Warrior Dash & A fitness aid for us creepy folk: Zombies, Run!

One of my best friends is studying to become a yoga instructor. Another regularly goes on 8 mile+ bike rides. My son is a black belt. FIVE of my closest family members completed The Warrior Dash this summer.

Some of my nieces, my husband and my son. Aren’t they magnificently filthy?

Me? I take pictures.

The only reason I have mud on me is that I waded into the sloppy mess at the finish line to give hugs. Completely ruined my shoes.

I am not a sporty person. Which is a shame, I guess, because – apparently – I have pretty good genes. (I come from Norwegian and German farmer stock.) Despite 40+ years of an utterly ridiculous diet, and an almost complete lack of exercise, my body hasn’t given up on me yet. Every once in a while, I realize I’m feeling sore and tired, so I commit to doing a few sun salutations daily. (This “commitment” usually lasts a week or two.) On the first day, I am always shocked at how stiff and weak I’ve become. Then, the next day, I can effortlessly drop into a pretty darn good standing forward fold, and I can hold a plank for minutes at a time. (Though that is harder, now that my future-yoga-instructor friend told me I needed to drop my hips lower.) Just since I started working at the hotel, my biceps have firmed – even started to pop – thanks to all the sheet folding I have done. My body wants to be healthy.

The problem is that I find exercise boring. It’s also hot and sweaty and just plain not fun. (My experience leads me to believe that endorphins are a myth.) It doesn’t help that I hate competing against others, which leaves me out of actual sports. In my lifetime, I’ve found only a handful of (G-rated) physical activities I actually enjoy. On the exotic side, I like yoga, kayaking and rock climbing. (Before you get any ideas about the strenuous nature of those activities, you should know I mean the least dangerous version of them. Think paddling a kayak around the edge of a lake, or scrambling up and down the gentle bluffs near the St. Croix River.)

I also like to walk/hike and, strangely enough, run. (I don’t mean jogging. I mean all-out running –  across a pasture, along a soft-sand road, down a sun-warmed sidewalk. And, yes, I’d prefer to do it barefoot.)

I don’t run as much as I used to. When I forget myself – like when I’m playing with the dog – I find that my form is still good but my endurance is … not. (Don’t ever start smoking, Children.) Still, until my lungs catch fire and my heart threatens to explode, it feels awesome.

I’d like to be able to run again.

Which is why I am now absolutely determined to get a smart phone – just so I can buy an $8 app:

Here’s the official website:

This is my favorite review of the game:

By the way, now is your chance to weigh in on the IPhone v. Android debate. Has anyone actually tried the game? Or, like me, do you now think you want to?

WriMoProg: 3 + 24 = 27/46


Incompatible activities: working the graveyard shift and watching horror movie trailers.

My nights at the hotel have been ridiculously busy. Apparently we are at the height of Minnesota’s tourist and wedding seasons. On top of that, several new employees have joined the staff, which paradoxically makes more work for the “old” staff … at least until the newbies get the hang of things.

Tonight, for the first time in forever, I am able to settle in here, on my laptop, in order to take advantage of some of that free time I was promised when I interviewed. I hardly know where to start. Certainly there should be some blog reading, then maybe some real blog writing. (I’ve got a creepy tale to tell, about what I saw when I recently let myself into the wrong hotel room in the middle of the night.)

What I should NOT be doing is watching trailers for horror movies I haven’t seen … not when I’m alone in a dimly lit hotel lobby at 2:20a.

This one, The Pact, has me thinking that I wouldn’t make it through a theatrical screening. I’m going to have to wait for the video — then I’ll be able to make my husband tell me what’s happening while I cover my eyes through half the film.

Have any of you seen it? Is it as suspenseful as the trailer makes it look?

WriMoProg: 3 + 10 = 13/46

Odd otters, weird woodchucks and one mad muskrat: why are the rodent-like critters in revolt?

A few weeks ago, a rare summertime aurora alert arrived in my inbox.  According to the email from SpaceWeather.com, an especially strong CME was about to trigger a vivid display of the northern lights in the skies over Minnesota.

At about 2:30 on the morning of July 16th, my son and I hopped in the truck and headed north, seeking an unobstructed view of the horizon. Such a vista proved difficult to find, but eventually we found a promising gravel road. We bumped along that road for a few miles, until we found a lengthy stretch of darkness between the rural security lights which are the bane of skywatchers. We parked along the edge of a boggy meadow with a decent view, killed the lights and stepped out into the warm night. Though the sky was clear, and there was a certain glow that might have been a weak manifestation of the lights, we decided that we were out of luck.

(In other parts of Minnesota, however, the display was amazing. Check out these shots of the event, from a talented photographer in St. Cloud – a location approximately an hour and a half northeast of where we were.)

Despite our disappointment, we lingered. The pre-dawn morning was lovely, with a thick, low layer of fog swirling over the meadow and lapping at the roadway. Inevitably, of course, I started to imagine zombies shambling in the mist, and we decided to go. As I turned the truck into a nearby driveway, a motion in my sideview mirror caught my eye. Illuminated in the glow of my tail lights, a small, furry beast was following us.

It disappeared from my view when it marched directly underneath the truck. I stomped on the brakes and told my son what I had seen. He said, “Well, huh.” We looked at each other for a moment. Then we both leaned out our windows, trying to figure out how to not run over the damn thing. After long moments, it waddled out from behind the front, passenger-side wheel.

My son reported on the creature’s ever-changing relative location as I cautiously backed up. It seemed intent on circling us. We both assumed it was simply trying to return to the boggy meadow, but retreat was not on its mind. By the time I had squared myself in the right direction, it had taken a stand in the middle of the road, blocking our exit. Now the headlights clearly revealed the critter’s species:

Muskrat by Brian Gratwicke

As muskrats go, it wasn’t a particularly big specimen. Despite its harmless appearance, however, its behavior -along with the steadily thickening fog that was closing in around the truck – thoroughly unnerved me. My response in such situations is often laughter, and this one had me in a near-hysterical giggle-fit.

For a few seconds we each held our positions, then the muskrat charged straight toward the truck. I hit the accelerator and swerved around and past it, thankful that the road was wide and the shoulder firm. As I drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror. That mad muskrat was chasing our truck – as fast as its furry little legs would carry it.

It was a strange encounter, but not as strange as some others which have been in the news lately. Even before we went on our aurora quest, we saw a story on the national news that amazed and amused us:

Dead Flag by Tim Parkinson

Click on the above photograph, or go here to view a CBS news story about some grave robbing rodents in New York.

Subsequent to our muskrat encounter, rodenty happenings in Minnesota took a darker turn. (Yes, I know that otters are NOT rodents. In fact, they are considered to be members of the weasel family. That’s why the title of this post includes the word ‘rodent-like’.)

The Kiss by Sharon Mollerus

Doesn’t this pair look sweet? I’ve certainly always thought of otters as gentle, playful creatures. I’ve never seen one in the wild, but if I had, I would have been delighted. In light of recent developments, however, I think I will be cautious if I ever get the chance to observe one up close.

Click on the otter picture above, or go here to read about two different attacks by otters in Minnesota waters.

What does this mean for the human race? Probably nothing. All things considered, though, I’ll be keeping an eye out for unusual behavior in any animal I meet in the coming days.


All photos subject to Creative Commons.

WriMoProg: 0 + 9 = 9/46