Thursday, March 31, 2016

2016 Cowtown (Fort Worth) Marathon Race Report and Video

Holly runs the 2016 Cowtown Marathon in-and-around Fort Worth, Texas with our friend Stan:
Cowtown was going to be my first full marathon of the year. I was excited to be running this one with my friends Michael and Stan. Unfortunately Michael had to pull out of the race due to an injury and Stan barely made it to the starting line due to battling the stomach flu early in the week. I’m not sure how he did it but he did! We got in to Ft. Worth 3 hours late on Friday night due to mechanical issues but found time for a late beer and snack at Flying Saucer beer bar.

We went to the expo the next morning which was a good sized expo with a lot of vendors. After the expo we went over to the Stockyards and walked around quite a bit. We had a nice lunch at Riscky's BBQ. Of course we stopped at a brewery (The Collective Brewing Project) on the way back to the hotel. It was a beautiful day and it was nice to sit outside. We had a great dinner at Vivo 53 and went to bed early.

Dave drove us over to the start area and we were way too early. We ended up sitting in a McDonalds to stay out of the cold and got to use their bathroom. Bonus! We then headed over to the start corrals and Pam and Dave headed over to watch near the start line. Race start was well organized with the corrals going off every 4 minutes.

Soon enough it was our turn and we were off! I did my 20 mile run a month before due to our beach vacation so I wasn’t sure how I would hold up. I also was running faster during my training runs so I wasn’t sure what pace to go out at. I chose poorly! We went out way too fast and paid the price later in the race. I felt really good for the first half and felt like I was not putting out much effort. Stan was trying to get me to slow down and I kept saying, I know, but I didn’t slow down. I also was not doing a good job of eating my gels at regular intervals. This resulted in me totally bonking at mile 20. It was a long 6 miles after that but we did finish.

Now let’s talk about the good stuff. It was a nice course. We ran through the Stockyards and through some nice neighborhoods. We had some great crowd support and even a few beer stops along the way. One guy said to me "that’s beer not water" and I said "thank goodness!" We had one couple that was cheering with Dave and Pam at the halfway point and they were great. We kept seeing them along the course and they would always yell "Illinois". We loved seeing them and they gave us a HUGE cheer at the finish. Dave and Pam were great as always and were very encouraging when I was completely done at the end. I was so nauseous and Pam would just keep asking what I needed. They are both the best! Stan was a great running partner and we were both so delirious at the end that we couldn’t even recognize the Indiana Jones theme song that a guy was playing on the course.

The finish was a highlight because I finally got to meet my dear friend Becca In-person. She was there to cheer us in at the finish. The finish area was great with ice cream, beer and chicken noodle soup. The soup was much needed and it made me feel instantly better. You also got nice finisher swag: a disposable jacket, great medal, and a finisher shirt. This was a well-run race and I would definitely recommend it.

Dave's Comments
Mechanical issues really screwed up my bar-hopping plans. I had been to Fort Worth for work 14 or so years ago and remembered it having lots of fun little places. Still seems like there are some fun places in Ft. Worth, but we only had time to visit Flying Saucer that night.
We visited the Stockyards after going to the race expo. We unfortunately missed the running of the cows, but arrived early enough for hassle-free parking. The crowds were building as the day went on. We enjoyed our time in a few of the shops browsing things we weren't in the market for: cowboy hats, belt buckles, and leather goods. For some reason I was compelled to pay $5 to sit on a steer.

Siri didn't do a good job directing us to the Beer Collective so we punished her by staying a round longer than initially planned. It was in the high 60's/low 70's with full sunshine. Too nice a day to waste inside so we wasted it on a picnic table in the loading dock area.

On Sunday I had my first Sausage Egg McMuffin. I am new to eating eggs. Yolks disgust me (they need to be 100% cooked solid). Think about what eggs really are and where they come out of? Anyway, it was alright. The staged start of the race was just soooooo long. Pam and I just wanted to get the chasing started. We were happy to find that it did not take long to get from the start to mile 3, mile 3 to mile 6.5 (the yards), and the yards to town (mile ten). We parked near Billy Bob's in the Stockyards and had to cut through the rodeo corrals to get to the course. Lots of watching your step in that area. The rest of the course was easy enough to navigate.

With the start and finish included we were able to catch them 13 times on the course. We finished up the Fort Worth experience by having lunch at Flying Saucer in the beer garden.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Namibia: Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Other Posts: Trip Overview, Little Kulala Lodge, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, Sesriem Canyon And Scenic Flight, Swakopmund Sandboarding, Walvis Bay Dune & Sea Tour, Doro Nawas Camp, Damarland Sites, Damaraland Living Village Song

We were coming up to the portion of the trip we were most looking forward to: our stay at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp. This Wilderness Safaris camp is one of the newest in Namibia and has created a lot of buzz because of the camp's style and location. It's been written up in Robb's Report, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other publications. While we were at camp a CNN crew was filming segments for Inside Africa. We'd be seeing the crew the rest of our trip.

There are a lot of positives to staying at this camp. First, if you stay for three nights, you get an excursion to the Skeleton Coast. This is a harsh area of Atlantic Ocean shoreline filled with shipwrecks and Cape Fur Seals. The journey to the coast takes along time and visitors pass through varied landscapes and ecosystems. If the weather cooperates the trip includes a scenic flight back to camp. The camp is the place to learn about desert lion conservation. It's estimated only 70-80 lions of the sub-species remain and at Hoanib you may have a chance to see a few of them. The camp is near a dry river where you do most of your game viewings and offers great vantage points for unique photos. About a month after we left the river actually flowed due to heavy rains in Angola.

The eight guest tents weren't the traditional army-fatigue green. They were beige rectangles covered with multi-peaked canvas roofs. Our tent had a comfortable bed, picture window pointed to a man-made watering hole, comfy chairs, private toilet area, dual vanity, and indoor shower (no outdoor shower). We had a patio with a couch, a basket chair, and a fridge that was filled with sodas, waters, and beers.

The camp staff was wonderful. Everyone was friendly and made sure we were well taken care of. Meals consisted of a choice of entrees. At lunch we had things wraps and pizzas. Dinner was the traditional offerings of chicken, fish, lamb, or game meats. The main camp area consisted of a dining room, bar, and large seating area with two separate sections, pool, and "movie theater" for watching the documentary The Vanishing Kings. The film was shot in the area and the camp helped to play a role in the film. Little did we know the night we saw the film that we'd be seeing the movie's stars the next day.

Desert lion research vehicle

Our first game drive was uneventful. Our guide, Papa G, took us and our jeepmates (a newlywed couple from NY) along the riverbed in search of elephant, giraffe, lion, and other fun animals. Unfortunately they were shy that night and the most exciting animal we saw (from afar) was a jackal. We did get some pretty pictures of a springbok.

One night we enjoyed a campfire and played a game of "find the scorpions" with a black light.

More fun can by had by watching the watering hole. One afternoon we watched an elephant spend some time at the pool and another morning we watched a giraffe. Both were fascinating to watch with the elephant splashing himself and the giraffe cautiously shuffling down for a drink.

On our final morning in camp PapaG took us on a short nature walk. It felt good to walk more than 5 minutes at a time. We got a great perspective of the area from the top of the hill/mountain near the riverbank.

In upcoming posts we will have photos from our day-trip to Skeleton Coast and many other images from our SUCCESSFUL game drives at Hoanib.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Namibia: Daramara Living Museum Songs

In our last post, we wrote about a visit to the Damara Living Museum. It's a small museum that simulates what life was like for the indigenous people of that region. At the museum the staff assembles every so often for a few minutes of song and dance.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Namibia: Damaraland Sites

Other Posts: Trip Overview, Little Kulala Lodge, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, Sesriem Canyon And Scenic Flight, Swakopmund Sandboarding, Walvis Bay Dune & Sea Tour, Doro Nawas Camp

Choosing Doro Nawas Logde over other camps was Dave's decision because he wanted to visit Twyfelfontein. Doro Nawas was the only Wilderness Safaris camp close enough to the site to offer the visit as a camp activity. Who wants to have a chance to see rhinos when you can see one of the largest concentrations of cave art in the world? Other attractions we'd visit during the day would be Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain, Damara Living Museum, and the Petrified Forest.

The ride to the sites would be about an hour. On the way we saw a group of baboons grazing. They were too far for decent shots (or Dave's lens wasn't big enough) but their black fur against the dry grass provided some interesting shots.

Twyfelfontein (Afrikaans for "uncertain spring") is Namibia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's situated in a pretty little valley of red rocks with pockets of greenery. The area was inhabited because water was sometimes available from a spring. The estimated 2,500 carvings were likely created 2,000+ years ago. The site is about 180 miles from the sea, yet some of the carvings depict flamingos, seals, and penguins. Circular carvings depicted water, leading experts to believe some of the petroglyphs were maps of the area.

We checked in at the Welcome Center that housed a small museum, shop, bathrooms, and snack bar. The rock-walled building blended in with the sourrounding area and featured fencing made from 55 gallon drum lids. All touring of the area is conducted by guide and we were grouped with 14 early-retiring aged Canadians traveling together for 2 weeks by bus. 45 minutes with them was enough for us. They were nice, just too big a group to herd. By the end of the tour we were even yelling at John to stop dilly-dallying.

The site was definitely impressive and Holly enjoyed looking at rocks more than she thought she would.

Our next stop was Burnt Mountain. William gave us some explanation about how the mountain forming had to do with the continental drift but we were just lost. Our takeaway was some stuff erupted and left this black dirt.

The Organ Pipes were in the same area. Same major geological event caused their creation. The eruptive forces pushed the ground straight up creating columns of rock with cool rectangular shapes.
The final stop of the morning was the Damara Living Museum. It's sorta like Colonial Williamsburg but much, much smaller. The employees/volunteers wore traditional clothing while demonstrating facets of indigenous life in that area. Our teenage guide escorted us to different stations where someone else would demo a different craft such as medicine making, jewelry design, beer making (looked awful), tool work, and fire building. After groups of guests are routed through the stations the entire village comes together to perform a song and dance routine. Our entire experience here maybe lasted 40 minutes.
Here is where a little conversation with William would have paid off in dividends. We knew we were going to see the Petrified Forest for our evening event. We were just minutes from the forest while at the museum. Why would we drive all the way back here again? We figured we'd have other guests with us or there was another planned activity along with the forest so we didn't ask. Turned out we were the only guests going with William that afternoon. We drove to the "forest", saw it, and went back to camp. He could have had the evening off if we visited the forest in the morning. We would have been happy with drinks at the pool.
We don't want to be insulting to a national monument, but the Petrified Forest was probably our least favorite activity in this area. We were guided by a park employee along a path as he pointed out a couple of plants, including welwitschia (Namibia's national plant) and a red ochre tree, before we stopped to look at dead tree trunks. These fossilized trees are estimated to be 280 millions years old and arrived in Namibia from the north after a flood during the Ice Age. This was before the continental drift so these may have been from Europe.
Welwitschia - some of these plants are 1,500 years old

Sundowners were had back at camp on the verandah. Sunset was a bit haze-filled that night but still very nice. The next morning we were entertained by two hornbills while we packed up our things in preparation for our trip north. Our next camp, Hoanib Skeleton Coast, would offer game viewing and a trip to the coast.