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Well this post is a bit overdue but better late than never I say!  A few weekends ago Patrick and I participated in the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s “City to Shore” ride.  We started in Cherry Hill, NJ (about 8 miles from Philly) and ended up in Ocean City, NJ (about 75 miles from Philly).  We did some fundraising to help the Society find a cure for MS but mostly went on the ride to say we did it and have fun!

City to Shore finishers!

The ride is a two-day event and we had originally planned to camp beach-side upon our arrival in Ocean City.  After a week of rainy-weather forecasts we booked a hotel room at the last-minute.  This meant less gear to schlep with us so when the alarm went off at 4:00am on Saturday morning the bikes were already packed and ready to go.  We set off through empty city streets toward the light rail that would take us to the start line.  We had a quick pit-stop at the 24-hour convenience store to pick up coffee drinks (have YOU ever tried to bike at 4:00am without caffeine??)  We shared the train car with several other cyclists and more got on at each stop.

We're going to do what now?

The starting line was conveniently located at the Cherry Hill train station’s massive parking lot.  Bright street lights pierced the pre-dawn darkness, thousands of cyclists milled about waiting for the start and the line for the porta-potties seemed to stretch on forever.  We had arrived early enough to join the first wave of “century cyclists”– people like us who wanted to add an extra 25 mile loop to their day to bring that day’s mileage up to 100 miles.  Unfortunately the aforementioned line prevented us from setting off early so we ended up waiting at the head of a mess of about 6,500 cyclists for the “official start”.  As we waited in the fairly quiet queue we heard someone’s over-inflated tire burst with an impressive “PSSSSSSSSSSST”, bummer!

Sunrise at the starting line

Waiting to roll

Finally we were on the road at the official start time of 6:40am.  The route wound through sleepy Cherry Hill neighborhoods and into the countryside.  We slipped past fields still blanketed in mist, a cloudy sky preventing the sun from peeking out to burn off the morning dew.  The miles seemed to fly by quickly and I gleefully called out each mile marker.  We soon pulled into the first rest stop for a potty break and some breakfast.

The Whiz Palace

Feeling energized from some bananas and Cliff bars we almost decided to skip the next rest stop to keep our rhythm up.  But as we breezed past the rest stop entrance I heard a volunteer shouting “THIS IS THE LUNCH STOP!”  I’m not one to pass up free lunch so we quickly pulled over to scope it out.  There were huge tents set up with boxes and boxes of prepared sandwiches, ants-on-a-log and fruit.  Another tent had freshly grilled chicken sandwiches and all the fixin’s.  Normally I would have gone crazy on all this good stuff but it will still only 9:30am and a chicken sandwich did not sound appealing.  So I grabbed some stuff to eat later while Pat the “Iron Stomach” Kelley inhaled two chicken sandwiches.  We both grabbed a few extra Cliff bars, a habit that would continue throughout the ride.

9:30am "lunch"

The next dozen miles rolled past easily on the mostly flat course.  We flew past NJ’s famous blueberry fields, some of which are surrounded by gigantic Jurassic Park-style fences.  I made pterodactyl noises for a few miles to entertain us.  Soon we found ourselves at the turn-off for the Century Loop.  The loop was scheduled to close at 11:00 but we were there with plenty of time to spare and we eagerly turned off to join the “hardcore” cyclists.  As we chugged along I noticed that there were very few ladies on the Century Loop.  C’mon girls!

Feel the burn! 45.5 miles to go!

There was a really nice rest stop on the Century Loop.  Kids enthusiastically filled our water bottles and handed out energy bars.  There was a feeling of camaraderie but also pending exhaustion among the cyclists.  I ate my lunch and felt instantly better.  We picked up some “Century Cyclist” patches and hit the road again.  After 15 more miles we were dropped back onto the regular route.  At first I thought I was having deja vu but then realized we had joined the regular route a few miles BEFORE the Century Loop turn off.

We're feeling OK!

People clog the entrance chute of the next rest stop where we turn off to get more water.  I noticed that the “elite” riders were also the most discourteous riders all day.  One team in particular, The Flamers, seemed to think they were especially entitled to not follow the race rules.  It was disappointing but luckily most cyclists just wanted to have a nice time like us!  After a very quick stop we hit the road again, determined to get into Ocean City around 3:00pm.

The miles seemed to somehow become longer and I started to get that feeling like I was riding through Jell-O.  As we rounded a curve I felt my front tire slip and thought that I must really be getting exhausted.  I convinced Pat to stop at the final rest stop so I could re-group.  As we pulled in I realized my “exhaustion” was caused by a flat front tire!  Fortunately the ride provided free mechanical service at all the stops.  20 minutes and one new tube later we were ready to hit the final stretch!  Words cannot express how happy I was to discover that flat at the rest stop and not on the side of the road.  From mile 1 we had seen cyclists with their wheels up, fixing a flat or waiting for help.  Most of them were little skinny road bike tires that had been over-inflated.  Gotta love those weekend cyclists!

FLAT!

A nice mechanic fixing bikes

As the last 9 miles slowly disappeared behind us we started seeing more and more supporters on the roadsides.  A group of kids waved homemade signs and cheered for us, a little girl sat on her bike at the end of her driveway yelling “GO! GO! GO!” and a boy scout troop handed out free lemonade at their own impromptu rest stop.  My weary legs felt a burst of energy from all these kind people showing us that they knew we could make it.

Ocean City neared and I started hearing grumbling in the ranks about “the bridges.”  As in: “save your energy for THE BRIDGES” or “last year I couldn’t make it over THE BRIDGES”.  I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little concerned.  But I put it out of my mind, no way I was taking a SAG wagon ride at this point!  I could smell the salt water in the air and my bum longed for a stretch so on we pushed.  The line of riders jammed up at a series of stop lights and we found ourselves in a holding pattern for about 20 minutes.  Pat played the defence with his pannier- keeping stupid cyclists from whizzing past the stopped line of bikes (to go where, exactly???).  Soon enough I could see the dastardly bridges in the distance.

I was scared.  They looked like the first hill on a reallybig roller coaster and, to my tired legs, they seemed about 10 miles long and 50 miles steep.  But I was also thrilled to see them.  I had 98 miles behind me and nearly 7 hours in the saddle.  Would I let a couple of small (GIGANTIC) hills keep me from obtaining my goal??  No way.  So up, up, up we chugged and down, down, down we breezed.  I wish I could say the view was worth it but honestly most of my brain was focused on keeping my legs pumping.  We avoided possible calamity as those dang Flamers squeezed past us and the traffic to our left, without even the smallest whisper of “on your left.”  Pat reminded them not the be fools 😉  We cleared the second bridge as well and soon rolled into Ocean City.

With one mile left I started to get delirious from exhaustion and happiness.  The streets were lined with people waving signs and cheering.  A man in a wheelchair shouted “thanks for riding for ME!” and I nearly lost it.  The finish line chute was bordered with gates and people who don’t even know us screamed “congratulations!” and “you did it!” while clanging cow bells.  The finish line announcer was pretty anti-climatic in his announcing as we rolled under the banner, “You are at the finish.”

Finish line and supporters

I feel proud! (and tired)

I hear someone shouting my name from the sidelines and soon pick out one of my volunteers from work!  He’s there to support a friend but congratulates us on finishing too.  He also breaks the news that Ocean City is in a dry county so we won’t be having that celebratory beer I’d been looking forward to for about 45 miles…  Instead we hit up the free food tents, grab our finishing medals and t-shirts and then walk the boardwalk.

Best dang hot dog ever!

Walking "the boards"

God's smile 🙂

It’s a beautiful afternoon and we treat ourselves to some gelato and cheesy fries.  As we walk to our hotel we see a beautiful rainbow form over the ocean.  My heart bursts with pride at our accomplishment and the beauty of the day we just shared.  We retire to our hotel to stretch, take long, hot showers and to regroup.  We decide that the day was just perfect and that a 75-mile ride back the next day would be too much.  We sign up for the free bus that leaves in the morning and slip into a deep and well-deserved sleep.

YUMMMMMM!

Congratulations to US!

This thing is legit!

A beautiful end to the day

Collection of "extras" from the rest stops, lol

Big wheel at sunset

The next morning we load our bikes into a moving van with hundreds of other cyclists who will join us on a school bus ride back to Cherry Hill.  The drive takes about 1.5 hours, a hilariously short time compared to the 7.1 hours it took the day prior.  Soon we’re pulling into the train station parking lot, our bikes are unloaded and we board the return train.  A police officer at the Philadelphia stop congratulates us, noticing our matching City to Shore t-shirts.  Breakfast is at Famous 4th Deli where we both tuck into massive omelets and bottomless coffee.  It’s the perfect end to a challenging and rewarding weekend.

Truck full of bikes

We rode 100 miles at an average speed of 15.2 MPH.  From start-to-finish the ride took 8 hours, 7.1 of which were in the saddle.  We ate at least 8 Cliff bars each and drank about 1.5 gallons of water each.  One flat tire, 2 finisher medals and tons of fond memories.  Thank you to all of our sponsors and supporters!

The Kelley's in Ocean City

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I can’t believe how remiss I’ve been in my journal!  Nothing much exciting was going on and then I was sick for a week and did nothing but lay on the couch (and go to work, so stupid).  But last week I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the “Science of Art” conference hosted by the National Museum of American History in D.C.  The museum paid for my first night and then after the conference was over Patrick and I made a little holiday of it and stayed an extra day and a half. 

Washington Monument and swirly cloud by Patrick

The conference was actually really interesting and I always enjoy meeting colleagues from other museums.  I liked brainstorming with the other attendees and thinking of ways we can better the leaders of tomorrow.  I was also able to incorporate the enthusiasm for arts-based teaching I gained into a family workshop today at work– very cool!  I did a reprise of my fresco painting class, condensed to 45 minutes.  Everyone had a blast 🙂

Anyway, back to D.C.  Pat wandered around on his lonesome while I soaked up all the art and science goodness.  He took some fabulous photos and is now the house expert at the “shutter priority” setting on our camera.  I was especially impressed with some of his museum shots.

Dancing with the planes @ Air and Space

 

Black and white composition

 

Air and Space

After the conference ended we did a TON of sight-seeing.  One of my co-workers used to live in D.C. so she had a ton of insider tips for us (like how to get the Zoo without walking up the huge hill from the Metro- yessss!).  It was so good to be out of  Philly for a few days, to explore a new city together and to just relax.  I am also very excited that we stayed exactly on our pre-planned budget.  My favorite splurge was definitely our yummy lunch at some Mexican place by the Zoo.  Nothing like a pitcher of sangria to put you in “vacation” mode!

Not as awesome when you're on the bus for 4 hours after...

D.C. is a really interesting town.  We were both surprised by the lack of tall buildings (is there some kind of building code?), but it certainly made it easier to orient yourself to the Capitol!  They seem to have a pretty extensive bicycle lane infrastructure– here’s an example of a “bike boulevard”, so classy.

Bike commuter paradise

There are also racks of bikes all over the city that you can rent by the hour and then return to any other rack station in the city.  Seems like a pretty nifty idea and a good way to encourage people to leave their cars in the suburbs.  We did notice a lot of pedestrians using the bike lanes as their own personal extension of the sidewalk though, so I guess this system is still getting some kinks worked out.

Tidal basin Cherry Trees

We spotted an alarming number of bow ties, many potential undercover agents and the usual kinda crazy/kinda funny bums.  It’s really true, no matter where you go… people are pretty much the same! 

Very wise!

On Friday we trekked to the National Cathedral.  Very beautiful art, amazing stained glass and just a wonderful feeling of immensity.  But beyond that we agreed that it didn’t really feel like a hallowed space.  I wonder if it was the hoards of tourists or the fact that this space really does serve a non-religious purpose at times?  I’m interested to see how this experience compares to centuries-old churches we’ll visit in Europe.

My photographic juxtaposition of church/state

My favorite sculpture

Central nave

We took over 800 pictures yowser!  I can’t post them all here so I put a bunch on my flickr site click here.  I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites:

Panda butt

By Patrick

Botanic Garden

1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Fun trip!

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Hello, real winter

Last week I spent 48 hours in Madison, WI for a work conference on how to create programs for teaching nanotechnology.  Needless to say, a very small amount of that time was spent doing anything non-conference related.  I did get a chance to stroll around one evening and got up early the next day to walk around a little.  I felt like I was in the Wisconsin version of Ann Arbor most of the time– college kids, funky little shops (saw my new favorite t-shirt slogan, “With Great Mustache Comes Great Responsibility”, ha!), friendly vibe and, of course, protesters! 

I kinda wanted to stand up there to take a picture...

On the first night I was there I saw about 200 people just milling about the Capitol, holding signs, chanting and occasionally blowing vuvuzelas at politicians inside the building:

The guy in the front was just chanting "shame!" the whole time

On the next night about 1,000 people marched around the building and had a rally at the entrance.  I guess later that night they found out that the Capitol has to be open during business hours.  Too bad it didn’t reopen until today, it looked really pretty inside!

The building is only 3 feet shorter than our nation's Capitol!

I left the rally early because the conference was buying us dinner at The Great Dane, a pretty yummy brew-pub.  I would definitely recommend the “cheese curds”, basically mini mozzerella sticks dipped in ranch.  Trust me when I say I ate more cheese in 48 hours than is probably recommended.  But what else am I to do in Madison in winter?  I brought home some delicious samples from FromagInation, my new, cheesy heaven on Earth.  Three words: onion-garlic-gouda. 

The diary in WI is definitely solid.

The conference was hosted by University of Wisconsin and we met in their new Engineering Centers building.  I did some poking around the campus before the day started, also reminded me of U of M.  I would love to see this city in springtime.

Old school...

... meet the new school.

Lots of interesting architecture

The Descendant's Fountain

I found this link for the fountain above.  When I saw it in person I just thought it had a really cool design and liked the name.  Now I want to go back when it’s running!  Here are a few more pictures from my trip:

Leaving the gov'na love notes (not)

Yeah dairy state!

Lots of peaceful protesters

Watching the action

..

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Diamond Head Crater

Our first “hike” in Hawaii was to the top of Diamond Head, a volcanic crater.  We set out from our lovely hotel on Waikiki beach toward the crater, following the coast road. 

Someone's back yard

The walk to the entrance was much longer than we expected.  But pedestrians get a discount so I guess it was worth it!  Pat and I thought these recycling “cages” looked like modern art:

plastique

The hike is .75 miles and paved the whole way.  There was one really steep set of stairs, good thing I use my “stairmaster” at work daily (4th floor office…)  A tunnel inside the crater and then a spiral staircase lead you to a great lookout point.

It was pretty dark in there

This picture makes me dizzy!

Waikiki beach-- our hotel was on the end closest to Diamond Head

Ahhh, fresh air, sunny skies and beautiful scenery!  A lot of our programs at work focus on Earth Science so I was excited to be standing on a volcano on top of another volcano.  Whenever I talk with visitors about plate tectonics I make sure to spend extra time on Hawaii’s formation– it’s going to be even worse now that I’ve been there!

Diamond Head is still home to a U.S. miliary base and the platform on top was once an artillery observation platform.  It offers a great view of the southern and eastern sides of the island though it was pretty crowded when we got up there.  We bypassed the man selling “authentic” certificates of achievement and hailed a cab back into Waikiki.

The same series of volcanic eruptions that formed Diamond Head also created Hanauma Bay, now a National Wildlife Preserve.

snorkel City!

More on that later!  The haunted house is getting crazy– but it three weeks it will all be over and I’ll feel like I just woke up from some really, really strange dream.

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I’m working on writing another article for The Art Blog.  It will take a look at the creation and installation of the exhibition Mineral Spirits which shows works by Ann Chu and Matthew Monahan.  I’m interested to see how the works were chosen and how they relate to one another as well as to the theme– the figure.  The show will be at UPenn’s Institute of Contemporary Art which is basically in my back yard.  Which means I can definitely visit the exhibit this time in person and (hopefully) get to see/photograph the installation process.  I’m hoping to talk to the curator on the phone later this week.  I’m enjoying this “internship,” it makes me feel like I’m using my art history degree for once.  Sigh.

I was under the impression that I had lost all my pictures (digital files) from my semester in Turkey.  But Pat came to the rescue and reminded me that he backed them up on his external hard drive.  Hooray, hubby to the rescue!  You’re right, Lauren, my hair is waaaay longer:

Gaziantep, Turkey

Ankara, Turkey from its fortifications

Mmm, lamancun-Turkish pizza

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I know our trip is a long way off– 2.5 years is a long time to wait for something.  Everyone says the hardest part about a trip like this is deciding you will go.  I disagree.  The hardest part for me is waiting for our savings to accumulate so we can GO!  In the meantime I do enjoy practicing riding our bikes like professionals (ha!), buying liquor in bulk to “keep expenditures down” (again, ha!) and spending A LOT of time on the internet planning routes and reading accounts of other people’s travels.

One part of our journey that has nagged at me from the get-go is the route across Russia.  That country is large, massive, enormous, elephantine… whatever fancy adjective you want to use, the main idea is it is BIG.  There is no way we can cycle across that in the time we want with the money we have.  Reading Tara and Tyler’s blog at Going Slowly has definitely confirmed that.  I’ve also learned through their blog that throwing our fully loaded touring bikes on the Trans-Siberian railway is not as easy as it sounds in my head (check out this post, these guys are cycling super stars!)  Not riding the Trans-Siberian railway isn’t really an option, it’s on my “must do” list for the trip.

So I present our ideas:

  1. Break the bikes down, box them up and throw them in cargo on the train.  Get off the train at Lake Baikal, put our bikes back together and explore that sucker.  Bikes go back into cargo and we continue on to Beijing.  Bicycle Asia.
  2. Meet up with my parents somewhere in Europe, possibly Germany.  Break down the bikes, box them up and send them home with mom and dad.  Take the train across Russia, making sure to stop at Lake Baikal to do aforementioned exploring.  Continue on to Beijing.  Backpack Asia.

Both of these have many variations and options to consider.  Reading this is the first my parents will have heard of our crazy idea number 2 (you’ll both be retired!…), will they go for it?  Do we really want to break our bikes down multiple times?  Do we really want to backpack Asia? 

The only thing I know is we MUST visit this lake.  Not only is it the deepest lake on earth it is also the oldest (25 million years young) and second largest.  It contains 20% of the entire planet’s fresh (unfrozen) water.  It has a special mini-ecosystem because of its isolation and age.  It’s average depth is 2,442 ft.  Lake Michigan, my favorite lake, has an average depth of 279 ft.  Just a little bit deeper…   Here it is from outer space: 

geology.com

Just some random thoughts for now.  Oh yeah, and Pat got poison ivy at the beach the other day.  Good to know: “Leaves of three, let it be.”

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Last week I went to a work conference in St. Paul hosted by the wonderful Science Museum of Minnesota.  Their museum is huge and much different from the one where I work.  Well, mainly just the layout.  Like us, they also want to get people excited about science. 

SMM main entrance. It's actually 6 storeys!Science!

 

Science!

Check out this nifty guy!  We love electricity.  

They had a great exhibit on the Mississippi river, which is within spitting distance of the museum (don’t worry, I didn’t actually try it…)  They had a cool stream table that showed how different river features form, like ox-bow lakes.  

 My favorite exhibit, however, is really fascinating.  In their “Big Backyard” the museum has created a gigantic camera obscura

See the hut on the right? Camera Obscura!

 

A camera obscura is just a big box with a tiny hole in one side where light shines in.  A lens is fit into the hole to help focus the light.  This projects an image on the opposite wall of the box (upside down, because of the lens).  Then you can do things like trace the image you see, modify it slightly to become an early camera or just stare at the beautiful scene it creates: 

Image inside the camera obscura

The picture is neat but the most captivating part was watching cars move, grass sway in the breeze and clouds pass upside down across the wall.  I really felt like I was a teeny little bug inside someone’s camera!

 
So I have to say my introduction to Minnesota was very nice– hospitable, clean and full of beautiful parks.  They seem to be pretty bike-friendly, too.  Surprising for a city that has 7.5 months of winter (burn! don’t worry, I’m from the midwest, too).  Check out these weather-proof bike lockers on the street:

I'd be scared of getting locked in there

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