2019 Hill Country Fundraising Ride for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

This October, Carl and I honored the memory of his mom Jeanette Knutson with a two day fundraising bike ride benefiting the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. It was a new challenge for both of us. My first time to ride 200 miles in a weekend (including more than 100 miles in one day) and Carl’s first time to do a fundraising bike ride.

We’re lucky to have many, many supporters including my Dad and Ellen who provided incredibly awesome support for us, lugging our gear around and meeting us at various rest stops with food and water, and making sure we got nice big meals at the end of the ride.

A few stats to share with you:

46 individual donations

$3,540 raised for the MMRF

2 days bicycling

309 miles ridden between us

9,774 ft of elevation gain

Thank you so much for your support!!!

And for those who like the whole story, read on for a photo montage of our weekend.

On Friday we had our first fall (or really almost wintery) day in Texas and it was windy and cold which threw a wrench in my plans to relax by the Lake LBJ in the cabin we rented in Kingsland.  We made the best of the afternoon by stopping by the nearby Perissos Winery and having dinner at Grand Central Cafe which happens to be located in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre house.

Pictured above: Us enjoying the winery, and our little cabin at the lake.

The Saturday ride started in Kingsland before sunrise and went north through Inks Lake State Park, along the Lake Buchanan Dam, along the west shore of the lake, and then southwest to Llano where I met my support crew at mile 38 in Llano for encouragement and water. Don’t worry, I had all the lights for safety and had no issues.

Pictured above: Me at the start of the ride, the Buchanan Dam, Lake Buchanan, and one of the hundreds of deer spotted throughout the weekend.

At mile 58 Carl joined my ride. We then headed south along some nice ranch roads with a good view of Enchanted Rock.

Pictured above: The bridge over the Llano River, the start of Carl’s ride, and riding along ranch roads.

We kept meandering to the south, going through the tiny historic town of Crabapple and then headed into Fredericksburg for another rest stop with our support crew.

Pictured above: Small, lovely ranch roads and a historic cabin.

From Fredericksburg we rode to Luckenbach (everybody’s somebody in Luckenbach) passing the Gillespie County airport where the hangars have been converted into a hotel and a restaurant.

Pictured above: A field of large goats, the crew in Luckenbach, and the Gillespie County Airport and its hangars.

After a rest stop in Luckenbach we headed back north to Fredericksburg to finish our ride. Luckily we finished our ride just as it started to rain. 115 miles for me and 57 for Carl. We then got to have a late lunch before checking into our lodging for the night, where we relaxed on the porch watching the sun go down.

On Sunday morning I started a bit later but still before the sunrise. It was a cool and pleasant morning. The route headed east before dropping down south to go through the LBJ Ranch State Park.

Pictured above: A few shots of the sunrise, the Pedernales River in the LBJ Ranch State Park, and the Albert Dance Hall in Albert, TX (it was the only thing there).

I then headed into Blanco where I met my support crew in the town square and Carl joined me for the rest of the ride.

Pictured above: Us in our matching Real Ale Ride jerseys in Blanco (Real Ale is in Blanco, for all of you non-Austinites), and a stop as we were crossing the dammed up Blanco River.

From Blanco we headed south and east towards Canyon Lake on some very lovely ranch roads. We met our support crew along Canyon Lake for our last rest stop of the day.

Pictured above: the ranch roads, riding along a river, a small country church and cemetery, and the view from Canyon Lake Dam.

From Canyon Lake we headed to New Braunfels along River Road, which is a very nice road for riding (and driving if you like to go 20 mph).

Pictured above: Lovely roads and views from the River Road which follows the Guadalupe River.

At the end of our ride, I had reached 85 miles and Carl 51 miles. We grabbed lunch in town and finished the afternoon with some well deserved beers at New Braunfels Brewing Company.

 

Again, thank you so much for your support! It really means the world to us, and we’re so thankful that we were able to benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Advertisements

Costa Rica days 7 & 8: Arenal Volcano and back to San Jose

On Friday we explored the Arenal Volcano region after enjoying the Costa Rica typical breakfast at our resort. During breakfast, it started raining. We knew to expect rain so we had jackets, ponchos and umbrellas. We started off the rainy day by visiting La Fortuna waterfall, a private waterfall that has lovely walking trails, an overlook, and 500 well maintained steps down to the bottom of the waterfall. It was raining so my photos are limited, but I did get a short video at the bottom with my GoPro.

When we first started our waterfall visit, you could see it from the top despite the rain. It rained the whole time we climbed down the steps to the bottom, and most of the way back up. It was done raining by the time we got back up, but the waterfall view was then blocked by fog.

crblogarenal-2

Bottom of the La Fortuna waterfall

crblogarenal-1

There’s a waterfall back there somewhere

After the waterfall we headed to the Arenal Volcano National Park. As we parked, there was an Agouti in the parking lot – they kinda look like large guinea pigs.

crblogarenal-3

Then we walked down the gravel road to the Volcano overlook and during the walk saw tons of birds, including Toucans! It was quite exciting. We still need to figure out what some of these birds are, but one is definitely a Toucan.

crblogarenal-4crblogarenal-5crblogarenal-6

After the overlook walk, Carl and I headed out on the volcano hiking trails so that we could walk out on a section of rock created by a lava flow in 1992. We got a great view of Arenal lake and almost saw the top of the volcano.

crblogarenal-8crblogarenal-9

On our way back to the car we went by a GIGANTIC tree that is supposed to be over 200 years old. It’s so big I thought it should definitely be older than that.

crblogarenal-10

During our trip we saw numerous Brahman cows which must be well adapted to the climate given their prevalence. They are very wrinkly and kind of ugly though and I finally got a photo of them.

crblogarenal-11

For lunch we headed into La Fortuna and stopped at a little cafe that had good drink specials. After that we walked around the church and little town square.

crblogarenal-12

For dinner that night we went to a place called Lava Lounge right off the town square.

The next morning we headed to breakfast and saw a two toed sloth just above the resort dining hall.

crblogarenal-14

We took a stroll around the resort grounds, checking out the pools and hot springs in daylight.

crblogarenal-13

Carl and I took an exciting zip line trip, photos and videos to come. It was just at the back of the resort where there is a valley and river and some really long zip lines.

After that we headed to San Jose for our last night in Costa Rica. We stopped at the little town of Zarcero which has a cute church that maintains an elaborate topiary garden on its grounds. We also had another typical Costa Rican meal for lunch there.

crblogarenal-15crblogarenal-16

After an adventure in finding our reserved hotel, realizing it had no AC, then finding a new hotel, and finally finding a gas station and returning our rental car, we had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant and finished the night with some Christmas photos.

It was a lovely trip!

Costa Rica days 5 & 6: Quepos to Jaco to Arenal Volcano

On Wednesday we packed up all of our stuff for our last ride down the crazy hill that our condo was located on and headed to the beach town of Jaco, about an hour drive north. During the trip we pulled over to take a look at Playa Hermosa, a black volcanic sand beach with huge waves.

crblogjacotoarenal-1

After checking into our condo we walked around Jaco for a bit, checked out the beach, and then had lunch at the Tacobar.

crblogjacotoarenal-4

The condo courtyard

crblogjacotoarenal-2

Playa Jaco

crblogjacotoarenal-3

Tacobar has swings you can sit on along the bar, and a salad bar for extra taco fixings

During a later afternoon walk, Carl and I finally saw some Macaws! There were 6 of them sitting in a tree near the beach until Carl got too close and scared them off. They sure do squawk a lot!

crblogjacotoarenal-5

We also found a microbrewery in Jaco called Puddle Fish. We later went to the attached restaurant, Side Street for dinner.

crblogjacotoarenal-6

On our way to dinner we went through the town park and took in the Christmas lights. Dinner at Side Street was good, but they were out of many menu items and almost all of their house brewed beer due to some holiday party they hosted the night before. Needless to say, Carl was disappointed.

crblogjacotoarenal-7

On Thursday we left Jaco after picking up some pastries from a local Panaderia and headed north again, this time towards La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano. On our way we paused at the Crocodile bridge, a place where many crocodiles apparently hang out. This fearless white bird just stood in the middle of them until one came too close and it would flutter to a new spot about 10 feet away.crblogjacotoarenal-8

We stopped for a short nature walk at Carara National Park. Immediately after I stopped for this photo of me and an anteater statue Carl pointed out a live one! It took some patience to get a photo of him through the trees in the light, but eventually I did.

crblogjacotoarenal-9

crblogjacotoarenal-10

Anteater! Furrier and cuter than I expected.

The next part of our trip was quite an adventure. We were using a combination of offline Google maps and Maps.Me for GPS navigation and both sent us on a very rough back road towards Arenal Volcano. We got some lovely views up in the mountains.

crblogjacotoarenal-11

The road turned to gravel at some point, and had some very steep inclines. Eventually, not too far past the photo below, we came to a section that our rental car absolutely could not make it up due to the incline and ruts in the road. We had to turn around and head back to a more established route, no thanks to Google or Maps.Me.

crblogjacotoarenal-12

After driving most of the daylight away we finally arrived at the Arenal Paraiso Resort & Spa just in time to watch the sunset. We kept our fingers crossed that the top of the volcano would show itself, but the cloud cover would not go away. Our cabin did have a nice little porch with a view of the volcano. The resort has hot springs on site so we made sure to take advantage of that amenity in the evening.

crblogjacotoarenal-13crblogjacotoarenal-15

 

Costa Rica days 3 & 4: Day trips around Quepos

On Monday we headed south from Quepos to Dominical and Uvita to check out the beaches. We first stopped at Dominical, navigating the extremely rough dirt road to check out the beach where the river Rio Baru meets the ocean. It had good surfing waves.

We then drove down to Uvita to visit Ballena Marine National Park and walked along the expansive beach to Isla Ballena, a small little sand bar type island only accessible during low tide. During low tide when the sandbar and connecting sand bridge is visible, it’s shaped like a whale’s tail – hence the word Ballena! Well, they also say that whales migrate past this beach in the winter, so maybe that’s also a contributing factor.

After taking a dip in the calm waters sheltered by the sandbar, we made the long walk back to the car, during which we spotted many sanddollars on the beach. Afterwards we went to Dominical for lunch, stopping at the rather disappointing Patron’s Bar and Grill.

We then drove back south to take a quick stroll at Playa Hermosa before returning to view the sunset from our porch once again.

We dined at Emilio’s Cafe which had delicious food, good service and a live jazz band. We topped the night off with some awkward family photos on the porch.

On Tuesday we drove north to Rainmaker, a rainforest conservation project. We took the self guided river walk and suspension bridge canopy tour. The tour was more strenuous than it sounded, but we saw many waterfalls, little pools you can swim in, and the suspension bridges were pretty awesome. After climbing many stairs on the tour, we enjoyed local craft beer Perro Vida, brewed on site. It was quite good. A hummingbird visited us while we were hanging out.

img_0884 img_0871 img_0892img_0922img_0909img_0917

We then headed back down south to Playa Espadilla, which is the beach just outside Manuel Antonio Park. We had lunch at Marlin Grill, another disappointing lunch spot but at least that had a view of the beach. After lunch we headed to the beach for some lounging under a beach umbrella and strolling down the beach.

img_0936

The tide was coming in right before sunset, so we packed up and headed back to El Avion for a drink at the bar while viewing a particularly lovely sunset. For dinner we went to the Marina and tried Z Gastropoda, where the food was good, souls vide chicken was on the menu, and my kale salad was missing kale.

img_0962

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica days 1 & 2

Early Saturday morning we boarded our flight from Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica. After an hour delay, we were on our way. After arriving in San Jose, we picked up our luggage and rental car and hit the road to Quepos. After some exciting driving getting out of San Jose, we were on the toll road for a while before stopping for lunch at a roadside stand selling authentic Costa Rica food – we all had rice & black beans, plantains, and either meat or fried cheese.

Upon arriving in Quepos we met the manager of the AirBnB property I booked and took a truly terrifying drive up a steep and curvy hillside to our house with an awesome view.

img_0578-4

Rental house up a steep hill

 

We settled in, hit up a local supermarket, and then had birthday dinner for Mom at La Luna at GAIA Hotel & Reserve. The food was good and I imagine that the view would have been good if it weren’t dark outside.

Sunday we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park for hiking, beach time, and to meet the monkeys. The hiking trails were well maintained with a ton of steps. We saw a ton of wildlife at the park: white faced monkeys, squirrel monkeys, three toed sloths (including a mamma with a baby), leaf cutter ants, iguanas and other lizards, coatimundi, and agouti. The white faced monkeys were particularly numerous and excited about people, we definitely saw people feed them when they shouldn’t!

Beach at Manuel Antonio Park

Beach at Manuel Antonio park

Viewing the fish trap built by natives a long time ago to catch fish at low tide

White faced monkey

Squirrel monkey

Coatimundi (similar to a raccoon)

Iguana

Leaf cutter ants

We stopped for lunch at El Avion and enjoyed a great view and good food next to an old airplane converted into a bar.

img_0727-4

Carl enjoying some seafood curry

After that we went on a bike canopy tour… which basically is a little carriage hanging from a cable amongst the trees and you use a throttle to go fast / slow down. The bike part is simply that there are bike pedals that you can put your feet on but don’t do anything. It was pretty fun to slowly move amongst the trees, even if only one of us saw a sloth. I did see a vulture with a red head.

We watched a lovely sunset from our porch and then eventually headed back down to Quepos for dinner at Runaway Grill in the marina area.

Our porch view

 

Saint Martin last day: Watching planes land at Maho Beach

Tuesday was our last day in Saint Martin. Our flight back to the states wasn’t until 3 pm so we had some time to enjoy some final sights. I started out with a run again, but this time on the beach. I went to the north end of Orient Beach, where some studio apartments we had considered renting are located. So glad we didn’t rent those! The seaweed smell down there was intense and there was no beach bar. Obligatory beach run selfie:

IMG_20150707_184847

After I returned and we finished packing, we walked down the street to a little bakery / creperie for breakfast. I had an apple beignet and a croissant. Croissants at the french bakeries were delicious, so much better than I’ve ever had in Austin.  Carl loves crepes and I finally talked him into a breakfast crepe. He had one with apricot jam.
  After we loaded everything into the car we headed to Maho beach to watch the planes land while hanging out at Sunset Bar & Grill. We got great views of the planes coming in to land right over the beach.  The big, most exciting fight of the day is a KLM 747 from the Netherlands.
  It’s the one you see in all the photos.   So I got some photos too. None of the planes came in as low as they sometimes do, but it was still cool to watch.
 After that we drove around a bit and did some final shopping before going the airport to wait in the longest, slowest lines for everything. When we landed in Atlanta, we were able to very quickly breeze through customs because of the global entry program we’ve both signed up for. I highly recommend it if you are a frequent international traveler!

Saint Martin day 10: Kayaking to Ilet Pinel 

On our final full day in Saint Martin, I started out with a short run, just to be able to upload a GPS track from Saint Martin. I first ran on the flat roads but then headed up a hill from some lovely views that I stopped to photo and then instagram:

IMG_20150706_183646

Once I was back, we decided to go back to our favorite beach, Ilet Pinel. This time, we decided to rent a double kayak and kayak our way over there. The beach where you get the ferry or rent kayaks had a huge amount of seaweed washed up on shore. Which then rots. This entire corner of the island smells awful because of the seaweed. Luckily, the wind blew into Saint Martin rather than towards Ilet Pinel, so we were quickly able to escape the smell after we paddled a bit beyond the seaweed.  As we were paddling hard into a very stiff headwind, this kiteboarder was standing on a shallow section in the water before he started riding.
  A pelican on the rocks near Petite Clef, a tiny little island on the way to Ilet Pinel.  We made it eventually. It was definitely an arm workout because of the high winds.
    This time, we lounged at the other beach bar, called Yellow Beach. There’s a good reason all the things we read talked about Karibuni beach bar, which we did on our first trip over. The food we had for lunch seemed to be frozen stuff they deep fried. Everything was plain, boring, and way overpriced 😦
  We did see the iguanas. all sizes of them… they were taking food from people’s hands!   In the early afternoon, the server started putting out tables in the water – they had giant pointy ends that he would work into the sand and then leave a bucket of ice with a bottle of wine. It was great to watch these people get progressively drunker.
  For dinner, we stayed close to home, eating at La Voile Blanche. Carl started off with a giant salad.  I had the creole tasting menu, and once again my dinner wasn’t very exciting. I started with a trio of smoked fish. It was giant for being a starter.
  Carl had a lamb shank, which he says was very good.  My conch fricasee was not exciting. Not spicy, the conch was very tough, and there weren’t enough vegetables. 
  Dessert was fantastic through, bananas flambe again. This one was paired with a delicious macaron.