On Jambalaya and Memories

I probably haven’t mentioned him here, but my favorite professor in college was the late, great Jack Falla. I took two of his classes and he helped me get my first paid journalism job after school (a paid internship with USA Hockey Magazine). When I donated my tiny bit as I graduated, I did it in his honor. We emailed regularly between graduation and his passing, and I helped him with some research for his novel, Saved (in which I actually am in the acknowledgement section. I’m also very fortunate to still have a rough draft of the novel as well. One of those things I will save in a fire).

Anyway, if you took his class in college, you got a recipe of his.

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Some kids, after no longer having him as a professor, got to eat this jambalaya with Jack at his house in Natick after skating on his very famous backyard rink, the Bacon Street Omni. I regret that I was unable to ever make this happen.

I have held on to that recipe for 16 years and have never made it.

I’ve never been the most adventurous person when it comes to food, although I have gotten a lot better over the past decade or so. I am also NOT a person who loves spicy food, and this recipe has some spice in it.

However – and I don’t know what prompted it this year – I finally decided to give it a whirl.

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Wearing a BU sweatshirt, I followed the first instructions of “Start drinking (only if legal age and not driving). And put on a good cajun music CD (Beau Soleil works for me)” … except I threw on the BeauSoleil Pandora station.

I’ve never cooked to music, though I know many who do so regularly, and it made me think it’s something I need to do more often.

The recipe is fairly straightforward and was easy to follow. My husband was in love with the smells starting to emanate from our kitchen.

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It came together nicely and we were both very excited to dig in.

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B was regretful Jack wasn’t alive, because I’m sure he’d have made me send off an email, praising this jambalaya to the heavens. I misread a bit of the recipe on the amount of cayenne pepper to add, taking the spice from the hoped-for wussy quantities to somewhere around the realm of what would be (for me) total nuclear.

We had the leftovers next day with some good friends, tossing on Cajun music once more.

I shared that I had made it in an often dormant FB group, “In Memory of Jack Falla.” I think the last post in the group had been on the 10th anniversary of his passing. His son commented, wishing that I could send some on. I replied that if I could do so affordably, I happily would. His response? “I’m sure you would. Just knowing the recipe lives and friends are thinking about him are enough for me.”

The ones we love who have left us are never truly far away as long as we remember them and keep them alive in our memories and our hearts. Jack, I miss you more than I probably should, but I do. Thanks for sharing this gift with us.

On Elway’s

We’re in the midst of Denver Restaurant Week right now (ends Sunday! … I think …) and we once again participated. We’ve been doing our best to try new places and we FINALLY made it to Elway’s.

As steakhouses are stupid expensive, DRW is a great way to try them (like we did Shanahan’s two years ago and Eddie Merlot (though I didn’t blog about it) last year).

Elway’s is a place we’ve been talking about trying for years, but we haven’t either because the menu didn’t look that great or … whatever. But this year … we went.

The actual menu at the restaurant was a bit different than what was shown online, so beware if you choose restaurants this way.

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Internet had fries as a side. And different salad options.

We each had a drink – B had their version of an Old-Fashioned and I had the special Cabernet listed at the bottom of the menu (wasn’t bad).

We also each basically chose the same thing – house salad, the 6 oz filet, broccoli – with differing desserts. We also added on a baked potato for carbs … and because restaurant mashed potatoes never come close to what I can do at home.

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The house salad. Standard, basic. Dressing was possibly a bit too acidic, but still good. Whatever, it’s a salad.

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I had already chopped into my filet when I remembered crap, photo. Filet was DELICIOUS. We’ve definitely been to steakhouses where the steak is not great quality (I’m looking at you, Prime Bellagio), but this? This was tasty. The peppers that came with it were a bit weird, but eh. The broccoli with cheese sauce was good, but nothing special; the broccoli was just plain steamed broccoli with no seasoning, so it needed the cheese sauce. The baked potato with all the various toppings was pretty dang tasty. I was a fan.

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Dessert. B had the key lime pie (which I don’t like) and said it was okay – not good, not bad, just there. As for me … the vanilla bean ice cream was good. The cookies weren’t warm (fail), but the chips were still kinda gooey, so they get a pass. Not the best cookie dessert I’ve had in Denver, but it was honestly kinda up there.

Will we go back (not for DRW)? The steak was good, but I don’t know if it was THAT good. So maybe? But knowing us, honestly probably not.

(Also of note: we went to the Cherry Creek location, since there are a few around town.)

Arizona, January 2020

… will I eventually end up living in the desert given how much I travel there? Yes. Yes I probably will.

In any case, I had two (well, three) main reasons to go on this vacation:
1. Free Desert Museum tickets from Visit Tucson that I had to use up before the end of April;
2. Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona half-marathon in Tempe; and
3. seeing B’s mom who’s trying out wintering in Scottsdale.

I mean, we’re probably going to head back down again for spring training, but that’ll be such a short trip without enough time to head to Tucson. So, this trip.

Wednesday, January 15

We left early as we always do … basically early enough to hit up the Starbucks in Pueblo as it opens. Despite the obnoxious construction going on I-25 between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, it was a fairly uneventful drive.

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Though we did stop at a rest area to pee, and I saw this little gorgeousness.

As we’ve learned we need to see cacti first thing, we exited I-10 a bit early to go straight to Saguaro National Park (east side). This … was a genius idea. Particularly as the sunset that night? I have been WAITING for a sunset like that. You’ll see.

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… and B was worried it wasn’t going to be awesome …

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Literally in love.

Then finally off to check in to the hotel and hit up Casa Molina for dinner.

Thursday, January 16

This trip also ended up being a good excuse for me to be able to support some friends and get some green corn tamales. The kid of our good friends, Seton and Debbie, sold tamales over Christmas as a Boy Scout fundraiser. Since we all know I love me some green corns, I commented that “oh man, I wish.” Debbie said that if I knew I’d be in Tucson somewhat soon, she’d just freeze them for me. Sooooo … I bought two dozen green corn tamales. We met them for breakfast (at a new place, Baja Cafe, that was delicious) and tamale exchange.

After breakfast, it was off to use our passes to the Desert Museum. It had been a few years since we’d gone, so we were happy to do so.

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Snory Gila.

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… is it a desert trip if B doesn’t hug a saguaro?

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We paid extra to go play with the stingrays. I got super splashed. Which was kind of hilarious.

It started sprinkling as we left the Desert Museum and then it started raining in earnest on our drive back. We got eegee’s and tried their flavor of the month – tangerine. Tasted like a Sunkist … which I like, but it also meant that it was SUPER sweet. We also spent some time at a few of the Bookman’s locations, trying to sell some more of B’s old Nintendo games and picking up some books.

We got in a quick workout back at the hotel – just a run on the treadmill as opposed to our hoped-for bike, but we did get to see a rainbow.

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Dinner was January date night at El Corral (which we’ve done before, but hey, it works).

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Note to self: skip the bread, skip the fries, only order the prime rib.

Friday, January 17

We woke up, ate breakfast at the hotel, got coffee, and then got on the road. Our eventual destination was the place B’s mom’s renting in Scottsdale, but we had a few stops first.

Stop one was Cadence Running Company in Gilbert. A tri acquaintance owns it (who unfortunately wasn’t there as he was at a tri camp), but we were both able to find new running shoes. We’re both sick of specialty running in Denver, so why not try a new place in a different state?

Then it was off to downtown Phoenix to pick up my race packet for Sunday’s half-marathon before finally making it to Scottsdale. We ran a few errands with his mom, squeezed in a super quick bike ride, and then enjoyed a dinner with some of his family that lives down in the area.

Saturday, January 18

We started off Saturday morning by walking to breakfast at Randy’s, a place right around the corner from where B’s mom is renting. It was a cute local place (but beware: cash only). She had to return some stuff to the mall, so we went and got coffee while she did that. Then it was on to lunch and to see her sister and brother-in-law in Mesa (and to steal a whole bunch of the fruit off their trees). B and I got the golf cart tour of their community while the sisters visited.

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Saw this amazingly awesome saguaro during the ride.

The rest of the evening was fairly low key with a bit of race prep. B made me my standard breakfast-for-dinner which was amazing.

Sunday, January 19

Most of Sunday morning was dedicated to me running my half-marathon … which if you’re curious about how that went, go here.

Post-race, back to shower and relax before doing a late lunch in Old Town Scottsdale at a place called Cien Agaves.

They had a cheese crisp on the menu so we tried it … definitely not the best we’ve had. Everything looked a touch spicy on the menu, so I decided to chance the cheese enchiladas.

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My mouth was on fire the whole time. Also not the best enchiladas I’ve had. Probably would not go back.

We walked around Old Town Scottsdale for a tiny bit afterward before heading back.

The rest of the evening was super chill, mostly just getting all packed up.

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Evening sky.

Monday, January 20

We rolled out of bed super early and left around 4am. I made a quick egg at the house, but our first real stop was in Payson – for gas and for more food (tried out BoSa Donuts – pretty good – and, of course, some Starbucks).

Once again, the drive home was fairly uneventful which is always nice.

Christmas in Amsterdam

So I actually did a trip before this one – went to Mexico mid-month to see my cousin get married – but I guess I didn’t feel like blogging about it. Maybe I will later. We’ll see.

The pilot husband had a 51 hour layover in Amsterdam on Christmas so ever since we’ve known, we’ve tossed around the idea of me going with. I went back and forth on it. I was pretty exhausted coming home from Mexico and the flights – especially coming home – looked iffy. The original thought was to fly with him to Portland, then to Amsterdam, then to New York City (27 hour layover there post-AMS), and then home. However, all the flights back to DEN out of NYC (both JFK and LGA) looked terrible. So then we thought, what if I left AMS on my own and then found my way back? That looked better. Flights looked decent both to MSP and DTW and, more importantly, back home. We decided on MSP.

Still, it took until the morning we were going to leave from DEN to go to PDX via LAX that we made the decision. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever packed for a trip.

Sunday, December 22

The one thing we did to make this work was NOT take the first flight out of DEN on Monday morning. Which yeah, technically breaks all of our non-rev rules, but meh. Our flight to LAX was a bit delayed leaving DEN, but we were able to make it on okay.

That’s where the first bit of trouble started.

Due to … something in LA, we got slowed up a lot going in. B was freaking out as he had a deadhead to PDX to catch. A flight that in theory we should have been able to make just fine, but combined with the delay and the slow plane? Yeah, it took off about five minutes after we landed. Thankfully, he got himself sorted out to make the next PDX flight and I got rolled over. We took the extra time in LAX to go walk out to find B’s car (make sure it still worked) and then walked to the In-N-Out close to the airport for some food.

We made the PDX flight okay, got in late … crashed out.

Monday, December 23

We had a few hours before we needed to get to the airport, so we had breakfast, got in a workout, got coffee (and a doughnut at some shop he likes (not VooDoo)). Got to PDX and I was thankfully able to get DeltaOne to AMS (ohhh podlife).

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But not before I went up to the flight deck to say hi to (read: annoy) the husband.

Flight was mostly uneventful – read some, started to get caught up on Star Wars (watched ep VII), slept not as much as I should have.

And, as I do, I took pictures of the food.

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Starters: “Harissa Shrimp with apple, celery and arugula slaw” (not terrible), “Baby Gem Lettuce with croutons, shaved manchego cheese, smoked roasted tomatoes and Caesar dressing” (not bad), and “Porcini Mushroom Soup” (tasty).

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We had quite a few options for dinner – a braised beef short rib, soy glazed Chilean sea bass, and ricotta ravioli … and what I chose: “Roasted Herb Chicken Breast with red wine reduction, cheesy truffle polenta, garlic broccolini and blistered tomatoes” (actually pretty good).

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I didn’t do the pear and caramel mousse tart or the fruit and cheese, but I obviously just had to do the sundae. It’s the best part of podlife (imho)! I did learn on this trip that you don’t want the bowl to be full of ice cream because if it is (like on my way back as you’ll see a bit later), the ice cream to sauce ratio gets screwed up for the worse.

I also tried both the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon on the plane. I think the cab was a bit better. I also learned that yes, the travel bloggers are correct in that hooch doesn’t help you sleep on planes … so I did not drink on the way back.

Tuesday, December 24

(Starting the next day here due to time zone wonkiness)

The arrival breakfast has gotten a bit better, but still not great.

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You could also get a granola and yogurt whatever, but I’m so picky with yogurt. So, what I got: “French Onion Quiche with Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon” (… meh). Definitely better than the frittata going to Italy. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Got off the plane (without forgetting anything!) and followed the other non-revs (relatives of the flight attendants) through the airport and customs to where the bus to the hotel was.

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And I got this photo.

Took the van to the hotel, got checked in (eventually … after like 2934723047 other crews), and passed out for a few hours. We woke up and then got on the hotel-provided cruiser bikes to venture out a bit. B took me to Winkel 43 for their apple pie which is apparently super famous.

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View from outside.

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Ham and cheese toasty just for a bit of protein.

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Pie and coffee. It was super delicious.

We took the cruiser bikes back to the hotel and then got a few things done before heading back out to dinner at a place nearby, the Number One Cafe (Eetcafe?).

B had some schnitzel, while I had a mixed grill of chicken.

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Salad.

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Dinner. It wasn’t bad. As B (and a few of the flight attendants agreed upon) said, the food in Amsterdam is good; it’s not great. I would have to concur with that given my limited experience.

Wednesday, December 25

Christmas is weird on the road away from home. Kind of like another day but also not. We woke up, grabbed breakfast from downstairs, and then went for a run to explore.

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Canals.

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B’s usual cafe, closed that day.

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Just up the street apparently was part of the Red Light District.

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Square.

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Us.

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Random arcade (taken with our new GoPro!).

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Aaaaalll the bikes.

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Rainbow (and it might be a double?).

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This was on the walk back to the hotel.

After the run, we did a few things and then headed back out on cruiser bikes to explore the city some more. Our goal was to find the one last remaining Christmas market (that had an ice rink near it) and check it out. Unfortunately … it was pretty terrible. I did manage to eat more poffertjes though … for the second year in a row at a Christmas market.

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So tasty.

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Selfie on the ferry that we had to take back and forth across the river (large canal?) from our side of Amsterdam to where the main downtown was.

We ate some lunch and relaxed a bit more before heading back out for the last time, but this time on feet.

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Of course we brought the dinosaurs.

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Holiday lights. On this same street, we bought an ornament and also visited the Venus Sex Museum. Because why not.

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Canals at night.

Since we didn’t see anything that caught our eye for dinner while wandering around, we just ended up eating at the hotel restaurant. I had schnitzel (which was good) and B had the daily special which was some beef something. Oh and we had more pie because Christmas.

Thursday, December 26

I had trouble sleeping this entire trip, and that meant I was up at 3:45a AMS time and couldn’t go back to sleep. Which meant I was completely fine for making my 7:25 bus back to the airport. B couldn’t go, but he bartered me a ride on the bus for me talking about IRONMAN to one of the captains. Sure I will take that trade. (And I would have gotten on anyway; the trade was just funny.)

Got to the airport plenty early and in time to clear customs, security, get my non-rev status changed, and get some food. And also a doughnut in what I believe is my 8th country.

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From the airport Starbucks. Not the best, but definitely not the worst foreign doughnut I’ve had.

Waiting for a seat internationally is a bit weird, but I was (thankfully) able to get a seat (and a pod!).

I was a lot smarter with my time management on this flight. I read, but not a whole bunch early. I got my movie started well before my meal (Star Wars episode VIII), and then I was able to sort of nap for about two hours. It was interrupted sleep as I kept waking up due to overheating, but hey. For someone who doesn’t really sleep on airplanes, I’ll take it.

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The starters: “Crusted Beef Filet with smoked pepper aioli and pickled cauliflower” (only ate the beef; totally mediocre), “Roasted Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Salad with Romaine lettuce, toasted pumpkin seeds served with dill honey mustard dressing” (… not that great. picked at it), and “Thai Coconut Soup” which I did not try.

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Again, quite a few options, with a grilled beef tenderloin, roasted salmon, and a fresh mozzarella and spinach panciotti, but I chose the “Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Thigh served over tagliatelle pasta with onions, bacon, mushrooms, chanterelles and garlic in a honey balsamic jus” (which was quite good).

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Chose not to try the chocolate truffon after seeing it (and poo on the cheese course), but obviously more ice cream. But see how much it fills the bowl here? Keeps the topping ratio off.

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I woke up just before the arrival meal. We had two options, a smoked paprika chicken over salad or what I got, a “Wagyu Pastrami Sandwich with Emmenthal cheese, caramelized onion, arugula and truffle mayonnaise” (too greasy and hard to eat … even with a knife and fork. other than that not bad).

I landed in MSP, cleared customs and security … and then proceeded to watch people get bought off the flight I was hoping to take. I waited until B landed back in NYC before figuring out my next step, as all the subsequent MSP-DEN flights looked terrible. We tossed around the idea of trying another flight … but rolled the dice and rented a car. So, I got in a car by 4:30p MSP time … drove to Lincoln, Neb., where I got about 4.5 hours of sleep … and then rolled into DIA around 10:30a on the 27th. And found out that if I had waited for the 8:30p flight … I would have somehow magically made it home. Live and learn, I guess.

Chicago Weekend 2019

As a side note … I’ve been slacking on the blogging. We did Pumpkin Nights and I thought about blogging about it … but then didn’t. And we did a teeny tiny trip to Tucson where we *gasp* actually ate at some different places … but I really didn’t take photos so there’s that. But we DID also do a nice long weekend trip to Chicago for a wedding, so here I am. Again. Finally.

Thursday, October 31:

Our original trip plan was November 1-4, but then B realized he booked us our yearly physicals on the 4th, so the trip got shifted up a day. Therefore, we left on the 31st. DEN-SLC-ORD … and we almost got super delayed in SLC thanks to weather in Chicago. The storm we had moved eastward and, well, sorry.

We got in mid afternoon, so we hopped the train from ORD to downtown and then considered walking to the hotel … but since it was snowy and slushy and we had an extra bag (garment bag for B’s suit), we hailed a cab instead. Totally worth the $6. We got checked in to the Marriott Magnificent Mile, got in a super quick workout, and then did an early dinner at Gino’s East since B really wanted some deep dish.

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Deep dish really isn’t my thing, but we split a pizza with two different halves – B did the Meaty Legend and I did the Spinach Margherita. A bit too spinach-y for my tastes, but it did the trick.

Friday, November 1

We woke up fairly early, got in breakfast at the hotel, and then went for a run. Our goal: the Bean (yes yes I know it’s called Cloud Gate officially but I also know the creator is an asshole, so BEAN.).

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Just past sunrise. No one there!

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Look up.

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And yes, that’s snow on it.

We continued down to Buckingham Fountain
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and then ran the river walk a bit before getting coffee and heading back to the hotel.

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We did some admin stuff at the hotel, I got my lift in, we showered, and then we headed out for the day. First stop was to B’s cousin Peter’s place to say hi. Peter also gave us his Art Institute member’s card so we could head there the next day. Post-Peter, a quick snack at Jimmy John’s (… ugh, but their new tiny Little John’s sandwiches are the perfect snack size), and then off to our main goal for the day – the Field Museum and SUE the T. rex.

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SUE, the Rockies (baseball team), and Blair Braverman: the three reasons Twitter is not a complete hellscape. Seriously, SUE is hilarious. And they retweeted the selfie I shared of myself, SUE, and the kidlets.

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My dinosaurs with the majestic murderbird.

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Took a quiz about SUE/T. rexes – is it any surprise that I aced it?

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The end of the exhibit.

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Maximo the Titanosaur who took SUE’s place in the great hall.

From SUE and the Field, it was on to the Shedd Aquarium which is basically next door.

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I remember loving the Shedd when I was a kid (… I was also fairly obsessed with sea creatures …) and our first reaction was kind of underwhelming. Okay, to be completely honest, our first reaction was disappointment in learning that their stingray touch is only seasonal and we missed it by a DAY. No flap-flaps for us. Booooo.

We started at the bottom level and worked our way up … and it definitely got better as we moved up to the main floor. I took a decent amount of pictures but didn’t really save many except for the awesomeness that is the mantis shrimp.

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Hey buddy! Thanks for not completely hiding underneath the rocks like your relative was doing in Denver last time I saw it.

We also did grab a snack while we were there at one of the cafes – mediocre breakfast sandwich thing that B grabbed. My apple danish was AWESOME … and the weird licensed Starbucks in there really needs to learn that Pumpkin Spice Lattes (my first of the season) come with whipped cream, dangit.

After the Shedd, we walked back to Peter’s where B’s parents finally made it into town (they were staying with Peter and his husband while we chose to stay in a hotel). Then we all convened at a Latin American fusion restaurant, Carnivale, for dinner.

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Inside. I can totally believe that this place used to be a nightclub.

I had salmon over some quinoa mixture and it was really pretty good.

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Emilio took the picture so he wasn’t in it, but from L to R: B, me, father-in-law, mother-in-law, Peter.

Saturday, November 2:

Day two started off with a workout in the hotel gym (seriously, it was one of the nicest hotel gyms I’ve ever seen), then breakfast, and then out and about again.

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(played the “we’ll happily take your picture if you can return the favor for us” game to get this one. it was a candid shot the guy took but it ended up being my favorite of the bunch.)

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River.

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Yes, we went back; I wanted to see how busy it was.

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10:30a on a Saturday looks a lot different than 7:30a on a Friday did …

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Cool little installation also in Cloud Gate Plaza.

Our main stop that morning was the Art Institute of Chicago, as it contains B’s two favorite paintings. As we were meeting the family again for lunch, we unfortunately didn’t have time to explore the whole museum. I guess that means we’ll just have to go back …

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Grant Wood, “American Gothic.”

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Favorite painting number one.

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“Nightlife.” I forget the artist. But I love the piece.

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Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” Favorite painting number two.

There was an Andy Warhol exhibit going on, so we checked that out as well.

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One of his famous Campbell’s Soup can pieces was in the exhibit, but photos of it weren’t allowed. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Warhol, but I definitely appreciate him more after seeing this exhibit.

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Lion outside.

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Now I’ve officially been at the beginning point and the ending point of Route 66 … as well as seen some other random parts of it.

Lunch was at Vapiano’s, which is kind of like Eataly if you’ve ever been there. It’s kind of like a made to order cafeteria/food market. Hard to describe, but it was really tasty.

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Split that caprese salad with B and I got some pasta with cream sauce and mushrooms and I added shrimp to it. It was delicious.

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Leaving lunch. Had to snag a picture of the elevated tracks. Peter played mini tour guide for a few quick buildings post-lunch with all of us.

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The floor inside what was the old Chicago Athletic Club.

We split back up from the family – my mother-in-law’s knee was hurting her and B and I wanted to do a little bit of shopping/wandering on the Magnificent Mile. B stopped in a Garrett’s for some popcorn while I wandered into the doughnut shop next door.

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The chocolate was meh; the glazed twist was pretty good.

We only did some window shopping – the Nordstrom in Chicago is glorious compared to the ones we have back home – but I will admit, I almost spent a decent chunk of change in Roots. The main thing stopping me was luggage space. I consoled myself by reminding me that we’re planning a trip to Calgary in the spring.

We got back to the hotel to start getting loosely packed up and to get ready for the actual reason we came to Chicago – B’s cousin’s wedding. I was excited since I haven’t met a lot of people on B’s dad’s side (Peter, for example, is on his mom’s side).

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All dressed up!

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This is the cake topper? These are my people.

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The ceiling in the cocktail hour/ceremony space. Everything took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I regret not taking the time to wander around, but: heels.

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To that last point re: heels … the shoes were fine if I was sitting or moving. Long periods of standing and the feet killed. Knew I should have found a spot to sit during the ceremony …

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Us.

We didn’t stay very long at the wedding – cut out about 90 minutes early (at least) as we had to catch an early flight back to DEN. The time change helped, but still. 3:30a wake up calls suck regardless.

Sunday, November 4:

As everything had melted, we walked to the train station that morning … and were rewarded with a nice night view of the river.

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Got to the airport with plenty of time … and even enough time to stop in the Sky Club for a tiny bit of breakfast (sweet, sweet breakfast). We chose to go through MSP on the way back and that layover is where coffee was consumed. SLC was our original plan, but flights through MSP looked shockingly good (usually they’re AWFUL to DEN) and that flight got us home a few hours earlier. Totally worth the earlier alarm.

I hadn’t been to Chicago in years – hadn’t really visited it since the mid-90s and hadn’t done anything at all there since 2005 (just a Cubs/(ironically) Rockies game with the ex driving back home from college) – so I was excited for this trip. I’m happy to say that it lived up to my expectations and I can’t wait until I go back again.

IRONMAN Wisconsin Trip 2019

In which we road tripped to Madison, Wisc., so I could go race another IRONMAN.

Wednesday, September 4:

As we do, we left early on Wednesday morning.

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Sunrise leaving town.

Our hotel reservations didn’t start in Madison until Thursday, but the first day of race check-in was ALSO Thursday, and I know if I don’t want to wait in a long line, I get there the first day. So we left Wednesday and drove to Dubuque, Iowa (much like I did for my Shinedown trip back in May).

Mostly, a long boring day in the car. Thanks, head winds. But I didn’t get lost this time! We also stopped at the same Chick-fil-a in Dubuque I did back in May to get a whole bunch of chicken sandwiches with extra pickles for bike food on Sunday (go read the tri blog linked above for more on that).

Food Eaten: Breakfast: egg and oj, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a (mmm chicken egg and cheese on a biscuit). Lunch: KFC/Subway. Dinner: salad at Hy-Vee, Culver’s.

Thursday, September 5:

First things first, I realized I was missing an IM road trip tradition, so I took care of that.

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Then, it was on to Madison … with first a stop in Verona to get a cappuccino at n+1 Coffee and Beer (inside Rocket Bicycle Studio) because I really liked it last time I was in town.

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Plus we got to talk to one of the owners, Jessica, who gave B a whole bunch of good tips for coming down and spectating on Sunday, as the bike course goes by their shop twice. After coffee, we stopped at the cute little grocery store in town for a doughnut (as I remembered them being good) and a few other things (bottled water for my water bottles, apples for some fiber (mostly for B), mini Dr. Peppers for special needs) before heading off to Madison.

Our hotel room was ready when we got there (stayed at the Hilton Monona Terrace), so we got checked in, unloaded the car, and then I headed literally across the hotel sky way to the Monona Terrace Convention Center to go get checked in for my race.

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This is on the tiles outside.

After I got all checked in, I was starving, so we quick dumped off my IM crap upstairs and then headed to the Great Dane for lunch. We ate at a couple Madison “must-dos” on this trip, and the Dane was one of them.

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Overall, it wasn’t bad. We split the massive pretzel as an appetizer (B was doing his best to shove a lot of food in my face this week). I had a different type of fish sandwich (salmon) and B had a Nashville hot chicken sandwich and onion soup.

We went for a ride with a friend that afternoon and then for dinner, we decided to do another “when in Rome” and go eat at State Street Brats.

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There are fiberglass Bucky Badgers all over town. I tried to emulate him here.

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Hockey Bucky!

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We ended up doing a mini tour of cheese curds on this trip, and State Street Brats was the first place we tried. Weren’t bad. Brat was okay, too. We sort of found a part of an empty table to stand at because apparently the Green Bay Packers were playing that night and it was packed. Also packed with college kids. I’m telling you, at 36 I don’t feel old in general … unless you throw me in a bar on a college campus filled with undergrads. Then HOLY SWEET JEEBUS do I feel ancient.

Afterward, we tried a local ice cream shop that B’s ex (who is from Wisconsin) recommended in the Chocolate Shoppe.

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I had the Latte-Da. It was tasty.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, n+1, random donut. Lunch: Great Dane Brewing and Pub. Dinner: State Street Brats, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream.

Friday, September 6:

Friday morning was taken mostly up with a practice swim, as I wanted to get in Lake Monona at least once pre-race. I also went to an athlete briefing, as, well, I was in town for a race and that was something I needed to do. I was also super happy I had checked in the day prior as the lines for that? So long.

I was planning on doing the Undie Run … but lost confidence, so B and I just did a short mile shakeout run to lunch. Lunch was sushi at Sushi Express on the UW campus as we always like eating sushi a day or two before a race. Plus it is (or at least can be) a lot lighter of a meal which was definitely needed.

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Mmmm, fish.

After lunch, a shower and then mostly chilling out starting to get my bags prepped for the next day.

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But also a picture of Lake Monona and the top of the convention center from the room we ate breakfast in every morning. I swam there.

For dinner, we met up with B’s cousin Nicole, who lives in Madison. Our first thought was the Old Fashioned … but they had like a 90 minute wait and I didn’t want to eat dinner at 8p. So, we wandered off to another place and tried the Tipsy Cow. I didn’t take pictures, but they weren’t bad. Tipsy Cow ended up being stop two on the cheese curd tour, and theirs were better than State Street’s. I ended up having some chicken caprese sandwich thingy that was actually really pretty good (if a bit heavy on the balsamic). I think B ended up doing fish fry (fish and chips) and I can’t remember what Nicole had.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks. Lunch: Sushi Express. Dinner: Tipsy Cow.

Saturday, September 7:

The main activity this day was the Madison Farmer’s Market, which takes place around the entire square.

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Some of the gorgeous flowers on display.

We ended up getting a few things. Brandon got some apples, I bought a cucumber to just eat, and we got a large bag of 5 dozen ears of corn so I could attempt to make tamales when I got home. (Which I did. It was a disaster. Hilarious, but a disaster.) We also got a pumpkin cream cheese muffin from a vendor for my morning pastry as I wanted to get coffee from a local place that morning … which I did, in Colectivo Coffee.

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After that, back to the hotel so I could prep all of my gear bags and B could head down to his volunteer shift checking in athlete bikes.

I packed up my gear bags and took them and my bike down to get racked and placed for the next day. I ended up seeing a few friends at bike check-in, as I ended up hanging out for the rest of B’s shift. We saw our friend Loberg from out here in Colorado (and I took a picture to send to my friend Katie, who’s her coach) and then chatted with an old SMASH teammate, Taryn, post-check-in shift.

After talking with Taryn, we were both fairly ravenous, so we went off to lunch to go try the Old Fashioned again.

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Lunch was still crowded, but we were able to find an immediate seat at the bar as opposed to waiting 20-30 minutes, so that was nice.

The cheese curd tour continued (and ended), and I think they had the best of the three we tried (with points taken off as they might have been the greasiest, too).

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(I will honestly say though, I think my favorite curds are still the ones we get at the Minnesota State Fair.)

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I got this delicious heirloom tomato BLT. I have no idea what B ate.

After lunch, it was time for me to stay off my feet until dinner, so that’s what I did.

Dinner was at the Bassett Street Brunch Club, as I needed to do my usual breakfast-for-dinner. We were joined by more of B’s family – Nicole, and then his cousin Peter and his partner Emilio who drove up from Chicago.

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Inside.

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When a place makes their own doughnuts … you kinda have to get one.

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B’s chicken and doughnut (with Nicole’s savory french toast waaaaay in the background).

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My standard ol’ breakfast. Not the best I’ve had, but it did the trick.

Emilio (Thai peanut noodle something) and Peter (steak frites) did normal people food.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks, Colectivo Coffee, random farmer’s market stall. Lunch: Old Fashioned. Dinner: Bassett Street Brunch Club.

Sunday, September 8:

Race day for me! Pretty much spent all day on the race course. Again, go to the tri blog if you’re curious.

B did a great job cheering and supporting … but I have no idea what he ate all day, so the food below is just me.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel. Lunch: food on the bike. Dinner: food on the run, post-race.

Monday, September 9:

I actually slept well post-race, which doesn’t always happen for me. B actually had to poke me awake so I could go downstairs to the convention center and buy my finisher’s jacket.

Breakfast was after that, and then it was all about packing up the car to leave. And meeting my friend Jen who lives in the Springs to get the five cases of salsa she bought at the farmer’s market to transport home for her.

The rest of the day was mostly spent en route to Minnesota, as we decided to visit B’s parents since we were basically in the neighborhood.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks. Lunch: the Ground Round. Dinner: Green Mill. Snacks: Dairy Queen (my throat hurt from so much breathing during the race; needed something to make it feel better), apps at the in-laws.

Tuesday, September 10:

We woke up super early to leave B’s parents as he wanted to try to make it back in time for bowling that night. Sooooo … that’s what we did, not even stopping for breakfast until … Owatonna, I think. Then, just a long day of pushing through with quick stops.

But we made it back for bowling.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Starbucks. Lunch: Taco Bell (along with random car snacks. lunch kinda wasn’t really a thing). Dinner: whatever B ate at the bowling alley, whatever I scrounged up in the kitchen.

Coeur d’Alene Trip 2019

I may have said earlier this year that I’m not traveling a lot due to Ironman training … which is still a very true statement, but this trip went along with that … as we were racing a 70.3!

Much like IMChoo three years ago, this race was picked due to time of year as well as for the opportunity to knock off a few states (Idaho and Montana). I won’t go into race details, but I will talk about this trip because we both really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, June 25

Although the race was Sunday, we left several days early in order to play a bit of tourist on the way. Our first day took us to Idaho Falls, Idaho.

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Sunrise leaving town.

We grabbed Starbucks in downtown Fort Collins and ate breakfast at some small little local place (original plan was Waffle House, but apparently the Waf in FoCo is closed …?) called the Ever Open Cafe. We’d grabbed (a very mediocre) lunch there before, and breakfast wasn’t too much better. We hopped back on 287 which took us to Wyoming where we caught up with I-80 and then took that to US-191. While on 191, we grabbed lunch at what is probably best described as a permanent food truck off the road in Pinedale, Wyo. – the Burger Barn. Too much pepper on both the burgers and the fries, but hey – eating local is awesome.

From 191 we caught up with US-89 and then to US-26 which would take us to Idaho Falls.

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We did, however, see this place in Alpine, Wyo., which cracked both of us up. An old friend from the USCHO days had Brenthoven as his handle on the message board so to see this??

We got into Idaho Falls and took the bikes out for a quick spin. Dinner was at a cute place we saw while riding, the Sandpiper Restaurant.

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That bread? To die for.

Cute place, would definitely go back. After dinner, we stopped at Chick-fil-a for bike food for Sunday (last time we’d be close to one) and then walked around this Alpine Garden thing that’s on the banks of the river.

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I also wanted to walk over to what we thought were the falls but apparently not. Oops.

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Wednesday, June 26

We didn’t wake up quite as early as hoped, but still definitely too early for hotel breakfast. We grabbed Starbucks leaving Idaho Falls and then drove to West Yellowstone, Montana, as seeing Yellowstone National Park was our agenda for the day. Since our America the Beautiful pass had expired, we quickly popped over to the park to renew that and then headed back into town for breakfast. We ate at the Running Bear Pancake House, which wasn’t too terrible (remember, we have super high breakfast standards).

Food consumed, it was park time!

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Pulled over to see a bison (buffalo?) and mostly missed it, but got this view.

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Dinosaurs and geothermal pools.

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Fountain Paint Pots.

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Good advice.

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Biscuit Basin.

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Waiting for Old Faithful.

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Faithful for us!

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Lady at the entrance gate wasn’t wrong – bison are EVERYWHERE. People were ignoring this one until they stood up. Then OMG LOOOOOOOOK.

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At this point in the day (a little after noon), there were so many people that we were ready to escape after seeing only a small fraction of the park … but the last thing I really wanted to see was the Grand Prismatic Spring … and #worthit.

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Plus we got held up by a Yellowstone traffic jam on the way out. Seriously saw probably over 100 bison. SO COOL!

After we escaped that, we stopped in town for lunch (we did have a simple snack at the park to help tide us over). We were going to try a barbecue place, but couldn’t find a server/anyone to tell us what to do (wait to be seated? seat ourselves?) … so we went a door or so down to the Canyon Street Grill for essentially a diner lunch. It did the trick. After, we grabbed a quick bit of ice cream at the City Creamery before heading out of town.

Our stop for the night (and indeed the next day or so) was Bozeman, Mont. Dinner that night was our first non-Starbucks chain stop … in Olive Garden. We didn’t feel like moving out of the hotel, so we called in an order and I made B go pick it up. It was food.

Thursday, June 27

We ate a quick breakfast at the hotel and then drove over to a local park to get a run in. Run done, it was (surprise, surprise) Starbucks time.

Today was mostly a lazy layover day in Bozeman that we scheduled in … but we did go to the Museum of the Rockies for two reasons:
1. DINOSAURS (duh)
2. free admission thanks to our DMNS membership.

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Humans would look really funny as sauropods.

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Never realized dinos grew so fast. Also: there were apparently burrowing dinosaurs. Which, if you take that modern birds descended from them, it makes sense – we do have burrowing owls.

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Well hello gorgeous.

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Triceratops skulls, from juvenile to adult.

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The museum also had a bit on early Montana history (settlers and whatnot) and also an exhibition on Genghis Khan that was pretty cool. The flow was such that you just went from exhibit to exhibit. Basically, you see everything whether you want to or not!

Lunch was cobbled together from a local grocery store, Heebs, and the rest of the afternoon was super chill. We ventured out that evening, grabbing sushi/teriyaki at Wasabi Japanese Steak House and then to Genuine Ice Cream Company downtown.

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Friday, June 28

One of my former SMASH teammates (and pro triathlete) Haley Chura lives in Bozeman and offered to swim “with” us (she’s way faster … it’s more like “share a pool with five lanes down”). I had hoped for Thursday, but Friday was when it could happen. So, we woke up early and headed to the Bozeman Swim Center where we got to swim in their gorgeous 50m pool (first time I’ve ever been in a 50m pool!). I didn’t get in much (didn’t eat prior), but it was still awesome. We talked to Haley, left to go pack up the car (and grab a small bite at the hotel), and then rejoined up with her and a few friends at the Feed.

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That’s how I like my cappuccino foam.

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After eating and chatting for a while, it was back on the road to head to Coeur d’Alene.

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The hotel was very athlete friendly.

We checked in to the race and grabbed lunch downtown at San Francisco Sourdough. Back to the hotel to digest and go for a shakeout run.

I had gotten a food suggestion from my friend Katie on Fire Pizza, but the wait there was INSANE for dinner, so we ended up at Cricket’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar which … well, it did the trick.

Saturday, June 29

At this point, the super fun part of our trip turned into race prep. We ate breakfast at the hotel and then drove down to get in a practice swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene. That lake? I miss it. So much.

We went back to the hotel to get on our bikes for one last shakeout spin.

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We stopped at Terre Coffee on our way to drop off our bikes/go to the athlete briefing. I highly recommend them – great homemade cinnamon rolls. Cappuccino was good, not great, but that cinnamon roll? So good.

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At the finish line!

Lunch was finally at Fire Pizza, and the recommendation was definitely worth it. We split a caprese salad and then each got our own pizza. I think B did a pepperoni and sausage. I did the pesto chicken with added mushrooms.

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So delicious. We saved the leftovers and ate them on our drive two days later.

Dinner was our standard breakfast-for-dinner, which we got at a local place called Elmer’s Restaurant. Sure, you can mostly find an IHOP, or Village Inn, or Denny’s anywhere, but to be able to find a local place like this? So much better, and Elmer’s did the trick. I’d recommend them, too.

Sunday, June 30

For the purposes of this story, Sunday was race day. Early wake up, breakfast at the hotel (thank you so much Hampton Inn for putting it out early for us athletes!), “lunch” eaten while on the bike and at the post-race athlete feed.

We did venture out again for dinner post-race and got burgers at Coeur d’Alene Taphouse Unchained (… I think?), which did the trick.

Monday, July 1

We got a bit of a lazy start … mostly because we were actually able to sleep and sleep well post-race. Breakfast was at the hotel and coffee was back at Terre Coffee as we met up with a friend of mine to finally be able to have the time to sit and chat. We left Betsy, grabbed more coffee at Starbucks (… one of those days), and then headed out of town with Billings, Mont., our destination for the night.

Besides snacking on all the other random food we had on us (watermelon leftover from our lunch in Bozeman, leftover pizza), lunch was a small bite at a Taco Bell in Butte. We stopped in Bozeman again to hopefully find some of the most delicious root beer known to man (Grand Teton Brewing Company’s Old Faithful Root Beer). We picked up a few cans at Genuine Ice Cream – yes, we went back. I got a root beer float – but that was the only place we got it as we called around to five different places and nothing.

Dinner was another chain in Texas Roadhouse … mostly because it was next door to our hotel in Billings and we didn’t have to venture too far.

Tuesday, July 2

We woke up decently early in Billings to be able to hit the road. As much as we loved our trip … it was time to get home.

Stopped at Starbucks for coffee (go figure) and then to Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery in downtown Billings for breakfast. B had eaten there on a layover and said they had dino pancakes … which dude.

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They were good … but the waitress made me feel like a complete idiot for ordering them. It’s not what she said (nothing), but the look that she gave me throughout my order, making me try to justify getting them. I’m sorry, but that’s rude, and made both of us never want to go back there. B had loved that place and they put a very sour taste in both our mouths.

Then it was just I-90 east to I-25 south to home (with a stop at Waffle House in Frederick for lunch).