Home from Vacation

We made the trek home today from St. Louis, and though I always get a case of the post-vacation blues, I’m also glad to be getting back into a routine again.

We took our time on the drive back. We wanted to be home in time to get things ready for the week, but we also wanted to make sure we stopped regularly to stretch our legs. Keeping watch of the time, we made it a point to find a geocache every half hour to forty five minutes, but we made sure to keep them short and simple, and we pretty much got off the road and then right back on. This also allowed us to take bathroom breaks, which was needed because today was a major hydrating day for me.

Our plans changed a bit when we saw on FB that a friend was stranded at the KC airport. Due to so many people traveling for the holidays, the shuttle bus from KC to MHK was full, so he would have possibly had to wait several hours to get a ride home. Since we were coming through that way anyway, Jon got ahold of him via FB and text and told him we’d give him a ride. We couldn’t have planned it better. This gave us some extra time to geocache, and just as we were getting there, he was grabbing his luggage and heading out the doors.

On the way back to MHK, we stopped at Lawrence and had dinner at The Burger Stand. I tried a bacon cheeseburger that had gouda and a chipotle-cocoa ketchup. It was definitely different, but it was pretty tasty.

We made decent time back to MHK to drop our friend off, then we headed home with just one stop to get gas so we can make it back to town tomorrow for work. I’m pretty sleepy tonight, but I managed to get everything unpacked and my clothes laid out for tomorrow. Going to finish the day off with a shower and some sleep in my own bed, which is always nice to come home to.

Now, just need to hope my brain is well rested and ready to go for work tomorrow.


Day 1: St. Louis Vacation – Driving and Marbles

The first day of our vacation was pretty darn good.

We were on the road by 8:05 this morning, which is only five minutes later than we’d planned.  Our first stop was, of course, Dunkin’ Donuts, though I was a little disappointed with them this morning. The coffee was delicious, but I tried one of their Big ‘N’ Toasty sandwiches and was not impressed. Live and learn. On the bright side, it was a good amount of protein to get me through the morning.

We stopped in Bonner Springs to visit the Moon Marble Company. At first glance, it’s a toy and marble store with a lot of kitschy games and toys. In the back of the store, however, are display cases filled with beautiful handmade marbles and blown glass ornaments, some imported, some made by local artists.

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The best part was the demonstration. We watched one of the artists make a marble and show us the process of how it’s done.


It was such a cool thing to see. The stop was well worth it. Before we left, we bought a tube of marbles to leave at geocaches. Speaking of geocaches, right before we left, I checked to see if there were any nearby, and there was one right there near the building. We grabbed it and got back on the road.

We found another geocache later, a quick park and grab off the highway. At one of our bathroom stops, we found a truck stop diner called Ma’z Kettle, so we decided to have lunch there. I love finding those small diners that aren’t part of a chain. Many times, the food is better than it is at a franchise restaurant. This one was no exception. I had a burger and fries, and it was delicious. Jon ordered a steak sandwich. Not only was it literally a steak on a bun, but it was huge, and the steak was cooked perfectly for him (he likes it rare). The service was also really friendly. The place was getting ready to close (they were only open until 2pm), but they were still very welcoming and didn’t rush us, though we made sure we were done by closing.

We made one more geocache stop later and finally made it into St. Louis. Our hotel was a pleasant surprise! When I booked our room, I chose one of the cheaper ones in the area under the Wyndham name (I do Wyndham points, so we always stay at hotels under that heading). We’ve had pretty low quality experiences at other Days Inns , so I figured this one wouldn’t be anything great, just a place to rest our head.

However, the hotel is really nice. The lobby and dining room is large and has a fireplace. The room is huge, and has a big bed, a couch, and a huge closet. They have free wi-fi and warm food on the breakfast line. I haven’t taken a shower yet, but Jon says it’s great. My only disappointment is the workout room. There’s only three machines, a low recumbent bike, an elliptical machine, and a treadmill. The elliptical machine didn’t seem to be too sturdy and the treadmill is out of order.  Still, the hotel is large enough that I could take a walk around it if I want. I think I’ll consider today a rest day, then make sure I get plenty of walking in over the next few days. That should be easy…we have a ton of stuff planned for this vacation.

Before settling in, we shopped the Circle K down the road for dinner sandwiches. I managed to upload pictures, check email, and even kicked out about 2000 words on my second novel before tackling this blog post. Tonight will be a shower and then relaxation. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow (our first full day in St. Louis) brings.





Hangin’ Out with Mom

It was another longish drive back to Kansas on Sunday. We left early but still made a few final stops to finish out the visit. We also stopped for food and a geocache.  Jon and I managed to keep ourselves from going geocache crazy, but we needed a few stops to stretch, so it gave us a good excuse to do so. We found one along the highway that hadn’t been found in over a year. I was glad it was still there.

We made a stop in Rose Hill to visit the in-laws and grabbed one last geocache on the final stretch home. Online, there was no other logged find, so we thought that maybe there was a chance we’d be the FTF, but no dice. The FTF just hadn’t logged it. Still, it was a good cemetery cache, and the area was beautiful. It was one of the first ones we’ve been to with crypts, which always strike me as such peaceful structures.

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Dinner was easy roast beef sandwiches, and we watched a bunch of YouTube videos that Mom hadn’t yet seen.

Monday was our day out in Manhattan. We had to do laundry first thing in the morning, so we got that going while we went and ran other errands. Mom had a bunch of photos printed at Walgreens, so we picked those up, vacuumed the car, took it through the car wash to get the red clay off, and picked the laundry up. It probably wasn’t the most exciting start to the day, but it helped us kill time until things started opening.

We went to Goodwill first and poked around. For the first time in years, I actually found clothes there that fit me. I found a pair of pants, two shirts, and a pair of walking shoes since my other ones are already wearing down.  Down the sidewalk, we checked out Tuesday Morning. I’d heard about the place, mainly from stories of people finding great discontinued yarn there, and I knew Manhattan had one, but I’d never been there.  It turned out to be a really cool store. It was like a smaller Big Lots, offering discounted closeout items.

Once we got our first round of thrifting out of the way, we went to the Flint Hills Discovery Center and then picked Jon up for lunch at Cox Bros BBQ. Afterwards, we commenced with round two of thrifting by heading out to the Grand Ol’ Trunk to poke around. By this time, I was getting tired. It didn’t feel like a lot of walking, but my feet were telling me it had been.  Instead of looking for more shops, we went out to the scenic overlook so I could show Mom the view, which seemed fitting after she visited the FHDC.

We once again found ourselves with time to kill, so we went on a drive to look at more scenery. My original intention was to find Pillsbury Crossing, but I missed the turn. Still, the drive was nice and we stopped for a geocache, which my mom actually found. I don’t know if she’ll become a geocacher, but it was cool that she made the find on that one.

We stopped in at work to say hi, then tried to find a premium cache near the stadium with no luck. After we picked up Jon, we came home, made more sandwiches, and watched Frankie Go Boom and Cabin in the Woods.

This morning we got up, finished Cabin in the Woods (we were too tired to make it to the end last night), and took Jon to work. Our first stop was Menards, as we were on a mission to find Mom some overalls. They didn’t have any, but they did have a lot of Christmas decorations, including Risky Business Santa, which amused me more than it probably should have.

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We completed our overalls-finding mission at the supply store across the street, then headed back to Wamego to give a more extended tour and visit the Oz Museum. It was my third time there, but I actually stopped to read more of the information on this visit. Mom liked it, and I learned more about the artifacts than I had on previous visits.

We headed toward KC a little earlier than planned, but we stopped off in Topeka and had Cracker Barrel for lunch. I love browsing their store, even though I don’t usually buy stuff (except a few snacks every now and then). They had some neat holiday things. They also had massive candy bars and Pez dispensers. I didn’t take many pics, but they had Peanut Butter Cups that were a pound each.

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We arrived at the airport much earlier than we needed to, but Mom wanted to make sure her bags were under the weight limit and that she didn’t need to send anything back with me to mail. I drove around looking for parking but had no luck, so in the end, I pulled to the side and gave her hugs in the fire lane. I’m not going to lie….I’ve been sad and teary eyed since leaving the airport. I hate goodbyes, and I cry every time I have to go through them, but it’s especially hard saying bye to my Mom. I never feel like the time we get to spend together is enough. The time we did have was awesome, though.

Now I have to try to slide back into routine, which is going to take a couple days. I got a jump on that by putting away laundry, catching up on email, and getting this post done, as well as uploading the rest of the week’s photos. Tomorrow it’s back to work and back to working on several projects I need to finish before Monday. It’s going to be a very busy next few days.


Road Detours and Farm Memories

I’m behind a couple days, but I will get everything posted. Tonight we’re chilling with movies at the house, and we’re currently watching Cabin in the Woods, one of my favorites. Mom hasn’t seen it, so she’s getting her first viewing in exchange for her showing us the movie Frankie Go Boom. It was hilarious. If you’re a fan of Sons of Anarchy, this will either make you laugh or deeply disturb you. But now, since I’ve seen CitW, I’m going to get the Saturday post up while it’s on.

The drive to Oklahoma was long, as expected, and geocaching made it longer. I welcome the stops to stretch my legs and keep my tailbone from hurting, but sometimes it just makes the day longer.  We started with a DNF, then recovered with 2 finds in Tonkawa.

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Later, after getting on the turnpike, we attempted to find another one (it turned into another DNF). We thought it would take us back to the turnpike, but instead, it took us through a series of small Oklahoma towns. I was a little cranky about this at first, but the random change in route lead is through some great scenery and an impromptu stop for some peanuts at a roadside stand.

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Look at that Oklahoma red clay!
Look at that Oklahoma red clay!

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We tried coated Israeli peanuts that were delicious. We also picked up some buffalo flavored and Japanese peanuts. I’m not a fan of buffalo flavored anything, but I helped put a hurt on those other two.

The wildlife was out that day. We saw a coyote, a deer, and a road runner.  I’d never seen one before, and he was adorable. My mom had seen one that day too, and my grandma said they’d been more social lately. I would have got a picture, but he took us by surprise and was pretty quick.

We relaxed at my grandma’s for a little bit and had some dinner before heading out to see my aunt and uncle on “the farm.” The farm isn’t a family farm anymore, but I have really good memories of visiting there when I was a young kid, of spending time with my great grandparents, helping my grandma collect eggs from the chicken house, and playing with the farm cats that ran around the property.  I remember a mean rooster than attacked me and my grandpa’s cattle dog who didn’t like me very much (though older family members say I wasn’t nice to her as a child, so I think that was probably understandable).

The farm house and several of the buildings are still standing, so we took a walk around to look at everything and take some time with the memories.

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One of the local farmer’s still farms cows in the fields, and we were able to walk right out into the field with them to take some pictures.  Whenever we’d turn around, there was a group of them keeping an eye on us, like they were just daring us to make a sudden move. They were cute.

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We also visited with my aunt and uncle for a long time. Visiting the farm is always bittersweet. There are so many good memories, but they’re of lost loved ones, so with the reminiscing always comes sadness.

After we were done there, we decided to try to find a nearby cache, but like some of the other caches in Oklahoma, it wasn’t as “nearby” as we would have liked. We didn’t end up finding it. It got dark, so we headed back to grandma’s to get some sleep before the drive back the next day.


Ready to Drive Again

This is getting posted late, so it’s not really Saturday morning, but I liked the start of this post, so I just rolled with it.

It’s early and chilly on a Saturday morning, and I’m waiting for Jon to shower and dress before we head to Oklahoma. We’re getting a later start than I’d planned, but if the weather holds, we should still make good time.

Yesterday was dreary, rainy, and…yes….snowy. In the five years I’ve lived in Kansas, I don’t remember seeing snow this early. It didn’t stick in the city, and the roads were wet but not treacherous.

Work was a steady stress level of 5 because I was preparing for a four day weekend, so I had to make sure all my bases were covered. Otherwise, it was a pretty busy but chill day for me.

The drive to Rose Hill seemed longer than usual, but I think weather figured into that. We made a stop at a DQ for a bathroom break and then another one down the road to find some geocaches.

The first two were quick micros, one of them in a cemetery near the gravesite of 300 Russian Mennonites who had died of smallpox in the 1800s.


In hindsight, we should have got back on the road to RH, but caching is addicting, and my compass said we were less than a mile from the next one. Technically that was true, but to get a car there was a little sketchy.

We navigated muddy roads and narrow bridges to get to the cache spot, which was near a spring and water plant.



The compass took us up a stairway to a rocky ledge that just sort of ended. In the middle of that ledge, the compass basically told us we had to climb the rocks to get to the cache.

Needless to say, we didn’t find it. Even if we were in the shape to do it, the rain had made the rocks slippery, so it wouldn’t have happened this time around. Part of the area was really pretty, but it unsettled me. Too many horror movies maybe. There was also some offensive graffiti written on the rocks.

We stopped for dinner and made it to the house in time to relax and get some sleep before the trek to Oklahoma.


Airport Hijinks and Long Drives

Yesterday involved a lot of driving, but it was worth it since I got to see my mom.

We had a little misunderstanding of the time I needed to pick her up, so I thought I had more time than I did. I used the little bit of extra to hit the gym before heading to the airport. The drive there wasn’t so bad. However, the plane ended up getting there at the originally scheduled time, so Mom had to actually wait for me to get there.

I couldn’t find a parking space and by the time I got there, I really had to use the restroom. I ended up parking in the fire lane, locking the car with the flashers on, and running in to find a bathroom. I expected to come back to find an airport cop giving me a ticket. Not going to lie…I was going to gladly pay if it meant not peeing my pants. But I got lucky, and there was no ticket and no tow.

I finally found Mom and we headed out, stopping at BK for lunch. I got a little lost in Coffeyville because we didn’t have a planned meeting address, and the GPS took me 12 miles out of the way for some reason.  We finally found my grandma and uncle and I sent Mom on her way to visit with them for the next few days. Jon and I are going to be there on Saturday night and Mom is coming back with us on Sunday.

The drive home was long and boring. I like driving, but I’m used to having Jon with me or having something mentally stimulating to listen to. All I had was music, and I ended up talking to myself a lot and making up new lyrics to the songs on the radio. Most of the lyrics had to do with the drive and being bored. I made a few bathroom stops and did some boredom munching. I considered stopping for a few quick geocaches, but it didn’t feel right doing it by myself.

I finally got into Manhattan to pick Jon up and head home. I was exhausted, but still managed to do a couple UfYH challenges and get a shower before crashing out.

This morning I was up extra early so we could stop and pick up juice and milk for a work breakfast spread. Work stress for the day was about a 3.

I took a walk on lunch, so Jon and I decided to do some geocaching for our evening activity. I found a cluster of caches along a nice walking trail at one of the local parks. It was breezy out, but we were able to get our walk and make some finds at the same time.

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One cache we found had been tore up by something, so we logged a “Needs Maintenance” on it. The other one took us down a birding trail. I think the trail would have been pretty had the day been sunny, but since it was overcast and getting dark, it was a little creepy.  Jon ended up finding the one in the woods, and while he was doing so, he found a creepy hole in the ground. He took this video of both finds.


I was tired before the week, and the weird terrain and tromping around in the tall grasses kicked my butt.  After finding four caches, we headed home, grabbed some dinner, and watched a couple episodes of Parks and Recreation.  My hip is bothering me tonight, so I think the rest of the evening is going to be spent with some ibuprofen, some Biofreeze, and some Paranormal Activity 4 which is now on Netflix.

Now for a hot shower.


Back in the City Again

We didn’t get up as early as we were planning, but I think I needed the sleep. Last night after we got settled in at the in-laws, my throat started hurting and I started feeling kind of crappy overall.  My dad-in-law was awesome and picked me up some throat lozenges, and I went to bed relatively early. When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t in any hurry to get out of bed, but when I finally did, I felt much better. My throat has been feeling a little scratchy on and off all day, but I haven’t felt bad, so we still went out and did stuff.

We went out geocaching and found six finds before leaving town, including one that we didn’t find the first time around. After Drew got home, we picked up him, then went to Derby to pick his friend up and headed towards OKC, stopping at the rest stop for some lunch and gas.

The drive was fairly quick and uneventful. My pocket query didn’t show any caches along the route, but I think that was probably due to the settings I chose when I generated it. No big deal, since we decided to get into the city first and then do some caching after we checked into our hotel and mapped our route to the convention center.

Check-in was quick, and we headed right back out, decidingo to beat rush hour and haul it to the Cox Center to check-in (we pre-registered) to make sure we knew where we were going. We forgot about the possibility of having to pay for parking, so that was a bummer, but it worked out okay since I’d miscalculated the hotel room charge in our favor.

Checking in was super fast. The original plan had been to drop Drew and his friend off to play some early events while we went back out hunting. With parking having a fee, we didn’t want to go back out and have to pay again, so we decided to get our exercise by walking around the area. Originally we were going to try to get to Bricktown, but a nearby cache led us to the botanical gardens, and that’s where we spent the majority of our time, finding two geocaches in the process.

I’d been to the gardens once when I lived in OKC, but we were in a part that I didn’t remember. It was so pretty and the day was beautiful.

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We definitely got our walking in, meeting our step goals and wearing ourselves out. Before heading back to pick up the guys, we took a walk around the block and found a Subway shop for dinner.  The walk felt good, and we only took a couple breaks.  The first break was after we decided to take the stairs. I believe the ones we took had about 30 steps, and in keeping with my goal, I went up all of them without using the railing. I did walk a little slower after that, and I was tired by the time we got back to the center, but it was so worth it. My back didn’t even start hurting until I sat down for the final time, and then it seized up a bit, but nothing major (though I am pretty stiff right now).

Now we’re back at the hotel. I’m blogging and everyone else is watching Storage Wars. Once I’m done here, I’ll be taking a nice hot shower and laying down for the night. We’re aiming to be at the Cox Center around 9am to get good parking, and since the hotel has hot breakfast, we’re planning on getting up way early. I’m tired. My throat doesn’t hurt at the moment, but I am sore and I’m hoping the shower will help loosen up the areas that are seizing up (I suppose some stretching might help too).

Onward to the GP!




Thunderstorms and a Sunny Drive

Heading out the door this morning, we were greeted by a thunderstorm. Said storm then accompanied us on the drive to work. I love storms, but I hate driving in them. What usually takes 20 minutes took much longer.

When we finally got to town, we found areas near Aggieville flooded. We couldn’t see the tires on some cars, and a few had stalled out at the intersection due to the high water level.

While this probably wasn’t bad compared to major flooding areas in the rest of the country, it was still pretty unsettling.

After work, we stopped to get gas and a snack, then headed towards Rose Hill. I took Jon to find the cache I got at BOW, and we grabbed a few more in that area as well.

Almost didn't find the one at this lovely bridge.

On the way, we tried for two more, one of which we found. The other one wasn’t where we thought it was, and there were muggles around, so we gave up after a short time.

We finally decided to stop stopping and haul it to our destination. We stopped in Andover to get dinner (Braum’s for the win), then finally reached the in-laws. We had discussed doing some night caching, but now that we’re here, I’m ready to crash.
I might knit for awhile, but an early night will be good. Jon and I are planning to go geocaching in the morning before heading to OKC. I’ve been warned that there may be some bad weather tomorrow night, but I’m thinking we’ll be there by the time it hits.

That’s what I’m hoping anyway.


Day 2: Mission to 100 Geocaches

I normally split these multi-day excursions up and only post one a day, but since these are just two of these, I’m kicking them both out tonight.

Day 2 was a little bit harder because we were tired from the first day and from staying up later than usual.  We slept in until 9 and didn’t get out of the house until 10, then dawdled some more getting breakfast.  Based on our energy level and Jon’s headache, we decided to stick to caches that had lower ratings for difficulty and terrain.

Our first stop was City Park, where we scored five caches to start the day off. The park is big from the outside, but being on the inside, it seems even larger. It has a splash park and sports fields and water slides…it’s a pretty busy area of MHK. Being that it was early, there weren’t many people out, so we were able to make some stealthy finds.

Johnny Kaw
a  Johnny Kaw

Manhattan started getting busy, so we headed out into the outlying areas to hunt. One of the finds took us down a two-trail type of road that made us feel like we should have a jeep, not an Impala.  The scenery was great though, and the cache was worth the trip.

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Another cool cache we found was at an old church and cemetery, but coming upon it from the road, the top looks like a castle tower.

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One of the cool things about this cache was that the owners had placed a disposable camera in there for people to take their picture with. I’m pretty sure Jon snapped us before I was ready and was licking my lips or something, so I have a feeling that’s going to be a pretty silly picture.

After finding a few more off the highway, we decided to go to Ogden.  It wasn’t in our original plan, but it seemed like a good way to finish off our finds for the day. Before we resumed hunting, we grabbed lunch at Subway. It was very much needed. We were losing steam and still had a few to go to make sure we both had 100.

One of the caches in Ogden looked like it had been muggled, but the log was intact, so we signed and put it back together. Another one sounded like it was going to be a difficult one, an ode to DNFs, but instead, it ended up being a fun park and grab with a travel bug to discover.


At the end of the day, we’d made our goal to break 100 caches and grabbed a few bonus ones.  The weekend total was 31 found and 0 DNFs. The weather was great, the driving was relaxing, and we just had a good time hanging out together.

This trip also gave us the chance to compare our endurance and stamina levels from when we first started. The first geocaches we found (a few months ago when we first started) that involved walking across uneven terrain were pretty tough. This weekend, we found them challenging, but nothing that kicked our butt completely.  The first time we tried to do a full day of caching, we made it four hours before we went home, sore and needing to crash.  This time we went two days and cached for 7-8 hours each day. Granted, a good portion of that was spent driving, but there is still a decent level of physical activity taking place on these hunts. Jon even ran up a short hill today without getting winded.

I think we’re doing awesome, and it’s exciting to think that at some point in the future, we’re going to be able to find some that are rated at a more difficult terrain level.  Our next big goal is to hit 250, but we’ll probably plan a couple more weekend cache trips before that.

Once we got home, I took a shower and some ibuprofen so I wouldn’t be too sore for the work week. I did some photo editing and uploading to FB, finished the blog posts, and kept half an eye on a couple movies, Clue and Vanilla Sky (which is still in progress and will be watched with both eyes when this is done, because it’s one of my favorites).  We didn’t make it to the gym, but I’m not going to stress on it. It means we missed our gym goal this past week, but I think we made our walking goal, plus some.

I still anticipate being able to sleep well tonight.



Gen Con 2013 Day 4: So Long and Thanks for All the Fun

This marked the first year we attended Gen Con on Sunday. We’re usually so tired by Day 3 that we just go home after hotel checkout. This year, though, we came back to buy the games we’d decided on from the day before.  We also talked to the convention manager at AEG,  and we might be helping out with a con in KC in November. I’m kind of excited about that.
We got on the road a little after 11 and had a nice drive. As we neared St. Louis, we decided to drive right through the city so Terry could see the arch. It was so close that we threw caution to the wind and decided just to go visit it. I love impromptu trip stops!  The arch was cool…definitely bigger in person.  The only one of us who’d visited there was Erica, so it was a cool treat.
It was a little bit of a walk, but it was a nice stretch. I hadn’t realized there was a museum underneath the arch either.
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I debated going to the top in the tram, but decided against it due to time constraints. That, and the fact that the trams are tiny, and I wasn’t sure if I was mentally prepared for the claustrophobia or the height. However, I think Jon and I are going to go up when we visit St. Louis in November.  That’s the plan, though I think we’re both a little apprehensive about that.
The rest of the drive was uneventful other than a few stops and some good conversation. Our trip mates were fabulous to road trip with and the drive didn’t feel too long at all. We crashed shortly after getting home, happy with our experiences and just a little sad that they were over.