Sunday, July 4, 2010

40* on the 4th...*or just 38

It's only been five miles and I'm already panting and exhausted, throwing my pushing foot forward and slamming it down to the ground, launching hard off the ground with each rotation.

I'm passing the dam but it's been in my sight for so long that I don't really feel like I've gone anywhere. Good thing it's pretty or I'd be sick of it by now.

There is a runner up ahead who I can't seem to catch. She has long, dark hair and an impressive, steady stride. I'm pretty sure I've seen her running around town before. One of those people I wish I could be more like. She's clipping along at a 6.5 minute mile pace, not even sweating or breathing hard.

There she goes

I vaguely wonder if I could run 40 miles, but then have a vision of my sun-bleached bones being picked over by marmots.

"That's stupid," Barbie scoffs, "marmots are vegetarians."

Okay then, maybe it would be giant flesh eating ants. Flesh eating ants or caribou. Wait...those are vegetarians too. They wouldn't hurt their own kind...would they? Does Coeur d' Alene have caribou? Are they extinct? Why can't I catch that girl?

Suddenly I realize that I've been approaching this journey from the wrong angle. I've been ignoring the action, retreating into my head.

I begin to steady my flailing limbs, slow my breathing; start thinking about what I'm doing instead of where I'm going. Expanding my awareness of my immediate surroundings. Feeling the muscles in my legs working, and setting a reasonable pace.

Now I'm using what I've learned from years of running. Now I'm passing the dark-haired girl. Gliding by in a whir of urethane.

Today is the 4th of July and I'm having my very first long distance longboarding adventure. My route will take me from downtown Spokane to Coeur d' Alene along the Centennial Trail. A distance of approximately 38 miles.

Once I tried and failed to ride my bike to Idaho. But that was before I could run more than a mile without throwing up. Now I'm good to go for at least 13.1 miles on foot, maybe more.

It's hard to explain why I thought that running more than 10 miles made me qualified to skate almost 40. I guess the important thing is that I believe it does.

Provisions for the trip. Water bottle, camera, sweatshirt, backpack full of trail mix, Barbie.

Mile 15

I'm having trouble thinking because Taio Cruz is singing loudly over a thumping baseline.

"Shhhhhhhh," I hiss. There's no one around. I'm not wearing headphones.

Barbie hates this song.

"I'm only gonna break break your, break break your heart," Taio croons.

God damn it. Of all the songs I know; all the underground indie rock, all the punk, all the classics, all the sonatas and concertos...this is the song that my brain chooses to motivate me with for the next four hours.

"I'm only gonna break break your, break break your heart," he repeats, more insistent this time.

I give a little sigh, "I always knew you would."

The Spokane River

Eastern Washington is secretly a model train set. I'm reluctant to leave the trail because I know that as I walk from the path, the buildings and the trees will become smaller and smaller until my shoes threaten to crush them. Then I'll see the astroturf and the tiny plastic tree bases topped with dyed spanish moss, carefully dabbed with a slightly darker green paint for realism.

Maybe I'm delirious. Time to stop for water.

Arbor Crest Winery is atop this hill. You can squish it with your fingers.

Mirabeau Park
This was the starting point for the Windermere 1/2 marathon. Passing it means that I've now skated farther than I can run.

Mile 20

From here it's hard to argue that this side of the state isn't pretty. Western Washington gets a lot of credit for its rain forests and mossy, cushy, green grass.

The landscape under the Big Sky is rougher. It's windswept and sharp, these plants don't look soft, they look sturdy. They hold up to the unforgiving sunlight of the high desert torching them for 12 hours a day, then they reach up their spiny little branch hands to catch the snow that will cover them completely from December to March.

It's a different kind of beauty.

Things start to get a little choppy near the border. State Line is known for strip clubs, I guess their patrons don't often hop on the bike and peddle over for some entertainment. This part of the trail seems like an afterthought, a last minute idea that was abandoned the second someone said, "Hey guys, there are boobies over here!"

Distracted workers don't do the job right.

State Line
Barbie poses with the State Line sign.


A big blue chihuahua is always a good sign.

Corbin's Ditch area
Not at all ditch-like. There is an awesome waterfall just upriver from here.

Mile 30

A trail marker

This section of the trail is ending and I don't know where to go. I catch up to a biking couple at the traffic light and ask for directions. They point out the next trail head as they shift impatiently, dancing from toe to toe as though they'll explode from the waiting.

'Bicyclists are high strung,' I decide, 'like skiers.'

The man's eyes are wild, he looks consumed with joy and adrenaline. "Sometimes we cross against the light," he shouts apologetically.

I'm not sure if he's shouting to be heard over traffic or because he's so excited, but I like that he thinks I have some kind of bicycle law authority. "There are no laws in Idaho," I reply.

He laughs and zips away. Against the red light, just like he'd said.

The bicyclists I encountered early in the morning were the smiley, friendly kind. Afternoon bicyclists are still friendly, but they've got a certain, "Don't mess with me while I've got my spandex on," air to them.

There are no other skaters on the trail but there ought to be. The North Idaho section of the Centennial Trail is awesome. It's smooth and clear of debris. The path rolls through the trees alternating between straight 8% grades and nearly flat meanderings though the woods. Each hill has a nice uphill run out. The trail would be wide enough to accommodate traffic in both directions if there was any.

If I'd had an elasticity to spare in my legs, I would have pushed back a ways and gone again.

Coeur d' Alene is ahead!
Those little illustrated squares mean there's lots to do here if you have the energy left to do it.

Victory! Spokane to Coeur d' Alene in a little over 4 hours.
My arms still function, my legs do not.

Luckily this giant spider will carry me the rest of the way.

No, just kidding. The giant spider had other plans. Luckily I have awesome friends who were willing to drive to another state to pick me up. Thanks guys!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Red Hot American Summer

90 degrees and 100% humidity. The crowd on the platform shifts and shuffles feet in the half-dark. Faces turn upward expecting fresh air, but get only the thick stagnation of an underground tunnel.

The man on my right keeps jabbing my thigh with his briefcase. I am hot. Tired. Dirty. Soaked with sweat. The ground beneath my aching feet begins to tremble and shake. A subway train comes roaring out from the blackness like an ancient monster, washing the crowd with a hot wind gust that almost hurts as it hits the skin.

We jostle and shove in the most orderly fashion. Filing onto the train while lightly bouncing off each other. No one says, "excuse me" or "sorry."

Air conditioning. My skin goes clammy and cold. Instantly, I miss the heat.

The train barrels down a track strewn with water bottles, dropped children's text books and trash bags filled with God only knows. All around me are four-mile-an-hour people hurtling along at 50 while the cars above inch along at half-speed.

I emerge across town, an entirely new place than I was mere moments before. A sneeze tickles my nose in the glaring sunlight and the sound of a thousand foreign voices mixed with taxi traffic assaults my ears.

The heat, the noise, the smells, the masses of people. The incredible vibrancy of a living, breathing city.

This is good.

New York City in the Summer is everything I could have hoped. We land in suffocatingly humid Newark, NJ on Father's Day. After a celebratory fist-pumping, we hop a train to NYC and haul our luggage up the steps of Penn Station with the 500,000 others who pass through it each day.

Our hotel, the NYMA, is located in K-town, New York's Korean business district. It's all I can do to get out of there each day without stopping for kimchi.

Kimchi in NYC = Awesome ... Kimchi anywhere, all the time = Also Awesome

Hotel NYMA
It's spacious, but kinda messy. Oh wait...I guess I did that.

It's now 8:30 pm. Infamous time-wasters that we are, Mom and I drop our baggage at the hotel and run over to the Empire State Building to watch the sunset. Afterward, we wander Times Square and explore our new home for the week.

Sunset from the Empire State Building

Times Square

That was Sunday, here's a little bit of Monday

Battery Park
It's got a splash pad for the kids and a hustling acrobatic troop that collects money in big black pillowcases. Family friendly.

The Statue of Liberty
Just a quick boat ride from Battery Park, and a chance to catch up on the latest gossip in the 4th grade. Did you know that Shania only likes Ms. Brown's Social Studies class because Ms. Brown is pregnant and is never there? I know it.

Ellis Island
This is how all of Ellis Island looked before it was turned into a National Park and fixed up. The island was actually up for sale to anyone with the funds. As many as 100 million Americans are descended from someone who passed through the doors of this building. It didn't occur to anyone that it might be something worth saving. I'm glad they didn't knock it down and build a luxury hotel.

An arching wall monument on the city-side of the island lists the names of those who were recorded passing though.
Shehans with two E's. Just not the same.

South Seaport
It was closing up shop by the time we got there, but we did get a chance to see human foosball. No photos, sadly.

Monday night we meet up with Matt at Stanton Social for dinner and drinks. The highlight of the meal is most definitely the red velvet twinkie. I love it so much I have zero reaction when Matt points out Joseph Gorden-Levitt from 3rd Rock from the Sun sitting next to us.

Whatever, junior high school crush, stay the hell away from my dessert.
Does this look like a dude who would steal your twinkie? I'd rather not take the chance.

The ride back to the hotel is my first time in a cab, I prefer public transit or my own two feet. I guess I'm just traditional that way.

Some Tuesday for ya:

The Metropolitan Museum
I've been to Vegas so many times that I've almost become immune to awesomeness. I'm like, "Yeah, whatever, a giant concrete replica of the sphinx, I'm sure that took tons of rebar..."

But here's the thing: All this stuff is real. That's real armor, worn by real knights, a real long time ago. The pyramid at the MET is an honest-to-god, real pyramid. Deconstructed in Egypt and carefully reconstructed in NYC. That's real awesomeness.

Central Park
Those children are not mine.

Holy crap-in-a-hat it's the Shake Shack!!!!
Eat here.

Wednesday is free day at the zoo. It's also free day at the Botanical Gardens, but we give up hope upon discovering that the train doesn't go there. Take a bus?! That's for losers.

The Bronx Zoo
Them are lions

Wednesday night was made for adventure. I venture to Brooklyn.

A pilfered coaster from the Chip Shop

The Chip Shop would have never been graced with my presence had it not been for Kelly from Brooklyn, who works at city hall and just might be the nicest lady in New York. She walked me six blocks, in the opposite direction I was headed, to deliver me safely to beer and the best fried mac and cheese I have ever had.

2am treats me well

Thursday is Broadway and a glittering waterfall in the settling darkness. We catch Promises Promises, featuring Kristen Chenoweth and Sean Hayes. On the way to the theater we come across a courtyard with gorgeous trees and bistro tables against the backdrop of a cascading wall of water.

The next courtyard is even better; it has this:

This is how I prepare for world domination.

Promises, Promises (you all know what I mean)

I didn't buy you anything, but I got a great photo

The Rose Center

The Natural History Museum Thanks to Devon for pointing out the old dude doing the robot.

Friday brings us to Coney Island. The Atlantic Ocean is flowing between my toes once again. It's slipping sands pulling away with each outward wave, sucking out from under my arches, leaving my feet balanced on tiny stilts of sediment that hold for mere seconds, then lightly collapse back down into familiar earth.

Rockin' it in my fierce neon bikini and bitch googles.

Although I haven't been on a roller coaster in years, I opted to ride the Cyclone at Coney Island. It fits in with my, "If not now, then when?" approach to life lately. And you know what? It was rad.

After Coney Island we return to Manhattan to seek out dinner. Mom is hot and tired and cranky. Everything is, "Horrible! Crapy! A waste!" Finally, we come across a Turkish man with a guarantee: "You like it or it's free."

"Even her?" I ask, pointing to my stubborn and impossible to please older-self.

"Of course!" He snorts.

And he's right. For possibly the first time on any vacation EVER, my mother is not complaining. She has been tamed by kebabs.

Happy Mom.

That night I take the train to 2 Ave, a route that's become familiar. My sexy shoes are packed in my purse, waiting for the switch from serious to frivolous. While I lean against the outer wall of Katz's Deli trading walking shoes for something less practical (three-inch stiletto heels in bright, aquatic teal, that tie behind the ankle. Not just impractical, but loud about it too), two female tourists pass and give me a fascinated once-over. "I could never live here," says one to the other, "I'm not trendy enough."

Pianos in the East Village
Sad Red

Standing on a corner at 2 am waiting to cross the street. I am on fire. This is what I've been waiting to feel. Here I am, 26, in the best shape of my life, pretty as I'll ever be, and feeling invincible.

They always say that teenagers feel "10-feet-tall and bulletproof." Never in my life have I felt that way, until this moment.

I gaze at the flashing 'don't walk' sign and turn just in time to receive a high five from a stranger. "Very nice," he says, fading into the crowd behind me and slipping away forever.


MetroCard!!!!! Don't leave home without it.

A light fixture at the NY Public Library.

My hottie-hot $10 shoes from H&M

The Naked Cowgirl in Times Square

The Museum of Sex
Ladies who were lusted for in the early 1900's

Freebie from the grand opening of a Forever 21

A good reason to come back

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