National Parks

Our First Visit to Grand Canyon National Park

This summer, Jason and I did almost an exact repeat of last summer’s vacation:

Vegas → Yosemite → Vegas

Last summer, we took a detour through Death Valley National Park en route to Yosemite. This year, we day tripped to Grand Canyon National Park instead of spending a whole second day in Vegas.

The drive from Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was about 4 hours. We know there are quicker ways to get there (i.e. helicopter), but we enjoyed the drive. We wanted to really visit the park, so flying was out of the question.

We got to the park a little before noon. After my mandatory sign picture, we made our way to Mather Point and our first view of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park Mather Point

There’s a great transit system that runs along the South Rim. We rode from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to Market Plaza for lunch and shopping. Then we rode over to the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District and took in some more views of the canyon (including a fire).

Views from Grand Canyon Village in Grand Canyon National Park

Jason and Laura in Grand Canyon National Park

The weather was absolutely gorgeous! I don’t think we could have asked for better weather.

With a long drive back to Vegas ahead of us, we only spent about 4 hours in the park. But we were both glad we put the Grand Canyon on our itinerary, for however short the visit was.

Learn more about park from the Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Association websites. You can also learn about the Association’s Adopt-a-Lion Program. I adopted a plush lion to support wildlife research in the park.

National park stuffed animal collection

He’s now a member of our park animal collection. I love them and the memories they hold.

Things I'm Loving

Things I’m Loving Thursday

Who doesn’t love a good blogger list? Every week, I want to share what I’m really loving — things, people, places. You get the idea.

Welcome to my first Things I’m Loving Thursday!

I am loving this Wisconsin summer!

We have had the BEST weather in Wisconsin this summer! Daytime temps in the 70s. Low humidity. A few early morning runs where I could actually see my breath. Normally we only have this awesome weather for a week in the spring before it gets nasty hot and for a week in the fall before it gets freezing cold. I know some people wish it had been hotter this summer. I am not one of them.

Our deck and backyard

I am loving the No-Fad Diet!

Jason and I are trying to get healthier together. We’re both eating better and working out more. One of my strategies has been to follow the American Heart Association’s No-Fad Diet. I purchased the book after learning about it at a Go Red for Women event last fall.

The No-Fad Diet book from the American Heart Association

I’m following the meal plans in the book, and it’s the first time I’ve successfully followed a meal plan. The options are meals I would actually eat outside of a “diet.” Even Jason, a notoriously picky eater, has liked all the dinner recipes I’ve made. It has made cleaning up my eating habits a lot easier and tastier at the same time.

I am loving old friends!

This summer, I have been so glad to see some of my great friends who are spread out around the country. In July, I was able to catch up with Ellen over lunch on her way through southern Wisconsin during her summer road trip. Ellen lives in Duluth, and we hadn’t seen each other in close to two years.

One of my best high school buddies, Kyle, invited Jason and I to a Brewers game during his summer vacation. Kyle lives in Texas, so I was pumped to spend a little time with him during his quick stop in Wisconsin.

Finally, I got to celebrate my best friend from college, Lisa, at her Wisconsin baby shower. Lisa and her husband, Patrick, moved to Alabama over a year ago. We miss them bunches.

With friends at the Big Ten Football Championship Game

Share one thing YOU are loving this week!


A Blog Is Born!

Change can be fun. Change can be scary. Change is inevitable.

I started my journey as a blogger when I launched a blog about internships as a college career counselor. I loved it so much that I decided to create a blog of my own. First Class Great Outdoors was born.

Laura and dog Bailey hiking at Devils Lake State Park in July 2009

I wrote in that space for over 4 years. But something happened over the last couple years. I fell out of love with my blog.

I struggled with topics to write about. I struggled to repair my site after it was hit by a bug. It felt like there was an overwhelming amount of work to do on that blog. But even more overwhelming was the feeling that the blog was no longer “me.”

Sometimes, you just know when it’s time to move on. I knew it was time for a change.

Here is the fruit of that decision, my new creative endeavor: A Two Dog Life.

A Two Dog Life is all about my life … my whole life. I love Wisconsin, and I want to show how great it is to live here. My husband Jason and I love to travel, especially when it involves getting outdoors. We also love having fabulous places to call home, from our constant project-in-progress Victorian-era home to our blank slate: 2 acres in the country outside of our small town.

Jason and I are trying to live healthy, active lives. We need to be in good shape for all the activities we love and for our two dogs, Bailey and Naya. We want to be a happy, healthy little family.

Now… (Maybe some things haven’t changed)
Laura ready to hike to Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park

More than anything, A Two Dog Life is about the life we are choosing for ourselves. We know what we want and we’re going after it. Sometimes, this means we’re making very different choices from others around us. And that’s ok.

Check out my About Me page for more on A Two Dog Life. I’m excited to share new stories — and more stories — with you. Thank you for coming on this journey with me!


Sad News

I am officially returning to my blog! I have missed writing – my mind is always buzzing with blog post ideas. And after returning from our big summer trip a few weeks ago, I have a renewed energy for, well, everything! I’m making progress on my blog to-do list, and I’m hoping for a positive renewal of my little space on the internet.

But before we get to the positive, I have to take a moment to share a piece of sad news…

Thea has cancer.

This all happened very abruptly – like in a month’s time. At the beginning of June, while Jason and I were away on vacation, my mom (whose house Thea was staying at) noticed that Thea was peeing A LOT. Excessively. Jason and I had noticed nothing of the sort, so we were confused. After returning from vacation and getting Thea back home, we noticed it, too.

Luckily, the dogs had to go to the vet for their annual heartworm check. We brought up what was going on and were able to have some basic testing done on the spot. Our vet noticed some concerning signs, so much so that she urged me to sit with her as she shared what she found. A hop, skip, and a week later, Thea was having an ultrasound that found a huge tumor in her bladder. Seeing it on the screen and hearing from the vet brought me to tears.

As a pawrent, I know that a day will come when Thea and Bailey will no longer be with us. And with Thea turning 10 last year (and 11 last week), I knew that time would be coming sooner rather than later. But I didn’t think it could be THIS soon.

We chatted with our primary vet after the ultrasound results. Because of the location of the tumor, it can’t be removed. We are trying some medication that could help ease the symptoms, but nothing is going to “fix” it. Ultimately, the cancer won’t kill her. But eventually, her quality of life may be seriously impacted. And we will never let Thea suffer.

So for now, it’s a wait and see situation. And my heart really hurts. Thea is a once-in-a-lifetime dog for me. We’ve been through a lot of life changes together. I saved her…and she saved me. I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye when the time comes.


We Interrupt the Vacation Recap for a Very Special Birthday

Somebody is celebrating a very big birthday tomorrow – Thea is turning 10!

As an extra special treat for this important birthday, Thea got to go shopping for treats and toys.

Let’s go shopping!

Hitting the Petco treat bar.

Browsing the toy selection at Mounds.

Such a happy girl!

Shopping was a success!

It was so wonderful to see Thea have such a good time shopping. She was in hound heaven sniffing all over. She was such a good girl and attracted lots of attention from other shoppers.

I want to make life extra special for my girl. I know dogs, so I’m aware that we only have a handful of years left with Thea. It’s the thing I struggle with when it comes to my babies’ birthdays – I’m excited to celebrate another year with them, but I know it brings us closer to the time when we have to say goodbye.

Sorry for diverting to the morbid. But Thea and Bailey are both “once in a lifetime” dogs to me. I know my time with them is precious, but that thought can get lost in the hurry of everyday life. Birthdays are an important reminder to cherish every moment with my girls.

Happy Birthday, Thea!