October 21, 2017

Rush the Rails.

The first weekend in October, Matt and I headed down to Kansas for Rush the Rails, an event held to officially open the Flint Hills Nature Trail. The trail stretches 117 across east-central Kansas from Osawatomie in the east to Harington in the west. The ride went from Osawatomie to Council Grove, which is approximately 96 miles.




As its name suggests, the trail crosses the beautiful Flint Hills. According to the Flint Hills Nature Trail website, the Flint Hills represent one of the last remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystems in the world. It is home to abundant prairie plant and wildlife species, spectacular views, national historic sites, and a diverse set of recreational areas. The eastern portions of the route travels alongside the Marais Des Cygnes River, between rushing waters and towering bluffs, through rolling farmland and riparian woodlands.
The Flint Hills Nature Trail is the seventh-longest rail-trail in America, and the longest trail in Kansas. It follows the general route of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail and forms a component of the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.



The Flint Hills Nature Trail is built on an old railroad corridor. The route was originally developed in the late 1880s, as the Council Grove, Osage City & Ottawa Railway. It later became the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
MoPac discontinued railway service on the line in the 1980s, and subsequently abandoned. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy acquired and railbanked the corridor in 1995 and later transferred ownership to the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy.


The KRTC has been developing the trail in sections, where volunteers have been available, and where grant funding and donations have permitted the old corridor to be refurbished. Proceeds from Rush the Rails helped to fund sections of the project.




The day started with rain, but by the end, it was sunny and in the high 70s. 




We thought the trail was going to be mostly crushed limestone; however, the trail consisted of terrain that included rocks, mud, sand and everything in between... 




Every 15-20 miles there was a town that hosted a supported check point. Food consisted of bananas, pickles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, salty chips and GU...




After the Admire checkpoint, which was about 75 miles into the ride, I decided to quit. Matt's dad met us at the checkpoint, and I convinced myself I could ride no longer. I had endured the hardest ride I have ever tried, and I was done.




Matt continued on the trail and finished all 96 miles of the ride. Seeing him cross the finish line, I somewhat regretted not completing the last 25 miles of the ride, especially after he said it was the easiest trail of the ride. Oh well.




Matt finished in about 12 hours and 30 minutes Soon after, fireworks started, but we didn't stay for them because we headed to Matt's sister's house for a BBQ dinner and to see Matt's new twin nephews.




Conner and Chase were born just a couple weeks earlier...


















It is always fun to go to Kansas to see Matt's family, and it is even more fun to be able to tie in an event like Rush the Rails to keep us busy. 

Cheers!


September 27, 2017

Iowa City.

I headed down to Iowa City for a weekend in early September. It was my first time traveling from Madison, and I sure didn’t mind the 3 hour drive, which was two hours shorter than driving to Iowa City from Minneapolis. #winning

Saturday morning started off with two soccer games, one game for each of my older two nieces. 


I sure enjoyed some quality time with each of them...



Saturday afternoon we headed to Kinnick for the game...


...and met up with some family friends to tailgate...



It was around 90 degrees, but nothing beats watching a game in Kinnick...


Iowa played the Mean Green of North Texas...


...our section had to wear yellow...



The Hawkeyes won!!! Cheers!

September 26, 2017

New Orleans.

Leah and I traveled to New Orleans for a long weekend over Martin Luther King Jr. Day last winter (yes, I know, it's taken more FOREVER to write this post...but, better late than never, right??!). We had a couple travel vouchers to use up before the end of January after having to cancel a trip to Aruba in October. While we both have been to NOLA more than a few times in the past for business (me) and to visit my Uncle Tom, we had never spent a long amount of time intentionally visiting the city. Plus, with Tom and his family now living almost right in the city, we had a couple tour guides who were willing to take us anywhere and who provided some wonderful recommendations for local eateries and flare. The trip was one we will never forget. 


The trip we had originally planned to Aruba was much more expensive than flying to NOLA. So, we decided to upgrade to first class. Full advantage of the extra hospitality was had by both of us.

Upon arriving in New Orleans, we were picked up by my Aunt Laurie and cousin Annie. We visited a local café for lunch in Metairie. I dined on a yummy bowl of gumbo and fried eggplant.

Metairie is the community where Tom and Laurie live. It is the first suburb of New Orleans, located on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain between the cities of New Orleans and Kenner. Kenner is home to the New Orleans International Airport.


On Friday evening we enjoyed a dinner of homemade shrimp pasta made by Laurie. It was delicious and a perfect meal to start our weekend. YUM!




On Saturday morning, we visited the school where Tom worked. This school is unique because it was formerly known as William Frantz Elementary School, and is the school Ruby Bridges attended during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960. Ruby was six years old when she became the first African-American child to integrate a white elementary school. Her parents had responded to a request from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and volunteered Ruby to participate. Ruby was one of six black children in New Orleans to pass the test that determined they could go to an all while school. Two of the children decided to stay at their old school, three children were transferred to another all-white school, and Ruby attended William Frantz. She had to be escorted to class by her mother and United States marshals every day due to threats of violence. She was taught in a classroom by herself with her own teacher and was also not allowed to eat lunch with the other students in fear of being poisoned. 




She was quoted as saying that the only way she knew other students attended the school was because she could hear their voices while they were outside for recess.




According to an article from the Huffington Post, after Hurricane Katrina, William Frantz Elementary, along with 113 other schools, fell under the oversight of Louisiana’s Recovery School District. As part of a master plan for New Orleans, $1.8 billion was invested in primary and secondary education buildings. William Frantz Elementary became home to Akili Academy in 2013 and $23.5 million was invested in a new building that is attached to the historic elementary school. The older building received rehabilitation of period-style features and hardwood floors and windows were replaced. 


Ruby’s classroom was restored with period-appropriate furniture. Classrooms are used in all parts of both buildings. Akili Academy is a K-6 public, open-enrollment charter school.

After visiting Akili Academy, we went to St. Roch Market for lunch. This place is called a "food hall" that houses several food and beverage purveyors that range in specialties from creole to Mexican and ice cream to kombucha. While we were walking around trying to decide what to order, we ran into two of our favorite Food Network chefs, Marc Murphy and Aaron Sanchez, who are regularly featured as judges on Chopped.



After much wondering and contemplation, I decided to dine on coconut shrimp curry...


...and we all shared an order of fresh oysters.



We then went for a walk by the mouth of the Mississippi River with Tom and Laurie...






Saturday night we splurged on a fancy dinner at Peche. Let's just say, from appetizer to dessert, all the food was divine!




Leah and I spent much of Sunday exploring the French Quarter. The day started at the French Market...



We enjoyed some NOLA inspired food fare at spots recommended by Yelp and our hostess'...


...and had a beer inspired by Leah's cat, Jax...


We took the afternoon to tour the World War II museum, which was extremely inspirational. I would highly recommend this museum to anyone. 



We stopped at Cochon for lunch, and we were lucky enough to enjoy a seat next to the open kitchen. 


Out of spontaneity we introduced ourselves to the chef, who seemed delighted by the gesture. As we ate our way through the menu, he favored us with a few extra food items along the way...


We didn't complain...


Our favorite item was the oysters...


We then walked to Courtyard Brewery...



On Monday, before heading to the airport, Leah, Laurie and I had a wonderful lunch of authentic Spanish paella at Lola's, a home style restaurant with a cozy, quaint feel. 


Leah and I had a wonderful time in New Orleans with Tom, Laurie and their family. We can't wait to go back and explore more of the city!

Cheers!

September 19, 2017

Riding Madison

Matt visited me for the Labor Day weekend. We took advantage of the lovely weather by exploring Madison on bike and foot!

We decided to ride the Capital City State Trail from the Far East of Madison and then got on the Southwest Commuter Bike Path, which we rode into downtown Madison. 



We rode all of the loops highlighted in black...



The landscape along the trail varied from fields to forests to neighborhoods...



This roundabout is a key landmark that leads to various points and cities near Madison...



Once we arrived downtown, we stopped at Canteen for a bite to eat. Their tacos were delicious!



...and so was the Mexican beer!



On Monday, we changed course and went for a hike with Rio at Governor Nelson State Park, which is right outside of Madison. 







I loved having Matt in town and can't wait for more adventures together in this new city!!