Tough Mudder

I read some think pieces about obstacle course races. They ask, why are people willing to spend $100+ to put themselves through pain for a few hours? Some say with modern, sterile, white-collar office jobs, people are not in tune with their bodies. They seek danger and excitement, and want to test their physical abilities. Anyway, I signed up because some computer science graduate students wanted to form a team, and I thought, “Sure, why not? I’ve never done one before.”

Before the race started, the MC gave a motivational speech. The gist of the speech was, Tough Mudder is not just a race, it’s a lifestyle and commitment to fitness. We all took a knee, not just the people from my school, but everyone, because we were all on the same team. We would help each other, perfect strangers, get through the race. It felt rather cultish. They played the Star-Spangled Banner. A man covered in tattoos exuberantly signed during the anthem.

It was raining, so the muddy course was even muddier. In addition, our team had a late start time, so the course was beaten down and slippery from all the previous racers. Despite running most of the time, I was numb from cold.

For the first obstacle, we had to army crawl through mud under barbed wire. I thought this was a suitable choice for the first obstacle, because it made me have no qualms about getting dirty the rest of the race. On the downside, it became harder to recognize my teammates, since everyone was covered in mud from head to toe.

I would describe most obstacles as people pulling me up and over things. I was pulled over a vertical wall, a rope wall, a curved wall, a human ladder, and multiple elevated banks while wading in water. I would not have been able to complete the race on my own. Some obstacles were not really obstacles. For example, one “obstacle” was running up and down a hill several times. Another “obstacle” was swimming across part of a lake. My favorite obstacle was “Block Ness Monster,” which consisted of large rectangular prisms in water. We had to work together to rotate and go over the prisms.

After the race, I couldn’t wait to shower and never do that again. But I know that time will soften the memories of hypothermia with a nostalgic glow, and in a moment of idiocy I will sign up for another obstacle course race, because “Sure, why not? Obstacle course races are fun.”

The Museum of Flight

I visited the Museum of Flight in Tukwila, which has a vast collection of aircraft spanning multiple decades.

In the Red Barn, we learned about the history of the Boeing Company. William Boeing started out building seaplanes, then moved on to building planes with cabins. He built a network of runways to send people to and fro. But then the Boeing Company was hit with an anti-monopoly ruling, so the company was split into two companies: the Boeing Company as it is today which makes aircraft, and United Airlines. William Boeing was upset that the government would want to break up a successful company, and so he ceased involvement with the business.

Great Gallery
Great Gallery

In the Great Gallery, various aircraft are suspended in the sun-dappled hall. One unique aircraft is the Lockheed M-21 Blackbird. Attached to the Lockheed’s back is a drone (the drone is significantly larger than modern drones, such as the 3-foot long drone on display in the Great Gallery that was able to circumnavigate the globe). The Lockheed M-21 Blackbird is the only one in existence, because the other Lockheed of the same model was a complete failure. Its mission was something straight out of a James Bond film. The Lockheed was to fly over the Soviet Union, then deploy the drone. The drone would collect information, then land in the Pacific Ocean, where it would be collected by a submarine. But what actually happened was, the drone was launched, then immediately crashed into the Lockheed, downing both aircraft.

Old Air Force One
Old Air Force One

In the Aviation Pavilion, there is an old Air Force one and a decommissioned Boeing 737 test plane.

Yakovlev Yak-9U Frank WWII fighter plane
Yakovlev Yak-9U Frank WWII fighter plane

In the Personal Courage Wing, there was a Yakovlev Yak-9U Frank WWII fighter plane replica, emblazoned with a tiger crushing a deer with Hitler’s face.

Hell

I went on my first-ever cruise for a friend’s wedding. I actually enjoyed it a lot, the all-you-can-eat food, endless activities and entertainment, no hassles with luggage. I sat in the front row of a comedy show, knowing full well that entailed. The comedian did an impression of me as a Chinese spy. And the audience had to guess which Asian country J is from (it took a while).

Even though the food was not amazing, I appreciated the upscale ambiance and excellent service by the waitstaff. We did all the onboard activities: the giant waterslide, mini golf, ropes course, mineral spa.

I had my worst karaoke performance of my life. Everyone clapped, because they were glad it was over. “You were slightly better than the girl before you,” J consoled. She was tone deaf.

On Grand Cayman, there are shuttles, more like small vans, that make circuits around the shore. You can hop on and off for a couple bucks. I hopped onto a shuttle and went to Hell, a small tourist trap area. There are interesting limestone formations caused by algae eating away calcium, leaving other minerals intact. I bet the place got its name from those stalagmites.

We couldn’t actually walk on or touch any of the limestone formations, we had to observe from a platform.

posing in Hell, Grand Cayman
posing in Hell, Grand Cayman

There was nothing else in Hell except a gift shop that doubled as a post office. The cashier, in a lukewarm and exhausted tone, told puns to each customer, like, “Have a hell of a time.” The building was covered in Bible verses, so as not to glamorize hell, but keep people on the straight and narrow.

Hell's gift shop
Hell’s gift shop

Hell was pretty boring. The most exciting thing was the chicken and iguana roaming the parking lot. They ran fast when chased.

We also stopped by Jamaica, Mexico, and some other ports, though frankly all the beaches were similarly pleasant. We won some Amazing Cozumel race. There was a team of elderly folk that was far better at solving puzzles, but we outran them in the end. Balloons fell from the ceiling. This was the first race I ever placed first in.

Cozumel
Cozumel

Discovery Park

I like to walk around Discovery Park when I want to get away from downtown Seattle, but not too far away. And lo, what a paradise it is. There is a 3-mile loop through forest and golden fields.  On the rocky north shore, I have seen dolphins and sea lions near the backdrop of a lighthouse and pungent waste treatment plant. On the sandy south shore, there is a view of the Olympics.

South shore
South shore

On one occasion, J was walking a few paces ahead of me. A cyclist coming from the opposite direction fell off his bike, crashing hard into the pavement, right in front of J. His arm and hand bled profusely. J offered his assistance.

When the cyclist was on his way again, I remarked to J, “You’re so handsome, I would have fallen off my bike too.”

Margaret’s Way

I hiked Margaret’s Way, a 6-mile roundtrip jaunt with 1,500 ft. of elevation gain. I stopped by each viewpoint. Supposedly, you can see Mt. Rainier on a clear day, but there was too much haze from the wildfires.

Margaret's Way viewpoint
Margaret’s Way viewpoint

The dirt trail is wide and well-maintained. And that is good. But frankly, I was disappointed by the payoff. At the end of the hike, I was not rewarded with beautiful panoramic views. At the end of the Margaret’s Way trail is another trail.

The end of the trail is another trail
The end of the trail is another trail

I walked a bit farther to Debbie’s view, where you can see surrounding mountains, though the view is obstructed by trees.

Debbie's view
Debbie’s view

The flora got repetitive: ferns, fallen logs, mossy trees. I was so excited to see any animal, even a slug. On the trail there were black slugs, banana slugs, even a garter snake.

Slugs
Slugs
Garter snake
Garter snake