Sunday, December 25, 2011

Rainy outside....cozy Christmas inside


This is the time of year when damp, chilly days replace "hot and humid" in Houston.  Very often it's the norm for Christmas day.  Certainly this was true this year.  The rains moved in the Friday before Christmas and stayed with us all weekend.  But the rain is most welcome here in parched, rain-starved Texas.

Saturday I thought would be the perfect day to turn the oven on and start baking.

It made the house feel so good and smell so wonderful that I followed up with a pork loin roast in the oven and had a grand dinner Christmas eve.

As I was shuffling cookie pans in and out of the oven I remembered the little Jack antenna ball I'd purchased on my way home from Florida a couple of weeks ago.  It was in the center console in my car so rescued him and added him to my Jack ball collection.  This one is especially cute...a little elf, pointy ears and all!

Christmas morning should have been a long run morning for me, but the cold rain was a big deterrent and I finked out.  Just means I'll need to get it done on Monday.  Instead, I lingered over a pot of good coffee and moved a couple of laundry loads through the washer and dryer. 

Then I headed over to visit stepson Bruce and his family for the afternoon.  Two of his three daughters were there, along with their husbands.  One of the daughters has two adorable little girls.  The younger one greeted me with a "knee hug" and proceeded to show me all of her new things and those of her older sister. 

We visited over cake, and I got a little bit of lap time from one of the little girls, while the other, older one shyly told me about her play horse and about the Christmas lights.  I pulled out my cellphone and showed her some horse photos I'd taken in the past. She's definitely into horses right now!

The day is almost over, I'm watching Going My Way with Bing Crosby, and in another hour, I'll watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Dangling Carrot

Always looking for ways to motivate myself out the door, the distance to McDonald's is about 3.6 miles.  And it's all on beautifully new, safe sidewalks.  It's an easy target to aim for and this morning seemed like the perfect morning to reach for that carrot.   Cool and foggy...very foggy.  Damp and drizzly.  The perfect morning to reward myself at the far end with a McDonald's holiday drink.

What will it be?  A peppermint hot chocolate?  A caramel mocha?  Or maybe a peppermint mocha?  I thought about this the whole way there.  The fog was ridiculous!  Visibility was - at best - 100 yards, and in some stretches it was much less than that.  It plays tricks on a runner.  Accustomed to judging distance by landmarks up ahead - mostly those key "landmark traffic lights" - I was running "blind" for much of the outbound leg.  But I knew that I had that reward waiting for me...eventually.

When I finally arrived at the McDonalds I was feeling righteous and opted for a plain cappuccino.  No high-calorie, delectable peppermint or mocha drink for me this time.

While waiting in line to order, a man turned to me and asked if I had been running.  I love it when this happens!  Turns out he just ran the New York City Marathon, and we talked about that a bit, and he encouraged me to apply.  "You simply must do it once, while you still can."  I told him I was a bit intimidated by the logistics of the event, but he assured me it was easy, although his describing it to me didn't sound easy at all and was about as involved as I imagined it would be.  Well, anyway, it was an interesting and nice chance encounter. 

When I stepped up to the counter to order my drink, it was the same nice woman who was there the last time, the one who made the comment to me about my running and who said that I made her feel guilty, that she should be out there running, too.   I remember making the observation in a previous blog entry that she looked like a runner, so no doubt she meant it.  Well, this morning, when she took my order, she didn't take my money, so I thought, she'll finish ringing it up once she's made the drink.  But she returned with it, handed it to me, and said this one was "on her."  Oh, my!  I thanked her profusely and wished her nice holidays.  That was so nice!  And she didn't need to do that.

I half ran, half walked those 3.5 miles back home:  Run for a bit, slow down to a walk to take a sip of the wonderful, foamy cappuccino, then run a bit more.   It didn't even matter that it began to rain lightly as I ran along...the warm and welcomed drink was carrying me along toward home.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Back to Panama City - Back to Old Friends

Last March I came to Panama City and spent the week leading up to the IBA party in Jacksonville.  It was a great opportunity to meet up with a long-lost high school friend and to reconnect after many, many years (story here:  2011 Panama City Visit). 
It was such an enjoyable time, I made plans to do it again this year, staying at the same Marriott Grand Vacations resort as last year.  A bonus week through Interval International made this possible.  It dovetailed very nicely with my weekend on Cedar Key. 

I decided to take US 98 from US 19 in Perry, and was nicely rewarded by great views and quaint towns along the coast...Carrabelle, Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach.  Some of the inspiration to take this route came from Alan Leduc's new book, "Passion in the Wind."   I served as his editor for this book and, as I read his description of riding this road, I was struck by how much of Florida I still had not explored despite having lived in this state - two separate times - and having visited the state countless times.

Being in a car this time, rather than on the motorcycle, greatly streamlined the process of stocking up on groceries and getting to the resort.  On the bike, I'd had to check in, unload the bike, then suit back up again to head to the grocery store.  I was checked in, unpacked, and settled in by 4:00 PM.  Nice!  The resort is, as always with Marriotts, quite comfortable and luxurious.

While I was on the road, enroute to Cedar Key, Alan had emailed me all of the InDesign files for final edit and review, one for each chapter of the book, with the plan to have all of the editing completed and files to the printers by the end of the week.  Therefore, my top priority for Monday and Tuesday was to work my way through all 16 chapters of Alan's book and have the editing complete by Tuesday night.  This is a process I enjoy and I appreciated the excuse to relax in comfortable suroundings for a couple of days after being on-the-go quite a bit the last four days.

Monday afternoon I made contact with friend Sandy, and we made plans for the balance of the week.  I spent most of that day working on Alan's book.   Tuesday late morning I took a little break from editing and drove over to St. Andrews State Park and walked out onto the piers and enjoyed the views before letting the GPS lead me to Schooner's right on the beach for some fried oysters and a beer.  That afternoon I returned to finish the book chapters and to send Alan my own personal congratulations on his job well-done along with lyrics to a song that I thought he would enjoy.

Wednesday morning I got a nice 3 mile run in and then cleaned up and drove over to Pier Park to meet her for lunch.  A nice bowl of crab and corn chowder, then a stroll through the shops and a cappucino at Starbucks.    Sandy then had me follow her to the house she shares with her mom, so that I could visit with her mom, who I haven't seen in decades!  She's chipper and reasonably spry for her age and we did some reminiscing and got caught up with each other's lives.

When I returned to the Marriott, I had an email from Alan, sent to all on his private book-update distribution list, letting us all know that the book was official done and the files had been delivered to the printer's.  Excellent news!

Thursday I totally chilled out and did absolutely nothing.  Good for me!  But on Friday morning, I got up, braved the cold temps, and got a nice 5 mile run in.  By the time I'd finished, the sun had warmed things up considerably.    That afternoon, I met Sandy and her sister Marcia at a convenient point enroute to the historic district of St. Andrew, and I parked and locked my car and joined them in theirs as we headed for an early dinner. 

I've been craving oysters on the half shell ever since I arrived in Florida a week earlier but have had no joy finding any.  I have eaten more than my share of fried oysters this week, but nothing beats large, moist, succulent and slightly salty oysters, topped with horseradish and slurped off of their shells.

They took me to Hunts Oyster House, the perfect place - rustic, well-worn, and efficient.  When we arrived on the waterfront, there was a small open air market underway and we browsed the vendors a bit, I bought a very unique book and chatted with its author for a bit.   It was then time to cross the street to Hunt's before it got too crowded.  We found three stools at the bar - exactly what we'd hoped for - and proceeded to eat ourselves silly, stuffing ourselves with oysters.  The two young men doing the shucking were pleasant and efficient, as they placed a tray in front of me and proceeded to place the oysters on the tray, one by one, as they shucked them.  Can't get any fresher than that!  They were large and juicy...and they really hit the spot!  After eating a dozen raw oysters, I ordered a half-dozen baked.  We each had a glass of pinot to wash it all down.  

There's a pretty park just down the street called Oaks By the Bay Park, and the town puts up lighted decorations.  According to Marcia, they've only been doing this for a couple of years, but it was a very nice display, revealed gradually as we walked the loop through the park.   

Afterward, we went to a delightful wine bar called The Purple Grape (they need to update their website - it still shows their old location).  The interior decor was very well-done, with cozy group seating areas, some high tables with stools, low tables that seat two.  We sat at the wine bar.  The menu was a bit overwhelming with choices.  I ordered from the "new arrivals" section of the menu and had a glass of Adelsheim pinot gris from Oregon and it was wonderful!  This place used to be down on Panama City Beach but recently moved to this location.  The gal working the wine bar told us that business is much better at this new location, getting much more walk-in traffic.  I can see why. 

On the way back to the car, we poked our heads into one of the funky shops along the main street.  I couldn't tell what merchandise was new and what was second-hand.  It was truly a bargain-hunter's treasure-trove of unusual women's clothing...definitely not my kind of clothes, nor my kind of shop, but Sandy and Marsha were having fun and the very nice proprietor eventually came over and joined us to chat. 

The evening over, they dropped me off at my car and we said our goodbyes, with promises to visit each other in Texas, New Orleans, Panama City...We'll work it out.  Somehow.

Saturday I'll watch the Army-Navy football game, start packing, and then I'll hit the road for home on Sunday morning.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Great Reason to Head Back to Florida

"Wizard's Wild Weekend"...There's not much better reason to turn around two weeks later and head east, back across I-10, to Florida.

I was just in Florida two weeks ago, and now I'm heading back east...again.  But Wizard's Wild Weekend - an event that has become an annual tradition - was being held the first weekend in December.  As always.  Kevin Healey and his wife Deborah put this event on every year and it usually draws an interesting group of riders.  It's held on Cedar Key, a quaint island just off the gulf coast of Florida, up near Chiefland, where the state of FL takes a bend and becomes the part of the state referred to as the panhandle.

In the years that this event has been held, I've only missed one year, and that was two years ago when I was in Hawaii visiting son and family for Thanksgiving...definitely a good reason to miss it.  But not too many other reasons could keep me away.  It's so kicked back and relaxed.

I arrived Friday afternoon, early, and checked into Seaspray, a small apartment building with just a half dozen or so two-story condo units...two bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, full kitchen, living room, dining room, and a nice second story balcony with sunset views.  I was in need of a run, so got changed into running gear and headed out for a 5+ mile run before the others starting to arrive.

Friday night group dinner was again at the Rusty Rim, a neat place on the dock, sitting out over the water.  The group was noticeably smaller than in previous years, but no less enjoyable.  A group were gathered outside at "Richard's Corner" on the dock.  One member of our group is named Richard and it couldn't have been more fitting that this corner be named as such.

Saturday morning I was able to join the group for breakfast at Annie's Cafe for the first time ever.  There was a good reason why I got that run in the afternoon before...normally I get that run in Saturday morning and miss the fun and chatter of the group breakfast. 

While the rest of the group rode over to Horseshoe Beach for lunch, I stayed behind with friend Ray and had lunch at the Pickled Pellican, on their outdoor deck overlooking the Gulf.  I ate here last year and knew it was the place to go for lunch this year, as well.   I wanted fresh oysters, but had to settle for fried oysters, which were a little disappointing...dry and overcooked.   But the red velvet cake ice cream from the ice cream parlor down the street made up for it. 

Saturday night dinner is the main attraction and was again held upstairs at Sea Breeze.  The smaller group allowed us to all eat at the same long L-shaped table.  It was a quieter bunch this year, and Kevin told only a few short stories about some of the attendees.  This is usually the highlight of the evening, since Kevin is such a great storyteller. 

Sunday morning I got another good run in - about 3.5 miles - and passed by Annie's Cafe only by chance to see Ray's bike parked in front, so I went inside and joined him for a cup of coffee before he hit the road and I headed back to the condo to clean up, pack and hit the road myself.

Another great - if a little quieter - Wizard's Wild Weekend is done.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Talking About It Doesn't Get It Done

No, it doesn't.  And there was plenty of talk about it over the Thanksgiving holidays with my son.  The gist of the conversation was this: 
  • I sure do miss my Dodge pick-up truck.  I must have liked it, since I owned two of them over the years.  I'm sorry I got rid of that last one.
  • I enjoyed these trucks.
  • I appreciated their carrying capabilities...things like bags of mulch and other bulky items, getting the bicycle in to the shop for a "tune up."
  • I didn't like the way the truck rode.  It was very...well...truck-like.
  • But I sure do miss that last Dodge pickup truck, a beautiful dark metallic gray color with silver fender flares and rocker panels.  It was a quad-cab and nicely appointed.
  • I sure would like to get something bigger than this sedan, something I can get my bicycle into the back of, something that sits taller, has greater visibility than a sedan.
My four-door sedan is perfectly adequate; it's comfortable, has a luxurious leather interior and some nice features, and gets great gas mileage (up to 35 mpg highway), but the drawbacks of a four-dour sedan become painfully apparent when I need to carry something big in the trunk.

But - dang it! - I had new car fever, and no amount of common sense was quelling my interest or discouraging my roving eyes. 

I'd been noticing CUV's on the road in my travels recently, and had been taking mental notes.  Some were too small, their short wheelbases creating noticeably choppy rides as they cruised on down the interstate.  Some were too boxy and radical in design.  Some were just too big.  Some were looking quite dated and old.   Of the ones I liked the looks of, the list was quite short.  Nissan Murano...Chevy Equinox...Buick Enclave...Kia Sorento...Mazda CX9.

The Monday morning after I returned from Thanksgiving at my son's, I got onto the USAA website and - just for grins - requested a quote for a Chevrolet Equinox.  It was one of the few that I liked.  After submitting this request, I realized that copies of this request were also sent to the participating USAA Program Chevy dealers in the area.   Yikes!  Oh, well...in for a dime, in for a dollar.  So I requested a quote for a Mazda CX9, another CUV that I liked.  Both the Equinox and the Mazda CX9 are rated very highly by the auto reviewers.  The CX9 is rated first in its class by a number of auto writers, including Motor Trend, Consumer Reports, US News.  The Equinox is rated second in its class by those same reviewers.

Within two hours, I received a phone call from a really  nice woman at Munday Mazda.  Actually, I had their webpage open on my computer, getting their address and phone number, when they called me.  I was planning on heading up there, USAA quote in hand, anyway.  Now I had a contact person and an appointment to meet her at 11:00 AM.    Automated email replies were starting to roll in from various Chevy/GM dealers in the area, but no personalized emails or phone calls had come in yet, by the time I left the house to drive to the north side of the city.   

On impulse, I ran back inside and grabbed the spare set of keys to my car and rummaged in the safe box to get the title.  Who knows?  Might need them.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It Was a Great Thanksgiving Weekend!

Cherry pie, sweet potatoes, and ingredients for the green beans tucked safely in an insulated carrier, I got in the car and drove to Mandeville LA to spend Thanksgiving weekend with son and family.  It was Thanksgiving day morning, and the roads were relatively empty of traffic until I neared Baton Rouge LA. 


When I arrived, I immediately rousted the family from the comforts of their house and made them get out with me for an impromptu Turkey Trot jog around the neighborhood.  I quickly changed into running clothes, grabbed Mimi and buckled her into her jogging stroller.  Daughter-in-law Christina got grandson Trevor into his shoes and we all headed out.  Son Jeremy felt he needed to stay behind, since the turkey was in the oven and he didn't want to leave it unattended.  We went around the block - about 1.5 miles - and it was just what we all needed.  Mimi fell asleep in the stroller, Trevor burned off some excess energy, and Christina got her walk in.  Mimi and I jogged ahead of the two of them, and then doubled back to meet up with them and walk the remaining distance.   Perfect way to work up an appetite!

The feast was wonderful!  Christina made fresh cranberry relish, the turkey came out perfectly moist, and the sweet potatoes browned up nicely in the oven.  The baby green beans with cherry tomatoes in garlic butter sauce were very tasty - a new-to-me recipe and well-worth keeping for future use. 

It was a low-key weekend spent playing with the grandkids, helping out doing yard work, and just generally doing nothing.  Lots of leaves and pine needles to rake! 

Since my son and his family will be spending Christmas in California, they decided to get a Christmas tree set up.  Jeremy headed out on Friday morning and returned with a beautiful tree, a nice tall and full tree.  He spent the rest of the morning getting it set up, and Christina and he pulled the decorations out of the attic and started in getting the tree decorated.  A smaller artificial tree was set up in the sun room, as well.

I managed to get a run in, every day that I was there, in the spirit of the Runners World Holiday Running Streak.  I went out for a run Sunday morning and decided, while doing the run, that I should get back to the house, clean up, and then head for home.  Christina and Jeremy have had a long stretch of house guests, startiing with me over the halloween weekend and followed by an extended visit from Jeremy's dad.  My visit over Thanksgiving came close on the heels of his dad's visit and I could sense that they all needed some "alone time."  Cleaned up and packed, I kissed them all goodbye and headed for home Sunday morning.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good Day Today - Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

My morning began with a reluctant start to a morning run which quickly turned into a delight!  I thought of every excuse not to head out the door to get this done, but I also thought of every reason to do it.  Just do it!  The weather was absolutely perfect!  55 degree temps, perfectly clear skies, gently breeze from the north.  Once I got out there, once I ran the first few miles, everything fell into place.  Perfect!

My morning run completed, next it was time to dig in to the portion of tomorrow's Thanksgiving menu that I've claimed responsibility for.  First order of business:  make my son's favorite pie...cherry!  I use canned tart cherries and canned sweet cherries, both packed in water.  No pre-made pie filling for me!  Too sweet for my palate and not nearly as interesting as using those tart cherries.  If I could reliably obtain real bing cherries at a decent price, I'd prefer those.  The canned tart cherries recipe is from my mother-in-law Smith.  She could make a really great cherry pie!  Ohhh, the house smells so good, now!

Pie out of the oven and cooling, I started in on the sweet potatoes.  I agree with my son and daughter-in-law that the traditional southern sweet potato casserole is pretty disgusting.  I like just plain baked sweet potatoes but wanted to make something a little different, something I could make ahead and bring with me.  I found a recipe for gingered garlic sweet potatoes and... bingo!  That sounds perfect...different...interesting.    I got the potatoes peeled, cut into chunks, and boiling on the stove then took a break to eat lunch - some homemade chicken noodle soup.  Gotta admit that I can make a pretty good chicken soup.  The secret ingredient is garlic. 

Potatoes cooked to softness, drained and mashed, I minced the fresh ginger and fresh garlic and sauteed them in butter then added chicken stock and heavy cream and reduced it before adding to the mashed sweet potatoes.  The mixture is whipped smooth and now resting in a casserole dish, tightly covered with plastic wrap.  This should reheat in the oven tomorrow and actually taste even better. 

The final dish is baby green beans and cherry tomatoes in garlic butter sauce.  I'll bring all of the ingredients to make this at my son's house tomorrow, since it's easy and simple and doesn't take long.  I'll be in charge of the turkey gravy, too.  I make it from the pan drippings drained of fat and cornstarch.  Simple. 

My cat is sitting on my lap, all curled up in a ball sound asleep as I write this.  Hmmm....a nap in front of some old movie sounds like a perfect way to spend the afternoon. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

First Run After a Cold - The Trials for Us Allergy-Prone Folks

It wasn't pretty.  In fact, it was downright "ugly."  But I did get up this morning, and I did put on my running clothes, and I did leave the house.  I even started out at a good jogging pace, too.  Kept it up all the way through the first two miles. 

Then I got into mile three.  It was warm.  It was humid.  A change from what it's been here and in Florida the last two or three weeks.   My lungs felt like a sumo wrestler had me in a bear hug.  Asthma sufferers know exactly what I'm describing.   You see, when I do get a cold - which has been very infrequent for the last decade or so - it can never be described as "slight."  It will trigger my asthma.

Well, finally, whatever this virus was, it decided to go elsewhere, leaving me tired and four weeks behind in my running.  So this morning I decided to give it a go.  Hopefully it won't be too hard to get back to where I was, training-wise.  I ran a good 9 mile run 4 weeks ago...today I ran a pitiful 3 miles.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Taking the Good With the Bad...

I have lost track of how many times I've ridden across I-10 between TX and FL. Dozens of times, probably. This time it was to participate in the annual Florida Coast2Coast ride to raise money for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and then to spend a week at Marriott Grande Vista in Lake Buena Vista, and capped off with running a half-marathon in St. Petersburg FL.

The trip over to the Tampa area was easy and blessed with good weather. I made it to Marianna FL for the night (675 miles), first day on the road, and then rode the remaining 350 or so miles to Seffner (near Tampa) where the Florida Coast2Coast Ride would begin. It was a pleasant evening in Seffner meeting and greeting familiar faces and meeting new ones. I worked the registration table Friday evening and again Saturday morning, and then our little group - the last to leave - departed for the Atlantic Coast side of the state. Four of us set out on the designated route - Ray, Steve, me, and Joe.

When Al puts this event on every year, there's no telling what route he'll send us on to get to Daytona. One thing is certain: it will not be the most direct route. No, far from it! This year's route measured out to 203 miles. By comparison, the most direct route - straight up I-4 - is about 123 miles. In true "Al fashion," the route immediately had us making frequent turns as we worked our way north of I-4 and then west of I-75. This is where the roads get small and interesting.

Within an hour, our little group got separated when I peeled off in search of a gas station bathroom. Ray and Steve stayed together, though, and took a Ray-inspired detour to have lunch at Gator Joe's on Lake Weir. I stuck with the route until I got to the middle of the state, north of Orlando, and chose to short-circuit directly to Daytona for a late lunch at the Ale House next door to the hotel.

I think everyone who rode the route had fun. We had a fun time at the after-ride get-together, although attendance was very low that evening. Too bad, because the grand door prize was two tickets to Disneyworld.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Throughout this first weekend in Florida I was still trying to shake off this cold or flu or whatever it was. My head continued to be congested, my ears full, and it had moved into my chest, causing a persistent cough.

I checked out of the Daytona Hotel late Sunday morning and headed south toward Orlando, where I'll stay the week in a nice two-bedroom, two-bathroom resort timeshare in Lake Buena Vista. I was looking forward to it and to doing not too much, to give this cold the boot.

On the way, I stopped at a running store - Fleet Feet - in Altamonte Springs - to buy a running hat. I'd forgotten to pack mine. There was a Starbucks next door so I spent some time just "chilling" and having a Vente Latte and a small pastry.

I could delay no longer, and headed to the resort hoping they'd take pity on this sick gal and let me check in early. Thankfully they did, and I got the bike unloaded, grabbed a personal pizza at the Pizza Hut on the resort property and then got back on the bike and rode over to a Publix grocery store to buy some food to stock the kitchen at the resort unit. I also bought a bottle of cough medicine. I was more than anxious to get everything unloaded, get changed into comfortable clothes and then just coddle myself and my head/chest cold for the rest of the day.

I was getting worried about the upcoming half-marathon the following weekend. This cold, which started October 31, had really kicked my butt. Add to this the fact that I have not gone for a single run since October 28. Not good. I'd hoped to get a long run in on Tuesday morning at the resort and then maybe a couple of short ones.

This just did not happen. Every morning I was very congested. It took a long steamy shower and several hours each day to get my head and chest cleared out enough to even breathe, never mind breathe under exertion. This is not looking good for the "home team!"

Friend Ray came over from Jacksonville Tuesday morning and stayed until Friday morning. We joined a couple of other riders for lunch at a neat place called Black Hammock Fish Camp in Oviedo, not too far north of Orlando. It was an easy ride into a pretty area called black hammock (see definition of a Florida "hammock").  I had just about the best blackened catfish I've ever had, and polished it off with a great slice of key lime pie. 

We checked out the giant live alligator that lives in a pen next to the camp, before heading back to the resort.  I was fairly well burned out by the time we got back. 

Thursday Ray took me on a more ambitious ride for lunch to Inverness FL.  We went the most direct route to get there, but Ray had plotted a very fine round-about route to get back to the Marriott. 

Another winner of a riding day and I got to see Larry and Karen, a couple I've not seen for at least two years.  We had a nice lunch at Stumpknocker's, right on the little main street of town.  Larry grew up in this town, and told us that the building that houses Stumpknocker's used to be the Five & Dime store.  A beautiful old courthouse sits on a square just at the end of this little main street.  It is now an historic museum, but it's lovingly restored. 

So five days at the resort and I've not gone for a run one single day while there.  I need to make a decision about this upcoming half-marathon this weekend.  I've been sick for 4 weeks.  I've not run for 4 weeks.  I've paid for the race, not that big a deal but the hotel for two nights in St Petersburg is going to cost well over $300 and then there will be three meals a day to pay for.  It wasn't too hard to make the decision Thursday afternoon to cancel the hotel in St. Pete, save the money, and make plans to ride home to Houston this weekend, rather than running in that race. 

I'm a little sad that I worked so hard up to the end of October to stay in half-marathon condition; I'm a little sad that I won't earn that really cool Women's Half Marathon finisher's medal.  I'm also a little disappointed that I won't be adding the state of Florida to my little burgeoning list of out-of-state races.  I'm already looking for a replacement Florida race.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Still Sick But Hopeful

We're going on day 8 of this nonsense!  Congested head! Congested chest!  Blocked ears! 

When will this end??  If were just a head cold, I'd attempt to get a few runs in.  But the chest congestion makes it really hard just doing day-to-day stuff, never mind putting some miles on the ol' running shoes. 

I'm hopeful that whatever training I've gotten in, up to this point, will be sufficient.  I was on track until two weeks ago.  And I ran a half-marathon near the end of September.  Last long run was 9 miles two weeks ago.  Last run was a short one, 12 days ago.  I can only cross my fingers and hope this "crud" clears out real soon and that it's not set me back too much!

I leave day after tomorrow for Florida to run the Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, traveling there by motorcycle.  My stuff is all packed, bike is "prepped" for the trip.  Weather should be great!  Here's hoping I'm able to get one more long run in (maybe tomorrow??) and then a few more runs while I'm in Florida next week, prior to the race.  Wish me better health and safe travels!

My Upcoming Trip...a Tradition

Well, it's that time of year again.  Time to trek back across I-10 east, from Texas to Florida, to participate in the Florida Coast2Coast Ride, see many friends, make new ones, and (hopefully) eat some good food while I'm there. 

I plan to depart early Thursday morning, make it as far as Marianna FL for the night, then arrive in the Seffner, FL area by early afternoon on Friday.  Close to 200 people are registered for this event...a great turnout, considering very little promotion was done for this year's event compared to previous years.  There will be bikes of all types, sizes, and styles participating in the event.  It's always a lot of fun cruising the parking lot at the start and at the finish of the event, to check out all of the "rides."

For the next week I'll "hang out" in the area, near Orlando, and hopefully meet up with a few friends who live in FL for some lunch rides.  Otherwise, I'll just relax, get a few shorter runs in, and rest before the event the next weekend:  the Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg FL. 

The variety of activities on this trip presents a real packing challenge, when on a motorcycle.  Shirts, socks, undergarments to wear while on the bike; shirts, pants, jeans, shoes to wear while off the bike, one or two nice outfits to wear in case I decide to go out for dinner; running clothes and shoes both for the weekday runs and the 1/2 marathon at the end of the week.  Jacket and fleece for the cool nights; a pair of shorts on the off-chance there'll be a warm and pleasant day.  Phew!

My trusty and favored FZ6 gets to go on this trip.   The BMW got to see a few miles these last couple of months - riding out to Van Horn to serve as witness for the IBA BBG rides, and then the Jack Shoalmire Tribute SS1000 the next weekend.  FZ6 hasn't gotten to go on a long trip in a while so she's deserving of this one. 

I checked the tire pressures, moved the Garmin GPS cradle over from the other bike, put the topcase on, and cleaned her mirrors and windscreen.  A couple of weeks ago I cleaned and lubed her chain.  So she's ready to go!  I'm ready to go!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sidelined

It was a great visit with family this past weekend!  We were so busy, I hardly had time to think, never mind squeeze any runs in.  Birthday party at Trevor's pre-school Friday afternoon, Pumpkin Patch fun run Saturday morning, Boo party at the museum for Trevor and Mom mid-day on Saturday while son and I stayed home with Mimi, party for my son and family and for another newly transferrred family to Stennis Space Center on Saturday afternoon, birthday party for Trevor on his actual birthday on Sunday afternoon, trick-or-treating with the grandkids on Monday evening, shopping for furniture for Mimi's room on Tuesday morning before driving back to Houston that afternoon.

Granddaughter Mimi was showing all the signs of not feeling well:  runny nose, episodes of diarrhea, that something's-just-not-right fussiness.  Lots of wiping wet noses, kissing snotty cheeks and I was guaranteeing that I'd catch whatever it was that she had.  And I did.  I started to feel it Monday afternoon, but wrote it off to allergies.  My son was also showing symptoms, but then he suffers allergies as much as I do, if not more.  But Tuesday morning I woke up with a scratchy throat and a head filled with fog and cotton, and my son stayed in bed a little later than usual that morning. 

Here it is, Friday morning, and I'm still fighting this cold!  How can a nose be stopped up and runny at the same time?!  My chest feels like a combine was harvesting in there all night.  No running for me this week.  Nope!  Maybe by Sunday I'll feel up to it.

Ah, but those sweet little kisses on sweet little cheeks were oh, so worth it!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Start 'Em Early!

5:00 AM and 45 degrees of cold in Louisiana.  It's Saturday morning and I was awake before the rest of the household.  I'm visiting my son and his family and I'd registered all of us to participate in a 1K/5K Fun Run.  The plan was for me to go ahead of the rest of the family to the race, pick up our race bibs and event shirts, which would buy some time for son and daughter-in-law to wake up the 4 year old and 1 year old, get them fed, dressed, stuffed into car seats and over to the event location in time for the 8 AM start of the fun run. 

A prayer, the national anthem, and then the start.  And off they went!  Grandson Trevor ran with all his heart until he just couldn't run any more!  The rest of us met up with son and grandson and we walked the rest of the course.  Trevor's very first Fun Run!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Chronic Runner's Tales

So what is a chronic runner?  I would characterize myself as one.  Chronic runner, that is.   The term "avid" just doesn't seem to do it when describing my running habits and schedule.    To me "avid" implies someone who goes out the door with an agenda: run farther, run faster, run speed intervals, run hills, run fartleks, run splits.  No...this just doesn't describe how I run. 

The descriptor, "chronic" just seems to fit.   That's chronic, as in, "habitually" or "of long duration and frequent recurrence."    I get up in the morning, roll out of bed, and pull on running gear quickly, before I've had a chance to change my mind.  Out of habit.  I do this three or four times a week.  It's a well-ingrained habit.  Two or three times a week I run 4 or 5 miles, one time a week I run a longer distance, determined by where I am on the race training schedule. The week after a half marathon...6 miles.  Six weeks before a half marathon...7 miles.   Two weeks before a half marathon...12 miles.  My PR's are a decade behind me, now.  I don't care if I never do speedwork again.    Fartleks?  Only if you count the sprint to the house that last tenth of a mile.  Yep.  I'm old and have become set in my ways...my running has been this way for a long time.

If some other activity bumps into a scheduled run on my calendar, there's no question which item gets scratched.  A visit with friend over lunch, a weekend spent with son, daughter-in-law and grandkids, play rehearsals, serious miles on a motorcycle...these will definitely happen at the expense of getting a run in.  

Of course, there have been many times when I've successfully mixed running with socializing or travel.   Some of my most memorable runs have happened while I've been traveling.  And this weekend I'll get to combine running with travel AND family:  I'm spending the long weekend visiting my son and we're all going to do a Pumpkin Patch 5K/1K race on Saturday.   This ought to be interesting!  Stay tuned for the report!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Commitments....and Mosquitos

They're "killing" me.  Well, not really.  But figuratively speaking, these two things - a full calendar and those blasted mosquitos - are really taking a 'bite' (pun intended) out of my running schedule.

The welts are still popping up in all sorts of unimaginable places on my body as a result of that long run I did on Sunday.  The exceptional mosquito infestation here in Houston is all over the news.  Nearly overnight, these pests appeared, making life outdoors nearly unliveable.  I did a shorter run on Friday and had no problems with them.  Just two days later, and they made my long Sunday run miserable. 

I went grocery shopping yesterday after play rehearsal, and should probably count the multiple "hastened" trips in and out of the house to empty the trunk of my car of groceries as a workout.  Never have I unloaded the trunk so quickly, never have I dashed in and out of the door with such efficiency!  By the time I'd made that last trip, there were dozens of mosquitos hovering over my open trunk, drafting in my wake as I zipped back and forth from car to door.

I should have done an easy run on Tuesday morning, but just could not bring myself to go outside, sacrifice my tender flesh, my precious blood, to those mosquitos.  And again this morning I woke up intending to go out for that run, but, I admit it...I chickened out.  When I left the house at 8:30 AM for rehearsal, I noticed that there was a nice breeze, the temperatures were moderate, and humidity wasn't too bad.  And neither were the mosquitos. 

I guess this means that I should make the effort, get that run in tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Faithful Riding Partner...My Olympia AST Jacket

I'm sitting here trying to remember when I bought this Olympia AST jacket.  I'm thinking it was in late 2005 or early 2006.  This model was brand-new to Olympia and was only available in one color - Dark grey (slate) with black ballistics - when I bought it from a BMW dealership on-line.  At some later point, it became available in hi-vis yellow.  That would have been nice to have. 

I had discovered another Olympia jacket model, the Airglide mesh/textile jacket, in 2004 when I attended the International Motorcycle Show in Dallas TX.  They had just been introduced, were being shown and sold at this show, and I came home the proud owner of an Airglide jacket:  A black one with red accents.  I loved it, loved the way it fit, loved the removable quilted jacket liner that could function as a stylish stand-alone jacket when off the bike.   I now wear a silver-grey Airglide 2.  Finding Olympia riding jackets has been a game-changer for me.

Fit had always been a huge problem for me when it came to motorcycle jackets.  I had purchased many and sold nearly every one of them on e-bay when their shortcomings became evident.  Being a short and slight woman, I found them all to be built for football players:  Sleeves too long, too big in the shoulders and chest, too long in the torso.    Alpinestars seemed to be the only brand I could find that was truly built for female riders.

I was wearing a red Alpinestars mesh/textile jacket prior to the discovery of this Olympia Airglide jacket.   That Alpinestars jacket was okay; it had a removable membrane liner to make it waterproof, but it wasn't insulated. And it wasn't well-suited to cold-weather riding since the fit was not conducive to wearing bulky clothing underneath.  I still have that jacket, occasionally pulling it out for local rides. 

Then, a few years after discovering the Olympia Airglide jacket, I discovered that AST jacket, suitable for 3-season riding with its ample venting, removable quilted liner - just like the one that came with my Airglide - waterproof shell, supplemented by the permanent membrane liner.  And I knew it would fit me perfectly, since it was the same cut/style as the Airglide.

Well, 6 years and possibly as many as 175,000-180,000 miles seem like plenty enough use out of this Olympia AST jacket.  Lately I've noticed that the Velcro fasteners on the sleeve cuffs won't stay fastened...they come undone at the worst times:  When it's cold, or wet, or cold AND wet.   And the neck closure will frequently come undone whenever I fasten or unfasten the D-ring latch on the straps of my helmet.  If I'm getting ready to remount my motorcycle, this inadvertent unfastening of my collar will often go unnoticed until I'm underway, going 70 mph, and then the cold air will pour into my neck and the jacket neckline will have blown open and been pulled back so much it will be virtually impossible for me to get that collar refastened while moving.  Arghhh!

Notice the pale grey back
compared to the dark gray
sleeves.
I replaced the Velcro "hook" strips, but then discovered that it wasn't the "hooks" that were no longer working, but the "velvet" strips that were so worn and "fuzzed" that the hooks just couldn't get a grip.  Replacing the "velvet" strips would have been a major undertaking.  Sigh.  Cuffs and collar that will not stay closed - totally unacceptable to me.

Otherwise, I was willing to overlook the fact that the dark slate grey color was badly faded across the back, the shoulders, the upper and lower sleeves, so much so that the jacket actually appeared two-tone grey.  I was also willing to overlook how the sleeve vent zippers - nice rubberized waterproof zippers that they are - were becoming difficult to open or close.  I used to be able to close the zips while underway, but no more.  I have to wait until I'm stopped, often even having to remove the jacket to do so.  Guess it's the permanent "bend" in the arms from the thousands of miles of wear that has made this so difficult these days. 

And then there's that "funk" - that permanently imprinted B.O. - that the jacket has picked up from all those thousands of miles ridden in 90+ degree, even 100+ degree temperatures.  I don't believe in washing my jackets by total immersion in water.  To me, they're just never the same after being washed.  Washing them seems to take the "starch" out of them, remove the water resistance of the Cordura fabric, wilt the "look" of the jacket.  I rather like the grunged look they get after so many miles' use.  I spot-clean them to remove major bug splats, mud, food, and other crusty stuff.  But the impregnated "funk" is another matter.  I noticed it on my last ride - the Shoalmire Tribute SS1000 last weekend.  Phew!  I could hardly stand myself!

My new AST jacket
in Sand/black
Yep!  Time to retire the jacket.  Last winter I had the good fortune to "score" a new one at a great close-out price - this one in the Sand color - at the Motorcycle Closeouts webpage.  When I received it, I tucked it away in my closet until the time when I felt my first AST jacket was ready to retire.  Well here it is...time.  

But then the other day I began to mourn my decision to retire that original slate grey jacket and the fact that it fits me so doggone well.  What if, when the day comes to retire this second new AST jacket, I can't find a suitable replacement for a jacket I love so much?  No other brand of all-season jacket fits this petite and slight woman, not even the smallest size men's Aerostich, even with all the expensive custom 'mods' available.  The AST is such the perfect jacket for all seasons. 

So, impulsively, in the throes of "loss," I logged onto that Motorcycle Closeouts webpage to see if they still had any of these jackets left...just to see.  Well, good fortune was smiling down on me.  That plus the fact that I wear a size Small.  The second generation AST jacket has been on the market for a couple of years, so I was surprised they still had a few of the first generation model in stock.  They had only a limited size selection,  the sizes that don't usually sell well:  size XS, S, and the largest sizes.  So I went ahead and bought another new AST jacket, this one in that slate grey color that served me so well...and at a greatly discounted price.  Now I have a back-up jacket.

Bring on the cold, the wet, the cold and wet...I'm ready!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Mosquito March

Well....I thought I'd go ahead and get another long run in this week, even though I just did one four days earlier, on Wednesday.  I just couldn't see how I was going to fit it in any other way, since every morning this coming week is taken up with play rehearsals.

So out of bed, running clothes on, a $10 bill folded and tucked away in that cute little zippered pocket on my running top, I headed out the door.  I thought I'd run over to the McDonald's on FM-518 about 6.5 miles away.  I'm really into their cappucino and their fruit & yogurt parfait, and this will make for a nice "destination" run. 

It was very pleasant outside this morning...a slight low mist hanging over the fields, a certain dampness in the air that we've not felt here in a long time.  My circuit through the neighborhood complete, I then headed out through the gate and onto the sidewalk running alongside the main roads,  past that nice pond I've referred to in previous blog posts, the herons still working the water's edges, a handsome Muscovy duck watching over her half-grown ducklings still grey with their downy baby feathers. 

When I was about a mile away from that "destination" McDonald's, I could almost taste the richness of their cappucino, feel the frothy milk on my tongue.  The thought of the yogurt and fresh fruit parfait was making my stomach rumble.

The cold air inside the store gave me a chill, as I briefly ducked inside the restroom to use the toilet and to rinse the sweat off my face.  I stepped up to the counter to place my order and the friendly woman at the cash register asked, "Have you been running?  Good for you!  You're making me feel guilty.  I should be out there too!"  Come to think of it, she looked like she could be a runner.  She was about my age - and about my size - and said that like she meant it.

I sat down inside to eat my parfait and, when finished, locked that little cap on the lid of my cappucino into the open position and headed out the door and towards home.  I'm getting pretty good at locomotiing while holding a to-go coffee and, after about 1/4 mile walking and sipping, I began to run again. 

As I got out of the "strip mall development" area and back into more rural lands, I began to notice that the mosquitos were starting to swarm and actually make a landing on various parts of my body.  Let me preface the rest of the story by saying that, because of the very dry spring and summer we've had here in South Texas, the mosquitos have been dormant.  But we had a good rain here two weeks ago, and all those mosquito larvae that had lain dormant for all these months hatched - all at one time - and are now after blood!  It's the worst mosquito infestation we've had in years, because they hatched all at one time.

I was running at a fairly slow pace, mostly to enjoy the coffee and keep it from sloshing out of the sip hole.  But I clearly had a large mosquito target on my back and was going slow enough for the mosquitos to land and start biting.  By instinct, I flailed my arms to dislodge the mosquitos, forgetting that the hand at the end of one of those arms was holding the coffee, and liquid flew out the hole, into the air, and onto my hand. 

I picked up the pace a bit, until I was moving fast enough that the mosquitos couldn't land on me.  They managed to keep up with me, though, and whenever I looked down, I could see a cloud of them swarming around my lower torso and legs.  If I slowed just one tiny bit, they were able to land on my legs and arms and start snacking.  Ughh!!

My legs were starting to "flag," reminding me that I had just done a long run four days earlier.  "Why are you doing this to us?" They were hollering at me, trying to get my attention.  It didn't matter.  I wasn't listening.  I was in self-preservation mode, legs be damned!  Just 3 more miles of this torture, and I'll be home!

It truly was torture!  What a predictament I found myself in!  My legs were really balking at this pace, especially after 8 or 9 miles yet, if I slowed down, the cloud of mosquitos surrounding my body would immediately alight. 

Finally!  My house came into view!  When I got up to the front door, I did one last little dance - flailing arms and legs to disrupt and remove any lingering mosquitos - and then dashed quickly in the door, into the safety of the house.  Whew! 

When I logged my distance and pace into my Runner's World online running log, I was astonished at the pace for such a long distance.  As far as it being one of those LSD (long slow distance) runs...it was a long distance, just not a slow distance, thanks to those mosquitos.

Friday, October 21, 2011

We Are The Majority

If you're like me and you're training for an upcoming half- or full marathon, you're following a  training plan. There are dozens of plans out there, each with slight variations.  But all of them advocate the same two elements:  An increasingly longer "long slow distance" (LSD) run per week, and at least one, preferably two, rest or recovery days per week.  Sources of well-respected training programs include: Runners World, which publishes several training plans at their website and offers real-time online coaching for its enrollees; and  USAFit which provides a training plan for those who sign up for a local chapter of their program or follow it on-line.  These two programs - along with many others that are similar - all have these two elements in common:  An LSD run and one or two recovery days each week of the program.

So, getting back to that LSD for a moment...LSD implies not only distance, but the pace at which that distance is run.  During the first week of a multi-week training program, this LSD typically starts with a distance of 5 or 6 miles and gradually increases week by week until this LSD approaches the race distance we're training for, whether it's a 12 to 14 mile LSD run in preparation for a half marathon, or a 22 to 26 mile LSD run in preparation for a full marathon.  And as its name implies - long slow distance - it's done at a sub-marathon pace, i.e., S..L..O..W.  

Here's the description for the LSD run at the end of the first week of training, taken from Runner's World's online training program:
  • Week #1, Day #7
  • 5 MILES LSD
  • Today is your first long, slow distance (LSD) run. The long run is the backbone of any successful training program. It builds your aerobic base, increases your endurance, boosts confidence, and helps you rehearse some of the gear and fuel strategies you'll need for the race. It also helps you prepare for the psychological challenge of racing for a few hours. Since you'll be running farther, you can go out slower than you usually do. On these days your goal is just to complete the distance.
For us mere mortals who represent the vast majority of folks who line up at the start line for half or full marathons, starting a training program - whether it's for the first time, or after a recovery layoff - and running that first Long Slow Run of 5 miles is BIG STUFF!  We add to this distance gradually, 10-20% increases each week, and next thing we know, we're running 12 miles and we're now confident that we can finish that half marathon.  And we feel damn proud of ourselves for reaching that point in our training. 

We run our race, maybe take a couple of weeks off from running, then slip into "maintenance mode" until the next race catches our eye, if at all.  For many finishers of a marathon or half-marathon, this may not ever happen again, or won't happen until the same time next year when the training plan starts all over again from the beginning.

Don't let anyone tell you that 5 or 6 or 7 miles is not a "long run."  Yes, there are those runners who eat miles like candy, cranking out double-digit mileage every day, running 30 miles on a Sunday.    But they are a small minority.  The rest of us - the majority of runners who do half- and whole marathons - why, we thank God or whatever deities we believe in that we made it to the end of that training program, worked our way up to and finished that last LONG SLOW DISTANCE RUN, be it 12 miles or 22 miles, and got to the start line injury-free.

A "long run" is a state of mind, not a statement of miles.

Mere mortals unite! 
See you at the start line.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pygmalion Wears Running Shoes

If there's a connection between Pygmalion and running, I'll find it.  But in the meantime, let me say this:  9:00 AM rehearsals and 7:00 AM runs are pretty much mutually exclusive. 

I live in a great little community!  We have so many activities...too many, if you're the kind of person who wants to do it all!  One of the groups I've been active with has been the Players Club.  We put on three stage productions every year, usually a musical, a melodrama, and either a murder mystery or comedy.  Past productions have included Damn Yankees, South Pacific, The Odd Couple, just to name a few.

So this fall, our group is staging My Fair Lady.  I didn't try out for a part, because I worried I couldn't make the commitment to daily rehearsals for this production.    Working with the director, though, I set up the sound effects playlist on the computer and then offered to be a stand-in for anyone who couldn't make a rehearsal.  Next thing I knew, I was recruited into the chorus.  So here I am...committed.  Now I need to figure out how to weave my runs into the rehearsal schedule.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Fitting Tribute to an Outstanding Rider and a Great Man

Jack Shoalmire SS1000 - A nationwide tribute
Jack Shoalmire  1942-2011
Taken at Big Bend Ranch State Park, February 2011

It started at 4:16 AM on Saturday, October 15, 2011 and ended seventeen and a half hours later, at 9:54 PM.  My ride of 1,053 miles on some of Texas's most beautiful roads would join those of a hundred others', being done in all 50 U.S. states.

~~~~~~~~~~

Jack Shoalmire
Taken at Rio Grande Village, Big Bend National Park
February 2010
When the word got out that this event was being put together in memory and honor of Jack Shoalmire, I knew that I had to be a part of this.  I immediately e-mailed back to the organizer to count me in.  After all, I had just seen Jack six months earlier in Big Bend and had seen him many other times at other MTF events prior to that. 

His sudden death has left a hole in the hearts of all of us who knew him and is a loss to the LD Riding Community as a whole.  What better tribute in his memory than to complete those in-state Saddle Sore rides (1000 miles in less than 24 hours) in all 50 states, rides that Jack had started but never had the chance to complete.

The LD riding community really came together on this one!   As Howard Entman, the person responsible for proposing and then organizing this event, said...More than 100,000 miles were ridden in Jack's memory this day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I knew that this would be a momentous event.  I also knew that, because of this, I didn't want to do a simple out-and-back "interstate blast."  Last spring I routed a SS1000 for the MTF's regional Saddle-Sore event.  I had a straight interstate route for the first-timers, but I also drew up a route to appeal to the experienced IBA members, a more difficult route, one that included over 600 miles on non-interstate two- and four-lane roads and passed through a number of small Texas towns and county seats.  This would be the perfect route for a Jack Shoalmire Tribute SS1000.   I convinced friend Steve to join me on this ride.  He willingly agreed.















It was a lovely route.  It headed south toward the Gulf coast of Texas, ran 150 miles southwest, skirting the coast, crossing inlets and bays along the way.  Then it headed due north for 200 miles through the heart of the state's agricultural region to the eastern edge of Texas Hill Country just north of Austin.  The next leg of the route was 100 miles ridden on one of Texas Hill Country's most beautiful motorcycle roads, Texas 29, with its combination of sweeping curves, blind hills, and rugged terrain filled with mesquite and prickly pear cactus.   Then southwest on US 377, skirting between windswept mesas and through some pretty ranch country.  At Junction TX the route heads west to Ozona on I-10 then turns around and heads east to Houson on I-10, then right back to where it starts, just south of the city.


I made just one minor change to the route, sending it a little further east as it goes north out of Aransas Pass to Georgetown, in order to avoid Austin - and the traffic of a University of Texas home-game day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My zooty BMW is ready.  I'm ready. So, with snacks, water, and Gatorade stowed in the left sidecase, it was off to Buc-ee's gas station, one mile from the house, to get my starting receipt for the Jack Shoalmire Tribute SS1000 Ride.  I had two photos of Jack - a nice portrait-style shot of him taken while we were at Big Bend Ranch State park for lunch last February, another of him taken the previous year at Big Bend National Park with his red KLR.  I also had printed out a copy of his obituary and had tucked all of these items together in the map pocket of my tankbag.  My rear footpegs were in the down position.  There was no question at all in my mind that Jack was coming along with me - and with all of the others - on this ride. 

At 4:16 AM my gas tank was topped off and I had receipt safely tucked away in my tankbag.  Now I just had to wait until friend Steve arrived from Tomball TX to join me.   By 4:30 AM we were headed south on TX-288 toward Angleton, Highway 35, and the Texas Gulf coast.

Okay, Jack.  Hang on!  We're off, heading south to start this memorial TX instate SS1000 in your honor! 

 It was pitch dark along Highway 35 and my imagination was cutting no slack.  I knew that this was a high deer-density area because of the  heavy vegetation and major Texas rivers that flow through here on their way to the Gulf of Mexico:  Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio River, Guadalupe River.  I was not sorry to see the first pink glow in my rearview mirrors, as the sun began to rise.  As we were passing over the causeway on Aransas Bay, I looked over my left shoulder and was treated to the start of a gorgeous sunrise.  Look, Jack!  Do you see that?  Do you see how calm the waters are, how the pelicans are poised on pilings and piers, waiting for daylight to reveal their breakfast, lurking just beneath these turquoise gulf waters? 


The light was a soft golden glow when we arrived in Aransas Pass for our first stop for gas...and to mark the corner of our route.  Steve and I had a small SNAFU at the planned gas stop.  The gas station I'd scouted earlier in the year for the MTF SS1000 was not yet open for the day.  The pumps were turned on, but the C-store was closed, a bundle of that morning's newspapers still sitting on the mat in front of the locked door.  Someone overslept, did they??  And of course the pumps would not dispense a receipt.  The message said, "Cashier has receipt."  I took a photo of the pump's display and of the store itself, recorded the purchase and odometer reading, then rode across the street to a Chevron station to get an ATM receipt for date/time/location stamp and to use their restroom.  Not a good start, but we were a little ahead of schedule, so not a problem.

Then another SNAFU as my GPS got totally lost trying to get out of Aransas Pass.  Construction to widen Highway 35 and add limited-access on- and off-ramps had us totally "off route" and Jill was so busy "recalculating" she neglected to tell me to turn right onto US-181 north.  But a quick discussion on the side of the road with Steve got us turned around and back on route.  Hopefully this will be the only U-turn of the day.

The aroma of freshly plowed earth assailed my nostrils as we passed through miles and miles of cotton fields in Taft and Sinton and Skidmore, on our way to Beeville.  Jack, can you smell it?   Hundreds of giant wind turbines were lined up to the horizon, doing their work and taking advantage of the prevailing southwest winds.

We stopped in Kenedy for gas and to mark the route, showing that we stayed east of I-37 on US-181 and TX-80, and didn't take that easy and fast route.  On up through the town of Luling with its watermelon-shaped water tower - and home of the Luling Watermelon Thump and some of the best BBQ in the state, City Market - and then continuing north to Georgetown.  We very carefully skirted Austin to avoid what was sure to be a crush of traffic heading towards the home game between University of Texas and #6-ranked Oklahoma State. 

Our next corner was Georgetown, where we turned west onto TX-29.  Corner marked with a gas receipt and a snack of peanut butter crackers and Gatorade, I began what was to be yet another pretty leg of this trip.  TX State Highway 29 heads west from Georgetown, through Bertram and Burnet, past the gorgeous Buchanan Dam, and then through Llano and Mason, both towns being county seats with pretty courthouse squares.

Coming out of Burnet, the highway begins a gentle downhill journey with gentle curves that sent me down and around a final bend where, first, a nicely restored iron trestle bridge came into view and then, off to the right, the Buchanan dam was gradually revealed.   It was an impressive sight!  The lake at its base glistened a brilliant and rich blue-green in the sunlight.

The road with its high-speed sweepers begged for some throttle and, with its smooth lanes, devoid of any traffic, I complied.   West of Llano, I spotted a deer feeding along the side of the road.  I had plenty of time to slow down, and was prepared to come to a complete stop if I had to.  The deer - a beautiful large doe - stood frozen, staring at me, until I came nearly to a stop along side her, when she leapt off the shoulder and into the wooded fields beyond. 

There's a short section along this highway where there are interesting pink and red rocks, large rocks, piled one upon another, tossed there by some colossal force of nature.  And here they sit today, how many thousands of years later.   It's not too far from Enchanted Rock State Park, no doubt another result of the same natural force of nature.  Riding through this area while doing this SS1000 was indeed enchanting!

At Mason TX I turned onto US-377 to continue toward Junction TX and was treated to beautiful views of mesas, their tops worn smooth and their sides carved into "organ pipe" formations by the strong winds that whip through and around these natural formations.  Cattle and horse ranches fill the flat pastures between the mesas.  The area was not nearly as desolate as I imagined it would be.

Soon, I was in Junction.  I needed to go inside to get my gas receipt and couldn't help but notice the motorcycle parked up near the front door.  Once inside, it was obvious that the man working the cash register was the owner of that bike.  He clearly knew that I belonged to that BMW parked at one of his pumps and knew why I'd come inside.  He was prepared to print my receipt, but not before marveling at how many gallons I'd pumped into that bike.  It really wasn't that many...the fuel light wasn't even on, nor had the low-fuel countdown begun.

Another quick "gas pump snack" of Granola Bar and Gatorade, and I was up on the interstate, heading the 90 miles west to Ozona, my turnaround point.  My SS1000 is now almost 2/3 complete.  In Ozona, it's now 3:30 PM, The exact time I predicted I'd be there.  Now my route will be straight interstate to home.  I'll have just one more gas stop - in San Antonio - and then I'll be back at the Buc-ee's gas station where I started.  I'm happy, because I know these next few hours will be easy riding.

As I rode along on I-10, passing through Sonora, then Junction, then Kerrville, I knew that I'd be on the Anderson Loop around the north side of San Antonio well before dark.  I reflected on how I'd just ridden this stretch of road 6 days earlier, returning from Van Horn after serving as witness for riders who were doing IBA BBG3000 and BBG4500 extreme rides.  How different my ride was this day compared to 6 days ago.  Today the sky was perfectly blue, the temperature a near-perfect 85 degrees.  Last week it was cold and gray and wet.  I was very thankful for how perfect the weather turned out to be on this day, the day we memorialized Jack by doing this ride.

The sun set in my rearview mirrors as I rode through Luling TX heading east toward home.  By the time I reached Schulenburg it was night-time.  But it didn't matter. I was on roads I'm very familiar with, I was feeling great, and I knew I was only 100 miles from home.  Besides, Jack was riding along with me, keeping me company.

As I rode through Katy, TX on I-10, my trip odometer turned over 1000 miles.  It is done.  Now just another 50 or so miles to my last gas receipt near home.