Grand Teton National Park Trip

Wow! wow! wow! 

National Parks never disappoint in shocking me.  I joked with my friend Liz that I am so thankful for President Rosevelt by starting the National Parks, but there really are true extraordinary things to see in every National Park that I’ve visited.

We landed at Jackson Hole airport at around 4pm Mountain time and as soon as you get off the plane the Mountains are right there!  The airport is INSIDE the national park.  It’s also very small, so super easy to navigate to the rental cars.  We made our way to our hotel.  We decided to stay at Jackson Lake Lodge.  On our previous trip last year to Denver, we learned that you need to get to National Parks early because the parking lots at trail heads fill up and you can’t even hike!  I just wouldn’t have expected how crowded the outdoors would be 🙂 

Jackson Lake Lodge view on a cold morning with the fog. Just breath taking.

Anyway, we head to the lodge, after stopping at Lucky’s market to pick up some food for the time in the parks.  We’ve also learn, have lots of snacks because hikes take longer than you expect and food in general is far away.   The lodge has amazing views, but it’s a little rustic for the price.  The “lodge” is comprised of little bungalows all strung together.  The furniture is a mix of 1950’s and 1980’s decor and there is clearly water damage from the tough winters.  It was mostly clean but the location was the main event.  They have a back patio that is the best views to watch the sun set.  We were lucky enough to come on a day that it snowed in the mountains the day before so there was snow caps.  We also were about to experience the fog that lake Jackson creates when the air temperature is below the lake temperature.  It was beautiful.  

The view while hiking around Jenny Lake

We selected the Jenny Lake hike for first thing Friday morning.  It did not disappoint.  This is an 8 mile hike around Jenny lake with the most iconic views of the Grand Tetons.  The pictures are just amazing that I was able to take on this walk.  This hike has it all, waterfalls, mountains, water, and panoramic views.  After getting back from the hike we ate our packed lunch at the Jenny Lake Visitor center.  We stopped along route 191 on our way back to take pictures at all the instagram recommended spots and then nap time!  Friday evening we sat on the back deck in the sun, had a drink and relaxed.  We also had dinner and watched the sun set at the fancy restaurant.  I ordered Bison, because when in Rome, but honestly, I recommend traveling into Jackson to get better food.  We couldn’t get a better view.  

Hidden waterfall off of Jenny Lake hike

Saturday started with a float tour down the snake river.  We used Solitude Float Trips and it was just the right about of time on the river.  Our guide had done the rafting tours for 18 years and you could tell.  He knew a lot about the area.  He was happy, and he recommended where to eat in Jackson, which was nice.  We saw tons of bald eagles during the float and of course spectacular views of the mountains. 

Adult bald eagle with young eagle in lower right

The second half of Saturday we decided to drive up to Yellowstone.  Even though we didn’t plan to this originally because Yellowstone is so big and overwhelming to try to see, but we were about 2 hours away from Old Faithful so we gave it a whirl.  We ate our packed lunches on the drive and arrived at Old Faithful as it was erupting.  I saw it from the approach road. LOL!  Old Faithful erupts every 90 minus +/- 10 minutes so we decided to go see the other Geysers in lower basin.  Again, the park is just awe inspiring.  We were able to see quite a few geysers erupt and thermal pools.  We headed back to see Old Faithful, got parked and I missed it by 1 minute!  I ran to see, but I saw the last little bit of the eruption.  The amount of people waiting and watch was just crazy though.  You can drive down the road to the lower basin and see multiple geysers erupting and Old Faithful has 5 rows deep of people surrounding it to watch.  The other thing is, it’s not that big!  I was just so shocked.  It’s a lot like looking at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.  There’s a lot of other great things to see that you don’t have to fight a crowd.  The parking lot was a mess now that the main show was over, so we decided to have a snack before leaving the park.  We made the 2.5 hour drive back to Jackson and made it to our hotel for the night.  By the time we made it to Jackson we were exhausted and just wanted some pizza for dinner.  We walked less than a block from our hotel to Snake River Brewery for an excellent dinner and some craft beer.  It was nice to stay in a normal hotel for the night.  I will warn you also that there are a TON of tour buses staying at the lodge and in this hotel.  You’ll want to stay slightly off the tour bus schedule to not get caught up in the masses.  

Jewel Geyser, the cooler easier to see geyser 🙂

Our last in Jackson we relaxed a bit.  I did my long run utilizing the bike trail, which was so nice.  We went for breakfast at Jackson Hole Roasters Coffee House.  The breakfast was delicious and I tried nitro cold brew, which was also a new favorite of mine.  We walked around the town to take the iconic pictures of the elk horn arches and then decided we should check out Teton Village.  We took the Arial Tram to the top of the Grand Tetons and again just had another amazing view of the Jackson Hole valley.  The Teton Village is like Breckenridge or other ski resorts in the US.  It has shops and food, but it’s clearly for a captive audience.  We had waffles at the top of the mountain and then made our way to the airport.  Our flight was delayed, but only for a tiny bit, so I’m writing this review on the plane.  I’m not even going to get into air travel these days, but I can tell you that the Jackson Hole airport checks all food items in your bags and asked to check my banana.  I’m happy I have snacks for the ride home.  I have a tight-ish  connection in Chicago and I do not need to be hangry with people.  

Jackson Hole valley from Rendezvous point at 10,540ft.

I Have Become my Middle School Assistant Assistant Principal

First, let me get it out of the way in saying that I have the utmost respect for Mr. (Matt?) Mitchell and in this piece I mean him no harm. If there is any “shade” being thrown here it is all internally focused. You, dear reader, will also note that I am unsure of Mr. Mitchell’s first name. These are recollections from more than 30 years ago. All the more interesting that I have now become my Middle School Assistant Assistant Principle some 30 years on.

I have talked about Scioto County before; my birthplace in the Appalachian foothills in the Ohio River Valley. I love my home, so it is with perfect clarity that I see it for what it is: steeped in tradition, conservative, protestant, hard-working but not ambitious, provincial, suspicious of outsiders, rural, local, and individualistic. With two feet in the Midwest, but leaning hard to the American South, our people put practicality about 30 feet higher on the priority list than presentation.

My wife and I noted this on our last trip to Europe in which we sailed up and down the Douro River in Portugal. Even Europe’s squalor is classy. Old homes lay in ruin along the Douro, but all that is left is the timeless stonework. It looks like a Led Zeppelin album cover, mystical and legendary. No plastic flapping in the wind, no garbage strewn about. That cruise could never happen on the mighty Ohio River. Both the Douro and the Ohio are working rivers, but the scenery is not comparable. On the Ohio, manufactured homes with blue tarp serving as replacement shingles and plastic flapping from windows mar the otherwise picturesque greenery. I have digressed.

However, this practicality-over-presentation is exactly the point I want to illustrate. Mr. Mitchell held the position of Assistant Assistant Principal. Yes I know that sounds weird. This was the time when corporal punishment was still common in public schools. I am pretty sure that Assistant Assistant Principal was the school’s way of not calling Mr. Mitchell the “Corporal Punisher.” Mr. Mitchell was a HUGE man. A former football player, it was clear that he lived for the former glory. He was a coach on the all-important middle school football team. The only thing more important in the community than this team was the high school football team. Mr. Mitchell dressed like a coach. Every day. Polyester coach’s pants, white socks, all black training shoes that could be used for refereeing, coaching, or – in many cases around Scioto County – comfortable office shoes. On hot days, he would swap out the coach’s pants for coach’s shorts: same polyester cut with double snaps at the waist, just cut above the knee to display calf muscles that could (and probably did) move automobiles.

As I dressed for work this morning, I slipped into my pro-golfer branded “Traveling Pants.” It was my wife and better half who pointed out that these are essentially the same as the 1980’s polyester coach’s pants. And yes of course, to help protect my feet from the day-to-day pounding I give them while running, climbing, biking, etc. I have paired my Traveling Pants with all black trainers. I don’t wear my all-black athletic shoes all day at the office, but I wear them to- and from- the office for comfort and to protect my office shoes from the often harsh Ohio elements. Practical. So this morning, I paused in front of the full length mirror to offer one last check before heading out the door and confirmed it. I have become my middle school Assistant Assistant Principal, only much less imposing.

Louisville Travel Review

We decided to take our two youngest boys to Louisville, KY this year for a long weekend as their vacation over the summer.  Our older two have scheduled their own adventures and my husband and I went on an amazing trip to Portugal earlier this summer.  Earlier this year, the boys and I went to Williamsburg, VA for spring break, so this was a bonus trip.  I selected Louisville because I am super interested in the National Parks right now, which I have only visited one starting last year.  Also, I think they (13 and 11) are at the right ages for history and National Park style vacations.  Also, Louisville is only 4 hours away by car.  This is an easy drive but still feels different than home.

Thursday: Louisville Slugger Day

The adventure begins with leaving at about 9:30 am.  If you know me, the old me would be through the roof with frustration trying to get my family on the road by 7am so we can maximize our time in the location.  But, I have learned over the course of being a mommy, my tweens and teens don’t want to move at my pace and they don’t want to get up early on summer vacation.  Since this vacation is for the boys, we started at a leisurely pace and planned only 1 activity per day.  I joke that kids don’t really change.  You are limited by their ability to take in new.  When they are toddlers and babies they need naps.  When they are tweens and teens they need electronics time to not be grumpy.

We arrive at stop #1 Cincinnati, OH around 11:30 am.  We needed to get lunch and gas.  I also did my research and found an awesome climbing gym (mosaic climbing) to break up the drive and get in a workout.  We climbed until about 2:00 and then hit the road.

We arrived in Louisville to stay at the Galt Hotel (eh, i wouldn’t recommend) around 4:00.  We settled in and headed over to the Louisville Slugger Museum (a must see).  We learned that after 6pm the cost is 1/2 price, so we chose to wait until 6:00 to take the factory tour and see the museum.  Jackson, my baseball player was in heaven.  We bought him a personalized bat and went to dinner while it was engraved.  We ate at Proof on Main.  This is the second time Troy and I have been here and we have loved the food both times.  They also have children’s menus making it simple for the kids.

After a little stroll along the Ohio river, we took the boys back to the hotel and let them have their veg time.  We slipped downstairs for a drink at one of the many speakeasy’s for a nice relaxing “we” time before bed.

Friday: Mammoth Cave Day!

On the drive to Cincinnati, I did research to determine which tour we wanted to take at Mammoth Cave.  I figured out how to purchase tour tickets online.  It seems this is the way to go because there were no tours available when we arrived on Friday.  I selected the Domes and Drips tour.  There are a TON of tours, but this seemed about the attention span of the kids at 2 hours total.  Plus, I personally wanted to see some stalactites and stalagmites.  Troy and I woke up early and ran.  Louisville has a great pedestrian bridge across the Ohio that is an old rail road bridge that has been paved.  It’s perfect for a nice view of the city while running.  The boys slowly woke up and were ready to go around 10am.  Our tour time was for 12:45, so no stress.  A couple things about Mammoth Caves:

1. It’s in central time zone – this is an hour later than Louisville

2. It’s really busy in the summer – about 100 people were on our tour

3. Unlike other national parks, it is very “danger free” … meaning there are hand rails and concrete walking paths within the cave

My impression of the whole experience is, I didn’t realize how crowded it would be.  I was disappointed at the safety rails and man made walking path.  I was expecting more of a hike.  At least on the tour we took, it’s just like walking on a sidewalk and looking at the cave.  The cave was impressive, but I was hoping for a bit more interaction, wilderness, need-hiking-boots, type experience.  I’m going with, it was just alright and I plan to go back at a less busy time.  However, my 13 year old, leaned over and said “Mom, this was totally worth it” during the tour.  So, at least his expectations were exceeded.

On the way back from Mammoth Cave we stopped at the World’s Largest go-kart track to let the boys have some fun practice driving.  They also chose to have a quick dinner and veg the rest of the night versus going out to dinner with us.  Once we got back to the hotel, Troy and I let the boys reconnect to the outside world via electronics while we had a nice dinner.  Although, I don’t recommend the place we chose, so no endorsement there.

Saturday: Headed home

After discussing with the boys if they had anything else they would like to see, we decided to head back to Ohio.  It was a nice trip and everyone wanted to get organized for the upcoming week.  But first! Climbing 🙂  We visit NuLu Climbing in Louisville as soon as they opened.  Troy requested a late checkout so we could climb then shower before getting on the road.  The gym was amazing.  It is 100% bouldering and huge!  Jackson, Troy, and I had a great time and felt ready to sit in a car for 4 hours.

The Curiosity of Premonitions

Have you ever had a premonition come true? Have you ever changed your mind on something because of a premonition? I’m generally not one for “woo woo” stuff, but lately I’ve come to trust premonitions more and more.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I left our house while feeling completely in disarray. I don’t mean our house was messy, I mean our internal compasses were swirling. We were headed to the airport for our trip to Portugal and something felt wrong about it to both of us. Neither of us knew what the problem was, but we felt like we were headed for trouble. Did we leave the stove on and the house would burn down while we were gone? Well it turned out we were in for some dissatisfying travel experiences and we’d get a chance to check on that stove.

We got to our local John Glenn International Gateway Airport in our beloved home city and things started quickly going awry. I had neglected to take my camping knife out of my backpack and had it discovered in security. Oops. After going through the explanations and machinations of mailing it back to myself, we moved on toward the gate. But first, a meal. 50 minutes later, we had completed our over-priced mediocre-at-best supper and were ready to make our way to the gate. But not so fast. The texts were coming in: “Your flight has been delayed.” It took about another 90 minutes and three more delays for our flight to go past the point of connection in Washington D.C. and so, just like that, we were cancelled and rebooked on the exact same flight the next day. We had just lost 24 hours in Lisbon.

We called the airline. On hold. We called the travel company. “Talk to the airline,” they said. After an hour of getting no love, we were sent back to baggage claim to wait for another hour to pick up our bags and then to make the drive back home. As I’ve written before, we Don’t Expect Benevolence When Traveling, but this was the pits. While waiting for the bags, I looked at Melanie and said, “Well this explains that bad feeling I had about leaving the house.” She smiled knowingly and simply said, “Me too.”

For the past several nights, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to the disturbing thought of my dog getting hurt. Today I figured out why. Today he was scheduled to go to the groomers for a bit of a spa treatment. To say my dog is special kind of doesn’t do him justice. He is the most athletic, active, and intelligent (if not always for his own good) dog I’ve ever known. The last time he was at this place he climbed out of a 6 foot tall fence 3 times before they figured out how to contain him. He’s now 10 years old and hasn’t slowed down a bit. I had the sneaking suspicion that he was going to attempt that same climb and this time get really hurt. And at 10 years old, recovery is not an easy thing. So this time, I trusted my gut and I didn’t let him go. Who knows, maybe I’m going whacko in my middle age. But I just didn’t think it was worth the risk of not trusting my gut for some trimmed nails and a shampooing.

Do you get premonitions? Do you listen or ignore them?

Lovely Lisbon

Melanie – my wife and better half – had a milestone birthday this year. We love to travel, so for her birthday we decided to have her pick a trip that she wanted. She had never been on a cruise of any sort and has been considering it for a few years. So she picked a river cruise up the Douro River in Portugal.

Anyone with access to a map will quickly recognize that the Douro River has nothing to do with Lisbon. However, Viking’s River of Gold starts in Lisbon. I’ll cover this trip in segments to keep these posts manageable in size. So… Lisbon is our starting point.

Lisbon is a decent port of entry for Europe. The airport is modern and customs was pretty easy, if not a little slow. Our trip started off with a couple of airline delays – throwing shade at United Airlines – so we were running about 1.5 days behind on our trip. Viking did great. They met us at the airport, helped with our bags, and delivered us to our hotel in a clean, upscale vehicle. No muss, no fuss.

Avenida da Liberdade

Our hotel was the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, which is an upscale hotel on the main avenue in Lisbon. The street is very wide with plenty of tile sidewalks under a canopy of sycamore trees. Along the street, we stopped off in a cafe hut and had a snack in an open air cafe. I had been brushing up on my Portuguese in order to get around, but it was unnecessary. Everyone spoke perfect English. The food was great, the cafe was tasty and it was nice to be not moving in and out of airports. The weather was nearly perfect: sunny and 80F (27C). We had a lovely stroll along the wide street, people watching and window shopping.

Enter the Tuk Tuk

Because we were running behind schedule, we missed out on the Viking guided tours. Near our cafe, we saw a series of golf carts lined up. As we strolled past, a lively young lady asked us if we wanted a Tuk tuk tour. These vehicles – some three wheeled, some four – are called tuk tuks (long u) and are a common sight in Lisbon. These tuk tuk drivers navigate the very hilly streets of Lisbon and point out some of the finer points. Our guide, Nadia, was great. She spent an hour and a half showing us Lisbon, sharing its long history and fascinating backstory.

Not Enough Time

In the end, we decided we didn’t get enough time in Lisbon. Less than 24 hours simply did not do it justice. We didn’t get to see the sea or cross either of the long bridges across the Tagus River. Lovely Lisbon left us wanting more. Below are some highlighted photos from our short stay in Lisbon.

I still have a keyboard and I’m still alive

It feels like forever since my last post. Life has been busy. My wife and I took a trip to Portugal, some details of which I’ll offer up as an upcoming post. In the run up to the trip, I was feverishly getting ready to be out of the office for 10 days. In addition, my humble little department is growing, so I’m focused on the hiring process on top of my out-of-office prep and – now recovery – plan. Having said all of that, it is high time to get back to writing. I’ve been catching up on some of the blogs I follow and you’re all putting out such great content. It inspires me to get back to it. So… here we go. Kicking off a fresh season of Quixote Goes!

Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road

Hi everyone. My name is Troy and it’s been five weeks since I’ve posted. I’m full of excuses. Busy at work, planning a trip, international travel, illness, different spring breaks for four kids, yada yada… But in reality, there’s a wealth of things on the list to write about and I haven’t made the time for it. If I’m honest, I haven’t had the inspiration. I have sat down multiple times to craft a post, and I haven’t finished one. So this is the marker I’m laying down. Write, or hang up the keyboard.

I have several posts planned. Here’s a quick list of what I’ll post in the coming weeks:

  • Travel:
    • A frequent visitor’s guide to Barcelona
    • Buying property in Catalunya
    • Attending El Clasico as a Barcelona fan in Madrid
  • Fitness:
    • Being a Beginner
    • Learning to Climb Part 2
    • Running – Continuing Return from Injury
  • Mindfulness:
    • Why Not Inner Peace through Christianity?