Category archives: Activities

I Need A New…

So now my first few short training runs are in the bag; six months to go.

Being well into “middle age” (and retired from professional life for a few years now) does not make me old. The body may age, but I refuse to get old. That’s a conscious decision we can all make.

Last year, my logbook indicated that I ran, walked, and hiked a total of 2,700 miles in calendar 2016. At the start of that year, our local running club, the Lake County Milers, posted a mileage challenge―speaking to my competitor’s spirit―and I had some big things planned for the year. For example, I trained for and ran only one ultramarathon, the Redwoods Creek 50K (31 miles), and then I planned for and hiked the John Muir Trail in California (approximately 220 miles plus an additional 30 miles to join the JMT from Cottonwood Lakes trailhead). I also walked my second Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Via de la Plata (625 miles).

John Muir Trail, California, 2016

Via de la Plata, Spain, 2016

Following those milestones, and over this last winter, I took some time off, rode my bicycles a bit, and worked on muscle tone at one of our local gyms. Oh, and I hoped the pain in my foot wasn’t plantar fasciitis. The downsides to all of this winter inactivity (relatively so, for me) were weight gain, anxiety, too much wine consumption (in my opinion), and restlessness. I needed to get my foot pain sorted out, and I needed something new to focus my competitive spirit on. I needed a new challenge. But first, the foot.

I developed a mastermind of advisors in the hope of solving the foot issue with their help. I talked with friends and acquaintances. I received all sorts of advice—all good, usually beneficial—but all attempts provided only temporary relief. Knowing I didn’t want to hear a confirmation of fact, a wise friend of mine was very tactful when he said, “Maybe just treat it like it’s plantar fasciitis, and see what happens.”

I tried every known stretch, exercise, anti-inflammatory, and home remedy. I tried ice, heat, and vibration, and I got really frustrated. Nothing seemed to help the pain in my heel for long. I would try something and rest for a while, and then I would try to walk a few miles or run a bit. But the next morning, the pain would be back just like the last time. I don’t like focusing on the bad things that come my way, but it’s super frustrating when you are accustomed to being very active and are sidelined.

The ever popular frozen water bottle.

The vibrating, heated Acumo Massage Ball.

The Strassburg Sock™.

So I gave up on self-help, fought my own resistances, and eventually sought professional advice. It was a last-ditch effort to solve this long-term issue. By the way, you wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve talked with who have suffered from this malady. So off I went to see the docs. I got x-rays and ended up receiving a dreaded steroid shot in my heel. Let me tell you, that bloody hurts! Fortunately, only for a short time.

So now the heel was on the road to recovery, and I was back to looking for that new challenge.

And then it happened; it found me. A few weeks back, I received an e-mail from the French organization that put on the stage race in the Sahara, which I ran back in 2014. The e-mail said that the organization would hold its first-ever stage race in Peru (in the Ica Region’s desert) this fall. And the introductory price for previous finishers of the race in Morocco was very attractive.

I just received word from the French: “We are pleased to confirm your registration for the MDS PERU.”

Here is an explanation about the race from the official website:

The MARATHON DES SABLES PERU will take place from 26 November to 6 December 2017. It will replicate the original race: approximately 250 km divided into 6 stages, to be completed at free pace in self-sufficiency conditions in a desert environment and with the support of a quasi-professional organising team.

The event will take place in the Ica desert, 300 km south of Lima. Endurance lovers competing in this first MARATHON DES SABLES will discover the most beautiful South American desert. They will move about in one of the world’s driest regions, with huge dunes and sandy plateaux perched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes cordillera.

Of course, the organisers will export across the Atlantic the core values that have patiently laid the foundations of MARATHON DES SABLES: thirst for challenges and adventure; sharing with the largest number of people; safety of everyone; self-respect; and care for the environment. Organised with the full and active support of the Peruvian authorities, MDS PERU also aims to spotlight the beauty of this charming region.

Pictures from MDS Peru Facebook page

Oh sure, I’m aging (beats the alternative), but I’m not an old man. And why should that stop me anyway? Or anyone?

‘Twas An Honor—The Chaperoning Experience

One partly cloudy day last week, I enjoyed chaperoning a field trip for my granddaughter’s fourth-grade class. When she called to ask if I would join her and the students, I immediately said yesas fear began to rise up in my gut. The trip with her class was to Bouverie Preserve near Glen Ellen, California. Spring is the most beautiful season in California with all of the green and dense patches of wildflowers that bloom before our summer heat turns everything golden brown.

I had never been a chaperone before, (more…)

Lessons Learned in Rome

Vatican City

This is the third, and final, post in our When in Rome series.

Early access is best. Make reservations online ahead of time if you can. Go for the “no line” opinion. We have been to several World Heritage sites and other places frequented by the masses. And we don’t like crowds or missing out on what we came to see because of those crowds. Therefore, we usually seek out passes with the early access option (Chichen Itza, for example). They don’t cost more. You just have to be willing to get up and to leave early in the morning, sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m. (more…)

Out and About in Rome

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

This is the second post in our When in Rome series.

Our first full day in Rome, we loosely followed the Heart of Rome walking tour suggested by Rick Steves, visiting the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Pietra, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Bruno Statue in Campo de’ Fiori. Steves is the travel expert on Europe seen on PBS. We found a copy of his travel book for Rome in our apartment, and off we went. (more…)

Announcing Camino Route Report – Via De La Plata 2016

Camino de Santiago

During the fall months of October and November 2016, Grandpa hit the trail for thirty-three days of walking the Via de la Plata in western Spain. Daily accounts of that journey to find history, peace, and new friends are now available on the blog site. Either follow the links in this post, or select Camino de Santiago here, or from the blog’s main menu.

The Vía de la Plata (Silver Way)

Starting in Sevilla (Seville), is 1000 kilometers from Sevilla traveling through (more…)

Would We Use Airbnb for Italy Again?

Continued from La Dolce Vita: Living the Good Life While Touring Northern and Central Italy, the final posting in the Options When Two Is Four or More series about the advantages of using the Internet when securing lodging for a tour of Italy.

Touring Italy for three weeks with my wife (Grandma) and our friends (also grandparents) became one of the highlights of my life. We later joked that we must have thought we were much younger because we packed a lot of adventures into those three weeks. However, we were well prepared and had worked out much of the details before leaving home.


Although we had used Airbnb and other similar websites in the States before—and have friends who use those sites to occasionally rent out their home—I must admit I was still a little nervous before seeing our first place in Rome. When you travel halfway around the world, the last thing you want to find out is you booked a flat over a train station. (more…)

La Dolce Vita: Living the Good Life While Touring Northern and Central Italy

Photo credits: All images by Brien Crothers

Continued from the Options When Two Is Four or More series about the advantages of using the Internet when securing lodging for a tour of Italy

Areas of Italy We Visited and the Places We Rented

Rome (Roma, in Italian) is a big, noisy, busy city with hundreds of things to see and do. Ancient history is everywhere. Just walk in any direction near the older parts of the city, and you will see amazing sights, learn a lot about the era of the Roman Empire, and enjoy unique cultural experiences beyond any of your expectations.

Getting around is easy on the metro and bus systems. They were always packed when we needed to use them. Be ever vigilant with your belongings.

Our rented place was in a nice neighborhood—secure, clean, roomy, and adequately equipped, appointed, and stocked. There were stores, mini shops, a bakery, and lots of dining options nearby. Our host, Andrea, met us there at street level as planned, took us up to the fourth floor, explained everything (the location of laundry facilities, amenities in the kitchen, dining options in the neighborhood, etc.) and left us the keys. Easy peasy. (more…)

Options When Two Is Four Or More

Photo credits: All images by Brien Crothers

Following my adventures on the John Muir Trail (JMT), I headed to Europe for another trip of a lifetime. I’d like to spend a few posts sharing about some of the lodgings we stayed in and the cost savings we found on the way.

It all started one evening around our breakfast nook table with two laptops, some snacks, and a bottle of wine. (more…)

A Few Impressions Of The John Muir Trail In No Real Order

Continued from A Look at My Typical Day of hiking on the John Muir Trail

The JMT is super clean, has no visible trash, and is well maintained (let’s keep it that way, please). Trash used to be an issue in the parks, but a little education goes a long way and patrons now have greater awareness of the environmental impact of litter. I was also impressed by the signage. The signs were so clear that I did not need serious navigation skills for the JMT, though I believe all hikers should possess a map and compass—and the ability to use them.

Etched anodized aluminum signs of the John Muir Trail and Inyo National Forest. Photo credit: Brien Crothers

Etched anodized aluminum signs of the John Muir Trail and Inyo National Forest. Photo credit: Brien Crothers