Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rollin’ For a Cure in Northern California

This whole thing started over 6 months ago when I was contacted by the Swimstitute ( in Sacramento, California about flying out to help start up a log rolling program with Jamie Fischer. One thing led to another and Scott and Todd were planning a huge Huntington’s Disease fundraiser to promote the launch of log rolling in Northern California AND to raise money and awareness for Huntington’s research.

I was shocked and thrilled about how much time these guys (especially Scott!) were putting into this event. Here’s a breakdown of the weekend:

Our first morning here we did an entire morning of news shots with Bethany Crouch and Fox 40 news. You can see the footage here: (scroll to February 26th)
Molesting "Jack" in front of Lumberjacks Restaurant

This fun morning was followed by brunch and my new favorite restaurant in the entire world (sorry Laredos)- Lumberjacks! Not only is the food amazing and the décor like home for me, they show continuous footage of the STIHL Timbersport Series on 10 large flat screen TVs! It was so fun watching myself compete while eating. After dinner we went outside with Scott the owner and he let me climb to the top of “Jack” the lumberjack. On top of all of this, they donated a percentage of their sales to HDSA! I’m still giddy about how wonderful this restaurant was! Check out their website at: After another news appearance on the local NBC station and yet another wonderful meal at Lumberjacks, I crashed hard and slept like a baby.

Me and Jamie getting ready for our big event

Saturday was the day of the big event. My two life passions are lumberjack sports and raising funds and awareness for HD- and I now have TWO events that combine those! Many vendors showed up and Jamie and I educated the crowd about log rolling and Huntington’s Disease before hosting a celebrity filled beginners log rolling tournament. These celebs included Olympic gold medalist Jeff Float and Olympic triathlete Victor Plata. So cool! At the end of the event an older couple came in to check things out. They heard about the fundraiser on the news and having Huntington’s in their family, wanted to stop by. They were unaware of the large support network for HD families in the Northern California area, and were immediately connected with Penny the regional director. Now this family will not feel alone. I’m not sure how much money was raised, but personally, I’m not too concerned. This one connection made the entire event worthwhile.

Me convincing everybody in the audience they REALLY need to buy raffle tickets for the STIHL Chainsaw

Saturday night ended with a comedy show at Tommy T’s comedy club. They donated 100% of ticket proceeds to HDSA! They also let us sell raffle tickets for the chainsaw donated by STIHL and other wonderful prizes. People went CRAZY over these tickets! Jamie and I couldn’t sell them fast enough! A HUGE thank you to STIHL and other donors for this event.

Today I couldn’t stop smiling from all of the excitement. I taught three one hour lessons (of which the money was donated to HDSA- it never stops!) to some really fun locals. They are all very excited about the program starting out here.

I cannot thank Scott, Todd, and Penny enough for making this event happen. I’m also so grateful for Jamie to come and help out. Such a great weekend… I can’t wait to do it next year!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jayson William Patten Born February 12, 2010

@ 9:07pm. 7lbs 14oz, 20in long. This event is quite blog worthy. As I continue to goof around in life, my best friend Erin recently took another huge step forward. She gave birth to a beautiful son Jayson William Patten on February 12th. Her and husband Bob are doing great, and are already wonderful parents! Congrats to Grandparents Jim and Rene Hallen, Uncle Jamie Hallen, and all of the Patten family. Welcome to the world little Jayson!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

2/21/2010 Thank You

And now my list of people I want to thank for supporting this climb and making it possible.

First of all, this climb would not have happened without a slightly inebriated Liz Weber telling me I should do the climb while in my hotel room at the HDSA National Convention last June. After getting the “okay” from Nate, next thing I knew we were planning the second annual Kilimanjaro Klimb for the Kure! So a huge thank you to Liz Weber, Protus, Billy Aaron Brown, Heather Alimossy, and all of the 2009 climbers.

Next, I need to thank my teammates Nate Greenberg, Gretchen Greenberg, Ryan Desch, Peter Verstegen and Katie Verstegen. Without you guys I wouldn’t have made it. Your smiles, laughter, and constant encouragement got me to the top. Also, thank you for wiping our toilet seat, unlike those smelly Dutch folks.

And now, the corporate sponsors. I’d like to start by saying I did not approach one corporate donor for this event (hopefully HDSA doesn’t get mad about this). We relied 100% on donations from friends and family. Without even asking I was contacted by Duluth Trading Company (my lumberjack sponsor) to provide us with gear. They donated thousands of dollars of clothing and gear for our climb. You will see something donated by Duluth in every single photo. My personal favorites: the coyote sunglasses, the silk sleep sack, the new action hiking pants, the Smartwool socks, and the awesome Duluth underwear. I cannot thank everybody there enough. The next unexpected surprise was a $500 donation from STIHL Inc. What a wonderful company… not only do they sponsor one of our largest lumberjack competitions of the year, they also help me with my philanthropic endeavors.

And, just as I always do, I need to thank my dad. Once again he stepped up to help by driving us to and from the Chicago Airport. He also helped cover a few of my travel expenses. Thank you Daddy.

I cannot put into words how amazed and thrilled I was to see all of the donations that came in. You all are absolutely wonderful.

Mike & Lynn Lindau DeLargie Family Beth and Brian Donley Erin Patten Anne Flaten Lorna Kleidman Jesse D Gilbert Randy Hauer Tom and Glenda Gillihan Allison MacKenzie Jane Schmieding Kate Fischer Anonymous Jimmy Pollard Megan and Mike Kling Kathy sharp Nick, Kay, Fiona, sisters, and doggies Christine, Matt, Breanne & Kara Delisle Jeanne Engle Annette McDaniel Hallett Family Fiona Cahill Nick Berard Nora O'Brien Evie, Jen and Scott Lynch Jon Maseng Jack and Jodi Sherman Lara Olivia Judd Betty & John Moore (KY) Katie Cragg Jenny Atkinson Karen & Bill Brown Cathy Savage Debby StirlingHart Viau Family traci Pete Eng Ketchikan Cohos Log Rolling Team Steve and Pat Wolf Tamara Berg Mary Elizabeth Grimm Anna Greenberg Rachel Yates Caitlin Bradfield Andrea Spiel Margaret Whiting Randy Farley Jimmy SAS Nicole Desch Rhett Neuman SAS, Inc Tim, Stacie, Mars, and Pluto Eric St. Martin Brent Hanson Jon Seckinger Koho VanBerkel Family Ed Desch The Locks Paul Fisher Dan Kenney Deanna Hiew David Cates Candy Mears Megan Trumper Evan Groth Jessie Dewolf Sonya Heather Wheeler Schayna Peterson Adam Lenss Jackie Hehn Adam Lutz Karen and John Greenberg Anna Greenberg The Bjornson's Christina Rebekah Criswell

Finally, my largest thank you goes out to my mom and all of the HD families. You are all my motivation for EVERYTHING I do.
2/13/2010 Africa Days 11-12 Somewhere Over the Atlantic Ocean 29,527 feet (and I thought Kili was tough!) Our guides singing to us on the last day. I got a bit excited about this.

It’s all over. I’m on the final flight back to Chicago. I knew the trip would go by fast, but didn’t think it would be this fast.

Day 8 of our “climb” (steep downhill) we hiked for 3 hours down a well maintained path to the exit gate. We were all in good spirits and looking forward to a shower. After signing the registery at the main office we all piled into a fairly small van. To make “plus one” (yes he had to ride with us) uncomfortable, Gretchen and our assistant guides Peter and Freddy crammed in the back with him. After a surprisingly short ride back to Springlands, we all had fantastic showers (okay, I can’t speak for the others, but mine was great), lunch, followed by lounging by the pool with Fanta. I also had tome time to go to the internet and post my “Kili Training Program”. It’s a sure success.

As a favor to fellow personal trainers, I thought I should do my part and share the PERFECT program for training for this climb I just completed.

Days 1-5: Have client walk on a treadmill with a low elevation, while enjoying video of the most amazing views he or she has ever seen. (Diet: Same soup and porriage for all meals is ESSENTIAL)

Day 6:
1.Wake client up at 11pm, ensuring he/she has had less than 3 hours of sleep.
2. Set up stepmill outside in sub zero temperatures with gayle force winds.
3. Spin client around 30 times to ensure dizziness and nausea.
4. Smash client in the head with a mallet to achieve headache at migraine levels.
5. Put plastic bag over client's head to limit oxygen levels severely.
6. Have client climb stepmill for a minimum of 8 hours under these conditions.
7. After the climb, use mallet from step 4 to bash knees, simulating the steep downhill.
Wish them an enjoyable trip!

While online I also discovered I had well exceeded my goal of raising $2,000 – especially thanks to a large donation from STIHL Inc. I think I may start bleeding orange.

After another shower we went out to dinner with Bruce, his cousin, and our assistant guides Peter, Adam, and Freddy. We were served plates of grilled, greasy pork. I think the others were more thrilled than myself.

Bruch got a bit emotional (probably the beer) and handed out our climb certificates indicating we made it to the top. We had been joking about the “Golden Ticket” to the Chocolate Factory the entire trip and we finally had them! Bruce also had braclets made for us- complete with our names, the Tanzanian flag, and the US flag. I foowed this ceremony up with a handstand contest with Freddy. He beat me at elevation on Shira Plateau but with all of my oxygen I was able to smoke him.

Bruce then took us to some bar where Katie managed to cheat at pool and crack us all up. By the point we were all practically sleeping on the table, we finally went back to the hotel.

Our last day in Africa we caught the shuttle to Moshi with our amazing guide Nate Greenberg. He took us to the least freaky souvenir shop and Ryan and I got a few things for family. We then went to the market which was quite the experience. I understand I am a dumb American who just pretends my meat magically appears- and I hoped to keep it that way. Dead fish, chickens being butchered, liver, intestines, blood everywhere- wow- it was NOT pretty. I thought of Fiona the vegetarian and started to think it wasn’t such a bad idea… until my fantastic hamburger for dinner. :)

We then caught a van to this hidden spring called Chemka that Nate discovered a few weeks back. Despite the fact our doctors warned us not to swim in open water in Africa, these springs were too refreshing to pass up. Please let me know if you see a worm crawling out of my nose. The sun was shining, the water was sparkling blue, there were little fish everywhere, and branches to swing around in like monkeys.

On the drive back to Springlands (1.5 hours on dirt roads) Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” came on the radio while poor children were yelling, waving, and running alongside our vehicle. Most of these kids have nothing yet NOT ONE of them looked unhappy. Money does not buy happiness. What a surreal way to end this trip.

Now we are 5 as Ryan caught a different flight in Amsterdam. In a few hours we will land in Chicago to return to our normal (okay, who am I kidding?!) lives. We did it. We really did it.
2/10/2010 Kilimanjaro Climb Day 7, Africa Day 10
Mweka Camp 10,000 feet

We did this for the thousands of families suffering with HD.

We made it. “That which does not kill you will make you stronger.” This mountain came darn near killing us last night/this morning, so we better be a LOT stronger.

We were woken up at 11pm with a small breakfast of Tea- thank goodness I brought oatmeal and hot chocolate. We hit the trail around midnight under the beautiful stars. For the first hour we were all pretty stoked- singing and chanting- up the VERY steep grade. During hour 2 it started to become quite cold and we quieted down significantly. By hour 3 I thought I was going to die. I was so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes, there was no oxygen to breathe, I was so tired I wanted to lay down and fall asleep, my legs were exhausted, my stomach was turning, and we still had 5 – 6 more hours to climb. We took several breaks where Nate had to force feed me (literally, my hands didn’t work) and give me water. If it wasn’t for him taking care of me, I wouldn’t have made it.

After I got some water in me I felt a bit better. At that point I kept looking down at my feet focusing on one foot in front of the other. Every time I wanted to turn back I remembered why we were climbing. My mom will never get the chance to do something like this. And 11 hours of suffering is nothing compared to what all of the HD families have to go through.

At hour 4 many of the others started to fade as well. At one point Bruce announced we were only 45 minutes to Stella Point followed by only an hour to the peak. This gave me a new found energy. After a freezing cold bathroom stop (seriously, it was terrible) at Stella Point – we slowly hiked to Uhuru Peak. We were fooled several times thinking the peak was right ahead. I walked fast only to be disappointed. FINALLY we made it. At this point all I could think of was food and how cold I was. It took all we had to unroll the HDSA banner and pose for a photo. Nate and I didn’t even do our “random handstand” photo or even just a photo of the two of us. The whole thing is honestly a big fog. All we wanted to do was get back down to camp. Not only were we exhausted, we also had to walk STRAIGHT DOWN that the damn mountain.

I was shocked my new(ish) knee held up fantastically – despite how tired my muscles were. THANK YOU UW SPORTS MEDICINE PHYSICAL THERAPY! After 3-4 hours of sliding down the mountain, we had a short nap and lunch before another 4 hour hike down the mountain to our next camp.

Now, half asleep and proud of ourselves we are enjoying our dinner with wine and Kilimanjaro brand beer in our food tent. We are all feeling better but VERY sleepy.

As proud as I am of what we accomplished today, I will NEVER climb this mountain again.
2/9/2010 Kilimanjaro Climb Day 6, Africa Day 9 Barafu Camp 15,000 feet

There is no f*%$#@g oxygen up here. It takes all of the energy I have just to get dressed. Walking to the bathroom requires a 5 minute rest. Other than that, the short day today has been a blast. Gretchen mastered saying, “I want it doggy-style” and I chime in with “right now *expletive expletive*”. We literally went through this with every porter and guide. This paired with other random Swahili expletives every few minutes had all of the Africans on our trail cracking up and all of the Muzungu very confused. We also mastered “I want you”, “I want your body” and “I loooooooooove you”. Laughing makes this whole oxygen issue a bit harder to deal with, but it’s totally worth it.

A helicopter rescue at 15,000 feet. This made us somewhat nervous.

We had a tough, short, but obviously amusing hike to camp today. After lunch I went off by myself on a acclimatization hike up about 1,000 feet. My head hurt a bit at this point, but nothing horrible. Then sleep.

Tonight we get up at 11pm to begin our hike to the summit. We have to climb 4,000 feet in 8 hours. This will quite possibly be one of the biggest challenges of my life. Katie just declared she will not eat much tonight so that she won’t be too heavy for Nate to carry.

Katie also found it funny to lock me in the “tourist toilet” (hole) because is locks from the outside. Rather than helping me Nate filmed the scene on his camera. Funny guys, really funny.

Okay, off to bed for a few hours of sleep.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2/8/2010 Kilimanjaro Climb Day 5, Africa Day 8 Karanga Campsite 3,200 feet

“Toto was full of shit. I don’t miss the rains in Africa at all.” - Peter Verstegen

What a difference a day makes. Today we all felt amazing. The sun stayed out during our entire hike over the Barranco Wall and we saw the most amazing views. We are above the clouds and it really looks like heaven. Then Katie pointed out that it couldn’t be heaven because I talked too much and drove her crazy.

Peter trying to throw me off of the top of the Barranco Wall

Every turn we had a more amazing view - waterfalls, cliffs, caves, flowers, clouds, and Mt. Meru in the background.

In our higher spirits we officially gave everybody their nicknames:
Gretchen= Cankles
Nate= Alpa 1
Ryan= Hippo
Shana= Rhino (Thanks Nate)
Peter= Mr. Katie
Katie= Mrs. Peter
Dickhead= Plus One = Asshole= Grumpy old man

Gretchen our fantastic guide. Kuma mayo.

After this Gretchen traded backpacks with Bruce and became the guide. She did a hysterical impression of Bruce and he played a good tourist. The two of them bantered the last hour of our hike. It all began when he tried to put rocks in her day pack and she hit him with her trekking poles.

After lunch in camp Nate and I took a beautiful hike straight up. From up there it really looked like we were on the moon.

Spoons turns violent

When we came back down everybody was playing a mean game of spoons- which I quickly jumped in and won. :)

I had a fantastic nap while Bruce taught Gretchen to tell the porters “I want it doggy style.” They loved it.

I dropped down to a half pill of diamox. For some reason I feel like I lost by having to take it but it’s the difference between climbing in main and misery and enjoying my days here. And I have not been peeing as much as I thought I would!

Tomorrow we only have a 3 hour hike but it’s straight up. The next night we have to get up at 11:30pm to begin our hike to the summit. Yikes! Now… time to rest up.
Kilimanjaro Climb Day 4, Africa Day 7
Barranco Campsite 13,500 feet

This morning I was looking forward to wirting a journal entry about how good I’ve been feeling and how easy this trip has been so far. Everybody but Nate felt like hell while I was singing, dancing, and doing handstands.

The day started out with handstands

Hiking down from Lava Tower in the Rain

The hike began and things went downhill from there. My head began pounding at about 14,000 feet. We had lunch near the Lava Tower (I didn’t feel too bad at this point) and the rain started coming down. We hiked to Lava Tower- but couldn’t see it until we were up close because the clouds were so dark and rainy. The rain continued to come down as we hiked from Lava Tower (15,200) to our next camp (13,500feet). I was hoping my headache would go away as we descended into camp. We got in (soaking wet) and I tried to lay down. At that moment I thought I was going to die. Tears flowed as I did everything I could to keep my brains from coming out of my eyeballs. Our guide told me to suck it up and take the diamox (altitude meds). I had made a personal goal for myself not to use it on this trip- but the awful pain took precedent. About 15 minutes after the drugs I was finally able to sleep. That stuff is amazing. The big side effect is frequent urination. With my tiny bladder this should be an interesting night.

Jornaling on the Toilet

Speaking of urination we just busted folks from another group (today we merged with the Machame Trail so this campsite is really full) using our private toilet. Out guide was so upset he had some of our porters move the toilet tent. They moved the tent before the toilet so to make a point I went over there and wrote part of this jornal entry sitting on the wide open toilet.

I do have a feeling I will come home heavier than ever. They keep reminding us to eat as much as possible to prevent altitude sickness. Bad combo for Shana- my favorite thing of all time is eating and my phobia is vomiting. So needless to say I’ve been stuffing my face non stop. Food is great though!

Now we are going to eat dinner and get some sleep. After today’s headache I’m getting very nervous about the rest of the climb. But I WILL make it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kilimanjaro Climb Day 3, Africa Day 6
2/6/2010 Moir Campsite 13,500 Feet

Always. Wear. Sunscreen. Hopefully I can learn that before I turn 30. I have 3 weeks. Yesterday through the haze, I managed to burn the heck out of my neck and arms. I am now a true redneck- but don’t count on me voting for Palin. Other than the sunburn and slight headache, this hike has been nothing short of amazing. Today we hiked over the Shira Plateau. We are now in Moorland climate. No more trees just shrubs, large rocks, and beautiful flowers. My new favorite flower is a white one called the everlasting. We also saw lobelia- which is a beautiful plant that opens up during the day for sun and shuts at night for protection from the cold.

Our amazing view of the mountain kept us going despite our headaches. In the middle of the night I woke up to use our toilet (it’s actually pretty neat- it even sort of flushes!) and saw the most amazing site- the mountain peak lit under moonlight with billions of stars above. Apparently I was so excited about this view I didn’t realize my Duluth silk sleep sack (my favorite thing EVER) was stuck in my pants. Upon return to my tent I tore the whole thing apart looking for my sleep sack. This morning I found it laying in front of our toilet. I hope nobody peed on it!

During today’s hike I really mastered the Go-Girl, which is going to come in handy as we get into colder weather. Apparently the “shake” is key.

Back at camp today we all felt our heads and the rain really came down- perfect opportunity for napping. After my fantastic nap Nate helped me wash my hair in the freezing cold stream. BRRRRRRRR! But I feel so clean! Right now we are all in the dining tent. Gretchen is playing cards with our guide Bruce and he keeps cheating! Nate has been searching for dirty words on my travel Boggle for the last 30 minutes.

In all seriousness, the view of the peak and glaciers right now is phenomenal. We seem so close!

The next few days will be challenging yet rewarding. I’m sure I will be able to keep going- I’m doing this for my mom.
2/5/2010 Kilimanjaro Climb Days 1 – 2, Africa Days 4 – 5
Shira 1 Camp 11,500 feet

Two days of climbing and we are doing well! Katie had a terrible reaction to her Malaria meds and was very ill the night before out climb. The morning of climb day her and Peter decided to not join us. We were all crushed.

We left an hour late (we wanted to make sure Katie would be okay) only to see our grumpy “plus one” was pissed in the van. After a three hour drive, we made it to Londorosi Gate. On the way there Gretchen and I tried to ride on the truck the porters were on. It was wide open and they were crammed in the back- I tried hanging off of the support bar- it broke and I fell off of the truck! So much for losing weight on this trip…

At the gate we hopped into our Land Rover and had the ride of our lifetime to the Lemosho gate. I haven’t laughed and screamed so much in a long time.

We had a beautiful 4 hour hike through the jungle- monkeys and all! At camp we had to wait a bit because the truck carrying the porters broke down. But finally tents and bags! Our “plus one” freaked out on our guide for making him wait. And because he did not properly waterproof his bag- all of hi things were wet- once again he yelled. For dinner he gave us all dirty looks and took his food into his own tent. Our guide was so upset he called for another guide to take grumpy “plus one” off by himself. Now we were 4.

I had some amazing sleep (other than “plus one” snoring in the tent next to us) and discovered the value of earplugs. After a fantastic breakfast we had a beautiful 7 hour hike up the Shira Plateau. We left the jungle after about an hour of hiking and switched into the “Heather” climate above the tree line.

Our guide’s phone rang (he gets service up here!) and we got word that Peter and Katie were meeting us at the Shira campground! I was so happy I yelled. There was an emergency road they drove them up and they only had a 2 hour hike to our camp. Katie is much better and we are all together again!

Now we are sitting at camp enjoying popcorn and hot chocolate as a goofy group. Other than a slight sunburn and headache I’m doing well so far.

Tomorrow- Shira Plateau to 12,500 feet!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Africa Day 1: Good Things Happen! 2/1/2010

We finally made it! After months of planning, thousands of dollars raised and an amazing corporate sponsor- I am in Africa with 5 of my closest friends. We couldn't have had a smoother trip so far.

While joking about where to pick up the box I will be shipped back in- very funny daddy- my dad drove me and Gretchen to O’Hare to catch our flights. We survived over 24 hours of travel, flying through Amsterdam, Nairobi, then finally to Kilimanjaro. The two of us were like little kids excited to go to Disney. Sleep was impossible- and I am normally a VERY good flight sleeper! In Amsterdam we managed to make a scene with Ronald McDonald (photos not appropriate for web viewing), laugh at people for snoring in the lounge chair section, spend WAY too many euros on Africa books, and running around like fools. We made it in around 11pm with our faces pressed against the plane windows looking at Kili under a full moon. When I previously said our trip was smooth, I left out the fact our luggage was lost and we had a one hour dirt road (bumpy!) ride to our hotel while having to pee like nothing before! Life was wonderful again when we were reunited with Nate and the others.

The next morning everything fell into place. We were informed our baggage made it in, we had an AMAZING breakfast, we found internet to update friends and family, and best of all we were upgraded from a camping safari to a lodge safari.

Our Safari began with a 4.5 hour drive to Lake Manyara National Park. Because I had only slept about 2-3 hours, I took this opportunity to nap. Before getting to the park, we saw our first beautiful animal- a Giraffe crossing the street right behind us. In the park we were immediately greeted with baboons and blue monkeys. I tried desperately to steal one of the blue monkeys, but they wouldn't let me touch them! Maybe tomorrow...

After the monkeys came the elephants. Followed by more monkeys, wildebeests, hippos, zebras, dik diks (hehe), and many more. I couldn't believe how close to the vehicle they came!

By around 4pm we were all getting quite hot and the jet lag was really setting in. When we were brought back to the lodge our jaws hit the floor. This place is AMAZING! For Africa we have two nights of total luxury. The swimming pool and beautiful view brought renewed energy.

After an amazing dinner we are all going to go and play games. Life is good, this trip is better. Tomorrow... the Ngorongoro Crater.

Day 2: Ngorongoro Crater 2/2/2010

Kitties!!! Today was the day. I finally saw lions and a cheetah in the wild. I obeyed orders and did not try to pet them- but they rubbed right up against out vehicle!

After a fantastic night of sleep (finally!) and a wonderful breakfast at the Highview Hotel- we set our for the Nogorngoro Crater. We were told the crater used to be a mountain larger than Kili. Now thousands of animals migrate in the crater. After a beautiful drive in we immediately saw Zebras, Wildebeest, African buffalo, warthogs (Pumba!), and Thompson Gazelle. We literally saw animals non-stop - no shortage at all of Zebras, buffalo, and wildebeests. Our first big treat was getting up close and personal with several lionesses- these ladies laid down right next to our truck! Then came the Ostriches, hyenas, hippos, hartebeests, Elephants, Jackals, flamingos, and many beautiful birds. On our way to lunch we finally found our cheetah he (or she) was only out for a few minutes.

Lunch was hysterical. We ate by a body of water full of hippos- and were told to stay in the vehicle with our food due to the birds. We took a walk down by the water to have our warning proven by watching a group of Mzungu having their food stolen and bodies attacked by large birds. Nate got some pretty hilarious video.

After lunch we got to see a very rare site- 2 Black Rhinos with their young. Due to the value of their horn (Nate said it's more valuable than inkjet ink) there are only 25 left in the crater.

I then did what I do best in moving vehicles... fell asleep. Luckily I didn't miss much but was quite impressed that I could sleep on those bumpy roads! I managed to sleep all the way back to the hotel.

Now we are enjoying life sitting by the pool and recapping the day filled with animal babies, spraying hippos, and large amounts of rhino urine. As much as we prepared for roughing it - this lodge upgrade is unbelievable. The pool is refreshing, food is amazing, the cooler temps at this elevation allow for wonderful sleep, and the local Maasi are so friendly. Speaking of the locals, Gretchen and I are about to hike into the nearby village and play with the children. Tonight I will sit down and devise a plan to catch my monkey at Tarangire Park.

Day 3: Dirty Mongooses 2/3/2010

No monkey. But at Tarangire we came close! Let me back up to the stroll through the Maasi village last night. Gretchen and I never felt more popular in our lives! Our stroll started with a dog following us, then a dog and a child, then 2 dogs and 3 children. Pretty soon we were leading a parade through the village! The children were so nice and spoke very good English. There was still quite the language barrier- and at one point Gretchen and I were quite sure they had us swearing in Swahili.

As Nate always said, smiles and laughter know no language. The next hour was full of just that. They loved getting their pictures taken and looking at them on the camera. I decided to show off by doing cart wheels and was amazed at the gymnastic ability of these kids! Near the end of our walk we gave them gifts which they got VERY excited about. What an amazing experience and what wonderful people.

This morning we set off on our final safari to Tarangire Park. There weren't as many animals here as in the Crater but the ones we did see were unreal. Elephants were everywhere! All sizes and ages bathing, throwing dirt, scratching on rocks or "charging our vehicle" (at least we thought they were). But the highlight of the day had to have been the mating banded mongooses with bright blue balled Vervet monkeys watching from above. Sick I tell you- but worth a good 30 minutes of laughter. The Vervet monkeys also had some VERY tiny babies who were just adorable. It was at this point Nate agreed to taking one home- but I'm not quite sure if it was the cuteness or their enjoyment of porn that sold him.

After the mongoose show we saw more elephants, Impalas, warthogs (more pumba!), birds, waterbucks, and giraffe. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch while watching elephants bathe- then our long drive back to Moshi.

We sat through the Kili orientation meeting only to find out they stuck some random old annoying guy who is traveling by himself with us. We decided to make the best of it and will hopefully find many good qualities about him soon. Hopefully.

Our guide is Bruce and Gretchen and I already did a good job of freaking him out by explaining how our Go-Girls work. Speaking of the Go-Girl, I had my first experience using it in Africa today and failed miserably. We stopped at a gas station that just had a hole in the ground to go in (I will never complain about Kwik Trip restrooms again). I proudly walked in with my Go-Girl and out with urine all over my pants. Guess I need more practice.

But- off to bed for me. Tomorrow begin our 8-day Kilimanjaro climb up the Lemosho route! Here we go!
-Morning update- Katie is very sick. Her and Peter may not be able to join us. Please send good thoughts her way.