2017’s September Road Trip: Part One

So clearly it seems like I’m doing a September road trip every year now … which I guess makes sense, given that our anniversary is in September and we often find a trip to do this time of year. This year, we knew we needed to be in California to race Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz, so we decided to drive on out and then hit Las Vegas on the way back.

Wednesday, September 6:

We left fairly early Wednesday morning, with Salt Lake City, Utah, as our final destination. We had a few options – through the mountains on I-70, adding some extra time to go through Dinosaur, or up I-25 and cut across Wyoming on I-80. Ultimately, we decided on the latter, which was an awesome decision. Wyoming went by super quickly. Utah? Well, Utah is weird.

We rolled into Salt Lake City … and, more to the point, the suburb of Layton, so we could see the house that B lived in for a few years when he was younger.

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It was about as he remembered, with slightly different landscape.

After some deliberation, we decided to keep pressing on to the border, choosing to stop in Wendover, Utah. Which ended up being awesome, because we were able to stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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Kidlet perspective.

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On the salt flats.

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I in theory could have driven Fiona on them, but chose not to.

In Wendover … we stayed at possibly the sketchiest Quality Inn we’ve ever encountered. Seriously. I didn’t feel safe leaving our (thousand dollars worth of) tri bikes in the car, so we unpacked those even though we hadn’t planned on it until Santa Cruz. I’m also pretty sure I slept like crap thinking I was going to die. We had to close the security door because it had been propped open for who knows how long.

FUTURE NOTE TO SELF: ALWAYS READ THE REVIEWS. ALWAYS.

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We stayed on the Utah side of things.

Thursday, September 7:

After the worst night of sleep in a really long time, we woke up at least a good hour earlier than planned, packed the hell up, ate breakfast at one of the random casinos on the Nevada side of things, and got the fuck out of Dodge.

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Peace out, Wendover Will.

Most of the day was spent driving across Nevada. So exciting, in general.

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Nevada.

We did make a tiny detour in Reno, just for a picture and to pop into the Circus Circus where I do actually remember visiting when I was a wee child.

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I’m a tourist.

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After Reno, it was just pressing on to Sacramento to see where I lived for a few years when I was a kid. (I’m a Colorado native, but we did spend a few years in the Sacto ‘burbs thanks to a job shift of my dad’s.)

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I don’t miss you, house. However, you’re missing your lilac (honeysuckle?) bush in front.

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Church we used to attend. The school we went to is to the left and down the hill.

For dinner, we went to a burger place we used to go back in the day, Jasper’s Giant Hamburgers.

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It totally still looks the same.

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As for the taste? Welllll, let’s just say good ol’ Jasper’s can stay on Memory Lane. Beef was very mediocre, and the fries are now normal as opposed to the fried potato rounds (think the buffalo chips from Buffalo Wild Wings) they used to have, which were the bomb.

After dinner, we went to our (happily researched, safe area) Springhill Suites in Roseville, another Sacramento suburb.

When we pick back up … our second installment will be Santa Cruz!

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On Tucson in August

I went to Tucson at the beginning of the month so I could go to tri camp.

I drove down a day early, on August 2nd, so I didn’t have to rush getting to the first swim session on time.

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Driving.

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This really doesn’t do the clouds justice.

Tucson was still in monsoon season – or at least the tail end – and I experienced rain on my drive in. I don’t believe I have ever seen the desert that green – or, at the very least, have ever experienced it humid, which it was. Completely crazy. I texted my dad about it, and he said the best thing about the desert post-rain is the smell, and it did smell amazing, even by my hotel.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures during camp – my main focus was to get through it, and I did that. I did get to experience a new part of the region, though, in Sonoita and Parker Canyon Lake. The latter, about two hours southeast of Tucson, was like being in a whole other state. The saguaro? Didn’t exist down there. I felt like I saw more trees than cacti.

Post-camp, B came down so we got to spend a day together. Before I picked him up from the airport, I stopped for breakfast at Bisbee Breakfast Club.

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Menu. I had the Daredevil.

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Food.

I wanted pretty standard, so I went with pretty standard, but it was good. I’d go again to try something a bit more fancy for sure.

After I picked up B, we mostly just drove around. Neither of us wanted a crazy day (plus it was hot … that summer in the desert thing …), so it worked out. I showed him a lot of what I did in camp, which included driving where we rode at Gates Pass.

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You get a sense of how green everything is here. We even saw some blooms still on the saguaro, which is RIDICULOUS.

Besides driving around, I also wanted to bring home some green corn tamales for the family. I found a different place to try – La Mesa Tortillas – which was the smart move. Their tamales are so much better than Tucson Tamale Company (in my opinion), and their tortillas are to die for. Seriously. We bought some on a whim and it was the best decision.

We decided on a nicer dinner, so chose El Corral. I’m pretty sure I’d been there before, but it was probably somewhere back in the early 1990s, so I didn’t remember too much about it.

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We started off with their spinach artichoke dip, which had too much spinach in it to be good. Would not recommend (unless you like more of a spinach dip) or get again. For dinner, so many things looked good. Ultimately, B got their prime rib (delicious), and his baked potato was one of the best I’ve had. I got a combo, with mesquite grilled chicken (just a tad too heavy on the pepper; otherwise perfect) and their baby back ribs (cooked well; just didn’t like their BBQ sauce).

The main reason we chose them over another steakhouse we were looking at was solely for dessert. They had a mud pie on the menu, and a good, proper mud pie is hard to find.

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Not bad. Too much chocolate mousse, not enough cookie crust.

We were going to split it, but then B realized that the seasonal fruit cobbler was peach, so he ended up with that instead.

We met up with our TriSports friends Seton and Debbie after dinner at a local pub for a drink (well, B drank) as a great way to close out the trip.

The next day, a nice long drive back home with a killer sunrise.

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Tucson Spring 2017

If that “live where you vacation” thing is accurate, we’re probably going to end up moving to Tucson at some point. Probably when we’re old. When we can handle the 100+ degree temperatures in the summer. Probably. Maybe.

This trip was originally hopefully going to be in early May and comprise of a training camp, but then we kind of took a month off of training and we realized the May dates weren’t going to work but we still really wanted to go and long story short … we went in early April, instead, when we were originally in theory supposed to be in Chicago for the Frozen Four.

I think we were both happier in the desert sunshine as opposed to the rainy Midwest.

Tuesday, April 4:

We knew it was probably going to snow the day we headed out of town, but we didn’t realize it was as bad as it ended up being. I’m pretty sure the storm I was supposed to hit on the first driving back from Albuquerque got delayed and combined into this one. That meant that the three hours it normally takes to get across the border into New Mexico? Took over five. Walsenberg to Trinidad should take maybe a half-hour. It took us double that.

From home to probably just before Santa Fe, N.M., we were driving through snow and ice. Southern Colorado after Colorado Springs through the border was us going 20 to 25 miles per hour (35 if we got lucky), seeing multiple cars off the side of the road, seeing a car spin out in front of us heading up Raton Pass, feeling us fishtail at one point.

All in all, it meant a good seven hours of white-knuckle driving. It was TERRIBLE.

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Front of my car. Photo taken in Las Vegas, N.M., where it was thankfully just rainy.

We rolled into Tucson right around 8pm Tucson time so really 9pm our time. A 12.5 hour drive (usually) turned into a 17 hour drive.

Wednesday, April 5:

We were staying at the Hilton Tucson East, more on the southern (and obviously eastern) end of town.

Wednesday was actually fairly chill, just driving around and exploring. We stopped somewhere if we felt like stopping – like at the La Encantada shopping center – but it was mostly just enjoying the fact that we were finally on vacation.

We went for a short bike ride that afternoon and played some cards by the pool, but all in all, it was a very chill, agenda-free day.

Thursday, April 6:

Thursday was an earlier wake up call due to where we wanted to hit breakfast (food post coming later this week) and then we went trail running up at Sabino Canyon.

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After the run, we went back to the hotel to shower and then went off to Tohono Chul Park to go look at cactus and use our botanic garden reciprocity. Because we like “free.”

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It was awesome and peaceful, just like any good botanic garden should be. We explored almost all of it, except for one of the longer trails because we were both getting hungry at that point.

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Crested saguaro! With a face!

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Tucson life goals: see a blooming saguaro done!

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Gorgeous blooms.

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Accurate.

We hit lunch and then were so stuffed from lunch that we spent a super lazy afternoon flopped at the hotel. Dinner really ended up not being a thing that night.

We did venture back out to Sabino Canyon to try to get my elusive sunset shot, but once again … fail. I finally did my version of one of B’s standard photos, though.

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Friday, April 7:

Friday morning saw us head to Saguaro National Park where we ended up purchasing the annual national parks and federal recreational lands pass. Since I’m quitting and we normally try to get a Rocky Mountain National Park pass, we figured the nationwide pass was a smart idea. As long as we do five more visits to parks/rec lands (easy as we need to hike a lot this summer), it’ll pay for itself. Seemed like a no-brainer.

We went to Saguaro mostly to hike around. And obviously take pictures.

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B and saguaro.

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Dinosaur perspective.

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“These are my people.”

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Hehe, it’s wavy.

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Dead saguaro.

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Desert.

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All the blooming ocotillos were stunning.

On the drive back … Tucson life goals: see a gila monster in the wild done! Almost ran the little bugger over with my car so unfortunately couldn’t get a picture.

We hit up lunch after Saguaro and that afternoon, met up to shop at SMASH HQ so I could try on some things before I bought them. Plus lots of time spent chatting with Hillary and Maik is never bad.

Dinner that night and then a way less stressful drive home on Saturday.

Arizona Trip, November 2016

Way back at the end of November, I road-tripped down to Arizona. This was ostensibly to volunteer at IRONMAN Arizona, but I also spent a few days in Tucson at either end, because why not.

Thursday, November 17:

The drive. Very long, very windy day. Worst gas mileage I have ever gotten.

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Sunset.

Friday, November 18:

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Dinosaurs at the hotel. Stayed at the Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon.

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I may have killed many tumbleweeds the day prior … My car still had one in its jaws.

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I wandered the Fourth Street District a bit, trying something new in Tucson. I came across this guy, a remnant of the ancient old Magic Carpet Golf mini golf course, i.e. the best mini golf EVER. R.I.P.

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Lunch was all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Garden. I technically should have been charged for some of my food, as I didn’t quite finish it, but the waitress was awesome and let me slide. Much appreciated!

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I spent a bit of time that evening trying to get the elusive awesome sunset saguaro shot. As you can see, I didn’t quite get there. Someday …

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I am so thankful that I can, because I know so many people who just don’t get the desert’s appeal.

Saturday, November 19:

Drove up to Tempe. Saw this guy on Mill:
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Hung out at the IMAZ expo, both simultaneously experiencing some FOMO and also VERY glad to not be racing. Ran into my friend Simon, because why wouldn’t I run into someone I know. Picked Brandon up from the airport.

Sunday, November 20:

Spectated IMAZ.

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Got the hardest high-five ever from Simon here at the bike turnaround.

Mostly spent most of the evening volunteering at the TriSports.com aid station, having a blast as always.

Monday, November 21:

Drove back down to Tucson.

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Got lunch at delicious Lucky Wishbone.

Checked into the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass.

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Went to Casa Molina for dinner.

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Mmm, cheese crisp. Weird Sonoran thing, but delicious.

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Dinner, with a demolished green corn tamale (the only tamale I will eat).

Tried out the Screamery for ice cream.

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I tried the Mississippi Mudpie, which is an “infused coffee ice cream with hand-made dark chocolate cookies and chocolate swirl.” It was … okay. Not sure we’d return. We’re both really realizing that we don’t like “fancy” ice cream.

Tuesday, November 22:

Went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, since we hadn’t gone in several years.

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Rare crested saguaro!

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Creative and funny.

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Standard “Brandon hugging a cactus” photo.

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Saguaro.

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Squeaky (Gustave) on a cactus.

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All the frogs!

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Cranky roadrunner.

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Dinosaurs in the desert.

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Brandon’s ideal backyard.

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The Desert Museum has sting rays now!

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Chilling back at the hotel.

We tried out the Catalina BBQ Company, one of the (off-site) hotel restaurants for dinner, partially because we had heard good things about it.

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I had the pulled pork; it wasn’t bad. Fries were pretty terrible, proving my theory that fries at barbecue joints just aren’t good.*

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Brandon had the pork, wings, and the macaroni and cheese. Everything tasted okay buuuut …

Wednesday, November 23:

… we think the wings gave Brandon food poisoning, as he was super sick for the drive home.

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Not a fun time. Except for the food poisoning, though, overall a good trip down to the desert with a few new experiences.

* Notable exception being, of course, the Germantown Commissary.

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)

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.

IMAZ Trip

In November, Brandon and I also drove down to Tempe, Ariz., to volunteer and ultimately sign up for Ironman Arizona.

I recapped the volunteer experience on our tri blog, but I wanted to share the basic trip here.

We left late Wednesday night after I got off work, planning to do most of the drive overnight. We made it into New Mexico and to a rest stop not too far out of Las Vegas, N.M. where we stopped to crash for a few hours. After about three hours of sleep (and the two of us shared driving/napping duties), we woke up and continued on, stopping in Socorro for a breakfast sandwich from a gas station, where I saw this across the way.
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We got back on the road and save for gas, didn’t stop again until we hit Arizona and The Thing.
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The Thing is a piece of roadside Americana (if you will) that has been around as long as I can remember. We’d drive down to Tucson for Christmas when¬†I was a kid and always pass it by. My brother and I would always want to stop (you see billboards for it for at least 50 miles, if not more) but we never did … well, at least until a few years back. I can’t remember now whether it was high school or college, but we finally saw it. I’m not going to ruin the surprise, but it probably wasn’t worth the stop. Luckily, it was only around $5 for the three of us (dad, brother and I; mom stayed in the car) to see it.

So, as Brandon and I did this, our second desert drive, I talked him into stopping. I figured we needed a break (we needed food anyway) and this kitschy roadside crap is worth seeing at least once, right?

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After The Thing, we powered on to Tucson for lunch. The standard stops ensued – eegee’s for a slushy, Wienerschnitzel for fries, Lucky Wishbone for fried shrimp and garlic toast (for me) and then on to In-N-Out for a double double protein style (for Brandon). This delicious (but bad for you) food is the reason why we’re going to Tucson AFTER we do IMAZ next year.

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Lunch (and then gas) and then on to Phoenix (well, Scottsdale) to Brandon’s (great) aunt and uncle’s house which would be our home for the weekend. It was great to see Bernie and Judy and meet their dachshund, Sophie.
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We had a meet up with some of our fellow MX12 VIPers on Friday, so we headed down to Mill Ave./Tempe Town Lake.

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Mill Ave.

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Meet up.

After, we met up with one of Brandon’s friends from college who owns a Trek bike shop in West Phoenix and then some more In-N-Out (mainly for me).
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Saturday, we checked in for the four different areas we were volunteering for and then worked bike check-in, which was fun and informative.
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When we were done, we met back up with Uncle Bernie and Aunt Judy, who took us up to Greasewood Flats, a really cool restaurant up in the foothills.
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After a fun night, it was time to sleep, for we had an early wake-up call since we had to be at Tempe Beach Park at about the same time as the athletes.

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Pre-race.

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Athletes on their way.

We stripped/peeled wetsuits, took a break, and then it was off to sunscreening.
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After sunscreening and another break, we volunteered at the TriSports.com-run run aid station, which had a disco theme.
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After that shift ended, it was off to the park again to camp out so we could be (first!) in line to register for next year.
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Given that online registration sold out in 40 seconds this year, this ended up being a great idea.

We took the rest of Monday pretty easy and then hit the road early Tuesday, taking the northern route out of the Phoenix area and Arizona and back to I-25 off of I-40, something I’d never done before.
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(right near the 25/40 interchange)

Then back home with plenty of time to enjoy Thanksgiving.