A Travellerspoint blog

Back to Back Half Marathon weekend

27-30 January 2018


After a LONG twelve hour drive from West Virginia, I arrived at the Marriott in Jackson, Mississippi just in time to get my packet for the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon. I arrived late so I virtually went to sleep in the hotel and woke up to start running. Unfortunately it was raining so all the runners lingered over breakfast trying to avoid getting wet. Before long we couldn't wait any longer and moved to the start for the playing of the National Anthem by an electric guitar.

The run was pretty nondescript with a lot of potholes in the roads requiring vigilance to not turn an ankle. One segment did go through a neighborhood with some antebellum houses that were worth looking at. By the finish everyone was soaked so there was not much lingering at the finish. I hit the food tent for a piece of pizza and a cup of rice and beans before leaving. Not only did I want a hot shower but also I needed to get on the road to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Gulf Shores was holding the Big Beach Half Marathon the following day.
I arrived in time to get my packet from the hangout, check in to the Best Western and make it to Papa Rocco's for a meet up dinner with the 50 States Half Marathon Group. Approximately 20 runners got together to have pasta and swap running stories. It was great to be around like minded people. Many were doing the back to back challenge.
The next morning looked like rain but it managed to stay dry for the duration. The last run in Gulf Shores was along the coast but this one ran on a paved trail through the park which got a bit boring. it did apparently have some hazards we needed to watch out for.
The final portion was along a boardwalk and a bit more scenic.
Finish line festivities were at the Hangout and I got to spend some more time with Nicki from South Dakota I met on the route and Pam who I met at dinner the previous night. After a beer and snack I was ready to get back to the hotel for a nap and some time by the ocean.
i had the Hangout for dinner as not much was open on a Sunday in Gulf Shores during the off season. I did some major shopping at the outlets on Monday and took a recommendation from someone to have dinner at Sea and Suds. i enjoyed some gumbo and steamed shrimp to round out the visit.

Posted by ErinDriver 18:39 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Greenbrier Resort

23-26 January 2018

overcast 20 °F

Thankful to be back in the United States and eager to see my parents again I took a road trip up to the historic hotel, The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. I made an overnight stop in Knoxville to break up the 8 hour drive and do some shopping.
We all arrived at the Greenbrier within 15 minutes of each other and it is certainly something to see when you first pull up. Even during winter it looks magnificent tucked in to the mountains. We checked in to the rooms famously decorated years ago by a famous designer, Draper. They are a bit much on the eyes these days but the entire hotel is very colorful and the staff is friendly.
Late afternoons are filled with tea and cookies which hit the spot at that time of day.
We walked around a bit to include the little chapel that is just adorable and still smells like wood.
And the location of the sulphur springs that first brought people to the area for its healing powers.
The winter package my Dad booked allowed $100 a day to apply to food, drinks or activities and we spent our first bit at Drapers for dinner. It’s a diner sort of place where I got a crab cake and some fabulous macaroni and cheese with bacon!
The Greenbrier also has a theater that plays movies every night and Mom and Dad were introduced to the minions with Despicable Me!
Day 2 starts with a buffet breakfast and our introduction to Thomas, our server who tries to bring Dad some trout for breakfast. He tells us about his ugly wife and that if he quit working he would die so he just keeps coming to work 5 hours a day for the breakfast service.
After getting full bellies I convince them to go on a walk on one of the easy trails on the property. They make it 2.5 miles and we are invigorated by the cold weather.
Our limbs come back to function with some hot chocolate upon return and we have some cheese and crackers for lunch. Because I was gone for Christmas we open presents before Mom and I go to the spa for our hot stone massages. This is simply marvelous and I smile like an idiot while my face is down in the massage table. We are done in time for tea and cookies before going to dinner at JJ’s Sports club. It is downstairs and a bit dark but we enjoy beer and a philly cheese steak. Mom and Dad secretly loved the minions so we head back for Despicable Me 2 😊
For the third day Mom and Dad are not so interested in walking so I go on a run of the trail myself. I love the clean and cold air before filling up on breakfast. The Greenbrier has a Christmas shop so mom and I take the shuttle and spend some time poking around the shop before taking a nap and having cheese and crackers for lunch again.
The Greenbrier was used in the past as a fallout shelter for a nuclear attack and they now give a tour of the bunker for 1.5 hours and $40. It is quite interesting to hear about how the shelter was kept secret for 30 years before a journalist spilled the story. The workers of the Greenbrier just thought an addition was being completed when it was actually going underground. It was to hold 1,000 people for 60 days and have everything needed to include riot gear, food, water, dining hall, hospital area, work out equipment and dorms. One of the stand out facts was that the medication most stocked by the pharmacy was antidepressants! We were not allowed to take our cameras or phones on the tour so no photos ☹
One thing they did mention on the tour that had nothing to do with the bunker was that the chandalier hanging in the bar area was from the set of Gone with the Wind, in Twelve Oaks.
The crystals at the bottom were even shaped like oak leaves in honor of Twelve Oaks.
For our last dinner we went to Prime 44 West which is a fancier place but I had heard rumors of the lobster mashed potatoes and I had to have them. Dad had the hugest piece of prime rib I have ever seen and I had lobster bisque, lobster popcorn and lobster mashed potatoes 😊 It was all washed down with Moscato, what could be better.
And then guess how we closed out the night…..Despicable Me 3! Mom and I went, Dad went to the casino and won over $1000.
The next morning I was leaving to drive to Jackson, Mississippi so I left early after one last breakfast and photo with our favorite server, Thomas.

Posted by ErinDriver 14:33 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Weekend in Chicago for the F^3 Half Marathon

sunny 45 °F

An easy 6.5 hour drive from Fort Campbell puts me in Chicago at dinner time on Friday night. I checked in to the Best Western Grand Park Hotel which was pretty awesome but does gouge you for parking. It is centrally located within walking distance of Soldier Field and the museums which is nice. They give me an upgrade in my room to a corner looking over Lake Michigan. It has a lovely doorman who suggests I get dinner at Lou Malnati’s and I take advantage of being in Chicago and have the deep dish pizza. The hotel gave me a coupon for free bruschetta which was fantastic.
The F^3 Lake Half Marathon is what brought me to Chicago and it had a late start at 1000 on Saturday morning. The race was well organized, allowed me to do race day packet pick up and even gave me a $6 military discount. The start was at Soldier Field and runners were allowed in the United Club right up until the start of the race so we weren’t waiting in the cold. It turned out to be a beautiful day for a run with a temp in the 40’s at the start.
The entire race was along the river on a running/biking path. It was a bit narrow at times as the route was out and back so at some points along the way runners were passing going opposite directions.
After a lunch of left-over pizza and a shower I walked over to the Shedd Aquarium. I had to stand in line longer than expected but was pleasantly surprised to be given a free ticket with my military ID. (regular price is $40). One of the neatest and most unusual things in the whole aquarium was the art work done out of recycled trash found in the area waters.
The rest of the aquarium has a variety of wildlife from all over the world. It was crowded on a Saturday but still a pleasant experience and I saw some things I have never before seen.
After a short nap it was time to eat again and I went with the second recommendation I got yesterday, Giordano’s was a short walk from the hotel and also famous for its Chicago style pan pizza. I couldn’t pass up what its known for so had another pan pizza with a beer from Chicago, Goose Island 312.

Posted by ErinDriver 18:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Kuwait City Gulf Bank Marathon

18 November 2017


About 22 people from my unit, the 86th Combat Support Hospital, ventured off post this morning to downtown Kuwait City for the Gulf Bank Marathon. It started at the Marina Mall which showcases some pretty amazing boats the Kuwaiti's are able to afford. To get to the start we had to walk all the way around the marina to the bridge.
Because the race started late there was plenty of time to look around at the people starting with us. The women were just beautiful. There was a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and full marathon all starting at the same time. I imagine with all the makeup and jewelry these women were wearing they had to be just doing the 5K.
The first loop of the race was beautiful with a large portion actually along the gulf. We passed by their cultural center, Grand Mosque and actually went through the souk. Some of the vendors were passing out grapes, etc to the runners. After the first half which was basically one big loop we then did four small laps which became VERY monotonous. It went past the towers but even they weren't impressive by the 10th time you passed them.

The volunteers were great but did seem to loose steam by the end of the marathon and just stood next to their tables. The finish was also a mind trick. It looked like it would be under the start banner up the little hill. But when you got to the top of the hill someone said its just down at the bottom by the flags. But when you got down to the bottom of the hill you had to make a left turn down the red carpet to the finish. Which was actually quite pretty.
There was no clock and my watch had died so I had no idea what time I got. Someone from my unit told me I got 2nd place female and I told her she must be crazy. She then pointed to the results board which did indeed list me as 2nd place.
Shortly after I got called to the stage area and there was an awards ceremony where we actually got to get up on the podium. I got a huge check for 600 KD which is like $2000! They also gave us flowers and another medal. Unfortanately we had to turn in the big check in exchange for a paper one.

Posted by ErinDriver 05:59 Archived in Kuwait Comments (0)

Shadow Marine Corps Marathon

22 October 2017

sunny 80 °F

Tim Pekari, one of the ortho PA's in the 86th Combat Support Hospital and a HUGE runner was able to coordinate with the Marine Corps Marathon for us to have a shadow race on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The route was a much more boring 26 miles of looking at dirt and brownness but it still gave approximately 120 people around the area something to train for and an accomplishment during their deployment.
Sun coming up on race morning.
The CSH mostly ran the event to include an expo the day before. He was able to coordinate the Marine unit to give us our medals at the end which was a very nice touch.
Overall it was a great race and we ended up with the same medal those who did the race in the US got :)

Posted by ErinDriver 06:29 Archived in Kuwait Comments (0)

Kuwait Zoo and 360 Mall

14 October 2017

sunny 90 °F

Anything animal is my kind of thing so I was pleasantly surprised by the Kuwait Zoo. It didn't have a great layout but it was only 500 KD or about $1.50 to get in. The animals were actually pretty active now that its a little cooler. I have never actually seen snakes moving around and here more than one was crawling up the side of the cage.
The iguanas were having breakfast.
The zebras were rolling around in their pen, the llama came prancing out, the lion was eating a piece of meat and the bear was sticking his tongue out at us.
Some of the Animals I didn't even know what they were and the sign postings weren't that great.
Swans were a hit for me and always so easy to photograph. I'm not sure who is in more danger though, the swan or the cat.
This bear was pacing all around on his butt to look up at us.
Can you find the alligator?
I love this sign reminding people not to feed their kids to the alligator.
Pink flamingos looked right at home.
SPC Pulos and SGT Alvarez constantly had to be watched to make sure they were following the rules :)
Myself and SPC Castillo at the entrance.
The crew at the zoo - CW3 Estrada, LT Kagiri, LT Hargrave, SPC Pulos, SPC Castillo, myself, SGT Alvarez.
After the zoo we went to the 360 mall which is 4- 5 stories with a bowling alley, IMAX theater and gym on the top floor, not to mention tons of stores.
And for some reason a white carraige surrounded by roses.
After eating Italian at Margharitas and having SPC Pulos (one of my medics) demonstrate how to properly pour water our group split up.
The kids went shopping and bought vans.
Four of the rest went to the bowling alley and played a couple games for 5 KD each in the nicest bowling alley we had ever seen.
They have bowling socks for those who aren't wearing any.
large_LT_Kagiri_..wling_socks.jpgThe chandeliers were beautiful and the place was very clean.

After dinner we ate again at the chocolate bar I had caramel coconut cake.

Sadly by 1500 it was time to head back to post and become the animals in the cage again :(

Posted by ErinDriver 07:08 Archived in Kuwait Comments (0)

Scientific Center and Arabella Restaurant Complex

22 August 2017

sunny 110 °F

I read the Scientific Center had an aquarium so when I saw this as an option for MWR I got on the trip. When we got off the bus the sun was just setting on the water so everyone pulled out their cell phones to get a photo. I think I am one of the only people that actually carries around a camera.
The aquarium is not that big but what they have is nice.

The entrance makes you think you are in the Sharknado movie!
Inside they have more than just fish. There is a section of birds, snakes to include a sand viper and even penguins.
The shark tank was pretty neat with the way it was lit and I could get a photo of Phil trying to photograph something else with shark right over his head.
The Scientific Center has a lot for kids but also an IMAX theater. We see a movie that exceeded my expectations on engineering around the world.

After the Center we hit Arabella Restaurant Complex and went for Italian at Nino's. In these restaurants you can almost pretend you aren't on deployment. Last but not least was more lotus sushi for dessert at the Chocolate restaurant.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:10 Archived in Kuwait Comments (0)

Sheraton Hotel, Kuwait City

17 October 2017


Phil Baldwin was having a birthday and wanted to go downtown to the Sheraton hotel which had a Persian Restaurant and an English Tea Room. So he took his ladies :) - me, Dana Nicholson and Heather Lorenz downtown. We arrived a bit early so took a lap around the neighborhood which had some interesting restaurants and what looked like the ghetto with the Marriott right behind it.
We took a look around the rest of the Sheraton hotel before our reservation for dinner at the Italian restaurant. The lobby is gorgeous and we found a bunch of ballrooms.
One was named after Dana.
And one had the hugest chandelier that I have ever seen.
Even the bathroom was amazing with built in foot massagers.
The Italian place was Ricardo's and felt like a five star place with white table clothes and light fixtures that looked like they were from Venice. The food was amazing, tasting just as good as it looked.
We got Phil a cheesecake for his birthday, not realized just how full we would be after the dinner.
Our next stop was to be the English Tea Room but we weren't counting on being so full so just had some tea.
The place was adorable with cute couches and even little covers for the tea pots.
It was all a great day until Phil contaminated everything by putting the leftovers from his cake on the contaminated container outside the hotel.

Posted by ErinDriver 06:06 Archived in Kuwait Comments (0)

Arabella Restaurant Complex

4 August 2017

sunny 120 °F

Another opportunity to get off Camp Arifjan is to sign up for one of the hospital trips. This morning a small group went the Kuwait Armed Forces Hospital which is sort of like our SAMMC or JBLM. The doctors discuss a few patient cases from the ICU, which was very claustrophobic. I was very glad to get out of there and move on to the Arabella Restaurant Complex which is right on the water. Believe it or not there is a Texas Roadhouse and Cheesecake Factory there but we wanted something a little different.
Four of us ended up in an adorable little Spanish Restaurant called Torero. For an hour or so it didn't feel quite like we were in the Middle East.
I had pasta in some foil which was interesting. The other nice thing about eating in restaurants here is the portion size. It is so much more reasonable than the American portion size!
For our after lunch dessert we moved on to the chocolate restaurant. This lotus sushi is a new favorite dessert and I wish I could get the recipe. It is SOOO sweet making a half portion just about right.

Posted by ErinDriver 10:01 Archived in Kuwait Comments (0)

Kuwait Towers and Mais Alghanim Restaurant

25 July 2017

sunny 125 °F

Camp Arifjan's MWR had a trip to the Kuwait Towers and Mais Alghanim Restuarant for dinner. These trips are always in the evening and it took us awhile to leave the post. We finally arrived at the towers at dusk and instead of going up inside them again I set out for some different angles. I don't know how well I succeeded but I feel like they look pretty cool at dusk.
I also went to have a look at the beach which is kind of dirty looking but the lit up coast line is pretty with the lights.
Just down the road from the towers is Mais Alghanim Restaurant which is a leading Arabic and Lebanese restaurant. The building is HUGE with two floors of restaurant. The door, lights, decorations are intricate and beautiful. Our group of people were put upstairs at a long table within view of two guys playing drums. All around people are enjoying their houka's and we even watch some women in burkha's trying to eat under their clothing.
I had some of that delicious hummus and bread before a shrimp dinner. One thing they have everywhere here is the lemonade with mint that is just great!. For dessert I tried Halewet Al Jebin which is an egyptian dessert. It turned out to be pretty disgustingly sweet but it looked pretty!
I went on the trip with Tina Braddock and Samantha Swehla who are both nurses with the Combat Support Hospital. What a fun night and a good diversion from deployment boredom.

Posted by ErinDriver 05:11 Archived in Kuwait Comments (0)

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