GoTheDist 2015: Q3

How on earth is it already October?!? How have I still not finished the photos from my trip?

Despite some amazing steps while exploring the National Parks, September was the challenge I knew it would be. My totals:

  • 309,764 steps walked
  • 126.38 miles walked

I should be (and am) happy that I hit 300K on a travel month, but I’m so pissed I miss my stretch goal by fewer than 300 steps. I could have walked downstairs again if I’d looked at the numbers on time. So that’s on me. Bah.

Overall though, Q3 was OK.

  • 930,573 steps walked
  • 382.37 miles walked

That’s 101.79% of my official GTD goal. Whee? Whee. My numbers for the year:

  • 2,885,304 steps walked
  • 1189.79 miles walked

I am 514,696 steps from my 2015 step goal and 310.21 miles from the mileage goal and I’ve spent the better part of today (over) thinking Q4’s goals. Weather on the horizon, work hell and some more trips. I know December is always bad and November isn’t much better.  So after some analysis, my goals are:

  • 800,000 steps walked
  • 315 miles walked

That’s 300K for October (I managed 301K last October but remember working very hard for that with a Wall Street Walks ghost tour on Halloween night), and 250K apiece for November and December. Not ideal, but doable.  I may revise it up but this is the bare minimum.

Southwest Day 2: Cortez to Taos

Ahh mountain air. Crisp, cool and slightly damp mountain air. Such a nice change from Swamp York City. My hotel in Cortez was only minutes from Mesa Verde so after a nice breakfast (Holiday Inn cinnamon rolls for the win!) I was on my way. To be honest, I’m glad I didn’t know what the drive was like or I might not have done it.  It is nerve wracking for someone who doesn’t drive much, but it was so worth it.

As I mentioned, this part of the trip was completely book driven. Without Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series and the friend who recommended it, I’m not sure Mesa Verde would have been on my radar. The anasazi’s cliff dwellings are nothing short of phenomenal, and as someone who grew up on the east coast, the scenery that accompanied them was breathtaking. To be the first person to discover those must have been amazing. It’s sad that so much of the anasazi‘s history has been lost to time.

After exploring the rest of the Mesa Top and the fire damage, I headed out of the park via Durango, Chama (apparently southern Colorado/northern New Mexico is the historic railroad capital. Re-crossing the Continental Divide was super cool, although 160/84/64 east into Taos was a bit scary in the monsoon rains. Side note, who knew New Mexico had monsoon?

I was rewarded after that drive with the amazing site of the Rio Grande, its gorge and the engineering feat that was the bridge. Exploring that with two rabbits was a great end to another long day

Exploring the South West: Day 1

1,297 photos, keeping 1,142 and 2.4GB of photos. Oh visiting a beautiful place.  This trip came about partially on a whim, partially driven by books.  There was a Jet Blue fare sale and an expiring flight credit, but there was also Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series which put Mesa Verde on my radar.  As I mentioned before, I wanted to hit somewhere I hadn’t been and that narrowed the choices down to Denver and Albuquerque. I was initially leaning Denver because the Rockies were home and I’ve long wanted to explore the area, but then Taste had all the rooms sold out and I didn’t relish driving in from the airport area daily. So, New Mexico it was.

All I really knew about New Mexico was that Santa Fe was a better option than Albuquerque and that it was absolutely beautiful. Four Corners has been on my USA bucket list for as long as I can remember so that was added to the NM planning map. That was quickly joined by the High Road to Taos and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. I raided a friend’s Instagram for ideas and another friend forwarded the New York Times36 Hours in Santa Fe. At some point, I looked at a map and realized that Mesa Verde National Park was so close to Four Corners and was absolutely worth it. I fell in love with Mesa Verde (and every other National Park!) in Nevada Barr’s writing and my one lament was that I’d never get there. So much for never…

The plan changed a few times, but on Friday morning after spending some time noodling along Route 66 in Albuquerque, I pointed my Kia Rio northwest and made my way toward Four Corners via San Ysidro, Cuba, Farmington, Bloomfield and Ship Rock. While Google Maps says it’s only a four hour drive, I found it took me a lot longer due to the scenery and historic markers. New Mexico is very good at its historic markers and I was pleased to find them marked ahead too. Among my stops were:

  • the Continental Divide! This made me happy after seeing a sign for but not being able to get close while in Banff 11! years ago
  • the “badlands” of Angel Peak-absolutely gorgeous earth science that put the Grand Canyon back on my travel bucket list
  • Salmon Ruins, my first introduction to the pueblo ruins and pueblo culture
  • Shiprock, an amazing volcanic remnant, considered sacred to the Navajo. It looks bizarre, but its proximity to Monument Valley makes me think it’s the rest of the flat lands that were really odd. The Wiki has some fun history. As this is sacred to the Navajo, it wasn’t actually a stop as it’s off limits.

Besides hitting Route 66, this day’s drive took me to the western most end of Route 64–I love road nerd stuff! All that said, it was a long day’s drive but so well worth it to get to Four Corners. There was something magical and mystical about being on Navajo land. It felt sacred. I don’t really care for the internet debate as to if the marker is off spot, and in which direction. It was still pretty cool. Isn’t that what road trips are about? The remoteness keeps it from being as overwhelmed with tourists as Tent Rocks is, but it’s magical even if its history was clouded.

By the end of the stretch at Four Corners I was tired: a mix of late night, poor sleep, driving and jet lag. I was very glad I’d decided to stay in Cortez rather than Durango and dragged feet into Colorado’s Welcome Center to plan Saturday’s trip to Mesa Verde.

More later…

50 before 50

Have I seriously never posted about the 50 before 50 aka visit all fifty states before I turn 50 challenge? Maybe because as of last year, I didn’t think it was going to happen:

States visited as of July 2014

States visited as of July 2014

But 2015 has been very good for my progress:

States Visited: May 15, 2015

States Visited: May 15, 2015

States Visited: September 15, 2015

States Visited: September 15, 2015

With this past week’s trip to New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado (amazing! pics to come), I hit the 30 state mark. If it wasn’t totally cheating, I could even count Utah, but I won’t.

at the Four Corners Monument in September 2015

at the Four Corners Monument in September 2015

The craziest thing? If Labor Day were August this year it would have been an insane number of states as between 7/31 and 9/7 I was in:

  • North Carolina (airport only)
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Colorado

Repeats in August, but still! Also with my 2015 progress I have:

  • hit my first “A” state
  • Finished off the “C”s with Colorado

I don’t think I’ll hit any other states in 2015 so it’s time to think ahead to 2016. I have the National Parks Pass valid through the end of September 2016 so that’s a likely starting point. I could:

  • finish off the Anna Pigeon parks in states I haven’t been to. Would give me: Utah (Glen Canyon), Michigan (Lake Superior’s Isle Royale), Mississippi (Natchez Trace) and Minnesota.
  • Do a spring trip to a location where I could easily get more states, such as Memphis
  • Do others that have been on my bucket list which are a combination of the above and other factors: Yosemite, Salt Lake City, Mt. Rushmore, Glacier. That could definitely/partially be done via the Zephyr, although driving back on the table.

Park hopping is definitely an option, decisions, decisions

sometimes, not making goal is OK

about that 333,333K July step goal and second attempt at one million steps? Not happening. And that’s not my usual pessimism speaking either.  I realized it back in July but thought I might have a chance at making it up in August. That’s a no.

July totals:

  • 310,076 steps
  • 126.97 miles walked

August nearly final totals:

  • 310,758 steps
  • 128.96 miles walked

That symmetry is almost eerie and I didn’t even realize it until I looked up July to post them. It’s not where I wanted to be, but in each case I beat both my “ideal” and “stretch” goals.  I also beat July and August 2014’s numbers so that’s progress in two hard months due to travel. Re: August that also represents two days of walks whose sole focus was steps and a few days where I went out and pushed myself to up my totals.

No 50K days, but I’m OK with that. While the spreadsheet(s) have made me a little more neurotic than I already am, #GoTheDist and my Fitbit challenge have taught me that sometimes it’s OK to not be where I want to be. Special shout out to the Fitbit folks. I’d have given this up if not for you and that evil little watch. Don’t believe me? I quit on #GoTheDist the first year. But I feel stronger accountability and since I need the external nudge, the challenge is doing it for me.

I also need to realize that I’m actually way above my initial goal. When I set my goals for 2015 at 3.4m steps for the year, that worked out to 283K/month. I’m at 2,575,565 at the end of August. That’s an average of 321K/month. So I’m not failing. I need to relax and oh, yeah, listen to Robby. Moving on…

To hit 1,000,000 steps I’d have to do 380,000 and that is just not happening in a short month that involves a three day road trip.  To quote a wise toddler: no, not, nugget.  To be honest, I’m not even sure topping September 2014 is doable. So I’m going to make that my super stretch goal where 333K was previously.

September 2015 step goals:

  • 285,000 (I refuse to accept anything lower than this)
  • 300,000 ideal
  • 310,000 stretch
  • 316,214 (super stretch, September 2014 total)

I’m going to do a little trickery that worked for me in May and August. When I know there are going to be sedentary days, I plot them in ahead of time with the worst possible step count and I know what I need to accomplish at the worst.  To hit my 310,000, I need 11,500 on my non driving days. I think that’s attainable. Here we go.

Oh, and I need to get my butt back to the gym but that’s a post for another day.


Review: Orange is the New Black

The 63rd book I finished this year was certainly among the most intriguing. I never had much interest in the show of the same name, and only added the book to my library wish list after watching Pablo Schreiber as Lewis in SVU Season 15. Some 700 people later, my turn came up in the waiting list and I figured Why Not? I’d just finished the really good (review TK) The Pious Ones by Joseph Berger. I’m really glad I read it as it was an amazing, albeit dated, read.

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Review: Daniel Silva’s The English Spy

Guilty. Guilty as Charged

Guilty. Guilty as Charged

AKA, Daniel Silva, you make me absolutely crazy but I love every word you write. Oddly, this is the first one in a few books where I’ve read the book as soon as it came out. Usually I save Allon for my December beach reading binge, but I couldn’t wait. A lot of that came from going to Daniel Silva’s book signing last Monday and it was only being in the middle of a book for book club next week that kept me from starting it instantly. As it was, I started it Sunday and finished Wednesday-it’s not a four day read, I just had no reading time. Reading it while the Iranian nuclear talks were being held in Vienna were eerie.

From here on in there are spoilers for both The English Spy (July 2015) and The Defector (2009).

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Q2 update: 2015 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge

I fell off on my challenge updating, but as I briefly noted earlier, I’ve read 56 books this year. Together with the 23 I didn’t finish (or saved for later as a friend said), that’s amazing. I’m slightly ahead of my Q1 pace and have the following letters still to go:


Not bad at all. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction (I declared amnesty, they’re books) so haven’t done many reviews. Sally, I’m in your same rut. I’m not sure about my March comment about going twice through the list as I’ve been bad about updating it, but we’ll see.

In the mean time, I’m just enjoying my reading.


about the million step goal?

On June 2, I set a “kind of ridiculous but possibly attainable June goal” of 320,089 steps. On June 27, I beat that goal, although I didn’t realize it until June 29.

FInal June totals:

  • 347,231 steps
  • 143.14 miles walked
  • 42.68 miles biked

Final Q2 totals:

  • 1,027,142 steps
  • 422.97 miles walked
  • 85.43 miles biked

I got my 50 gym visits and just need to file the paperwork for my reimbursement.

Looking at my 2015 goals:

Here’s where I am at the mid point of the year:

  • 1,954,731 steps
  • 807.42 miles walked
  • 306.96 miles biked

On a percentage basis (can you tell I love my spread sheets?) that is:

  • 57.4 % of steps goal
  • 53.8% of mileage goal
  • 61.3% of bike goal

I’m in a good place especially as I expect August to be another challenge due to travel.

My July/Q3 goals are as follows:

  • 333,333 steps (yes, going to try for 1m again in Q3)
  • 400 miles walked

On a non-walking related note, I’ve read 56 books this year. I need to go look at the A-Z challenge but wow. I’m very happy with that.

Welcome back, NYC’s High Bridge

A year to the day after I finished my “last major bridge crossing“, I got to walk across the one that has teased me for most of my #GreatManhattanLoop – ing.  After 40-45 years (depending on who is counting) and some $61m, the High Bridge reopened this week.

“The High Bridge is the city’s oldest bridge, dating back to 1848, and stands 140 feet tall, 2,000 feet long and stretches between about West 173rd Street in Manhattan and West 170th Street in the Bronx” ~Zoe Rosenberg

and I’d venture to guess, it’s least known until the press around its reopening hit this week. I couldn’t make it up for the opening on Tuesday (due to an amazing EmptyMet Tour), but knew I wanted to do it as soon as possible. With a walk up Broadway occupying yesterday, today was it.

Tip: Google Maps doesn’t yet know where it is without the coordinates, so use those provided by the Parks’ Department to get to the Park. Failing that, if going from the Manhattan side, High Bridge Tower will get you close enough that you’ll see the stairs.

After a few false starts in getting past 106th St, the m101 took me practically to the Bridge’s door step. Entering High Bridge Park at 172nd, the new signs are immediately apparent-and exciting! While it’s possible to cross between the Bronx and Manhattan on some of the Harlem River Bridges (Macombs Dam likely the most famous), it isn’t as pleasant when there are cars mere feet away.

It’s just a quick five minute walk through Manhattan’s High Bridge Park to the EVIL stairs down. One look at them and one limp down and I knew I’d be using the accessible exit to leave the Park. While many comparisons are made to the High Line, the comparison I most found myself drawing was Poughkeepsie’s Walkway Over the Hudson. The High Bridge is much shorter at about 2,000 feet but with it’s north and south views and virtual panorama of NYC, it was stunning.

I took my time lingering both on the span and in the small park on the Bronx end for reading and photos, but even with reading and photographing all the historical markers, the bridge itself takes about half an hour to explore. The markers are by far my favorite for the way they tell the span’s history. That will be especially helpful once the re-opening press dies down and people search out the history.

TIP: Some more great historical photos here and the best writeup I’ve found of the Bridge’s history.

Although it doesn’t appear that the bridge will ever be open at sunset, I’d like to be there closer to sunset as I think the views will be amazing. With the afternoon sun, walking toward Manhattan is a challenge and photos just don’t seem to work. However I love how it looks when overcast – layer of eeriness and history to it.

Although the restored bridge links Manhattan and the Bronx in a way that hasn’t been possible in generations, I think its relative inaccessibility (an hour plus from the Upper East Side) will keep the numbers down. There’s something to be said, however, for the restoration of High Bridge Park on the Manhattan side as well. Without that and the increased visitation that came with it, I don’t think the Bridge gets done.

Much like the Saunter, I ended my wander up to the High Bridge at Coogan’s Bluff. Partially due to avoiding climbing back up the stairs into High Bridge park and partially to see if going via the M2 was any quicker than the M101. Mostly as an excuse to see the Brush stairs again when my feet didn’t hurt as much as they did at the end of the Saunter. Yep, still magical. Still living baseball history.

The M2 wasn’t any faster especially as the first bus randomly went out of service at 110th, but it was a nice end to an exploratory day.