Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Saturday, September 26, 2015
This 40x40 activity has an asterisk after it because I stopped short of completing the route in its entirety. While we technically walked the distance of a marathon (calculations on three aps range from 26.22 to 28.85 miles), we did not make it to the finish line according to the Medtronic Twin Cities marathon course finish line map. Our mile markers were off because we had to stick to sidewalks and trails to avoid being killed by walking in the middle of the street like they'll being doing on race day. Also, I missed the turn off Minnehaha Parkway onto E. Nokomis Parkway and we had to retrace our steps to get back on track.
This year, Scott and I have taken several long distance walks many of which were more than 20 miles with the longest being 31 miles to complete the entire Grand Rounds Trail Loop. For this reason, I'm left perplexed as to why walking the Twin Cities marathon route was so difficult for me to complete. A few hypotheses:
The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon's registered tagline is The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America® so who wouldn't want to experience it? I have no interest in running a marathon and this particular event is not open long enough for walkers. So, my only option is to complete it on my own. We were working off of this year's course map but since it is next to impossible to read, I also found a Google map from a previous year to use on my phone. This led to some confusion around Cedar Avenue so I now understand why the organizers stress that the route is subject to change.
The starting line
With all of the construction happening near the marathon's start, it is hard for me to imagine what it will be like on race day. It feels like a giant mess and it wasn't the most beautiful urban start that is for sure. On the way to the start, I picked up a cold press from Caribou which felt appropriate since they are a silver level sponsor and their logo is all over the course map. That said, when will I learn my lesson that drinking coffee on long walks is a terrible idea when public restrooms are few and far between?
Miles 1 - 4
The first four miles of the route takes you by historic downtown buildings, tree-lined residential streets and beautiful homes, and the first of four lakes.
Miles 5 - 8
As we walked by Lake Bde Maka Ska (Calhoun), Lake Harriet, and Minnehaha Creek, I wondered if runners are able to appreciate their surroundings on race day? This segment of the course is an area we walk through regularly as we live between mile 8 and 9 on the course. Here's Scott and our neighbor Barbara cheering on the marathoners last year.
Miles 9 - 12
During the next four miles, I screwed up and didn't turn where we were supposed to. After stopping at Caribou Coffee on Cedar Avenue we continued west on Minnehaha Parkway instead of turning onto Cedar Avenue. We went back to Cedar and then walked on it until E. Nokomis Pkwy which is what the course used to do but this year runners will go around a small body of water west of Cedar Avenue.
Miles 13 - 16
At Minnehaha Park, it felt like we were in a race because we arrived in the middle of NAMIWalks Minnesota, an event to raise awareness about mental illnesses and eliminate the stigma of mental illnesses.
Miles 17 - 20
The walk along the Mississippi River is one of my favorite walks in the city. We opted to stay near the road but normally I like to follow the trails that offer better views of the river. We were running out of water and so we took a quick break at Dunn Brothers at Lake Street. When we got back on the course it was a short while later that we were able to enjoy one of my favorite views in the city - looking west on Franklin Avenue bridge which is mile 19 on the course map.
Miles 21 - 24
Oh hi St. Paul! When we crossed the border into St. Paul I got a second wind and felt hopeful that we'd make it.
Miles 24 - 28
Oh man how wrong I was! I think I started limping around Lexington Avenue and I knew in my heart the end was near. Scott was willing to keep going but his "are we there yets?" were gaining frequency. Just when we reached my favorite stretch of homes on Summit Avenue near the Cathedral, I called it.
The Finish Line
I was so tired, sore, and discouraged that I didn't take a photo of our made up finish line. We decided to call it quits when I discovered a Car2Go just off of Summit Avenue and Farrington Street. After we arrived home, we exited the vehicle and could barely walk. My hip still hurts today. So, I guess quitting before we crossed the actual finish line was the most responsible decision we could have made. This is a beautiful route and I encourage everyone to experience it walking, running or rolling.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Thursday, September 24, 2015
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.” - William W. Purkey
Inspirational quotes aren't usually my thing but when the topic of dancing comes up, it's one of the first things that springs to mind. That and the opening scene of Girls Just Want to Have Fun. The quote does resonate with me - I would like to dance like nobody's watching. Somehow I'm able to do this in a structured environment like a Zumba class but not when I'm at a E.L.n.O. show. Since Zumba is more about exercise and less about mastering the moves, I wanted to take a class that slows things down a bit for dance instruction.
There are quite a few dance lesson and class options in the Twin Cities. I knew I couldn't afford the time or financial investment of traditional dance lessons (though every time I pass by the bright lights of Dance Life Ballroom, I'm tempted). Someone I admire recently turned 40 and she's been taking classes and performing with Bollywood Dance Scene. Since I had so much fun watching this group perform at Minnesota Fringe shows, I was excited to learn that their weekly classes are so accessible. The classes take place at the Tapestry Folkdance Center, a non-profit organization with a mission in line with my values.
Joining me on this 40x40 adventure was Allison Long, one of the first friends I made when I moved to Minnesota. She and I have a history of finding ourselves in awkward social situations so no matter what this dance class would entail, I knew she could handle it.
The class focused on one dance routine choreographed to Rang De Basanti, the title track of the popular Bollywood movie and composed by AR Rahman who won the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and an Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire and an Academy Award for the most popular track of that score, Jai Ho.
The class was taught by two instructors who first showed us the routine in its entirety before breaking it down into small parts for the students to learn. I liked this style of learning because we were able to focus on details like hand movements.
The instructors checked in with us often to make sure we were having fun and understanding the moves. They also invited questions and were open to slowing down to concentrate on an aspects that we found challenging. I recognized several people who were in the Minnesota Fringe shows so I knew the class had varying skill levels which was both comforting and encouraging. During break, we talked with one of the women I recognized and she was kind enough to take a few photos of us demonstrating our dance moves. Clearly we're ready to audition to be cast as Bollywood dancers!
I had a lot of fun and will return for more Bollywood Dance Scene classes and perhaps I'll try some other Tapestry Folkdance Center classes.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Saturday, September 18, 2015
Ever since Scott and I saw houseboats in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia while honeymooning, I've wanted to stay overnight on one. When I originally created the 40x40 list, I didn't research whether this would be possible in my own backyard and if it wasn't, where we'd go.
When I did get around to figuring out the details of this 40x40, my Google search of "houseboats in Minnesota" yielded results like Vermillion Houseboats and Timber Bay. This type of houseboat isn't what I had in mind and wouldn't work for us because we didn't have a full weekend to commit to this endeavor, the rental cost exceeded my budget, and we didn't want to actually drive the boat!
Enter the floating bed and breakfast in St. Paul, The Covington Inn. I first heard about the Covington last year because of a Pioneer Press article about it being up for sale. We decided to splurge and stay in The Pilot House Suite, a two-story room with a private sitting room with large windows and a great view of downtown St. Paul.
Friday was a dreary, rainy day and I was low on energy from a week of terrible sleep. Normally I'd be upset that the weather was not ideal for a getaway but Scott and I decided to see the silver lining; because of the rain, we wanted to stay in and make the most of our limited time on the boat.
We left for a bit to walk around St. Paul stopping at Mears Park, Oktoberfest in Rice Park, the George Latimer Central Library, and Great Waters Brewing Company. Soaked from the rain, we returned to our room to hang out. It was extremely relaxing and I'm thankful we were forced to unwind.
After a restful night of sleep, I woke up early to catch the sunrise and to walk across the river for some coffee while Scott slept in.
I returned to The Covington Inn for breakfast of delicious French toast with Scott and our fellow guests. After breakfast, we drove west along the river and stopped at Crosby Farm Regional Park for a hike.
I'm grateful we were able to enjoy The Covington Inn and hope that the current Innkeeper, Liz is able to find that special person or people to keep this special getaway in St. Paul. Scott and I are sold on staying on houseboats when our vacation destinations are on the water like these in San Diego, Seattle, Sausalito, or Portland.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Saturday, September 19, 2015
When I added "Go to a drive-in movie" to my list, I am not sure what I expected. Probably something close to this. The reality of the drive-in experience in Minnesota more closely resembles a tailgating party. Though I've never done that either so what do I know?
Vali-Hi Drive-In Theater in Lake Elmo is a 30 minute drive east from our home. We arrived at 7:00 p.m. and there were two long lines of vehicles waiting for admission. We paid the $8.50 per person which is a great deal if you intend to watch all three movies. The films showing on our visit were Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, The Visit, and Spy.
Once in the lot, I realized we were unprepared for the experience. Our little Prius was surrounded by lots of pick-up trucks, SUVs, minivans, and station wagons backed into their spots. There were grills, coolers, camping chairs, tables, sleeping bags, and people in their jammies sitting on the car rooftop or laying in the bed of their trucks.
While waiting for the show, we walked around with Stewie and he met a few other furry theater goers. Having him along was a highlight for me since we so rarely bring him to places.
I bought some popcorn from the concession stand and soon realized it would have been smarter to bring our own snacks and drinks like the pros.
A few minutes past 8:00 p.m it was showtime. Scott and I haven't seen The Maze Runner and haven't read the trilogy so we weren't sure how much of this second in the series we'd understand. Turns out, that was the least of my concerns as I slept through about 50% of it.
Scott was also not a fan. In fact, he wasn't a fan of the entire experience. Some of the strikes against drive-ins: the projection wasn't bright enough and too much ambient noise, sights, and smells (headlights, people talking, and smoking). As opposed to the majority of my 40x40 list, it is unlikely we will be returning to a drive-In.
All that said, I'm glad we have now experienced a night at a Minnesota drive-in. My favorite part of the night was watching this beautiful sunset evolve.
Related: 40x40 List
Dates completed: September 3 - 7, 2015
While on our Black Hills/Badlands vacation, my family and I enjoyed several picnics. By making our own breakfasts and lunches and eating outside, we had more time to enjoy all of the sights and attractions on our long list. We weren't always trying to figure out where to eat, how to get there and then once there waiting for a table, for our food, and for the check. Things I try to avoid: making group decisions and waiting. We also saved a lot of money and calories by not eating all of our meals in restaurants.
Our picnic supplies were not elaborate - we grabbed a cooler and some reusable totes and filled them up with some of our favorite foods including a few guilty pleasures from my childhood (mmm Pringles). Our set-up was also quick and easy - we found a table in a scenic spot and just dug in. I enjoyed every one of our picnics even if they didn't look like this or this or this.
Since we're heading into my favorite time of year, I'm hoping to squeeze in a couple more picnics before winter.
Related: 40x40 List
Dates completed: Thursday, September 3 - Monday, September 7
My first vacations as a kid were trips to the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. Since Scott had never been, it seemed fitting to add to the 40x40 list. A bonus is that by going with my parents, Duane and Connie, we were able to celebrate my mom's recent retirement.
Before the trip, I dug up the photos my dad took from our 1983 family vacation. I'm thankful he documented so much of my childhood on film to help me remember all of the fun we had as a family. Thirty-two years later, we revisited many of the same spots. Attractions we skipped this time around: Flinestones Bedrock City, Dinosaur Park, and Storybook Island.
Day 1: Wall Drug & Rapid City
Scott, my mom, dad, and I hit the road early Thursday morning. Our first stop was at a rest stop that has a cute little church on its grounds.
Our next stop was at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Rest Area in Chamberlain. On a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, this is a gorgeous stop on the drive west Interstate 90 through the Great Plains.
As another nod to my childhood, we decided to play License Plate Bingo. We scored 43/50 and didn't find NH, MA, RI, CT, NJ, GA, and SC.
Our stop in Wall Drug for their legendary donuts, 5¢ coffee and free ice water also allowed me to recreate some childhood photos.
We arrived in Rapid City in time for lunch and chose Independent Ale House thanks to the DeRusha Eats review. He's right - the pizza is awesome. My mom and I had the daily special - tomatoes, mozzarella, figs and basil. Scott had the spicy chicken and dad had The Hasselhoff.
After lunch we walked around the cute downtown with stops at the Art Alley, City of Presidents sculptures, and Amarillo's Ice Cream.
One of the highlights of our trip was our arrival to Creekside Lodge in Custer State Park. As we got closer to the entrance we noticed our first wildlife sighting of the trip - a few bison near the sign for the lodge. As we got closer we realized it was more than just a small group - it was a huge herd! About 300 bison made their way through the area. We spent about an hour watching these giant creatures wander by. Scott got a little too close for my comfort.
Day 2: Custer & Jeep Tour
Friday morning we had a relaxing start to the day with coffee and breakfast on the deck. We made a trip to the closest town, Custer and also a quick hike around Legion Lake.
In the afternoon we went on a Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour which was better than I could have imagined. Our driver was extremely knowledgeable and gave us a better understanding of how bison are managed in Custer State Park. He was fielding questions from my dad and managed to get us so close to the buffalo that at one point one of our tour companions in the back of the Jeep exclaimed "Can we go see the prairie dogs now!?". In addition to bison and prairie dogs, we saw some pronghorn antelope which I learned on this tour are the fastest land animal in North America and can run up to 60 mph for long distances.
After our Jeep tour, Scott and I needed to stretch out our legs so we went for a hike. Scott of course wanted to hike up a hill without a trail to guide us. I'm always up for an adventure and just hoped I'd avoid breaking any bones. On this hike we saw a beautiful whitetail buck with a large set of antlers.
Day 3: Keystone, Hill City, Spearfish Canyon
Scott's cousin, Don and his wife Slavna live outside Deadwood, South Dakota and so we made plans to meet them at Crow Peak Brewery in Spearfish. Before that, we stopped in Keystone, Hill City, Pactola Lake, and hiked through Spearfish Canyon to Roughlock Falls. While in Hill City, we ran into my uncle Jim and aunt Debra who were also vacationing in the Black Hills.
Day 4: Sylvan Lake, Harney Peak, Crazy Horse, and Mount Rushmore
We picked the perfect day for our time at Sylvan Lake and to hike Harney Peak. While Scott and I hiked, my parents returned to Hill City and also met up with Jim and Debra again.
Before starting our summit to the highest point (7,242 ft) in South Dakota, Harney Peak, we walked along the beautiful shore of Sylvan Lake. If we were to return to the Black Hills, I'd love to stay at Sylvan Lake Lodge which was booked when we made our reservations months in advance.
We were not the only ones with Labor Day weekend hiking plans. Trail number 9 had a steady stream of hikers - human, canine and equine. I can't believe how many dogs and children were able to make the 3.5 mile hike to the peak. Of course it seemed like many of the younger kids were having melt-downs by the time they needed to walk those same 3.5 miles back. Next time, I'd like to try the northern approach which is a 5 mile trail starting at Willow Creek Horse Camp.
After our invigorating hike, we were ready for lunch. We found a picnic area at the Burlington Northern Trailhead on the Michelson Trail located at Tracy City Park in Hill City. That was the closest we ever got to the George S. Mickelson Trail and I hope to make that a part of our next Black Hills vacation. It was one of our more entertaining lunch stops thanks to some kids giving themselves a mud bath in the swampy creek.
Our afternoon was spent visiting the most famous attractions in South Dakota - Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore. We started our time at Crazy Horse with a documentary that - while dated - provides a great overview of how the Crazy Horse Memorial came to be. The museum is expansive with many beautiful and interesting artifacts the majority of which have been donated. We chose to skip the Night Blast which only happens twice a year because we wanted to visit Mount Rushmore and also because driving to our Lodge after dark was a little scary. On my life-long walking wish list is the Crazy Horse Volksmarch which also only happens twice a year (this year was in early June and late September).
Our final stop for the day was Mount Rushmore Memorial. After our photo shoot in front of the faces, Scott and I hit the Presidential Trail while my mom and dad watched the film. We stopped off at the sculptor's studio but we were both too tired to actually learn anything about Gutzon Borglum. Hiking the half mile loop was fun with the special treat of gaining a new perspective of the faces as it leads you right under them. It's unfortunate that this trail involves so many stairs and is not accessible to many visitors. While I've heard many great things about the lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore, we opted to get back to our lodge before dark.
Day 5: Badlands
On our return to Sioux Falls, we drove the Badlands Loop State Scenic Highway and stopped a couple times - Pinnacle overlook, Fossil Exhibit Trail, and near the White River Visitor Center for our final picnic of the vacation.
Trip planning resources and inspiration
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Monday, August 24, 2015
"Do you practice yoga?" is a question I'm asked quite regularly. Typically this is asked of me when I share that I have trouble sleeping and historically have suffered from both migraines and back pain. Once I was asked because of my posture which was a nice if not random compliment.
It had been a few years since my last yoga class so adding it to my 40x40 list was a way for me to try to get back into it. I have never been a regular yoga participant but a recent experience has sold me on the idea.
To complete this 40x40 item, My neighbor and friend Kate Cimino and I went to a Gentle Vinyasa class taught by Angela Vincent at taraNa Yoga Studio at 3757 Grand Avenue South in Minneapolis. Kate was a great yoga buddy because she helped me feel comfortable at the new-to-me studio and made sure I had everything I needed for class. She gave me great tips and encouraged me to let the instructor know if I had questions or concerns. On top of that, Angela was a great teacher and the studio was peaceful despite being on a relatively busy street. The class itself was just the right pace for me.
Since taking this class, yoga's many benefits were at the forefront of my mind when I was having back pain thanks to spending a lot of time in a car. I went to Kundalini Yoga with my co-worker Sara at the University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness Center where I am a member. Just an hour of stretching and deep breathing in the class gave me a great deal of pain relief. It is clear my body and mind would be well served by regular yoga practice. Thankfully, I have 19 class options every week at the University. Also, I see advertisements for free or donation based yoga classes all over Minneapolis so I'm hoping to make it a habit to attend more classes close to home with Kate.
August by the numbers
The Nivens Family