in outside interests |


Whatsapp with sis:

me: I’ve just been reading for 2 days
sis: you are ok?
me: oh yes quite relaxing
sis: [talk about new noodle shop near her place]

She has a family and household to run but she has never been a big reader anyway. She reads more literary fiction when she does, and the rest of time she reads cook books and books on health & beauty. I don’t think she’s ever spent a whole day doing nothing but reading. Whereas I’ve been reading since Sunday night and don’t have any intention of venturing out unless necessary.

For me, just like having no plans is the perfect plan, doing nothing but reading is the perfect activity.

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in evidence of my insanity , outside interests |

Now that we’re back from the road trip and I have a week in chicago I’m catching up on reading. Some random odds and ends on my feedly over the past fortnight.


For most of the trip I was the navigator and had a grand old time looking at the thick pile of AAA maps. Yes, I’d rather play with one of those impossible to refold maps than play with GPS. Since my mind is still on maps, here are 19 US maps that will blow your mind. They are a combination of interesting trivia (19 state names end with a and none end with z) and random animation.


We had trouble a couple of nights finding a hotel because they were all booked with other tourists or for some event. Perhaps next time we’d tow this bike camper with sleeping compartment behind the car. Made by Dutch artist artist Bas Srakel the tricycle is meant for homeless people and urban nomads but could work for roadtrippers without hotel rooms.

We ate far too much fast food but had a few nice meals. Sometimes we’d get bread, cheese and cold meats from the supermarket and make sandwiches. Two people in an SUV meant there was room to pack lots of stuff, including suitcases, soft drinks, food, snacks, stuff for the conference, souvenirs and a cooler. By bbmm travelling standards, Carleen and I packed a lot, but we did not reach the levels required for Victorian camping:

Axe (in cover). Axle-grease. Bacon. Barometer (pocket). Bean-pot. Beans (in bag). Beef (dried). Beeswax. Bible. Blacking and brush. Blankets. Boxes. Bread for lunch. Brogans (oiled). Broom. Butter-dish and cover. Canned goods. Chalk. Cheese. Clothes-brush. Cod-line. Coffee and pot. Comb. Compass. Condensed milk. Cups. Currycomb. Dates. Dippers. Dishes. Dish-towels. Drawers. Dried fruits. Dutch oven. Envelopes. Figs. Firkin. Fishing-tackle. Flour (prepared). Frying-pan. Guide-book. Half-barrel. Halter. Hammer. Hard-bread. Harness (examine!). Hatchet. Haversack. Ink (portable bottle). Knives (sheath, table, pocket and butcher). Lemons. Liniment. Lunch for day or two. Maps. Matches and safe. Marline. Meal (in bag). Meal-bag. Medicines. Milk-can. Molasses. Money (“change”). Monkey-wrench. Mosquito-bar. Mustard and pot. Nails. Neat’s-foot oil. Night-shirt. Oatmeal. Oil-can. Opera-glass. Overcoat. Padlock and key. Pails. Paper. Paper collars. Pens. Pepper. Pickles. Pins. Portfolio. Postage stamps. Postal cards. Rope. Rubber blanket. Rubber coat. Rubber boots. Sail-needle. Salt. Salt fish. Salt pork. Salve. Saw. Shingles (for plates). Shirts. Shoes and strings. Slippers. Soap. Song-book. Spade. Spoons. Stove (utensils in bags). Sugar. Tea. Tents. Tent poles. Tent pins. Tooth-brush. Towels. Twine. Vinegar. Watch and key.


Every year when I leave the conference I get motivated to write and I tell myself to finish LL. This year, I did finish it and I sent it to people for comments. So may be one of these days I don’t have to admonish myself for procrastinating. The whole publishing process is quite daunting and unknown to me. One of the things I want to explore doing myself is the book cover. Here’s something different, vintage book posters that feature books in books. My favourite I also find a little creepy.

iphonepenguin holmeswatson

Book posters don’t appeal? How about 18 quirky literary items available on etsy. I like the Penguin iphone covers and wish they would make the Holmes & Watson earrings into cufflinks.

bowtieperiodic bowtietardis

Speaking of etsy, I also came across speicher bow ties. Several friends like to wear bow ties at the conference, during social events and at the awards ceremony. My favourite is the periodic table one, they also have physics, tardis and star trek bow ties amongst others.

And finally, a SMH funny-but-not-really incident, of appalling tactics by comcast when an ex-customer tried to cancel. Talk about persistent, annoying and condescending. The actual recording is cringe-inducing so for the faint of heart there is also a transcript.

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in going places |


google maps mileage: 4510 miles (7258km)
trip meter mileage: 5097 miles (8203km)

states visited: 9 — iowa, nebraska, wyoming, utah, idaho, oregon, washington, montana, south dakota
of which new: 7 — nebraska, wyoming, utah, idaho, oregon, montana, south dakota
days travelled: 19, including 5 days at conference
actual stops: 11

  • lincoln NE: motel 6
  • rock springs WY: best western
  • twin falls ID: days inn
  • pendleton OR: red lion
  • portland OR: red lion (8 nights)
  • spokane WA: quality inn
  • bozeman MT: mountain view inn
  • sheridan WY best western
  • deadwood SD: best western
  • custer SD: americas best value dakota cowboy inn
  • mitchell SD: ramada inn

national parks visited: 5 — antelope island, yellowstone, devils tower, mount rushmore, badlands (crazy horse is private non-profit)
waterfalls seen: 5 — twin falls, shoshone falls, horsetail falls, firehole falls, lower falls yellowstone canyon
animals seen: 18 — elk, moose, bison, bear, prairie dog, mountain lion, arctic wolf, timber wolf, reindeer, big horn sheep, mountain goat, antelope, pronghorn, badger, otter, lynx, coyote, fox (plus birds and farm animals: cow, horse, sheep)
animals walking close to car: 5 — bison (x2), arctic wolf, bear, cow, deer

wineries, distilleries, breweries visited: 5 — hood river wine, eastside distillery whiskey, stone barn brandyworks whiskey & rum, bridgeport beer, prairie berry wine

conference sessions attended: 11
weddings attended: 2

pictures taken: 1846
videos taken: 11
magnets purchased: 16

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in going places |


Driving day. I had breakfast at the hotel, mostly since I needed my cup of tea. On the road at 11am. This was the only pic I took, lunch at IHOP. I had berry brioche french toast, hash brown, sausages and scrambled eggs.

We drove from South Dakota through Iowa. I took over driving midway through Iowa. At 8.25pm we finally reached Illinois and back in Blue Island just before 11pm. Overall trip over 5,000 miles.

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in going places |


Quick breakfast at hotel: half a waffle and a little eggs. Short drive to Mount Rushmore. At the crazy horse monument yesterday, they superimposed all 4 presidents onto the head of crazy horse, to show how large it is. I’d also read that people found mount rushmore to be smaller than expected. Wrong. I found the sculptures of the presidents very impressive. They were visible already from the car park and there was the grand viewing terrace which brought us very close to the sculpture. They also had one of the best gift shops of this trip, souvenirs weren’t as tacky as some places, there were lots of varieties (over 10 types of magnets) and quite reasonably priced too. I bought a baseball for gis, shot glasses, magnets and 10 tote bags ($2.99 each) for gifts.


On the way to the highway we passed by bear country usa, a small safari park. They had deers, goats, reindeers, an arctic fox, mountain lions and lots of bears. The drive around the park was slow as they were busy, this gave us lots of photo opportunities. At the end of the drive they had a small enclosure area with baby bears and other small animals like fox, otter. Most were asleep in the hot midday sun.


A short ways along the highway was badlands national park. Terrific landscape. We’d be driving along flat farmland and then in the park there were cliffs and ravines and canyons formed from clay and mineral deposits. It was extremely hot, desert weather and the haziness made the entire place seem like an alien landscape. We stopped at almost all the viewpoints along the 24-mile loop around the park, I jumped out and took pictures with our cameras.

And then my s110 developed lens error. Argh!!! Luckily I had the big camera with me, and it was towards the end of our trip.

We drove on until around 9pm and stopped at Mitchell. Most hotels were full, probably due to a rodeo or event in town. We managed to get the last room at the ramada inn. Dinner was takeaway pizza. There was no internet and we had problems with the front desk guy so I gave up and went to bed.

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in going places |

trip06boothill trip07boothill

We checked out of our western style hotel early and drove a short distance to mount moriah cemetery. $1 admission. The cemetery dated back to the days of the wild west and was where characters like WIld Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Preacher Smith were buried. There was also a spot where the US flag flew day and night and a good view of the town of Deadwood.

trip08museum76 trip09museum76

Drove to the other end of the town to the days of 76 museum. There were exhibits of early wild west days, parade, rodeo, native american artefacts, a trading post replica and a room full of stagecoaches. Outside the museum marked the spot where supposedly the first gold was found. We drove around the historic main street to take pictures of the buildings, then we were off.

trip10winery trip11winery

Next stop was prairie berry winery. Free tasting of 5 wines, I tried their fruity whites and reds. Bought their signature red ass rhubarb, made from 90% rhubarb and 10% raspberry to temper the acidity. Really great, smooth fruity red.

trip12crazyhorse trip13crazyhorse

The destination today was the crazy horse memorial. I’d vaguely heard of it before and didn’t realise how significant the site is. The sculpture of chief crazy horse was begun in the 1940s and even today there is a long way to go to completion. The fact that it’s a work in progress adds to the atmosphere. Lots of useful educational information and a show too.

We found our hotel at Custer, more a motel straight from the 1950s that was quite charming in an old fashioned way. Hadn’t eaten all day so we headed to the nearby cattleman steakhouse where we had buffalo sirloin. We thought it was a fitting revenge on the buffalo encounters at yellowstone.

We relaxed for a bit back at the hotel, then headed out at 8pm back to crazy horse monument to see the light show. With our ticket earlier we got a return ticket so it was free. The guide at the information booth also advised us to park at the upper car park and he was right. We got a perfect head-on view of the monument from the car. We set up cameras and camcorders and tripods inside the car and waited till the show started. It lasted about half an hour of laser show with sound effect. Very cool.

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in going places |


An easy day. Woke up after 9am, had breakfast and left the hotel at 11am. Still had a headache throughout the day due to late night, but it’s okay.

The target today was Devils Tower National Monument. The 856 ft high tower is made of magnum and the columns of rock are very distinctive. The tower is also recognisable from close encounters of the third kind. No aliens or mothership were seen though. There are several trails around the tower area, I scrambled up to the bottom of the rock pile, up to the point that climbing wasn’t allowed without permission. It is possible to climb the tower, with permission from the park rangers.


Within the national park was a small area where prairie dogs roamed. People could get really close to them, they were probably so used to people and cars. Quite cute.

We visited the gift shop and headed to nearby Sundance for a looksee. Nothing much to see there so we headed to our overnight stop of Deadwood. After last night’s experience we made reservations this morning. Good thing, the hotel was fully booked. Dinner at the hotel diner-restaurant. I had steak tips — deep fried tips of tenderloin. First time I tried deep fried steak, quite juicy but I don’t think it’s too healthy. Finished with apple pie and ice cream that was very good.

We reached the hotel by 5pm and by 8pm we’d finished dinner. There was time for laundry and to sort through some of the trip pics.

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in going places |

Since we decided to go to Yellowstone National Park, we set off early from Bozeman. Ran a few errands first — oil change for car, staples, shopping for sandwiches, mcdonalds breakfast. The drive to the west entrance of YNP was through trees and valleys. We passed by Big Sky where I got a map and some helpful hints from the staff at the information center.


Fee for YNP was $25 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. What a bargain. We followed an anti-clockwise loop, first stop was Madison (9 o’clock) and photo op at Madison river, then a small detour to Firehole Falls. That set the tone for the rest of our visit.


Next on the loop was the geyser area. The first few geysers were too crowded, no parking available. We were able to find parking at biscuit basin. The colours were spectacular there, with 3 small blue pools of the clearest blue colour, the water flowed to yellow and orange and brown caused by sulphur.


One of the highlights in YNP was Old Faithful geyser. By the time we reached there it was 2.30pm. The car park was completely full. I jumped out and joined the hundreds of people sitting around the area waiting. Within 5-10mins someone shouted “it’s starting” and true enough, the geyser blew a high pillar of steam into the sky. Everyone scrambled for their cameras. After the show, which lasted about 5mins, we went into the shop. At the back of the cashier was a notice that said they predicted the geyser will blow +/- 10mins of 2.50pm, so we were just in time.


It was around 4pm when we stopped a picnic table at pumice point along the shore of the yellowstone river for a late lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches. It was so quiet and peaceful there, just watching the lake and then a lone fisherman came by casting his line.


After the lake we headed to fishing bridge but didn’t stop. The next stop was at mud volcano and the oddly mesmerising dragon mouth. A huge mass of steam blew out from a cave as a result of volcanic activity inside. The combination of water waves and steam made a roaring sound that was like the roar of a dragon.


The destination was canyon village and a short ways along the south rim drive were views of the canyon and the lower falls. The red colours of the canyon walls were also quite spectacular.


By that time we knew we had to head out of the park. We drove through some treacherous narrow steep roads and descended into the lamar valley. Pretty sunset views of the valley and wildflowers.


We saw wild animals in the park. An elk, a bear and several herds of bison. We had a bison cross the road in front of the car and another bison walking along the middle yellow line towards our car. They were so close we could have reached out and touched them.

We left the park at almost 9pm. Drove through some difficult roads to reach Cody. The bad news was there there were absolutely no hotel rooms at Cody. Desperate times called for desperate means. We continued driving another 130 miles and made it to Sheridan at 3am. Thankfully the Best Western had vacancies. I showered, downloaded pictures and was in bed around 3.45am. Thank you to Carleen for driving all day in the park, and then driving the long dark route to Sheridan.

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in going places |


Left fairly early and was at Staples to print out flat versions of our friends to take with us on the road trip.

Only about 1hr to the state line at Idaho. Stopped at Coeur d’Alene to: a) wash car and b) visit the very beautiful Coeur d’Alene lake. Stunning scenery, a marina, water sports including parasailing and float planes. Quite touristy and I can see why.

Continued on the I-90 and entered a new state, Montana, around mid-morning. The clock changed back to Mountain time so by the time we stopped for lunch it was past 1.30pm. Stopped at a small travelcenter complex at St Regis and had lunch at a small diner type restaurant. I had deep fried prawns, peas and rice. At the shop next door I got huckleberry ice cream, yummydelicious.


The scenery changed from desert like in Norhern Washington to more mountaneous with thick forest in Idaho to flat with rolling hills in Montana. Not many big towns, mostly small villages and communities. Farming for the most part. A very pleasant drive indeed. Even the weather was ever changing. We started the day with hot weather around 30°C, then it cooled to warm 20s. At times there were isolated heavy rain and I saw lightning at another patch of rain some ways away. Sunset was late, almost 9pm.

Dinner at IHOP, I had chicken and spinach crepe. After studying our stack of maps we decided that it was feasible to detour to Yellowstone national park tomorrow. So very excited about this opportunity. Have to get our cameras ready.

By the time we finished dinner it was getting later than usual. We were at Bozeman MT, which had a lot of shops and hotels. As usual we went to the hotel to get a room but for some reason everything was fully booked! Finally the nice receptionist at a Residence Inn called another place nearby and got us the last room available. Relieved.

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in going places |


Loaded the car and had a late breakfast with friends who were still at the conferene hotel. It was around noon when we started out on our return trip. This time we will take a more northerly route. The instructions from AAA took us to a scenic route in the mountain roads north of the columbia river. We crossed back to the I-84 via the bridge of the gods ($1 toll). We went through Oregon and to Washington state, from forests to desert.

Around mid-afternoon we started looking at the map to see where we might stop for the night and Spokane was at the right spot. Found a Quality Inn by the highway and checked in quickly. They had an in-house restaurant so we just ordered a pizza from them.

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in going places , how the day went |


The last day of the conference is pretty much wrap up by the exec director, brunch (bacon, eggs, muffin) and lots of hugging. Sad that I won’t see my friends for another year, but happy to have the opportunity to see them at all.

I did do something I’ve never done before, and likely never have the opportunitty to again. I was invited to two weddings!

The first one was at the hotel deck. The couple were both in white and the ceremony officiated by a great, great friend of everyone. It was lovely and warm and I could see the emotions clearly on the face of the couple. People cried good tears and I felt honoured to have attended. I don’t know the couple very well, a friend of theirs asked if I could help take pictures at the last minute.

The second wedding I had been invited to earlier, also to help take pictures. It was again, full of love, emotion, warmth and happiness. It was indoors, at a chapel across the way at Vancouver WA. Many family and friends attended, as did a group of us from the writing community.

A beautiful and very thoughtful ceremony. The couple (and their son) poured coloured sand, exchanged lighted candles and were bonded by a series of rainbow ribbons. So symbolic. We stayed for the reception, the dance and even got to try the wedding cake. Great day.

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in going places |


Lots of running around getting the award presentation done. First thing in the morning checking projection connection, then with the team to go through the presentation one last time.

Attended 2 sessions: one with food with writing and the second one the annual panel with new writers and their journey towards publication.

More awards meeting and by the time we broke off we had just over 30mins to get something to eat, have a shower and changed. A little bit disappointed at the lack of time and everyone else (including those in charge) seemed to have just gone off for their own happy dinner whilst abandoning the awards team. I mean, we also needed to eat and we had no time. I only had time to pop into taco bell across the road to get a burrito which I had to literally shove down my mouth.

The tech desk was at the back of the ballroom where the awards were to be held. I was nervous and stressed because the slide order had to be spot on. 237 slides total. I also had to be careful I didn’t hit the arrow button too early especially when the winners were announced. By the time the ceremony was finished I was knackered. I stayed to congratulate people and to watch a couple of dances. Needed quiet time.

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in going places |

Attended two two-part master classes today. One on historical fiction research and one on what to include in a good manuscript. The historical fiction one included a hands-on exercise where we were split into small groups, given a scenario and told to research and write a passage. It was fun and I think my group did really well. Then again we had 3 editors who write, and a writer…and me.

Today was also special speaker day and our special speaker was Ann Bannon, a true pioneer and an icon.

port14wedge port15scallop

Lunch was chicken sandwich, potato salad, cookie and an apple. Dinner was at bj’s brewpub. Had a red jeremiah (quite dark but not hoppy), wedge salad and for mains seared scallop with rice and asparagus.

Evening activity was karaoke. Mainly sat around chatting and drinking the wine I got from Mt Hood winery out of a coffee paper cup. Took part in the annual “I feel pretty” group sing in honour of a lost sister. Stayed quite late.

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in going places |

The conference proper started today. A welcome from the exec director then it was to sessions. I went to one called “I wish I’d written that” followed by one about different mystery genres. I learned the difference between cozy (American spelling) and hard-boiled mysteries and which one contains knitting. Lunch was roast beef sandwich, potato salad, cookie and an apple. After lunch it was the members’ meeting followed by a well attended panel with several illustrious editors.


At the members’ meeting they were giving out awards and certificates for volunteers and I was honoured to be one of the recipients of an award.

Didn’t go to the next session. My friend, editor P, gave me some great advice about LL. I did manage to catch the board meeting and by then it was past 6pm.


A and I went to dinner at the nearby boomers barbeque restaurant. Between the two of us, we ordered ribs, beef brisket, pulled chicken, pork loin and hot links. I had a beer and sides of corn and coleslaw. I liked the ribs and brisket best. $45 total with tips.

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in going places |

Couldn’t sleep last night until 5am, so didn’t wake up till 9.30am. Finished some work then hung around the vendor area helping a little with set up. Lots of volunteers completed the task quickly.


Spent the afternoon watching Holland vs Argentina world cup semi-finals. Disappointing result for us, as Argentina won on penalties. Ah well.

My stomach wasn’t feeling well, A and I went to Safeway and got some soup. Then it was time for the Meet and Greet at the vendor room. Not much to do, said hello to more people. Early escape back to the room to watch tv.

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port09street port10max
port11bridge port12museum

My friend A and I went into Portland today. The hotel shuttle took us to the light rail station and it was straightforward to Pioneer Square. We walked around, went to Powell’s for a little while then walked to the waterfront park. Pretty park and good view of the bridges.

Opposite the waterfront park we rented bikes for the remainder of the afternoon so we could take in more of the city. I was a little nervous as I’m not used to cycling around city streets but by and large it was okay and drivers in Portland tended to respect cyclists more than in other parts of the world (ahem, London).

We explored a few food cart areas and ended up at the same pod I was at yesterday. I thought about Ethiopian but I was hungry so I had a grilled cheese sandwich with 4 cheeses. Very rich, very stodgy, way too fattening. Plus I had it with a vietnamese condensed milk iced tea.

With all the calories I needed to cycling exercise. Went south all the way to Portland State University, stopped at a frozen yogurt place then headed back to the waterfront.

The hotel shuttle came back to pick us up, then I was at meetings. Didn’t get to eat dinner which made me cranky. One of my friends gave me cheese, whiskey and wine and I felt a bit better.

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My friends M and C picked me up from the hotel in the morning; they moved to Vancouver WA, just across the river from Portland and I hadn’t seen them in years and years. We hung out at their house for a while, catching up.

port01foodcart port02suprameal

They took me to lunch at the food carts, street food is distinctively Portland—there are over 500 food carts all over the city. At this spot, carts are lined up along 4 sides of a square and there was a great selection to choose from: japanese, thai, vietnamese, indian, mexican, mediterranean, kebab, hawaiian, sausages, waffles. Originally I wanted to try the ethiopian truck but at the end I decided on the one offering georgian food. I’d never tried food from georgia, and it turned out to be typically eastern european. I had the combo plate — eggplant roll, mushroom dumplings, cheese flatbread, bean-stuffed bread, tomato salad. Very nice, the meatless option felt healthy.

After lunch, we walked a few blocks to Powell’s, one of the largest bookstores in the country. It was big. Bookshelves filled with all sorts of books in different sections they called rooms. I took a quick tour around most of the rooms, then settled at the cookery and food section. Lots of selection.

port03disteastside port04diststone

After Powell’s we did some tastings around distillery row. First stop at eastside distilling where we tried potato vodka, spiced rum, marionberry bourbon, cherry bourbon and their premium double barrel bourbon. I really liked their double barrel bourbon but at $55 was too expensive for a bourbon.

The second tasting was at stone barn brandyworks, the smallest distillery in Portland and located at a small warehouse unit in a commercial block. The very friendly and knowledgable person there generously let us sample straight rye (clear, very strong), oaked rye, spelt whiskey, grappa and various fruit liqueurs including rhubarb, quince, apricot. I did buy a bottle of the quince liqueur, it was very special and I couldn’t resist.

port05rose port06rose

Took a break from the alcohol and visited the rose garden. It is a test garden where different species of roses are cultivated. Very pretty, and we were just in time to catch the blooms.

port07bridgebeer port08bridgesalad

Early dinner at bridgeport brew pub. I had a strong (9.2%) but delicious old knucklehead ale, a much needed spinach & salad and hummous. Everything was yummy. My friends were telling me about their adventures, in particularly going hiking and travelling around this part of the country. So wish I could live here. I already know I love Seattle, and now I can add Portland to the list.

Back at the hotel, I was just in time to help out with unloading conference materials. Joined a couple of people for dinner, only had salad. Without intending it, I ended up with an all vegetarian day. Well, vegetarian plus lots of whisky and beer day. Went running on the treadmill for 5k to compensate for the beer.

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in going places |


Early morning set off, breakfast on the way. The landscape started as dry and rolling hills but once we hit the columbia river gorge it turned totally gorgeous. Stopped at the first viewpoint next to the highway to take pictures. It was hot and sunny but with a nice breeze.

Made a stop at the columbia river gorge discovery center to get information about where to go in the local area. The girls there suggested that we took a drive along the fruit loop, a 35-mile circuit that takes in farms, pyo fruit farms and wineries. An awesome experience, if I were with mm, we would have spent the entire day there wine tasting and going to pyo farms. It’s cherry season and the cherry trees were bursting with fruit, both the regular dark kind and the delicious rainier cherries. I bought a bag, I couldn’t resist.


I was able to go to one winery, the aptly named mt hood winery which was indeed at the foot of mt hood. Tried 5 wines for $5, ranging from a sharp pinot noir, an even more sharp zinfindel, a nice blend, a granache and a pretty decent syrah.

Next stop was the waterfalls area, one of the biggest attractions of the gorge. Unfortunately we only saw one waterfall, the horsetail falls. Too much traffic in narrow roads prevented further exploration. A bit disappointing.


Drove onto Portland and reached the hotel just after 2pm. Rooms were ready so we unloaded. I unpacked a little, then took a break. Dinner was at joe’s crab shack. I had a mixed pot of snow, queen and king crabs. Plus a beer.

The end of the first part of our road trip. Something like 2,500 miles.

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Breakfast included at the hotel. I had half a waffle, half a slice of toast and half pot of yogurt. Tried their tea but had to give up and switch to PG.

It was a good decision to stay overnight at Twin Falls, because there are several things to see around the town. Just off the main road was a scenic viewpoint overlooking the snake river canyon. Awesome gorge, right there by the road.


It got better. A few miles beyond town was the Twin Falls Hydroelectric project. The grounds near the plant was open to the public; the view of the gorge, the lake, the dam and small waterfall was breathtaking.


And we weren’t finished. Within the same Snake River canyon area was the Shoshone Falls. Its brochure describes it as the Niagara of the West and at 212 feet high, it’s actually 45 feet taller than Niagara. Not as wide though. The viewing platforms were close to the carpark and gave spectacular views of the falls and also back towards the gorge. There was also a double rainbow when we were there. When we exited the state park, there was a queue of cars waiting to get in, so our timing was perfect.


After a quick lunch at IHOP back at Twin Falls, it was time to continue on our way. The landscape was still flat, mainly farmland or grazing land. We could see mountains in the distance. As we drove closer to Oregon, the landscape changed and it became more desert-like. The flatness gave way to hills and valleys.


The elevation increased and we found ourselves driving close to 9,000 feet mountains on both sides. Beyond the mountains was a national forest, the landscape changed yet again to trees.

Overnight stop at the Red Lion at Pendleton. Dinner at the hotel restaurant, watched the replay of Holland vs Costa Rica quarter-finals, had nachos, prime rib and a beer. Stomach wasn’t feeling too wall, a bit bloated. Food was good but service was extremely slow. Relieved to be finally in our room and showered.

After 4 days of travelling, we are just over 200 miles from Portland.

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in going places |

Leisurely wake up, had breakfast in the hotel: cheerios, pancake, sausage and tea that tasted okay at first but wasn’t very good after a bit. Asked for directions to car wash, the automatic one was closed so had to use the manual one.


Continued on our way acoss Wyoming. The landscape was pretty, the flat farmlands gave way to cliff-like rock formations. The weather was gorgeous, blue skies almost all the way.


Since we were ahead of schedule, we decided to detour to Salt Lake City. The main attraction was Temple Square, and we were able to find a parking space close to the entrance. The visitors centers and the Tabernacle were open, but none of the other buildings were. Took pictures of the main temple and other buildings on the grounds. Grand buildings and a very neat site.


Stopped long enough at the state capitol to take a picture, then drove out of town to look for the Great Salt Lake. Got directions at a petrol station for antelope island. $10 entrance fee per vehicle to the state park was totally worth it. The island is the largest island on the lake and accessible via a narrow causeway. It was hot and the effect of the heat and may be salt made the road seem like it was shimmering. Apparently there are bisons, pronghorn antelopes, bighorn sheep and many other animals but we didn’t see any. Stopped at various points to take pictures, some of the pictures turned out to be like paintings, the scenery was so pretty.

Continued on our way and entered Idaho late afternoon. The landscape changed again, from small mountains to wide expense of land that could only be described as vast. There were few buildings and built up areas. We had a little adventure when we almost ran out of petrol before finding a station. All was well though.

Overnight stop at Twin Falls. Had a nice steak and seafood dinner, saw some fireworks on TV.

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in going places |

Leisurely start today, I was a bit bummed that they didn’t have hot water for me to make tea but it’s not a big deal. We were on our way around 9am. Drove for a bit then stopped for petrol and Wendy’s. I had a bacon burger and a few fries. The big cup of coke zero lasted me the rest of the day.


We took a quick stop at the great platte river road archway near kearney, still in nebraska. It’s a big arch that spans across the road, may be there’s a museum inside, not sure as we didn’t go in, just took a few pictures in the vicinity.

More than 300 miles of Nebraska. Not a lot to see along the highway, just farmland and more farmland. Very flat. Pretty though. At one point we drove past a cattle facility and the smell was quite overwhelming. All the “fun” of travelling.


Sometime in the afternoon we entered Wyoming. Yay, another new state. The landscape was similar to Nebraska with lot of flat farmland. Gradually it became more brown as crops and grass gave way to rock and clay. The elevation was higher and there were hills and rock formations as we travelled west.


Another quick stop when we came across the lincoln memorial along the highway. Very impressive bust of Lincoln sitting on a pedestal looking out to the road. It was also quite nice to sit out in the open for a few minutes, it was hot but not muggy, with a comfortable breeze. A few people asked me to take their pictures on their smartphones, I tend to get asked that a lot, hmm.

We stopped for the night at 7.30pm when we reached Rock Springs. Got our room, got settled and was very happy to see that the hotel restaurant had a take-away menu. Prime rib with salad, potatoes and vegetables. Took it back to enjoy in our room, and a beer too. Very nice.

Total driven over 9hrs and 700+ miles.

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in going places |


Woke up around 7am. Took it easy, I was pretty much packed except for last minute stuff. Made sandwiches, took out the rubbish and loaded the car. Set off around 10.20am.

I spent the day being a grateful passenger, Carleen did all the hard work. I just sat there occasionally getting drinks or sandwiches. We stopped at an outlet, I bought a pair of socks because the pair I was wearing was worn out. Stopped for petrol twice as we drove all the way across Iowa. Entered Nebraska in the evening, stopped at a motel 6 at Lincoln after driving around 500 miles in 9 hrs. Good driving. I can add another state to my US states visited map.

Dinner at Cracker Barrel, I had a nice rainbow trout with 3 sides. Then back to our room to battle the slow internet, watch tv, relax.

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in going places |


Mostly stayed inside today, apart from going out to lunch. The bad storm (and tornado warning) last night appeared to have taken down power in several places, an entire strip mall was without power, including the place we wanted to go for lunch. The petrol stations and supermarkets were open, may be they have their own back up generators.

Finished making the last of the pound cakes. Final count 47 small, 11 medium and 2 large, 8 flavours.

Final packing tomorrow morning. Make sandwiches, pack toiletries and the like. It’s hard sometimes for me to fully realise how large America is, our trip is 2/3 across the country and is 2,100 miles. Two thousand miles. To put things in terms that I recognise, Land’s End to John O’Groats is 874 miles. From London to Rome is 1,200 miles and from Edinburgh to Istanbul is 2,300 miles. We’re going to drive the same distance across Europe. Gulp.

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in eating and drinking |


Made a few more batches of pound cake. Experimented with new flavours and new flavour combinations, hope they work. I started labelling the new ones. Still about 3-4 batches to bake tomorrow.

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in eating and drinking , how the day went |

Woke up at 5am, ugh, couldn’t go back to sleep so I read for a bit. Around 9-ish we headed out, got drive-thru mcdonalds breakfast then went to the cemetery. Costco, mall and grocery store followed. I bought some cute small ice cream makers, a towel and red velvet cheesecake to go.

poundcake02plain poundcake01choc

Made several batches of pound cakes to take to Portland with us. The type of ingredients are similar to what I use for fairy cakes and regular cake but the actual ingredients were different — different butter/margarine, a special cake flour and the eggs were beaten before adding. The proportions were a little different too, so for me it was learning a rew recipe. At the end I was able to make the batches all by myself. Made plain and chocolate flavoured ones.

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in being healthy |


5.0k 39.52min 7.58min/km (12.49min/mi)
overall: 539/702
gender: 225/351
age gender: 20/35

This is my first race in over a year. After I booked my Chicago flight, I started looking into races during the time I’m in town and I found proud to run the day after I arrive. Everyone I talked to was unanimous in saying I was crazy to run a race the day after I arrive on a 15hr flight. But, well, I registered anyway. This was the 33rd annual PTR race, which is awfully impressive. There were a combination of regular racers and LGBT folks, the event was held during pride weekend. The organisers described the race as:

an annual 10K run & 5K run/walk focused on celebrating pride in a healthy way and raising funds to support the greater Chicago area LGBTQI&A community

I was very tired on Friday when I arrived and I was very, very tempted to DNS. I didn’t sleep very well either, but I woke up with the alarm at 5.15am so I thought since I was up, I’d go anyway.

I deliberately arrived early so I can find parking and do pack pick up. Parking was easy, I parked 5mins’ walk away at beautiful Montrose Harbor and I was one of the first to pick up my stuff. This meant I had loads of time before the official race start. I did a mile of warm up around the harbor, pier and flagpole area, went back to sit in my car, queued up for the portaloo, got water and generally hung around until it was time to start.

Official race start was 8.15am and they were prompt to the dot. I kept up a steady slow pace and didn’t significantly speed up when I got overtaken by what seemed to be the entire field. The course went north towards Foster and it was just like I was back on my home course again. Man, I have sooooo missed running along the lake. Sigh.

I got to the 1 mile marker just over 12mins and the 2 mile marker around 25mins. Mile 3 was tougher as it got hot, there was a point when I felt I was becoming overheated, a little dehydrated and my left knee started tingling. But I didn’t stop or walk, I kept trudging on. As the finish line came into sight I watched the clock tick close to 40mins but when I crossed it had gone past 40mins. Obviously official time I just beat 40. Considering I was jetlagged, not trained and still carrying an injury, I’m reasonably happy with the result. No, it’s a long way from my sub-30 PR, but it’ll be a while before I can hope to PR in any race.

I’m glad I made the effort to go. I have missed racing and especially racing in Chicago. They were giving away boxes of cereal bars so I got a bunch for Mum so it paid for itself.

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in going places |

Woke up at 6am, showered, finished final packing. Out at 8am. I didn’t need to leave so early, since my flight wasn’t until noon, but I needed to fight with people going into work for taxis. As it was, it was 15mins before an empty one came by. Checked in already, so dropping off luggage and getting the boarding pass was straightforward. Interestingly, the queue for regular economy class was shorter than for members. I got the train to the airport and walked around duty free.

The flight was completely full. I had the aisle seat in the middle column and even the middle seat was occupied. Food was okay, better than the Vancouver flight. I had chicken and ice cream for lunch and fish and blueberry cheesecake for dinner. I don’t quite like CX’s new practice of serving the second meal in the middle of the flight vs 2hrs from landing. Means we had to wake up. Anyway, I didn’t get much sleep, just a little here and there. Watched Lego the Movie, US masterchef and found an interesting BBC drama, The Escape Artist. Only 2 eps, it was very good.

Landed at 1.45pm, so only 1.45hrs seemed to have elapsed since I got on the plane, when in reality it was a 15hr flight. We had to taxi for a long time because another plane was at our gate and we had to wait till it left. Surprisingly I was out of immigration very, very quickly — I was 3rd or 4th in line. I was at baggage reclaim at 2.30pm. But what time I saved at immigration was useless because the luggage took a whole hour to come out. There’d be a few bags on the belt, then nothing for 5mins. So frustrating.

So it was 3.30pm before I finally escaped. Checked email to see where Carleen was, called her and she picked me up at the carpark. Very easy. We went straight to the car rental office near her place so I could pick up my rental car for the next few days. We were at her house around 5pm so door to door it took 22hrs.

Dinner was steak at longhorn, a little overcooked but still very nice, I had about 2/3 and took the rest away.

For some reason I could not log into the wifi, even though I was able to last time I was at the house. Neither the mba nor the iphone worked, but the ipad was able to get a signal. Strange. Still, I wasn’t totally without internet. Too tired to do much, went to bed even though I wasn’t sleepy by then. I was tired, but my brain was on a different timezone. Early start tomorrow.

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in eating and drinking |

Not a lot of time or opportunity to spend time with mm lately. She was in Paris for business trip and I’m flying tomorrow. We managed to grab dinner. Went to probably the loudest restaurant, ever. Even with shouting, I had to lip-read to understand her. We had squid, prawns, bitter melon and fried rice, can hear the background noise.

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in being healthy |

How Long is a Marathon?

I’m woefully unprepared for the 5k race on Saturday. I keep saying to myself, it’s only 5k. We’ll see.

Saw this on rock’n’roll marathon’stwitter feed, an interesting infographic on how long is a marathon. Using their average finish time of 4:25hr, I learn that only 2,750 calories burned during the race. For some reason I thought it’s more—we always overestimate calories used during exercise. 2,750 calories is only around 2 burger-and-fries meals. But on the other hand, to get the same amount of calorie burn, we’d have to watch our favourite 30-min tv program 98 times. No favourite is worth sitting through 98 times.

Going to send this to the next person who says “5k marathon” — more useful than strangling them.

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July 2014

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