Interstellar Adventures

August 22, 2005

Yee Haw!

Filed under: Adventures,Running Life — by InterstellarLass @ 9:39 am

With a final finish time of 31:54:01, the Dallas Hill Wranglers took 1st place in the hotly contested Flatlanders Division, and were 49th out of 60 teams overall. I took almost 300 pictures…I promise I won’t put them all up. It’ll take me a bit to get the final ‘story’ all done, but hopefully it will be worth it.

Blog-along Lass

August 20, 2005

Race Check In #4

Filed under: Adventures,Running Life — by InterstellarLass @ 4:20 pm

this is an audio post - click to play

Race Check In #3

Filed under: Adventures,Running Life — by InterstellarLass @ 11:45 am

this is an audio post - click to play

Race Check In #2

Filed under: Adventures,Running Life — by InterstellarLass @ 9:04 am

this is an audio post - click to play

August 19, 2005

Race Check In #1

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 8:50 pm
this is an audio post - click to play

August 18, 2005

We made it! Now…just 195 miles to go…

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 11:08 pm

Our American plane finally landed in Denver. We were all tired, hungry, and ready to get to Fort Collins. The Denver airport was a bit strange, but we made our way to the baggage terminal and picked up our luggage (which, by the way, flew in on United on their last Denver flight). Picked up the rental van without issue. Well, sort of. We couldn’t understand the rental agent’s accent, but we still got the van. I didn’t realize Denver was so flat, with the mountains on one side and the start of the Great Plains on the other.

Fort Collins was about a 40 minute drive north. I didn’t think I was going to make it, considering that it had been over 8 hours since I had last had anything to eat. Well, anything better than Trolli sour worms. There were no restaurants besides fast food joints and truck stops, so I tried to keep my mind of my rumbling stomach. We ended up eating at Carrabas. It was good, but they sure are proud of their food. Their prices say so anyway.

Then it was to the hotel to check in and unpack before heading over to Target for a snack shopping spree. I love Target. I always feel at home there no matter where I am.

Now I’m just updating this quickly before I head off to beddy-bye-dreamland. Enjoy the photos folks. We’ll be starting our race at 7 am MST tomorrow, but I won’t actually run until around noon or later. Thanks for all the well wishes! You guys are great!

Hey look! It’s RunOn! The plane that finally got us there. Metal-paper airplanes in the Denver airport. My van-mates and a cool mountain storm.

August 17, 2005

36 legs, 195 miles…

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 1:09 pm

Update: 3:10 pm CST

Believe it or not, we are still at DFW airport. The diagnosing computer wasn’t working correctly, so what the problem it said it was wasn’t really the problem, and the plane still couldn’t get off the ground. Hopefully American can now get us where we’re going. I arrived at the airport at 8:15 am, and I am ready to be breathing in that Rocky Mountain air. I’m not a big fan of flying, and I’m really not feeling so hot about it after the issues we’ve had today. If this plane doesn’t get off the ground, we might not make this race. Too late to drive now and get there in time to make the start. My friends and I are all taking it in stride, and we’re all still laughing through the frustration.

The group waiting to board. The plane that wouldn’t go. The group waiting to run. On our way to the next terminal on the new SkyLink.

Update: 12:58 pm CST

Still at DFW airport. We’re supposed to leave at 2 pm now. They had to fly a part in from Chicago. I had a beer and some Southwest Egg Rolls in the Chili’s Too here at the airport. Tasty! I’m ready to go and run! Cross fingers that this part fixes the issue…otherwise we’re renting vans and driving. Not too many flight options open for a group of 14. 😦

Update: 10:52 am CST

I’m supposed to be in Colorado by now. But I’m still in Dallas. Issue with the plane. I’m glad they decided to try to fix it before we took off. Don’t know when we’ll get there. *Sigh* Anybody know any good airport games?

OK folks. This is it! United is taking me from DFW to Denver, where we’ll then pick up a couple of 15 passenger vans, do a little last-minute shopping, and then head on up to Fort Collins, CO for the start of the Wild West Relay.

The Dallas Hill Wranglers are running in the Flatlanders Division. The course will take us from Fort Collins, up through Roosevelt National Forest, across the Laramie Mountains, into Wymoming (briefly), then back to Colorado, over the Continental Divide and across Medicine Bow Mountains, above the Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge, across the Rabbit Ears Range in the Routt National Forest, and on into Steamboat Springs.

I’m running legs 12, 24 & 36. Leg 12 looks to be in the Roosevelt National Forest. Leg 24 is going to be in the middle of the night, somewhere around 2-ish in the morning. I’m excited about this. Even though this one has the most up-and-down as far as hills mountains go. And, 36 is the home-stretch. Yes! I’ve been practicing my victory dance! My teammates will run out to meet me about 100 yards from the finish, and we’ll all run in together.

I’ll try to blog an update or two if I can, but I’m not sure what my internet access level is going to be. If all else fails, I’m going to attempt an audio blog. Please note I hate the sound of my recorded voice. Just for you special people would I do this.

Wish me luck!

Mission Trip, Finale

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 8:13 am

11th Grade Mission Trip: Gulfport, MS

Hurricane damage had ravished a small community outside Gulfport. Our mission this year was to help repair a church. The church was attended by the senior citizens of the community. Not a single young family attended this church. It was two rooms on the inside, with a small fellowship hall around the back. We were to put new siding on the outside of the main building. A group in the week before had completed re-framing, insulating, and wrapping Tyvek around the building. We measured (twice) and cut (once) the siding, popping chalk-lines to make sure they were level, and nailing the boards into place, all the way around the building. We also painted the outside.

And then I noticed the bell steeple. It was sad looking, with its paint chipping off. But, we couldn’t reach it from our ladders, and the pitch of the roof was too steep to climb on without safety ropes, so it was to go unpainted. Then, someone told me they couldn’t even ring their bell because the bell cord had rotted out and fallen off. Well, that was it. We were getting up on that roof. I had recently done a ropes course, and I knew how to tie a Swiss Seat climbing harness from scratch. So, someone found some nylon rope, and I made myself a Swiss Seat. I secured another length of rope to the harness, climbed the ladder, and tossed the rope over the roof, where I was to be ‘belayed’ by one of my friends (also in a Swiss seat tied by me, so if I fell, it was no one’s fault but my own). I climbed up the roof, and straddled the ridge cap. I hauled up another rope, which I tied to their church bell. One of my friends tested it from the inside. *Bong Bong Bong* Their bell could now be rung before Service. Then I hauled up a paint bucket and brush and painted the bell steeple. It was now pretty and white and matched the rest of the building. Yes, there are pictures of this feat, but no, I don’t have them in my possession. Somewhere in the church archives by now. Another five days of great service.

12th Grade Mission Trip: Slidell, LA

More hurricane damage brought us to Slidell, LA. Here, I worked on the home of an older lady, with no family to help her care for her home. Her home was a small trailer, ‘permanently’ placed on the lot where she lived. There was an enclosed patio built around the front of the trailer. The steps up to the patio were rotting out, and she needed wheelchair access. So, we built a ramp for her and replaced the stairs. We also cut out and installed a window for her on the patio. We worked on the porch on the back of the house as well, which had been unusable for some time. And, then her house and patio and porch got a fresh coat of paint. This lady was tickled to death to have young people at her home. She made snacks for us all day long, and made us fried chicken for lunch on our last day there.

This was my last mission trip for some time. I graduated from High School and went on to college. There was no ‘college mission trip’ that I could go on. I also fell away from going to church and questioned my beliefs and the need for religion. But, I still treasured the time I spent on these trips, and felt that need to serve others gnawing at me.

More Work
When I moved back to my hometown during my separation, my mom again tried to involve me in the church. I would take my kids to events, and then I started working with the High School youth. I was able to participate in two years of the Great Days of Service program. By doing this, my work was able to directly benefit people in my own community. The first year I landscaped a yard and painted part of a house. The next year I scraped the paint off a detached garage that had been cited by the city for maintenance. This prepared it for painting by another group of volunteers. I also worked a day the second year with the youth on a special project house set aside for them.

Adult Leader
Between these two years, I also got to go on another Mission Trip in the summer of 2003. This time as an adult leader (in reference to myself, I use the word ‘adult’ loosly). We went to Diamond City, AR.

This small town on the edge of the Ozarks is primarily a retirement community. The residents are often transplants from the North, with few family members to help care for them. The owner of the home that we worked on was a lady with no family and severe arthritis in her knees. One knee had a rod placed in it so she couldn’t even bend her leg. We power-washed and painted her house, and built a wheelchair ramp for her. We also replaced a good part of the soffit in the front of her house. This was rotted out due to a poor roofing job two years prior. With my previous experience with roofing, I was also able to fix the problem that caused this rot, and properly re-shingled the valley that was the source of the water run-off.

What’s Next?
I haven’t been able to go on another Mission Trip yet. But I will. I’ve volunteered on occasion for other things. Most recently I spent a Saturday at a facility that provides counseling to abused children. The company I worked for gave them a computer network and upgraded all their PCs to OSes that software vendors actually support. Windows 95 just wasn’t cutting it for them. And now that I think about it, that was over a year ago. I need to find something else to do.

August 16, 2005

Mission Trip, Part II

Filed under: Blast from the Past — by InterstellarLass @ 8:18 am

A continuation of my Mission Trip Tales. I would have to say these were probably the best two years in my memory. Every trip was worth it, but, as the first was my ‘indoctrination’ to Mission Trip, and the second one of the most moving and eye-opening experiences of my life, these two stick out in my mind.

9th Grade Mission Trip: San Marcos, TX
I was so excited to go work for an entire week. Well, 5 days. The mission work-week was Monday-Friday. Our youth leader would find some local organization in the city we chose (or we were ‘chosen’ for) that could help with the coordination of 100+ volunteers, supplies, lodging, etc. and knew where the work was needed. That year it was the Southside Community Center in San Marcos.

Yep. You read right. 100+ volunteers. Ours was a large youth group. We had a lot of active members, and other not-so-active members. Some kids were ‘forced’ into service by their parents (builds character). Not me. I jumped at the chance and was always ready to work to pay for my mission trip privilege. It wasn’t cheap sending us all to wherever we needed to go, and we would work garage sales, pancake breakfasts, fish fry’s, concession stands at Cowboy games, car washes, whatever. Yes, not only did I give up one week per summer, I spent an entire year working toward it.

We packed up into a bunch of 15 passenger vans and made the drive down to San Marcos. Once we got there, we divided up into ‘families’. These were our work-crews and worship groups. We would stick with the same group of people for the entire week, working together and bonding. The leaders divided kids up so as to put them with other youth and leaders that they maybe didn’t know so well.

This first year, I learned how to do roofing. My group was to replace the entire roof on a house. So, we grabbed some shovels, climbed a ladder, and started by stripping the entire roof of shingles. Once we’d cleared off all the shingles and tar paper, we pulled off the rotting roof deck. Down to the attic studs. We cut replacement boards, hauling them up and down the ladder, and nailed them in place. One nail at a time, with a hammer. Yeah, I got good at driving a nail.

After we’d replaced the decking, we laid down new tar paper. Now, remember, this is San Marcos, TX, in June. Looking back at the weather data from when I think we took this trip, the high daily temps were 97, 99, 100, 100, 93. We were on a roof. With no shade. Laying black tar paper. What was I wearing for shoes? Well, this was 1989, so of course, I was wearing Keds. Yes, my shoes melted and stuck to the roof. I also almost passed out and fell off the roof. But, I didn’t, as so am still here to torture you. We stapled down the tar paper, laying down little silver aluminum disks to protect the paper from tearing when we whacked the stapler down.

Tar paper done, we started shingling the roof. We carried the bundles of shingles up the ladder. I remember these being really, really heavy. We laid our starter strip, measured out the rows, snapped our chalk-lines, staggered the tabs on the next rows, and the next thing you knew, we had shingled a roof. One nail at a time. Yep, even did the ridge cap.

In fact, we finished the roof in four days time, so we were able to help finish the roof on another house.

Five days of hard, sweaty, manual labor. And I loved every swing of the hammer.

10th Grade Mission Trip: Chavies, KY

This year, we went to Chavies, KY, and worked in conjunction with the Appalachia Service Project. This was probably the most profound year for me, as I saw sights that I would never imagined I would see in our country.

We stayed in an old school building in one of the smallest towns I’ve ever been in. They had a post office, a gas station, a small market, and that’s all I can remember. One of those places that if you blinked, you would miss it. Literally. Don’t believe me? Click the link on Chavies above, and then zoom all the way in on MapQuest. Yeah. I think I counted 10 streets.

The people that lived in this community were coal miners. They were the poorest of the poor. The uneducated. The ‘backwoods’ folk. Their children were dirty and hungry. Their bikes ran on the rims, as there were no tires to be had. There was no food in the kitchen. The house was heated by a coal-burning stove. The coal was stacked in a pile in the front of the house. There was no yard. Only dirt and the side of a hill. The house had three rooms. The main room, with the only light-bulb in the house. The bedroom that slept the entire family. The kitchen, with a sink that had no running water. A hose snaked into the kitchen window. The hose was hooked to a series of hoses that wound half-way up the side of the mountain to the only source of running water. This is how they did their dishes. The floor was bare wood, knotted and dusty. The walls were bare sheetrock, with no insulation. Walking out the back steps, you encountered their bathtub. With a firm layer of dirt indicating that the bath had not been used in some time. Continuing to walk down the path from the back of the house, you came to the old outhouse. You had to walk past this to get to the new outhouse.

The first thing we did was fix the pitch of the roof. We tore out the ceiling and re-braced the studs, headers and joists, replacing sections that were too rotted to be simply braced. We also replaced their chimney flue. How their house had not burned down the previous winter we don’t know. We then insulated their walls. Even with long sleeves and baby powder, I itched for the rest of the week from the fiberglass insulation. We sheet rocked the walls and ceiling, even staying late on the second to last day to make sure the job was done. You see, the building inspector came around, just as we were finishing early. During his inspection, he realized that someone had given us the wrong nails. So, we had to carefully remove the sheetrock from the ceiling and put it back up with larger, bracketed sheetrock nails. We also dug a trench around the side of the house. You see, it was built on the side of a mountain. One side of the house was on stilts to keep it level. We braced these too. But on the mountain side of the house, water runoff was rotting the wood siding. They needed an irrigation trench. It was to be two feet wide and three feet deep according to the building inspector. I dug most of this out myself with a pick-axe and shovel. One of my friends carried the dirt to the other side of the house in a bucket. This went around the new bracings.

The homeowners were old for mountain people. The husband had a beard that ran half-way down his chest, white and grey and grizzled, with a red streak down the center. Dyed by tobacco juice. He and his wife were mostly raising their granddaughter, aged about two, fathered by their 18 year old son, their youngest. In those five days, I feel that I did more good than I’ve done in any five days before or since.

Why places like this exist in our country, I don’t know.

The alarm went off at 4:15 a.m.

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 8:16 am

I was hoping the storms last night would have knocked out our power again so I could sleep in, but no such luck. So, I rose, dressed and ran. 4 miles, 46:04. 11:30 avg pace. If I can manage it tomorrow, I’ll do a short run, but this may likely have been my last run before I leave for Colorado Thursday morning. I’m getting nervous…

And as a side note: I think I’ve mentioned my handy-dandy running log. I record the time and distance of all of my runs, as well as which shoes I wore, and the date I bought each pair of shoes. The log then calculates pace, and gives me two estimates for a marathon finish. The four miles this morning has me up to 250 miles in my Brooks since April 13. I think I will retire this pair after Colorado this weekend. That doesn’t include miles in my Asics or my Trail Shoes. Wow. That’s a lot of miles. 😀

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