April 29, 2009

Comic-Con International 2009

I have a secret identity. It's true and I'm revealing it right now. Beneath this mild-mannered, suburban, soccer-mom exterior beats the heart of a sci-fi/superhero junkie. I confess I skipped work to see Revenge of the Sith the morning it opened. I have seen every comic book hero brought to life in all of their various incarnations: Batman, Spiderman, Hulk, Hellboy, Catwoman Ironman, X-Men, Daredevil, Electra, etc., etc., etc. I'm much more likely to discuss films with 13-year-old kids than with my peers. (Star Trek opens May 7!) Books? Sure I belong to a book club and I've read the required "The Secret Life of Bees," "The Kite Runner," and "Life of Pi" but under my bed is my secret stash of extended universe books and if you know what those are then you and I are kindred spirits.

All of this leads me to an adventure that's been on my to-do list for a few years now. Sadly, I won't be able to fulfill the dream this year but maybe YOU can. Comic-Con International is hitting the San Diego Convention Center again this July 23-26. Why am I writing about something that is almost three months away? Because it's almost sold out! You can only purchase tickets online and two of the four days are already gone. If you want to attend Comic-Con, click here now! If you're wondering what happens at Comic-Con, read on.

Dedicated to comic art, films and science fiction, Comic-con is one of the largest conventions in the country. This year, the show turns 40 years old and promises an enticing list of activities; everything, from celebrities to a film festival, art auction, and autograph signing, to a trade show with tons of exhibitors and, of course, a masquerade (with prizes) for the adventurous ones who love to dress up. Daily admission ranges between $10 and $25 depending on age and date. For a list of this year's special guests and everything you ever wanted to know about Comic-Con International, click here.

April 27, 2009

A Brooklyn Pizza Adventure

Hungry? Have plans to visit NYC this summer? Albert Grande of Pizza Therapy has a post about what he calls an amazing pizza adventure -- The Brooklyn Pizza Tour.

Tony Miura created the four and a half hour tour that features slices at two of his favorite restaurants: Grimaldi's (thin-crust) and L&B Spumoni Gardens (Sicilian). The Brooklyn Pizza Tour also lets you digest on a bus, taking in the sights and history of one of the city's five boroughs, between stops. Albert includes an interview with Tony and a clip from the Today show to entice you. I have to admit that after watching Today's hosts and a bus load of hungry people swear that they are eating the best pizza of their lives I'm almost ready to admit that New York's pizza is as good as the pies in my hometown of Chicago. "ALMOST" I said....

Click here to read Albert's post.

April 24, 2009

Park Ranger Gaelyn Olmsted: A True Adventurous Woman

Every so often I hear about a woman who is living a life that sounds just perfect. Gaelyn "Geogypsy" Olmstead is one of those women. Working as a seasonal park ranger, Gaelyn spends half the year living in a national park, half the year living wherever she chooses and the whole year living in her camper -- the Fifth Wheel.

Last fall, Gaelyn started blogging about her life as a Geogypsy (click here to visit the blog). Her posts about the wildlife just outside her door, her work, and the beauty of her environment always send me off on a mental vacation. I've never defined adventure by kayaks and climbing equipment. To me, adventure is pursuing a dream and testing new waters. That's what Gaelyn does every day.

I thought that all of you would want to meet Gaelyn Olmsted and learn a little more about her life because, as Susie of Arabia recently noted, if Gaelyn isn't an adventurous woman, no one is!

AWB: Hi Gaelyn, thanks for doing this interview!

I’d like to thank Susie of Arabia for suggesting me for this honor. Funny, I never thought about myself as an adventurous woman.... I guess I’ve lived outside the normal box for so long, it’s now my norm.

AWB: What made you want to become a Park Ranger?

I can’t tell a dream-like tale about being a kid who always wanted to be a Park Ranger. My family didn’t go to parks. Even as a young adult when I began taking road trips and stopped at every park I could take a crooked path to, following the ranger like an excited child, I never thought about being a Park Ranger.

Then, after a life of wife, mom and craft business owner, I returned to college. I took science and history classes and got excited about subjects I’d never liked before. I earned my BS in Environmental Education & Mass Communication at Western Washington University Huxley College of Environmental Studies. (I think that’s what’s printed on my diploma.) For my internship I spent three summer months as a “Forest Interpreter” at Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument working for the Forest Service. They paid me to learn and share with visitors the incredible story of this volcano. They paid me to talk, something I’ve gotten in trouble for all of my life. I was hooked.

AWB: Why did you opt for working seasonally and changing parks instead of finding a fixed location?

It’s really difficult to get a seasonal job with the National Park Service, there’s a lot of competition. But to get a permanent position is nearly impossible. And then you have to work all year. Besides, with almost 400 national park sites to choose from, why pick just one?

I tend to return to the same park for several summer seasons. My Park Ranger career began with four summers at Mount St. Helens in Washington State. Then, after nine months along the Columbia River Gorge and five years on the road selling at flea markets, I rangered at Oregon Caves National Monument for five summers guiding cave tours. I worked one summer at Mesa Verde National Park leading tours into cliff dwellings. And last summer I had the amazing opportunity to work at Grand Canyon National Park, the North Rim.

Every park has something new and different to offer. There is so much to learn about the natural and cultural history of each park and its surrounding areas. It could take a lifetime. For me, it usually takes many seasons to barely get a sense of a place. And then a new place may call my name.

AWB: What are your favorite parks/places/attractions so far?

My favorite is wherever I am.

AWB: What do you like most about your free-wheeling lifestyle?

No matter where I park it, I’m always home. It may be an old 5th-wheel, but I own it. And it seems to be the only way I can afford to own a home. The rent is usually very reasonable. I can camp for free on public land. Pay minimal rent when living in a national park, or comparable where I’ve been wintering on a friend’s private property. But it can get expensive staying in RV parks on a per night scale.

If I don’t like the view or neighbors, I can easily move. And I travel with my own bed, toilet, shower, stove, refrigerator and stuff.

AWB: What are your biggest challenges?

Life is not always perfect. As a seasonal employee—by choice mind you—there isn’t a lot of job security. If I do well at a park I’ll most likely be welcome back as a rehire, but no guarantees. To work at other parks there’s an application process, competing with many other applicants. So every winter I apply to several parks, and then wait. For me, waiting is a challenge almost anytime. Plus, of course, seasonal [employees] don’t get benefits like health insurance or retirement.

My RV home, like any house, needs maintenance and repairs. I say I’m not a very “handy” person, yet sometimes I can fix certain things. Usually it’s my lack of knowledge or strength that brings me to a halt. I seem to have a very long honey-do list with no honey to do.

My biggest challenge with the fifth-wheel I live in is backing it up. I can do it with plenty of time, and patience. But if there’s some man around starting to tell me what to do, I just say, “if you can do it better, go for it” and I let them do it.

AWB: What advice do you have for women who are interested in becoming park rangers?

Apply, volunteer, and study what you’re passionate about. Get involved at your local nature center, museum or zoo. Experience in any public services shows you know how to interact with people. Practice your communication skills. If you’re in school look into the Student Conservation Association for intern opportunities. Don’t give up. All government agency jobs are posted on www.usajobs.gov.

There are different kinds of Park Rangers: Administrators, Law enforcement, Fee collectors, Maintenance, Science (resource management), and Interpreters like me.

AWB: What’s your biggest adventure to date?

The first time I took off on an extended road trip when I was 21 years old. I lived in a Chevy Vega for three months with a large puppy. My journey started in the Chicago suburbs and I drove non-stop to Colorado. Then I “blue lined” zig zagging all over the southwest visiting parks, monuments and historic markers. Finally ended up in Los Angeles and followed Highway 1 up the West Coast before heading back east through the northern states.

I still consider this the best adventure. I was young and a little foolish. But I challenged myself to being alone and enjoying my own company along the way.

AWB: What’s your next big adventure?

Well, I’m telling it here for the first time. This summer I’ll be a returning Park Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park. Look for me on the North Rim, which officially opens May 15th. I’m so looking forward to discovering more about this amazing place and the surrounding area. So please come for a visit, hopefully in person. But you can also travel with me virtually at my blog.... [visit Gaelyn's blog, Geogypsy, by clicking here.]

There’s an adventurous spirit inside of us all. Life is about pursuing your dreams. If you don’t, no one will for you. Adventure can be found in the next room, town, forest, or country. Just open your mind, body and soul to the endless possibilities. And don’t let fear hold you back.

April 22, 2009

The Perfect Earth Day Activity: Listen to Your Garden Grow

Over at Treehugger, Kelly Rossiter talks about celebrating spring by literally listening to her garden grow. I've heard the subtle evening noises in my garden, crinkling and rustling in the leaves, but it never occurred to me that those sounds might be the plants themselves. Click here to read Kelly's post and take a couple of minutes to listen to her recording of the sounds of tulips emerging from the ground. If tonight is pleasant in your area, why not take a few moments to listen to Mother Nature celebrating the Earth in her own way.

Happy Earth Day!

I have spent the better part of the last week doing the most un-Earth Day thing possible -- working at a trade show in Las Vegas. Yes, it was an adventure but one I will save for next week.

On a more appropriate note, I hope you'll click in on Friday when I'll have a Q&A with Park Ranger Gaelyn Olmsted. After being a wife, mom and business owner, Gaelyn chose to completely re-invent herself and has been living an amazingly nomadic life ever since. Her seasonal position allows Gaelyn to spend six months in a national park and six months in her camper going wherever the road leads her. I think you'll enjoy reading about Gaelyn and her travels and as a bonus, the Geogypsy will reveal where she'll be working this summer. Hey, Gaelyn! Wanna swap places?

Image:© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

April 21, 2009

Performance Art Adventure

My friend Fritz alerted me to this fun video on YouTube. A group of individuals staged an inspiring piece of performance art at Centraal Station in Antwerp. (Click here to see them in action.) Naturally, my first thought was, "This would be a great Adventure Club activity!"

Are you thinking that you could never pull off a dance number in a train station? Well, I have something just for you: click here to see a piece of frozen performance art in NYC's Grand Central Station.

April 17, 2009

This Weekend: GET OUT!

Spring is in the air, which translates to cold, wet and windy where I live, but the greening world and increasing sunlight make me want to plan for the gorgeous days to come. Recently, The Adventure Blog ran a few posts that I've been saving for a day like today. Click here for a piece on Backpacker Magazine's top US hikes. This link takes you to a piece on 10 of the best "undiscovered" treks around the world. One more for good luck, click here to learn about 10 great bike trails.

April 15, 2009

Anne's Training Journal: The Event

Anne lives in Missoula, Montana, and is training for the Grizzly Triathlon in April. Believing that she is not the typical triathlete, (age 49 and not a regular competitor) Anne feels that if she can pull this off, anybody can. This is her training journal:

My last week was really hard. We had to cut back on the amount we exercised which made me realize how I was using exercise to deal with stress. Without the exercise, my stress levels definitely increased. And I still had fears about the swim. I quit calling it a race—instead I called it an event. A race implied a need to go fast which led to increased pressure. I joked that I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach. Rather, they were giant Luna moths.

Anyway, Saturday eventually arrived. I had to show up at the pool at 7:30 to check in. I was in the first heat, 8 a.m., because of my slow swim time. The faster swimmers started later. I set up my transition area with my bike, clothing, shoes, etc…. I wore a sports bra under my swimsuit because there was no way to put on a bra after the swim.

A couple of minutes before eight, we got in the pool. I introduced myself to my lane mates—there were four of us in the lane. They staggered our start times by 5 seconds. You swim in a circular pattern and pass at the wall. Everyone in my lane was nice, and we all swam at a similar speed.

I did the swim within the required time period. We had 30 minutes to finish the swim and I took 28 minutes and 17 seconds. I was really happy with that time. The swim felt good, and there were a lot of people cheering me on.

After the swim, I ran outside to my bike. Since it’s April in Montana, it was in the low 40s. I quickly dried off a bit and then started donning clothes. I didn’t want to get cold so I put on several layers. This cost me a lot of time in the transition, but it was more important to me not to get hypothermia. I hopped on the bike and hit the road. There was a light wind blowing up Hellgate Canyon where the ride headed out. The ride felt fine, but I wasn’t especially fast. Yet I enjoyed it. The ride follows the Clark Fork River, and I saw ducks and geese along the way. It’s a beautiful route. Then you turn around and head back to the pool.

Once back at the Grizzly Pool, I changed from bike shoes to running shoes, grabbed my iPod and a hat, and set off. The run felt better than last year. At least I could feel my feet at the start of the run. Last year my legs just felt like wood. I was prepared for that feeling this year. I did my slow, steady run the entire way except for the hill. There’s a hill on the route where the footing is a bit treacherous so that was my justification for not running. Lots of people walked the hill so I was in good company.

It felt good to cross the finish line. There were lots of Women’s Club people cheering me across the line. It took me 2 hours and 17 minutes. I was 3 minutes faster than last year. My goal is to break the 2 hour mark next year. Now, I’m looking forward to my ride in STOKR and the Danskin triathlon in August. I’m already fretting about the open water swim. Will I need a wetsuit?

April 13, 2009

Earth Day Adventures

Earth Day is next week, April 22, and you've probably been thinking, "I should do something this year..." Well, funny that you mention it because there are quite a few options out there for you and for your Adventure Group.

Let's start with Green Apple Festivals because they take place this week: April 17-19. Click here to visit Volunteer Central and join one of the 10 events happening in cities across the US.

The Earth Day Network is also seeking volunteers (individuals or groups). Click here to visit their volunteer page.

The US Government is getting into the act; click here for a wide variety of activities ranging from things you can do on your own to working in your community to working with the Forest Service.

Treehugger likes the idea of organizing a river clean up. Click here for more information. However, their link for getting started doesn't work so click here to connect with AmericanRivers.org.

And, of course, the Environmental Protection Agency has a site as well. Click here to visit the EPA.

© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

April 10, 2009

Learn to Toss Pizza Dough!

Haven't you always watched those professional pizza tossers with envy? They take a little ball of dough, pound it a few times and then spin it high into the air to create a beautiful round pizza crust. Well, here's your chance to develop a skill that will make you the star of the neighborhood. PizzaTherapy has a great video of 8 time world champion pizza acrobat Tony Gemignani giving you the step-by-step on tossing pizza dough. Albert Grande of Pizza Therapy has graciously provided his world famous pizza dough recipe to get you started.
I tested this yesterday with a bunch of teenagers and here are a few tips from that experience:
1. Put your blob of dough on a piece of parchment for the flouring and rolling phases. Parchment is available in grocery stores. It's usually near the waxed paper (don't use waxed paper).
2. Put a table cloth on your floor for the 20 or more times that you drop your dough.
3. If you don't have a pizza stone, use a very thin crust for your pizza or the middle will be doughy.
4. Bake your pizza in a 500 degree oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes with a pizza stone, about 15 minutes on a baking sheet.
5. If you don't have a pizza stone, bake your pizza on a piece of parchment. It makes it much easier to get the pizza (and the run-off cheese) off the baking sheet.
Now, go make your dough and click here to see how to toss it like a pro.

Albert Grande's "World Famous Pizza Dough"
Ingredients for the dough, makes 2 regular of 4 thin Neapolitan pizzas!
· 2-3 teaspoons of yeast or less (Try 1-2 teaspoons, Peter Reinhart says only use as much as you need, you can use less yeast to get good results)
· 2 teaspoons honey or sugar (optional)
· 4 cups of flour (Can be All purpose or Bread Flour)
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1/4 cup olive oil (optional)
· 1 and 1/2 cups of warm water
1. Put yeast and sugar in a cup. Add 1/2 cup of water. The water should be between 100° and 110° F (37° C- 43° C.) degrees. Mix well. Wait about 5 minutes for the yeast and sugar to activate.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the olive oil, flour, salt, 1 cup of warm water and the yeast mixture. Mix this with a fork to get all the liquid absorbed by the flour.
3. Place a handful of flour on a mixing surface. Dust your hands and spread out the flour. Empty the contents of the bowl on to the flour.
4. Knead the dough vigorously for 8-10 minutes or until the texture is smooth and uniform. If the dough seems a little sticky, add a little more flour. One method to knead, is to lean on the dough with the palm of your hand.Press the dough to the mixing surface. Fold the dough and repeat.
5. Place the dough in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Place bowl in warm area and cover with a cloth.
6. Let the dough rise for about an hour. Punch down the dough and wait 30-45 minutes. Your dough is now ready.
7. Cut the dough in half (or fourths, for thin pizza).
(I usually make 4 thin pizzas with this dough recipe!)

Now, watch the video and toss!

April 8, 2009

Anne's Training Journal: Week 10

Anne lives in Missoula, Montana, and is training for the Grizzly Triathlon in April. Believing that she is not the typical triathlete, (age 49 and not a regular competitor) Anne feels that if she can pull this off, anybody can. This is her training journal:

One more week to go.

Training for a triathlon has been an interesting process. You learn things about yourself when you push yourself. I learned that I can run a 5k in less than 40 minutes. Most people think 30 minutes is a good time, but 39 minutes is my personal best, and that’s what I did in The Run For the Trees on Saturday.

I’ve also learned that I have exercise induced asthma. I’ve always kind of hacked and coughed at the beginning of a workout. I found out that I don’t have to do that. I’ve been having this problem since I played soccer in my 20s. I got an inhaler after talking to the doctor, and I breathe a lot better.

Missoula is a great place to be outdoors and athletic. I am so lucky to live where I do. On any given spring/summer weekend, there is probably some organization holding a run or bike ride. There are lots of good places to ride your bike and many good places to run and hike. Today I rode my bike along the Clark Fork River and watched geese, ducks, and eagles.

This is my easy week. We’re supposed to taper off the workouts so that we are rested with plenty of energy on race day. It’s going to be hard not to work out so much. I’ll probably drive everyone at work crazy. Wish me well on Saturday. I’m still concerned about my time in the swim although I swam fast enough last Tuesday.


April 6, 2009

Try a Kettlebell Workout

My friend, Mark, has been raving about his kettlebell workout for so long that I finally decided I had to see what all the fuss was about. Surprisingly, kettlebells have nothing to do with kettles or bells. Instead, picture a cannonball with a squared handle and if that makes you think, "heavy" then you're on the right track.

Kettlebell training is a Russian invention that has become very popular in recent years. As instructor Michael Krivka said repeatedly, "this workout isn't to make you pretty. It's for athletes who want to build the strength, endurance, balance and speed they need to become even better athletes." There was no doubt in my mind about the strength and endurance part.

When I arrived at Mike's gym in Gaithersburg, MD, everyone was choosing their equipment. Kettlebells come in different weights. Being a wimp, I started with the smallest -- 16 lb --which I didn't think I would be able to handle but I surprised myself. There were quite a few women in the class and all of them were throwing around much more weight with ease. I was breathing hard before we even got to the heart of the class.

The basic workout really calls on leg, back and arm muscles to help you perform squats, lifts and thrusts while swinging a weight. In some cases, it also involves tossing the kettlebell in the air and catching the handle while maintaining control. All of this is built into a routine that the class performs as quickly and accurately as possible during a fixed amount of time. The more reps you do, the better. Where most of the class completed more than 50 reps I didn't bother to count -- I was just happy I didn't drop my kettlebell more than once...OK maybe twice.

Let me tell you that this is one heck of a workout; cardio and strength in one package. If you're looking for something different, a change of pace from spin class and weight machines, give it a try. Want more information? Check out Mike's blog for some great videos and a list of celebs who are Kettlebell fans -- you'll notice that almost half of them are women. To find a kettlebell instructor near you, start here.

Image courtesy of Michael Krivka

April 1, 2009

Anne's Training Journal: Week 9

Anne lives in Missoula, Montana, and is training for the Grizzly Triathlon in April. Believing that she is not the typical triathlete, (age 49 and not a regular competitor) Anne feels that if she can pull this off, anybody can. This is her training journal:

Only 12 days to go before the race, and I’m starting to get a bit nervous. I read a tidbit on Yahoo yesterday that said that triathletes were twice as likely as marathoners to have a heart attack. The article put the blame on the swimming, especially the races with open water swims. I guess it’s fortunate that we do our swim in the pool.

I’ve been kind of a slacker for the last few days. I had to go to a gift show in Great Falls for work. While I was there, I did not exercise. I kind of had an excuse. I had hurt my heel running on Wednesday, and I needed to rest. My heel feels better now, so I’d better get back to it.

While I was out of town, the rest of my triathlon training group did swimming time trials. I wish I had been able to make that. I’m still worried about my swimming time. Because we’re swimming in a pool, they kick us out after 28 minutes. So I have to do 1,000 yards in 28 minutes. Last week I was 1.2 minutes slow. I think I can go faster. Unless you grew up swimming competitively, I think it’s difficult to ever feel completely comfortable in the water, but I’m going to keep trying. I like swimming, and I can swim a long way, but I can’t swim fast.

This is our last week of hard training. Next week we start to taper off before the race.