Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Every reassurance just magnifies the doubt, better find yourself a place to level out

I recently found a check list of Queenstown activities I wanted to complete that I made about a week and a half I arrived here. I was surprised at how many I was able to cross off. The list has lengthened since I first created it. There's a lot to do in Queenstown. There's even more to do in the less-than-one-hour's-drive surrounding areas of Glenorchy and Arrowtown. And you could spend five years here and not cover everything there is to do on the entire south island. When the temperature dropped a few weeks ago, my buddy Nate and I both realized that most of these sought after activities are most enjoyable in warm weather. During the winter, you either snowboard, ski, or both. Daylight is scarce, and it's painfully cold. With this in mind, we started planning to get some of these warm weather adventures on the books before it was too late.

The Routeburn track is an attractive multi day trip for both Nate and myself. I need to check this "walk" out as I am meant to run it in less than a month now. It's attractive to Nate as it is one of the Great Walks and is reportedly spectacular by pretty much everyone who has done it. I've never spoken to someone who has done Routeburn and not raved about the experience. So after a few weeks of missed opportunities we finally both got the same days off work and booked beds at the Mckenzie hut for last Thursday and Friday. We had all our travel arrangements worked out and I had gotten all the camping equipment we needed on loan from my roommate, Mark. We were set, and getting damn excited about the trip. On Tuesday Mark sent me a text that read "Don't get too excited about R-burn, the road to Milford is closed due to a landslip, they don't know when it will reopen".

 As the map illustrates, the Routeburn track is a one way path. You have the option of starting at Routeburn Falls, right outside of Glenorchy or at "the Divide" on the western end. We planned to drive to Glenorchy, about an hour away from QT, walk to the Mckenzie hut, a suggested 6 hour day, and spend the night. We would then have an easy 3-4 hour walk to the Divide. From there we planned to hitch hike the four hour drive back to QTon highway 94. My roommate Melissa had agreed to let us borrow her car to drive back to Glenorchy to pick up Voodoo. Like I said, we had it all figured out. The landslide occurred somewhere around the divide. You can read all about that disaster here:
The DOC confirmed what we already suspected. We could start walking from Glenorchy as we planned, but we would not be allowed to walk out to the Divide. We were given two options: Spend the night at the Mckenzie Hut and then turn around and walk back out the way we came (not very appealing). Or spend the night at the Mckenzie Hut and then take the Greenstone Caples track out (very appealing, but turning a 1 night two day trip into a 3 night, 4 day trip). Forever optimistic, and not about to let two days off in a row get wasted, we started to investigate our alternatives.

You may be asking yourself why I provided you with a boat load of background info about a trip that got cancelled. And there is a good answer to that very good question. All of the information will be very important when the Routeburn Classic rolls around at the endof April. On that note here's a quick training update. I ran 15 miles today in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. This includes 4 bathroom stops (ridiculous), two waters stops and about 7 minutes I spent trying to find my dropped car key on the track. This is the furthest distance I've run in my training and I'm very pleased with how I feel today. I'm confident that I'll be ready on race day. The next two weeks will be the most important as far as training and nutrition are concerned. After that I will start to taper down my weekly mileage and focus on resting up for the big day. I am bubbling with excitement.

Back on point. We quickly narrowed our potential destinations down to a couple of choices. Drive south to the Catlins, or North to Mt. Cook. In his pre-travel research, Nate became particularly fascinated with this website (click on the New Zealand category) and grew a little obsessed with this one photo The picture shows the Mueller Hut. I took a look at the picture and the decision was made. We were heading North to Mt. Cook to stay at the Mueller Hut. If you really have too much free time on your hands at work (and I know some of you do), you can read about the Mueller Hut here:

No surprises here, I have completely outdone myself and written a whole lot about nothing at all. It's gotten late on my end and I need to get some rest. But the Mueller Hut story is soon to follow.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

It really ain't hard to understand, If you're gonna dance you gotta pay the band

I'm coming to some painful realizations. 2010 is going to past without me seeing a live baseball game. I can't remember the first baseball game I ever went to. I have hazy memories of t-ball. But I do know that since I was old enough to walk and hold a baseball, I've been a participant in the sport in some fashion for every single season there after. I've been a player, a scorekeeper, a groundskeeper, a fantasy team owner and an entusiastic fan. I've read over a dozen books about baseball and I've made my pilgrimage to Cooperstown. I've watched every baseball film ever made. Baseball is the one sport that I truly love for the game itself. I can watch and appreciate baseball being played at any level and from any time period. I'm really going to miss Minute Maid Park, Dell Diamond and the New Alex Box Stadium this year. It will be one of those things that I appreciate even more when I return. I'll close the baseball sob story with some words of wisdom from Crash Davis:

"This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and rains."

Instead of watching baseball this year, I'll be spending a good bit of time on my ass. In the past two weeks I have purchased a season ski lift pass to the surrounding mountains of Queenstown, a used snowboard and a load of jackets, beanies and long underwear. I've never been through a cold winter and I've never skied or snowboarded before. I'd like to think that everytime I go out and embark on these little adventures I have no business embarking on that it builds character...or something.

I think I've written about the New Zealand bacon on the blog before but I can't remember. Basically, what kiwis call bacon would look like a thin slice of cheap deli ham to Americans. The bacon on the toppings bar that goes on the Italian pizza doesn't look all that much different than the ham that goes on the Hawaiian pizza. It looks more like what we would call Canadian Bacon. I'll never forget the first time I ordered a "Bacon Burger" and received a bun with a burger made from lamb meat with a slice of ham on top of it. Anyway, Zoe, one of the restaraunt managers, decided that the Caesar Salads did not look too appetizing with chunks of fatty ham on top of them and asked Muzz, the kitchen manager to try to find some more visually appealing bacon. So Muzz ordered what he calls "streaky bacon" and a few days later I was staring at a 6 pound box of proper bacon strips. I was in heaven as the smell of cooking bacon permeated the kitchen. It smelt just like my grandparents house where the house breakfast for so many years was 2 fried eggs, a plate full of greasy bacon and a fistful of piping hot grits. Oh yeah, here's an exercise for you. Go find someone who doesn't know about grits and try to describe it to them. Bring asprin. So anyway, I got to eat some good bacon but in the process, one of the other managers, Erin, had to show me this video from Wifeswap. Now I'd never watch wifeswap on my own, but I'll leave you with this clip as it is hilarious.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The beard that I'm growin, not fully grown, the years are not coming the way I thought they would

17 days. That's almost another full blown hiatus. Time to jump back into the game. I'll start by clarifying a few things about my blog. With the exception of one or two posts all of my titles have been lyrics from songs. My intention was for the titles to be a nod to fellow music lovers who might identify the song and artist by the lyric. But I realized that I need to give credit where it is due, or at least notify my readers that the titles are not my own original work. I generally choose the lyrics based on songs that I've been listening that speak to my mood at the time. Today's lyric comes from the Delta Spirit song "People, Turn Around".

The blog titles lead me to my next topic: the blog audience. I know very little about my blog audience. I assumed that the only people reading it were my family and the handful of friends who have told me that they read it. When I first started writing, I wrote the blog as if I was writing to my family members. Today I am writing the blog more like a journal. The audience is me. Someday I'm going to use the blog entries to reminisce about this whole experience. So if you find my topics and language to be strange and emotional, its probably because I am writing about the things that I think will be enjoyable to read about five years from now. And if you don't like the way I write, believe me you are not alone. I pretty much despise everything I publish. But as we've established many times before, I'm overly critical.

Finally, I'll address the issue of title of the blog itself. It would seem strange to name a blog about New Zealand after an American city I haven't called home in over a year. I created this blog account in 2007 after returning from Chicago where I attended the Lollapalooza festival. I had read the blog writeups for the fest and found them to be unspectacular. I also found most of the writers' taste to be foul as well (using Amy Whinehouse and talented in the same sentence, WTF). So I created the blog with the intention of writing about concerts and festivals that I attended. Lord knows I went to enough of them to justify a full time blog. I planned to kick it off with writeups of Lolla and ACL. Of course, I didn't write a damn thing. I thought about it alot, but never got anything out. On that note, I flipped through an astrology book the other day and naturally checked out the Libra section of the book. I read the quick synopsis on Libras and it included something along these lines "Libras are prone to developing interests in mulitple activities, pulling them in several directions at once and sometimes preventing them from gaining excellence in any single activity." Now, I believe in Astrology about as much as I believe in Scientology, but I will definitely drink to that notion. Anyhow, when I set out to create a blog for my Kiwi experience, I found that my old music blog from 2007 was still up and running and just waiting for someone to use it.

So, now you have a whole heap of more or less useless information and I have run out of time. I have to go meet some friends. But I am still going to publish this. My most consistent reader, who shall remain nameless as to not inflate his already swollen ego, has told me on several occasions that my posts are too long. I shall address his constructive criticism will this short and simple post. And I'll be back as soon as possible with some more entertaining storytelling. In the meantime, I have posted new pictures. Rock on.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Don't look back it won't do any good, And don't look ahead you'll just be misunderstood

It's a beautiful night in Queenstown. There's a full moon outside that is so bright I can barely make out the craters. Although steady rain accompanied strong winds for most of the day, the evening sky is eerily still. The clouds look like cotton balls stretched accross a navy blue canvas. On these nights the stars are unbelievably visible and distinct. I hate to admit it but I think that the summer is officially over. It's about 55 degrees outside right now and we haven't had weather fit for swimming in over a week. I experienced only about three weeks of true summer. That's definitely not enough for me, but I will make amends for now.

In a previous post, I expressed intentions of writing about the entire Winnie's menu. I think I only gave a description of the Monty pizza. My sister Chelsea (aka Food Court) has requested that I write more about New Zealand cuisine, so I'll oblige her with two more pizzas. I've chosen the Thai Chicken pizza and the Chicken, Cranberry, and Brie pizza (CCB), because just like the Montanara I cannot recall having a similar pizza in the states. The Thai Chicken is one of my favorite pizzas. The CCB is tasty but needs to be eaten in small doses as it is quite sweet. The definining factor for both these pizzas is that they are not made with tomato sauce. The thai chicken gets a base that we make from coconut milk along with red and green curry. We put tumeric in this mixture so that the final base comes out to be a nice "thai" yellow. So to make a Thai chicken I start with my flat dough, spread the thai chicken base evenly across and then cover that with cheese. Next comes chopped red onions, baked chicken breast that has been sliced and then red and green peppers. At this point, I will have a nice colorful pizza that is almost ready to go in the oven. But first I'll drizzle sweet chili sauce over the pizza and then top it off with some coconut and peanuts. After the pizza has been cut, I'll make a nice mound of crispy noodles in the center. The thai base and the sweet chili sauce melt together to build a taste that is sweet, but has a kick to it. The crispy noodles, peanuts and red and green peppers give each bite a nice crunch. This is really a good pizza and I'm kind of wishing I had one right now since I've starting describing it.

The CCB is really like nothing I've been accustomed to eating before. The only thing I have ever put cranberry sauce on is turkey. The CCB uses cranberry sauce as its base. So from the bottom up I have flat dough, cranberry sauce and cheese. The CCB gets sliced smoked chicken, as opposed to the baked chicken breast like the Monty and Thai. I throw on a sprinkle of fresh rosemary followed by a few slices of brie and that's it. The CCB is done. This is a great pizza as well, but like I mentioned before, it can't be eaten too often and you'll never want to eat too much of it. It is also the pizza that is most likely to burn the living daylights out of you. That cranberry sauce gets piping hot and its temperature is very deceptive based on it's appearance. I accidentally turned a small CCB over onto my hand while pulling pizza out of the oven one night. It felt like I had submerged my hand into the deep fryer in the back.

That's enough about food. I really am getting hungry. While the summer may be over I've found a new way to enjoy the heat that I love in the form of Bikram Yoga. After spraining my back on the river surfing trip I decided I needed a better injury prevention plan if I'm going to make it across the finish line at Routeburn. I decided to give "hot yoga" a shot and I freaking loved it. The temperature of the training room is about like the fourth of July in the south. Within 10 minutes of starting, everything I was wearing was completely soaked through with sweat. It reminded me of my lawn mowing days in college when I'd sweath through 5 or 6 t-shirts per day. I love that kind of heat. I've made alot of foolish mistakes in my time, but one of the biggest ones is never getting my other sister, Hannah, the certified yoga instructor to teach me about it. If I carry out my training plan and incorporate this class in a few times a week, I'm confident I'll have a great race in April.

I found another great album on my Ipod that I had forgotten about. It's Ryan Binghams sophomore release "Roadhouse Sun". Bingham essentially recreated his first album "Mescalito", but it doesn't really matter because NO ONE else sounds like Ryan Bingham. Mescalita was an excellent album anyway. I've been playing the track "Tell My mother I miss her so" on repeat for about three days now. This kind of music sounds extremely country to people around here who generally only listen to hard rock, reggae, and club music. But they still like it.

I finally finished reading The Fountainhead. I could write for days about the book but I won't. I did find one line delivered by the primary antagonist in the story to be fitting with my thoughts on Avatar:

""Don’t set out to raze all shrines—you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity, and the shrines are razed."

Write that down. Good night.