Iceland Adventures – Spring Break 2017


We were looking for a Spring Break adventure for our last spring living on the East Coast.  After looking at several options, we’ found two free tickets, and one cheap mileage ticket on Iceland Air through their partnership with Alaska Airlines.  It was less expensive than going back to New Mexico!  We got recommendations from Jessica, played with different options (road warrior tour around ring road / the whole island?) – we decided to explore the area around Reykjavik and keep our plans loose.  We had a hotel reservation in Reykjavik the first night, a rental car reserved, but otherwise used airBnB and followed our nose (and the Lonely Planet guidebook).  We had a fantastic visit!  First, here’s a map showing some of the spots we visited.  We want to get back to explore more, but again – it was a perfect (first) visit.

  

We had a direct flight from Dulles (~8pm) to Keflavik (~7am).  We picked up bags, cleared customs, picked up the rental car, and hit the road – first to breakfast in Keflavik.  Then we drove around the Southwest corner of Iceland, went by the Blue Lagoon briefly (but it was booked solid), explored the geology, and then went to Hafnarfjordur for lunch (at the Bike Cave) and then to the public pool for a soak – this was perfect!


One fun stop was at Midlina, where the North American and European techtonic plates meet – we enjoyed a quick hike and exploration there:



We went over and met Tolly for dinner – it was a fantastic reunion with a friend from Fairbanks / grad school!  It was so good to catch up, and over a delicious, home cooked salmon dinner!!!

What a fantastic first day!

On day two, we ran a few errands (car snacks, warm rain gear for the kids, …) and saw a few highlights of Reykjavik-the Saga Museum was a great history and we enjoyed dressing up:


We loved visiting The Living Art Museum in the Marshall House.

 
From Reykjavik we went East – our first stop was at Laugarvatn Fontana – an amazing resort hot springs on the side of the lake.  We all enjoyed the soak and the meal.  Aven & Matt jumped in (and quickly got out of!) the lake.

   

Next, we went to the AirBnB provided house – with a perfect cubby/attic/bed for the kids.  It was so comfortable to explore the farms in the area, Geysir, and more hot springs.

 

We fell in love with the Efstidalur farm – fresh ice cream, lots of animals, friendly people, fun pets (parrots!) – we visited several times!!  I’m a little surprised that Aven isn’t still there at the farm!

  

We went out to Geysir (the one from which all others are named?) – it was a fun visit and Aven and Matt walked around so they got drenched – it was one of many fun moments!  We continued our tour of rivers, waterfalls (both Gullfoss and Seljalandsfoss), more hot springs (Secret Lagoon hot spring in Flúðir), and our final evening was at an (airBnB) farm stay with a horse ride!  


We visited Sólheimajökull which really reminded us of Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau – ah, fond memories.

 
We went to Vik and as soon as we turned the corner we were in a blizzard and a taste of winter weather.  We stopped for lunch and turned around.


We had so much fun getting a small taste of Iceland.  We definitely want to go back for more!!

Heavner roots in Iceland??

After we landed in Keflavik (near Reykjavik), our first stop was at Hafnir.

The sign struck my fancy:

But upon returning, I became even more curious. There are some ruins of a settlement at Hafnir that date to between 770 and 880 – the earliest indication of settlers in Iceland. See the 2011 article at the Iceland Review.

Hafnir was also quite close to the bridge over the North American and European continents, so we enjoyed exploring that geological rift. A tiny bit more info is at this page.

Uncle Ron – have you run into any Hafnir’s in the family ancestry??

Ten toes, all attached (or, I get by with a little bit (LOT) of help from my friends)

Last Sunday, I got the message that I was off the waitlist and into the White Mountains 100 race. This is one of my favorite events in one of my favorite places. I took a look at the weather and found a mileage plane ticket up for less than $20. I check with Carrie who said go for it (awesome!!) and how could I refuse. Don/Anne offered up a place to stay and car to borrow, Bob offered the use of his bike (same one I used for the last two WM100 rides). It was all coming together. I was most worried about my lack of cold weather acclimation. (Adam gave the good advice – come back with 10 toes, all attached and working.) I got everything together, enjoyed the flight up, got a pick up from the airport from Curt and then gathered fuel and chemical warming packs (along with special heat foot liners, etc). I was as ready as I was going to get (without shelling out significant $$ for fancy footwear, etc.). Here I am lined up for the start (it was around 5F, I think):

The start was festival, everyone staying warm and rarin’ to go. Just to prove that I am not the only crazy psyched-up person at the race (I’m in the background right of this photo):

You can see that I was proudly representing the Tarik Saleh bike club (zoom in on the handlebars if you can’t see it):

The trail was great, the sunrise and then blue skies were fantastic, and I love seeing everyone out there ready to enjoy the White Mountains. I felt great, adjusting (removing) layers — except my feet were getting chilly. I stopped, put in some chemical warmers, threw on gators/layers, which helped, but not for long. I enjoyed the ride but was beginning to worry. The challenge is that the true requirement to finish the race is mental, so I couldn’t let myself start worrying too much. But I also did not want to loose any toes. The scenery was beautiful but as I got closer to the first check point (~17 miles in) my feet were too cold for so early in the race – I was already reaching into my bag of warm tricks. And with my pace, I was looking at the lowest elevation overnight – potentially -30F. If I were out on my own, I would have turned back. I was happy to see Bob, Jill, Patrik, Larry, and Michael at checkpoint 1 – I put on my heavy over-boots and warmed up my feet for almost an hour. My feet were warm to the touch, but I could not feel a few of my right toes. The temperature was still rising (it was about noon now, and my mental plan was to charge on through checkpoint 1 at about 10am..) I went back about half a mile to the cabin, put a new log in the fire, and decided to give it more time. After almost another hour, I decided that I would try riding out on my own, so as the checkpoint crew came to eat lunch and pack up the cabin, I went out.

Here is where the story takes a (very minor) “bad decision tree” (ala the Mountaineers disaster stories). A large group of snow machiners had come by after the race was all through and tore up the trail – I cruised along, let out more and more air of the tires, and was eventually pushing the bike back up the hill towards the start line/exit. Was I in that bad of shape and didn’t realize it? I didn’t think so.. Then along came Jeff, Greg, and Josh – they said the trail was torn up for a long while, and I should turn and follow them on the short cut across to the trail shelter cabin – much better riding and just a bit longer back to the start. Who am I to think for myself and ignore Jeff?? (not just any Jeff.. this Jeff). And the checkpoint 1 crew would be coming over to the trail shelter cabin to setup the final (optional) checkpoint for the racers. It made total sense. Anyway, after a mile or two down the Trail Shelter cutoff, I started realizing the bad decision – the race support didn’t know my plans.. They did have my GPS spot tracking at least, but what would they make of it? And perhaps the checkpoint 1 crew would go the “long way” over to the the trail shelter – my original path, to keep an eye on me. Well, I was quite relieved when Patrik (from checkpoint 1) caught up with me!! We loaded up my bike, I hopped on the snow machine, and I thanked him for getting me out of a potentially bad spot/situation. It was all fine, but one or two minor/”reasonable at the time” decisions could have been worse. We cruised along over to the trail shelter cabin and I tried to be helpful in setting up the final check point / support station. We cheered the race front runners coming through. Bob and Larry came over – they had gone the other way, but they were getting low on gas and wanted to meet up with the race sweep/snow machine to refill (and I suspect also keep an eye on me). A little unnecessary drama that all turned out fine (phew). After help Susan and Amanda get all set with the Trail Shelter, Bob, Larry, Patrik and I went on to the start. A few minor trail adventures, including digging snow machines out of the deep off-trail snow, and we were back. I enjoyed a finisher burger and some HooDoo IPA and was happy to see several folks cross the finish line. It was not the day I expected or planned, but it was still a fantastic day in the White Mountains.

I am very appreciated of all the support – Carrie, Fairbanks friends, WM100 staff and volunteers, all the racers, and Adam (for good advice).

I went out to Chena Hot Springs for the healing waters. Ahhhh

And in case you wonder – my feet have no black (or even white) spots. (Three years ago, I had black on the tips of my toes and lost ~3mm off my big toe – likely part of the reason I was more susceptible this year..). It still feels like I have a small rock embedded in two of my toes – I don’t really have feeling back yet in them, but I’ll take good care of them (more hot springs!). I’ve enjoyed catching up with many Fairbanks folks (but I’m sorry I missed so many more!!).

And a final thought from lots of time on the bike seat to think it over – it is often hard to know if you made the right decision but it can be immediately obvious if you made the wrong decision. I didn’t lose any toes and I think that I made mostly all the right decisions.

The Role of Science or Churchill “complained to a friend of having to draft the budget instead of reading a book on quantum physics”

In a fun coincidence, I just caught up on these NYT and Nature articles about some writing from Winston Churchill on alien life and more generally Churchill’s interest in science. I love the quote from the NYT piece that Churchill “complained to a friend of having to draft the budget instead of reading a book on quantum physics.”

But what makes this really sweet – we’ve recently been on a Doctor Who kick. We started with Season 5 (the internet told me that was a good one to get kids hooked, so far, that’s been true). The third episode of season 5 features…. Winston Churchill!

Extra, extra bonus? After the daleks make the first appearance in season 5, episode 3.. We went to the Lego Batman movie and both kids loved the daleks! (just like the kid in this youtube clip)

What fun!

A weekend on Heavener Mountain and in the National Radio Quiet Zone

We had a great weekend visit to Harrisonburg and West Virginia. First we went to the Massanutten Water Park (instead of the ski area, with not much snow around – they claimed 16″). We all had an experience that exceeded our expectations – we may have to go back sometime! Torsten and Aven loved the water slides and all the fun and activities (so did Carrie & I).

The next day we first hiked up Heavener Mountain (all of 2,837 ft elevation – that’s an East Coast mountain). We had some fun driving that reminded us of out West.

Next we went to Green Bank Observatory. We highly recommend a visit. We loved the tour around all the radio telescopes, the hands on science center, our tour guide, and the whole experience. Even the logo was great: “The Universe is Whispering”

The whole weekend we were in the National Radio Quiet Zone, which is fascinating in its own – here are a few links about it:

Two photos from the Green Bank Observatory learning center:


A few more photos from the Heavener Mountain ascent:




Spooky 2015

We always love Halloween! We started with Dave’s week-before great halloween party with an amazing haunted house and lots of great costumes. Thanks so much to Erin and Albert for taking great pictures and sharing them through their online photo gallery.

Torsten’s costume sent shivers through every adult, and he’s ready for some “Refile or Treat”-ing!

Divide and Conquer

Or, a weekend apart..

Carrie and Aven went up for James’ wedding and got to catch up with the Morawski/Talus side of the family. Torsten and I were left to our own devices so decided to have some fun before the end of summer. Torsten came in to work with me on Friday

From there we went out to Western Maryland to spend some fantastic time on the Chaney farm. We had way too much fun, enjoyed catching up with a small part of the family out there, and even helped a bit with the final hay-making (Torsten was proud to get the wrap on the final bail of the 2015 hay making season). Here are a few of our favorite photos, including trips into Pennsylvania to visit the Merle’s cabin, some fantastic ice cream at the Road Kill Cafe (the ice cream place had a separate name.), organ playing (Torsten loved the organ!), a fantastic sunset, and four wheeler fun around the farm.






HAY! and making hay!!





And then hitting hay!

After fantastic family hospitality and not enough time catching up (and not nearly enough four wheeler driving for Torsten!), we went on down to Seneca Rocks for some camping in West Virginia. After a great sunset on the rocks,


Torsten was ready to really hit the hay (in the tent..)


The next day we got some good hiking in around Seneca Rocks and stopped a few times on the drive home..


We missed Carrie and Aven, but had a great father/son weekend and enjoyed the farm and family!

Gone, Forgotten, Privacy?

We’ve really fallen into facebook. Even the t-h photo gallery is getting dusty. I’d like to control our family story and memories — I’m going to try and review both this, and the “rsblog.” I still struggle to find the balance, but I think having a “family blog” with photos (target audience: family) and a “geek blog” (target audience: geeks who run into the same challenges and are googling for solutions). I’m gonna dust ’em both off (having lots of geek fun, as Torsten begins to get into it, so then where does that stuff go? both blogs?) Maybe I need to master blog tags? Hmm.

Torsten’s got the Flat Tire Blues

Nope, no bike problem.. It is the fall 2012 piano recital where T is playing the Flat Tire Blues. Enjoy:



Aven’s First Turns!

Aven had some great help from Torsten on the slopes! What a great big brother on the hill!




We went to Sipapu for opening day with Gramps — what great fun! It was nice to have the extra adult support, and a fun beautiful, fresh air, outdoor NM snow day (it was almost 50F and the only reason we could ski was because Sipapu worked so hard making snow for the past few weeks. Anyway, here’s the gang:




We got some footage of one of Aven’s runs — enjoy!