lifewithphil10142014v2

Pikes Peak the Easy Way

October 27, 2014 |  by  |  Denver, Photography  |  No Comments
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Our railcar at the top of Pikes Peak

My parents came out to Colorado this past weekend to see my new house, new dog, not-as-new fiance, oh, and their son!

On Friday, I took the day off from work and we made the drive down to Manitou Springs to take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway up to the top of Pikes Peak. Traffic on I-25 getting through the Tech Center was absolutely terrible and we barely made it to the railway in time.

The trip took about an hour up, 50 minutes at the top and an hour back down. The tour guide lady was pretty entertaining and informative…there was a lot that I didn’t know about Pikes Peak that I learned!

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Timberline

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My dad is the only one in the family who’s hiked a 14,000′ peak (Mount Whitney in California) so he told a lot of stories about his hikes and the differences between the mountains. It was cool to hear some of the old man’s stories!

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The restaurant/gift shop

Taking the railway up was way easier than driving up, even if it didn’t save much time. It goes without saying that it was waaaaay easier than hiking up!

We tried some high-altitude donuts at the top (apparently regular donuts don’t cook at 14,000′) and they were actually pretty good.

High elevation donuts

High elevation donuts

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Our first 14er

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Looking east

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We were all a little chilly!

It was pretty chilly at the top of the mountain, which is to be expected! It gave me a good reminder of the cold weather that’s coming, despite the Indian summer we’re having.

After we made it down the mountain, we took a quick walk around Manitou Springs, had lunch at Thunder and Buttons in Colorado Springs and headed back up to Denver/Arvada.

Race Recap: Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon 2014

October 23, 2014 |  by  |  Denver, Running  |  1 Comment

Veni, vidi, vici.

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Well that’s probably an overstatement. What’s Latin for “I finished”? Fini? If so, this would be more appropriate for my 2nd marathon – Veni, vidi, fini (I came, I saw, I finished.) I’m glad the race is over, but I’m also glad I did it. I didn’t hit my goal time, but I did I set a PR (which isn’t saying much) and I left it all on the course, so I have no race-day regrets.

I’ve done this race (half marathon distance) over the past three years and this year, they changed the course dramatically. Like prior years, we started at Civic Center Park; but this year, we went west towards Sloan’s Lake, northeast into the Highlands, back into RiNo/downtown and back to Civic Center Park.

Course map

Course map

Back at Civic Center Park, the half-marathoners split off to their finish and the marathoners continued east towards City Park then south to Wash(ington) Park, then back north back to the finish line at Civic Center Park.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

The hills in the first eight miles heading towards Sloan’s Lake/Highlands were no joke. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Expo & Pre-Race

Like previous years, the race expo was held at the Colorado Convention Center downtown. It was a big expo with lots of vendors, but I didn’t see anything that I desperately needed. I got a bunch of doggie treat samples and some brochures for races next year, but other than that, I didn’t leave with much. I think I’ve reached a critical mass of running shirts and shorts; if I come home with any more, I think Sara would kill me.

Sara and I went to a Goodwill on Saturday to look for a jacket that I could wear pre-race before shedding it to be donated to Denver’s homeless. I ended up getting a full Nike tracksuit for $5, which fit surprisingly well and was pretty comfortable. I almost felt guilty about giving it away.

I woke up at pre-dawn on Sunday and had a banana and toast. Sara dropped me off at the race about thirty minutes before the race was set to begin. Thinking I had plenty of time, I moseyed on over to the porta-potty lines, which were ridiculously long. I waited in line for over thirty minutes! I zipped over to my corral as soon as I was done, ditched my $5 track suit (I really thought about gear checking it…) and waited for wave 11 to start. I wanted to run with the 4:30 pacers, but they went in wave 10, so I would have to catch up with them later.

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Once my wave started, I made sure I didn’t go out too fast. As we headed out of Civic Center Park and into downtown, I remembered why I love doing this race: there is an incredible amount of crowd support and downtown Denver in the early mornings is beautiful. We mostly skirted downtown in the beginning, as we snaked around the Pepsi Center and headed into Sloan’s Lake. The hills were noticeable and numerous, but they weren’t very difficult or sustained inclines. I knew that Sara, Sara’s sister, brother-in-law and nephews would all be at Sloan’s Lake waiting for me, so I was excited to go see them. I saw them as I was going north on Sheridan and I got an immediate boost of energy and adrenaline.

Sara's sign she made for me at Sloan's Lake

Sara’s sign she made for me at Sloan’s Lake

After Sloan’s Lake, we took on another big hill into the Highlands. I caught up to the 4:30 pace group somewhere in the Highlands and ran with them the entire way downtown. I wish I had talked to them earlier so I could get an idea of their pacing strategy. Once we got downtown and into the RiNo district, I saw Sara & Co. randomly along the way cheering for me on a random downtown street!

Running by Coors Field

Running by Coors Field

Somewhere in City Park?

Somewhere in City Park?

At Mile 13, the half-marathon and marathon course split, as the half-marathoners headed down into the finishers chute. Marathon runners made a hard left turn onto 17th Street and were treated to a steep hill going into Uptown. That hill used to be part of the old half/full marathon course, but now only marathoners were treated to the hill. After the hill, I ran through Uptown and headed into City Park and I was feeling good. Really good. I left the 4:30 pace group behind and went out on my own into City Park. I saw Sara again going into City Park, then twice again leaving City Park and running by it again after a turnaround.

I only brought four gels with me, because the race website said that they would be providing gels. I took my gels at miles 4, 9, and 13. I had one more to take, ideally at mile 17, but I really concerned  about the availability when I didn’t see any gels on the course. I held back my last gel until mile 18 and luckily I saw gel on the course one mile later. Not too long after the mile 19 marker, the 4:30 pace group caught up to me. It seems like they dialed their pacing up, because I was barely able to keep up with them for the next couple of miles. Finally at mile 21, I hit the wall and stopped for a walk break. I never saw the 4:30 pace group again after that.

When the good times were still rolling

When the good times were still rolling

I did my long runs in 2012-2013 at Wash Park when I was training for my first marathon, so I am intimately familiar with the park. I was looking forward to it before the race, but heading into and around Wash Park was pure agony for me as I struggled to break the wall. I ended up taking a lot of walk breaks going around the park and I probably took in way too much water and Gatorade. I kept looking at my GPS watch and watched my chances of a 4:20 finish fade away, then 4:25, then 4:30, then 4:35…but the way I was feeling at the time, I could care less.

I finally got it back together after run/walk/shuffling at mile 24. I started running again and slowly made my way back up towards Civic Center Park and after making it up the last hill, I was on the home stretch. There was no way I could walk the last part of the race, so I ignored as much of the pain as I could and ran as fast as I could into the finisher’s chute.

The same announcer as Tri Rock!

The same announcer as Tri Rock!

My final time was 4:40, ten minutes slower than my goal time. It’s easy to be disappointed in hindsight, but I don’t have any regrets with how the race itself went. Sure, I didn’t get to take my gels at the exact intervals I wanted, but that wasn’t a 10-20 minute slowing problem. Not hitting my goal time had more to do with not training enough…if/when I do my next marathon (2016?), I’ll definitely have to follow a training plan more closely and not skip any long runs! At the end of the day, I consider this race a victory. I completed the race without a bio mechanical failure like last time (tight hips, IT band and excruciating knee pain) and I finished fairly strong. So in that regards, I’m ecstatic!

Four more marathons to go until I catch up to my dad…

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My biggest supporter!

I am extremely grateful to and would like to thank Sara and her family for chasing me around the marathon course! Seeing them so often was such a thrill for me and it gave me boosts of energy whenever I saw them. I’d be remiss not to thank Sara for letting me putting up with my marathon training this year and listening to me talk non-stop about running and racing all the time.

What’s Next?

I’m thinking about the Colder Boulder 5K in December, but I’m financially committed to the Surf City Half Marathon in February and the Miami Beach Half Marathon in March. Sara wants to get back into running, so we may end up doing the Colorado Half Marathon together in April. My winter training goal is to get faster and break 1:55 at Surf City.

The Problem with Fall Races

October 17, 2014 |  by  |  Running  |  No Comments

Less than 48 hours until the marathon. Packet pickup tonight, a 1 or  2 mile shakeout run tomorrow morning, a bunch of carbs and that’s it. Race time. Actually, I should probably swing by Goodwill to pick up some “disposable” warm clothes to wear before the race.

My problem is that the temperature is dropping and people are getting sick – especially at work. I feel like I’m sitting in an incubator of disease and illness.

If I’m going to get sick, please let it be after Sunday (which is definitely in the realm of possibility, since my immune system may be weakened after the race.)

Two more days…two more days.

Life with Miles: The Indignities I’ve Suffered

October 16, 2014 |  by  |  Pets & Animals  |  No Comments

Life with Miles

Miles here. The humans are away at work and left their computer on. Since I’m bored and I don’t feel like playing with the expensive chew toys they bought me, I might as well blog!

It’s been a few days since my humans adopted me and I’m finally getting used to how things work around my new house. For some reason I’m never allowed in the backyard; I keep seeing these giant birds out there that I simply must go play with. And they constantly produce delicious treats from their butts. I must have these treats.

I’ve been going on lots of walks around the neighborhood and I’m getting my appetite back! I lost a lot of weight on my trip to Colorado, but I will slowly but surely gain my weight back.

It hasn’t been GREAT around here though. Let’s talk about the two major indignities I’ve faced:

1) Costumes. What’s the deal with humans and weird hats? The tall human with the messy hair was especially giddy after opening a box up from Amazon, which should have clued me in to the injustice that was to come.

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2) A little over a week ago, I got my “man parts” removed. After suffering through that indignity, all I wanted to do was lick my wounds (in a literal and figurative way.) Well apparently the humans didn’t like this and the short blonde human took me to the vet last night. The vet added insult to injury by making me wear this silly hat for the next 10 days!

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The injustice of it all…

A Welcome Addition to the Family

October 14, 2014 |  by  |  Denver, Pets & Animals  |  1 Comment

Well it’s probably no big secret that Sara and I (mostly me…) have been looking to welcome a dog into our family for the better part of this entire year. I’ve wanted a dog for a while, but it never seemed fair to raise a dog in an apartment….but since I’m living in a house with a small yard, I felt like the time was right for us to add a pack member.

While I was/am always open to getting a dog of any breed, my preference has always been towards German Shepherd dogs, since I grew up with two of them. There are two GSD rescues in the Denver metro area, but working with one of them was really difficult; it just didn’t seem like they were all that interested in helping me find the right fit. I wanted to go through a rescue organization for two reasons: 1) My selfish reason is that while overwhelmingly adorable, puppies are a LOT of hard work to train. 2) My altruistic and primary reason is that these dogs all deserve second chances. They didn’t ask to be abandoned, abused and/or surrendered, all they know is that their lives are completely different than what they’re used to.

I finally found the Dancing Dog Rescue and Recovery Ranch, who were willing to work with me to find a dog that would fit our family and lifestyle. I reached out to them to find out information about one dog, but after determining that we wouldn’t be a good fit for that specific dog, our contact there was able to find a dog that she thought would be a good fit.

Sara and I arranged to meet her at a kennel in Lakewood, Colorado so we could meet the dog in question. We took him for a short walk around the neighborhood and spent some time interacting with him and learning about his background. He was surrendered by his owner from Houston, Texas because he/she/they thought that he was too hyper. I’m not a vet or an animal trainer, but maybe your dog was hyper because you didn’t neuter him.

Luckily for this guy, some good people rescued him from the shelter in Texas, had him neutered and drove him up to the rescue here in Colorado to be adopted.

Miles and me at the kennel where we adopted him from

Miles and me at the kennel where we adopted him from

While he definitely has some training to do as far as his manners, he was overall a well-behaved boy! He has a mild case of heartworms, which he will be treated for, and he is expected to make a complete recovery from them. He was also underweight, which is to be expected after having a traumatic past few weeks. Because of his predominately black coloring, propensity to jumping on people and even-keeled demeanor, he reminded me a lot of one of our German Shepherds growing up, Thunder. Overall, we liked him. A lot.

We asked if we could fill out an application (expecting to go through a vigorous vetting process like we did at other rescues) and her response was, “You’re approved. You seem like nice people and I have a good feeling about you both.” So the next step in the process? “You can bring him home today if you’d like,” she said.

It wasn’t a hard decision for us.

Minutes later, he happily jumped into the trunk of my SUV and we started our first road trip together back to Arvada.

Why so serious?

Why so serious?

After dropping some major cash at Petsmart, we had a big decision to make – his name! Most of the names I suggested were rejected by Sara, but we were both immediately able to agree on the name “Miles.” We adopted him while I’m in the throes of marathon preparations for my race on Sunday. I also want him to be my running buddy when he gets a little healthier, so the name seemed perfect.

Who's a good boy? You're a good boy!!

Who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy!!

Miles loungin' and getting used to his new home

Miles loungin’ and getting used to his new home

We’re all still getting to know each other, but so far, it’s been great with Miles (knock on wood.) He sleeps through the night just fine and so far, he’s been okay when I’m at work. He still hasn’t bee in the backyard because of the chickens, who were none too pleased when they saw him through our sliding glass door.

We’re excited to have our new running/walking/hiking buddy and we can’t wait for all the adventures we’ll have in the future!

Six Days and Six Miles to 26.2 & Miami 2015 here I come!

October 13, 2014 |  by  |  Running  |  1 Comment

Well this is hardly the biggest news of my week now, but it’s still pretty significant! I have three 2 mile runs to do this week as part of my taper, which are my last workouts before the Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon!

I should feel better about this race than I did going into last year’s Surf City Marathon since I trained much harder for this race (sans a couple long runs…like the big 20 miler), but I’m starting to get really nervous. I am starting to second guess my nutrition and hydration strategies as well as constantly going over pacing strategies in my head (go out with the 4:30 pace group and pick it up on the second half if I can.)

I’ve put in some hard running work this year in anticipation of this race. Despite my increased involvement in the Arvada Triathlon Club, I dramatically reduced my number multi-sport workouts this year so I could focus on putting in mileage for the marathon.

I’m not going for a lightning fast time but I want to do a little more than “just finish” this time around. What training I’ve done is done. No use second guessing now…I just need to stay healthy, hydrate and start loading up on carbs later in the week, my favorite part of the training cycle.

In related running news (still not the big news of the week of course), I signed up for the Michelob ULTRA Miami Beach 13.1 Marathon! The race is March 1, 2015, four weeks after the Surf City Half Marathon on Feb. 1, 2015. From Huntington Beach to Miami Beach, two 13.1-mile races four weeks apart.

Marathon Training Update: 3 Weeks Out

October 3, 2014 |  by  |  Denver, Running  |  No Comments

I’m three weeks out from the Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon!

Training has been okay; my training plan was loosely based on the Hal Higdon Novice 2 training program, but due to prior race commitments (like the Alien Half) and just plain ol’ life, I had to modify the schedule. My longest run, a 20-miler, was supposed to happen last weekend, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go up to Aspen to capture the color change at its peak.

I planned on making up the run tomorrow and go with a fourteen day taper before the race. After talking about it with some Arvada Triathlon Club members (who were very well qualified to give advice!) yesterday, they suggested I just skip the 20 mile run and start a three week taper. It makes me nervous to only have a 17 mile run as my longest run. But at the end of the day, marathon success is based on the cumulative miles ran, not the longest run.

Compared to my first marathon last February, my training is way more on point. I think I’ve more than doubled my training volume compared to my last cycle. The weather is much more agreeable (spring/summer training vs. fall/winter) this time, which makes things much easier. I laid down a fairly decent base at the beginning of the year…I’ve already ran 200 more miles this year to date than I did all last year! It really helps that I can run during my lunch break during the winter…it’s usually too cold and dark in the mornings and evenings. I think that the added mileage has helped me avoid as many running-injuries compared to my last marathon. I am still having some shin splint issues, but luckily I haven’t had to deal with a tight IT band (knock on wood.)

My goal time is still 4 hr 20-30 mins, but we’ll see…my pace has gone down significantly (30″-45″ slower per mile) since I started adding on miles. I haven’t done much speed work either, so I’m not expecting to be surprised by my marathon race pace. Finishing is still the number one goal.

Photography trip: Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado

September 28, 2014 |  by  |  Denver, Photography, Travel  |  2 Comments

Sara and I left Arvada Friday night after work and headed up to Glenwood Springs. We stopped in Vail at Vail Village for a dinner break at the Alpenrose (German food) before pushing on to Glenwood Springs. We were both surprised by the size of Glenwood Springs; we thought it would be just another sleepy little mountain town, but it was pretty moderately sized! We saw a couple really cool hotels on the way in, like the Hotel Colorado. But since we were really only planning on resting our eyes for a few hours before pushing on to Aspen, we stayed at the Frontier Lodge. It was what you’d expect from a motor inn…clean and modest accommodations with just a hint of skeeviness.

Our total time spent at the motel was about six hours. We were awake at 2:45 AM and got back on the road at about 3:15 AM. The drive down to Aspen was spookily dark. We were startled more than a couple times by the reflection of elk eyes on the side of the road as they lazily grazed on grass. It took us an hour to get to White River National Forest and another ten minutes to get to the Maroon Bells parking lot. We got there at about 4:30 AM, more than two hours before sunrise. This was a purpose to the madness: Maroon Bells is one of the most photographed spots in Colorado and it would be especially busy with the aspen trees at the peak of changing their colors this weekend. Getting there early was a good call, since the parking lot was almost full by the time we got there (the parking lot also serves as a trailhead for the Maroon Bells south ridge trail.)

It was pitch black as we made the short walk from the parking lot to the lake. We counted four or five other photographers there that early and we had our pick of where we wanted to set up. We set up our tripods and our camp chairs and settled in to the chill of the night. Photographers and hikers trickled in in a steady stream throughout the wee hours of the morning. For my neighbors and me, it was the calm before the storm. No messing around with camera settings, lens decisions or angle-jockeying. It was just serenity in nature.

And then sunrise happened and it was time to get to work…

Doesn’t this picture look absolutely serene? It’s like we are the only ones at the lake…

This shot made being up early worth it

This shot made being up early worth it, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-70L f/22

Well this is what it looked like along the lake front. It was chaos for people who didn’t arrive early enough, as they jockeyed for position to try to set up their tripods and cameras.

Lots of photographers...

Lots of photographers…

LOTS and LOTS of photographers

LOTS and LOTS of photographers

More continued to trickle in all morning. We heard so many different languages being spoken: Farsi, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Hindi, German were what we recognized. There were countless others that we couldn’t identify!

Sunrise, Maroon Bells

Sunrise, Maroon Bells, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40L f/8

The picture above is one of the first shots that I snapped all day. The sun is just peaking over the mountains behind us, just barely enough to light up the trees and the Maroon Bells mountains. I juggled between using and not using my polarizing filter and ended up using it only for a few shots.

As the sun continued to rise, I had to continue changing camera settings; as the sun intensified, the sky started becoming really bright, which blew out the highlights in the photos. At that point, it would’ve been nice to have a graduated neutral-density filter, but I think I lost mine along the way somewhere :( But I made do by bracketing all my shots (one shot under-exposed, one shot over-exposed, one shot properly exposed) so I could blend them on my computer later.

It wasn’t just the Maroon Bells that were photo-worthy. The Aspen trees were absolutely stunning, as they were in their full color change!

Fall colors of Colorado

Fall colors of Colorado, Canon EOS-M 22mm

Canon EOS-M, 35mm

Canon EOS-M, 22mm

Canon EOS-M, 35mm

Canon EOS-M, 22mm

Aspen leaves

Aspen leaves, Canon EOS-M, 22mm

After the sunrise, we were back in waiting mode while we waited for the sun to rise a little higher, in order to get a photo of the lake and trees fully illuminated. Unfortunately, as soon as the sun was just starting to illuminate the whole scene, the wind started picking up and ripples started forming in the water, destroying the glass-like qualities of the water from earlier in the morning.

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Sara, me and my tripods still feeling chilly

So at 9:30 AM, the wind wasn’t slowing down and the ripples weren’t going away. We were hungry, tired and faced a long drive back to Arvada, so we decided to pack it in. We headed into downtown Aspen, walked around for a while and had some well-deserved breakfast and coffee at Peach’s Corner Cafe.

I blended three exposures for this one.

I blended three exposures for this one., Canon 5D Mark II, 24-70L

I hope you enjoy the photos! I’m trying to decide which of the 300+ I took is my favorite and how I want to print and display it.

 

I went to Disneyworld!

September 28, 2014 |  by  |  Travel  |  1 Comment

I checked off one of my lifelong dreams while I was in Orlando a couple weeks ago: I went to Disneyworld!

So right now you’re probably thinking that I have low standards when it comes to lifelong dreams, but hear me out. Since I grew up in Anaheim, I went to Disneyland semi-regularly as a kid. Once I started junior high school, my parents bought me an Annual Pass, so I went with my friends to Disneyland all the time [man, what a great way to get annoying preteens out of the house in a safe and controlled environment!] And of course, I got my high school/college job at, of course, Disney’s California Adventures! So it’s pretty clear that I have lots of fond memories of Disneyland! Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando was always a far-off, mysterious different-yet-same facsimile of my beloved Disneyland and I desperately wanted to go and see what it was all about. My dad took frequent work trips to Florida and I always asked him to take me with him so I could go to Disneyworld, but my requests were always rebuffed.

So after the trade show I was in Florida for ended, I got some more work done in my hotel room and I had my first real opportunity to go to the Magic Kingdom! I slinked off to Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom to do a half day in the park. My pass was a trade show special, which allowed me park entry at 4:00 PM. I was so excited that I was in line to get into the park at 4:01 PM.

Park "ticket"

Park “ticket”

The ticket to get in was pretty cool! All of your Fastpasses are stored on the card, so you don’t have to carry around any more Fastpasses in your wallet. I was able to sign up for some Fastpasses in advance too, which was a pretty cool feature.

In front of the iconic entrance of Disneyworld

In front of the iconic entrance of Disneyworld

So far everything looks the same on Main Street USA

So far everything looks the same on Main Street USA

As I walked into the park and heading into Main Street, USA, everything felt very familiar. Sure, some things were slightly off: the streets were much wider, the store fronts were bigger and the layout was slightly different, but it was still very similar!

The entrance to Adventureland

The entrance to Adventureland

I don’t know what I was thinking, but for some reason, I thought I knew where everything in the park was. Let’s explore the lunacy of that idea. I have never been to the park in my life. I took a cursory glance at the park map online before I left for Florida, and before then, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a map of the Magic Kingdom. I got a map of the park when I walked in, but I didn’t give that more than a quick look. My confidence was bolstered when I walked in and everything looked basically the same. But my world came quickly crashing down as I walked into Adventureland; nothing was where it was supposed to be. Attractions were “missing” or in the wrong places. Geographic landmarks were in the wrong place.

Besides being extremely wary a grown man walking aimlessly around a Disney park alone, a stranger would have also noted the shell-shocked expression on my face as I tried to figure out what to do and how I would get there. First on the itinerary was going to my favorite attraction at Disneyland: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!

My favorite attraction at Disneyland

My favorite attraction at Disneyland

The Florida was close enough to the California version, but just different enough. I liked the queue at the Florida version, but I felt like the California version of the rid told a better story, even if it was slightly shorter. Edge: Disneyland

Something that's not at Disneyland...Liberty Square

Something that’s not at Disneyland…Liberty Square

After BTMRR, I moseyed on over to compare another attraction, the Haunted Mansion. This was located in Liberty Square, since New Orleans Square does not exist in the Magic Kingdom (Florida is too close to New Orleans I guess?) Again, the rides were very very similar but just different enough for me to be able to tell. Edge: Tie

At this point in the game, I was sweating bullets from the humidity. I was extremely uncomfortable and I honestly could’ve called it a day there! But I decided to tough it out since I knew I probably wouldn’t be back any time soon; The Pirates of the Caribbean was close by, so I checked that out next. The Anaheim version has a bayou theme at the beginning of the ride, which the Orlando version lacks. The rides themselves were almost identical though. Edge: Anaheim

I went back over to Adventureland and got on board the Jungle Cruise. I liked the queue and the attraction a little more than I did the Anaheim version! Edge: Magic Kingdom. Next on the list was back to Liberty Square to check out the Hall of Presidents. The air-conditioned show provided a respite from the heat and humidity, but it was also surprisingly cool to watch an abbreviated history of the United States. And much to my surprise, I really liked the animatronic presidents interacting with each other.

Leaving Tomorrowland

Leaving Tomorrowland

After the Hall of Presidents, I decided just to walk around to see the other lands I didn’t get a chance to see yet. The sun setting that day was beautiful! It actually improved my mood considerably, which was soured by the persistent heat and humidity.

The Florida sun setting over the much more impressive castle

The Florida sun setting over the much more impressive castle

Mainstreet USA at dusk

Mainstreet USA at dusk

There's an Emporium at the Magic Kingdom, too!

There’s an Emporium at the Magic Kingdom, too!

They were already ready for fall

They were already ready for fall

As I was leaving the park, I decided to hop on for one last trip around the park on the Walt Disneyworld Railroad.

Striking their fall colors

Striking their fall colors

Main Street USA before I walked left

Main Street USA before I left for good

While I was there, I was constantly Edgar, Kim and Bicky, fellow Disney park enthusiasts. I knew going into this that I would be comparing Anaheim and Orlando the entire time. And at the time, I expressed displeasure at the park! I didn’t like the fact that so many of the attractions that I know and love from Disneyland weren’t at the Magic Kingdom; since there are four parks at the Disneyworld Resort, all of the attractions were spread across all four parks. Subjectively, the humidity made things bad, and the Magic Kingdom just wasn’t what I was used to and it made me uncomfortable. After cooling off in my hotel room and taking a little more time to reflect, I ended up having a favorable opinion of the Magic Kingdom! The fact that the two parks were similar but different is actually kind of cool. Since I’ve been to Disneyland so many times, it was actually cool to explore something new, even if the newness is eerily similar. Kind of like actors and their siblings: bizarro versions of themselves.

So will I be back? Yes! But will I be back any time soon? I’m in no rush..

Rent-a-Chickens: Penny and Scarlett

September 16, 2014 |  by  |  Interests, My House, Pets & Animals  |  2 Comments

I got chickens!

Well…I rented chickens. Yes, it’s a real thing! I saw an article about rent-a-chickens in the newspaper, so I sent an email to inquire about renting my own chickens (cost, level of effort, etc.) Well I got sporadic messages back from the chicken rental folks until I suddenly got an email saying, “When can we drop them off?”

 

The chickens figured out how  to step over the fence...

The chickens figured out how to step over the fence…

After I signed a check for $200, they showed up with a couple chickens, a coop, food and bedding. Sara and I promptly named the hens, ‘Penny Henny the Buff Orpington’ and ‘Scarlett the New Hampshire Red.’ For the price tag, this obviously isn’t a fiscally motivated move to try to save money on eggs. Hell, it doesn’t even make sense to rent chickens for more than one season, unless you REALLY don’t want to take care of chickens in the winter, which is one of the things that the chicken rental folks hang their hats on.

“Now what?”

I had no idea what to do once we had the chickens besides name them. Sara wasn’t much help, despite the fact that her dad has chickens of his own. But luckily, these chickens are pretty low maintenance. And they came with instructions. Feed and water them in the morning and let them out to scratch around the yard. Collect eggs in the afternoon/evening and then let them back in at dusk. Don’t give them onions or avocados. Clean their poop. Bingo.

The chicken coop

The chicken coop

The birds quickly established their own pecking order…Scarlett is at the top, so she eats first and drinks first. Aside: isn’t it funny how many phrases and idioms come from chickens? Pecking order, cooped up, flew the coop, rule the roost, like a chicken with its head cut off (*gulp*), cock sure, fussing like an old hen.

The pet that gives back...eggs AND poop. Lots of poop.

The pet that gives back…eggs AND poop. Lots of poop.

We’ve been collecting one or two eggs every day, so production has been good. The only time we had poor production was when Penny started brooding. Even though there’s no rooster around to fertilize, Penny decided that she was going to hatch one of those eggs in the coop. After doing exhaustive research online on how to “break” a chicken from brooding, I had to pick her up and not allow her back into the coop. Even though these hens were hand raised and not afraid of people, I still didn’t want to pick her up. She growled at me. The darn chicken growled!!

Luckily the problem seems to have fixed itself when we went to California for a long weekend. We got back and Penny was back to her usual self!

"What are you doing with that?! Do you know how long it took me to pop that thing out?"

“What are you doing with that?! Do you know how long it took me to pop that thing out?”

Other than the brooding issue, I’ve had a very positive experience with these chickens! I throw my fruit and vegetable scraps out there for them every day (they LOVE corn cobs and fruit) as treats. I’ve been saving some of their poop to compost, but I have no idea where to start with that.

Scarlett

Scarlett the New Hampshire Red

Penny Henny

Penny Henny the Buff Orpington

Admittedly, I’ve grown attached to these birds. I’ll be a little sad once they leave in a month or so to go back to the farm. I’ll also miss the freshest eggs ever! I have the option of renting the same hens next year, but I’ll probably just buy my own coop and hens. It just doesn’t make sense to spend $400 for six or seven months of hens. Even though it’ll be a pain in the ass to take care of them in the winter, I don’t think it’ll be that big of a deal. And if it is, we could always have some really really fresh chicken…