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This is a screenshot of the Star Walk app showing the Persieds in the Northeast sky.  Notice how close they are to Cassiopeia- and her recognizable W shape!

This is a screenshot of the Star Walk app showing the Persieds in the Northeast sky. Notice how close they are to Cassiopeia- and her recognizable W shape!

As far as Grecian heroes go, Perseus really has it all. He’s the son of Zeus and Danea; so he’s got the fame. He’s slayed his fair share of monsters,  including  “snake-for-hair” Medusa; so he’s got the street cred. He rescued the damsel-in-distress Andromeda from a serious sea serpent set upon her by Poseidon; so he’s got the girl. With a resume like this, it’s not surprising that Perseus is one of the most recognizable constellations in the night sky.

Each summer in Northern latitudes, we are treated to the Persied Meteor shower. These meteors are actually remnants of the tail of a comet named Swift-Tuttle. This comet orbits through our solar system, and its tail debris stretches hundreds of thousands of miles through space. As the comet crosses Earth’s path, bits of rock and ice slam into Earth’s upper atmosphere, and we get to view to some of the most spectacular “shooting stars” in the Northern Hemisphere.

Statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa at the Vatican.

The Persieds began in July, but will be peaking this week. Gazers can expect to see up to 50 meteors per hour in the Northeast sky radiating from the belt of the constellation Perseus. The full peak of the shower will be on Sunday, around midnight and the view should be great this year as the moon is only at 32% of full.  Here are some tips for viewing!

1. Watch all week — Sure, the meteor shower peaks Sunday, but there will still be lots of streaking debris through next week. The best time for viewing with the least amount of moon interference is immediately proceeding dawn. At that time, the moon will set just a bit before the sun rises, so there will be a few minutes of great dark skies.

2. Get out of town — City lights of any kind are going to obscure your view, so head out to the country to the darkest spot you can find. I’d suggest camping out at a local State Park and setting an alarm to wake you up in the wee hours of the morning if you really want a great view.

3.  Find a moon shadow — The moon will be shining low in the southern skies around dawn this week. If you can find a barn or big tree or hill, you can sit on the north side and amplify the darkness. The darker the sky appears for you, the more meteors you’ll see.

4. Bring a sky map — If you’re going to be out star-gazing anyway, bring a sky map. There are five planets that are visible from Earth with the naked eye, and three of them appear in August (four if you’re lucky enough to glimpse Mercury just before sunrise). Saturn will be in the West in the early evening, and you can even view its rings with a telescope. As Saturn sets around 11 p.m., you should see Jupiter rise, and then Mars will follow Jupiter’s path in the sky a few hours after that. Besides the planets, it’s a fun time to find constellations like Queen Cassiopeia in her “W” shaped chair, Canus the dog, Ursa the Great Bear (A.K.A. the Big Dipper), Ursa Minor the Little Bear (A.K.A. the Little Dipper), Taurus the Bull, and many more.

5. Get the App — I apologize for the advertisement, but for my money, the app “Star Walk” (available on iPhone and Android) is simply one of the best celestial aids out there. Point it at the sky to see a map of the constellations you’re looking at. Point it at a major star and find out where it is, how big it is, and how many millions of year old the light you’re viewing today is. Besides the great live features, the app also gives you a picture of the day and a calendar — without which I would have forgotten the Persieds. The app is $2.99 for iPhone and $4.99 for iPad.  It’s totally worth it.

I hope you follow your Adventure Foot for some star-gazing this week. Your next best chance for a meteor shower will be this winter when the Geminids will be streaking through our skies, but believe me when I say that sitting outside in August is substantially more comfortable than doing the same in January.

P.S. — I couldn’t write a blog about the stars without mentioning my favorite poem of all-time: When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer, by Walt Whittman.

Happy star gazing everyone!

Bike Safety Video featuring KHQA This Morning.

Black Hills National Forest and the Black Elk Wilderness

Black Hills National Forest and the Black Elk Wilderness

I’m typing this blog from around 8,500 feet over the South Dakota Badlands. My friend Tim is piloting his Cherokee 6 towards home and his wife and my husband round out the crew on board. We’ve had an outstanding long weekend in South Dakota and it’s clear to me looking out over the wing that it’s all thanks to taking the road less traveled.

Rushmore snap!

Rushmore snap!

An adventure vacation doesn’t always mean going to an exotic location, but if you’re lucky enough to go somewhere different, my suggestion is to do your research and find the little gems that make a place special.

Day one in South Dakota served up the obligatory visit to Mount Rushmore, but day two started bright and early in Custer State Park near Sylvan Lake at the base of Harney Peak.

Harney Peak is a a mountain in the Black Hills that tops out at about 7250 feet; it’s the state high point of South Dakota as well as the highest peak east of the Rockies in the entire USA!  There is a fire lookout on top of the granite mountain that on a clear day gives a bird’s eye view of the entire Black Elk National Forest; that was our destination.

This is Harney Peak Lookout as viewed from the top of Little Devil's Tower

This is Harney Peak Lookout as viewed from the top of Little Devil’s Tower

Besides being a high point, Harney is also a place of special significance to the Lakota Indians. Their Chief Black Elk was on the mountain as a child and had a vision of the “great hoops of the world” which he recounts in the book Black Elk Speaks. I highly recommend the book for a read.

When we planned our route we decided not to take the most commonly hiked trail and opted for trail #4.  4 is a more rugged path that traverses wildflower meadows before turning rocky and passing amazing granite formations like Little Devil’s Tower and the Cathedral Spires.

The meadows in the early morning were lovely beyond words. Gray jays and juncos called out over the grass, a few mule deer and some marmots ran around just off the trail. The meadow was in full bloom with familiar plants like fleabane, dandelions, and black eyed susans, along with dozens of flowers in dazzling colors whose names I didn’t know.

The Little Devil's Tower intersection

The Little Devil’s Tower intersection

We moved along at a pretty good clip and came to the intersection leading to Little Devil’s Tower before the dew was off the grass.

Little Devil is so named because it resembles the famous Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Little Devil is just shy of 7000 ft tall (making it almost as big as Harney Peak) with about a 1000 foot prominence off the trail we were on.

Justin in one of the tight spots on the Little Devil's Tower Trail

Justin in one of the tight spots on the Little Devil’s Tower Trail

The climb to the summit of Little Devil was a rocky and steep boulder scramble which included a fun section where we needed to wedge ourselves between two huge granite slabs and shimmy up a few dozen feet.

Little Devil's Tower as viewed descending trail #9

Little Devil’s Tower as viewed descending trail #9

We were richly rewarded for the tough scramble up Little Devil because the clear blue sky offered us impossibly beautiful views of the park. To the west we could view the famous Cathedral Spires and to the north, we could see our second destination: the lookout tower on Harney.  We snapped photos, soaked in the view, had a snack and were on our way.

The glorious view from atop Little Devil's Tower!

The glorious view from atop Little Devil’s Tower!

It was almost tougher going down Little Devil than up and it took a little time to get back to the beginning of the spur. At the intersection we met the first other people we’d seen all day: a group of women from Springfield, IL! They asked about Devil and we quickly told them it was tough but totally worth it! (PS Kathy from Springfield: if you found my blog.. I hope to see you on the Capital City Century!!)

The trail then wound around the Cathedral Spires and through some lodge pole pines for a few miles before beginning to really climb. A section of steep switchbacks with feldspar scree was the final obstacle before Harney Peak Lookout came into view.

Adventure Foot on the lookout!

Adventure Foot on the lookout!

The lookout was crammed with people who had taken the shorter trail to the top. It was neat to be there at the top of the Black Hills, but our group agreed that Little Devil had been a bit more exciting since we got to stand on it alone.

Still, the vista was gorgeous and we could look back at Little Devil and see how far we’d come. Pretty amazing to have the two summits all before noon!

As it is with all summits, we had to leave all too soon. We eased back down the common trail. Trail #9 is less rugged and is down in the forest section, so views weren’t as pretty as they had been on #4. Occasionally though, we’d round a corner and be greeted by an enormous chunk of granite we didn’t even know was there!

Justin on top of Harney Peak

Justin on top of Harney Peak

As we reached the bottom of the mountain, we could see an afternoon thunderstorm firing up over the ridge and were happy to be back down at the lake.

You could spend weeks and weeks in Custer State Park and the Black Elk Wilderness and not see all there is to see. I’d love to go visit again and backpack to some back country areas. This was a short trip though and a second adventure awaited us underground at Wind Cave the next day…

Adventure to be continued….

Did I start a fire without matches on television in only 30 seconds? Gotta watch the video to find out!

I hope you enjoy my KHQA Morning Show appearance. Huge thanks to host Kristen Aguirre and cameraman Mark Schneider! Also huge thanks to my husband who was kind enough to camp on a Tuesday night and get up at 4 am so I could be “TV ready!”

Note to self: I should do video blogs more often! It’s so much less typing!!

 

Hey Barred Owl! You're going to need a permit!

Hey Barred Owl! You’re going to need a permit!

Summertime provides ample opportunity to get out and follow your Adventure Foot, and one of the very best ways to do that is to go camping!  Whether you’re tent camping with the kids out of the back of the mini-van or planning a backpacking excursion “off the grid,” a few simple steps can make your next camping trip a safe and fun adventure!

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

Justin putting up a tent at Sand Ridge State Forest

Justin putting up a tent at Sand Ridge State Forest

We’ve all forgotten something important on a trip before, but when we forget something important on a camping trip, it tends to cause more inconvenience than usual.  I’ve found that the way to become a better camper and to forget fewer things is to make a list!  Make a list of the items you’ll need and lay the items all out on the kitchen table before you start packing them in your bag.  When all your items are laid out, you can make sure you haven’t forgotten anything crucial to the trip- matches, bug spray, sunscreen, toilet paper…   don’t leave home without them!

Just as important as what you bring is what you do not bring.  If you’re taking the kids, leave the Nintendo DS at home! Camping time is unplugging time and you will thank yourself for giving all the technology a rest.  Also look for things you can leave out of your life for a day or two.  Pare down the things you’re bringing to just the necessities.  Decluttering is part of the beauty of the outdoors. Besides, whatever you don’t bring, you don’t have to carry!

I like to keep a running list for camping trips.  At the end of the trip, I look to see if there are any items in my pack that I haven’t used at all, and I cross those off for next time.  It lightens the load and helps me to be a more efficient camper.  Likewise, if some item would have made my life easier, I add it to the list and next time I’ll have it!

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Putting the Mmmmmm in Mmmmmarshmallows

Putting the Mmmmmm in Mmmmmarshmallows

Fire safety is every camper’s responsibility.  When building a fire, find out if the campground or space has any rules in place for fire building.  Check for dry conditions and don’t build fires any larger than necessary.  Fire pits or rings are great assets at campgrounds; use them!  They’ll keep the debris all in one place and also help keep the fire from spreading.   If there is not a fire pit, look for a campfire site that is downwind and at least 15 feet away from shrubs, overhanging branches, tents or any other flammable objects.

Please remember: do not transport firewood from one place to another.  There is plenty of loose wood around to collect and burn, and moving firewood is one of the main vectors of invasive species like the extremely destructive Emerald Ash Borer Beatle.

The Bare Necessities

I love Ryan's trail hammock.  Lightweight and even has a bug shield.

I love Ryan’s trail hammock. Lightweight and even has a bug shield.

Water, shelter, food, and waste disposal.  That’s what you’ll need for a camping trip.  If you’re heading out to a state park or campground, water might be easy to come by and all you’ll need is a few water bottles.  If you’re backpacking or going on an especially long hike you may need to bring water purification equipment or tabs.  Plan ahead and know where your water sources are.

Shelter is important too.  Check the weather forecast before you go and pack appropriate gear. In my experience, a forecast for 25% chance of rain turns to 100% if I forget my tent’s rain fly or my poncho.  It’s just the way it works.  Also, pack appropriate gear for the temperatures.  You don’t need that sub-zero sleeping bag if it’s not going to dip below 70 degrees at night.  Likewise, a nice day doesn’t guarantee a warm night, so check and double check the forecast!  It’s not a bad idea to look for safe places to go in case of a storm even if none are forecast.

Food safety is especially important on camping trips, and I’ve heard more than one story of a great camping trip spoiled a day later by intestinal distress.  Don’t forget your safe food handling practices just because you’re out in the woods.  Make sure you cook any meat you are eating thoroughly, be aware of opportunities for cross contamination (don’t touch the fish and then the apples!!), and store food safely.  Make sure you’re storing your food and trash out of the reach of wildlife too.  Even though there aren’t bears in Illinois, a cranky raccoon wandering through camp isn’t much fun either.

Check the Visitor Center for park rules and regs!

Check the Visitor Center for park rules and regs!

Waste disposal doesn’t often get much forethought, but it’s important to plan for too.  Bring trash bags and make sure you keep your campsite clean. You’ll often hear the phrase, “leave no trace.”  This basically means: bring everything out of the woods that you took into the woods.

And while we’re on the subject of waste… sometimes you’re by a porta-john or latrine, and sometimes you’re not.  If you’re in the back country, protect the ecosystem and other travelers by following trail rules.  This often means digging a small hole 10-15 feet off the trail and away from any water sources, doing your business, and covering it up.  If my cats can cover up their dootie, so can you.  In especially delicate ecosystems, you may be required to bring any solid waste with you out of the woods.  Obey rules and posted guidelines!

Maps, Flashlights, and Emergencies

My smartphone has Google Maps, a flashlight, and can call 9-1-1.  Guess what doesn’t usually work in the woods though? My cell phone!  Come on people, you knew that!

Trail tortoise at Fall Creek

Trail tortoise at Fall Creek

Make sure you’re bringing several light sources for your trip.  I’m a fan of hands-free headlights and small LED flashlights.  On longer backpacking trips, I like a hand-crank flashlight and radio combination, which can be used regardless of battery life.

Bring basic first aid equipment for emergencies and even consider a flare or other signaling device if you will be a long way from emergency services.

And bring a printed park map.  Keep the printed map in a plastic bag or have it laminated.

 Hazard Inventory

Riding and camping are a great combination! This is at RAGBRAI 2012

Riding and camping are a great combination! This is at RAGBRAI 2012

The last great piece of camping advice comes to you courtesy of my grandpa.  He said, “Beware of things that bite, sting, itch, or get you all wet!”  Make a list of the hazards you might experience in the area you’re camping.  Know how to identify poison oak and poison ivy.  Know how to identify and safely remove ticks.  Know if anyone in your party is allergic to bee stings and bring appropriate first aid materials for that person.  Know how to identify a potentially hazardous snake or a harmless one (clue: most snakes in our area are harmless).  And lastly, be aware of any water hazards, especially if you have kids around.  Don’t build your tent close to the creek; flash floods can happen whether it’s raining where you are or not.  Keep the kids away from lakes or ponds after dark.  Don’t cross flooded streams.  Just use your common sense!

Justin out on a long hike!

Justin out on a long hike!

So there you have the Adventure Foot Guide to Safe and Fun Camping!  Be sure to check out these related blogs about some of my favorite local state parks.  I highly recommend Wakonda State Park in La Grange, MO, (second winter Wakonda link here!)  Cuivre River State Park in Troy, MO and Siloam Springs State Park in Liberty, IL (second Siloam link here!) for local camping adventures.  You might also check out Sand Ridge State Park near Peoria.  This park is enormous and especially fun in the late fall and winter! Oh and don’t forget Mark Twain Lake!  There’s no excuse not to camp with so many great places to go!

heartland road runners club

The Heartland Roadrunners at Bridge the Gap 2013

You know, I owe my readers a race report for the Bridge the Gap Half Marathon that I ran with my training partner Doug this spring, and I’ve been thinking a little about it.  My summary of the race would go:

jjk

Jackie Joyner Kersee and I after Bridge the Gap 2013

– Jackie Joyner Kersee (who gave out the medals) was AWESOME.  If there’s something better than getting a half marathon medal from an 8 time Olympic Gold Medalist, I can’t think of it.

– Crossing the bridges over the Mississippi in the beginning of the race is BEAUTIFUL.

– The support was pretty good, though they were out of water at the first 2 stops and I don’t drink Gatorade because the sweetness gives me a tummy ache during races (And that’s why I love Nuun…!)

… and that’s about it.  Oh, I would probably mention that it was the warmest day Doug and I had run so far for the year and that was a little tough on us.  Despite the heat, I cut 9 minutes off my time from the Allerton Trails Half Marathon a few weeks before.

Now readers, don’t get the wrong idea when I tell you my feedback about this race, because I don’t want you to think it was a negative experience!  The entire staff of Bridge the Gap does a terrific job of putting together a solid run and should be congratulated for raising a lot of money for MedAssist and for growing the sport of running in Quincy each and every year.  The beef I’ve got with BtG as compared to any of the other half marathons I’ve run in the past 2 years is:

Where were all of the spectators?!

I’m not going to lie, when we were hot and exhausted in the endless bottoms of mile 9, I could have really gone for a, “Your feet must hurt from kicking this much butt!” sign.  Or how about a poster reading, “Run Faster! Zombies Don’t Like Fast Food!”  Or my training partner’s favorite sign, “Worst. Parade. Ever.

occupy finish line

“Occupy Finish Line” at the Occupy Little Rock Protests.

You see, I love the crazy spectators.  It’s my favorite thing about a large race.  Without the spectators, it’s just another training run out a long and lonesome road.  I hit low spots. I want to give up.  I want to walk the next 4 miles or perhaps steal a car.  I need the energy of a crowd and the encouragement of an electric race environment to keep my mind off my sore knees and to keep me moving forward.

When I was in Little Rock, AR doing my first half marathon, a random person in mile 11 yelled, “Yeah Laura! Doing Great!” when they read my name off my bib.

the course is strong

My husband can draw Darth Vader. It is the only thing he draws.

When I was in Lexington, KY for Run the Bluegrass half marathon there were bands around every corner and crowds of people chanting, “Go, Stranger, Go!”

For the half marathon in Illinois, there was a spectator with a table full of Dixie cups with a sign that said, “Free Tiny Beer for You and Steve!” (I don’t know who Steve is, but I bet he enjoyed his mid-race tiny beer as much as I did.)

photo 1

Bike rides can use signs too! My friend Jen at the RAIL (Ride Across Illinois) ride

At the Allerton Trail Half Marathon (Decatur, IL) – even on a decidedly quieter trail course – there was a section late in the race where a line of 15 people were lined up giving a row of high-fives to the runners who went past.

I love you, crazy fans. I really, really do.

photo 2

My stick zombies could use some work, but rider Gary Clay still got a smile out of this one!

Here’s my suggestion for BtG 2013: We need to get more spectators and awesome signs on the half marathon course!  I’m not talking about fans at the start/finish (there were a good number of people in that area) but I’m talking about some hard core, awesome, “Pain is temporary, finishing is forever” sign holders sitting out on lonely mile 8.  If at all possible, I’d suggest that said sign holders also dress like 80’s hair bands or perhaps Batman.

Yes. That’s it.  I would like 15 people dressed as Batman at mile 8. 

whoop azz sign

Quincy Sketch Club Members Jamie Green and Charlie Martin helped me make signs for an Ultra Marathon in Vermont.

So next Spring when you’re asking a friend if they want to run Bridge the Gap with you and despite your pleading they turn you down, tell them they can still help with the race. As a matter of fact… don’t wait.  Tell them now.  Maybe they can pick up their Batman costumes at an after Halloween sale! Hook them up with a pack of those huge, smelly magic markers and a pile of neon poster board.  Get them a cowbell and a tambourine and tell them to go nuts.

This one goes out to you, Crazy Marathon Sign Holder Person.  Thank you for all that you do!

And if there comes a day that I’m not running in the race, I’ll still be down there.  Look for me at mile 11.  I’ll be holding the, “I Think Chaffed Nipples are HOT!” sign.  🙂

Also check out this Buzzfeed article of more fun signs!

At the start of the New Belgium Cruiser Century

At the start of the New Belgium Cruiser Century

This past weekend I followed my Adventure Foot to Des Moines, Iowa to ride the New Belgium Cruiser Century with my husband and our two friends Ryan and Jayme.   Basically, when we heard there was an easy-going 100 mile bike ride featuring beer tastings at every stop we sad, “sign us up!”

1000149_10151677152383118_670529554_n

At Court Ave. Brewery

Our hosts showed us a great time in Des Moines the night before the ride.  Highlights included the Court Avenue Brewery where the beer and the food were both superb. I had braised duck with sweet potato hash… good lord. It was delicious.  And my husband and I partook in the Capitol’s Beer Flight, which was full of surprises and great flavors.  If you ever go, be careful with their 21st Amendment brew; its high alcohol content will sneak up on you!  We made one more stop at a really neat German-themed bar before we called it an early night.

Anyway, what was I talking about?  Oh, right.  Bike ride.

Jayme and Ryan on the High Trestle Bridge

Jayme and Ryan on the High Trestle Bridge

The New Belgium Cruiser Century, we discovered, was just conceived by 3 guys out having some beers.  They wondered if they could get guys on New Belgium Cruisers to go 100 miles.  Then they decided any cruiser would do.  Then they changed their minds a third time and decided to allow any kind of bike, so long as the rider knew this ride was about fun, friends and beer, but not speed.  Basically, this was a perfect first century for our friends, because it was very low pressure.

The route was a combination of 3 Iowa Rails to Trails projects- the Raccoon River Trail, the Great Western Trail and the High Trestle Trail.  These three trails combine to make over 80 miles of paved multi-use recreational paths through Central Iowa and are frequented by runners, walkers, bikers and more.

We rode to the start at a bar called Mullets (Party in the Back) that is just across from the Iowa Cubs’ stadium near downtown Des Moines.  The organizers of the ride had originally planned for about 30 riders… and then 150 showed up.  What a crowd! I’d say the mix was about 50/50 road bikes to cruiser bikes.  The oldest bike there was from the 1930s and was a true classic cruiser.

Justin "hydrates" with some Fat Tire by New Belgium

Justin “hydrates” with some Fat Tire by New Belgium

The route started out through Des Moines proper and over a gorgeous pedestrian bridge that’s suspended over the Des Moines River.  We were off to a good start and headed to an offshoot of the Des Moines called the Raccoon River.  The trail meandered with the river for 4 or 5 miles and the big group of bikes all stuck together.  It was lovely.  Until…

When we got out of the river valley, the route went up a climb and then out onto the prairie.  The windy, windy prairie.  The story of the next 45 odd miles was all about wind.  20-30 mph headwind.  The. Whole. Time.

The headwind wasn’t too hard to handle at first because our legs were fresh, but it can really start to wear you down mentally to pedal that hard and have such slow speeds into that wind.

There were stops along the way to resupply, but no organized SAG.  At around 15 miles we stopped at a gas station and then at 35 there was a bar called Night Hawks where we stopped for lunch and to wait out a short downpour of rain.  When the rain stopped and it looked a little better we hit the road until…

Kinda soggy after a downpour near the Flat Tire Lounge

Kinda soggy after a downpour near the Flat Tire Lounge

Not 3 miles out of the bar, another little black cloud decided to rain on our parade.  With nowhere to go, we just got soaked.  The water in my shoes was the worst.  Someday I need to find a pair of shoes with drain holes in the bottom.  Does that exist?

Anyway, we kept trucking until the rain stopped and shortly thereafter pulled into another bar called Flat Tire Lounge.  It was pretty neat to have so many bicycle-themed establishments there on the trail.  One of the best features of Rails-to-Trails projects is the impact they can have on local economies.  It’s neat to see the bike-themed restaurants thriving. I laid my shoes and socks out in the sun while we sampled New Belgium’s Shift Lager and then we hit the trail again.  Which was great…. except that the headwind had gotten even worse and it rained on us again.  Sigh.

It was a Century by a beer company, afterall ;)

It was a Century by a beer company, afterall 😉

On the High Trestle Bridge

On the High Trestle Bridge

The highlight of the entire ride had to be the High Trestle Bridge.  This artful half mile piece of trail spans the Des Moines River Valley from 13 stories above the water.  You can see for miles and miles in any direction.  The old railroad that was here before has been transformed into abstract squares over the bridge which give a tunnel effect.  It was my favorite part of the trail and I’m told it’s even more fun at night when the iron arches are lit!

Jayme and Ryan: Happy despite the rain!

Jayme and Ryan: Happy despite the rain!

The ride turned around in Woodward, Iowa at a bar called the Whistling Donkey.  Oh! It’s worth mentioning that somehow at nearly every single stop I ran into another rider named Jo and her husband. I told her she would make the blog- so Jo, if you’re reading, here you are!!

Ignore the grammar and embrace the beer.

Ignore the grammar and embrace the beer.

The whole ride was different when we turned around to head back to Des Moines. Excepting a few miles of crosswind at the beginning, once we turned around we had the wind at our backs and really flew.  We were riding 18-22 mph and barely pedaling. Our clothes dried out and the sun came up.  Ahhhhhh! Sweet, sweet tailwind.

When we arrived back in Des Moines a few miles shy of 100, we decided to head back up the Great Western Trail to finish the Century off.  I counted down the tenths of miles and shouted out 100 just as we were passing a pair of runners.  They clapped and I know it made us all feel good!

The 1st New Belgium Cruiser Century was a saga of ups and downs, but mostly I’m glad to have gone to Des Moines to share Ryan and Jayme’s first Century experience.  I presented them with Quincy Bike Club First Century Certificates and we celebrated with meatball subs and pizza at a restaurant Orlando’s on the Bike Trail.  I hope this becomes an annual event, and maybe sometime soon I’ll get up the nerve to try it on a Cruiser!

The Victorious Hundred!

The Victorious Hundred!

Jayme and Ryan finished their first century ride!

Jayme and Ryan finished their first century ride!

Infographic at the main plaza at Cahokia. Monk's Mound can be seen to the left in the distance.

Infographic at the main plaza at Cahokia. Monk’s Mound can be seen to the left in the distance.

In this blog, I come to you with stories of everyday adventure; I relay the stories to you like you were an old friend sitting with me around a campfire.  To me, a blog is an extension of the age-old tradition of oral storytelling. I like to paint a picture of where I’ve been or what I’ve been up to and then I like to hear your stories of the same.  Anyway, I find writing about adventures takes the experience and turns it into story and the best stories can become something of family legend.  And “legend” is the category where I’ve found myself for a bit of creative writing recently.

There are 3  ingredients to the story I’m about to share.  The  first is a recurring contest on National Public Radio called 3 Minute Fiction.  3 Minute Fiction supplies writers with a prompt and asks for a story that can be read aloud in 3 minutes (600 words or less).  The stories are judged and winners are selected and read on-air.  I did not win this round of 3 Minute Fiction, but I very much enjoyed writing for it.  The prompt this round was to send “original short fiction in which a character finds something he or she has no intention of returning.”  (Click here to read the story that won this prompt.)

The second ingredient of the story was my recent travels to Cahokia Mounds and subsequent reading of a book about the people who lived there.  If you’ve not read about my trip to Cahokia and how I climbed the largest earthen pyramid in North America and a World Heritage Site, I suggest clicking here before you read on!   The people of Cahokia, like many other native peoples, had an oral tradition which includes a Trickster character.   In Norse mythology, the Trickster was named Loki.  In the tradition of the Blackfoot has a Trickster named Napi.  In other Native American traditions, the Trickster is the Coyote or the Raven.  No matter the culture and no matter the name, the archetype of the Trickster is all about chaos.  He’s curious and devious. He’s trouble, but he’s also somehow friendly and likable.  I think of the Trickster as the guy who runs around your house hiding your car key or steeling your left sock.  It’s a character that’s not necessarily malevolent, but sometimes causes harm.  He just spins the situation to see where it lands.

The geodes on my desk.

The geodes on my desk.

And the last ingredient of this story is my own adventures as a child.  My grandmother really does live in a house built in a limestone dell along the Mississippi, and the walls are dotted with geodes.  I spent many days as a child running around by the river and collecting geodes to bring back up to the house.  My mom or dad would have to get out a hammer- sometimes a sledge hammer for a big one- and we’d crack all my little treasures to reveal the sparkling quartz inside.  It was magical then, and when I go back to find geodes today, it’s still magical.  There are 3 pieces of geode from the cliff by my grandma’s house sitting on my desk at work, as a matter of fact.

I hope you enjoy my 3 Minute Fiction story, The Trickster and the Tears of the Moon.  And after the story… read alllllll the way to the bottom because I am giving out prizes.

The Trickster and The Tears of the Moon

The night my mother died, the Trickster was at the window. I saw him there with his bushy tail and eyes glinting, and I knew he saw me crying on grandmother’s knee. He was listening too, when she spoke of the tears of the moon.

“On nights like tonight, the moon cries,” grandmother said. “And tears of the moon find pockets here in the hillside.” And she reached into her satchel and pulled out a small, roundish rock with a crack through the center.

I gently pulled the halves apart and my eyes danced across the most beautiful, sparkling crystals inside the ugly stone.

And Trickster saw it too.

“The tears of the moon hold beautiful memories. When you’re sad and need them, the memories will always be on the inside.”

I nodded through my tears and tucked the stone in my pocket.

And Trickster watched where I put it.

Many people assumed the Trickster had left the limestone bluffs of the Mississippi long ago- maybe when the Indians had left or when the railroad had been built. Surely he was gone when we got cable television? But he never left really, and I knew that as a child.

And the Trickster heard Old Magic in my grandmother’s story and wanted the tears of the moon for himself.

As I grew, I often played near my grandmother’s home. I always kept the little geode in my pocket, but one summer day, the stone fell out and landed among the other stones.

And the Trickster found it.

You see, he had been collecting little, ugly, balls of rock like my grandmother had given me. He’d haul them back to his tree to look for the magic tears of the moon, but could not crack any of the stones. Soon his tree was full of stones that were full of magic but that the Trickster was unable to get to.

squirelBut when he found my stone, he rejoiced because the magic was finally his. He took it to his home where he could barely fit in the opening because of all of his stones. And he bragged to the birds nearby about the magic he had found. He showed them the crystals and told them about the tears of the moon.

I cried that I’d lost my stone and the summer and autumn wore on. The Trickster spent his time in his crowded tree, staring at the beautiful crystals and thinking himself very clever.

Winter came and winter stayed. I had not thought about the Trickster until one snowy night, under the full moon, I saw him sitting on my grandmother’s porch barely able to lift his head.

Hello, Trickster said to me.

Trickster! I said, startled. Why do you look so ill?

I’m hungry, whispered the Trickster. I have no food and the winter has been 
so long.

Isn’t your tree full?

It is full. But I have no acorns.

Then what is it full of, Trickster?

I cannot tell you.

Then I will not help you.

And I could see in his eyes what he was hiding.

You’ve found my stone, haven’t you Trickster?

I have found many stones with much magic and they belong to me.

Then use your magic stones for a meal, I said to him.

I can’t use the magic, he sighed.

And I knew the Trickster had learned. The tears the moon cried the night my mother died were not meant for him. That magic was only for me. And even though he had my stone, the magic stayed with me.

________________

Contest announcement!

Write your own 3 Minute Fiction and share it with me on Adventure Foot and you will WIN a tube of Nuun Hydration!  (I am an Ambassador for Nuun Hydration- wonderful electrolyte drink tablets… read more here)   Your prompt is the following:

Write a story/myth/legend featuring the Trickster.  (Your Trickster may take any form you like… but I want to know what that guy has been up to!) 

Rules:

600 Words or less.  You can submit your story on my Facebook page, in a comment on this blog or by email to laura  sievert  at  outlook dotcom  <- no spaces… you see what I’m doing there.

ANYONE who submits a Trickster story wins, up to 10 winners. 

I really hope I get some entries. Creative writing is awesome. Have fun with it! Contest ends July 6th or when I get 10 stories… whichever comes first.

Paddle Agate Lake!

Paddle Agate Lake!

So…

I’ve been reading blogs about blogging.  Don’t laugh at me.  You’re reading blogs about me reading blogs about blogging… so really, who is crazier here?!

The blogging about blogging crowd suggests that readers love lists… and I know that I fall for the flashy list headlines all the time.  It’s nice to think that life can be “3 Simple Steps” or “Top 10 reasons.”   Lists rarely have much depth though, and can’t do their subjects a whole lot of justice.  That lack of details annoyed me… until I had an epiphany!  My whole blog is like a Top 10 list!!  It’s supposed to be one big spring board for you to go and have an adventure!  I don’t have to tell you how every hill on my last bike ride felt (tough going up, amazing coasting down) or how the water temperature was at the lake last weekend (brisk, but refreshing).  I just have to give you ideas and then you can go fill in the details for yourself!

So today, I’m embracing the list and presenting the

Top 7 Ways to Follow Your Adventure Foot This Weekend!

  1. Paddle Agate Lake!  Wyconda State Park near LaGrange, Missouri just added a fleet of 12 sit-on-top kayaks last year, and my husband and I had the opportunity to go try them out last weekend.   For only $5 an hour (or $20 for the day), you get access to a boat, a life jacket, and a paddle.  There are 2 kayak boat houses at the park; each holds 6 boats right at the waterline of Agate and Wyconda lakes.  We paddled a couple of hours, chased some geese around, saw some deer and even spotted a thirsty raccoon at the water’s edge.  The boats are super easy to paddle, are very stable, and even have a nice little storage bin to toss some snacks and your car keys into.  Kids are welcome with parents along and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
  2. Last year's Running Raider Classic

    Last year’s Running Raider Classic

    Running Raider Classic!   A Quincy tradition is THIS WEEKEND!  Saturday, June 22.  You can still sign up the day of the event.  The RRC is A 5K run/walk & 10K combination road race/cross country race that begins and ends at Quincy Notre Dame High School.  The races will take you through one or two of Quincy’s most beautiful and historic river bluff parks.  Participants will enjoy the challenges presented by either course.  There are several beautiful views of the Mississippi River Valley along this route.  The 5K course has rolling hills and is suitable for all.  The long hills throughout the 10K course will challenge you! The Raider Classic is a great follow-up event for those who have competed in the Bridge the Gap and is a perfect companion event leading to the Hannibal Cannibal. There is also have a 1 mile FUN run for youth under the age of 13 who aren’t quite ready for the 5 or 10K events.  This is an event for the entire family

  3. Hike!   It’s a short drive to get to some beautiful hikes; throw on your favorite old tennis shoes and get out there!  If I were planning a hike this weekend, I’d head to Siloam Springs State Park or maybe up to Argyle Lake State Park (near Colchester, IL).   If you’ve got kids in tow and want something a little more low-key, there are lovely short trails at Quincy’s Gardener Park.
  4. Photo Safari!  Photo Safari is one of my favorite pastimes in Quincy.  The riverfront is chock full of birds, amphibians, flowers and more that are perfect for the
    Great Blue Heron on Photo Safari

    Great Blue Heron on Photo Safari

    budding or seasoned photographer.  Make this idea even more fun by going to the Quincy Public Library and checking out a bird or flower ID guide to bring along.  Also, click here to find my FREE PRINTABLE BIRDING CHECKLIST for ILLINOIS. 

  5. Bike Somewhere  If you’re a frequent reader, you know there’s nothing I like more than getting on my bike and
    Riding with the Quincy Bike Club near Hull, IL

    Riding with the Quincy Bike Club near Hull, IL

    going for a ride.  If you’re looking for a little ride about town, you might check out the “Looking for Lincoln” trail that begins in Quincy’s Washington Park and visits historic sites throughout Quincy.  For those more experienced, check out any of the scheduled rides for the Quincy Bike Club.  There’s a group for everyone from beginner to advanced, and the weekly rides and events are now on the new Quincy Bike Club website www.quincybikeclub.org

  6. Swim! And I’m not talking about going for a swim at the public pool.  That’s not an adventure so much as it’s a headache.  Check out public swim areas at Cuivre River State Park in Troy, Missouri (1.5 hours from Quincy… this park also has great hiking trails and camping areas!)  You won’t miss the pool chemicals at all.
  7. Get Some Herbs: You know what I’m talking about.  This weekend is the Four Winds Farm Herb Festival!  The event features herbs, locally grown food, vendors, educational demos, garden tours, herb theme gardens, children’s activities, music and more.  Admission is free.  Event is presented by the Western Illinois Sustainable Agricultural Society (WISAS) and will be held Friday, June 21 from 5-9 and Saturday, June 22 from 9-4 at Four Winds Farm, 3729 North 36th Street, Quincy.  For more info, email dlee@adams.net.
Herb Festival this weekend!

Herb Festival this weekend!

So there you are. No excuses! Go follow your Adventure Foot!

Hey Everyone!

I know what you’re thinking.  Where in the world has Adventure Foot been!?

Adventuring, of course!

IOU some major blogging and I’m really going to get it done this week, so check back often.  I have to tell you about my run at the Allerton Trails Half Marathon and Bridge the Gap Half Marathon, about getting my bike professionally fitted, and the Folks on Spokes metric century bike ride we did a few weeks ago, what I learned about the curse of flat tires, our Ride of Silence Event… I’m just saying, there’s a lot.

How’d I get so far behind?!  That’s primarily due to my Quincy Bicycle Club media blitz!  I was recently elected President of the Quincy Bike Club and my first order of business was getting the word out that it’s the best club to ever hit wheels.  To that end, my outstanding Vice President and I got on the horn to the local media and booked gigs with The Quincy Herald Whig, KHQA-TV, WGEM-TV, Y101 Radio, and WGEM Talk 105 all in the same week.   Also, I redid our entire website.  Check it out at http://www.quincybikeclub.org

Anywho- excuses aside, I’ve got announcements RE: Adventure Foot Contest Winners and my excellent blog sponsors!

As you all know by now, Adventure Foot is proud to be an ambassador for Nuun Hydration and VI Fuel Endurance Gel.  These are two products I really believe in and use allllll the time on my adventures.

Nuun Hydration tabs are electrolyte drink tablets that you just drop into your water bottle.  They’ve got lots and lots of great flavors (my faves are Lemon Lime and Tri-Berry) so I’m sure you’ll find one you love.  The best part about Nuun is that these tabs are not over-sweet like many sports drinks.  That kind of gatorade junk upsets my adventure tummy- especially in extreme heat when you need hydration the most. Nuun is delicious with just a hint of sweetness and the electrolytes keep me going!  Nuun tabs come in a handy little tube of 12 too- so they fit in your bike seat pack or that little pocket on your hiking bag or wherever!  I also love that they create so much less waste than a big plastic-bottled sports drink.  Oh! And if you’re out adventuring to loose weight, Nuun is the electrolyte drink for you!  While a bottle of Gatorade has 75 calories per 12 oz (or 130 for a 20 oz. bottle), Nuun tabs have only 7 calories!  It’s a good decision!   Check out my Official Nuun Ambassador Page by clicking here! 

Anyway- by random number drawing- the winners of a Nuun Water Bottle and 1 tube of Nuun are Cindy and Jacob!!!!!

cindy

Cindy’s yoga Adventure Feet!

jaco

Jacob out for an Adventure Foot bike ride!

Now, onto the second sponsor!  I first discovered V-Fuel Endurance Gel through a friend in the Heartland Roadrunners Club.  I was in the middle of training for my 2nd half marathon at the time, and I’d had a “bad day” of running after eating 2 Gu brand gels on my 10 mile route. I think runners can all relate to what I mean by “bad day.”  Anyway, my friend Dave said that I should try a different brand of energy gel, V-Fuel.   He promised it was different.  He promised no upset tummy.  He promised great flavors.  And he promised better performance.  Guess what?  He was TOTALLY right.  Seriously you guys.  This gel is different.

V-Fuel comes in 3 flavors: vanilla, chocolate and peach cobbler.  The consistency of the gel is thinner than what you expect from a Gu, which I really like on the run.  And the boost in performance is huge, especially on the long runs or rides when you’re trying to avoid the dreaded “bonk.”   But the very most important thing to me is that V-Fuel doesn’t upset my stomach and has never, ever caused an unexpected bathroom break. I asked the creators of  V-Fuel why it was so much easier on my tummy and here’s what I learned:

“VFuel, like other energy gels, starts with maltodextrin as the primary carbohydrate. But from there, we take a very different path. Most other gels use Fructose, or some sort of rice syrup or evaporated cane juice, all containing Fructose. VFuel uses Dextrose as its secondary carb, a more expensive (on our end) option, but one that is drastically easier to digest.”

All of that adds up to a happy Adventurer!

And speaking of happy Adventurers… I have 3 winners to announce for V-Fuel prizes but you are ALL winners today!  V-Fuel has offered my readers a SPECIAL 20% off Discount for your first order! Believe me when I say your first order won’t be your last.  Some people buy their significant other chocolate for special occasions…. my husband and I buy each other chocolate V!  (That’s true.  You just ask him what I got him for Valentine’s Day!)  So where was I?  Oh yeah. Discount.   Type in ADVENTUREFOOT and save 20%. Woohoo!!

And here are the winners!!!

stephen

Stephen coming with the double threat… cycling and ultimate frisbee! That’s the kind of multi-tasking I can get behind!

sarah

Sarah with the tron-looking 5 fingers!

jared

Jared out on a “casual” birthday ultra-run 🙂

Congratulations to all my winners! I’ll be putting together a new banner this week featuring your Adventure Feet!  Everyone else, please check into these two companies and click their links.  I wouldn’t endorse them if I didn’t think they were the very best for my money and for my adventures.  Folks local to Quincy, you can find Nuun Hydration at Madison Davis Bicycle Shop as well as Hy-Vee on Harrison in the heath food department.  V-Fuel is only available online at this time, but my code is good through July, so order some today!  I happen to like chocolate best, but I think the most popular flavor is peach cobbler.  If you have any questions about either of these products, please don’t hesitate to ask!