Thursday, April 6, 2017

Life is living, exploring, being passionate.

One thing is certain in life, and that is death.
I have people question why I run on the roads. Technically, I run on the shoulders, per state guidelines which are to run facing traffic. Thus, I can see oncoming traffic and if it'll be a hazard (driving erratically, etc) . Technically, now I'm 'just' walking since the car collision, but I'm moving!
I have people question why I bike. You know the drill: biking isn't safe' they say. Again, be aware of your surroundings, follow the law of the roads, and ride where traffic is not heavy. Also, don't be a dingbat and wear black when you're riding at night or on asphalt.

I have people question if I should even do these things with my autoimmune diseases. I suppose I shouldn't. I mean, I lived my twenties on prednisone (yes, all my 20s were on Prednisone), and on other medication, that made me gain weight and have other issues. Why shouldn't I just live the rest of my life curled up on the sofa. Oh, right, because I want to see things and explore, and have fun, and feel the energy one gets from being out doing things! Especially if I have spoons available. (See Spoon Theory). If you've ever had to sit down to have the energy to brush your teeth, you'll understand. That was me in 1993, and 1995. I haven't had to do that in a long time, but I remember how shattering it was to realize I didn't have the energy to stand and brush my teeth. I've been low on energy these last several years (to the point I quit my part time and full time jobs) and my doctor has nothing to offer except to say I was training/running too much. I felt a little better after my Melanoma surgery. Then I had the car collision and haven't been able to run. So I went back in saying "yeah, it's not the overexercising issue". I have been having random bruises showing up and she's like "well, what are you hitting". Not sure what part of "these random bruises are showing up and I'm concerned " she doesn't understand. She finally referred me to someone , but only because she thinks my real issue is that I'm "sick of being sick". yeah, I don't think that's it lady. I'm looking at it as "I have a referral out of there and maybe this other doctor (a gastro) at the University Hospitals will able to help me".

People question being in the sun after I've had [Acral Lentiginous] Melanoma. Are you sure you should be in the sun? Actually, people forget the type of Melanoma and focus on the common cause: the sun! The answer is yes. It will always be yes. Plus, my melanoma wasn't caused by the sun. It was "most likely" caused by being on immunosuppressive medication for half my life at the time I found it. Also, it doesn't matter. We should all remember to be proactive. Wear your sunscreen/sunblock, wear your clothing with SPF/UV protection, wear your Lip balm with SPF, wear your hats. But the reality is, when our time is up, our time is up. None of us know when or how or why. When I read stories of people being able to say "only on my terms" I am happy for them, and hope they know how wonderful it is that they are being given the chance to say those words (Re Norma Bauerschmidt's story). This wasn't meant to be a morbid post, because I don't think of death as being morbid. Death is reality. It's tragic when death doesn't happen from living to a ripe old age (like my grandfather who was 94 and laughing with nurses and went to his room, where he was found shortly thereafter, having slipped from this world). However, life and death are still constants, neither should be feared. This was written out of heartache to hear another bicycling genius is gone. Not from a car/bike collision as took Mike Hall just last week (March 31, 2017) (Watch Inspired to Ride if you can. He's highlighted in the documentary about the inaugural Trans America bike ride) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/39452786 This was written after reading accounts of Steve Tilford's passing. Two articles are here (CX Magazine) and here (PVCycling.wordpress. The Mike called me last night to share that Steve had passed. The Mike knew him from around the midwest cycling scene. I knew his name from being at races and listening to others speak. You may ask why I'm sharing stories of bicyclists on my running page. I was a bicycling cheerleader long before I was a gluten free runner. Reading the articles about what happened April 5, 2017 is heartbreaking, but it's also part of our journey.

We never know. So enjoy what we time we are given.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Half crazy in Little Rock--tour guide Quirky with race review

Last year I got myself talked into signing up for the Little Rock (Half) Marathon.  I've had the full on my radar because of the giant medals (are women really the only ones interested in the large medals?).  I had hoped to be up to power to do the half and was hoping, when I registered, I could do some running.  The docs still say I shouldn't be running. Since I've lost so much of my fitness level over the last eighteen months since the collision, I am okay with that.  After Tulsa Williams Route66 in Nov I pretty much didn't do much treadmill walking.  I started January thinking I'd try to do at least five miles on the treadmill a day, but three on the treadmill. Let's face it, walking is slower than running and there's only so much treadmill time any of us can do.  I use to put in long runs in the winter/ice/rain on the weekends on the treadmill watching a Jet Li movie or documentary, etc, but I haven't found my groove yet with walking.  And there I go, getting off topic.  I was hoping to be able to run some at Little Rock, but instead I walked.

Road tripping:  I was debating on driving to LR and was convinced to fly instead.  (After a conference later in March, I think I'll stick with the "drive under twelve hours" philosophy).  I flew in on Friday, got the rental car and headed over to the hotel.  I didn't actually research Little Rock before heading there, something I normally do. This lead to discoveries like "Little Rock is a tiny big town".  I was expecting it to be on the scale of Omaha, or Kansas City or Chicago, but it is smaller than Des Moines! (193K versus 203K population). It's easy to navigate. We stayed at a hotel west of downtown as we wanted to be able to use a hot tub after the race and there are few hotels in the city that have a hot tub.  Luckily, a race hotel was nearby and we took a shuttle from there on the race mornings. Race morningS you ask?  Yes, LR has the option to do a 5k or 10K on Saturday with the Half or Full on Sunday.  Since surviving 13.1 on Sunday, when my feet haven't done much in the last few months, was my goal, and running a good time in the Full was my friend's agenda, we did the 5k together. We headed to packet pickup, got our items and planned to head out to do some things.  
Chihuly glass artwork at the race expo convention center
http://www.chihuly.com/
"Peace" by Lori Acott
This was outside the parking ramp when we headed to the expo. Unfortunately, with all the buildings around it was hard to get a great photo of the statue.  Late afternoon, the sky, clouds, and contrail (jet plane vaportrails)
http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2015/jan/26/12-foot-sculpture-added-lrs-redeveloping-main-stre/?print


Inside the expo, there was a lot of good looking candy decorations. I'm sure I'm not the only racer who was glad these were decorations and not real sugar the day or two before a race!  
I want candy.  I want candy.
At the expo, I was asking locals, "If there was one thing you'd have an out-of-towner do for the one day they're in town, what would it be".   Answers ranged from Presidential Library, to a park, to head out of town, party at the nightclubs and several people were stumped with what to suggest. When I picked up my friend from the airport, she said "Little Rock Central High".  I was surprised no one locally suggested it, especially since it's a National Park Historic Site.

The end of our first day had us shopping at some one of a kind stores, and finished with a late dinner at Outback (why are we eating at 8pm?) which is one of the safe staple restaurants I can count on in a large town/city :-) Back at the hotel, we set out our running attire and retired.

Saturday morning the phone app said it was cool and suppose to warm up.  We walked over to an official race hotel (with a shuttle bus) and headed downtown. It was a gorgeous morning, about 36ºF at the start, but the sun was out, shining, and it warmed up.   The bus dropped us off a few blocks from the starting area where there was water and photographers.  I wanted to get a photo of the sign:
At first, I was hoping the two officials/workers behind the sawhorses would move so I could get a good shot, then I just asked if I could go behind the sawhorses to take a photo. The woman said yes, the (tall) man said no.  The woman again said yes, the man said no. The woman said, "I'm a race director and it's fine". Cool, I talked to one of the race directors. She was very nice on the morning of the mini race day.  

The 5k/10k was great. The only thing I was surprised by was the number (few) of people who were there.  There were about three thousand people on Saturday, but I remember being surprised at how few people were doing a Saturday run with a Sunday run.
Posted Tree
Metal Tree
Tongue Tree
Handle Tree
Teapot Tree

Any other possible names? 
After the race, we cleaned up and then headed out to explore. By explore, I mean explore! Let's forget that we have a long race tomorrow. Let's be on our feet all.day.long (okay, we were in a car too).

First stop:    Little Rock Central High School Historic Site 
Little Rock Central High School. This place is HUGE 

Like really huge. Over 2400 students are enrolled today, and the top floor and parts of another floor are not used today.  My K-12 school was smaller than one wing of this school.

Via the National Park app, we knew that Central High was a National Park place. We parked and walked into the visitor center when the Park Ranger inside told us of a tour being conducted over at the high school, so we hurried over to catch up to the discussion.  We went past the historic/preserved gas station and to the center of the sidewalk at the high school. We learned about Elizabeth's walk. We learned more about the Little Rock Nine. We learned about what they had to endure. We learned about the completely different high schools (the whites had a high school as we know it, the black/African American school was essentially a trade school).

We headed back to the Visitors Center and did the Jr. Ranger program. Apparently, a lot of parks let adults do these do!  A lot of information is in the booklet.

This is a definite place to visit when you're in Little Rock.

If these doors could talk.

 Next, we headed out of town, stopping at Wendy's for lunch and on the road to Hot Springs we went.  As I mentioned before, I had not looked at the map beforehand and I had no idea that Hot Springs was just about an hour away (and Crater of Diamonds State Park was about 90 minutes away). 

How different an early 20th century gym looks from an early 21st century gym. 
The gymnasium had some 'clubs' of a sort along the wall. The description of how these were used (different weights) reminded me of today's kettle balls.

At the end of Saturday, I looked at my watch and said, 'oh yeah, not bad at all (eye roll) for a 5k day and a half tomorrow'.  


Sunday morning started out at 40ºF.  Had we turned on the tv to the news/weather, we might have learned something about the day's forecast, but going off the phone app, we said "Oh, it'll be even better than yesterday!".  
(insert laugh)
We were *so* wrong.
40ºF, windy, rainy.  
Did I mention wind?
At least it wasn't like the year the race had rain, sleet, ice, and was shut down during the event.
I looked at my winter run jacket and decided to not pack it (mesh center back for air circulation). #WhatWasIThinking
Thankfully, I had the Tulsa Williams Route 66 mylar blankets in my luggage and we each took one of those to the start.  I thought I'd  toss the blanket at some mile marker and be out in the wonderful sun, enjoying the sights.  We got to the start and it was chilly and sprinkling, and so we headed to the expo/convention center.  It was warm in there, plenty of restrooms, paintings to see (which I'm sure most people walk past without seeing) and places to rest/sit.  
When we went back outside, to the starting area, it was nice to get in among the throng of runners for the wind block.  After a while, I thought it really was warming up, and I tossed my gloves someone on the sidelines without any. By mile three I regretted that decision.  The first mile we started down the street and went up and over a bridge into North Little Rock. I shed my outter layer of throw away shirts, but having learned in Detroit, don't toss a throwaway shirt unless you're positive you won't need it again!  Pretty area to run around. Firestation workers were out along the course cheering, including the first female firefighter I've seen in real life (not on the news). We headed east for a long stretch and I managed to tie my mylar blanket together in three spots so it wouldn't blow away, and it wouldn't gap open in the middle.  I stopped under an overpass to put on the throwaway shirt and a bystander helped me adjust my mylar blanket again (pull it down in back because I wasn't wearing it as a bolero jacket.

We crossed back into Little Rock via a tall bridge (it seemed steep when one is walking it) and the wind was brutal. I felt for the people who were able to run.  The first bridge joint I didn't look down, but the one in the center of the bridge, high above the river, I did and it was an unsettling experience. I do *not* recommend doing that.   Back in LR we traversed President Clinton Blvd and I saw this yogi rabbit, and I had to take a moment to enjoy this whimsical piece of art with a purpose (It's art,and meant for children to climb upon).
"Rabbit Reach" by Tim Cherry
http://m.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2006/07/28/a-rabbit-for-river-market
We continued on and ran past the very modern architecture of the Clinton Library and then past a very old building in the same 'block' of property. There were some local breweries out on the course some with music, some with samples (and a security guard).
We walked out by the airport with no windbreak whatsoever. 
Why can't an airport have big giant windbreak trees around it?  (kidding--that'd be a bad idea!)

The course was mostly flat, or nearly with some gentle descents and gentle climbs. We ran past the Governor's mansion and past some big giant sugar:
P.Allen Smith's landscape truck was nearby and I couldn't resist:
I don't watch his PBS shows often, but I do enjoy his show/landscape work. A woman I had been walking with earlier saw me take the photo and was surprised that I'd know of him (we had discussed where we were from). She shared that his farm is not far from Little Rock!

I felt like we were almost done with the half when we ran past Central High School, and the wonderful band playing at the historic gas station.  The rain had stopped, the wind had let up by this point, and the sun was actually a little more visible.
We walked over the interstate, the ground was mostly dry, I was warming up, and I tossed my mylar blanket around mile 11 or 12.  My hands were all silver/black. I looked like I'd been playing in lead pencil shavings.   About mile 12, we were given full size lipstick by one of the support tables along the course.  Several of us thought that was hilarious, including the older man in the race.    

I was so excited to see the finish line and wanted to run, but since my low back was very unhappy with me at Tulsa when I was like "I'm going to run the last twenty yards, I just kept on walking--faster though!    I was happy with my finish time. I had wondered if I would go faster than hilly Tulsa, and I did :-)  
With walking in the morning, from the shuttle to the expo, back to the start, I had a lot of steps in for the day so far, but I wasn't done with that!  Of course not! 
The half marathon medal, and the double medal for having done one of the races on Saturday, too.

The after party had some stuff, but not enough for a celiac/gluten free chick with a soy issue. (Pasta with sauce, fruit in jello, bananas, beer, milk and OJ).  I grabbed a milk and OJ, sat down (on the floor) and stretched for a bit, while listening to the cover band playing, and then headed to the hotel to clean up. Saw other folks get up from tables and go back for more milk and juice (which made me laugh out loud when the 5K director last weekend included "the finish line food is not a all you can eat buffet").  Back at the finish line waiting for my friend, I enjoyed the beautiful flowers, saw Bart Yasso who was announcing finishers, and chatted with a couple--she had run the marathon (and others), he had run his first ever marathon--and then another woman, who ended up telling us about the race app new this year. She looked up our racers on the course. It was quite accurate with "this person is at ___ mile. Expected to cross the finish line at ____ time".
There was not much fruit out at the finish line area and since I'd been in the expo before waiting for my friend, I knew there wasn't much left in there either, so we headed back to the hotel. Rested, ate some fruit, meat, and cheese we had gotten the night before, and headed to the swimming pool/hot tub.  It turned out the hot tub was being cleaned/refilled and would take about an hour. The hotel man was actually filling it, from having cleaned it, when we walked in--bonus on knowing it was a clean whirlpool!  My friend hopped in the very warm pool and slowly moved in the hot pool water (It was like 90ºF), I stayed on the sidelines and talked to someone who had run the marathon.  Bonus on waiting for the hot tub (versus going back to the room) is that the jets hitting the hamstrings might not feel the best at first, but it really makes a difference having that nice water massage on the muscles!  

By the end of the day my Garmin was like this:
Definitely would recommend the Little Rock Marathon weekend. There is a lot to do locally in LR, even if the locals can't think of things off the top of their heads ;-)  You can easily make it a week vacation with time in Hot Springs and looking through dirt for diamonds in the rough.  The thing to know is that if you do the Marathon, you need to take your medals out of the luggage for the T S A xray machine.  Also, if you take some yogurt and Mamma Chia along for something to eat during your travel day, you'll be given a search you just wish you'd worn a bikini for.  (Apparently new T S A rules went into effect and it was a bit of an invasive search. On the plus side, at least they scanned my food containers --Ft Myers FL T S A didn't feel that was necessary).

As for flying versus driving. I wish I had just driven. I did a two stop trip and when I got to Chicago my husband was like 'you're not coming home tonight'.  Say what?  So he sent me a nice photo of the red/yellow storm cell that was the complete height of Iowa (top to bottom). I asked the gate agent about any delays and was told no. I showed the photo and was told "There's no weather in the area". Right, not in Chicago, but the fact that this weather was between Chicago and the destination apparently didn't register to the gate agent.  Our gate was changed, and then delayed and delayed before being canceled at the time we should have been landing. The storm finally came through Chicago around midnight.  Most people used the cots the airline/airport set up, but I did get a hotel room at a Holiday Inn Express--they have UDIs bagels or muffins for breakfast. I finally got to the hotel around midnight (because the Holiday Inn Express I was heading to didn't have the address on the side of the bus so I missed looking up at the top--plus the bus driver parked the bus not at the correct door for pickup and hid in the second lane behind other vehicles. I was out of Tanka bars and yogurt and was HANGRY by this time. The nice desk man got me an UDIs bagel to have before I went to bed :-)    Back to the point, it took me sixteen hours to get home from when I got to the airport in Little Rock. If I would have driven, I'd have been home in under ten.

When I was at the Melanoma Advocacy Day conference the following week (in D.C.), a couple east coast folks said they will never fly if the trip can be made under twelve hours. I completely concur after that trip.  I rented a car anyway in LR, I could have rented one at home and put miles on that car, and been tucked in bed the night after the race.  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Make ahead meals

Earlier this week I found a recipe for a prosciutto covered pork loin roast in a Hy-Vee grocery store Seasons magazine. I had left over prosciutto in the refrigerator and decided to try it. Fareway had a 2.5# pork loin roast on hand and I cut it half, freezing part for another day.  
Prosciutto covered pork loin, tied with cotton twine
Cabbage and cherry topped with sliced pork loin roast
Instead of serving up the side they suggested, I used Ellie Krieger's Weeknight Wonders cookbook,  cherry and cabbage recipe which she paired in her cookbook with a pork tenderloin. The sweet potato I had baking at the same time as the roast wasn't done in time for dinner. It was a HUGE sweet potato.  That was okay, we'll have it later in the week!

This weekend I'm heading out of town for Little Rock to spend a weekend with a sibling and walk the half. I really want to run the full one day--it has a medal about as wide as my chest. For now, I'll settle for walking thirteen point one and having that future goal.  Since I'm leaving The Mike for the weekend, I am making him up reheatable meals. Serves several purposes:  1. He has a home cooked meal when he wants; 2. He is getting pronounceable ingredients; 3. He says it's better than buying a spendy lunch at work.  (psst, I still expect he'll get something from Caseys this weekend--a tenderloin or pizza). In asking what he wanted for meals, he said 'hot pockets'.  Hmmm, I thought I had made something like this before but couldn't find a recipe in my books. Then I looked at Chebe's website and couldn't find a recipe.   Thus, I had asked Chebe on FB for a hot pocket recipe. I had seen one before, but when I looked at the webpage I was coming up empty.  They suggested this recipe http://recipes.chebe.com/gluten-free-hot-pocket-sandwiches/  by Simply Gluten Free.
Mexican Lasagna:  Layers of Frontera enchilada sauce, corn tortillas cut to size, refried black beans, ground beef, corn, cheese.  Bake at 350 for about half an hour. Cool and top with a little cheese.

A new recipe The Mike thought sounded good was a Cornbread jalapeno chili one out of a cookbook I purchased from my old yoga place.  I made half the recipe and it looked fabulous when done.
Cornbread with jalapeno and cottage cheese (interesting!) on bottom and top, in the middle is beef, kidney beans, black beans, salsa.  

The recipe Chebe sent me suggested to cut the dough into six pieces. I think next time, I'd do longer, skinnier pieces, so I could just fold over and have three seams instead of four.
Pepperoni and cheese, Ham and cheese, and Broccoli Chicken and cheese. 
My crimping job wasn't too bad. I tried to do a couple like a pie and it didn't work out well. I then just decided to use a fork--worked perfectly!
 Finished items:
Cornbread chili 

Hot pockets 
All labeled and ready for the refrigerator.


I did put the hot pockets on a cooling rack to cool completely, then wrapped each in a piece of parchment paper in order to make handling/reheating a bit easier.  Put each inside a ziploc bag. I hope The Mike enjoys the hotpockets. I wanted to make more to take with me, but that's not the best since I'll be flying.  I have Mama Chia fruit packets, a couple wrapped eggs, Chobani, string cheese, and Tanka bars!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Birthday Cake a la Oscar! No, not that Oscar.

The Mike had a birthday this month. He's officially caught up to me (again)--for a few months anyway.   I asked him a earlier this month what kind of cake he wanted and he said "swirl".  Me (thinking) "how do I make a swirl cake?" Thanks internet for teaching me how!   The thing The Mike didn't know was that I had found some old Wilton cake pans at the consignment shop last November.  I had Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and then there was a Cabbage Patch one.  I had made a round Cookie Monster cake last year for his birthday, so that one was out. I casually asked my husband, "Which Sesame Street character is your favorite next to Cookie Monster?".  The Mike took a minute to think, and wonder why his wife is asking him this question out of the blue, to say "Oscar".  Okay.  Oscar it is!  

Fast forward to February and I cheated with using a Betty Crocker chocolate and Betty Crocker yellow cake mix. I  would have made one cake from scratch, but two cake mixes--not happening, and on a rushed day.  I had four hours to bake, cool, and ice the cake before an afternoon appointment.   To the yellow cake mix, I added a package of J-e-l-l-o French Vanilla pudding (I think that was the flavor), just to add flavor to the yellow cake mix, because we all know it doesn't have any flavor.  Don't add any extra liquid to the yellow cake mix/pudding bowl.
FB helped me with friends saying to heavily butter/grease the pan and then suggested using cocoa powder instead of white flour in the pan.  Great tip!
Google helped with the swirl part. To make a swirl, mix up both cake mixes. Then make a grid system of alternating mixes every other dollop/plop into the pan.    
In hindsight, I could have used more vanilla plops, but it was moving together quickly in the pan. I was told only one cake mix was needed for the cake pan. Knowing this, I held back some of the mix and made six jumbo cupcakes to bake and freeze. 

 Then use a wide cake frosting spatula or something wider than a regular knife to swirl the cake together.
 I was afraid of mixing too much, but once it was cut into, I realized I could have swirled more.  
 Go ahead, laugh. I sure did.  It looks like an alien opening his mouth to scream.  

I followed the pan how to decorate. I could not believe how much frosting is needed on this!  The grass piping tip works well for his fur/hair.  I originally tried using some KToos GF oreo type cookies or the eyes, and that was just TOO MUCH, so I went with the Wilton eye decorations instead.    
Was The Mike surprised?  Yes. He had forgotten naming Oscar as his second favorite Sesame St character though, so he was a bit perplexed as to why he had an Oscar cake.  :-) 

We should have pulled some of Oscar out of the freezer to have on Oscar night! It's in there for when we have a cake craving.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Florida, gulf side, beautiful and shell-y Food/travel

I delayed writing this, thinking my photos on the phone can be saved. The Mike is working on that for me.  (thankful I have a techy in house).  I don't have all those photos yet, but I do have ones I shared with people  while I was on the trip :-) Thus, I hope I'm forgiven for not having posted this in January!)

During the middle of January I went to Florida with a friend and child. She had reasons to 'get out of Dodge' for the weekend and had thought of Sanibel Island.  Let me google that, I said. WOW, count me in!  

As with any flights from 'fly over land' midwest, it essentially takes all day to fly somewhere.  My flight departed home at 6:15am Central and I landed in Ft Myers FL at 6:30pm Eastern.  I tried to get on a direct/earlier flight from Ohare to Ft Myers and no, I couldn't, unless I wanted to pay a couple hundred dollars for a flight that wasn't even an option when I booked.  On the plus side, I can say I've been to Charlotte NC airport and it is expensive ;-)  
Cotton Candy skies.
As with all flying/travel, I packed food for travel.  I had my Tanka bars, homemade 'granola' mix of sunflower/pumpkin seeds, Guittard chocolate chips, Trader Joes coconut flakes and dried cranberries. I also had cheese, some yogurt tubes (Siggis brand) and since it was early in the morning, I packed some hard boiled egg whites as well (which I ate at the airport, not on the plane).
Gorgeous dinner plate hibiscus at the hotel
After landing, I met up with my friend right at the airport. The car rental agency is right out the door (love airports like this).  We hit up Outback Steakhouse for dinner (they're great for being gluten free/celiac and soy intolerant (soy oil/protein/flour), then Target for some small groceries, before heading over to the Island ($6 toll/fee for a trip on/off the island--only pay going in).  We checked into the HolidayInn which is undergoing a restaurant rehab, and we knew ahead of time we'd get to dine out more for this, and which turned out to be an outdoor walk-up hotel--seems appropriate for an island. Seemed weird to not have a deck.  FYI:  Sprint does not have much cell service on this island.  I had phone service at the hotel, but not out on the steps which were concrete--dropped a call to The Mike when I tried to walk up the stairs while talking to him.   

Our first day on Sanibel we got up and had some stuff in room we'd gotten at Target (Milk, yogurt, and my granola), as well as OJ from the hotel.  They had some prepackaged danishes, but no UDIs. For whatever reason, Holiday Inn Express has UDIs available. Holiday Inn does not.  
Bowman Beach
We headed over to the beach recommended by the hotel staff for shell collecting. The hotel also gave us a 'shell bag' which was a sling/backpack made mostly of mesh for the sand.   Bowman's Beach was our first beach. Seashell galore at 11am. I can only imagine what it looks like at 5am after the tide goes back out.  I slathered on SPF 30 several times, including before we left the hotel.  (SPF 30 because I had a lot of travel bottles that size and I was flying with carry on luggage only!).  I also had a couple of the Athleta SPF swim shirts to wear over swim wear, which I thought was great as a cool breeze came off the water sometimes. As I said, Bowman's Beach had a lot of seashells. We were good with picking up ones that had been broken and worn smooth by the water, but I know others may want whole shells. I think getting there earlier in the day would be good if that's your goal.
Angel Wings
I have no idea what this bivalve is aside from being called 'angel wings'.  I did find one that was closed and still intact, and sent it back to the water :-)  
More shells 
We had lunch at Cheeburger Cheeburger. I've never even heard of this place before, but it looked good.  We checked out the menu posted to the front window.  Both of the adults were *so* concerned if they could do gluten free (and excited when we saw GF buns on the menu) that we *both* completely missed seeing the "we cook in peanut oil" on the menu.  Thankfully my friend's child is not reactive to peanut oil in the air. My understanding is that very few peanut allergy people are allergic to it in the air.  I had a wonderful hamburger with egg on top and the bun I couldn't tell was GF when eating the bottom portion with the hamburger.  The place had a fun decor, with cutouts of Hollywood people, and photos on the wall of people who ate the monster burger and fries. 
My phone died while we were inside. No food photo.
Off we went to the hotel to charge our phones (and I remembered to put mine on airplane mode while we were away from the room).  Later, we headed to the hotel beach. It was a nice with the afternoon sun on the beach. The water was a little chilly in and fairly level. It took a while wading out until the water was up to my armpits and chin.  

The hotel section of the beach also had recliner chairs, and there are specific beach towels provided by the hotel for use out in the sand.

I was wondering when I'd see warning signs, and this was the first one I saw. It was past the hotel buildings and on the way to the beach.  The hotel has a little lagoon area where the sign is posted. Somehow I saw the sign and missed the water rinse off are right next to it.  
This sign pretty much screamed to me:  do not go for a daybreak run 
I went back to the hotel before my friend, so I could call The Mike. While I was sitting on the concrete curb talking to him--hey, I was enjoying the sun and cell reception--two ladies came riding up on bikes. I noticed the one had an awesome calf/ankle tattoo of the USA outline with 26.2 inside.  We made eye contact and I mimed that I loved her tattoo.  I couldn't talk since I was on the phone with The Mike, but she asked and I answered I had done five.  Runners--we are everywhere :-) 

We went to Island Cow for dinner. A little bit of a wait, but I thought the place was awesome.
 
1. I grew up a dairyman's daughter and granddaughter, and niece. This place has Holstein dairy cow decor everywhere :-)  
2.  Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the gluten free menu and confirmed that soy oil (and definitely not soy protein/flour) would not be used in cooking. 
3. This place had *real* butter on the table. Not butter spread, not margarine, but real butter.
I had the Paella. It was delicious.  After having a clam and mussel, I gave the others of those items to my dining partner.  She likes them more than I do. Shrimp and fish and chicken. Tasty.  
Island Cow Paella 

 The next day we went to the Lighthouse Beach.  The parking was a bit larger and we were lucky to get a spot.  We were there earlier too, at 10am.  Someone leaving gave us their parking pass, which was for an hour.  We were going to use it, but then someone else came along and they said they were only going to be there for a little bit, so we gave them the hour permit.  Each beach has parking, but you have to pay $4 an hour to park (and can do half hours), with the receipt displayed in your car window.   Lighthouse beach wraps around the edge of the island. It does have an old lighthouse on the island which is roped off.  It's a good beach for sand castle building. As we stayed there, the tide was getting to low tide, which made it a little easier to find seashells out in the water. Where we were on the island/water, the ground went out for about two feet and then had a drop down of a foot or so. This is where I found a lot of shells that looked old, had holes in them, and a small handful of ones that were completely intact.
Since my phone is old, I was brave and went out in the water with it.  This far out and the ground was still flat, no drop offs.  We saw some dolphins out further and I wondered at what point the land dropped off. It doesn't. The dolphins were basically swimming in 4 feet of water.  

Another view of being out in the water.  Looking at Sanibel:

 The south side of the Lighthouse beach, where we first came from the parking lot, had some shells (below), but not as many as Bowman's. As we went around the corner by the Lighthouse, there were fewer and fewer of these shells.  
 After the beach, we went to the Lighthouse Cafe which was in a strip of buildings/businesses nearby. Handy, and a nice variety of food. They even had real maple syrup for sale, from Vermont.  We laughed, because there aren't Maple trees on the island ;-)  I had a burger, no bun, and a side salad,  along with part of the cantaloupe my friend ordered (which comes as half a cantaloupe!).  Cool place, with the walls lined with lighthouses from the world over.  I've been to two that were posted on the walls.  We went to a store nearby where I found a sand dollar locally made into a Christmas ornament.  The store owner told us about sea shell collecting, when the best time is, how to tell if a sand dollar is still alive, and more.  Very nice place.

Then we went back to the hotel for some downtime, organize our luggage, sort through out shells.

Did I gather too many?


We stayed in Saturday evening and had restaurant left overs (for my friend and her child) and I had some Annies Mac and Cheese microwave bowl I had picked up at Target. Being out in the water for hours wore us out, apparently. We were tired!  

Sunday morning it was my turn to go down to the hotel beach for dawn to break the sky.  It was windy, as a storm was definitely moving in, and I found several more shells, several of the bivalve ones which were quite large (one almost the size of my hand).  
Dawn, the sun arises.  

On the beach at dawn. Surprised this photo is so washed out, as it was darker than the sunrise photo. 
We didn't have to leave the island for some time on Sunday, so we went to the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Bring your national park passport book for the stamp. A nice museum with a good sized gift shop. This might be the first place to visit, as they had reef friendly sunblock for sale, at a fairly reasonable price too.  For just a few dollars per car, you can drive the road through the preserve, as well as take a few jaunts if you're so inclined-in areas where the alligator sign is displayed.   FYI: When you drive through the preserve, make sure everyone is seatbelted in the car!  Someone was pulled over by national park police just after the pay kiosk.  Later, we encountered a woman and child who was venting about having a $150 ticket for not having the children seatbelted in the car. She said her daughter stayed with the baby in the car when we had our encounter with her---especially if you have a job/career that would highly frown upon such a ticket.    
Barely in the park and we saw this guy at the side of the road. There were several others in the trees as well.
There are a couple areas where you can get out of the car for better viewing and photos.  
 When I asked one of the volunteers, I was told s the birds were laying low because it was windy for them.  I was a bit in disbelief, since the wind seemed to be maybe 5mph, but there were calls for bad winds in the afternoon. The volunteer said the fish fed earlier in the day and then lay low during storms.  
Always on guard around wildlife
Jaywalkers 
Before we left, we had lunch at Sanibel Fish House. I figured, Gulf of Mexico, seaside, fresh fish made gluten and soy free would be easy to have. . .and I thought wrong. It was like an Applebees. The hostess said the wait staff would help me. The wait staff seemed clueless, but picked up the menu towards him and proceeded to browse through reading things off I could have, which I couldn't see on the menu because I didn't have it.  The manager came over and told me about a handful of entrees I could have, and she really suggested the spaghetti squash.  I was told no fresh fish for me.  No Salmon, no Mahi Mahi. The manager said not even the appetizer of steamed shrimp.  I ended up with the spaghetti squash served with side of julienne squash and zucchini--and a handful of steamed shrimp (um, what? shrimp? I thought the manager said the shrimp wasn't possible!).  Plus, they used "butter". The manager kept saying butter, but she really meant margarine/butter spread.  

That was Sanibel/Florida. It was gorgeous compared to winter in the Midwest. 

Two hour delay in Ft Myers due to weather.  I thought it was the strong winds at 4pm (like 30mph with 50mph gusts), instead there were bad storms between Chicago and Fl which delayed the flight. There was also an emergency on board of some sort as there were about ten paramedics and a stretcher at the gate for the plane.  

No running while on the trip, unless you count running through Ohare when the flight attendants told me I could make my connecting flight home (I didn't and my low back was angry with me for having run).  An overnight in a hotel and I was home by 1pm the next day.  I got to the airport for the two hours ahead of time, even though I didn't have checked luggage, as I didn't know what Chicago TSA would look like. I  got through fairly quickly,  and ended up walking laps in the airport. My flight departed down one of the staircases as well, and boarding wasn't happening, so I also did steps, up the stairs, down the stairs, up the stairs, down the stairs. I provided some entertainment for gawking men who were skeeving me out, so I stopped for a period until they moved on.  Over 11,000 steps by the time I got on the plane :-)  

Next adventure?  Little Rock half marathon--I'll be one of the walkers! One day I hope to be healed from this car collision and able to run again.   Do you know how big those medals are???