Sunday, June 28, 2009

Planet Trek

Today, on one of the windiest days lately, we took off on a voyage of the solar system. We traveled through space faster than the speed of light.

Impossible you say? Not so in Dane County. Celebrating the International Year of Astronomy there is a scale model solar system placed along local bike trails. Planet Trek is in place until October 2009. It is unfortunate that it is temporary because the boys had a blast riding and seeing the planets. The scale is approximately 200 million to 1 and at that scale each planet sign gives a real life equivalent size, like Pluto is like a marble, and Earth is a medium apple. It takes 410 minutes for light to reach Pluto from the sun. Our trip took only 110 minutes and we logged almost 25 miles. Pluto is located across from the DNR bike shelter in Mount Horeb, and the sun is at the Monona Terrace.

Passing Verona the wind turned from our backs to our faces for a short bit, and we apparently passed Uranus without a sign in place. About that same time we were stopped by a DNR ranger checking trail passes, but I didn't really want to ask where Uranus was thinking maybe we hadn't gotten there yet. Chad talked his way out of a fine since I forgot my trail pass and we hadn't gone back home for it. Chad keeps pictures of the passes on his phone and proof of ownership in picture form is enough to pass, but his camera memory card was not reading and the image could not be found. The ranger let us pass after minutes of searching through pictures on the phone. Next to the sun was planted a ring of flowers symbolizing the scale size and a woman tending the flowers told us one of the signs had been stolen. So we didn't miss Uranus during the high winds or interrogation, it was missing from the lineup all along.
The ring of flowers shown above is 24 feet in diameter. Our trip was one way, so we ended shortly after seeing the sun. Chad had driven the Jeep in to downtown Madison earlier in the day and struggled home with a constant headwind on his single bike. The boys liked the ride and we would recommend the trip in the direction of Pluto to the Sun since the bike trail is mostly downhill or flat. This almost 25 mile bike ride is the longest yet for the boys, Chad not included.

Travel Bugs

For those of you unfamiliar with geocaching, a travel bug is a trackable item that is moved from place to place. It is logged when it is dropped off or picked up from a geocache anywhere. We have taken and replaced many travel bugs during geocaching but never our own. We dropped a Jeep travel bug off at Governor Dodge State Park several weeks ago and it is in George Washington National Park on the east coast right now. A tag is attached to whatever you want and the owner of the bug chooses it's name and the goal of the bug. We ordered our travel bug tags through REI and set two bugs up to drop off in Door County.

The kids looked through their bins of toys and found a couple things to attach to the tags. Zack chose a Scooby Doo Mystery Machine van and Kevin wanted a hole drilled in a bouncy ball.

Here are their creations. They have been dropped and are still on Washington Island. Hope they move soon.
Zack's Mystery Machine

Bounce Me Around the World

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

And the winner is...

With a vote of two to one, the winner of the sandcastle contest at Nicolet Beach this morning is...


Door County Vacation

On vacation and loving it. We may be busier than normal with activities on vacation but it still feels much more relaxing. We can set our own schedule, wake up when we want, eat at restaurants that are new to us, and take naps during the afternoon. Vacation is awesome.

There are so many outdoor activities to do in Door County, and we try to do all of them. This is our fourth full day here and already we have run, biked, kayaked, geocached, and played mini-golf. The weather has been great, a little warm for Door County this time of year, but still great.

We also went to Hands On Art Studio, where we made fused glass mosaics that we are going to hang somewhere in the yard upon our return home. We layered clear glass with pieces of different types of colored glass. It all cooked and melted together with a copper ring tucked inside for hanging. They fire the works overnight for pickup the next afternoon.

We have also deposited the boys geocaching travel bugs, which I don't think I had time to blog before we left. I'll post pictures when we get home. Both were dropped off on Washington Island, also known as the source of wheat for the Island Wheat beer from Capital Brewery, among many other things. We have been to the island before once, but don't recall if it was before or after Zack. It wasn't recent and so I think Zack's first big water crossing, even if it was only thirty minutes or so. In almost-6-year-old-land this was an adventurous feat, and he asked if the people there spoke our language. He was relieved when I assured him that they do. We traveled by bicycle from the ferry landing to the Rock Island ferry crossing and back. The view to Rock Island is shown in the picture with the barn. The top picture is the Lookout Tower, the site of Kevin's bug drop off, and the cache box grab picture is the site of Zack's bug drop off. A 20 something mile trip overall. Along the way we stopped at 3 out of the 4 geocaches on the island. We would have hit the fourth but the kids were tired and it would have required a hike off the road that left the bikes unattended and the ferry back to the mainland was leaving in 10 to 15 minutes with the next one an hour later. The boys did very well on the "train", the Cannondale tandem with the trail-a-bike hooked to the back. We were cruising pretty fast on the trip back to the ferry landing. A stop for ice cream on the mainland topped off this daily excursion. Chad and I shared a great sundae at the Door County Ice Cream Factory. It was an Almond Joy with coconut ice cream, hot fudge, and chopped almonds, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Might have to enjoy another one of those before we head home, or try one of the other wonderful concoctions.

We have kayaked twice so far and have other trips planned. Today was a trip to Horseshoe Island to try a geocache that we missed years ago. Bugs were pretty bad, according to the kids. So Chad finished the find of the cache while the rest headed back to the boats to wait. The tree cover was dense but Chad was able to hunt down the box. Way to go, Chad! The water was smooth as glass on the trip over, winds were out of the south today. Kevin made it all the way over, and maybe a third of the way back before needing a tow. We hit the beach after the trip to the island and Zack built a sandcastle while Kevin snorkeled for shells. There was a pretty cool dragon sandcastle that had been completed before we arrived on the beach, but Chad and I voted Zack's the better of the two. Big brother, Kevin, voted for the dragon of course, even though he did provide shells for over the doorway of the castle.

Plenty more we have planned to do up here, and the weather looks like it will cooperate.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Tour of America's Dairyland

So the plan was to ride with the boys out to watch the first day of racing which is only seven miles from our home. Dark skies and the boys rolling out of bed after 10am change the ride to a drive out to check things out.

We parked too far from the steep part of the big climb on the route and ended up watching riders come through the feed zone. We missed the leaders as we were parking but that left some pro1,2 riders and the cat 3,4,5 and women yet to come past. We were among a handful of people watching that were not involved in rider support, I guess that is to be expected on a Thursday morning. After watching a few riders drop out we walked back to the car and drove down the hill to the steeper portion where we pulled over as what I would guess was the main pack of cat 3s came up. From the look on some of the faces that went by it was a good thing that was the final lap for them, one rider behind the main group was walking his bike. Another was negotiating a ride with the passing UPS truck driver, at least he still had a sense of humor.

The boys had seen enough so we headed down the rest of the hill passing the rest of the field as we went. The rain started just as we passed the last few riders and we headed for home glad we were not going to be riding the bike back home in the rain.

Race info can be found here Tour of America's Dairyland

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wishing for a speedier recovery

I haven't had much to say lately about my knee, but I go back to PT this Tuesday. I've been busy with numerous exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee, but there has been a little more pain in the knee with this increased activity. Shallow squats, weight bearing exercises and a walk to run program are things I have been doing the last few weeks. The walk to run program is slowwwww. The first week was walk 4 minutes, then jog slowly for 1 minute. Rotate this pattern for 15 minutes then done. This program gradually increases the jogging time each week until it switches to jogging and running. So of course it feels like forever until I am back at normal activity, and with summer in full swing that is a little difficult to not be able to get out and do everything I want to do. I am trying to get Kevin to come walk/jogging with me because he is interested in running and those speeds are better for him starting out and training. He went with me Friday evening and it went good.

Since biking is not restricted, Chad and I went for a 30 some mile ride on the tandem this morning in hilly territory. It felt great to get out and feel like I accomplished something of significance. I didn't take enough along with in carbs, but the ride ended at our house so when I got back I tried out the PowerBar Gel Blasts in lemon flavor. They were quite chewy and didn't seem to me to have a liquid center. It was softer then the outside but not oozing out. Maybe it would be different if they had traveled in my back pocket in the heat instead of straight out of the cabinet at home. Not that I would want anything oozing out and drippy, but that's just how the picture on the package looks. The lemon flavor was not bad and not too tart or overpowering. They did not stick in the teeth at all, and seemed to do the job. Hard to tell on the effects of them in the stomach with continued exercise since I was already done but I ate just about the whole package minus a couple I shared with Chad and a friend that was riding with us. I still prefer the Sharkies, mainly because of the flavors available and smaller size of the packaging.

Not much for pain in the knee after the ride, so I am hoping good thoughts for my PT appointment. I hope it is still showing signs of healing. I worry that after all the work of rehab that it will still end in surgery.

It will be a busy week getting ready for vacation next week. I sure need a vacation, and am really looking forward to a relaxing time spent with the family. Biking, hiking, kayaking, geocaching, shopping, ice cream eating, sunset watching are all on the list of things to do. There will most likely be a much anticipated release of the kids travel bugs. More about that to come later.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wet rocks and mud

Another single track day on the mountain bike after years of only using it to pull my sons on the trail-a-bike or in a trailer. The saying once you learn to ride you never forget might not be as true when it comes to wet rock and roots. The going is slow since I have no interest in launching over the handlebar. Slow brings trouble as well, no momentum and I hang up, tip over or both. Both of my rides have been after rain so the trails have been wet, today they had standing water in parts. I only got a couple of photos since the phone battery was low and I like the idea of being able to call for help if things go really wrong. I think I'll wait for it to dry out before venturing out again in hopes of staying on the pedals longer than I managed today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Geocaching by mountain bike

That was the plan anyway, we got the cache but had to hike from the Jeep. The mountain bike trails at Governor Dodge state park had more hills than we could handle so after a steep climb right off the parking lot hiking looked like a good idea. The hike was about 2 miles each way according to the geocache information we had. Our goal was a rock formation that held an earth cache and a traditional cache.

The earth cache was easy since it is in the cave on the "Cave Trail", find the information requested and done. The traditional cache was much harder to access unless we missed the easy way up. Kevin and I went first hoping for a quick find on top of the rocks, after failing we went back and helped Zack and Jenny up. After some pictures on the rocks Zack and Kevin found the ammo box hidden very well behind a flat stone concealing a hollow area. Here we left the mini Jeep travel bug and debated how long it would be there. It was agreed that if it doesn't move before our trip to the Tetons we will go back and grab it for a big move. The promise of ice cream at the park concession stand provided motivation for all of us on the way back to the trail head.

Another adventure done we headed home. Jenny and I talking of possible new gear needed for safer more comfortable hiking in the future. Both the boys attention returned to their Nintendo DSi systems.