Colorado State Parks Project, Part Two

I made it a goal of mine last year to visit all of the Colorado State Parks. I’m not sure if it was a combination of me wanting to just explore the state more, or give myself something to do since I was no longer working or what … but it was an awesomely fun project. This is the second of two posts on the quest.

July 13, State Forest State Park

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This one was a bit of a drive to get to and we almost got lost … but it was actually really gorgeous. And huge.

Will I return?: I definitely want to. We only did a few short hikes due to time constraints but the longer ones looked awesome. Plus there are apparently a ton of moose in this park and while we heard their calls … we saw no moose. I want to see moose!

July 19, Elkhead Reservoir State Park

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I was a little cranky at this one. This was a long day trip to hit up all five parks in the Steamboat Springs area. I got up early, stopped on the side of the road to catch the absolutely gorgeous sunrise that morning … and somehow got my first speeding ticket in a decade (and first in the state of Colorado). I was not entirely happy. I don’t speed these days! I was getting passed all the time! Oh well. Such is life.

Will I return?: Not to this one. The parks that are mostly just reservoirs/lakes (this, Harvey Gap, Jackson Lake, etc.) aren’t entirely for me right now. I don’t boat and I don’t fish. I do swim, but not all of these inspire a want for open water swimming.

July 19, Yampa River State Park

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Easy peasy to find, right off the main highway going through town.

Will I return?: No reason to, really. Unless I’m driving up there and B wants to see it.

July 19, Steamboat Lake State Park

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This and the next park were basically across the street from each other. A little buggy, but I guess that’s to be expected.

Will I return?: I was initially thinking not – really no reason to – but there’s a tri I’m tossing around doing at the end of July that will be held here so maybe?

July 19, Pearl Lake State Park

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This park was a bit confusing. Not to find, but to access what I might want to access.

Will I return:? Weirdly enough, I think I’d like to. I saw some people stand-up paddleboarding and was insanely jealous (totally something I want to learn). Also, I’m betting that park has some great hiking. I just have to find it …

July 19, Stagecoach State Park

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Final stop of the day. Needed to hike, so chose to here (even though the path I found was easy peasy). I was drooling over the roads on the drive, thinking I may need to haul my bike up to train on the rolling hills for IMoo.

Will I return?: I’d like to! This park captured me in some way and I would love to explore it some more. And obviously ride my bike on the roads outside it.

August 14, Highline Lake State Park

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Another day where the fire haze was awful. Also another day that I hit up multiple parks. But when I need to drive to the other side of the state … Highline Lake is on the western slope, probably like 8 miles from the Utah border.

Will I return?: Probably not. See: Elkhead Reservoir.

August 14, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park

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So this park actually has five “outposts” if you will, which makes sense because the Colorado River is huge. I stopped at two of them – the one in Fruita, where this photo was taken, and the Island Acres section just off I-70 (where I got evacuated thanks to a fire just off the highway).

Will I return?: Maybe, if only to hit up the other three sections. I’ve driven past one of the others, but still have yet to spot the other two …

August 14, Vega State Park

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Another park where it was totally more about the journey. The drive to Vega (on main roads) was fairly outstanding. When it came time to leave, I could go back from whence I came (and technically backtrack in direction), or go the road less traveled. I chose the latter … and ended up on bumpy, washboard dirt roads. All about the adventure, right?

I also didn’t stay long because fire haze. Air quality was shit.

Will I return?: Most likely not, no.

September 3, Trinidad Lake State Park

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Okay, technically I was first here on the first. B had a long(ish) layover in Tucson on the 2nd and you know me – I am all about the desert – so I dropped him off at the airport early in the morning and then drove on down. I hoped to try to catch the sunrise at the park, but that was not to be. Instead, I stopped again on my drive home. That drive home was a miserable rainy mess (okay, both directions were in a lot of ways) and the park was gloomy and I think the picture captured that well.

Will I return?: Probably not. Unless I find myself in Trinidad for some reason and need to run …

September 3, Lake Pueblo State Park

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Where Trinidad was gloomy and rainy, Pueblo was not. I stopped here to run and it was pretty awesome (the park, not my run). The trail system in the park actually goes all the way to downtown Pueblo which is really cool. If there is one actual main lake in Lake Pueblo State Park, I didn’t see it.

Will I return?: I would definitely consider it. I enjoyed my time here. Except for the times I’ve played hockey, probably the best time I’ve had in Pueblo.

September 14, Crawford State Park

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Another park where the drive to get there was more fun than the park itself. Although to be honest I don’t think I saw Crawford at its full glory – the water levels here looked to be pretty freaking low …

Will I return:? Doubtful. It’s way out of the way and doesn’t have a truly compelling reason for me to want to go back.

September 14, Paonia State Park

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This was the only park on my list that had a time constraint, as it’s only open May-October. One of the most gorgeous drives to get there. I also got to pull off and see a roadside waterfall on the way, so bonus points there.

Will I return?: Mostly a camping park, so probably not. Unless I start that up.

September 23, Navajo State Park

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This was one of the parks I was stressing about hitting the most as it’s not the easiest to get to (and Colorado technically shares it with New Mexico as it straddles the border). I figured it was just going to end up being one long 14-15 hour day to get there, take some pictures, and go back home. Thankfully, my wonderful husband decided to indulge me on going to Las Vegas for our anniversary trip the long way … so we got to see Navajo that way (and the next park and Mesa Verde and then Horseshoe Bend the next day …)

Will I return?: Most likely not. I don’t camp and I don’t boat and it is REALLY out of the way.

September 23, Mancos State Park

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As you can see, we decided to do a trail run in Mancos. The trail was a lot more difficult than we expected, but it was still super awesome.

Will I return?: I’d like to! I enjoyed the run and would love to hike around more. I actually passed the turn off for this park on my next parks trip, but the schedule didn’t allow for a return.

October 16, San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area

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A.K.A. The state park that wasn’t.

San Luis Lakes is (or at least was when I first decided on this project) on the CPW site, the signs on the way to it all say “San Luis Lakes State Park” on them … but as I found out later, this has actually been changed to a state wildlife area. Oops. Whatever, I marked it off and, as you can kind of see in the background, it’s right near the Great Sand Dunes … which I visited right before.

Will I return?: As it’s not actually a state park … no. No reason to.

October 16, Lone Mesa

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Ugh, Lone Mesa. Lone Mesa is state land that hasn’t officially reached State Park designation … but since I accidentally kinda wrote it down in the bullet journal … I went off to find it. I followed the directions for it, but saw no signage. To this day I’m still not entirely sure I found it. But, as a friend commented on my insta post of the above picture, “Looks like a lonely mesa. #nailedit”.

Will I return?: If it ever freaking gets designated as an actual state park … yes. On principle.

October 17, Ridgway State Park

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I knew I would have to do an overnight trip (or two) to get parks at one point, and this was the designated trip for that. After the Lone Mesa debacle, I stayed the night just outside of Telluride (more at the ski resort, not in town) before hitting up the other two parks on the agenda. Ridgway was the first. The drive? Oh, so amazing. The park? Well, I could stop at the river or drive into the park. I just stopped at the river. Apparently I should have done both.

Will I return?: I initially thought no, but a friend says that’s her favorite state park and apparently the inside of the park is super awesome, so I’m thinking that’s a yes, I will have to go back. Honestly I’m totally cool doing that drive again so …

October 17, Sweitzer Lake State Park

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This would normally not be a park that I would be interested in (really no hiking, kinda small, really just a lake), but for some reason, it captured me. Maybe it was the tire swing at the playground. Who knows.

Will I return?: Hopefully! This lake just screamed out to me to swim in it. So I will.

October 20, John Martin Reservoir State Park

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The last of the eastern parks, this one in SE Colorado. Go to Pueblo, hang a left on 50, keep driving past La Junta and Rocky Ford to a town called Hasty. That’s where you’ll find this park. The main plus about this one (besides seeing more of the state) was that it was only a short (30-45 minutes?) detour to the state border with Oklahoma and as OK was a state I still needed to hit … I did that. Had my phone change time zones and everything.

Will I return?: I don’t boat, so probably no need.

October 20, Lathrop State Park

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At this point, I had actually had several opportunities to knock this park off (at least three), but I wanted to save it for last as it was actually Colorado’s first designated state park. I thought it would be cool to see Colorado’s first as my personal last. So I did.

Will I return?: I’d like to. B was along for this final park venture (all in all, he went to 13 with me on the actual day, and two others on different occasions) and he really liked Lathrop. I also would have liked to explore it more.

*****

This project was awesome. I got a Parks Passport too late in the project to actually get it stamped everywhere (and a good chunk of them I visited beyond visitor center hours), but I don’t need that to know that I DID IT.

The best part of the project was exploring parts of Colorado I’d never seen before. The biggest reason I would advise others to do something like this is it takes you to parts of the state you may have never seen. You’ll see farming communities, small towns.

As it was finished before Election Day … I think it influenced my vote some. Too often do we choose to vote for something that would only benefit US, without thinking of how it will impact others. There is a lot more to Colorado than just Denver/Boulder/ski resort towns. So much more. The needs of someone in Rocky Ford, or Olathe, or Julesburg, or Telluride, or Cortez, or wherever else are a lot different than what mine are here in Denver. It made me think … what helps me most while simultaneously NOT causing harm to others? A tax on x might help me, but it might cripple someone in one of those other places. Well that’s no good. A tax on y, however, might aid both. Or aid me without harming the other.

Colorado is a wonderful state, and it is so much more than just the mountains. Get out and explore it.

Colorado State Parks Project, Part One

I made it a goal of mine last year to visit all of the Colorado State Parks. I’m not sure if it was a combination of me wanting to just explore the state more, or give myself something to do since I was no longer working or what … but it was an awesomely fun project. This is the first of two posts on the quest.

January 1, Cherry Creek State Park

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CCSP is also my “home” park. It’s about a six mile bike ride away. I raced my first triathlon there. I often run and ride there. It’s also where I go and catch a lot of sunrises. I figured there was no better way than to welcome in the new year by heading over and catching the sunrise.

Will I return?: Yes. I have often, and will continue to do so.

January 3, Barr Lake State Park

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Barr Lake isn’t too far away from DIA (although it’s actually kind of an annoying drive from Denver), and I went and caught the sunrise there. Wasn’t the best place to see the actual sun rise, but if you like watching airplanes, it’s not a bad place to go.

Will I return?: I’d like to. I guess there’s a seven mile long trail that circles the lake and I think it would be great for running.

January 12, St. Vrain State Park

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Most of the early state parks I tried to catch the sunrise at … because as we know, I’m a sunrise chaser. There was too much ambient light from the businesses by the interstate to get a good one here.

Will I return?: Probably not. I know there’s camping and fishing here, but not a lot of hiking, and that’s generally what I like to do at parks.

January 17, Boyd Lake State Park

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A makeshift hockey rink had been set up on Boyd Lake, which automatically endeared myself to it.

Will I return?: … unless I can be guaranteed some outside pond hockey, probably not.

January 29, Chatfield State Park

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I have ridden my bike into Chatfield more than I have ever driven into Chatfield … but I did see some good sunrises there last year. Less than I would have liked since it’s actually probably more of a drive than it’s worth to get there from the house and half the park is (was?) under construction.

Will I return?: Most likely. I really should try to hit up a few more sunrises there. I’ll also inevitably end up there on my bike at some point again, too.

February 24, Eldorado Canyon State Park

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Terrible place to catch the sunrise. I actually didn’t explore too much here, as I went there before a morning engagement in Boulder. Also the road was snow-covered and venturing too far into the park didn’t seem like a wise idea.

Will I return?: Yes. I’d love to go back and actually explore the park some more. I meant to in the summer, but it never happened.

March 2, Cheyenne Mountain State Park

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A sunrise trip where I left my poor sick husband in bed. Not a good place to catch the sunrise, but I got to hear morning reveille at Ft. Carson which was pretty cool.

Will I return?: Yes! So many trails I’d love to explore.

March 22, Golden Gate Canyon State Park

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I so hoped to get a good sunrise shot here, but by where the lake is in the park … it didn’t work out. Which was a total bummer, too, because the sky looked awesome on my drive back down into Golden.

Will I return?: Yes! I’d actually already technically been here before. However, I still haven’t managed to go hiking here. Next time. I promise.

May 2, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

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Stopped by to take a photo for this one on the drive back from renewing my National Parks pass. I love this area, so it was no sacrifice on my end. Also of note: first park I didn’t attempt at sunrise.

Will I return?: Absolutely. I love Salida, and I love rafting, and I’ve been rafting on this river/in this area before. I also would love to learn how to kayak one of these days …

May 9, Lory State Park

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The above is the shot that made the Instagrams, but I had an absolutely awesome golden hour shot (literally golden toned) that I still kind of regret not using. Made an extra early trip up to essentially Fort Collins before heading to pick up B at the airport.

Will I return?: I’d love to. So many fun trails to explore …

May 17, Roxborough State Park

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This was an insanely warm day in May … and I’m sometimes terribly unprepared for hiking (I was in Birks) … but this was a fun one. One of the close parks in the Denver metro area (not too terribly far from Chatfield, actually) but one that I had somehow missed and never gone to before.

Will I return?: Yes. In fact, I went back later that summer with B and hiked the same trail. Would love to go back and do some of the more advanced trails.

May 23, Castlewood Canyon State Park

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Another park that I’ve actually been to before, but one that I always enjoy hiking around.

Will I return?: Yes. And ideally I’ll actually head to the other end of the park and hike around there instead.

June 7, Staunton State Park

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Clearly by now you notice that I ideally like hiking to water … and I do whenever possible. This was one of the shortest hikes in the park, but it was pretty.

Will I return?: I would love to, especially for some of the longer hikes.

June 14, Mueller State Park

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Lost Pond, found. I had some adventure at this park – finding an open bathroom before I even started hiking, and then finding a trail that sounded interesting … it was a morning.

Will I return?: I would like to, yes. I enjoyed the small hike I did and would love to do some longer hiking as well.

June 14, Eleven Mile State Park

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From here on out, you’ll notice that I actually hit up quite a few parks on the same day. Some are grouped closely enough (and far enough away from home) that it made more sense to just knock out a whole bunch in one day. Mueller, Eleven Mile, and Spinney Mountain made sense to hit together, though I spent the most time at Mueller.

Will I return?: Unless I feel like renting a canoe/kayak … probably not. Although I could get in some nice OWS …

June 14, Spinney Mountain State Park

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You literally had to drive through Eleven Mile to get to Spinney Mountain, so obviously those two were getting clumped together. The drive to get to all of these was pretty awesome, and on my back through to the Springs (you head out on US 24 to access these parks), I actually saw a bear run across the road, so that was cool.

Will I return?: See above for Eleven Mile. Unless the husband wants to fish … probably not.

June 23, Jackson Lake State Park

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One of two state parks in the northeast corner of the state. There aren’t many on the eastern plains, which is a shame, because I feel like it’s an under-visited (read: boring) part of Colorado. Which it’s not – well, compared to mountains, I get it – but it has its own beauty.

Will I return?: Probably not. Not only was it a pain to get to (fun adventure, but still a pain), it didn’t really have the things in it that I’m interested in (hiking, mainly).

June 24, North Sterling State Park

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In theory, I was supposed to race a tri here, but I ended up not feeling it. That definitely wasn’t the park’s fault, though.

Will I return?: I’d actually like to. Whether to try the same race again, or just to visit, I actually liked this one more than Jackson Lake. Although hopefully there will be fewer gnats swarming next time …

June 26, Sylvan Lake State Park

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The last on the list that I had visited before. Sylvan Lake is just outside of Vail and therefore somewhat accessible. I had previously visited the prior October, before the lake went under construction, and did a nice hike around it.

Will I return?: I’d like to. I’m sure there are more trails than just the one around the lake, and I’d like to find them.

July 5, Rifle Falls State Park

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For my birthday, I wanted to hit up a few more parks, and there’s a cluster of three just outside of Rifle. As I love waterfalls … that was the plan. I got to do a nice hike to the falls (although you could park at a much closer lot and just walk to them). There are also some fun little caves around the falls that were fun to explore.

Will I return?: I’d like to! This was definitely one of my favorite parks … but that could be just because I’m a sucker for waterfalls.

July 5, Harvey Gap State Park

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(forgive the fact that I’m in pretty much all of the July photos and in different outfits; #31daysofSkirtSports is a thing in my world and I did a lot of outfit changes …)

The lake here was super low, possibly because of drought, or because of usage. Or both.

Will I return?: Doubtful. Looked kind of boring and also looked like it didn’t get a lot of funding in general.

July 5, Rifle Gap State Park

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I would have actually considered swimming here had not the air quality been so bad due to fires. Also technically should have been the first park visited as you pass by its entrance prior to both Rifle Falls and Harvey Gap, but we went to the furthest park first and then worked our way back out (opposite of how I did Mueller/Eleven Mile/Spinney Mountain).

Will I return?: Probably not, but I can’t say for sure.

The Great Southern Road Trip: Days One and Two

For our fifth wedding anniversary this year, we decided to take a road trip to race Ironman Chattanooga and cross a whole bunch of states off my list. This is the story of that trip.

Day One: 9.19

We left Colorado fairly early Monday morning. As I did before IMAZ, I marked up Fiona the Rav before hitting the road.

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(144.6 as opposed to 140.6, because the IMChoo course has an extra four miles on the bike.)

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Bye, state. See you again in about two weeks!

The first day saw us drive to Lansing, Kan. (just outside of Kansas City), to stay with our friends Norm and Emily. Norm was recently stationed in Leavenworth and while in general we believe we’re beyond couch-surfing, if our friends offer a free bed and free food, we’ll take them up on their hospitality.

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Oasis on the Plains. Fancy rest stop in Kansas.

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Downtown Leavenworth.

States Hit: 2 (CO, KS)
New States Hit: 0

Day Two: 9.20

We left Norm and Emily’s house fairly early so as to get back on the road. We continued our long haul on I-70 towards Tennessee.

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Bugs on my sideview mirror. Gross.

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St. Louis Gateway Arch.

We powered through, knowing that the first two days of the trip (and probably the last day or two) would be the boring days. We stopped for the night just outside of Nashville, Tenn., where we planned a layover day.

States Hit: 4 (KS, MO, KY, TN)
New States Hit: 2 (KY, TN)

Glenwood Hot Springs

About two weeks ago, Brandon and I took off to the mountains for a mini trip up to Glenwood Springs, primarily to check out the hot springs up there. Okay, and get out of town.

Driving I-70 west, we had always seen the Glenwood Hot Springs right off the highway on the north side of the road. However, we’d never stopped there. Finally, we decided to remedy that.

We went at night during the winter, so keep that in mind.

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In one of the pools.

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Steam coming off the water. It was … probably in the 20s or 30s out and the water was probably over 100 degrees?

It was … okay. Really, we’re not pool people. We’re fine being lazy for a little while, but then we get antsy. There were two pools open – both were warm, but one was hotter than the other. It may have been the therapy pool, but don’t quote me on that. The best time I had was spent in the cooler pool, just floating and staring up at the stars.

I know in the summer there’s more to do there, including water slides, but in terms of a hot springs, we both wished it had more of a natural feel … instead of feeling like we were in a slightly weird, giant pool. I know the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs are more natural – in a river where there are hot spots in it – so maybe we’ll check that out next time.

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Water jug repurposed as a fish tank. Seen at a coffee/doughnut shop near Copper Mountain on the drive down.

On the Great Minnesota Road Trip

In late August, I took a little over a week off work to drive to Minnesota for a small vacation. I detoured through Indianapolis to pick up Brandon from recurrent training and then continued on north. We hit up the Minnesota State Fair and I got to see the North Shore for the first time, which was super exciting (for me). Here is a glimpse into the trip, in photos.

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Working early on little sleep and then driving far (Denver to Independence, Mo.) meant I needed to stay awake. This photo is of me the most caffeinated I’ve been since probably high school.

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Well played, random Indiana sign. This actually makes sense.

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Dinner view in Indianapolis.

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Norske Nook, in Osseo, Wisc. Supposedly really good pie. I was disappointed in said pie.

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Across this bridge and into Minnesota.

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At the State Fair. Seen eating a dough-sant, the Minnesota version of a cronut. Super tasty.

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Brandon’s face after trying my breakfast sausage (in pancake batter) on a stick.

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From the top of the Giant Slide.

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Deep-fried pumpkin pie. Quite possibly the best thing I ate at the fair that day.

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Dinosaurs and cheese curds.

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U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minn.

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World’s largest hockey stick in Eveleth, Minn.

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On Shagawa Lake in Ely, Minn. Brandon spent a lot of his youth fishing for walleye on this lake.

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With my delicious walleye sandwich for dinner at Grandma’s in Duluth, Minn.

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Being a nerd at Split Rock Lighthouse.

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Split Rock.

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Dinosaurs at the lighthouse light … playing their own form of Wipeout.

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Split Rock.

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Lighthouse selfie.

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Gooseberry Falls.

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Upper Gooseberry Falls.

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View at lunch near Two Harbors, Minn.

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Sign at Black Bear Casino in Minnesota. Silly snowmobilers …

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Driving a tractor at the in-laws’ house.

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With the Herb Brooks statue just outside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

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At Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, Minn.

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Izzy’s Ice Cream, St. Paul, Minn.

Ironman Arizona Trip Photos

Hoo boy, has it been way too long since I’ve posted in here. I’d like to try to post more regularly here, but I’ve got some catching up to do.

Here are the posts I need to do to get caught up to present day:
– IMAZ travel post
– Boston trip
– a holiday post
– a combined third and fourth quarter style post
– Mythbusters exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Important, because I’ll have another Stock Show post soon, too. But, first things, first: IMAZ.

The main chunk of last year was spent training for Ironman Arizona. If you’re curious on how the race itself went, you can read the links from my tri blog:
Pre-Race
Race Day
Post-Race

But the race wasn’t the whole story. There was a drive to and from the race site. There were various photos taken. Here is a smattering:

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The car packed up with all our stuff.

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Stop in the Springs to see our friend Norm.

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New Mexico border.

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Solar panels outside Hatch, N.M.

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Union Pacific train.

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Arizona border.

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The old Lucky Wishbone location on Swan.

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In front of the sign of the new location on Swan.

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Brandon flopped in a hotel.

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Lamp (saw cool angles).

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Random restaurant in Tempe.

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Mike with his chocolate milk.

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Brandon and his chocolate milk (Minnesota boys, I swear …).

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With my incorrect and disappointing galaktibouriko.

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Run gear bags.

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Post-race cigar.

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We did it!

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Northern Arizona.

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Four Corners.

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Four Corners.

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Four Corners.

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Four Corners.

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Colorado border.

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Mural in Durango, Colo.

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Mountains.

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Mountains.

On April in Tucson

In mid-April, we chose to drive down to Tucson to buy new tri bicycles, something I discussed on our tri blog. However, it was also a nice mini-vacation, getting away from the snow in Denver … but sadly not avoiding the wind. I won’t get into the triathlon-side of things here – you can click the link above for that – but I will tell the story of the trip through some of the photos I took.

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We left in snow.

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Crossing the border into New Mexico.

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Breakfast at Frank’s/Francisco’s. So good. All this food also cost us less than $20.

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With my Lucky Wishbone and eegee’s for lunch.

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B and B Cactus Farm. Essentially a free desert botanic gardens. This was also one of the first times I’ve been able to see cacti in bloom, which was unbelievably awesome.

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Brandon enjoyed the cactus.

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Gustave enjoying driving around the city.

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Brandon and In-N-Out.

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The old Swan location, still standing, but no longer in use.

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We are not mature.

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I *heart* Lucky Wishbone.

We visited my “Aunt” Maxine after this, an old friend of my family who has known me since I was a baby. She’s … I think 99? 98? but in any case, nearing 100-years-old … and is still quite sharp.

We headed out of town after two short days, driving up to Scottsdale to visit some of Brandon’s family (Aunt Judy and Uncle Bernie, whom we stayed with in November) and then back down south so we could hit up Hatch for some chile stuff for my brother.

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The desert on our way out of town.

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Water mirage on the road ahead.

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Chile shop.

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The not-so-impressive Rio Grande.

After Hatch, we stopped in Truth or Consequences, N.M., for lunch at K-Bob’s steakhouse.
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We were a bit exhausted at this point.

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Food perked us up.

We slogged home, not reaching our beds until midnight, but one last thing of note: a bit before reaching the New Mexico/Colorado border, Fiona the Rav hit a milestone:
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