How I’m Hacking My Sleep

A little over a year ago I became curious about how to hack my sleep.

Not in the sense of “How can I cram eight hours into four?” or one of those medieval schedules where you wake up at 2am for a meal and two hours of merriment before returning to bed until 7.

No, I just wanted to learn more about my sleep and what affects it. The more I knew about those effects, the more I could improve.

Here’s what I did: Continue reading How I’m Hacking My Sleep

Family Weekend at Bryce Canyon National Park

Since my recap of family camping at Capitol Reef National Park seemed useful to a lot of folks, here’s another from a recent trip to Bryce Canyon National Park.

  • Camping

If you want to camp in the park, arrive early. We showed up at around 12:30 on Friday and got the absolute last spot in the North campground. Based on the amount of vehicles we saw the rest of the day driving in circles, looking for spots, we probably got the last spot in the park.

The north campground was less wooded than the sunset campground, which seemed a bit more quiet and remote. But the north was peaceful and quiet, with the exception of the sounds of me moaning out obscenities as I destroyed tent stake after tent stake.

See, when we first arrived there was a looming storm cloud. One of the first lessons of Camp Club is you do not get stuck outside in a thunderstorm. So I figured I had an hour to get the tent and camp set up so we could get back in the car and hide.

When I was shopping for tents, Amazon always said people also purchased extra tent stakes.

I love our Wenzel 8-person tent, but it came with kid stakes. At the soft ground of the RV park near Capitol Reef these did fine.

But Bryce’s North Campground is built upon the hard rocks that also comprise the foundation of hell. And I mangled and gnarled nearly every stake I had, along with most of the English language.

It took me a long time and several blisters but I finally got the damn tent to stay in place just before the rain came.

Protip: That evening we bought some thicker stakes from the Tru Value in Tropic for $5. Okay deal, but the General Store within Bryce had them for $3.50. In fact, we found most things at the General Store were really reasonably priced, including the fresh pizzas.

The Bryce Canyon Lodge within the park looked really nice, especially after my tent ordeal. The place is surrounded by cabins of varying sizes, and features a buffet restaurant and pizza parlor. If you don’t get a tent spot, or you’re just tent-averse, this would be a cool place to stay. You’re literally at the doorstep of the best viewpoints and hikes in the park.

Another option would be to head to Bryce Canyon City just outside the park. The city is basically the Ruby complex, named after one of the earliest settlers of the park and the first family to accommodate visitors there. I’ll cover our interaction with the Ruby Industrial complex below, but they operate a huge hotel, RV park, and even a few teepees you can stay in.

But yeah, try to get into the park.

  • Hiking

After we finally got the tent settled and the storm cleared, we had plenty of time to explore the Visitor’s Center and take a short hike.

We started with the Mossy Cave Trail just a few miles down Highway 12 outside the park. It’s a short, easy hike that leads to a neat cave, but the real star is the waterfall halfway into the hike and the little stream it feeds.

mossy cave bryce canyon2

 

We stopped and played around the waterfall, then took our shoes off and waded in the stream.

 

mossy cave bryce canyon

After dinner, we drove (it’s juuust a bit too far to walk with little kiddos) over to the lodge for a Ranger program on the prehistoric ocean creatures that swam through the region millions of years ago. Really interesting, but the room was dark, warm, and easing into those soft seats your eyes get a bit heavy and…

After breakfast on Saturday we set out to venture into the Canyon on the highly recommended Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop combination trail.

This was a moderate hike and parts of it were a bit steep. Hold on to your kiddo on the descent. And make sure to bring lots of water. We actually saw a lady pass out from (I’m guessing) dehydration. And do the trail counter-clockwise as the brochure suggests.

It’s a diverse trail – part rocky hoodoos, part forest. Lots of people, and more languages than I’ve ever heard in a single place – even more than Disney World. There had to be some sort of discount trip for German and French guests that weekend.

Toward the end of the hike you get the option to either go through Wall Street or Tower Bridge. I’m sure Tower Bridge is near, but Wall Street is a mind blowing narrow canyon that seems to climb forever along narrow, short switchbacks. It was manageable for the kids, but once you get to the top it’s intimidating to look down.

 

wall street bryce canyon

After that another rainstorm descended upon the park, so we hopped in the car and drove to farthest end, Rainbow Point. We didn’t want to risk getting struck by lightning, so it was a “get out, look, and get back in” operation. On the way back to the campsite we checked out the Natural Bridge, which was way cool and underrated.

natural bridge bryce canyon

 

The one “active” thing we didn’t get to was the bike path. There’s a paved trail that winds all the way through the park, as well as the Red Canyon forest that surrounding it. Next time we come we’ll bring bikes, as it looks like a pleasant, 22-mile ride.

  • Bryce Canyon (town)

While the rain continued unabated Saturday night, we went to the Ruby’s compound in town for ice cream and time-killing. The ice cream was okay (the servers were more interested in the cute bro in the flat-billed hat than my crew) and the little general store across the street has lots of little interesting things to check out. And many, many meandering German folks.

Protip: Don’t fill up you tank in Ruby, stop in Panguitch or any of the other small towns in between. This particular weekend there was a $.40 difference per gallon outside Bryce Canyon City.

  • Ranger Programs and Visitor Center

The Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor’s Center is big but packed, with lots of little trinkets and souvenirs, along with some interactive displays and the standard dark, sleepy movie theater. We liked this thing, however:

IMG_5675

 

The best part is the rangers, who as usual are helpful and funny. Sign your kids up for the Junior Ranger program, as well as the “Hike the Hoodoos” game. If you hike 3+ miles and take photos with at least three specially-marked signs, the kiddos get a special gift from the Rangers.

While at the park we took in two ranger programs. The first was the aforementioned prehistoric ocean creatures talk. The second, part of our ongoing rain-avoidance efforts Saturday night, was the astronomy program. While the storm prevented any stargazing, it was still a good talk about big, intimidating topics such as the size of the universe and how humans are like an atom on a piece of sand in a gigantic damn ocean of infinity!

But some bats got into the auditorium and constantly flew in front of the projector, so the kids lost their damn minds and didn’t catch most of the presentation.

Overall, Bryce Canyon National Park is a lot of fun and totally doable with kiddos. It has a lot of easy and moderate hikes, good ranger programs, lots of deer and critters wandering around, and there are enough distractions outside to provide needed decompression breaks when needed.

If you’d like to see more photos from our trip, here’s a link to my Google Photos album.

 

bryce canyon sunrise

(This is just behind the North campground, at sunrise on the Sunday we left)

Eat Slower, Eat Less

Portion size has always been a bastard for me.

To a certain point, you can eat whatever you want – fried chicken topped with chocolate frosting and whipped cream? Yeah, have it – but you don’t have to eat the whole thing, and you probably need to adjust your meals around it to avoid wrecking your entire diet.

I never could do that. I’d eat that chicken and still want more.

Getting over that portion insanity was the biggest factor in my weight loss. To do it, I did two things:

  1. Tell myself that what was on my plate was enough. Like my cheesy “great morning” trick, brains can be told what to do.
  2. Eat slower. The slower I eat, the quicker I become full, the more I enjoy the food, the less I eat overall.

In my mind, I can eat just about anything if I follow these two rules. The first is simple, just a shift in mindset.

Eating slower requires a little effort, though. It’s hard to be deliberate when you’re having something really damn good. I would have the next forkload ready while still chewing on a bite.

But food tastes better when you take your time with it. And you eat less, BUT will take some home for later. TWO MEALS. MMMMMM!

Here are two tips to eat slower that I use at every meal now:

  1. Put your fork (or spoon) down between bites – It sounds easy but it feels really weird. It’s so much damn effort to reach all the way down to pick up that fork. But putting it down forces you, in a way, to take your time with te bite currently in your mouth. INTIMATE CHEWING.
  2. Make eye contact with someone at the table while you take a bite – Holy crap this one is weird but it works really, really well. You just can’t eat like a dire bear when you’re looking at someone and they’re looking for you. It works though. You take smaller bites, you chew slower, you actually listen to conversation. Don’t get creepy with it though. Only stare at someone every other bite.

Weight loss, looking and feeling better: Count calories. Exercise. Eat better stuff. And eat it slower.

The Wonderful World of Slow Driving

Imagine you’re walking down a crowded sidewalk. Someone juts in front of you, causing you to take a quick stutter step.

The person in front keeps walking, faster than you. No apologies or acknowledgement of their close call.

Chances are you’re going to jump all over them. Walk right behind them, while loudly telling the guy what a lousy son of a bitch he is and flippin’ the bird.

I bet you’d walk alongside him, yelling at him about what a shitty walker he is.

You’ll probably run to get in front of him, then abruptly stop walking. Show that rat bastard you mean business on the sidewalk!

You’d do all these things, right?

No?

Then why in the hell are you doing things like that in your car? Continue reading The Wonderful World of Slow Driving

Why You Have to Practice the Open Water Swim (Triathlon Training)

If there’s one part that most new triathletes bristle at, it’s the swim. And for good reason – most people aren’t regular swimmers.

And to be morbid, it’s the stage you’re most likely to die in.

So we get in the pool and swim laps in preparation. We get to where we can knock out a mile or so, and think we’re ready. Getting to swim with a wetsuit is like a cheat code!

Then race day comes.

And you can’t see the bottom of this pool.

And you’re getting beaten in the face by someone’s feet. Someone punches your ribs. Another person is grabbing at your feet.

You’re pumping as fast as you can, and your breathing simply will not catch up.

So you change up your stroke, maybe roll over to your back for a moment. And now, you feel dizzy, drunk.

And that’s when you realize you’re only 200 yards in. Continue reading Why You Have to Practice the Open Water Swim (Triathlon Training)

Book Notes: Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave

Despite having a massive queue of books I’d like to read, I’m a sucker for the impulse buy. That means I’m easily swayed to read whatever looks nice and fancy on the “New”rack at the front of the library.

So that’s how I walked out of the library with Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave.

I’m a converted skeptic on the idea of hacking. I used to think of it as trickery, or shortcuts.

But I’ve come around on the idea of hacking certain things – like my morning routine, for example. I wake up and tell myself it’s going to be a great day, and it works. It’s a simple hack.

The book promises to help you hack your brain for the better in 21 days. Habits, for good or worse, can be developed in less time than that, but 21 days is a good length to really get something embedded. Continue reading Book Notes: Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave

My Marathon Plan

I never thought I would do a marathon. Yet for some reason I think I could do one today, even though 12 miles is the longest run under my shoes to date.

I’ve signed up for the Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon this November. This race appealed to me because it starts late in the day (I’m not a morning runner yet) and finishes on the Vegas strip.

If you want to run with me, please sign up!

Despite thinking I could run the thing today, I’m going to do a training regimen anyway – why not, since I have a few months? Continue reading My Marathon Plan

The Best Podcasts to Pass the Time (But Not Waste It)

One of the biggest spurs for my personal development kick has been podcasts.

Like many other things, I assumed podcasts were douchey and boring.

Why listen to NPR when you can listen to Okie sports talk guys call each morons? Or Metallica?

Working in the yard on a recent Sunday, I didn’t have angry sports Okies to listen to and wasn’t feeling Metallica. Continue reading The Best Podcasts to Pass the Time (But Not Waste It)

Family Weekend at Capitol Reef National Park

With my oldest going into fourth grade this fall, our family gets free entry into all national parks this summer. We love camping, campfires, smores, star-gazing, and hiking. Okay, Lori and I love hiking. Nathan likes when hiking is over and Anna likes to be carried on hikes.

So we’re hoping to get out to as many national parks as we can this summer, in particular the Mighty Five of Utah.

Knowing that someone out there with a couple of young kids might also be considering heading to the parks, I want to share what we did that was fun and not a total whiny nightmare.

First up: Capitol Reef National Park

Continue reading Family Weekend at Capitol Reef National Park

The World has Enough Assholes

20160506_185831968_iOSI’ve drafted and deleted at least five posts in the past week.

Nice. New Orleans. Dallas. Turkey. Minnesota.

Bad stuff happens all over the world. And it happens for really stupid reasons like racism, religion and fear. Things we should’ve gotten over years ago.

We’re all looking for silver bullets.

That one article that sums up our feelings and will surely convince the opposition of their misguided views. Or even that one pundit whose outrage just pisses off the other side.

I don’t have many answers. I’m a white dude in one of the whitest states in America. I come from a background that placed me in close contact with people of color, people with different religions and difference economic backgrounds. But that was years ago. I’m safely ensconced in the suburbs now, and I write a little blog that’s read by 50 or so people every day.

In other words, you won’t find what you’re looking for here. Continue reading The World has Enough Assholes