Monday, September 27, 2010

Roger's China Adventures

My hubby Roger spent most of the month of August in Shanghai China.  His company sends him over there on business quite often.  August is not exactly an ideal time to travel in China.  The weather is quite toasty (or "damn hot" as Roger put it).   Usually when he's over in China, Roger's company works him like a dog, and he doesn't see much outside of his office or hotel room.  But this time, Roger was able to see a little more of the sights around Shanghai.

Roger in front of the Shanghai World Financial Center

One day Roger's Chinese co-workers took him to visit the Shanghai World Financial Center, which is the tallest building in the City and the second tallest in the world.  It is 100 stories tall.  The building is the one with the hole through the top in the photo above.  Some people have nicknamed this building "the razor" because its top looks like the head of a razor blade.

View from 100 stories up!

Here's the view from the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center.  See how clean the air is in Shanghai!  Roger says this is as clean as the air gets here.  This day was actually a good day for visibility - you could see the ground from the top of this building, which doesn't always happen.  Shanghai is a very polluted city, and is notorious for its bad air quality.

More city views

Here is another view of Shanghai from the top of the building.  The colors of the building roofs indicate certain sectors for utilities.  This is how Shanghai determines power usage, and who to "black out" during high usage periods.

The viewing area

The public viewing area on the 100th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center has glass floor.  It was very unnerving for some people to look so far down while standing on a see-through floor.  Roger saw some kids jumping on the floor, while other people were walking gingerly on the metal strips between the glass panes.  Roger said he was hoping that the glass used on the floor wasn't manufactured in China! 

Peoples Square at night

Shanghai is a hopping city at night.  While looking for a place to eat one night, Roger's group walked through Peoples Square, which is a 6-block shopping center in downtown Shanghai.  It was packed full of shoppers and sightseers .  Roger estimated there was probably half a million people in this small area.  Along with shopping and restaurants, the square also featured giant illuminated billboards and laser light shows.  It was quite a spectacle! 

Chicken soup - Chinese style

One day, Roger's Chinese co-workers took him to lunch.  They ordered chicken soup, which sounded safe.  However, when the soup arrived, it had an entire chicken floating in the broth - from beak to feet!  Roger said at least this chicken had real meat - not just the backs and necks, which is what you usually get when you order chicken in China.

The Chinese do actually eat chicken feet!

Roger had heard that the Chinese like to eat chicken feet.  He didn't believe it until he saw his co-worker Sunny eat the entire foot - everything except for the toenails!  He said it was not pleasant to watch, and he had nightmares about it later.

Roger's Chinese sun hat

Since Roger likes fishing, his co-workers thought he would enjoy a boat ride on one of the local lakes.  The temperature that day was 105 degrees and the humidity 98 percent plus - and they were out on a lake baking in the sun.  The boat guide felt sorry for his passengers, and found some large leaves from a nearby water plant to use as shade hats.  Roger made a bold fashion statement!

Chinese lakeside condos

The guide motored around the lake, and drove his boat through lots of weeds and things Roger said he'd never drive his boat though.  The weeds got tangled up in the boat's prop, but the guide just hit reverse, knocked the weeds off, and kept going.

Shanghai water town

This is a photo of Shanghai Water Town, a community on a canal somewhere in Shanghai.  There were shops along the waterfront, and water taxis to take customers back and forth across the canal.

Of course Roger had to get a photo of someone fishing!

Roger watched a man trying to fish in the canal.  He was using nets, and appeared to be very skilled casting and pulling them in.  Roger watched him for awhile, but didn't see the man catch anything but a turtle.  Roger said he couldn't believe anyone would eat any fish caught out of the dirty water in the canal.  He decided that chicken soup didn't look so bad after all!

Water taxi boat

Roger's group spent about four hours walking around the canals.  They observed lots of water taxi boats, skimming back and forth across the canal.  The people operating the boats were so skillful they could maneuver the boats up to the wall without touching the wall itself.  Roger said it looked so easy.

Typical row of shops along the canal

This is a picture of a typical marketplace in China.  The shops are very small, one after another, for blocks upon blocks.  And Roger said they all appeared to be selling the same stuff.

Roger tries his hand at steering a boat

After watching them all afternoon, Roger's group decided to take a ride in one of the water taxis.  Roger said he opened his big mouth and told his companions that anyone could steer one of these boats.  Upon hearing this, the boat operator invited Roger to give it a try.   After ten minutes of trying his hardest, and going nowhere, Roger realized he was wrong.  He said it was really tough!
Baby Buddha emerges

The last weekend Roger was in China, his Chinese co-workers took him to the town of Wuxi to visit the "Buddhist Scenic Spot." (that's really the English translation)  This attraction was a large park, built within the last five years.  There were fountains, palaces, artwork, and two large Buddha statues.  Roger also said the place had good ice cream!

Baby Buddha fountain

This is one of the many beautiful fountains in the park.  Roger and his fellow travelers were lucky enough to arrive just as the baby Buddha was emerging from inside of a large brass "flower."  None of the Chinese co-workers had ever seen this baby Buddha come out before.  It was good timing!

The fountain underneath the baby Buddha only flows when the baby is displayed.  There are smaller fountains at the base that release special filtered water that is supposed to be safe to drink.  Roger saw lots of Chinese tourists filling their bottles with this water.  He said he didn't want to risk drinking it - it was a long plane ride home!

Roger strikes a Buddha pose

One of the Buddha statues was up high on the hillside.  Visitors had to traverse 600 steps to get to the base of the statue.  It was 107 degrees that day, and Roger said it was a very, very hot trek to the top of the stairs.  Roger and Rong Wei, one of his co-workers, decided to try and run up the stairs.  They made it all the way up, but didn't feel very good once they reached the top!

View from the top of the first set of stairs

Once Roger arrived at the base of the Buddha, he was amazed by the size of the statue.  Roger said you had to reach up as high as you could just to touch the top of its toe.  The Buddha was 88 meters tall, made totally out of brass.  Quite an impressive sight!

Twin Buddhas

There was a second smaller Buddha statue located next to one of the palaces.  Roger thought that this particular figure was used as a model for construction of the larger Buddha.

The only completed palace open to the public

Roger and his group went into one of the finished palaces. It was amazing inside!  The palace was full of interesting artwork.  Also inside, visitors could watch a live show on the walls around the building. There was something happening 360 degrees around the room. It was hard to take it all in. Roger wasn't sure what exactly the show was about, but it was entertaining.  He took photos until his camera battery died. 

Intricate ceiling of one of the palaces

This is the inside of the center spire of the palace. The ceiling was over 250 tall and was very intricately decorated.   Roger said this place was impressive and he'd like to visit it again on his next trip.  Roger said it was by far the most amazing thing he's seen in China. 

Of his nine trips to China, Roger was happy that he finally got the chance to do some sightseeing.  Although it was entertaining, after three weeks, Roger was more than ready to come home to the US.  And I was glad to have him back too!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


The town of Mt. Angel, Oregon is known for its Oktoberfest.  It is Oregon's largest folk festival, and oldest and best-loved Oktoberfest.  During the event weekend, this tiny town of 3,700 people draws a crowd of over 500,000 for the festivities.

The Mt. Angel Glockenspiel, on a sunnier day

We've lived in Oregon over 20 years, and have never experienced the famous Oktoberfest.  But now that Cody is a resident of Mt. Angel, Roger and I decided it was time for us to go check it out.

Thumbs up before another race!

Along with the usual activities, the Oktoberfest also sponsors 5 and 10k races.  I thought this would be perfect - I could run a race, and then celebrate with a beer afterwards!  So I signed up for the 10k race.

The day before the race, I ran a 16 mile long run. It was one of the worst runs of my life! It was a humid day, that turned into rain halfway through the run, my knee hurt, and I had no energy. With a 10k race the very next day, I was worried about finishing. But I iced up the hurting body parts, took some ibuprofen, and hoped for the best.

The start of the race

It was a humid, foggy Saturday morning as Roger and I journeyed to Mt. Angel.  We arrived at Humpert Park (the start of the race) and I picked up my race number and t-shirt. Then I tried to get my body moving by walking and running around the local streets of Mt. Angel.  My legs protested running again so soon, but after a mile of slow running they seemed to warm up.  The race route was marked by spray painted arrows on some of the streets, so I got a course preview by following the markings.

The race had a record number of entrants this year - over 800 participants between the 5 and 10k races. There seemed to be a large crowd lining up at the starting line. A young man and a group of his friends were playing frisbee while waiting for the start. When the race started, I saw this man running with his frisbee in hand!

I'm all smiles at the start of the race

Soon enough, we were off! The 10K route followed country roads around the Mt. Angel Abbey. After mile 1, the 5K runners turned around and headed back towards Humpert Park. I continued on the scenic farm roads, keeping the Abbey hill in sight.  After mile three, I got a great view of Mt. Hood. About this time, the frisbee man passed me, still holding his disc. I called out to him "go frisbee man!" and he smiled, waved, and wished me a good race.
Even though Susan was not running with me, I upheld our tradition and did "the wave" at each mile marker.  I'm sure some people thought I was nuts, but a couple of runners laughed, and one guy waved along with me.  My sis would have been proud!

Cody showed up to cheer me on!

I had no set goal for this race.  I just wanted to go as fast as I could and finish strong.  Four miles into the race, I'd been logging fairly consistent 8:30 minute miles, which is a good pace for me. I hit some rolling hills at mile four, and my pace slowed somewhat. About that time an older man and woman passed me. I said hello and they complimented me on my mile marker celebrations. The woman explained that the couple had a bet on the race, the loser bought dinner. Although she tried, the woman explained that her partner always seemed to win the bet.

At the top of the hill was the entrance to the Abbey and mile 5. Only one more mile to go! It looked like I was on track to get a 10K PR. I decided to give it all I had, and put the hammer down. The runners wound through the neighborhood streets of Mt. Angel. I passed the older lady, now walking, and shouted words of encouragement.

I rounded the last street heading towards Humpert Park. A few of the faster finishers, already done, were standing at the corner, cheering on the runners. Frisbee man was with them. He high-fived me as I ran by.  As I headed towards the finish line, up ahead was the older man. I sped up and passed him. As I passed by I teasingly told him "you owe me dinner!"

Third place in my age group!  Woo-hoo!

I entered the finish chute, and checked my time. My watch said 52:29, which was a PR for me! (at least a post-age-40 PR!)  Roger didn't think I'd be done so quickly, and missed my finish. 

Later, when the awards were announced, I discovered I'd won third place in my age group! Wow! I've never won anything in a race before, so this was icing on the cake.  I think the fact that there was a fairly small field of competitors helped.  It will probably be the only running award I ever get so, hey I'll take it!  Not bad for having a lousy 16-mile run the day before.

Cody models a German hat

Soon after my finish, Cody showed up.  He walked down from the Abbey to the park.  It was great to see him.  After I'd collected my award, and changed my clothes, we walked towards the center of town to check out the Oktoberfest.  I was ready for some food and a beer!

Elaborate decoration in the town square

About that time, the skies opened up and the rain poured down!  Luckily, Roger brought an umbrella, and I had a spare in my car.  I'm glad the rain held off until after the race, but it was still a bummer to deal with while walking around the festival.

The rainy streets of Mt. Angel

There were food booths everywhere, selling every kind of food imaginable.  There were deep-fried twinkies, and more different types of dessert than you could ever want.  One block was ringed by all kinds of craft booths.  It was interesting to see the different wares.  The Abbey also had a booth, and along with soap and religious items, the Benedictine Sisters were selling their special "Monastery Mustard".  Cody said the Sisters are known for their mustard, which is really good and quite popular.  The different types of mustard had great names, such as "Hallelujah Jalapeno" (which was Roger's favorite).

Strawberry shortcake with "the works"

Cody decided he wanted to try the strawberry shortcake one booth was selling.  I told the lady manning the booth we wanted a strawberry shortcake.  She asked if I wanted it with "the works."  I said "sure, why not?"  The lady then proceeded to ring a cowbell and shout "one strawberry shortcake with the works!"  I got handed a huge bowl covered in whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate, nuts and a cherry on top.  Somewhere underneath all that were strawberries and cake!  It was way too large for one human to consume, so I asked for three spoons.

A crowd watches the maypole dance

I was hoping to try some German beer.  But it was barely noon, apparently too early to start the beer garden entertainment.  They were charging $9 a head to get into the beer garden, and then you had to buy your beer.  That seemed a bit much, without anything to watch.  So instead of beer, I tried a bratwurst, and then an apple cake with butter sauce.  Oh boy, was that good!  I think I put back all the calories I burned this morning and then some.

Roger and Cody enjoying the show

We watched a little bit of a maypole dance.  But there was a large crowd, so it was hard to see much.  At that point, the rain started up again and I was beginning to feel the effects of my race.  Roger and I decided to head home, so we said our goodbyes to Cody.

Mt. Angel's Bavarian-themed public restrooms

Mt. Angel is a really cute little town.  It has a beautiful church with a large steeple.  Many of the buildings are decorated in a Bavarian theme, and there is a large glockenspiel in the town center, that puts on a show for times daily, year-round.  Even the public restrooms have a German touch!

It was fun to participate in a small-town festival and reconnect with my German roots.  I'll definitely put Mt. Angel's Oktoberfest on next year's calendar - and this time I'll stay for the beer!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Countdown.....One month

As of today, it is exactly on month until the Nike Women's Marathon.  I'm getting excited to travel to San Francisco, and want the day to be here already!

I'm starting to get burned out on training.  Seems like all I do anymore is come home and run.  It's getting dark earlier now, and I'm always chasing daylight as I finish up a workout.  My right knee was bothering me this week, so I took a couple of days off to let it rest.

Through my training runs, I've figured out some of the race day particulars, such as what clothing I'll wear to run the marathon, and what nutrition I'll use.  I've even discovered a couple of flavors of Gu that I like.  Guess what kind?  Yep.... Chocolate Outrage and Chocolate Mint  (you know me, of course I picked chocolate!)

Now the challenge is to stay healthy and injury-free for the next month.  A couple more weeks of hard training and then I get to taper.  I'm looking forward to that!

Full speed ahead to October 17th!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The First Fall Colors

Last Friday I had a day off.  I called my friend John, who is retired, and asked if he was interested in a hike.  John loves hiking, and said "of course!"  He suggested a trek up to Indian Mountain on the PCT, and to make it a loop, return on two different trails.  I'd never been on any of these trails, and was ready to explore something new.  Besides, hiking with John is always an adventure!

The vine maple shows its fall colors

John and I accessed the PCT at Wahtum Lake, which is north of Mt. Hood.  We drove a long winding Forest Service Road up to the lake.  At the trailhead, the weather was cloudy and the temperature 45 degrees.  Summer is over in the mountains!

A closer view of these pretty leaves

But on the trail, I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of fall color.  As we hiked up the PCT, I noticed the vine maple leaves were already turning beautiful shades of orange and red.

Crossing a talus slope

The PCT in this area was nicely graded.  We crossed some large talus slopes, and got a few peek-a-boo views of the terrain through the trees.

Beautiful red leaves

One of the talus slopes had lots of brilliant vine maple trees showing off their finest fall colors.  I took a long photo break here.

Lovely vine maple colors

More vine maple fall colors.  Such beauty!

The clouds and fog parted for a view of the area

While on the scenic talus slope, the clouds and fog momentarily parted, and I was treated to a nice view of the mountains and valleys below.  Some splashes of red and orange added a little color to the landscape.

This hillside was covered with red huckleberry bushes

The trail came out on a hillside near Indian Mountain covered with huckleberry bushes, their leaves a lovely shade of red.  The green and brown colors of the other vegetation added to the palette.  It was very photogenic!

Indian Mountain summit emerges from the clouds

As you can guess, I spent some time trying to capture the wonderful fall colors!  John had his camera out too, and we both clicked away for a while.

John and Bear at a trail sign cairn

John and I hiked along a wide open rocky ridge.  There were views towards the Gorge, and John pointed out a few of its features.  Where the trail got lost in the rocks, some nice hikers had left large rock cairns to help guide our way.  However, Indian mountain loomed ahead, so it wasn't too hard to navigate towards our destination.

Indian Mtn summit getting swallowed up by fog

John, Bear and I trudged up the side of Indian Mountain, through the forest.  We hit the cloud layer, and there wasn't much for views.  Finally, we popped out onto a rocky area, and there was the summit!  What a nice sight!  I was tired, hungry, and ready for a break.

John's summit photo

Although it was cloudy and foggy at the top, we could see partial views of the valley below.  From what views I could see, I was impressed.  John said there is a stunning view of Mt. Hood from this vantage.  Guess I'll have to come back again on a clear day!

Signing the summit register

I inhaled my lunch.  I was starving!  The summit was windy and cold, so we bundled up with a couple of layers.  John brought a thermos of hot tea, and being the nice friend he is, shared it with me.  The tea tasted wonderful, and really helped to warm me up.

My summit self-portrait. 

Indian Mountain has its own summit register, residing in a small metal box.  John had fun reading some of the entries in the register.  He found an entry he made from 2006.  I tried hard to think of something profound to write, but in the end just babbled about how wonderful it was up on the summit. 

I also took lots of summit photos, and even experimented with some self-portraits.  I'm getting better at positioning the camera to include my face and a little bit of scenery.  I'm kind of proud how well this photo turned out.

More talus slopes

Soon it was time to head back.  John said we still had seven miles to cover before we were back at the car.  After hiking down the mountain, and over the rocky ridge, we took another trail that dove down into the valley, losing all of the elevation we gained and then some.

The forest is decked out for fall

I think John said we lost 2500' on that trail.  It sure seemed like it!  We hiked down, and down, and then down some more.  There were some steep downhills.  My knees were starting to complain.  And then, just when I thought we'd never be done descending, we arrived at the junction with the trail that climbs out of Eagle Creek.  This was the trail that would take us back to Wahtum Lake and the car.

Wahtum Lake reflections

This new trail was all uphill.  It was well graded, so even though we were climbing, it was never too steep.  I found it a welcome break from hiking downhill.  And my knees were thanking me! 

We hiked along a pretty creek, through some beautiful old growth forests, and over a couple of flowing drainages.  There were also some more nice fall colors to admire.  Even though I was starting to get tired, the scenery kept me entertained.

The staircase to the parking lot

Soon Wahtum Lake came back into view.  What a welcome sight!  It is such a beautiful lake.  We hiked by a few nice lakeside campsites, and  I made a mental note to come back and camp here someday.  John talked to one man camping at the lake, who had been hiking the PCT for the past nine days.  Wow!

Our final challenge was to hike up the 200 steps from the lake to the parking area.  It's called the "Wahtum Express Trail."  After hiking 12 miles, a large set of stairs is not what you want to see.  But at that point I had "horse in the barn" syndrome, so I powered up those steps!

I've discovered another great area to hike.  And even though it's sad that summer is coming to a close, I'm excited to see fall colors.  I'm looking forward to fall hiking, and the beautiful scenery it brings.