Peter’s Pumpkin Patch

Preface

Doing annual family traditions has been a key part of the Carroll family; things like carving pumpkins, decorating the Christmas tree, coloring Easter eggs, etc. As a new father myself, I was not about to see the next generation miss out on all the memories that continue to strengthen our bonds and keep us close. This chapter in my Autoblography is dedicated to a very special (my personal favorite) family tradition.

Before my daughter Madison had made it to her second birthday, I began a family tradition of taking her to the pumpkin patch! No, we don’t go to the grocery store to pluck a pumpkin out of a bin, but instead head to Peter’s Pumpkin Patch. It is a family owned business on the outskirts of Shakopee, MN. It’s the kind of place where you could take a tractor hayride out to the patch and get to select the perfect pumpkin still on the vine. Great for getting into the spirit of the holiday and getting back to the basics of family fun!

Each subsequent year the weather would be a little different out at Peter’s. We have now been going for over 7 years and we have enjoyed beautiful Fall crisp weather. Some years there is already a little snow on the ground, others it still feels like Summer upon arrival. Regardless of the weather we grab a wheelbarrow and head out to the patch in search for the elusive, perfect pumpkin. We take our time being picky about finding the one, it has to have 1) a perfect stem, and 2) the shape has to be nice and round. There seems to never be a shortage out at Peter’s and we usually make our way back with more pumpkins than we really needed, lol.

Throughout the trip we like to snap pictures, tell stories and laugh about strange looking pumpkins we see along the way. When we get back to the decorative shack where you pay, Madison usually gets a pumpkin painted on her cheek and asks me for a few of their signature honey straws. She sucks the sweet flavored honey out of the straws on our way back to our home in Brooklyn Park.

As a family, we try our best to coordinate and come together to participate in a mass pumpkin carving contest. The event is filled with the excitement of Halloween, trick-or-treating and our family famous ‘Witch’s Brew’. Normally we get our carving stations prepped and ready for a pretty intense pumpkin carving competition. My old man always thinks he is going to have the best pumpkin, usually falling short of the champ, MarathonJake! With our knives, templates and markers in hand, we get down to business.

Below are several picture collages of our pumpkin patch adventures and our creatively carved pumpkins! Enjoy!

2007

Our first annual trip to Peter's Pumpkin Patch!  This is where and when it all started! Madison was only 2 years old!

Our first annual trip to Peter’s Pumpkin Patch! This is where and when it all started! Madison was only 2 years old!

2008

Our second trip to the pumpkin patch... beautiful sunshine, smiles and of course pumpkins!

Our second trip to the pumpkin patch… beautiful sunshine, smiles and of course pumpkins!

2009

One of our best and most fun trips to Peter's Pumpkins.  It was a bit chilly out so we bundled up!

One of our best and most fun trips to Peter’s Pumpkins. It was a bit chilly out so we bundled up!

2010

Nellie and Madison were running around the pumpkin patch and posing for these cute pictures!

Nellie and Madison were running around the pumpkin patch and posing for these cute pictures!

2011

It was a stiff carving competition this year and my good friend and neighbor's son Elijah joined us and had a blast!

It was a stiff carving competition this year! My neighbor’s son Elijah also joined us and had a blast!

2012

Madison and Dad enjoying a nice day at the pumpkin patch.  You can tell that I am doing all the hard work as she relaxes in the wheelbarrow.

Madison and Dad enjoying a nice day at the pumpkin patch. You can tell that I am doing all the hard work as she relaxes in the wheelbarrow.

2013

Madison & Dad visit Peter's Pumpkin Patch in search for the perfect pumpkin!

Madison & Dad visit Peter’s Pumpkin Patch in search for the perfect pumpkin!

As a family we made Witch's Brew and carved our pumpkins!

As a family we made Witch’s Brew and carved our pumpkins!

2014

This year was yet another successful year at scouting and finding the perfect pumpkin out @ Peters Pumpkin Patch.  Nellie and Madison were both trooper as we went hunting through the pumpkin patch!

This year was yet another successful year at scouting and finding the perfect pumpkin out @ Peters Pumpkin Patch. Nellie and Madison were both trooper as we went hunting through the pumpkin patch!

First time to Sever's Corn Maze! We had a total blast and lucked out on the beautiful fall weather!

First time to Sever’s Corn Maze! We had a total blast and lucked out on the beautiful fall weather!

Our pumpkin carving crew ran deep this year. My lovely sister Janeen, bro in law Joel, my two nieces Chloe and Scarlet, and even my neighbor Marcus and his son little Marc sat and carved pumpkins with us!

Our pumpkin carving crew ran deep this year. My lovely sister Janeen, bro in law Joel, my two nieces Chloe and Scarlet, and even my neighbor Marcus and his son little Marc sat and carved pumpkins with us!

Summary

Looking back on it all, I cannot believe how fast time has passed.  My daughter started going when she was 2 years old and is now approaching the big 10, where has all the time gone? I feel truly blessed to have these experiences and to share these good times with Nellie, Madison and my family and friends!  Cheers to many memories to come!

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The Kalahari Resort @ Wisc. Dells

It can be a bit more challenging to plan a birthday celebration when you live in Minnesota and your special day falls in the middle of January. Couple that with the fact that most of your friends live an hour and a half away in Chippewa Falls, WI and what do you get? Well for one special girl with a uniquely blended family it means that we will be making waves at an indoor water park @ Wisconsin Dells!

Once we made our initial debut to the Dells, my little PBB got hooked and ever since it has become an annual tradition for our family. Throughout this blog post I will do my best to take my readers along for the fun. So hold on you might get wet!

Kalahari – 2011

On Madison’s sixth birthday I had made arrangements for us to spend a long weekend at the Kalahari Resort at the Dells.

Being that this was going to be Madison’s first trip to an indoor water park, I wanted to make it special. After all, this vacation was dedicated to her birthday celebration. I had planned out all the details perfectly and may have been even more excited than her. No surprise there because at heart I am still just a big kid.

The real surprise for Madison came when Nellie and I were waiting for her as school came to an end. When she came walking out she was shocked and said, “I didn’t know you could come all the way here.”  I have her a big hug and scooped her up.  After getting my little monkey hug she scurried over to ‘Bullet’, my silver Mazda 6 that I had at the time, and jumped in the back. I had meticulously packed the car perfectly so that we had all the things that we needed for our trip, which meant we were just a bit more cramped than usual.

I drove the next three hours slow and easy through blizzard-like conditions.  The girls caught up and relaxed as much as possible; Madison of course began getting more and more anxious the further we drove.  When we finally broke down and told her we were going to a water park, she was happy but had no idea really what that meant.

Finally, after the slow and steady drive we made it to the Kalahari – an African safari themed water park. The resort was enormous. After checking in and unloading all of our gear in our ‘hut’ we hoped into our swim suits; the indoor water park was going to be open for a few more hours and we wanted to take advantage of that.  At the entrance of the park we got our wrist bands checked and were allowed into the park to start our adventure.  The park seemed to never end, and there were so many things going on that it was really exciting even for the adults.

At this time my daughter didn’t know how to swim, and neither did Nellie, however, the water park was already ahead of us on this one and offered its guests a free life-vest to wear. This made me a bit more comfortable for both of them and it allowed me the ability to relax a bit. The park had many fun things going on and each of us seemed to have our own favorites about the place.  Once we had gotten all pruned up from a couple of solid hours in the water we decided to head back to the room and get cleaned up.

Starving we decided to order a large pepperoni pizza from one of the resorts food eateries.  What kid can refuse a steamy and delicious pizza especially on her birthday weekend.  We devoured the pizza in a snap.  I recall feeling really proud that we were doing this for Madison and even for ourselves.  It is nice to beat the cold of  the midwest for a weekend in the Kalahari.

The rest of the trip was exhilarating.  The resort offered us many different amenities and activities that we took full advantage of including an indoor theme park beyond just the water park.  As a family we went on the indoor ferris wheel, played a round of mini golf, and even went go-carting! This was the first trip that Nellie and Madison were able to bond and get closer, probably because neither could swim well, but mainly this allowed us to really be a family.  Sunday came quickly and our trip concluded with one more splash in the water park.  We then drove PBB back home and called it a successful transition to the big 6!

Our first visit to the Wisc. Dells @ the Kalahari Resort! We had a blast enjoying all that the water park had to offer!

Our first visit to the Wisc. Dells @ the Kalahari Resort! We had an amazing weekend enjoying all that the water park had to offer! All smiles here! 🙂

Lastly I leave you with a review of the Kalahari water park.  Please note that my review only includes the indoor offerings.

Kalahari Resort Review: Rating A-

Best Features: water park size, indoor temperature (84 degrees), rides, theme.
Worst Features: room amenities and quality, food costs, concierge / check-in process.

Resort Style & Theme: The Kalahari provides a special experience and they have really differentiated themselves with a unique and fun theme – African Safari. This is blended throughout the entire compound through great interior decorating and the sights offered are sure to impress.

Rooms and Amenities: The rooms are pretty basic and the beds are not like an upgraded plush Marriott, but it does the job. We stayed in a ‘Hut’ room which came with two standard double beds and has all the basics including a flat screen tv. I would rate the room at C+, nothing special but adequate for a trip where you plan to stay very little time in the room.

Indoor Water Park: The water park was really awesome and provided something for everyone! At 125,000sqft of indoor heaven, it’s big enough to consume an entire weekend with enough variety to keep any possible boredom at bay.

  • Tikes (1-3) are provided an area available that includes a zero depth walk-in pool with many kiddy things to do. Especially nice if you are bringing a little one under 3 or a non-proficient swimmer.
  • kiddos (4-9) are provided many different options of water rides and slides. Please note, There are restrictions based on height requirements. You must be at least 42 inches tall to be allowed on most of the intermediate rides. Some will also require a parent to come along for the fun. For this group there are several indoor slides and water-coaster type rides. My personal favorite for this category was the ‘Master Blaster’.
  • Tweens (10-17) will still have a blast darting around the water park and hitting some of the most thrilling rides. Being 48 inches tall unlocks all the gates to the African kingdom. With this you are able to ride some pretty intense group rides and hit the riptide wakeboard area.
  • Adults (18, 21+) have some pretty sweet privileges inside the water park too. Yup that’s right not all the fun is for the kids. Parents can stay in the same indoor park area and enjoy a beer or spirit of choice and lounge in one of their several hot tub areas located near their bar /cabana area. They have a few bars that also offer flat screen TVs if you just have to catch a sports game, but I recommend avoiding this and spending some good one-on-one time with the kids. There is a lazy river that circles the place and starts and stops on either side of their wave pool. This is a family favorite and great for grandparents or anyone that’s looking to relax at a slower pace.

Food Options: Many options are made available to tempt guest’s taste buds any you never have to leave the comfort of the building. However the convenience does come with a premium price tag that may have guests providing their own snacks and coolers full of goodies. A pizza will run you anywhere from $22-28, but who can resist a slice of heaven? I strongly recommend stopping in town at the nearby Walmart and pick up a few things to hold the kids over between meals.

Indoor Theme Park: If guests are staying more than 2-3 days, or need a break from their fingers pruning up, the theme park is awesome. The Farris Wheel is a family favorite; additionally the go-karts and mini golf provide other great ways to spend your stay-cation. Each of these can have a significant waiting line depending on the timing of your visit.

I hope this resort assessment was helpful, and after having been to a few indoor parks at the Dells, I would say that this one takes the cake!

So what are you waiting for, if your looking to have a blast this winter check out the Kalahari resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI!

Men’s Health Urbanathlon – New York City

It’s October 23, 2013. I am beginning my 29th year on this planet today and pray that it will be a happy and healthy one. This year for my birthday Nellie and I planned out a trip to New York so that together we could race in the Men’s Health Urbanathlon.

However, before we hit the starting line we thought it would be a good idea to spend a couple of days in Maryland to visit a couple of friends and do some sight-seeing at our nation’s capital.After landing @ BMI, Nell and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the Silver Diner in the airport. Shortly after we walked down to be picked up. Within moments we were pleasantly greeted at the airport by one of our wedding’s bridesmaids, Dani. It was nice seeing her and to be welcomed into her home for our short stay. She was a wonderful host and made us feel at ease. Later that same evening Nellie’s brother Michael, whom also lives in the Washington DC area, came over to Dani’s where we were all able catch up on life since the wedding. In totally Nellie fashion, she fell asleep way too early and left the partying to us.We played music and danced, it was a nice way to cap off turning a year older.

The next morning, being the early bird that I am, I took a walk in search of a good cup of coffee! After a brisk 35 minute walk into downtown Gaithersburg I found just what I was looking for, Java Junction. As I entered the little box style coffee bar, I was cheerfully greeted by two older Asian women who were eager to help me with a cup of Joe. For some reason, coffee on vacation feels special. Without a care in the world, I said my thanks you and goodbyes to the ladies and headed back. The hot coffee kept the cool nip of morning at bay. As I was making my way back to Dani’s I came across a ‘fuzzy-Wuzzy’ caterpillar and enjoyed his/her company for a few blocks and then parted ways. When I got back the ladies were attempting to make breakfast, kinda scary. I rolled up my sleeves and whipped up some eggs and we ate.

Strolling into downtown Gaithersburg I found just what I was looking for, Java Junction! Look, I found someone to walk with too!

Strolling into downtown Gaithersburg I found just what I was looking for, Java Junction! Look, I found someone to walk with too!

Later we left the house and got Michael so we could hit DC and tour the major sites by the capital. The five of us (Dani’s friend Kelly also tagged along) went and saw the U.S. Capital building, the Smithsonian, the White House, the WWII monument and finally the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately time was limited and we were unable to do a deeper dive into some of the buildings, but it was really amazing to visit our great nation’s capital.

Here are some fun pictures of us as we pose for the camera and snap a few memories!

Here are some fun pictures of us as we pose for the camera and snap a few memories!

Michael, Dani, Kelly, Nellie and myself enjoying the afternoon in DC!

Michael, Dani, Kelly, Nellie and myself enjoying the afternoon in DC!

Feeling a bit hungry we took our last pictures and headed out.That night we decided to go to dinner at Union Jacks a British style pub. We were over dressed for this college bar / club, but I was really in the mood for a burger and they had just the ticket. I ordered the Tower of London and honestly only got through half before giving up, lol. Afterwards we were all pretty tired and went back to hit the hay. We set our alarms and proceeded to count sheep until we were required to get up to catch our train to NYC.

Dinner with the crew at Union Jacks in Baltimore, MD.  Super hungry and I was still only able to eat half of my 'Tour de Effel' burger!

Dinner with the crew at Union Jacks in Baltimore, MD. Super hungry and I was still only able to eat half of my ‘Tower of London’ burger!

Half asleep Dani was nice enough to wake up and drop us off early on Friday morning at the metro. We had no problems taking the Red Line to Union Station. Once we arrived we were able to walk around and see the station.  It really is a beautiful building filled with great places to eat and shop. We sat down at Johnny Rockets and shared our breakfast. Big Momma sipped her hot chocolate as I was getting my daily caffeine fix. We comfortably had enough time to get our tickets and board. I honestly think that more people should experience the convenience of taking the train. Amtrak treated us well and we quickly dashed off to NYC. The Mrs. was happy to be able to stream an episode of Desperate Housewives (total diva) and I was able to relax and watch the train hustle down the tracks.

Dunn Brothers and All ABOARD! We enjoyed the comforts of the boxcars as we whistled up the tracks to NYC's Penn Station!

My cup of Einstein Bros coffee and All Aboard! We enjoyed the comforts of the Amtrak boxcars as we whistled up the tracks to NYC’s Penn Station!

We arrived at Penn Station in downtown Manhattan and easily made our way to the streets. Proactively I had printed walking maps from the train station to City Sports where we wanted to pick up our race packets. When we arrived a store employee told us that it was a different City Sports, shucks! Luckily we went up ten blocks to the correct one got our race gear and was provided directions to our hotel from an extremely helpful employee. We headed out to Queens first via subway and then took a bus transfer. It was pretty easy to use and really inexpensive which was awesome. Eventually we made it and checked-in to our hotel. That night was going to be low-key for us and Nellie and I stayed in and ordered Italian food to carb up for the race.

Race morning we woke up bright and early to pack our bags and be ready for a quick checkout. It was our game plan to run the race, return and get cleaned up so we could enjoy the rest of the day seeming more of downtown NYC. After getting race ready, we darted out of the hotel and hopped a cab to Citi Field (home of the Mets). We arrived in time for a light warmup and stretch before the race was to commence. Excitement was mounting for us; we were the 7th wave (purple bibs) of runners to begin the course. In droves the sponsors began letting the waves start at 8AM sharp. Thankfully, the weather was perfect (approximately 48-50 degrees) and we dressed light enough to avoid over heating but also warm enough to perform well and avoid stiffness.

Race morning, #EXCITED! Upon arriving at Citi Field, Nell and I got in a quick warmup and stretch! Go Time!

Race morning, #EXCITED! Upon arriving at Citi Field, Nell and I got in a quick warmup and stretch! Go Time!

Our group began at approximately 8:18AM and together Nellie and I went side by side out of the gates. Being as it was close to Halloween, some of the racers dressed up in their costumes. Surrounding us was a posse of Minion (Despicable Me), too funny and I couldn’t help saying, “Bee-Doh, Bee-Doh, Bee-Doh”, every time I saw one of them. The first couple of miles seemed to quickly fly by. Nellie was keeping a decent pace and was getting through the obstacles without a snag. My favorite obstacles were her least favorite, go figure, but we worked through them together. Whenever she needed a boost or a push I was there to lend that hand. I think that the course really looked beautiful with all the autumn reds, yellows and orange strewn about the trees. After my initial reservation and second guessing myself, I am glad that I had decided to bring my iPhone to capture our adventure. What better way to tell the story than through pictures and video? Fortunately for everyone placed below are a few picture collages, enjoy! 😉

We shared the warmth of the morning's sunlight while jogging our way along the MHURB course!

We shared the warmth of the morning’s sunlight while jogging our way along the MHURB course!

Of the numerous obstacles placed strategically along the 10 mile Queens race course, a few of my favorite are worthy of mention. These included:

  • Monkey Bars
  • Tire / High Knees
  • Hurdles
  • Citi Field Stair Climb

Some of my lesser enjoyed included:

  • Balance Beam Tire Carry
  • Arthur Ash Stadium Stair Climb
  • Army Crawls

By around the 8th mile our pace began to slow as I could tell that Nell’s legs were feeling the abuse. It’s best not to push your body too hard but to remain positive when the race gets tough. So much about running is mental; when the pain starts to dig at you it gets challenging, but you have to fight back with your ‘I can do this!‘ attitude. I gave continuous encouragement as we entered Citi Field for the stair climb challenge. Much like it was in Chicago and San Francisco but after the climb and decent stair pattern, racers were rewarded sweetly with the opportunity to run around the stadium’s ground floor. Given that it is a race we didn’t have much time to snap pictures, but I did get a few on-the-go.

After a few hundred stairs Nellie and I came out of Citi Field victorious! The herculean task was rewarded with a victory lap on the ground floor of the stadium!

After a few hundred stairs Nellie and I came out of Citi Field victorious! The herculean task was rewarded with a victory lap on the ground floor of the stadium!

Coming out of the stadium we were seconds from the last obstacle and then the finish line. In traditional MHU style the last task included us traversing a few taxicabs and taking cargo nets over a school bus, lastly a tall wall (in which I quickly scaled and then helped to pull Nell over. She impressed me throughout the race and hung tough to the very end. In true ‘newlywed’ fashion we held hands, raised them to the sky in celebration and ran through the finish line. We did it!

The goal of this trip had been accomplished and with the love of my life by my side. We finished very close to the two-hour mark, which was in par with what I wanted for us. Needless to say I was very pleased!

With the race behind us we were happy to check out of our Marriott hotel and put Queens in the rear view mirror. To make the most of our time we quickly checked into our quaint hotel only blocks from Penn Station. By ‘quaint’ I really mean tiny and overpriced hotel with very basic amenities, but when you’re traveling on a budget and don’t plan on spending much time in your room it works, I guess. After dropping our bags off we hit the streets of Manhattan to grab some food and to do some sightseeing.

We had been eying the double-decker bus tours of the city and after seeing what sights were offered by the downtown loop, we readily agreed to purchase. We took our time before boarding the your to find some decent eats. Luckily for us my wife spotted a place called Dallas BBQ. My wife and I were both quickly sat and put in our orders. She got the Bulldog their signature drink and a honey glazed rotisserie chicken dish and I went with the chicken and ribs. We made some small chat with some local New Yorkers as we chowed down our meals. Super happy to get some real food in us we were ready to get on with our tour.

Had an amazing dinner with my hubby!  Super hungry we both smashed our deep-fried and well deserved dinners!

Had an amazing dinner with my hubby! Super hungry we both smashed our deep-fried and well deserved dinners!

I grabbed a hot cup of Starbucks coffee right before we boarded to keep Nellie’s hands warm. It was not too cold out but the wind atop the bus was strong making us feel chilly. The guide was great as he narrated the audio portion of the tour and shared with us some cool and unique facts about the city. Some of the tour’s highlights included: > Empire State Building > Madison Square Garden > Flat Iron Building > Brooklyn Bridge > One World Trade Center > Statue of Liberty

We boarded our NYC tour bus and with our ear buds in and our camera we snapped a few selfies and also the amazing sights!

We boarded an NYC tour bus and with our earbuds in and our camera out, we snapped a few selfies and also captured many amazing city favorites!

Once the tour concluded it was already well into the evening and we were once again ready to catch a bite. We used the subway and got close to our hotel for the night and in the process found a Thai restaurant and hopped a squat. After devouring a couple of their tasty dishes we checked back into the hotel. Nell was going to call it a night but I wasn’t quite done with the day, there was one more thing I wanted to do. My wife had earlier picked me up a cigar for my birthday, so with it lit I took a long stroll and celebrated another successful race.

The next morning was an early one for us as we had to catch the Amtrak back to the Baltimore / D.C. area. We originally had planned on staying again at our friends place, however, we thought it would be fun to visit downtown Baltimore and see what the city had to offer. So with the time spent on the Amtrak ride down from NYC, I was able to figure out the details. In a flash, with the help of the Priceline Negotiator I was able to get us a night at the airport Marriott for $65 after taxes and an Avis full size rental car for the day at $24 after taxes and fees. Super cheap right, I know right!

So we got off the train a couple stops early and made our way to Avis. From there we peeled out in our fuel-efficient ford and went to the Courtyard. Twice the size of our last room, we dropped our bags and took a moment to relax. After our train-lag wore off we made our way downtown Baltimore and saw the sights. The pier downtown provided some magnificent sites and the city gave off a unique and pleasant vibe.  It felt great to walk around with Nellie and take some pictures of the skyline while I sipped my coffee.  This one city reminds me of Minneapolis but with a nice body of water to have a pier.  We got hungry throughout the day and both of us wanted something different.  So Nellie got to have her Cheesecake and I was able to tempt my palate with a Chipolte burritos, super happy!

Perfect day to be downtown Baltimore!  We saw the sites, walked the pier and got our dinner to-go, perfection!

Perfect day to be downtown Baltimore! We saw the sites, walked the pier and got our dinner to-go, perfection!

Later we returned to our hotel to enjoy our last night away from home. We both took out our dinner that we had taken to-go and sat on our hotel room balcony and enjoyed our meals. Afterwards we go dessert from the lobby and devoured that too. Nellie was a good sport and when I told her that I wanted to go for a swim she gladly came with me while I ended the night with a few laps in the pool. We returned to the room and watched the rest of the Packers vs. Vikings football game and called it a night after smoking my last cigar for the trip.

The next day we safely returned home and were glad to be back in the comfort of our own home!  Another amazing trip and the last of the MHU races were completed for us.  So what’s next?  I am thinking of now brushing up on my drawing as it is my hope to brand myself with the three city skylines that make up the domestic urbanathlon adventure that Nellie and I experienced together (Chicago 2011, San Fran 2012, and now New York 2013) and wear it proudly.  This ends one of many of my bucket list items and life goals!

Till the next big adventure! #MHURB

Men’s Health Urbanathlon – San Francisco

Having enjoyed myself with the MHU – Chicago experience, I decided that it would be a lot of fun to plan and complete their entire domestic series. This left Nellie and I to chose between San Francisco and New York. Our choice was an easy one given the factors motivating us. We selected to visit Cali and then in 2013 we will round out the races in NYC!

I think we were both excited to visit the west coast and see what all the hype was about. During the planning of our trip we decided that the race would be the primary motivator, but really this trip was about sight seeing and enjoying time with each other. All things considered, after a bit of research and asking around, I knew all the places and attractions that I wanted to see. From this the details and itinerary began to fall into place. Here is the story as it unfolded chronologically.

11.15.2012
The planning of all my vacations and trips thus far has consistently been done on a budget, and this would hold true. Luckily, the two of us were able to use some free round-trip flight vouchers (from our Atlanta / engagement trip) to get us out there and back; that was a burden lifted, cause flying can get expensive. I remember that we booked an early morning flight which usually means I am dragging unless I get my coffee.  Here is us on our way out there!

We took an early morning flight to L.A., where we would soon meet up with YoYo.

We took an early morning flight to L.A., we walked around downtown for a while to do some site seeing.

Nellie wanted to visit her girlfriend Yolanda while we were out that way, so we decided to fly into Los Angeles and checkin and see how she was doing. It was also pretty cool because she was able to show us around a little and enjoy a nice dinner with us at the Lobster in Santa Monica. I remember the great conversation, food and walk on the pier from that night. I felt so calm and really let myself enjoy the moment.

Dinner @ The Lobster in Santa Monica with our good friend Yolanda. Amazing night, great food and even better company!

Dinner @ The Lobster in Santa Monica with our good friend Yolanda. Amazing night, great food and even better company!

Afterwards we went cruising Hollywood Blvd. before we called it a night. Neither of us were that impressed.  Perhaps it would have been better to visit during the daytime. We got back to YoYo’s place and she put us up for the night, which was very kind of her and easy on our budget.

11.16.2012
The next day was a beautiful friday. We got up fairly early and kindly YoYo dropped us off at the car rental before 9AM. We said our goodbyes and in a flash she was off to work and we were picking out our rental car. Lol, funny how Nell and I can be so indecisive at times. She wanted the Chrysler 300 and I wanted the Nissan Maxima, well eventually after going back and forth we tore out of the place in the little Maxima. We would spend the next several hours driving through the California countryside. I was really surprised to see all the agriculture fields along the way. The red sandy roads were a new site to see and I really just enjoyed driving.  It was an added bonus that the car was fast and torquey.

When we finally arrived in San Fran, it was important that we swing in and get my race packet so that I was ready to go come Sunday morning. After getting the packet we quickly dropped off the rental and jumped a taxi to our hotel. The really nice thing about staying at the Marriott we booked via Priceline was that it was just a couple blocks from Navy Pier.  I booked a hotel in that vicinity specifically because it was near all the action and we could essentially walk out the front door and be at the starting point of the race in five minutes, perfection.

After the travel day and driving 5+ hours, Nell and I decided to have a chill evening and went for a walk along the Pier.  We were pretty hungry but the selection was kinda slim picking because it was pretty late.  We stumbled along a pizza place and caught a slice and some wings.  Satisfied with our evening we walked back to the hotel and got some rest.  We knew the next day would be a busy one.

11.17.2012

I decided to let my love sleep in while I laced up my running shoes and stepped to the streets.  It was a bit nippy out, so I started off at a Starbucks nearby and had coffee.  I warmed up, got a good stretch in and made tracks.  I ran about four miles along Navy Pier and took in the sites and smells.  There was so much going on!  An open market for people to purchase fresh fruits of the sea, other tourists taking photos, and there I was getting my sweat on as I jogged on by.  On my return back to my love I made sure to stop in and get another coffee and to grab her a croissant filled with chocolate and a vanilla steamer, her favorite.

She was happy to see me return and we got cleaned up for our day.  We then took a nice stroll along the Pier and took some pictures.  They had their huge Christmas tree already up for the holidays which was pretty cool.  We also had to take the opportunity to ride on the trolly which was pretty cool.   Eventually we mad our way downtown to do some window shopping.  Big momma got a bit salty with me as she wanted to shop but I kept reminding her that we couldn’t.  She saw a Louis Vuitton store and it would be in my ear the rest of the day. This is the woman I would be soon marrying, lol, that’s my diva.

Walking the Pier, enjoying the sights and each other's company!

Walking the Pier, enjoying the sights and each other’s company!

Walking around all day really gave us a big appetite, but we had to avoid snacking because we had dinner plans.  Prior to the trip, I had made plans with my good friend Susan and her husband Michael. They had moved out there a few years ago and it was finally my opportunity to connect with them both.  We met up at a really great asian-centric restaurant.  We arrived a bit early and got a beverage.  I was super excited to see them and knew that things were going to be changing for both of them soon.  They were just a few short months away from becoming parents.

Dinner with Susan and Michael in San Francisco! YUM!

Dinner with Susan and Michael in San Francisco! YUM!

When they arrived we took a moment to get a few pictures and say our  hellos.  It had been a couple years but they looked exactly the same They were happy as they always were.  Having known them for a while and even being a part of their wedding day, I could tell that they were happy! Next, we reviewed the menu and decided to order a few different plates and then just pass the food around, which was awesome!  My big race day was in the morning so we chatted a while and said our goodbyes to head back and get some rest.

11.18.2012

Race Day! We woke up early and got ready for the big race.  Luckily we were already close to the starting line and had plenty of time.  We left the hotel and were quickly surrounded by hundreds of runners getting ready to start their race.  I was in the 7th corral and therefore wouldn’t start for another half hour while the spread out the participants.  When it was my turn to begin my MHU adventure, I lace my shoes up tight and pealed off my tank.  It was go time.

The starting line of the MHU - San Francisco!

The starting line of the MHU – San Francisco!

The weather was a little bit cool which would make for a great run. Immediately out of the race shoot I took it up a notch and passed many of the folks in my wave.  I would be finding my comfort zone for the next mile and catching my breath as I found my runner’s stride.  It is important to find a good pace and hit your equilibrium so that you can perform thoughout the race.  It is important to mentally focus knowing that you have another 10 miles ahead of you packed full of obstacles, oh and don’t forget the crazy hills throughout the city.

About two miles into the race I realized that something wasn’t quite right.  Quickly a cop on a motorcycle zooms past us to the guy leading us and rerouted us.  Apparently we got off the race path and lost about a mile of running until we reunited with the rest of the racers.  Seriously annoyed, I just had to do my best knowing that my finish time was going to be off about seven minutes.  I don’t blame the guys that got off track because the course was not as clearly defined as the MHU-Chicago.  In fact, I thought that this one was much less organized overall. The upside of the race was sweet challenges presented every few miles.  I remember just championing my way through each of them.  I darted though the monkey bars, army crawls, stadium stairs, hurdles and anything else that came at me.

Obstacles have met their match... MarathonJake @ MHU - San Francisco!

Obstacles have met their match… MarathonJake @ MHU – San Francisco!

In fact, after doing a bit of searching I found the official 2012 MHU – San Francisco video posted out on YouTube.  Guess who would play a quick cameo at 1min 19seconds, yours truly! In all the race was a ton of fun and I gave it my best.  At the finish line I met up with my #1 cheerleader.  Kisses from my Nellie, which are always amazing!  My overall results were eventually posted and read as such:

MHU - San Francisco Race Results; I did well overall and had a great time doing it!

MHU – San Francisco Race Results; I did well overall and had a great time doing it!

We stayed and enjoyed the Urbanathlon celebration for a while, and at about 9:30AM we left to make the most of our last day in San Francisco.  It was still early and we wanted to do accomplish a bit of fun site-seeing.  We found a cool place close by to rent us bikes and with the Golden-Gate Bridge off in the distance we mounted our loaners and were off to start an adventure. It took us a while to get close to the base of the bridge, but it was cool to see that there were some surfers out there catching some waves.  Btw, surfing is totally on my bucket list!

We took the bikes over the bridge and on the way back Nellie had a bit of an ‘incident’. She basically ran some guy over, lol talk about a scary bike collision.  No one was hurt, but it was definately a scare. We captured some really cool memories, check out below!

Nellie & Jake riding around sight seeing at the Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, CA.

Nellie & Jake riding around sight seeing at the Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA.

After our riding around we made our way back to the hotel so that we could get all cleaned-up for our final day in the city.  We jumped in our street clothes, checked out of the Marriott and started our final round of sight seeing before our flight later that evening. We had enough time to go to Lombard Street (notorious for its many zig-zags because of how steep the street is) and do some walking around.  Later we had a nice dinner and I was able to finally enjoy some fresh crab from the bay, seriously yummy! Overall we had an amazing trip and did as much sight-seeing as we could with the time we had.

Checking out Lombard Street and enjoying our last beautiful day in San Francisco!

Checking out Lombard Street and enjoying our last beautiful day in San Francisco!

We rounded out the trip loving each other and creating lasting memories, mission accomplished! More to come as our final leg of the domestic MHU races will be sending us to New York!