Monday, October 18, 2010

Muddy Buddy - McIver Park

Susan and I decided to do the Muddy Buddy a bike-run relay race out at McIver Park.
McIver is out in Estacada, so we stayed the night at the Kishpaughs and then headed over for the EARLY morning start. It was on a Sunday and we had to be there by 7 AM.
We got information on the event from Groupon and it looked like fun when we watched the Youtube videos, so we thought it would be good to try it out and to expose the kids to such an event. Both the kids were interested in the idea and the registration for them was cheap, so why not!
The race was a 5.7 mile course that had the team split up into a runner and a cyclist. There was on bike, so if you weren't running, you were on the bike. There were five legs and obstacles in there as well. The final obstacle was the mud pit! A cold, wet, pond/swamp like creation that had flags that made it like a low clearance wading pool. This is Susan and I before the mud pit.
Sheila brought the kids down at a more reasonable hour to capture these photos.
Here we are after the mud pit. It was a cold morning, so it was a little bit of a shock to get in the water. With temperatures probably about 40 degrees, we were fortunate that we were so warm from the exercise that we could endure the watery mud.
In the mud pit, you definitely had to keep moving. Once when I stopped for a photo opportunity, I felt the mud sucking me in a little which actually gave me reason to pause when I really thought about my next move in the pit. Crawling through we were definitely mud soaked to our elbows and midsections and it was saturated because the pit wasn't particularly short. It was a great end of the course, we felt really fortunate they did not spring that on us earlier.
Abby was a little smarter when she did the course, she decided to walk through and pick up the flags and put it over her head as opposed to getting down on all fours. Picture of her forthcoming.
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Muddy Buddy - McIver Park

Abby emerges victorious from the mud pit. Her approach to walking through as opposed to crawling through left her slightly less muddy at the finish line. She still had her share of rocks in her shoes and was looking pretty cold at the finish line. Nothing a little sports drink and a cold shower couldn't fix.

Susan and I entering the mud pit. Part of the haze was from the heat exchange between the people that had just come off the course and the serious cold they were getting into as a part of the mud pit. It was quite a shock putting your first hand down in the water. You can see Susan with an open mouth in that picture.... yeah, that's not really a good idea when your partner is splashing mud next to you!

We both sort of slowed down through the pit to appreciate the experience. I think also they stopped your time prior to entry into the pit based on a beep that we heard when you're jumping through the path into the mud pit area.

It's important to take a moment to celebrate the mud, so we did and showed the kids it wasn't so bad.
All of our cajoling didn't persuade Amelia. She chose not to do the Mini Muddy Buddy with her sister. That was okay with us since we would have had to get back into it following freezing cold visit to the "shower" area. And by shower area I mean twenty hoses connected to one spigot at two separate locations. They actually ran out of water (from the truck) and had a delay of 15 minutes until the next one showed up. Lucky for us we were just going back to Susan's parents' house.

Another after shot from the mud pit. They gave you sport drinks as you emerged which resulted in some more mud ingestion.

All said, we were 11th in our age group out of 45 co-ed teams, so we felt like we didn't fair too poorly until we learned that we were 104th overall. I am not sure how many teams that was. It took us 50:29 to complete the course, the winning team which included an Ironman Triathaloner was 40:25. Guess we need to work on that running training!

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Bike + Walk Day at Llewellyn School

Abby's school had a fantastic Bike + Walk Day with more than 75% of the students walking, biking, or taking the bus to school that day. It was a great event as clearly evident by the bicycle racks where every one of them was full and double parked.
The City had recently installed 14 additional racks and even those were full. There were about 20 bikes locked up to trees, the fence, and elsewhere around the grounds in imagery that reminded me of train stations in Amsterdam. The scene outside of Abby's classroom (last year's) were crowded and it made for a challenging trip into the school because the kids were clanging into each other looking for spots to lock up. It's probably debateable of whether they need to lock up, yet it is a good habit for the kids to get in and with Abby it has made her a little more responsible and I think she likes the feeling of responsibility associated with this everyday task. Her dutch bike has the built in lock, so when she's ready to ride that beauty it will be great for her.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Saturday in Tokyo

A few more photos I thought would be fun to add to the blog included me in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. 45 stories up is where the observation deck is.
Did I mention it was Saturday? That's right sports fans, Beaver Game Day. I wasn't able to be in Corvallis with my beloved Orange and Black clad friends, so I was proud to wear my Beaver Believer T-Shirt around Tokyo. I think I caught some folks off guard with a bright orange shirt. It brought good luck, becuase OSU was victorious in their Pac-10 opener.
I was wearing headphones because I was looking for some sort of stimulation other than street noise as I walked through the City. I walked about 8 miles a day by my estimation, which was something I enjoyed.

These additional pictures were from various spots around the town. The first picture I enjoy becasue it has multiple levels of transit and traffic and the variable message sign that is displaying real time traffic information based on the sensors that they have deployed all throughout the City. More on that at my geeky Transportation blog.

This picture is particularly fun because you have folks fishing right next to the highway. Again, similar to the Willamette in Portland, but at a much larger scale of roadway and development surrounding this little body of water.
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Outside of the Tokyo Metropolitian Government Building is the Shinjuku Chuokoen park. There was a tremendous waterfall that greets you upon entering the park that was a nice backdrop for the bazaar of yard sale vendors that were carefully organized throughout the square. This makes sense because the Tokyoites don't have garages or yard with which to have sales, so why not all gather in one place and try to dump old clothes, or sell things that you have picked up along the way. There was a wide variety of things for sale and I picked up a few toys for the girls for a fraction of the price of something at a store. The TMG was fairly desserted, save the tour groups that were travelling up to the 45th floor to catch a bird's eye view of the bazaar in the square.

The selection of goods at the bazaar ranged from someone's personal belongings that were just extras to folks that looked like they were involved in estate sales. It was an interesting mix and not much different than what you would see in the U.S., yet again, this is much more organized becuase of the limited space that you have available in the big City.
Here's a few shots from the ground and then one from the tower.
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Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The Tokyo Metropolitan government has gotten into the skyscraper building excitement as they have their offices in a 50-some story building in Shinjuku area of the City.
The observation deck was free and came highly recommended by the Lonely Planet Guidebook that was my companion on this trip. The new Tokyo Tower is being built further off into the distance as seen in this picture. That building is supposed to be the tallest in Japan when it is completed.
The picture shows it's clearly dwarfing the other major buildings throughout the landscape. After 9/11, I am not sure I would want to be in the tallest building in the world on a daily basis. I am quite content with the third or fourth place one. There's the flip side to that which would suggest we need to build these...

The TMG as it is described on the sign out front has two towers. you can see the other on the left in this picture and the model in the next photo. The architecture of the building was unique with lots of different building facades that made it look like a computer chip of sorts (per Loneley Planet).

I'd like to know how much these buildings cost to construct as opposed to two smaller ones that would hold the same space. It seems like there's an environmental aspect to these buildings that at some height they become significantly harder to construct, but I am not an architect.
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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tokyo Tower

A mentioned the Tokyo Tower in a previous post, so this is mostly just for the pictures.
The structure of the building is impressive and probably more small members than the Eiffel Tower.
My host Mr. Tamoto and I took a cab from the Tokyo Traffic Management Center to turn quickly from business trip to tourist very quickly. It was a transition that I wasn't anticipating but Shigeshi suggested it as we were nearby and he thought it would be a good thing to visit. He said he has been two times before and I thought: why not!
An observation I will make about Japan is that there seems to be an inordinate amount of people in uniforms. It could be that I started my trip near the government sector of the City, but the Tokyo Tower had some snazzy uniforms for their guides in the Tower.

The Tower has a goofy looking mascot that I caught leaving the top of the Tower. I am not sure why the mascot is pink as opposed to the orange on the building.
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Zojojoi Temple adjacent to Tokyo Tower

I visited a very nice temple after my tour of the Tokyo Traffic Management Center and the Tokyo Tower.
I needed some solace after the Tokyo Tower and paying 820 Yen ($10US) for a visit to the observatory of the Eiffel Tower replica. It was built shortly after World War II as a part of the reconstruction efforts. It was built a few meters higher than the original, but it doesn't seem to hold a candle to its inspiration. Sequels are never better, are they? The inside of the shrine was beautiful and very calming. I really enjoyed my time there and sat for awhile reflecting on my activities of the past few weeks, the trip to Japan, and priorities in life. It was a nice moment that I will keep with me for a few days.
There was a lot more to see, so I was back out in the grounds of the Temple.
Adjacent to the Temple is a cemetary that has a great view of the Tokyo Tower. Not sure if I would be all that keen of that sort of structure in the backyard, but meh!
The tombstones are tightly packed in and they grounds were meticulously maintained. There were quite a few flowers placed throughout the area and it was another nice way to reflect on the day.
This particular shrine has one of the largest old bells in Japan.

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Tokyo Chains at Rippongi

The Japanese are a fun and interesting bunch. There are several english translations that come across as very corny and I am sure that we have the same issue. This sign in particular is for the market called "Every Life, Every Fun". The quote below: " We hope that the goods and services will make your day a better and a brighter one."
How very nice.
The Rippongi Hills area was always a little seedy (as the guidebook describes it), but I didn't really see that when I was there on Friday night.
There is something that seems consistent with the culture when the lights of the neon are near the street like on this one.
The major skyscrapers don't have this same sort of feel. I haven't been in a car much so I am somewhat curious how the access to the skyscrapers is arranged, throughout the smaller collection of buildings and more human scale neighborhoods there are several parking structures that offer robotic parking that rotate your car and automate the parking process, taking the car into the structure and organizing based on how long you're going to be away.
The streets near Rippongi Hills have been remade and seem to be a very unique mix of pedestrian focused smaller streets that orient you towards the major skyscraper that is the center of this new district.
The other store that I enjoyed in addition to the classic high end stores that I walked by Tiffany, Armani, etc. was Double Standard Clothing. I am assuming they are suggesting that they have a higher standard, but that doesn't come across. My initial thought was these are clothes that are eco friendly but then are made of materials that are horrible for the environment and borne of sweatshops. Posted by Picasa

Tsujiki Fish Market

Saturday morning I woke up early as usual and headed off to the Fish Market where family businesses have been bringing in all matter of things from the sea and selling them to the sushi vendors and restaurants throughout Tokyo and perhaps the world.
The building looks like a parking structure but operates like one large loading dock. This may be one of the craziest places I have been with motorcycles, motorbikes, bikes, scooters, fork lift like wheelbarrows, semitrucks, vans, and all sorts of pedestrians. I almost got hit several times, it was hard to take pictures in some cases because the folks working in these spaces knew that the visitors weren't contributing to their bottom line. The entire place was bustling with activity.
Most of the specimens were in sytrofoam containers and sea water like these fish. I saw things in this format that I had no idea what they were including what looked to be sea anemone and they were bright red. There were several fish that were frozen in their largest form and were next to the jigsaw so that they could be cut into more manageable pieces.

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Tokyo Dance Trooper in Shibuya

I am a little disappointed I didn't get a chance to see this guy at the Shibuya crossing. This would have been way too cool.

Why I went to the Tokyo McDonalds and other thoughts on the value of a $

I won't step into McDonalds in the U.S. unless someone is dragging me, but I have to admit that I have been there twice on the trip so far. Last night it was for french fries. The service is very well structured and organized and there is an eerie consistency to the stores that I haven't noticed at other locations. The service is very specific and the attendants at the cash registers know just how to handle my kind. The first step is to flip over the menu to the English side. The menu is directly in front of you as you step up to them. They are so quick and efficient they don't give you a chance to struggle with your English. Just point and order.
So why did I go to Mickey D's. First, it was cheap. The yen is at a 15-year high against the greenback and that $4.50 cup of Starbucks hits the wallet pretty hard. Second, it was something I didn't have to guess at. I know what french fries are. Lastly, it was there. I have been walking a ton and it was nice to stop and get what I was going to get. With so much to see, it has been tough to clearly focus on eating and when you're alone, I tend to not want to sit by myself and take in the limited scenery of a restaurant.
All this being said, the pice of a small latte is $2.50, really terrible chicken strips (fatty, lots of breading, and greasy) are $1.25 a piece and french fries are also over $3. I haven't followed the Yen (I defintely remember the South African Rand was 11 to 1 when we were there, it traditionally is about 7), but it's one of the things that makes travelling interesting. Just like the stock market, there's no timing these things. The first trip to Europe was on the expensive side, the second was a little less difficult and perhaps this visit is just karma from the South African trip.
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