Stair Climb Training Update

March 21, 2012

I’m back on schedule! I didn’t publish yesterday’s post until about noon, so all of you that checked for a new post earlier in the morning and didn’t find one, my bad. Click here to read it – it has a great watermelon gazpacho recipe! 

Over the weekend, I realized that a week had passed without me doing any StairMaster workouts. I had done other workouts, and plenty of them, but I’m in training right now for two separate stair climbing challenges, and the StairMaster was my primary training method.

On Sunday, I headed off to the gym, but hit an unexpected snag: the Los Angeles Marathon. The marathon closed roads across the city, and I didn’t learn until I was a few blocks away from my gym that the road closures were gonna prevent me from getting to the gym altogether. I’m sure, had I looked it up, I would’ve found where I could’ve crossed the route, but I didn’t take time the time, because I was on a schedule. I had other errands to run and things to do, and when I was forced to detour, I decided that I would screw the gym, knock some other things off my to-do list, and hope I would have time later in the day to exercise in the little gym in my building.

Can you guess what happened? Yep, I never worked out. One thing led to another, and Sunday ended up being an unplanned rest day. I was a little annoyed, because I had taken a well-earned, planned rest day on Thursday, just three days prior, but two rest days in one week isn’t the end of the world.

On Monday, when I did make it to the gym, I was ready for a great workout. And that’s exactly what I had. I started on the StairMaster, and I ended up shattering all my StairMaster personal bests that I set just two weeks ago! Check this out:

  • DURATION: 28 minutes (previous best = 25.5 minutes)
  • CALORIES: 485 burned (previous best = 400)
  • FLOORS: 131 (previous best = 109)

Didja see that last record? ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY ONE FLOORS! That’s 22 stories more than my previous best! It made me feel more confident about my upcoming 163-story StairMaster challenge/fundraiser (donate here), and it also wiped me out. It was completely exhausting. But I wasn’t finished quite yet – after wiping down the machine, catching my breath, and moseying around for a few minutes, I headed up to the weight room and lifted weights for 30 minutes. Whew!

Now it’s time for my favorite StairMaster-related activity: adding a new building to my Skyscraper Collection! I usually find a building equivalent (or as close as possible) to the number of stories that I climbed, and I’m super excited because 131 stories is taller than every building on Earth except for the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa. So I’m going to add the world’s second-tallest building, which stands a staggering 120 stories tall. Anyone know what it is, or where it’s located? I had no idea this building existed until I started adding super-tall buildings to my Skyscraper Collection a few months ago. It’s located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and it’s called the Abraj Al Bait Towers. Take a look:

Although it’s not the world’s tallest building, the Abraj Al Bait (which opens this year) still holds a number of impressive records. It’s the world’s tallest hotel, and has the largest floor space of any building in the world.

When I look at the above photo, I see a building that looks a lot shorter than 120 stories, and I think it’s because the clock tower throws off my sense of scale. Then I read about how ginormous that clock tower is, and it started to make sense. There’s a clock on all four sides of the tower, and they’re the biggest clocks in the world. Each clock’s diameter is 141 feet (almost half a football field, or about 14 stories stories high!). By comparison, Big Ben’s clock faces are a puny 23 feet across.

I got a much better sense of scale from this picture, which shows the Abraj Al Bait in comparison to the rest of Mecca’s skyline.

Yep! That’s one tall building! And I climbed it!

Keep it up, David!


Chum

March 20, 2012

I did a lot of cooking over the weekend for an event on Sunday night. The event was built around watching a wonderfully terrible straight-to-DVD film called “2-Headed Shark Attack,” which is very appropriately named, because it’s about a 2-headed shark that attacks. Luckily for the shark, there just happens to be a boat full of muscular, big-tittied, dumb college kids that end up becoming a delicious 15-course meal. The movie stars Carmen Electra as some sort of doctor with a fondness for posing while tanning (I may have missed what kind of doctor she is, but other people call her ‘Doctor’ and at one point she’s holding a first aid kit), Brooke Hogan as a plucky student who is adept at engine repair and underwater welding, and Charlie O’Connell as the boat captain and professor of the semester-at-sea program the kids are all enrolled in.

This blog isn’t about movie reviews, but I will say that “2-Headed Shark Attack” is silly, stupid fun. I definitely had a good time watching it, and it was definitely worth the $1.31 that was spent renting it at Redbox. Don’t expect any Oscar nominations – instead, expect plenty of unintentional laughs because the writing is atrocious, the acting is hysterical, and the movie is full of mistakes (including severed limbs that reappear, a shark that conveniently changes size depending on where it’s attacking, and my personal favorite: fake shark teeth that are clearly made of foam, because they bend).

Back to the food. I did the cooking for the evening’s festivities, and I decided I would theme all the food around the aforementioned cinematic masterpiece. I made three dishes, the first of which I’ll share today (I’ll share the other two later in the week). I decided on a relatively simple, healthy menu: soup and salad. I actually made two soups, one hot and one cold. For the cold soup, I made a gazpacho, and, in honor of “2-Headed Shark Attack,” I renamed it chum.

I based my gazpacho on this watermelon gazpacho recipe by Food Network hottie Tyler Florence, but I modified it, like I always do. The first modification was to quadruple the recipe. First ingredient: 8 cups of watermelon.

After disassembling a mini seedless watermelon, I discovered that the entire watermelon yielded slightly more than 8 cups – it was around 9 and a half – so I just used it all. What the hell.

Before I go further, I should say that everything ends up getting pureed in a blender, but since I quadrupled the recipe, I had to blend it in batches, and then mix it together in a big pot. And since I wanted the chum to have some texture, I reserved about a cup of each of the main ingredients (watermelon, tomato, cucumber, and a little red onion), chopped them finely, and added them to the pot without blending them.

So, after cubing a watermelon, I rough chopped 4 large tomatoes, and then got out two serrano peppers.

Serranos have a good amount of heat, but like most hot peppers, most of it is in the ribs and seeds, so I removed those. I also minced the serranos pretty finely – I trust my blender and all, but I wanted to be certain that no one got a big hunk of serrano in their soup.

Next up was de-seeding and chopping two cucumbers (you de-seed them by chopping them in half the long way and using a spoon to scrape the seeds out of the centers), and chopping 1/2 a red onion.

Then I started blending. My blender works best when there’s some liquid in there, so I added the wet ingredients to the first batch. Quadrupling Tyler’s recipe means you’re supposed to add a full cup of olive oil… NOPE. I’m not adding a full cup of oil to anything if I can help it! I ended up adding a little less than 1/4 of a cup, and compensated by adding more red wine vinegar (5 tablespoons instead of 4 teaspoons).

Once I had the first batch blended into a liquid, I transferred it to the pot, but I left about a cup of the liquid in the blender, to help get the next batch started. I did this until everything was blended (which required 4 or 5 batches). I also added, in one of the latter batches, a few handfuls of fresh dill.

After it was all blended and in the pot, I added the finely chopped ingredients I had reserved earlier, and stirred it all up. Looks very chummy!

I served it with two garnishes: crumbled cheese (Tyler suggests feta, but I used a crumbled goat cheese), and some ceviche-style crab (I finely minced up a package of imitation crab – homeboy can’t afford the real stuff – and marinated it in fresh lime juice). I wanted to mix the crab into the gazpacho, but I knew there’d be some vegetarians and vegans at this event, so I left it as a add-in garnish. The chum, by the way, is vegan if eaten garnish-free. The end result:

The chum was delicious. The watermelon added some sweetness but it wasn’t overwhelming, and the sweetness was balanced out by the heat of the serranos. It was rich and packed with flavor, and, best of all, it was pretty easy to put together – unless you don’t like chopping.

Coming later this week: my Shark’s Tooth Salad and my 2-Headed Roasted Broccoli Soup!

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: I’m now less than two weeks away from the Fight for Air Climb 2012! After upping my fundraising goal multiple times (from $100 to $200 to $500 to $600), I recently upped it one final time – to $630, which is $10 for every floor in the 63-story Aon Center. CLICK HERE to learn more about my skyscraper climb, including the link for donating – Thanks to a bunch of generous readers and friends, I’m now only $30 from reaching my goal!

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!


What’s in the RediSetGo? Part Twenty-Two

March 19, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve done a RediSetGo post. This was pointed out to me recently, when my buddy Ryan said, in a Facebook comment, that “we’re due for a What’s in the RediSetGo post. Just sayin’.”

I hear you loud and clear, Ryan!

This is only the second What’s in the RediSetGo post of 2012 (click here to see Part Twenty-One, which I posted in Mid-Janaury), but historically speaking, I’ve done a helluva lot of these posts, and you can see all of them on the My Favorite Posts page. In fact, I suggest you click through and check a couple of them out… you’ll need to brush up, because these posts are games, after all, and I wouldn’t want you to be rusty. And, if you’ve only started reading this blog recently, then definitely check out the archives at the above link, so you can learn how the game is played.

Eh, who am I kidding? The game is easy enough. You’ll pick it up quickly. And you’ll pick it upright now, because it’s time to play!

What’s in the RediSetGo?


A HALIBUT STEAK AND GREEN BEANS are in the RediSetGo!

I probably should have started this post by mentioning, for the sake of any newcomers, that the RediSetGo is my favorite informercial product out there (hence this being my twenty-second blog post about it). It bakes and cooks and roasts and broils, and, generally speaking, it’s easy to use and easy to clean. I’ve had my issues with the RediSetGo, but it still comes in handy for quick meals, and that’s exactly what I used it for the other day.

My dinner had four ingredients:

Ingredient #1: Halibut Steak. I picked these up at Whole Foods a while ago, and they were just sitting there, in my freezer:

The day before, I had tossed one of the steaks into the fridge to defrost. Easy peasy. So the halibut steak went into one side of the RediSetGo, and I covered it with…

Ingredient #2: Dill. A very liberal amount of dried dill, to be precise.

Ingredient #3: Green Beans. Or, if you’re feeling fancy and international, you can call them Haricot Vert, which is French for… Anyone? Anyone?Green beans. I bought them washed and trimmed and neatly packaged:

I piled up the other half of the RediSetGo with the green beans, and then poured on a couple tablespoons of…

Ingredient #4: Apricot Dijon Tarragon Sauce. I first cracked this open for a delicious lunch a few weeks ago, and I really liked it, so I thought it would be a good addition to the beans. And it’s fat-free and only 15 calories per tablespoon!

Ten minutes of RediSetGo magic, and my dinner was ready! The fish was flaky and delicious, the beans were tender, and the sauce had thinned and coated all of them.

Healthy? Check!

Easy? Check!

Quick? Check!

Keep it up, David!

 


Two New Fruits

March 18, 2012

Last weekend, I tried a delicious fruit that I never tried before: the sumo tangerine. This weekend, I ended up trying two new fruits… how my heart races just typing that sentence!

FRUIT #1: Cara Cara Oranges. I picked these up last weekend at the farmers market. Cara Caras are a variety of navel with a bit of a mysterious past: they’re likely a cross between two other navel varieties, but only one, the Washington navel, is known for certain. Cara Caras were “discovered” in Venezuela in the mid 1970s, and have only been available in the United States since the late 1980s, so they’re a relatively new fruit to the fruit scene. The new fruit on the block:

The distinguishing characteristic of a Cara Cara is that the flesh is pink, as opposed to orange. My Cara Caras weren’t overly pink – I’d say they had a pinkish hue, as opposed to being fully pink, like some pictures I’ve seen online. Even so, the flesh is a very pretty color.

They’re tasty, too. I’m not enough of a citrus connoisseur to describe the taste in too much detail, but they were very sweet and less acidic than other oranges I’ve tried. Oh, and very juicy, too. I bought three Cara Caras, and I ended up eating one, and juicing the other two. And because I busted out my little juicer, I ended up juicing two other pieces of citrus I had lying around…

BONUS FRUIT! Blood Oranges. I’ve bought and enjoyed blood oranges before, and they are a gorgeous piece of fruit. The name is fitting – the insides are the color of blood!

My two blood oranges were tiny – the size of large limes – but I juiced both of them, as well as the two remaining Cara Caras, and ended up with a delightful little blend of fresh-squeezed OJ.

One of the best glasses of OJ I ever had!

FRUIT #2: Mini Kiwi. There’s a Trader Joe’s right next to my new gym, and after my Saturday workout (5 minutes warm-up on treadmill, 45 minutes lifting weights, 16 minutes adaptive motion trainer), I wandered in to purchase some pre-hard-boiled eggs as my post-workout protein fix. I wandered TJ’s a little, and stumbled upon this package, which immediately caught my eye:

I didn’t think twice before buying these guys! They’re cute little buggers:

When I held them in my hand like that, I couldn’t quite imagine what the insides looked like, so imagine my surprise when I started slicing them open, and…voila! They looked like kiwis!

How cool is that?!? I love these things! They taste like kiwis, too, and you don’t have the hassle of peeling them, like you do kiwis. I did a little research, and found a great article about their history. They’re native to China, and they were first found in the 1800s, but they were never cultivated very widely as a crop, because they were difficult to harvest, didn’t ripen consistently, and spoiled quickly, which made transportation a bitch. But scientists in New Zealand worked on it, and they’ve cross-bred mini kiwis to be hardier and easier to pick.

I definitely recommend both the Cara Cara orange and the mini kiwi… I wonder what new fruit I’m going to find next?

Keep it up, David!


Broken Technology

March 16, 2012

The technology is my life is crumbling around me, but I’ll survive.

Exhibit A: Padlock. I have a cheap little padlock that I use at the gym to lock up my stuff, and the other day, it wandered off. It’s nowhere to be found. It’s not the end of the world – I only spent $6 on it, and I’ll swing by the store and spend another $6 on a new one, but it’s still annoying. Especially since, in all likelihood, the minute I come home with a new one, the old one will miraculously appear.

Exhibit B: iPod. I go through iPods much quicker than any normal person should. I use mine all the time – for all my workouts, and whenever I’m driving. I’m currently on my fourth iPod in a year. I can’t remember what happened to the first – I think I lost it. The second was a Shuffle that I left on an airplane (that wasn’t the end of the world, I didn’t really care for the Shuffle anyway). The third was a Nano Touch that stopped working altogether. I took that one to the Apple store, and they replaced it, free of charge, with the fourth, my current Nano Touch.

Recently, I had my arms full of stuff as I headed down to my car – gym clothes, a bag of recycling to drop off in our trash room, reusable grocery bags to put in my trunk, and I ended up dropping my iPod. Twice. Once on cement. And this is what happened:

D’oh! Thankfully, it’s just the glass that cracked – the screen itself is fine and readable and the iPod still works. I’m not going to rush out to buy iPod #5, mainly because I don’t want to spend the money. I plan on nursing this injured baby as long as I can, hoping, the entire time, that its injuries are indeed just cosmetic and not fatal.

Exhibit C: Microwave. My microwave stopped working. Microwaves are one of those appliances where replacing them are often times more cost-effective than servicing them, but my microwave is a built-in microwave/hood dealie above my stove.

I was lamenting to my sister about my broken microwave, and she goes “I thought hippie healthy people don’t use microwaves.” I laughed, but I do use a microwave regularly: reheating leftovers, making oatmeal, cooking frozen veggie burgers when I’m too lazy to use a skillet. I’ve gotten really cook at cooking eggs for breakfast sandwiches in the microwave – and that’s one of my favorite grab-and-go morning meals.

A comparable replacement microwave would cost in the neighborhood of $300 – a lot of money that I don’t have. So I started doing research. After scouring the interwebs and taking note of my unit’s symptoms, I was pretty confident in my own diagnosis: My microwave had a faulty/broken door switch. All microwaves have door switches – they’re sensors that tell the machine the door is closed. The microwave won’t turn on if the door is open, so a door switch is a key microwave component.

I live down the street from a Sears, and they helped me identify which door switch I needed. They also recommended a new fuse, in case that was blown. They couldn’t get the parts in stock for a week, so I didn’t order them – I figured there had to be some place in Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the country, that had these parts in stock. Sure enough, I found a place that did. The very next day I had a new door switch and a new fuse, and I was determined to make the repair myself.

With help from the interwebs, I figured out how to take my microwave apart, and I found the door switch in the microwave’s innards. And this was where I encountered my first problem: my microwave has two door switches, and I didn’t know which was the broken one. I don’t own the equipment (an ohmmeter?) to test them, either. Then I realized that even if I knew which door switch to replace, I was lacking some tool that was needed to remove them from their internal homes.

I ended up calling a repairman from Craigslist, who came the next morning, charged me $80, swapped out the fuse and the door switch, and got my microwave working again. Add in the $65 I paid for the parts, and I spent $145 – significantly less than a new microwave, and significantly less than having a professional diagnose the problem (I had priced that out, and it would’ve cost $139 just to get a technician through the door, before parts and labor). I’m a little bummed that I wasn’t able to actually fix my microwave myself, but I’m incredibly proud that I correctly identified the problem, ordered the right parts, and saved myself $150 (at least)!

A few updates before signing off: Thank you all for your input on my rest day dilemma – I ended up taking a rest day on Thursday, and I’m glad I did. I’m off to the gym now to hit the weights for the first time in almost a week – looking forward!

Lastly, A big thank you to everyone that’s donated to my two upcoming stair climb fundraisers! Between the two events, over $1,000 has been raised – a figure that completely bewilders me! I’ve upped my goals multiple times for each event, and there’s still lots of time for you to get in on the action. All the money goes to one of two great charities: Whaley Children’s Center or the American Lung Association, and every little bit, even $5 or $10, really makes a difference. Have you donated yet? CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT MY STAIR CHALLENGES AND MAKE A DONATION!

Keep it up, David!

 


When’s My Next Rest Day?

March 15, 2012

I’m usually pretty good at listening to my body. I like working out and pushing myself, but I understand the importance of giving my body the occasional day to recuperate. Right now, my goal is to exercise six times a week (five is acceptable, but six is ideal), and even though I switch up my workouts, it still takes a toll on my body.

Sometimes, I plan rest days into my schedule. My last rest day was on March 5th, which was my birthday – the perfect day to relax and focus on more important things (like the major fitness challenges I gave myself). Other times, I just listen to my body, which is pretty good about letting me know when it needs a break. My body’s main modes of communication are fatigue and soreness (above and beyond standard post-workout soreness), but it’s sending mixed messages right now. It’s probably because my workouts have been a little bit different this week.

First off, I haven’t lifted weights since Saturday, when I spent about a half hour in the weight room, after using the StairMaster for 20 minutes (more on this later). It wasn’t an intentional plan to go most of the week without strength training – it that happened that way. And now, five days later, I’m itching to lift weights.

Secondly, I tried something new on Sunday, and it was completely successful, and by ‘successful,’ I mean ‘brutally difficult.’ I’ve been doing a lot of StairMaster lately, in preparation for my two big upcoming stair climb fundraisers (donate here or here, won’t you?), but I wanted to climb actual stairs in an actual building as part of my training as well. There are no super-tall buildings in my immediate neighborhood, but I concocted a challenging plan anyway.

On Sunday night, I ran about 3/4 of a mile to a 5-story, completely empty parking garage. Without ever stopping, I ran up one stairwell to the roof, ran across the roof to the stairwell at the other end, and ran down it, doing that loop over and over and over. Sometimes when I reached the bottom, I immediately turned around and ran back up to the roof and continued in the opposite direction. My goal was to do this running/stairs combo as long as possible, without stopping. About 10 minutes in, my side started cramping, but I pushed through it, and I soon settled into a cramp-free rhythm.

After 35 minutes, I knew I was close to calling it quits, so I started running home. Three minutes later, I finally stopped. Add in 5-6 minutes of both warm-up and cool-down, and I was on the streets for about 50 minutes. I lost count of the total number of flights I ran, but it was a lot. It felt great. And the next morning, I was sore in every part of both legs.

My legs didn’t get much of a break, though – I spent all of Monday at Disney California Adventure, which, while not a dedicated workout, still involved a ton of walking – miles and miles of it, I’m sure. On Tuesday, I took one of Richard Simmons’ classes at Slimmons (which always involve a ton of leg lifts), and yesterday, I went on an hour-long early-morning hike (with a substantial elevation change) with a friend.

I feel like it’s time to give my legs a day off. On the other hand, I feel like my upper body has been sorely neglected the past few days, and I wanna do something about it. Help – I don’t know what to do!

I’m writing this post late Wednesday night, and my current plan is to see how I feel on Thursday morning. I have  a hunch I won’t wake up terribly sore (the hike, while rigorous, was still less intense than most of my standard workouts), so maybe I should push myself for one more weight-intensive session at the gym, and then rest on Friday. On the other hand, I have exercised the past nine days in a row. Do I postpone an upper body weight training session another day and rest, just because I feel I’m due for a rest day? I’m not quite sure what to do when half of my body could benefit from a break and the other half is jonesin’ for more!  I’d love your thoughts on the matter – and that’s why I have a comments section, so speak up!

Before wraping this up, I wanna rewind back to Saturday. I’ve already mentioned above that I spent 20 minutes on the StairMaster, and it was a good 20 minutes. I didn’t get nearly as frustrated with the machine as I did last time – I just found a pace that was comfortable, covered the display with my towel, and didn’t overly concern myself with my Steps Per Minute. The end result was 300 calories burned and 84 stories climbed!

EIGHTY-FOUR STORIES! You know what that means, boys and girls – time to add a skyscraper to my collection! The newest addition to my collection is all the way on the other side of the planet – in a country (and a continent) not yet represented. That’s right – it’s off to Australia!

Check out the Q1, the tallest building in Australia:

At 80 stories, the Q1 is the fifth tallest all-residential building in the world, and the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. Located in Surfers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, it has apartments that vacationers and tourists can rent – check availability/pricing here. The Q1 has an observation deck called Skypoint, on the 77th floor, overlooking the beach. Once you’re up at Skypoint, you can then opt to do the Skypoint Climb – where you go outside onto a platform, and climb 298 stairs to the pinnacle of the building – where you’re 885 feet above the sidewalk. YES, PLEASE! I wanna go to Australia just to do that!

I just added the Q1 to my Skyscraper Collection – so click here to see how it compares to the 26 other skyscrapers that I’ve theoretically climbed!

Damn – I love how the Q1 dominates the skyline in that first picture… and I climbed that building, all the way to the top!

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!


Disney California Adventure

March 14, 2012

I love theme parks. Love ’em! I love the rides, the atmosphere, the rides, the scenery, and the rides. I’ve written pretty regularly about my theme park adventures on this blog. I debuted this blog with a post that recounted my first visit to Magic Mountain – a momentous occasion, since it was the first time that I wasn’t too big to fit on a roller coaster in almost a decade. Since then, I’ve visited Knott’s Berry Farm and made a triumphant return to Cedar Point, the park I grew up visiting but hadn’t been to since college, when I was kicked off a ride because of my weight (details about that horrible experience here).

At the end of January, I visited, for the first time, the most famous theme park in the world: Disneyland. I had a wonderful time with my friends Heidi, Tom, and Keith – click here to read about it and see pictures. I had gotten a good deal on a park ticket, too – Disney offers southern California residents a 2-day pass for $99 (a basic 1-day pass is $80). And that meant that I had to go back to Disney a second time before my pass expired in June.

Luckily for me, there are two Disney theme parks in Anaheim. There’s the classic Disneyland, and the much newer Disney California Adventure, which is literally a few hundred feet away. So on Monday, I gathered up Heidi, Tom and Keith again, and we checked out Disney California Adventure. I love a theme park I’ve never been to before!

DCA opened about 10 years ago – it was built where the Disneyland parking lot used to be – and since I had never been there before, I had no idea what to expect. I had briefly heard about a few of the rides but knew very little about the park. Heidi and Keith are Disney junkies that know everything about everything – the perfect theme park companions!

I’m squinting in that photo, but here I am with Paradise Pier in the background. Paradise Pier was my favorite themed area – it’s a big carnival midway section of the park that wraps around a big lagoon. Screamin’, the roller coaster, wraps above and around a lot of it, and there are smaller carnival style rides. The ferris wheel, called Mickey’s Fun Wheel, is 160 feet tall and has both stationary gondolas, like a regular ferris wheel, and swinging ones, that add a thrill element. We waited in the longer line for a swinging one, and I snapped this photo of myself while we waited:

Here’s Heidi, Tom, and I on Mickey’s Fun Wheel:

My favorite amusement park rides are roller coasters, and Screamin’ is a good one – it’s fast, has great dives and air time, and it’s long. Paradise Pier is also home to what turned out to be one of my favorite rides: Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s a fantastic mash-up of ride and carnival game. You wear 3-D glasses, and sit in cars equipped with toy guns that whip you through fun carnival-themed environments. The cars stop in front of 5 or 6 giant screens, and you compete against the other people in your cars in virtual carnival games populated with Toy Story characters: there’s a ring toss, and games where you break plates with baseballs, pop balloons with darts, and shoot at moving targets. The ride keeps track of your points, and at the end of the ride, you can see who won! I rode with Tom…

…and I won (I was Player 2)!

Heidi, who was one car over, handily beat me by an additional 30,000 points or so. Well played, Heidi!

While Toy Story Midway Mania was a blast, my favorite ride at DCA was Soarin’ Over California, where you sit in chairs that allow your feet to dangle. When the ride starts, the chairs get repositioned in front of a giant concave IMAX screen. There’s beautiful footage of scenery and landmarks from around California, and it comes together to make it seem like you’re hang gliding over all of it. The ride isn’t scary – it’s simply beautiful, and wonderfully done.

I don’t have too many more pictures to share – I didn’t take many to begin with, and then my battery died halfway through the day (whoops). But I did photograph my lunch, because even though I was at a theme park, that didn’t mean I was going to make poor food choices. We ate at Paradise Garden Grill, which serves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food – cuisines I’ve never seen in a theme park before!

That’s a beef kofta skewer. Kofta is basically a Middle Eastern spiced meatball. There’s cucumber salad, rice pilaf, and a piece of pita on the side. They offer 4 sauces, but I couldn’t pick just one, so I got all four to try. The white one was tzatziki (a yogurt and cucumber sauce), the green one was chimichurri (an Argentinean herb and oil-based sauce), and I forget what the other ones were, but I think one was a Moroccan-spiced chili sauce.

Later that night, we got a quick bite at Downtown Disney, a shopping and entertainment area next to the park. I got two chicken tacos at a taco stand, with lettuce, onions, cilantro, and salsa (no cheese or sour cream). I’m kinda happy to report that I wasn’t even tempted by any of the unhealthy theme park options, although I did love this vending machine, which we saw while waiting in line for the Monsters Inc. ride:

The “Sugar Salt & Fat” snack is my favorite! (It’s probably pretty delicious, too.)

Apart from the rides, we saw a couple really cool shows. DCA has a Broadway-style musical production of Aladdin that was well done, and, after the sun sets, the lagoon becomes home to World of Color, a very impressive, bright event that involves dancing fountains (like the Bellagio in Las Vegas) that shoot up walls of water that images and film clips are projected onto.

I’m excited to go back to DCA at some point i the future – two big parts of the park were under construction (opening in June): a Cars Land (themed around the Pixar Cars movies), and Buena Vista Street, a tribute to Los Angeles in the 1920s, when Walt Disney first arrived in California.

The best part about theme parks: I was walking all day long. Mile after mile after mile. Normally I’m very diligent about keeping track of my exercise, but every once in a while, it’s fun to have a very physical day (I was exhausted by the time I came home – we were there for around 11 hours!) and not worry about minutes or resistance levels or calories burned.

Keep it up, David!


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