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Krispy Kreme Challenge - Run, Eat, Run

State 2 - North Carolina

snow 28 °F


Well, it was inevitable. I didn't want it to be the first state to cross off the list, but honestly, I knew it was going to be the easiest. Since I am currently living in North Carolina, I was bound to do something unique eventually. One thing for certain, the Krispy Kreme Challenge is definitely an unique experience.

For those of you not living in the southeast US, or in one of the 20+ other countries where Krispy Kreme operates, let me tell you what you are missing. Krispy Kreme makes quick-rise yeast donuts, most commonly served glazed. These donuts are fantastic, but their taste is not the best part. Krispy Kreme stores are known for the "HOT Donuts NOW" sign, which draws people like moths to a light. When this sign is lit up, it means that the donuts are coming off the line fresh and hot, and they will literally melt in your mouth (mmmm, my mouth is watering a little just thinking about it). It is not uncommon to take the long way home from downtown just to check if the "HOT Donuts NOW" sign is on.


The Krispy Kreme Challenge is a charity race through downtown Raleigh that raises money for the North Carolina Children's Hospital. The race starts at the belltower on NC State University, continues to the Krispy Kreme, and then winds back to the belltower. The Krispy Kreme Challenge is a very challenging race, few who enter actually complete the challenge. The challenging part isn't the distance (a little over 4 miles) or the course layout (only a few moderate hills), but is in the task awaiting the competitor once they reach Krispy Kreme. After running 2 miles, the racer must finish a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, and then run 2 miles back. The race must be run in under an hour, no vomiting allowed.


The race was started in 2004 as a group of friends met at the belltower to complete their self created challenge. The campus newspaper reported on the event, and later it was named #85 in the top 102 More Things You Gotta Do Before You Graduate by Sports Illustrated. The next year the event was held to raise money for the Children's Hospital, and has grown substantially each year. The 2010 race was capped at 6,000 participants due to space limitations.

This year, my friends and I decided we were going to participate. Only a few signed up as "Competitors" (those who will attempt to eat all 12 donuts and complete the race in 60 minutes), the rest of us signed up as "Participants" (those who run the course and receive 12 donuts to eat at their own pace). A lot of people show up in costumes, as this is regarded as a "fun" event instead of a "competitive" event (although there are cash prizes). Our group decided to come dressed in all black with pink headbands so that we would stand out. We were far from the most outrageously dressed.




At 8:00 am the racers lined up in front of the belltower as snow started to fall. The gun sounded and we were off. Everyone started off ambitiously, moving quickly down Hillsborough Street. I saw people running with their dogs, I saw people running in speedos (only), and I saw the race mascot (a guy with an innertube strapped on top of his head). Our group began to split as the competitors sped off to the front of the pack, and the quicker paced participants steadily moved further in front of the rest of the group. We all met again at the half way point at Krispy Kreme. The eager and smiling faces I had seen at the starting line had been replaced by looks of pure torture. Trying to eat 12 donuts at once proved to be a grueling ordeal. Participants were staring at donuts 8-12 with disgust. A number of strategies were being employed to force the donuts down. Some participants squashed them all together so that they were only eating one very dense donut, while others brushed as much glaze off as possible and washed the donuts down with a cup of water. I ate a couple donuts, and then began to make my way back to the belltower holding the rest of the dozen in my hand. The race back was not too difficult for me, but judging by the partially digested donuts I saw laying in the street (and the retching and splattering sound heard occassionally behind me), others did not fare as well.



I waved to my sister, dad, and dog (they were spectating) as I got close to the finish line. I met up with the rest of my group, and together we touched the belltower in the symbolic gesture to complete the race. Two of our group completed the challenge, the rest supported a great cause. The proceeds from the race are expected to surpass $50,000, a great donation to the Children's Hospital. The real winners are the children at the hospital, but I also consider myself a winner (I mean, I did get a dozen donuts).


Posted by Mike.Flynn 08:32 Archived in USA Tagged event local_food Comments (0)

New York, New York!

State 1 - New York

sunny 57 °F


As a Christmas gift to one another, Megan wanted to take a trip. She had no clue where she wanted to go or what she wanted to do, but she did know she wanted to do something. Enter Ray and Jenn, long time high school friends. Ray has pushed me to come visit since we graduated college. I almost made it a little over a year ago, but my flights were canceled two consecutive weekends. I met up with Ray and Jenn during the Christmas holidays, and as our conversations usually start out, Ray ribbed me about the various people that have come to visit him before me. The most recent vistor? The 9-month old first-born son of a mutual friend. Not to be upstaged by a man in diapers, and to kill two birds with one stone by taking Megan along, and after being motivated by 4 shared pitchers of beer, I purchased 2 tickets to the Big Apple.

This wasn't my first trip to New York. 9 years ago, during my freshman year in college, I spent a week in New York visiting my roommate's sister in Queens. As expected from two college students, my first trip to the Empire City was a frugal visit. Most of my time was spent walking the streets, taking in the sights, and absorbing the big city atmosphere (all things I could do for free). On my first trip I shopped Chinatown, dined in Little Italy, walked Wall Street, admired the Empire State Building, took my time around Time Square, ran through Central Park, bought an imitation Rolex, looked for rats in the subway, and toured Queens. What could I do that would make this an unique experience to cross New York off my list? For starters, I'm now legally able to drink.

We arrived Friday night at LaGuardia and headed to Ray's place in Brooklyn Heights. Ray gave me excellent instructions on how to get to his place, and I took detailed notes on his instructions, but conveniently I left those notes back in Raleigh on my dresser. I remembered enough to get us close to the apartment, and Ray was able to find us. Not wasting any time, Ray and I left to pick up two pies and grab a case of beer. After a quick bite to eat, we strolled around Brooklyn making our way to Ray and Jenn's local bar, Floyd's. We watched games of indoor bocci, drank some local brews, and stayed up way too late (bars in NY stay open to 4am). Eventually we made our way back to the apartment to rest up. Tomorrow we would enter Manhattan.

New York is the most populous urban area in the US. It was once the capital of the country from 1785-1790 (George Washington was inaugurated here). Over 170 languages are spoken in NY, and 36% of the residents were born outside of the US. New York was originally acquired by the British from the Dutch in exchange for a small Indonesian island that produced nutmeg. From 1890-1930, the title of tallest building in the world switched almost 10 times, all within Manhattan. There is a lot of history and diversity in the city, and to start our tour we headed to the center of it all, Times Square.


After a bagel sandwich from the deli and a quick subway ride, we arrived in Times Square. It was a beautiful day outside, unseasonably warm and sunny. People were walking everywhere. I looked in the window of the Lego store, made a poor joke about seeing TRL (apparently it is no longer being recorded), and gave a fist pump at the Budweiser advertisement. I had spent whole days in this area on my last trip, but it was still very cool standing in the spot filmed by so many movies and the location of the biggest New Year's party. After a quick picture to prove we made it to New York, we walked down Broadway to take in the sights on the way to Central Park.


We strolled through Central Park, watched some street dancers, paused at the ice skating rink, smelled the horse poo, reminisced about the scene from Home Alone 2, and then wound our way over to 5th Avenue. Upon coming out of the park we ran into a battalion of police officers. Looking around, the only reason a could see for the cops blocking off the area was a small group of people protesting the abuse of the horses for the horse-drawn tours of Central Park. It was almost comical. The 4 of us would have nearly doubled the size of the group, but over 10 cop cars and 20 cops attentively watch the group in case the protesters decided to storm the city.

We passed the protest, viewed the shops of 5th Avenue, took a potty break at Rockefeller Center, went into the underground Apple store, and passed the Nintendo store. An unique building peaked our attention, prompting us to stop and go inside. The building was St. Patrick's Cathedral, the home of the archbishop of New York and the largest Gothic-style cathedral in the US. It was visually stunning inside, with multiple statues of saints and popes. After a look around, we continued on our walking tour.


We continued down to the New York Public Library, saw the lions name "Patience" and "Fortitude", and moved up a couple blocks to center of public transportation, Grand Central Terminal (not Grand Central Station, a fact I learned from Die Hard). We decided to stop touring for the day. We had been on our feet for a while, we were getting hungry, and the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS playoff game was coming on very soon. We hopped on the train and took it to Ray and Jenn's favorite watering hole, Brother Jimmy's.


Brother Jimmy's is a southern-style bar, and appropriately we were seated at a table with a giant (and inaccurate) map of North Carolina painted on the wall. Brother Jimmy's is known for their beer specials and Carolina BBQ, but our attention was drawn to another signature-special that they served—the fish bowl filled with "swamp-water". "Swamp-water" is a glorious concoction of a multitude of liquors. With an alligator and 8 straws sticking out the top, it was the perfect drink to kick off the football game. The only damper on the afternoon was that we had shown up to watch the Saints game, the Jets were actually on tomorrow. After a couple pitchers of beer and another fish bowl, we somehow made it back to the train and headed back to Brooklyn.

The next day was rainy and very cold. We decided to check out some museums to stay out of the bad weather. We headed further into Brooklyn to check out the Brooklyn Museum. The museum had a lot of cool exhibits. We wandered through Egyptian tombs and artifacts, the Who Shot Rock & Roll Exhibit (a collection of awesome photographs showing Rock & Roll artists and explaining how the shots were captured), and after making a wrong turn through the feminist art we ran into one of the best exhibits I have ever seen—the watercolors of "The Life of Christ" by James Tissot. It was just absolutely amazing. We left the museum and headed back to Brooklyn Heights.

I had one major regret from my first New York trip. Despite wandering around the city for a week, I never actually saw the Statue of Liberty. I don't know how I missed it. It's perfectly visible from multiple locations across New York. Thankfully I didn't suffer the same fate this trip. Walking around Brooklyn Heights offered a clear view of the Statue of Liberty. It was just a lot smaller than I had expected.


We picked up some Chinese and went back to the apartment to watch the Jets game for real this time. Once the game was over, we decided to do some bar-hopping on Bleecker Street. We didn't do much hopping as we ended up staying in one bar all night. However, when the beers are this size, it takes a little longer to drink.


The next day was our last in New York. We decided to get an early start and head to Lower Manhattan to check out Wall Street.


We started off at the site of the World Trade Center. They are currently rebuilding the site, but when we walked past, it was just a giant (and I mean giant) hole in the ground. I guess they were building the subterranean levels and setting the foundation. We walked down to Battery Park, checked out the Statue of Liberty again, and the turned the corner to walk to Wall Street. We passed the most expensive piece of real estate in the world at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway (according to the sign). We continued north and worked our way towards the pier next to the Brooklyn Bridge. It was another gorgeous day, so the four of us took a break on the deck of the mall at the pier to enjoy a drink in the sun.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to check out the neighborhood of Dumbo before making our way back down to the water. We snapped a couple more pictures with the city in the background (one has Lower Manhattan, the other has the Empire State Building).


We strolled back through Brooklyn Heights to Ray and Jenn's apartment. Our 3 day trip was coming to a close. There was still one thing I had left to do. If my first goal for the trip was to see the statue of Liberty, my second goal was to eat a hotdog from a street vendor. I found the lucky vendor and purchased my delicious treat. Mmmmmm. What a great city.


Posted by Mike.Flynn 20:59 Archived in USA Tagged beer local_food Comments (0)

Back from Australia, Time for a New Challenge!

As you probably have guessed, I made it home from Australia. Dawn and I decided that although our time in Australia was great, our future travels would be along different paths. I have spent the last 8 months catching up with friends and family, and doing some local trips around the US. My travels in Australia have encouraged me to seek out the interesting sights and experiences more local to home.

Since I've been back from Australia I have traveled up and down the east coast and headed into the heart of the Midwest. Most of these trips were to visit with friends that have moved away, but it still allowed me to scratch the itch of seeing something new. However, I want to continue to push myself further outside my usual comfort zone. I went on 15 trips through 10 different states, but only a couple of these took me somewhere completely new. It's time to challenge myself to go where I've never gone before!

Originally I talked to my family/friends about trying to visit all 50 states (and DC) in 50 weeks. After thinking about it, I realized that this would limit the number of annual trips I already make (like St. Patty's in Pittsburgh, Memorial Day in Kentucky, going home to Cincinnati, King's Dominion trip to Virginia, beach trips to the outer banks, etc), so I've decided to scale it back a little. I still want to visit all 50 states, just maybe not so aggressively. Hopefully this will also mean it will be easier to convince friends to accompany me on my trips. I have decided on the following pledge: I will visit all 50 states (and DC) within the next 3 years!

There are, of course, a couple stipulations to make sure I don't cheat. I routinely visit 8 different states each year and have been to most states on the east coast multiple times, both of which lessen the whole purpose of this challenge. For the trip to count as having visited a new state, the following must be observed:

  • I must travel somewhere I have never visited before. (This rule is to make sure I experience a new side of North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and all other states I visit frequently)
  • I must do something truly unique within the area or state for the trip to count. Obviously airports do not count. Driving across the state line does not count. I must be able to experience something unique about the state.

This may not sound too ambitious, but this means I will travel to a new state every 3 weeks (in addition to my normal travels). I also am already planning on multiple trips outside the US. My originally planned trip to Romania/Bulgaria/Turkey got canceled, but I am now planning trips to Ireland/UK and to South America or South Africa. After having taken some time off, I will recommit myself to keeping this travel log updated!

Look forward to an exciting 2010!

Posted by Mike.Flynn 09:51 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Man From Snowy River

sunny 60 °F

After Jeff left, it was time to take one last out of state trip. Dawn had been talking about reliving one of her favorite childhood movies, The Man From Snowy River. We headed off to the airport and boarded a plane back down to Melbourne.


The Man From Snowy River plot line goes something like this:
An 18 year-old boy, Jim, loses his father in a tragic accident due to a wild colt stirring up penned brumbies. Jim goes down into the lowlands to work. He later returns to run his father's farm, but finds he has to earn the respect of the mountain men. He takes a job on a horse farm, but eventually is wrongly blamed for the escape of the brumbies and losing the prized colt. Jim decides to round up the brumbies with the other men to prove his innocence. The escaped horses run down a steep cliff, leaving the men at the top. In the climax of the movie, Jim rides his horse down the steep incline to capture the brumbies and stand up to the colt that caused his father's death.

After spending a couple days in Melbourne, we hired a car to drive north east into the Snowy Mountains. Due to a mix-up with our rental, our Honda Getz was not available. Instead, we were given an Audi convertible (I certainly wasn't complaining).

We left the city behind us and drove into the quiet countryside. The weather was getting cooler, but I wasn't passing up the opportunity to put the top down on the car. It was awesome.


Our drive took us right through a section of woods that had been destroyed by the recent wild fires (you may remember my blog about it). It was astonishing to see the extent of the damage done by the fire. Many road signs were badly scalded and illegible. Not a single green leaf or blade of grass could be seen anywhere. Blackened tree trunks stretched out as far as we could see.

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Before heading into the mountains, we made a detour to a wildlife park. It was going to be our last chance to see some of the native wildlife here in Australia. We saw more Koalas, birds of prey, wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas, platypuses, goanas, and jumping mice. It wasn't anything we hadn't seen before, but it was still cool. In the kangaroo pen, I encountered the largest kangaroo I had ever seen (it was easily over 6 feet tall). The goanas were also funny to watch swim.


We made it into the Snowy Mountains close to sunset. The air was definitely chilly, but the views were great.


We checked into our room and settled in for the night. I hadn't actually seen The Man From Snowy River yet, and after Dawn and I went all over Melbourne to find a copy, we fired up the laptop and started watching the movie. I think I made it half way through before falling asleep (if you've seen the movie, you could probably tell by my poorly written synopsis). Dawn did make me rewatch the scene where Jim rides down the steep mountain face. For those who haven't seen the movie, I found the clip on YouTube:

We woke up early the next morning to meet our guides. We were to take a full day horseback riding tour of the Snowy Mountains. We put our gear on, mounted up, and took off up the mountain. It was just Dawn, me, and the two guides.


After letting the horses warm up, the guides picked up the pace to a trot and then full out canter through the valley. It had been about 3 years since my riding lessons and I had forgotten the feeling of riding such a powerful animal. After slowing back down to a walking pace, we started the trail up the mountain. The guides took us to some scenic lookouts. The views were beautiful.




We stopped at several different lookouts to let the horses rest after the steep climbs. The guides told stories of other trail rides with students, and then tried to gull us into believing stories about the yeti-like creatures that live in the Snowy Mountains. After a quick lunch at a little cabin, we headed up another trail to the scene from the movie where Jim takes Denny down the steep side of the mountain.


The movie doesn't do the cliff justice. While movie effects make the cliff look steeper, it also makes it look like Jim goes down the mountain just for a short distance. It is actually a very long way down.

I took a picture down the cliff, and I was scared just being at the top (and of course I kept worrying that my horse would take off down the mountain). The guides kept teasing me to "man up" and get the real Snowy Mountain experience. Dawn and I posed on the edge of the cliff with our horses.

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We made our way down the mountain (using the long way, but it was still pretty steep). The views were just as pretty on the way down. The guides told us there were impressed that our legs were keeping up after the long trot and canter rides, building up encouragement for one last canter back down to the stables. With a groan, I hauled my tired butt off the saddle and kicked the horse into a gallop. After 10 hours of being on a horse, I was ready for this ride to be over.


After a nice long, hot shower, I eased myself into a lounge chair in the bush living room (a living room out in the open). After declining an invitation to watch the preseason footie matches with our host, I started a campfire to fight back the cold night. Dawn and I worked our way through a six pack watching the fire burn, and the host's dog tried to catch the sparks flying up from the fire. Sitting in a comfortable chair was about all I could manage after the long day.

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The next morning we started the drive out of the mountains back down to Melbourne to catch our plane. Backwoods Australia is even more empty than backwoods North Carolina. I think we were the only car for 30 miles in either direction. However, I managed to find a cop on the country highway who didn't hesitate to write me a ticket for "crossing a solid white" (i.e., the tax for the obvious tourist driving a fancy convertible sports car). After a $300 fine, we got back on the road and made it to the airport. We were headed back to Sydney for our last weekend in Australia.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 20:38 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains animals horseback_riding Comments (0)

Bye Jeff!

Leaving Adelaide, I flew back to Sydney to share the last three days of Jeff's stay in Australia. Jeff was coming back from his month-long excursion up the east coast. Over the course of those couple days, Jeff and I visited our old haunts: namely Paddy's, the kebab shop next to Paddy's, the Toxteth, Big Buck Hunter at the Toxteth, and the central YHA. There was only one thing left to do, have a going away party.


Jeff and I met up with Dawn, Rob, Hailey, and various other people that used to work with Jeff. Our plan was to do a bar crawl to experience the bars we frequented most often along George Street. The plan didn't really get implemented as we only made it to two of the bars.

We first went to 3 Wise Monkeys where Jeff had worked while living in Australia. Jeff surprised everyone with his newly grown mustache. Everyone was jealous, so we each tried to create our own (Rob and I tried to wear a beer mustache).


As you would expect, a lot of beers were bought and a lot of stories swapped. We stayed at 3 Wise Monkeys until closing time, only briefly leaving to run next door to Cheers to take a 'Dusty Fairy' shot.


I have no clue how to make a Dusty Fairy, but I do know that it has enough liquor in it to light on fire. Once you light it on fire, you sprinkle chocolate dust on the shot to make sparks. After everyone oohs and ahhs, you blow out the flame and slam the shot home.


We stayed at 3 Wise Monkeys until they kicked us out, and then we stumbled back to our rooms. It was after 4 in the morning and Jeff still had to pack to catch a noon flight.


Posted by Mike.Flynn 20:12 Archived in Australia Tagged beer Comments (0)

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