Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Back to Planet Earth

I feel like I've been on a different planet for a few days, because I was in Eastern Washington over the weekend to go to a concert at the Gorge (more on that in a bit) and most of the places we were at didn't have cell phone reception. Hence no BlackBerry, no Google Reader, no Facebook, no Livestrong Calorie Tracker*. (When we did go into areas with a signal I had to hustle to update my calorie tracking so I didn't have time to fool with other stuff.)

So I guess people have been running a lot of races this weekend, with some pretty great results. Congratulations, everyone. But this blog is all about me. So back to my story.

We took off Friday after I finished with work, hoping to get to Rimrock (Rod's property and cabin) before sunset, and at least before dark. I would guess we left between 4:30 and 5:00, and the drive takes several hours. You go east across Steven's Pass, and stay on Highway 2 all the way. Rimrock is between Waterville and Ephrata.

Because the area is surrounded by hills (rock cliffs), you don't get as much time before sunset as you do over here by the water. So the sun actually had dropped out of sight before we arrived, but it was still light enough out to get unpacked before dark. It's a very primitive cabin (one room, no plumbing, chemical toilet), but with electricity provided by a solar panel. That's enough to power a lamp and radio, and there's a gas generator for more power when needed (for the microwave). There is also a heater fueled by some kind of gas (propane?), but the cabin was still holding heat from the day so we didn't need to turn it on.

After hauling our stuff in (I, not surprisingly, having packed rather more than one would expect to need for a short weekend), we had a few hours to kill before hitting the sleeping bags. So Rod got the deck of Uno cards that he got at my office Christmas party and we set up a makeshift coffee table to play on. Neither of us had played Uno for years, so we studied the rules intently. They were a little easier to understand than the cribbage rules we had tried to decipher last fall.**

As it turns out, two-handed Uno is far more cutthroat than Uno in a group (in my opinion). Everything is personal and there are far more opportunities to screw your opponent. The phrase "skip you" (used when playing both a skip or reverse card) has a definite tone to it, sounding a lot like "something-else you"!

Uno also takes a really, really long time to finish. At least it did for us. It seemed like it would go fast when I got 170 points in the first hand, but after that followed a whole lot of hands with 30, 15, even 2 points. By 11:00 or so we were still only around 300 points*** (that was me), and I was getting tired. I believe I expressed doubt that we would ever finish, and perhaps we should just suspend play. That, however, would leave us without a clear winner. So we decided to play to 500 or midnight, whichever occurred first.

I was pretty sure I was going to win, anyhow. I had maintained a lead throughout, probably thanks to the big 170 point boost at the beginning. But then the scores started to tighten, and the fickle cards began to turn against me. Soon we were neck and neck! This was ominous. And then we were in the upper 400's, and I was behind... and all it took was one more hand, and it was over. I lost. It was exactly 12:00.

And it was really getting pretty cold. Earlier in the evening, after it had gotten completely dark, we had gone outside to look at the stars. Here in the middle of nowhere, with no lights around, you can see stars that you would never see in a more populated area. The sky was thick with them. It was amazing.

At midnight, though, I had no desire to go outside again, even to see stars, and I happily crawled into my sleeping bag. It was probably good to be so tired, because that made sleeping on a cot much more palatable! I was, however, just a tiny bit cold all night, and on Saturday night I put on an extra fleecy sweatshirt.

I woke up very early, despite the late night, thanks to the sun streaming through the windows. But it was also very cold, and just like nights at the beach when I was a child, I was reluctant to leave the relative warmth of the sleeping bag. Rod put on the heater, though, and that warmed things up enough so that I was eventually willing to get up and get dressed to go for a run.

Being fearful of losing my way, I just followed the gravel road to the clubhouse and then in the direction of the main road, turning around when my Garmin showed 2.8 miles. I figured I'd trace my route back to the cabin (to make 5.6 miles) and then just go on a bit further to make it six miles, if I wanted to. The road was hilly, and my pace varied accordingly, switching back and forth between about 9:45 and 10:45, depending, I assume, on whether I was going down or uphill. My average pace for the entire distance (6.35 miles) was 10:24.

I got back to the cabin pretty much on schedule around 9:15, and we walked around the property looking at wildflowers and the surrounding views for a bit. Then we packed our stuff up to go take a shower and go on to the concert at the Gorge.

Rimrock has a pretty nice locker room facility by the pool, kind of like a really nice campground. I got plenty of hot water and had a mirror and electrical outlet to dry my hair, and that was enough for me.

We took the scenic route to Ephrata, through Dry Falls, which is a massive geological phenomenon in the Grand Coulee canyon. Once the largest waterfall in the world, all that remains now is a breathtaking series of canyons ("coulees") and lakes. We stopped at the interpretive center, so I was able to take a few pictures and also read about the geological history.

In Ephrata we had lunch, and I won't dwell on the "out of salsa" incident relating to my salad, just to say that I am not at my best when I am hungry.

Finally we arrived at the Gorge around 2:30 p.m. This was the first time I'd ever been to the Gorge, which is probably quite shocking for someone in her forties. Parking was out in fields, but the walk in really wasn't too far.

It was a sunny day, and although not as hot as it can be in Eastern Washington, mid-70's and above were enough to make me a little concerned about my jeans and long-sleeved shirt. The shirt actually was quite light, but the jeans felt heavy and I rolled them up to my knees to simulate shorts and try to catch some breeze on my legs. I also coated all my exposed skin with sunscreen (and had no problems with burning). I had a backpack with two heavy sweatshirts for the evening, plus a couple of cans of diet Coke (technically contraband, according to the rules), and a bottle of water. I could have (and should have) had two bottles of water, but I didn't realize my pack had water bottle pouches on both sides.

The concert we were going to was—wait for it—the Grateful Dead. Rod went to University of Oregon, does that explain it? It wouldn't to me, necessarily, but when I saw all the Oregon gear combined with tie dye and past concert shirts, I gathered that apparently U of O folks like the Dead. The two opening bands were the Doobie Brothers (good for us kids of the eighties) and the Allman Brothers.

We made our way into the amphitheatre and started searching for seats on the grass. Even though it was pretty early in the afternoon, there were already tons of people in the "best" areas. We ended up in a pretty good spot to the left of the stage, right above the walkway. There was kind of a rut in the grass, which is probably why the spot had remained open, but actually the rut created a pretty good sitting place. What wasn't so great, we figured out later, was the way people eventually started standing in the walkway in front of us. But generally speaking, it was a good enough view.

Rod in his tie-dye.

The view, of course, was not just of the stage and the scenery beyond. It was also of the people, the other concert goers. Not surprisingly considering the era of the bands, at least half or more of the crowd were our age or older. There was a good sprinkling of college students and younger kids as well, though. (And a good number of small children being towed around by their parents!)
I can't really describe the get-ups I saw on the people around me. I eventually took some pictures, but of course missed the most eccentric costumes. In addition to the really extreme outfits, I noticed lots of guys in the garb that I would characterize "typical Deadhead": On the top half a tie-dye tee-shirt, or a Dead T-shirt, or a U of O shirt, or any combination of those; some sort of head rag or straggly grey hair and/or beard; on the bottom cargo shorts, and socks with sensible (Merrell-type) shoes. Deadhead meets Eugenite meets guy from the suburbs. And then there were people dressed scantily for the warm weather, including one heavyset woman who was wearing (on top) only a large-sized purple bra (not a bikini top, I'm quite certain). (I didn't take a picture, so no need to look for her in my photos.)

At 3:30 the Doobie Brothers came on and played for about an hour and a half. This was a lot of fun, and really low key. I was a little warm in the sun (don't know what I would do in real summer weather), but I sipped a little water and appreciated the occasional breeze on my legs and neck. At 4:30 I also allowed myself to drink my first diet Coke (I had to spread out the two cans over the evening). After a break the Allman Brothers came on and played for a long, long time. (The guy behind us referred to it as one long song, because it really all ran together.)

Somewhere around 7:00, before drinking my second diet Coke and we before the Dead started, I hiked down to the porta-potties. I thought there might be a long line but there wasn't. There were tons of potties and only a few people in line ahead of me, and it moved quickly. This was nothing compared to the porta-potty lines at most races. When I got back Rod said that it had been hard to keep people from sitting in my spot, as I guess it was really one of the few open spaces around. When he took a trip down, though, I didn't have any problems with saving his spot.

By the time the Grateful Dead came on, a little past 8:00, the air had cooled nicely and it was pleasant, not yet cold as it would be later. The sun was starting to set, but it wasn't a very dramatic sunset. My main problem was that I was hungry. Not hungry in the gnawing stomach sense, but it had been six or seven hours since lunch and I was getting that low blood sugar moodiness that I get in the evening. Usually it translates into snappishness but I wasn't quite that bad. I know now that I really should have brought food (besides the light cheese sticks which were probably all that prevented me from a complete meltdown). There is food at the Gorge, lots of food stands in fact, selling all kinds of delicious unhealthy foods like hot dogs and hamburgers and nachos and (oh dear God) elephant ears. It was all I could do not to grab someone's plate of fried dough as they walked past me.****

So, due to the effort it would take to leave my staked out spot and go buy food, combined with my reluctance to eat the sweet and savory poisons on offer, I decided not to go get food and instead spent the evening in a state of hungry depression.*****

I was, however, entertained by the antics of those around me. Just before the Dead concert began, a couple of kids (college students, probably, by the U of O garb the male wore), laid out their blanket in front of us and alternated between canoodling in the grass, smoking grass, and dancing in the roadway.******

Despite my mental state, I did enjoy the first half of the concert. I'm not a Grateful Dead aficionado, but I like them well enough, and I've certainly become accustomed to listening to their music with Rod. It was just that the long day, lateness, encroaching cold, and hunger took a toll on me.******* We made it through the intermission, but things kind of went downhill in the second half. Each song was very, very long. I enjoyed "Eyes of the World" but was not so enthralled by its length. Then there was a very long, strange "drum space" which went on, and on, and on... and when they finally went into another real song it didn't have enough energy to revive a chilly crowd. Or me, anyway. (For a somewhat different opinion, read this review.)

During the drum space we made our way through the crowd to get closer to an exit, which was good except that brought us out in the open where the wind was even more noticeable. Finally we headed for the parking lot. The last song we heard was "Dark Star," from the edge of the parking lot. Unfortunately (I take Rod's word that this was unfortunate), we missed the closing number, "One More Saturday Night," and encore, "Box of Rain."

But considering that it was already past midnight, we were exhausted and cold, and had an hour's drive back to Rimrock, it was just as well we got on our way. Lots of people had already left and there was no problem getting out of the parking lot, though I suspect it might have been different after the official end when everyone still around tried to leave.

I didn't even try to go running on Sunday morning; I was due an off day, anyway. We packed up and were on our way by midmorning. We took another scenic route back through Moses Coulee, where the road dives dramatically into the rocky canyons. My pictures don't do it justice, since we were speeding along without stopping for photo ops. The couple I took were from the car window (with the car temporarily stopped). As much as I wanted to take pictures, it's really (psychologically) hard to decide when to stop and do so, and before you know it, the moment is past.

Sunday was another sunny day, even warmer than Saturday, though it didn't matter so much since we weren't sitting out in a field. It was still beautiful and sunny when we got back home, and I took advantage of the late afternoon sun to go for a long walk before I had dinner. I ended up going more than seven miles, with a stop at Safeway for groceries and another stop at Starbucks for iced tea. I wanted to walk fast, but not try too hard, and I ended up with an average pace of 15:45. I really would have had to make an effort to consistently get under 15 minutes, but it was pretty easy to stick around 16 minute miles.

That was the end of the Gorge weekend. Now it is the countdown to Kona weekend! Yes, on Thursday we are going to Hawaii for a long Memorial Day weekend. I haven't been to Hawaii for 20 years! (Yes, I am bringing running clothes. I even bought a new pair of running shorts.)

I started writing this on Monday, and have just finished adding the pictures on Wednesday. Now it's really time to start getting ready for Hawaii! By the way, I ran on Monday morning and today, 6+ miles on Monday at 9:40 average pace, and 6.13 miles today at 9:5x average pace. Getting under ten minute miles this morning was a bit of a miracle, as I have a crick in my shoulder which is making me move like an old lady. It's better now but this morning I woke up in pain. Even carrying my water bottle was a chore. I'm hoping that this goes away so I'm not lurching around Kona!

Aloha everyone!

*Apparently there is wireless internet at Rimrock, where Rod's property is located, but I didn't bring a laptop because it just might seem a little obnoxious to be hunched over a computer a lot. It was all I could do to discreetly peck away at the BlackBerry when I got the chance.

**Although we've both played cribbage in the past, again it's been years, and I at least have always played with people who knew the game better than me, so was able to follow their instructions. The official instructions use weird words like "pone." (What is pone? Something made with cornmeal?) I did get some clearer instructions off the internet but we have yet to make another stab at cribbage.

***500 points wins the game.

****I could see the elephant ears as they passed but luckily could not smell them, perhaps thanks to the other scents that permeated the air.

*****You'd think that Rod would have been hungry too, but perhaps that would have something to do with him eating a big burger with cheese and bacon and guacamole for lunch, while I had a salad!

******There were a couple of amusing moments when our neighbors came very close to being busted by security walking by. They managed to quickly tuck away their paraphernalia and blow cigarette smoke around, which probably didn't fool anyone one bit.

*******At 8:00 Rod mentioned that they would be playing for 3½ hours and I just about fainted.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Run on Runner Girl... but seriously, Cribbage is not THAT hard.