traveling time

Day 214

OK OK. I flew to Boston to pick up a milkshake and then finally got to San Diego. It was a lay-over because of the cheap ticket.

I love Jet Blue. I have been flying American, United and Delta. Recently the last few trips have been with Delta, but Jet Blue is above them all.

I got a free check luggage, well probably included in the price of the ticket and had also prority boarding. It doesn’t matter to me much since I was not using the overhead bin. Our flight was full and some people was forced to check their luggage too. They were not trilled.

I flew Jet Blue many many years ago when I went to Boston. I haven’t been back since then. Might have been 15+ years. The airport has changed. At least I couldn’t find McDonalds or maybe it was Burger King. Any way the food court was not how I remembered it. A lot changed in 15 years. There used to be a big food court and now it is a TSA security check. I got my Oreo Milk Shake and happily reboarded the plane to my destination. (and you know why I was hungry later on? no solid food for dinner).

The lady at a seat over was having her plate of Walburger on the plane with cup of fries and here I was thinking, why I didn’t think of that.

O why I love Jet Blue? Free WiFi!!! And electrical outlet at every seat. Thank you Amazon for partnering with JetBlue. They give air mileage points for shopping on Amazon and free Prime Video.

I had plenty of leg room. It is not business class but every seat feels like one. I flew Delta on my Chile trip and Jet Blue felt like it has way more leg room. It doesn’t matter for me, since I am ‘short’ any way. I am like an inch or two shorter than my peers, though I am a tall guy in my family.

The trip was long and by the time I landed it was 7:30 local but actually 10:30 back home and I was hungry and sleepy. I have been on the go since 8 in the morning, that was like 5 AM local. Cheap ticket I tell you. I was too tired to explore the city.

I ate at an authentic ‘Cantonese’ cuisine at the airport while waiting for my baggage at the baggage claim. Yes it has some Cantonese flavor – steam/boiled carots – tasted authentic alright. Everything was bland except for the mogolian beef with scallion. I love carrots but somehow I had no appetize. They just don’t look good when they are not cut right. It was a bit too thick and there were lot of them, whole plateful. Truly I finally realized the different between Cantonese vs the normal chinese carry-out that I eat every day in the East Coast. But chinese was probably cheapest meal I can afford at this time. I used to not mind paying $14-15 for a meal, but now that seems to be the minimum. My chinese dinner was $12. They did say expect the food to cost more here in San Diego.

I was still hungry after picking up my luggage and got a rental car. In no time I was zipping down Interstate-5. Didn’t know at the time but I had no clue where I was going. Just zipping down the highway toward Los Angeles. North was where I wanted to go.

I almost did not bring my phone on the trip. I would have been so lost and would not make it to the hotel. Another thing I almost forgot on the plane was my passport. The air attendant stopped me from going back into the plane to retrieve it, but luckily they found my passport and brought it to me.

I missed having a traveling companion like back in Chile, because I didn’t need to figure out where to go. I was now on auto pilot mode just following the flow. I had to tell myself, well wake up and find some direction otherwise I would be in big trouble. Um, where I am going again?

Luckily I booked everything on Orbitz and it had the direction to the hotel. With a few taps I got the map and navigation going.

I checked in at my hotel, staying in Best Western in Encinitas. I butchered the word many times over – to me it is a food. The hotel room was more beautiful than any other I have been in. I usually stayed in places like Days Inn. This was heavenly and all by myself! This race would costing me arm-and-leg at any other time but fortunately the price I paid for the stay is like any of my other previous trips.

Of course I am here for a Wedding. The marathon was something a bonus on top. Danged, my suit is ruined because I did not fold it properly. I thought I followed the directions as shown on YouTube of how to fold a suit. Anyhow, yup Wedding and then a race the next day.

I love my rental car too! Nissan Altima has plenty of zoom-zoom as a friend told me. It is my first time driving one. The guy at the counter was offering Nissan or Kia and I couldn’t say it fast enough give me the Nissan… like a race car or something. I know I wouldn’t take a race car if he hands me one. It has about the same horse power as my truck but in a much lighter and smaller body. I love it. Of course I was also thinking I am blowing away a month worth of food while driving the car (I have been very cheap with my meal lately – like $2 a day limit), and it pained me to pay that much for a rental. I love the car though. You paid for the feel.

That’s Day 1 of my trip. Best remembered by oreo milkshake from Boston and fast driving on the I-5.

Flying over Boston. I was trying to find the Gillette Stadium and didn’t know it wasn’t even in Boston. Duh.

Something

Day 213

Finally I did a couple short runs last week. That was monumental. All thanks to my running group. I finally got myself out of the door. It was good to be back on a regular schedule. I was glad to see familiar faces and some new faces in my running group.

up and coming – A Race! But you know, I feel like I am under prepared for an exam. All the plan I had about hitting the road running after my trip from Chile were up in flame. It was more like smothered out by the holiday season. Why I feel that way is because I have a marathon to run this weekend and basically I put in a total of 10 miles on the pavement in the last five weeks. I have never feel so under prepared for a race!

To San Diego. The first race this year will be in San Diego, for Tri City Carlsbad Marathon. I will fly out tomorrow afternoon and come back on Monday. We have a holiday. Yes another Holiday! Looking forward to bagging the state of California.

to Bolder Boulder, CO. Our running club is going to Colorado for the Memorial Weekend in May going I think a 10K. It is called bolder Boulder (city name). I just like the roll of tongue.

We got a massive Air b&b house that can sleep 30. Our group leader had that off and I gave my initial payment for it. I still have to sign up for the race and book a flight. I hope a lot of people will join, so my share for the house will go down. Currently we are each expected to foot about $200 for a three night stay.

Talking about numbers! I have been doing lot of that last week. I finally did a total of my trip to Chile and it was under $2,100. Probably the cheapest trip so far. I had to do it because I was out of money. As well as there were some fraudulent charges on my account so I had to get that sort out. My bank was very helpful. I got the last bit straighten out today. It was complicated, somehow. The representative said it might still take up to 90 days and I should continue to monitor my account. ah! I might forget about it three months from now.

I had to pull out all hat tricks for my up and coming races. I have been looking at flights for my trip to Colorado in May and another Marathon in Maine. I was contemplating which day to fly. Apparently flying out on Saturday or Sunday is cheaper than flying out on Friday. I almost decided to fly on Sunday arriving early Monday morning, run the race on Monday and then fly out immediately Monday afternoon. This way I save on the Hotel!

As for my trip to Maine, I have looking at the option to drive 10-11 hours there but the car rental, gas and toll came out to be just about break even with flying. I don’t want to use my own car.

About my car. It had been a busy week stressing out on my own personal problems. Car. In my state, probably any where else too, we have to take our car to the mechanic for a safety inspection once a year. Mine car is due for one at the end of this month. So, last weekend I took my car in for the inspection. Normally this only should take half an hour, but for me it took over three days and I still haven’t had it passed.

What’s wrong with it? Nothing and everything. I realized the tires were under inflated and I did not have coins for the air pump at the service station to fill them up. So I searched all over my hous for coins.

The first station I arrived the pump did not work. I drove to a second station. There were two cars in front of me. One of them was having the car cleaned. So I queued up waiting. Then the lady in the second car knocked on my car window, I rolled down mine and chatted. She said her car has a flat and she wouldn’t move her car. By that time I probably waited half an hour already. I ugnored her and said OK. Aftr waiting a bit more, I looked out my window and guess what! her front tire on the passenger side was indeed flat! OK she is really telling the truth, she couldn’t move her car. I had to go to another service station and got my tires pumped. As you can see, it is just string of bad luck! I spent my Saturday driving around my town looking for a gas station with a working pump! On top of that apparently there was something going on that we had gridlock traffic in my small town on a Saturday.

Unbelievable Life! That was only scratching the surface of the frustration I had. I replaced my windshield wiper. I won’t go into that. I then went for inspection and failed because some lights were burnt. I replaced those and it was a long story too juat like the tire incident. Today I finally had all the lights replace. I will take my car in for another round of inspection once I am back from San Diego.

Back to reality

Day 208

I’m back from my short vacation to Chile just in time to be home for Christmas.

I saw a lot of things and ate well and slept well. The trip was well worth it. I was lucky to be part of the journey.

Before I was able to board the plane, many things happened that I thought, wouldn’t able to make it. Two months before the trip, protests broke out in Chile. It has no direct effect on the trip unless the state department put out a travel restriction, but it created an uncertainty and fear for the safety. My coworkers and friends urged me not to go when they heard about it. We assure them that most of our travel would be away from the crowd. I was checking constantly on Chile situation fearing a revolution might break out any time. Our fear was unfounded.

Then my work situation became very rocky. We had swings from having minimal work to being overloaded with too much to do. We had many people taking their vacations and leaves. My boss did not want me to go though I submitted my leave request almost five months before anyone else, because he needs me to hold down the fort when things become busy, and did not accept my request until at the last minute. All the signs pointed to that I should stay put. I was going crazy.

I got a funny feeling that the trip would be cancel by our team captain when there was very little communication until she confirmed that the trip was still on two werks before we departed, that in itself was nerve racking. I pretty much did not hear from her until we were about to leave for the airport.

But we invested too much into the trip. The god of the universe must be playing a comic joke on me. There was no way I wouldn’t get on the plane.

The first couple days after arriving, we stayed in Santiago. We explored on foot around the city, I think the Italian Park District / or where the protest was going on. We got to see the riot suppression police in action. We climbed a short hill that gave us the overviewed of the entired district. We entangled with the protest on our second night after dinner and was chased by the crowd and police. That was some heart thumbing moment. But both the people and police were friendly toward outsiders. At no point were we in danger.

Every night there was a protest there. One night the smoke from the tear gas canister even blew into our living room and we were 12 floors up. We got a taste of what tear gas feel like; and it was very diluted by the time it got to our floor room, but still those are some powerful stuff, causing our eyes to water, and nose to run and throat to choke. It was like smelling onion but worse.

We left Santiago on the third day to fly to Punta Arenas, and then to Puerto Natales. We gathered our supplies and entered the Torres Del Paines the following day.

We did the O Trek in seven days. Most people do the W trek hiking either from east to west or west to east. The O trek is a big circle that incorporate the W trek on the loop back to the start.

The first couple days were easy hiking. The last couple days were a bit harder. The hardest day was crossing the mountain pass. I came ill-prepared and did not expect snow, wind and the cold – all deadly combination. The pass is not hard to get through but ice and snow and some tricky footing put enough fear in me of not going attempt crossing it a second time. I could have died up there if the temperature was any lower and the pass was a bit higher and longer to get through. If it was 10 minutes or 20 minutes longer, I would have collapsed.

I was foolish enough to wear just one layer plus a windbreaker. It was enough to stay maybe 10-15 minutes outside in near freezing temperature but not when you are completely soaked and the pass I think took us at least two hours to cross. I was too cold by the time I came to my sense to add a second layer and I couldn’t wiggle my fingers to put on my gloves. After many attempts, I decided give up on getting my gloves on. Both of my legs were frozen stiff too and I lost all feeling of them. For the first time I understand the value of having a rain pants. I got those but left them at home thinking little wet, wouldn’t kill me.

I couldn’t be happier when we got to Central (where the entrance/exit locates). We stayed a night at Central in order to climb Chileno to see the ‘Towers’, the famous Torres. The stars did not aligned right for us. The next day, it was raining and cold, we got up to top of the mountain but did not get to see the any spire/tower. It was too windy and cold, we snapped a picture and immediately descended back to Central and took the bus out the park.

We spent a night at Punta Arenas before flying to Puerto Montt, which is a short drive to Puerto Varas. We stayed at Puerto Varas for a night before flying back to Santiago. We stayed another night at Santiago before flying to Calama and taking a bus to San Pedro, to vist the Atacama desert.

For rest of the trip mostly was traveling from place to place. When time allowed, we aired out our wet clothes and tents, which was much easy to do once we got to hotter and drier climate. Atacama desert was worth seeing. We visited Vales Acoritis (Rainbow Valley) and at night we star-gazed.

Monday, we left San Pedro, and retraced our steps back to Sandiago and then took an evening flight to Atlanta and then back to DC by Tuesday morning.

Going places

Day 205

This post is hard for me to write. For some people (like my hiking friend), they love traveling. For me, I have such a fear, stressful/worrying kind of fear of going to places, no matter if it is local or is far away. I am content to stay at home. I know a coworker of mine too who shares my view and she is happy just by staying at home for her vacation. I like to tease her about it. Really, I was teasing myself too.

However, I have been going to many places recently due to backpacking and running. They do help me to build up a higher tolerant of fear.

I am an immigrant and came to the US when I was a child. Traveling shouldn’t be strange to me. However, I remember I did not want to come to the US back then. At the time, I did understand why we had to or how much better for us to move. I had to go where my mom was taking me. It was silly of me to have wanted to stay back at my home country than to go, now thinking back. Now I really love the US, having grown up here, there is no other home for me.

I had similar occasions while growing up during my teen years, when we would have to move to a different place. Looking back, it was not that many times, but each times were like a life changing event. Luckily in the recent years, I have not had to move. I have been staying put at the same place for a long time.

Last few years were kind of stressful, when I started running. Running let me to explore places around my neighborhood, to places where I normally don’t get to. I usually just drove/walked from my house to the bus/train station and to the grocery shop, which would be the extend of my travel. However, with running, I needed to put in the miles and it forced me to go to new places. I had to run a little farther to places I normally would not go.

Pretty soon, I was not just running just around my neighborhood, but running in other parts of our county/city. I would take my car to a new place and ‘explore’ it on foot. Pretty soon after, I was doing races in my neighboring states. I don’t have to, but one of my goals is to run in all 50 states kind of make me have to travel outside my area. I have traveled to about five states now (not including the state I am in). I wish I can add, pretty soon I will go run marathons in another country. Not yet for now.

Backpacking kind of get me through my fear of traveling the last couple of years. I am still much afraid, but I have been doing it with a friend, and I was not afraid when I was with her…unless she herself becomes afraid as once time she was. I have hardly done any backpacking just by myself.

Having a companion definitely helps. My trips for my races to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia were all done with my mom. Haha! I went to Maryland to race (NCR and Baltimore Marathon) by myself (though the first half marathon in Maryland, my mom came with me, but subsequent trips to Maryland were all done alone by myself). I have become a pro now! I mentioned a one of previous entries, that Maryland is no longer a ‘foreign country’ to me.

Now next week, I will be out of the country. Really get out. This is my fourth times in my life. I have my passport and documents ready. Yes, my hiking friend will be going with me, but I have still been terrified about it. I have spent many sleepless nights staying up or awaking in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep because of it.

No one made me to go some would say, but I am going to go. I am taking it as a dare. I am not a globe trotter. Sorry I probably won’t blog about my travel – I wish I could. I am gritting my teeth and will get on the airplane next week with butterfly in my stomach.

VA Beach

Day 148 / False Cape

It was a long weekend. I took Friday off to drive down to Virginia Beach for the weekend. The three and half hours drive became close to six hours because of the traffic. The place was farther than I remembered. I was there six months ago for a marathon (First Landing Seashore 50 K). I was stuck in traffic in the DC area trying to get out of town. We moved about 18 miles and that took almost two hours. I was stuck in traffic when I arrived. It took an hour to just move three miles to cross the Hampton Rd Bridge Tunnel. Weird name. It is partly a bridge and a section of it is a tunnel. I sat there in traffic for an hour contemplation about the bridge and other cars around me. It seemed everyone is going to the beach.

I arrived at the first landing state park campground and settled in. Set up and everything was a breeze to me. I am used to ‘primitive’ camping so family/car camping is like living in a hotel for me.

I went there for a weekend event with a meetup group. I know the leader from previous trips I did. We walked along the Bay. I liked my campsite. Virginia Beach is in an urban area. We went out for dinner. I packed some Mountain House (dehydrated food) I ended up using those just for breakfast. For dinners and lunches we ate out.

The next day, we biked in First Landing State Park. I ran there before and was familiar with the trail. It was not a race. We stopped along the way to look at birds and flowers. It was my first time doing bird watching. We saw snowy egrets, indigo buntings, and grey heron. We wanted to find snakes too. We heard cottonmouth or water moccasins are native in the area, so we tried to spot them. They are venomous.

On the last day, we drove to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, located in southern end of Virginia Beach. We biked into False Cape State Park. Biking and hiking in is the only way to reach False Cape. You could also take a tour bus called a tram. It is the most prestine beach in Virginia. No one was there, at least we saw no one on the beach. It borders North Carolina. We actually crossed to the North Carolina jus to say we did it. There is a fence between the two states.

We hiked along the beach to get to where we left our bikes.

I am not a travel blogger and didn’t take any pictures. But here is the Garmin tracker that showed I’ve been near the NC border. I think they built a fence to keep NC beach goers out of the Virginia side and it works. You could see on the NC side, people drive their trucks in and there are condos and houses, but across to the VA side, there is nothing for miles. The beach on the VA side has nobody. The fence has a little gate for people to go across but no one crosses into the VA side.

Reflection

Day 146 – full race report (Jack and Jill)

The marathon course by itself is one worth seeing. The course started from Hyak (aka Snoqualmie Pass, which is not near the Snoqualmie forest at all) and ended in North Bend. North Bend is about 45 minutes away from Seattle. The course is point to point, started from the top of the pass end in the valley, with a total about 2000 ft of elevation change, all of it was downhill with maybe 15 ft of uphill. The trail is on an old rail track, so any change in elevation is gradual. The path is wide, a double trail and even 3 or 4 people can run side by side. It is mostly gravel. The tunnel section is paved asphalt or stone.

The race is known for running through a tunnel of 2.5 miles in complete darkness, no light except from either end of the openings. Look can be deceiving. It seemed near but 2.5 miles is far away. We lost sense of perspective and even our sense of balance in darkness. Most people couldn’t maintain their pace. GPS watch was completely useless.

We wore head lamp. But I turned mine off, to kick it up a notch. There were enough light from other people’s lamps for me to see and made out the path, but other people couldn’t see me. It was kind of dangerous, like running with my eyes close (even if I had my light on). I dressed in complete black. Nothing reflected off me except for my shoes and my water bag. Others wouldn’t able to see me as I slipped in beteeen them and passed them by like a ghost.

The place was damp and cold. I felt the draft blowing through. Cold is relative but I had on two long sleeves, and a short sleeves underneath. There were reverberant too inside the tunnel. You see light reflected off people’s clothing. It was an unforgettable experience. I ran (walked) it alone the day before, so I was familiar with the feeling. It was more scary to be running alone. As a group, I felt like we were doing a prison break.

Besides the tunnel, the whole course is scenic. Mountains and valleys can be seen along the course. It was one breathtaking sight after another at every turn. Pine trees are everywhere, probably (Washington) Douglas fir and other pines. It was breathtaking. In the morning there was mist and fog surrounded the mountains and trees. That morning had a bit of drizzle. I didn’t mind. Not many people mind. The rain came to keep us cool.

One thing though, we had to park at North Bend, which was not a bad place at all. It was truely beautiful when I finished the race and looked back up the mountains surrounding it.

As for that morning, we arrived before the crack of dawn at a park, which I don’t remember the name. We were in no mood to enjoy the view since many of us didn’t sleep the night before. I had to wake up at 2AM to get to the bus pick up site for the 4:30 bus. There were 700 of us, so it took a while to transport us up the mountain. If anyone considers running this course, either have someone drop off at the starting line or take a bus up the pass. Most people took the bus. Buses were for runners only during the morning to the starting line. Later in the day, buses would take runners or family or friends members to/from between the finish line and the parking lot.

Everyone brought their breakfast with them. I got more. I prepared a 3 AM meal, a 6 AM meal, and an 11 AM meal. I figured food is my source of energy. I needed to eat. Unfortunately, I lost my 6AM breakfast on the way. Not sure where I lost it. I later didn’t even need my 11 AM food, as seen from all the left overs I carried back. I could have run faster without the extra weight.

We had a staggered start. I think there were at least 5 waves. I started in the last wave and it didn’t feel crowded at all. I passed close to 200 people. Only a few people passed me back. I was racing with the 4:50 (finishing time) pacer, she handled it with ease. She was running close to 4:40 and I was aiming for 4:30 or less. She of course left all her runners behind at that speed. She was a bit confused about her pace since the tunnel section has messed up everyone GPS watch and mine included. They had pace band but I don’t know how she couldn’t keep the pace. Maybe she is bad at math. Our distances and pace were all reported incorrectly. The 4:50 pacer thought she was 10 minutes behind and couldn’t figure out why, hence she was running with me. She finally passed me at mile 21. I saw her again at mile 24 where she stopped and I think she realized she was 20 minutes ahead of her pace by then. She waited and finished at 4:50, a few minutes after I crossed the finishing line.

The race was well organized. We had aid station with water and Gatorade every two miles. You know the race director has thought it out, that Gatorade was served in Gatorade cups and water was in the plain cups. Usually Gatorade was placed up front (first table) and water on the second table. The volunteers called out which one was which. There were stinger/gels at certain stations but I didn’t use any of those.

I hit the wall around mile 18-20. I slowed down to walk and run. I ate my peanut butter sandwich. I recovered a bit. I was too full to eat earlier but I should have eaten to avoid hitting the wall.

My energy returned. I might have able to finish at 4:30 but I felt I didn’t want to push myself. My original goal was just to get to mile 20 and walk the rest of the way to the finish. I know even if I walked the rest of the way, I would still have plenty of time. I reach mile 20 in 3:28. I could run a 10K when I was healthy under an hour. But I was kept on running and was expecting at some point my heart/body might make me stop and I would walk. However, that moment never came. I checked my pace, I was doing 13-14 min mile pace.

Since haven’t had much training run over last six weeks, my quad muscles started to hurt halfway in the race. Luckily they didn’t cramp up. Down hill usually make it worse since it keeps using the same muscle group without rest.

I couldn’t walk once after crossing the finish line. And not even talking about climbing up the stairs for the bus, which was impossible. I pulled myself up. I don’t know how other people did it, but I had such a hard time getting on and off the bus. For the next two days, squading down was a trial.

I didn’t stay too long after the race. The post race food was the usual stuff. There was no pizza but they offered some kind of pasta. I didn’t take any. I took a carton of muscle milk and a bottle of water and couple bananas.

They also have another exactly same race the next day. I didn’t go for the second day but I can imagine someone signing up a second day too. I can’t imagine the race director and volunteers coming out for another day. One day seemed to be all I could take. I appreciate all the volunteers to make it possible. Our first day is like a preview for them. I hope their second day would be just as good.

What else did I do? I cleaned up, unpacked my stuff, I ate like a pig and slept for the rest of the day.

The next day, I went out to Seattle and visited the farmer market. I saw the original Starbucks store.

For the rest of the trip, I drove up to Surrey and Richmond and Vancouver, BC. I ate to my heart content there. I am not much a travel blogger, so I won’t share too much. Vancouver is a nice and big city. I was amazed by its public transportation. It was unlike what we have in the DC area.

As now I am on my way home back to the east coast. I finally understood why Seattle airport is called Sea-Tac. I thought it was a cute and weird name. Sea-tac stands for Seattle-Tacoma. It is kind of boring after knowing the truth. That is a kind of secret I took from Seattle.