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Cycle Touring Ireland

Post by:  Jake
6/31/12

The Emerald Isle: a fitting name for a place that gets nearly 55-inches of rain per year, just shy of the 68+ inches that would classify it as a rainforest.  Although we came expecting rain, and were content with a little moisture falling on our trip, the weather as a whole wasn’t too bad.  Highs around 65, lows around 55; pretty ideal temperatures for biking considering most of the U.S. was pushing triple digits. In fact, if you can get over the rain, Ireland is setup perfectly for bike touring.  In general, the topography is mild (although we did curse a few of the steep hills), the back roads have little to no traffic, the locals are extremely friendly and very bike conscious while driving (although most still think you’re mad for cycling around the country). Compared to the Western U.S., the towns are located fairly close to each other and the entire country can be biked in a few weeks fairly easily.  And most importantly, EVERY community has a pub, even if they don’t have a single place that serves food.  If you’re looking for something new to do, bike touring in Ireland will not disappoint.

 

Veronica and I landed in Dublin and took a taxi straight to the bike rental shop.  With bikes under our feet, we navigated to our first nights’ accommodation; a quaint little B&B just outside of the downtown area.  In fact, every night during the trip we stayed in a different town and a different B&B.  B&B’s are prolific in Ireland, and while you can find hotels and hostels in bigger towns, B&B’s were often our only option.  We did venture around the country with reservations which had its pros and cons.  On one hand, it removed some of the spontaneity, but on the other hand, there’s no way we would have found ½ the B&Bs we stayed in without first finding them online and on more than a few occasions, every room in the B&B and sometimes the entire town was booked because of a local concert, golf tournament, or some other special event.  Furthermore, being a Verizon customer in the U.S., our cell phones were useless overseas, which would have made it pretty difficult to call around for availability.

We started planning our route several months in advance, some with the help of guide books, but mostly with Google Earth.  Before the trip we purchased a new model Etrex 20 (with upgradable memory card slot and color maps) and a memory chip that had every road in the UK and Ireland.  From the comfort of the computer at home, we carefully planned out our cycle route to be off the beaten path. These back roads were certainly the highlight of our trip with amazing scenery and nonexistent traffic. We found ourselves cycling extra slow on these sections rather than pounding out the miles, solely so we could enjoy the journey. And when we couldn’t avoid the traffic altogether, it was fairly easy to maneuver around in traffic since many of the larger roads had bike lanes.

We traveled with a combination of bike, bus, and train, using the latter to cover sections that were farther than we wanted to bike. The Bus Eireann system was super easy to navigate.  Bikes, which are charged an extra, usually arbitrary fee, go in the under carriage. You can usually fit them standing upright strapped to a pole, but you need to bring your own straps or bungee cords.  And while not very cheap, it was our only option to cover long distances in a reasonable amount of time.  In case you’re interested here’s our exact route from town to town:  Pickup bikes in Dublin; bus to Cashel; bike to Cahir; bus to Limerick; bike to Bunratty; bike to Ennis; bike to Lisdoonvarna; bike to Kinvara; bike to Galway; bus to Donegal; bus to Letterkenny; bike to Londonderry; bike to Portrush; bike to Ballycastle; bike to Glenarm; bike to Larne; train to Belfast; train to Dublin.  All in all we covered about 250 miles on bike in about 15 days.

Castles, abbey’s, historic ruins, whiskey distillery and beer brewery tours, natural wonders, gorgeous scenery; of all we did, saw, or biked past we continually get asked, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” The answer?  All of it!  The experience as a whole was magical.  I wouldn’t have changed a second.  Not even the rain, because through adversity memories that last a lifetime are created.  Ten years from now, I may not remember much of the Giants Causeway, but I’ll remember the tire we changed seconds before the sky unleashed one of the most torrential downpours I’ve ever been in!  Memories like that are the reason we chose to see Ireland by bike.  Yes, you can see more country in less time in a car and I’m sure you’ll have a great time, but it’s a very different experience.  Having traveled extensively by car, we were ready for something different – we wanted to see, feel, smell and savor the trip rather!  And although there were times we wanted to push the bikes out into busy traffic or over the edge of a cliff and into the ocean, we would absolutely do it again.

 

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Trip of a Lifetime

Post by:  Jake
6/19/12

All our bags are packed, we’re ready to go…. Tomorrow, Veronica and I embark on a trip of a lifetime.  One of those bucket-list trips everyone dreams about.  Or so we’ve been told.  To us, we’re simply making it happen.  We’ve scrimped and saved, and have been planning each detail for over a year.  Ireland by bike.  At least, that’s the simple but appropriate title of one of the many guide books we’ve used to plan for the trip.  ”Cycle touring in Ireland” by Cicerone press, Lonely Planet guide to “Ireland”, Keyguide to “Ireland”, just a few more of the guide books we’ve been using for the past year to plan our “epic” journey around the Emerald Isle.

350 miles over 15 days.  An average of about 23-miles per day.  Very easy and very doable by most peoples standards.  But what a way to see a country?  Early last summer, Veronica and I mountain biked the Going-To-The-Sun road in Glacier National Park and, although we’ve been in the park dozens of times before on the very same road, this experience changed our outlook on what it takes to really “see” a place.  With that fresh perspective, we started planning a cycle touring trip in Europe.  We didn’t know where, how far, or how long we’d be on this journey, but we knew it was something we wanted to make happen.  Over the following year we narrowed it down to Ireland, for many reasons previously disclosed here.

We’ve sorted through gear, purchased airline tickets, reserved rooms in key cities, and have even purchased a few rail connections.  We’ve packed, re-packed, then re-packed a few more times to dial our equipment to only the bare necessities.  I’ve purchased special computerized GPS map cards and have pre-loaded daily routes into a new Garmin GPS.  And with a few other details squared away, we’re ready.

But why don’t we feel like a kid on Christmas eve then?  I mean, from all we’ve been hearing, it’s a “trip of a lifetime”.  And a year of planning should feel a bit more climactic shouldn’t it?  Perhaps it still just doesn’t feel real yet.  I am still sitting in my living room, embraced in the comforts of home.  Perhaps it’s because we’ve been so pre-occupied and consumed with buying a new home?  In fact, we close on the new home during our trip–a friend will be acting as our hand, signing all the legal paperwork, while we’re out having fun. (*Note to self–Buy something nice for said friend!) Whatever the reason for the lack of goosebumps and butterflies, it doesn’t change the fact that we ARE flying out of the country in the morning.  We ARE renting bikes in Dublin, and we ARE going to experience what few ever have the opportunity to.  We are so blessed and so thankful for everything that life has brought us.  We look forward to the adventure that awaits, and adversities that lie ahead (the weatherman is calling for steady rain).  It won’t all be smooth sailing, but from adversity comes growth and for that we are thankful.  Our Ireland bike tour ends around July 9th, but the journey and memories will surely live on forever.  We can hardly wait to post updates, photos, and stories.  But till then, we’re “out of the office”. Cheers!  J&V

 

 

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San Rafael Swell ~ Utah ~ Slot Canyons

Post by:  Jake
6/9/12

Over Memorial Day weekend, Veronica and I organized a bunch of friends and drove out to the desert for a long weekend of hiking and rappelling.  What started as a beautiful desert evening Thursday night, soon morphed into a biblical sand storm by Friday afternoon.  As we hiked away from our base camp Friday morning, the weather was calm, sunny, and overall fairly uneventful.  Five long miles later and deep into a slot canyon, we were struggling to stay on our feet as the wind pelted our bare legs with sand and pea gravel.  Hoping that somehow the slot canyon we were hiking was simply concentrating the wind, disappointment greeted us as we turned the last narrow corner and walked into the open desert where the wind seemed equally strong, if not stronger.  Immediately I felt a pit form in my stomach, knowing full well that we should have taken down our tents before leaving in the morning.  Wishing for the best, but expecting the worst, we headed back to our camp to find the following: 1 tent, precariously teetering over a cliff face, held fast by a single stake and a guy line; 1 tent perfectly fine, although nearly completely filled with sand; 1 tent with 2 of the 3 poles broken and protruding through the formerly waterproof fly; and 1 tent missing entirely.  Finding the missing tent a while later several hundred feet away at the bottom of a ravine, we were at a loss for words.  The group simply sat around on rocks, completely demoralized, trying to figure out our next move.  Move camp to a more sheltered location? Nope, the wind and blowing sand penetrated every crack of the desert equally; there was no place of refuge.  The wind continued, as if blowing salt into our wounds.  Staring at each other with blank, expressionless faces, we decided to throw in the towel and opt for a motel room in nearby Green River.  Booking one of the last rooms in town, we threw our tents and gear into the cars and dashed to the safety of 4 solid walls and a comfortable, sand free (nearly) bed. I contemplated the hardships of the early explorers and pioneers as I relaxed in the hotel’s hot tub, jets pounding into my sore shoulders and tired muscles.

The next day we woke to winds even more intense than before.  Although we certainly can claim no prizes for toughing out the storm in our tents, we also could not simply sit idle in the hotel room, through what was supposed to be an epic Utah adventure.  So, we hopped in the car, and following the directions of the hotel owner, we made our way out to Sego canyon where the wind seemed slightly less intense.  Ancient rock art panels and a beautiful desert canyon landscape filled our morning.  During the afternoon, we set a climbing rope and rappelled through the ceiling of a natural bridge cut into the sandstone.  Drop after drop, we hooted and hollered like a bunch of kids; and for a while even forgot about the intense wind.

Sunday morning, the wind had finally blown itself out and we ventured back to the San Rafael Swell to set up camp and hike to another incredible desert wonder, a massive cavernous alcove cut out of a tall sandstone cliff.  Sunday afternoon, we crossed into Goblin Valley State Park to explore the giant coliseum of cartoon characters that appear to have been frozen in time, preserved into a valley of sandstone hoodoos.  One step into the valley of goblins is enough to bring out anyone’s inner child. Before we knew it, we were calling out shapes of turtles, clowns, lions, tigers, and bears; all the while scrambling up and down blobs of sandstone. Back at camp, we toasted up a feast of Hobo Pies, and sat around the fire late into the night; watching embers burn into the starry night sky.

Monday morning dawned late as we were camped against an east facing cliff.  Originally we had planned to simply pack up camp and drive back home; however the allure of one more “quick” hike was too strong, so we hiked out and squeezed in one last slot canyon.  Driving home, the only thing any of us could think about was coming back for another adventure.  With endless slot canyons to hike, ancient dwellings to explore, and shapes to pick out of the sandstone hoodoos, it’s just a matter of time till were headed back to the desert.  The desert can be brutal and unforgiving; but even during the worst weather there’s always more adventures to be had.

 

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EPIC Bike Rides you CAN’T Miss this year!

Post by: Jake
4/19/12

Last year Veronica and I really got into road biking, and “accidentally” discovered one of (if not “THE”) the best bike ride in the world.  We drove up to Glacier National Park for our annual July 4th weekend in Hungry Horse, Montana.  Typically, we do a few day hikes in the park, and then watch some amazing fireworks in downtown Hungry Horse.  Last year, however, was a mega snow year and they were still plowing the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.  We happen to have  our bikes so thought it might be fun to do a little road biking during a low traffic time of year.  We didn’t know they allowed bikes past the road closure!   After hearing this, of course we jumped at the opportunity.  With plowing at 95% complete, we were able to bike most of the way towards the summit of Logan Pass.  It’s a memory we’ll NEVER forget, and something I highly encourage everyone to try at least once in their life.

Going-To-The-Sun-Road Glacier National Park, Montana
I’ve been keeping an eye on the plowing at Glacier Here. and it looks like the “ideal” time to try and bike a good stretch of the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be near the End of April through around the 2nd or 3rd week of May.  Check out all the plowing pictures Here.  If you’re planning a trip, plan to bike on a weekend as this is what you’re looking for: “West side road crews will not be plowing on Saturday or Sunday, so there will be no hiker/biker restrictions in place this weekend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.”

Independence Pass, Colorado
As most people in Colorado know, Independence Pass is one of the most scenic passes in the U.S. and it connects Leadville to Aspen.  Every winter it’s closed due to snow, however for a couple weeks before they open the road to cars, the road is completely plowed and open to bikes!  This year the road is scheduled to open to cars on May 24th, so plan accordingly and get up there for one of the most incredible experiences you’ll have on a bike!

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Making it Happen – Ireland Bike Tour 2012

Post by: Jake
3/4/12

Last May I wrote an article titled “How to Have an Adventure – 10 Tips on Planning Your Next Getaway”. It’s more or less a collection of common sense advice on how to “make it happen”.  There always seems to be countless excuses that delay our big goals and bucket list adventures; and that list was wrote to help eliminate a few of the big ones like, “We can’t afford it” and “We just don’t have the time”.  As I was writing the article last year I became inspired to start planning something big.  I figured we too had the same list of excuses, mainly money and time; but I should be able to follow the list of tips and plan something epic.  And so it began!

When we started planning the next big adventure Veronica and I were in the heat of training for a triathlon, and were really enjoying the road biking component of the trainings.  So, why not do a cycle tour adventure?  It slows down your traveling pace, removes the windshield, and really puts you right into the local culture.  How better to instantly be thrown into the local scene then with a flat tire, bent rim or broken chain?

So, we decided to do a cycle tour, but where to go?  Immediately I started dreaming about cycling across the Alps, through Austria and Switzerland, and down into the valleys of Germany.  How romantic right?  Until I started thinking about getting WAY off the beaten path and asking locals for directions, or for a lift to a local bike shop to buy some spare parts.  The language barrier may become an issue, and while we had plenty of time to wait before we could begin our new adventure, I wasn’t about to sit down and learn German.   So, my gaze started shifting west, to the little island countries of the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Gently sloped terrain, beautiful sea coasts, tightly packed towns and villages, and best of all: everyone speaks English!  Initially we planned on touring through part of Ireland, then taking a ferry and touring through parts of Scotland, but now we are simply planning on seeing more of Ireland.

So with the adventure and destination set, money saved up, and time off from work secured, the only thing left to do was purchase airline tickets.  Last Tuesday, we bit the bullet and pulled the trigger on purchasing tickets.  Apparently, through doing some research, we learned that if you have a choice, the best time to fly is on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, (to avoid weekend, and some commuter Monday/Friday travelers) and if you can, purchase your tickets on a Tuesday afternoon.  It’s not totally fool proof, but for some reason, “on the average” that’s when flights are cheapest each week.

Well, that’s it.  We’re headed to Ireland over the last week of June and first week of July this summer.  We’ll be spending roughly 17 days touring through a large chunk of Ireland.  While there’s still loads of planning left to do and gear to secure before we leave; we hope you’ll stick around and vicariously adventure with us!  Over the next few months, we’ll post several updates on how the plans are progressing; and if you have any suggestions or ideas, as always we’re all ears!!!

 

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2012 International Snow Sculpture Championships

Post by:  Jake
1/29/12

Surreal.  The one word I would choose to describe the 2012 International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckinridge this weekend.  Although we didn’t have a chance to see the sculptures taking shape throughout the previous week, we did get to see the masterpieces just moments after the competition ended and judging began on Saturday.  For the past 22-years teams of 5 people from around the world have assembled at Breckinridge’s Riverwalk Center to carve artistic masterpieces out of a solid 20-ton block of snow.   This year, the 15 teams came from 12 different countries: Australia, Canada, Spain, China, Finland, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Estonia, Mexico, Switzerland, and the USA (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, and Wisconsin).

The event happens at the same time each year with a week of construction and a week of viewing.  This year, viewing will continue till Sunday Feb. 5th at 11:00p.m. at which time they will disappear.  If you can make it this year, do!  The sculptures are incredible.  Plenty of cold weather have made the conditions ideal for sculpting, and the teams have really outdone themselves this year!

 

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Buena Vista, CO – A Climbers Dream

Post by:  Jake
12/13/11

Traditionally, rock climbing is a spring through fall sport.  It’s tough to grip the rock when it’s covered in snow and ice, but even if you could find clean rock your hands get so cold they become useless stumps.  At least, that’s been my winter climbing experiences.  Yesterday, a couple new friends and I made the quick 20-mile drive south from Leadville to the sleepy (at least in Winter) community of Buena Vista, Colorado.  What we found was endless rock climbing routes.  As far as the eye could see in every direction, granite spires break up the horizon like skyscrapers in Manhattan.  Tower after tower of clean, hard granite.  A comfortable 30 degrees Fahrenheit in Leadville, Buena Vista was an even more comfortable +40.  Barely a flake of snow was present, while Leadville was blanketed with nearly a foot.  The southerly exposed rock faces were warm and dry.  Several routes later in the day we made our way to the summit of Turtle Rock and sat in awe at what our eyes gazed, literally thousands upon thousands of climbing routes on hundreds of spires; most of which lie within an easy drive and approach with any kind of vehicle.  Best of all, we only saw about 5 people the whole day and only 2 of them were climbing (the other 3 were mountain biking).

When Veronica and I moved to Leadville I was excited about the quick 4-hour drive from Moab as that meant warm weather and mountain biking and climbing during the winter.  Now, after adventuring in Buena Vista for the day, I’m super psyched and just had to share about its awesomeness!  If you’ve got cabin fever this winter, make the trip to BV.

 

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New Adventures — And FREE STUFF

Post by:  Jake
10/9/11

Thanks again for sticking with us through September while we moved to Colorado.  I’m working hard on setting up a sweet November give-away contest.   Any requests????  Also, I wanted to let everyone in on one of the next big adventures we have planned.

This spring or summer, Veronica and I have been planning for several months now to take a foreign travel adventure.  At first we were thinking about a European bike/train tour, but the more we started reading, the more we started falling in love with the idea of a Bike/Train Tour in Ireland and Scotland.  We’ll spend at least two full weeks traveling by train and bike around as much of the two countries as possible.   Flat tires, rough country roads, and lots and lots of rain will surely be encountered; as will colorful locals, incredible castles, and breathtaking scenery.

We hope you’ll stick with us, and enjoy what is to come.  As always, if you have any adventures you’d like to share, we’d LOVE to have you write a guest post.  Just shoot us an e-mail at OurEverydayAdventures@gmail.com

 

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Paragliding Adventure in Salt Lake- Our First GoPro Video


Post by:  Jake
8/7/11

Veronica and I just got back from the Summer Outdoor Retailer sporting goods show in Salt Lake City.  We’ve interviewed dozens of companies about their newest innovations and products and will be uploading photos and videos and a thorough show review over the next several weeks (lots of video editing to do).  We were pretty impressed at the new product innovations we saw and can’t wait to share them with you.

On our first day in Salt Lake, Veronica and I drove out to Point of the Mountain, just south of Salt Lake, for a paragliding adventure.  We purchased some 1/2 price vouchers off PlanetGear.com to go paragliding with Cloud 9 Toys but we both agreed after the adventure, it would easily be worth full price.

Before arriving we checked out some “not so great” youtube videos, and still didn’t have a great idea what to expect.  We showed up at 7:15 a.m. with eager smiles on our face.  We were greeted by several excited Cloud 9 guides, and quickly filled out lots of we-will-not-sue paperwork.  (That always inspires a lot of confidence right?)  Paperwork signed, we walked out to the edge of the launch area, a flat topped plateau with a steep grassy slope dipping to the south.   Several other paragliders were spread out along the edge of the slope.  Some were launching, some were setting up, some were simply waiting for wind conditions to pick up to extend their loft time.  Watching the pilots walk off the plateaus edge and start gliding effortlessly quickly calmed any nerves we had.  It appeared simple, graceful, and almost elegant.

Our turn came and our tandem pilots quickly, yet thoroughly, explained all the gear and the whole process from take off to landing.  It sounded simple enough,  ”just walk off the edge, sit back, and relax.”  Sure enough,  it was that simple,  yet a completely exhilarating experience.   The wind conditions weren’t perfect and we quickly lost elevation, landing in about 3-minutes following the easy take-off.  Our guides said it was too quick and wanted to take us up again,  we didn’t argue.  By the time we got back up to the top (shuttle truck), conditions were near perfect.  Veronica’s pilot needed to take one more client out that day, so they only spent about 10-minutes in the air during the second flight  My pilot was done for the day and wanted to spend a full 1/2 hour up.   We ended up riding the thermals efficiently and landed in the exact same spot as we took off.

A perfect new experience, and outstanding adventure.  We HIGHLY recommend paragliding if you’ve never done it.  We can’t speak for all companies and locations, but in our experience, it wasn’t “scary” in the least bit.  We always felt completely safe, yet had a huge adrenaline high during the entire flight.   If you’re looking for something new, give it a shot!  Check out the video,  this is our first video upload so if you’re having issues with it, check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2l6gut6VkM


embedded by Embedded Video

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Glacier National Park – Round 2

Post by:  Jake
7/15/11

Last weekend Veronica and I hoped back in the car for the 3.5-hour drive north to Glacier National Park for another fun weekend spent hiking and biking some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.  We played hosts to Pete and Kristin, a couple out of town friends that were visiting with their beautiful 2-year old daughter.  While our last trip to the park was only 3 days prior, the changes we saw between trips were certainly noticeable.  Snow bridges had collapsed, the high country was starting to open, and the water in the raging rivers had begun to recede.

During this trip we spent the first day hiking yet another brand new (to us) trail, this time to Sperry Chalet.  While I have been coming to the park nearly every year for the past 22-years, this easily accessible trail has always looked a bit too daunting to attempt till now.  6.7 miles of steady climbing up 3,300 feet of elevation gain take hikers from Lake McDonald lodge to the 98-year old Sperry Chalet.  While visitors with reservations can get a room for the night at the Chalet, it usually books solid for the summer several months in advance.  That means, to do a day hike to the Chalet you’ll need to hike a total of 13.4 miles up and down quite a bit of elevation.  While the Chalet wasn’t quite open when we arrived (due to the massive snow this year) we did talk to a few employees who stated on a normal day during the summer you can order a hot breakfast, a sack lunch, or a hot dinner from the diner.  Certainly enough motivation for me to come back! 

Our next day in the park we again biked the closed-to-vehicles Going-To-The-Sun-Road.  11-miles up and 11-miles back down on the west side of Logan Pass.  Magnificent views of snow capped peaks and lush forests, hundreds of waterfalls, and abundant wildlife make biking this road an absolute must-do for any cyclist.  As I said in an earlier post, every visit to the park is unique and this was absolutely true again as we saw not one, but two black bears! 

On our last day our intense friends ran a 1/2 marathon, just for the fun of it.  While they were running, we hopped on one of the new free park shuttle busses and rode to Apgar to grab some lunch.  After ordering a couple wraps, we lucked out by getting right back on another shuttle headed back to Avalanche.  We were told busses run an hour apart, so chances are pretty good that you could be waiting for quite a while for one of these busses.  Apparently, only 2% of the parks 2.5-million visitors use the shuttle system, and with an hour wait between tiny little busses it’s no wonder.  Additionally, a car filled with as many people as you can pack in costs $25 to enter the park while each and every biker is charged $15 each to enter! As Pete would say, Edward Abby is rolling in his grave!

Back at the car, we met up with our friends and did one last quick hike up to Avalanche lake.  Although I’ve hiked to Avalanche lake dozens of times, it never gets old.  I could sit at its shore for days staring up at the cliffs with cascading waterfalls pounding down, and mountain goats roaming.  If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of a moose down low or some grizzly bears roaming on the high snowfields.  For another perspective of this Glacier Park trip check out our friends blogs here and herePete is a hardcore super distance runner.  He’s been training all summer in the Wasatch mountains of Utah for a 100-mile trail run!  Kristin’s one of the most active mom’s I’ve ever seen, running 1/2 marathons for fun on vacation!  She’s got some outstanding perspectives on raising kids and staying active.

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