Day 5: St. Louis Vacation – Pink Elephants and Geocaching

When today started, we figured it would be our least active day of the week, considering we were taking a side road trip to Peoria. We ended up being really wrong about that. We got up, ate breakfast, and started our trip a couple hours past what I’d originally planned. The first time I woke up, I had a horrible headache. Had that headache stuck around, we would have stayed in the hotel room all day, but a couple ibuprofen and some more sleep got rid of it, so we were Illinois-bound.

We did some geocaching along the way, and one of our first stops was at the Pink Elephant Antique Store. Several months ago when I was planning our Michigan trip, I’d seen this roadside attraction on the Roadtrippers site, but we never ended up stopping there. We made it today to grab the cache and take some pictures of the fun statues on the lawn.

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Well, hello there…

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I loved the pink elephant. There was one in my hometown, so I think it’s kind of cool to find another one in another part of the country.

When we finally got to the exit we were looking for, we wanted to grab something to eat. I love eating at little roadside diners, but the one that was there didn’t take credit cards. I know it’s a silly thing to be annoyed by, but come on…it’s almost 2014…how can you not take credit cards?? We ended up going across the street to the Subway, which was kind of dirty and super slow.  My sandwich tasted okay, despite the fact that the kid adding the ingredients didn’t change his nasty plastic gloves after handling Jon’s sandwich, so I got a wrapper covered in Sriracha sauce. I don’t like Sriracha.

At that point, I was in a bit of a crabby mood anyway, but food helped, and I was ready to tackle the geocache we’d gone to look for.

A little background on this geocache: we read about it shortly after we started geocaching and thought it was pretty cool. It’s a difficulty of five (the highest difficulty there is), and it’s only had one logged find. The other two hundred eighty something logs have been DNFs (did not finds). We knew we wanted to give it a shot, and since we were relatively close (way closer than we are in Kansas), we wanted to give it a try.

When traveling or geocaching, we often rely a little too heavily on our auto GPS, but in most cases, we question it and double check where it takes us. I don’t know why we didn’t do that today, but we didn’t. When he got to where the GPS took us, there were gates up, so we couldn’t drive into the park. It didn’t even occur to us that there might be a different entrance. We were just miffed that we’d made the drive and now couldn’t even get into the park.

At the same time we were there, there were two other groups of people going on. Both groups parked in the same area and started walking down the hill, past the closed gate. I almost think that’s why we did it…monkey see, monkey do…even though our phone GPS showed were still a mile away from the geocache. Normally, a mile doesn’t scare me (not anymore). When we walk the rec center, a mile is pretty standard. This mile, though, wasn’t the rec center. It was paved, which was good. It was up and down steep hills. That wasn’t so good. On the way down the first hill, we knew it was going to be a beast coming back up.  At first we thought maybe we’d go down and have flat walking until we got back, but just a short way into the walk, we were confronted with a hill.

Jon kept trying to find the silver lining in the walk, but I was feeling highly annoyed. I knew the silver linings were there. The first was that we were getting our exercise for the day, even though we hadn’t planned for it. The second was that as tough as it was, we were able to take that walk and scale those hills. I eventually got over my mood and tried to enjoy the walk.

After trying two false alarm areas, we finally found the shelter. It was around that time we saw vehicles parked there and realized that there had to in fact be another way in. Duh…it’s a state park. Of course there was. We felt like doofuses, but by then we were just rolling with it. We finally found the search area and spent about two hours poking around, trying to find that darn geocache. As expected, we never did, and so added our names to the almost three hundred other cachers who had no luck.

We were a little nervous on the return walk that we wouldn’t make it back to the car before dark. We also kept hearing noises in the woods. Sometimes they sounded like hunters. Other times they sounded like animals. For awhile, we talked about our game plan if we got attacked by a puma. Luckily, that didn’t happen (our game plane wasn’t great). As expected, that last hill was a challenge. I had to stop a few times, but I didn’t sit down. I just stood to catch my breath and let my legs rest a second from fighting gravity.

The funny thing is, I can see why people run marathons. Once you achieve something you didn’t think you could do, you get a rush and a sense of satisfaction that you want to recreate. I’m not comparing our hike to a marathon, but as a personal achievement, it was pretty huge. We talked about how that walk would have gone three months ago (not as well), six months ago (a lot of crying on my part), and a year ago (it wouldn’t have even happened). The fact that we did the whole hike with minimal rest stops and very quick breathing recovery (I had my breath back within about ten seconds of being on flat ground) was awesome.

Our biggest mistake may have been to follow up that walk with a long drive back without any rest stops. It was late and we wanted to get back to the hotel, but we both knew it was going to catch up with us. Sure enough, when we got out to grab something to eat (just down the road from our hotel), our muscles were stiff and sore, and some of them seized up, making walking tough for a short while.

After dinner, I told Jon I wanted to do some active recovery, and we walked across the street to get some Gatorade and a banana. Part of my whole active recovery thing was that I wanted to hit 15,000 steps for the day on my Fitbit. Though I’ve had one for several years, I’ve never gotten that badge, so I decided that with just over 13,000 steps for the day, I was closer to that goal than I normally get. When we got back to the hotel room, I was about 700 steps shy, so I went for a walk around the hotel parking lot.

I got my badge!

In hindsight, the hike was worth it. I’ll be taking a warm shower, and tomorrow we’ll have to make a few stops on the way back to Kansas so my muscles can stay loose.  Tomorrow will likely be a legitimate rest day, but Monday we’ll be back in the gym and at the rec center, because if this past week has taught us anything, it’s that the almost daily exercise has paid off big time!

On that note, I’d better start getting ready for the shower. I’m really sleepy. I didn’t work on my Nanowrimo any further. I ended up finishing my second story, but only clocked in with that one at about 40,000 words. I was trying to make a go of winning Marissa Meyer’s contest, but I don’t think I did. I didn’t even make 100,000 words. Oh well….I can’t be too upset. I won Nanowrimo and finished two novels. That’s a pretty huge accomplishment.

It’s back to Kansas tomorrow and then back to work on Monday! I’m going to miss vacation, but I’m also really looking forward to getting back into my routine.

A.

 

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