jackso, the stewardess welcomed everyone there, but gave a special welcome to “Mr. and Mrs. Butler, celebrating 25 years…”) ¬†The hosts of the B&B Franz and Carole were extremely welcoming and have a lovely set up. ¬†They were especially helpful in finalizing our hiking and backpacking plans, which we would need to alter again based on input from the rangers as well, as to where snow was, etc.

I’ll just do a single photo mosaic below but walk you through what we did. ¬†After arrival at the B&B, we headed to Teton Village and took the Bridger gondola to the top, which is free after 5 p.m. ¬†We had a drink and a bite to eat, and then headed down to eat at the Mangy Moose.

The next day, we decided to day hike Amphitheater Lake. ¬†We ended being turned back a little over 9000 feet, half mile short of the lakes, due to high snow. ¬†We didn’t need to take any chances with Kelly’s knee before we started backpacking! ¬† I did go one or two more switchbacks, but the trail wasn’t marked, and there was boot pack going in 2-3 different directions at each one, so decided it wasn’t worth it.

We headed back down and ended up at Trappers Grill at Signal Mountain Lodge, which has great deck seating and amazing views. ¬†We ordered Reece’s favorite from last time — the huge plat of Nacho’s.

 

Here’s the Strava info¬†for the Amphitheater Lake hike.

Run Across Haiti Day 8

So to recap yesterday:

  • Up at 4 am
  • Running by 5 am
  • 28 miles, felt really strong and had to hold back since I knew what today would bring
  • Trucked over to the Eucalyptus House, where we would be for 12-13 hours…
  • Lunch at arrival, Dinner at 6, “breakfast” at 11 p.m., in the trucks by mid-night to drive through the middle of Port Au Prince, then starting a 52 mile run to finish things out
  • Tried to rest as much as possible between lunch and dinner, dinner and “breakfast”

So this run we’d be in pods. ¬†I was given the choice of pod 1 or pod 2, as I’ve been in a bit of “no man’s land” between those in pod 1 and pod 2. ¬†In reality, I’ve run in to the 10k or 15k marks with runners in pod 2 most of the runs, but finished just a few minutes after runners in pod 1 on those same runs. ¬†(I guess that makes me a slow starter — or maybe I’m just maintaining? ¬†Would have to check Strava data, I guess.)

Anyway, I chose pod 1 so I’d be with Jase, Matt, and Dan. ¬†They told me they’d be happy to run 9:00’s for the 1st 25k, so that’s what we did. ¬†Well, the 1st couple were a touch fast, but the guys backed off for me. ¬†But it soon became apparent that I was struggling at even 9:00’s. ¬†Where did yesterday’s easy 8:45’s go? ¬†And then I was struggling at 9:15’s. ¬†I tried not to slow them down too much, but then my stomach started to turn.

I watched them quickly run off after 25k, which allowed me to do my own thing.  I soon had to make a pit stop to move the bowels, but immediately had hot chills for 5-10 minutes. Uh-oh!  The chills passed, and then my stomach turned nauseous.   At 30k I asked for a pepto tab, took one, and 20 minutes later when nothing had changed, took another.  I found the thought of taking in food at this point stomach turning.  I slowed some more, but kept working at it.

I finally hit the turn up the mountain, and after 3-4 miles of mostly power hiking with a few seconds of running here and there, finally started to get some food down. ¬†I eventually left the low places, but never felt as strong as I had in the runs earlier in the week. ¬†I’m sure much of it had to do with the building fatigue of 150 miles in 7 days, and some of it had to do with Haitian food and beverages eventually catching up to me. ¬†But I was able to maintain a good power hike/run combo to the top (which took forever), and then start to run down (which also took forever!).

Here are some shots:

There’s water down there – the finish!

 

I came up on this guy playing drums on the guard rail and stealthily took this video:

 

 

When I hit the 75k mark, with 9k to go, I was told Josh was catching me. ¬†I decided to keep moving at my slow walk/run combo, as I thought waiting might allow stiffness to set in and make it difficult to keep moving. ¬†When I reached town, with just a couple of miles to go, Jules was there and he let me know ¬†I was to have a truck “lead” me through town as there were several turns. ¬†We were making our way pretty good, and even saw some of the crew pointing in the direction to the finish, but at one point reached a place where the ¬†driver wasn’t sure how to proceed. ¬† He asked people on the side of the road where I was supposed to run, but no luck, and then called the crew, but we still weren’t sure. ¬†Eventually Josh showed up, and he said just go straight. ¬†But he was bonking hard! ¬†Luckily, Peaches had some beef jerky that he threw down, and then we were able to run it in together.

The finish!  200+ miles across Haiti, coast to coast!

It was a beautiful site:

We walked about 500 steps up towards the hotel, and found the gate was locked. ¬†We yelled a bit, but no one was coming, so we had to climb. ¬†ūüė¶

 

More shots from the hotel level.

I got some food in, and headed back down to the finish to watch a few more runners come in. ¬†I’ll have to write a follow-up post soon.

Run Across Haiti Day 7

Back at it on day 7. We were up early and running just after five, with today’s route taking us a little over 27 miles in to Port-au-Prince, a relatively flat section that would be busy with traffic.

I knew early the rest day had done a lot of good – I felt really good and had to hold back all day. Early on I thought about trying to hang With Jase, Dan, and Matt, but decided better of it. 28 miles is a long ways and we have a quick turn around. We will depart from The Eucalyptus Village by midnight and start the final 52 mile push shortly there after.

I didn’t takes as many photos today, but here are a few:

Sunrise over the mountains.

Burning trash – something we’ve seen a lot of!

Some government housing:

So after Jase, Matt, Dan and I finished, they put us four in a truck to head to The Eucalyptus House, which is a bit of an Oasis in Port-au-Prince. Sort of a dorm style retreat. We’ll be here until midnight or so and then take the buses and trucks a bit out of PaP before we start running.

Photos from Duy Nugyen:

Run Across Haiti Day 6 – rest day/trip to Menelas

Today’s been pretty emotional. After sleeping in until just before six :-/, we had a leisurely morning of good coffee and then breakfast. We soon piled into the bus and vans to Menelas, the community Work supports.

We actually started in the community of Truitier near (in?) the landfill near Menelas, where plastic bottles are recovered and turned into fabric by Threads, Works sister company.

Viv took some time to explain the history of work and some of the programs they offer.

Two thousand people live Truitier¬†in/near the landfill. And this is Haiti’s only landfill, which explains why we’ve seen so much trash everywhere – there just aren’t any trash services.

Here are some of the recovered bottles. Besides Threads, HP buys the recycled plastic for ink cartridges.

These are some of the homes either on the landfill property or right next to it:

The community came out and knows why we are there and spent time with us:

Right across from the landfill, Work is helping to build this classroom to help support the community:

From there we drove the few minutes to Menelas, where we got to see the home of Giordani and meet his family. He took the time to explain how Work has helped him. He will graduate this year and become a tap tap driver. He used the money he earned on last year’s run to build a new foundation next to his current sheet metal home, which currently sleeps 11!

This shows the tight quarters:

This shows his home, bathroom, and the new foundation:

After that, we went to the local school, went to the roof, and were able to see the entire area, which gives a sense of the scale. Rather than look at the problem of poverty and say it’s just too big to solve, Work solves the problem one family at a time in the community they have chosen to support.

Before we left, each runner and crew was given a pin from someone Work supports, in the outline of Haiti, with our running route marked, and a heart over Menelas.

Tomorrow we start early for what looks to be a tough 28 – we drove all of it today on the way to Menalus. Then we’ll have about 12-13 hours at a guest house, before we take off on the final 52 at midnight.

Photos from Duy Nugyen: