Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We Need Rain!!

I'm doing the best I can to keep the living things green around my house, running the sprinkler system as much as I dare, but the lawn is a bit brown around the edges and some of the more tender-leafed shrubs and bushes are wilting every afternoon.  This drought is hard on everyone and everything!  And hard on my running, too.

A story in yesterday's newspaper told of the hardships on the wildlife in Texas.  To read it is heartbreaking.  http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/outdoors/tompkins/7586196.html

The heat is record-breaking and I've put off going out for a run two mornings in a row, but today I could put it off no longer.  It's been more than a week since I've gone for a run.  The hiking at 7,000 mile elevation won't count here.  So this morning the cat's meows woke me up at 5:45 AM.  I think she's one smart kitty cat! 

My routine to get out the door is simple:  Don't think, just do.   I pulled on some running clothes, drank a glass of water, set my chronometer to 0:00, and headed out the door.  The heat and humidity assailed me the moment I stepped outside.  I wasn't sure how far I'd run this morning, but wanted to do at least 4 miles. 

Once underway, and once the sweat rivulets began, it couldn't get any worse, so I just settled into a pace that, in the humidity, felt horribly slow, and worked my way around the loop, under the bridge, past the little lake, up the hill then back down the hill and toward the carriage house, then to home.  When it was all said and done, I'd run five miles, and at a pretty good pace, too. 

Tomorrow is National Running Day National Running Day so this means I'll get right back out there tomorrow morning for another run, this time in step with hundreds of thousands of others just like me.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hard to Return Home

Road trips are great!  They get me out of the house and into some new territory, geographic or otherwise.  I do reach a point, however, when I'm "over it" and am more than ready to get home.  I miss my bed.  I miss my cat.  I actually miss my own cooking.  And I miss my regular routine. 

But coming home also means facing reality.  This return - from an 8 day road trip to Santa Fe NM and surrounds - was no different.  Yes it is true, I saw some really fantastic sites and ate some incredibly good food at a couple of very creative restaurants in Santa Fe.  I also had some decent comfort food in the form of hamburgers, soup, grilled cheese sandwiches.   But after a week of this, even the thought of a pile of dirty laundry and flower beds full of weeds starts to sound down-right...well... homey.

I knew when I walked in the door late Saturday afternoon that I'd want to quickly deal with the cat's needs first.  The kitty litter was quite full and in urgent need of "scooping."  The cat's water bowl needed to be emptied, cleaned, and refilled with fresh water.  Every room in the house needed a quick going through with the vacuum cleaner to "de-fur" the carpets and some of the furniture.  A more thorough cleaning can wait until later.

This got done even before I removed my riding boots and pants.  Once the cat was dealt with, I could remove the boots and overpants and chug down a tall glass of refreshing ice water.  Then it was on to unloading the contents of the bike onto the kitchen counter and sorting through that mess to get the three loads of laundry sorted and to put away all of the odds and ends that mean disorganized and endless trips back and forth between kitchen, closet, bedroom, laundry room.  This is the part I hate the most.  It seems no matter how many times I sort through that heterogeneous pile, I can never seem to get it all put away efficiently.

We've had no rain for months now and to add to that gardening insult, I have a broken valve on one of my sprinkler zones so cannot leave the sprinkler system on "auto."  As soon as I'd gotten the cat dealt with and the bike unpacked, I turned on the sprinkler system to get the lawn and beds watered.  Some of my plants in the back are gasping from the heat and drought.

It was a long hot ride home and I wanted nothing more at this point than to get into the shower!  My shower competed with my sprinkler system for water pressure but I didn't care!  It felt good!

I'd had no breakfast or lunch on the road the last day so was more than ready, at this point, to rummage in the kitchen to put something together for dinner.  A frozen salmon filet defrosts quickly, and the salad makings in the fridge were still good, augmented with some pickled beets and I quickly hardboiled an egg to slice onto the salad.  Finally!!  I could take a break, sit down to dinner and get caught up on the news on TV.

I still needed to get down to the mailbox to collect a week's worth of mail and sort through that pile.  And after dinner, those piles of dirty clothes grabbed my attention and I started the first of three loads of laundry before finally calling it quits for the night.   And all of this after riding those last 400 miles home Saturday in 100 degree heat and fighting 25 mph winds on a motorcycle.

Sunday will be another day...there'll be a more thorough house cleaning to do, get clean sheets on the bed, finish doing the laundry and getting it folded and put away, get outside to send the sprinkler system through another cycle and start on cleaning out the weeds in the flower beds.  Get some bills paid.  Talk to former co-worker Steve about some issues, talk to Kevin about the upcoming SS1000 event next weekend, and review the registrations and print out some forms for that event.  And pretty much just revel in the alone time, the peace and quiet of my own house without all of the outside "noise" that is unavoidable on a trip.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Five Nights, Four Days in Land of Enchantment

We arrived into Santa Fe mid-afternoon on Sunday and parked the bikes, disgorged their contents into our little timeshare unit (small but well-appointed) at Villas de Santa Fe, and struck out to roam the streets of Santa Fe.

The "girls" are parked and tucked in for the day:

The historic plaza of Santa Fe is an easy and pleasant stroll from the timeshare...a perfect location to stay for the week.   Our stroll led us past the Georgia O'Keefe museum (we'll visit that tomorrow), through the plaza, past the Palace of Governors, around the perimeter of the plaza and to a Starbucks just a block off the main square.   In all the years that Starbucks has been in my peripheral vision, I've never had a Frappuccino.  So...a caramel frappuccino with whipped cream and a straw to drink it with seemed like the right thing to do.  This ridiculously high-calorie but delicious treat lasted all the way back to the Villas, where we decided to just keep walking another 1/2 mile to the nearby Albertson's to do a little grocery shopping.  Steaks, salad makings, breakfast provisions, some wine, some chocolate and we headed back up the hill to the villa.

Monday, Day 1 in Santa Fe:
After a slow start, we finally got out the door and headed back toward the historic plaza.  Two blocks from the Villa we turned right and into the Georgia O'Keefe museum.  The special exhibit was entitled "Shared Intelligence:  American Painting and the Photograph."  It didn't particularly capture my interest or fancy and there were only a small number of O'Keefe's works among the exhibit.  In less than an hour we'd used up our ten dollars' worth of browsing and went back outside. 

Heading toward the plaza, we noticed that one of the plaza streets was blocked off and there was what appeared to be an outdoor photo or film set in the middle of the road.  We gawked a bit but couldn't figure out what was going on, so proceeded toward the Loretto Chapel to see the famous staircase.  It was unique and photogenic but it wasn't until I'd read about it afterward that its true charms were revealed.

As we walked through the plaza we were keeping our eye out for potential restaurants, places for dinner later in the week.  Those around the plaza seem more low-end and touristy.  But the quest will continue!  We had lunch at a nice restaurant - Luminaria - with outdoor patio dining attached to a very upscale hotel, La Fonda.  Luminaria emphasizes natural ingredients and creative dishes and presentation.  I had a really excellent lentil chile soup and grilled ham/cheese sandwich. 

Continuing up the Old Santa Fe Trail road, we passed several better restaurants.  Now these are more like it!  We looked at their posted menus and made notes to return.  There were several that we liked, we will have a hard time choosing.

The New Mexico capitol building is on the Old Santa Fe Trail road, otherwise known as the "Old Route 66 (pre-1937).  The building was more modern than I expected it would be.    On the way back to the plaza we spied a candy shop - Senor Murphy's Candies - and stepped inside to browse the selection.  We're both huge chocaholics!  Our selections made and purchased, we took our goodies to the plaza and found a bench to sit and enjoy!

The movie shoot was still underway and we were blocked from the choice benches, those in the shade.  After our chocolate binge, we walked over to one of the uniformed Santa Fe police who were there in abundance to find out the details.  It was a scene for a movie entitled Odd Thomas, based on a Dean Koontz book.  They'd taken over a restaurant store front, changing the name and, according to the policeman, much of the interior as well.  Extras were seated at tables outside the store front and other extras were driving cars, strolling up the sidewalk.  As we stood there we watched them do a couple of takes:  Two women strolled by with a baby stroller, a car slowly drove up the street, and the people seated at the tables in front of the restaurant pretended to eat and chat.

As we headed back to the villa I wanted to go down to the CVS which was in the same strip mall as the Albertson's.  I wanted to buy a gift card for a family member who is graduating high school.  So, what the heck!  Since we were there....we went back to the Albertson's and bought items to replenish the salad fixings and a rotisserie chicken for dinner.  I also needed to buy a new deodorant.  It seems deodorant has a shelf life and the one I've been packing on my trips for several years seems to have expired, as evidenced by the fact that it was no longer keeping me from getting stinky.

Dinner and then introduce Keith to one of my favorite shows, Dancing With The Stars.

Tuesday, Day 2 in Santa Fe:
Today we're going to Bandelier National Park.  Another leisurely start to the day, since the park is only 40 or so miles away. 

Seeing the "treasures" of this park requires a good hike to get to the cliff dwellings of the ancestral Pueblos.  The trail passed through a deep narrow valley between cliffs formed of "tuff," a pumice-like volcanic rock.  This rock erodes in such a way to create a surface filled with holes, giving it a lacy appearance.

We reached a large Kiva, or underground ceremonial cave, and then the remnants of a village on the valley floor, Tyuonyi.  The foundations for the buildings form a nearly perfect circle and it is suggested that the buildings were two stories high. 

Above this village, looking down over the valley floor, the residential cavates or manmade alcoves in the cliffs have the perfect vantage point as well as protection.  These were spectacular!  Their preservation can only be explained by the dry climate and remote location.  Along this trail are the Talus House and the Long House. 

Lots of climbing and lots of stairs to get up the level of the cavates - done at 7,000 ft elevation - gave this flatlander's heart and legs a real workout.  Whew!  There were many petroglyphs on the exterior walls as well as a preserved section of pictograph, covered with plexiglass to protect it from further erosion.  Seeing this up close and peering into the cavates, their ceilings still blackened from soot, was amazing!  It rivals Walnut Canyon, AZ for its power to evoke life in these regions many centuries ago.

More information here:  Bandelier National Monument

After we left Bandelier we had lunch at a great little restaurant in White Rock:  Bandelier Grill.  I had a really good tortilla soup and a lamb gyro sandwich.  

For dinner it was left-over rotisserie chicken, the last of the salad makings, and then it was time to introduce Keith to the other of my favorite TV shows:  The Biggest Loser.

Wednesday, Day 3 in Santa Fe:
Today we'll head in a different direction...north toward Pecos, Las Vegas, and Ft. Union.   Our first stop was at Pecos National Historical Park, another ancestral Pueblo village.  This site differed greatly from Bandelier by its location and the fact that a mission was established next to the ancient village.

  The village sat high on a hill with spectacular views over a shallow flat valley.  The Pueblos were agrarian Indians and the valley would be perfect for cultivating crops and storing the bounty.

More information here:  Pecos National Historical Park

From here we continued north on I-25 to the historic downtown area of Las Vegas, NM in search of a neat (hopefully) lunch spot.  We got into town and parked on the historic square and set out looking for a quaint little cafe or restaurant for lunch.  The first place we came to - Estella's Cafe - was full and it looked to be understaffed, which would mean a long lunch.  We crossed the street and checked out a place that looked a little suspect from the exterior - Rialto - but proved to be okay, if not very quaint, and besides, we were getting hungry. 

We had walked by a corner drugstore, you know, the old-fashioned kind with wooden display cases and what promised to be a soda fountain or at the very least a source for ice cream.  So after lunch we headed there for dessert.  As we walked back to the square, we noticed the really finely restored Plaza Hotel and walked inside to take a peek.  There was a restaurant off the lobby and we realized that's were we should have had lunch.  Next trip!

We got back on the road and headed north toward Fort Union National Park.  The exit from I-25 and the road toward the National Park was in high open grasslands.  We passed a very large but dead diamond-back rattler in the middle of the roadway, proof that the signs we'd been seeing in along the trails in these national parks are not kidding.

This is a really great national park and worth the out-of-the-way trip to get there.  We watched the video and then took off onto the 1 mile loop (more of that 7,000 ft elevation workout!) that brought us up close to the various partially restored-mostly untouched buildings that made up this very large fort and supply depot for a dozen nearby outposts in the upper NM-lower CO territories. 

This was very impressive and the trail guide was excellent in helping us imagine what it looked like when it was a busy, bustling fort in the 1860's and 1870's.  The Santa Fe Trail passes alongside this fort.  Seeing this was indescribable!  It is wide and deeply depressed below the prairie surface and runs diagonally across the fort property then turns a few degrees to continue its westward trail.  It passes along the northern edge of the fort, where the corrals and stables were located and where the storage warehouses were.  This was a major stop along the Santa Fe Trail for the travelers, the soldiers, and even the local Indians. 

The Fort hospital was the largest in the west at that time and treated thousands of patients during it's tenure. 

We spent a large amount of time here, walking through the fort, lingering our eyes over the officers' quarters, the quartermasters' quarters and offices, the huge warehouses, the soldier barracks, even speculating over the pits over which the privies/latrines were built and wondering why these were built immediately next to the fort bakery. 

More information here:  Fort Union National Park

On the way back to Santa Fe, I thought about what life must have been like at that Fort.  I purchased a couple of books and look forward to reading more about the life and times there 150 years ago.

Tonight we decided to have dinner at the 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar.  Excellent decision!!  I had the black mussels in a tomato broth, a glass of Cote de Rhone white, and we shared a slice of caramel chocolate turtle cheesecake for dessert.

Thursday, Day 4 in Santa Fe:
Last full day in the Santa Fe area and today we got up early to head north to Taos and to do the Enchanted Circle, a scenic loop road that heads north from Taos to Questa, east to Red River, then south through Eagle Nest and Angel Fire, then west back to Taos. 

Just on the southern edge of town we found a little coffee house called Java and had a pastry and a cappuccino (for me) and a coffee (for Keith) before continuing into town.  We stopped in the center of Taos to see the historic plaza but didn't spend much time there. It's not as pretty or interesting as the one in Santa Fe; we did stop at a little gift shop to buy some chocolates.

Back on the road heading north, we took a short detour to see the bridge that spans the Rio Grande River Gorge north of Taos.  This bridge was once called the "Bridge to Nowhere" as the highway, US 64 was not completed on the west side of the bridge due to lack of funding.  It is the second-highest suspension bridge in the country.  More info here:  Taos Bridge

Our route took us up to Questa then east to gain some elevation to the really cute ski town of Red River.  There was some kind of motorcycle rally going on this weekend so the sidewalks and park spaces were overtaken by tents full of "biker" vendors selling the typical wares of a biker rally.  I wanted to stop to take photos but unfortunately the ambience of the town was ruined by this biker rally invasion.  We moved on toward Eagle Nest and stopped for a bathroom break before heading to Angel Fire.  As we turned right toward our next stop I spotted this great "graffiti" on a directional sign.  Texans are everywhere!

Heading down this section of road, we saw American flags planted every half mile or so.  Then we passed an impromptu camping area with a sign that said "Welcome Bikers and Veterans."  As we got a little further along, we spotted the Vietnam Veterans State Park, an impressive white building and chapel up on the hill to our right.  This was originally built by a private family in 1968 after they lost their son in Vietnam.  A few years ago they turned it over to the state and is now the only state park in the country dedicated to Vietnam Veterans.  We learned from a rider who was having lunch at the same place we were, that there will be special activities and functions at the park over the Memorial Day weekend. 

At one point along this route, the views off to our right were of snow-covered mountains above a beautiful wide valley.  We were traveling along the floor of this wide valley and it was hard to believe that we were at 9,000 feet elevation and yet be in such a flat region. 

Lunch was at a place called Zeb's in Angel Fire, our meal-time conversation overwhelmed by some kind of community meeting taking place in the adjoining room.   While it may have been somewhat interesting to the attendees, it made for really boring noise to us and the other diners.  I had a mushroom burger and fries, but the servings were enormous and I ate only half of the burger and just a couple of the fries. 

We moved on toward the best section of this loop road, where it gains elevation via switchbacks, then just as quickly loses that same elevation the same way.  This took us back to the highway that returns us to Santa Fe.

Cleaned up and changed, we headed back into the plaza area on foot in search of another dining experience.  We enjoyed our lunch at Luminaria and so decided to return there for dinner.  Good choice!  I had ruby trout on a bed of lentils and the tiniest baby vegetables (tiny purple carrots, asparagus, green beans) and for dessert an unbelievable orange-chile panne cotta served with a little scoop of homemade orange sorbet on top of two paper-thin slices of peeled orange and with little swirls of a lime coulis. 

Tomorrow we head for home, so the evening was spent packing and getting things stowed on the bikes so that we could get an early start in the morning.

Return to Houston:

We were on the road by 7:45 AM MDT and moved briskly up I-25 to US 285 to I-40.  At the I-40 interchange we stopped at Clines Corners for a quick bathroom stop then got serious about making it to Sweetwater.  The further south we got, the hotter it got.  The temps passed 100 degrees (on my XM Nexrad weather service) as we rode through Lubbock and reached 104 degrees when we got to Sweetwater.  We fought strong winds, alternating as sidewinds or headwinds, depending on the direction of the roadways.

The next morning we departed Sweetwater in 81 degree weather, which actually felt cool compared to the afternoon before.  But the winds had not let up, as we'd hoped, and were strong even early in the morning.  We pressed hard, not even stopping for lunch, to get towards Houston.  Our gas stops were brief and there was no chatting between us...just pump the gas, go inside to use the bathroom, get something to drink, then get back on the bikes. 

I wanted to get a photo of a particular cattle ranch located just south of Comanche, but after that we separated, choosing to ride at different paces.  We caught up with each other briefly in the slower traffic going through Brenham, but separated again moving along 290 toward our respective homes. 

It's good to be home!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ride to Santa Fe, NM

My trip began Saturday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, house- and cat-check.  I was on the road at 8:30 AM, heading for the Beltway to go west and then north toward 290.  I met friend Keith at La Madeleine for a brief croissant and coffee break, and then we got onto 290 to head northwest to Brenham and onto 36 northbound. 

We couldn't have asked for more perfect riding weather!  The giant windmills along this route in central Texas were working overtime in the brisk winds.  Miles and miles of them, lined up like soldiers in the plowed cotton fields in these small towns that line the highway between Temple and Abilene. The fields themselves appeared freshly plowed and furrowed, perhaps seeded, but I was uncertain of this.  It's been so dry everywhere in Texas.  Would the farmers plant the fields in the face of a severe drought?  Remnants of past crops dotted the fields.  Cotton bolls were snagged in the roadside brush and weeds, and the occasional "volunteer" cotton plant could be seen here and there in the fields and along the perimeter.

I had carefully mapped out our route, including our gas stops and our lunch break.  My Google Satellite research found a neat restaurant in Gatesville called the Rancher Steak & Grill.  When we got there it was about 1:15, a little after the lunch hour and the parking lot was nearly empty.  The restaurant itself was a big barn of a place, with booths lining the walls and dozens of tables in the center of the room.  A salad bar lined one wall.   I ordered a cheeseburger, Keith a sausage sandwich.  There were a number of sandwiches to choose from, but the main page of the menu was filled with hearty dinner choices such as large steaks, chops, chicken.    We shared a slice of chocolate cream pie and then we were back on the road by 2:15 PM with nothing between us and Sweetwater but one more gas stop and a slip around the eastern edge of Abilene to I-20 west.

By the time we passed through Abilene, the temperature was 95 degrees, and we were feeling it.   The sight of Sweetwater exit signs on I-20 were a welcome site.  The Best Western in Sweetwater was new and nice, and had a number of dinner choices within easy walking distance.     Subway won our business that night.

We were eager to get back on the road the next morning and to get further north where the temps would be cooler at higher altitudes.  We departed the hotel at 7:30 AM which, in fact, is 6:30 AM in New Mexico where we are heading.    The morning temps were very nice and, if anything, it became cooler in places along our route.

We climbed through 4,000 feet elevation and into the 5,000's, and then the 6,000's.  As we passed through the tiny town of Sudan I noticed smoke coming from in front of the town fire station.  A quick look in that direction and I could see two huge smokers in use, a small group of folks out front.  Looks like a fundraiser BBQ about to happen!  Too bad it was only 10:30 in the morning or I would have pulled over and had lunch!  But...much too soon!  I had Clovis in mind as a good lunch stop destination.  There wouldn't be much beyond that point until we got to Santa Rosa interchange at I-40.  This is a scheduled gas stop but it would be close to 1:30 before we'd pass through there. 

We got to Clovis at around 11:30 CDT and stopped at a McDonald's.  When we got inside to the counter, I thought, "What's going on?  They're still showing the breakfast menu!"  Then it dawned on me:  We'd crossed over into New Mexico and into Mountain time zone.  It was only 10:30 AM.  Keith ordered breakfast and I waited about 5 minutes for them to change the menu over so that I could order lunch.  They had some little picnic tables out front and we had a nice outdoor meal in the pleasant shade.  It was hard to get moving again, the weather was so glorious!

We continued 60 miles west beyond Clovis to Fort Sumner then headed straight north to I-40 and our last gas stop before reaching Santa Fe.  I-40 west to US 285 was a long, straight, windy ride into the sun.  On the other hand, US 285 was pleasant and became surprisingly interesting the further north we got. 

Finally we reached I-25, went south to Santa Fe and then took our exit onto St. Francis heading north toward our home for the next 5 days.

Tomorrow we'll explore the town on foot, and then Tuesday we'll head out for some national parks and some NPT stamping.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Interesting Opinions From the Other Side

The "other side," of course, being folks who have never ridden a motorcycle, yet perpetuate the myths at face value, having no first-hand experience of their own.   And, sadly, these myths are too often believed by untrained, unskilled, or clueless motorcycle riders.

At lunch with some friends the other day, one of the fellows was telling me about his son, who according to him has had to "lay her down" several times in his riding career because of drivers who have pulled out in front of him.  Now....I have no idea how old this son is (I'm guessing maybe in his 40's or 50's) nor do I have any idea how long he's been riding or if he's had professional motorcycle training or if he's taken regular skills courses or advanced rider courses.  I'm guessing the answer is "NO" to these questions.  Who would ever think that "laying her down" is a viable solution to a difficult situation?  The obvious solution is to not find ourselves in a situation where we have to panic brake in the first place.

So how does an experienced and skilled motorcycle rider handle a tight spot?  Here are the tools that the well-trained rider uses:

  • Head on a swivel!   When I ride, my eyes are never locked on the pavement in front of me.  They're continuously making the circuit through my front, my side mirrors, my left and right flanks, my rear.  I'm continuously scanning, assessing, trying to second-guess what the drivers around me are doing.  
  • SIPDE   Remember this from our training?  Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.   We were taught this in our riding classes.   I am never "asleep at the switch" whether I'm in my car or on my motorcycle.  I am continuously scanning the cars, their drivers, the intersections, the driveways, the lanes, the front wheels of vehicles that are poised at an intersection or driveway, trying to identify and predict potential hazards and take evasive action accordingly.  
  • Ride defensively!   It is a mistake to assume that everyone else knows the rules of the road.  It is also a mistake to assert our rights in regard to these road rules if we are at physical risk.  That is why I will often yield at a four-way stop if there's a shadow of doubt as to who has the right of way.  Even if I know I was there first, it's not worth the risk of collision to assert my position.  I'll do the same on interstates, for example when moving over a lane.  If another car looks like it might take that spot, especially if they're being reckless about it, I'll yield.  I'll yield to a driver who is merging on to a freeway and who obviously has not even checked his side mirror for traffic in that lane.  It's as simple as that.  
  •  Look for an escape route!  No skilled rider would ever consider "laying her down" as an option.  Rather than concentrating on an impending collision, those split seconds are better spent looking for a better alternative or escape route.  If we've been doing our job as proficient motorcyclists, we will have high situational awareness.  Is the left lane clear of vehicles?  Is someone following too close behind us?  If I had to, could I move to the right or left lane?  Those of us who have kept our skills sharp by regularly signing up to take an advanced rider course have practiced the "brake and swerve" technique numerous times and at different speeds, until we can do it without even thinking.  Viable options??  Swerve around the back side of the offending vehicle; or do a quick shoulder-check and swerve into the next lane;  or brake hard to scrub off significant speed and the collision might even be averted by giving the vehicle time to get out of the way; or scrub off speed and head for the shoulder.  And, course, the choice of last resort is to go ahead and collide with the vehicle after scrubbing off as much speed as possible.  A collision at 5 or 10 mph is far preferable to sliding along the roadway, possibly sliding into the path of an oncoming car.  A bike will slow much more quickly sliding on rubber than sliding on metal and plastic.

My experience?  
230,000 miles with only the very rare close call and no accidents.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pigs Can Still Fly - Confirmed on May 1

Okay, I know that I reported on this last year at this link: 2010 Flying Pig Marathon, and that my report was in the pig's favor.  But what if that was just a fluke?  It certainly warranted another trip back to Cincinnati to confirm that this is, indeed, true and not an anomaly.

So on Thursday morning, April 28, I packed my bag and got in the car to head to Cincinnati to confirm this once and for all.    I was ready.  The running shoes, shorts, shirt, cap were packed.  Socks and Gu and Glide were safely tucked in the bag.  Reservations awaited me at the Hyatt in downtown just blocks from the start line.  And my race packet and ticket to the pasta dinner were being held for me at the Fitness Expo at the convention center across from the hotel.

They put on a great Expo (again) and still have incredibly friendly volunteers.  Impeccable organization, too.   The Pasta dinner was a little less "magical" for me this year, since I didn't find any interesting table mates to sit with this time (unlike last year).   But, still, the "buzz" and "hype" were there as well as the "pigs" and "grunts."


Unbelievably, it was even a repeat of last year's weather:  Glorious sunshine and moderate temps on Saturday, thunder, lightning and heavy rains on Sunday morning.  Like a broken record.  But, once wet, it really doesn't matter...and the rains let up (just like last year) within the first 30 minutes after the start of the race. 

Even the hills hadn't changed from last year.  They're still there and, if anything, were even steeper.  Or maybe it's just me, getting a year older. 

In any case, the finish line was still there with all the hoopla and excitement which really helped to pull me down that last tenth of mile to the finish.  It was still hard.  It was still fun.  And the Cincy chili, this time at Skyline Chili is still the perfect post-race recovery meal.  Thank you to John F., John S., Don K., and Tom S. for showing up and sharing the moment with me.   Oh, and the little cupcake bakery is still there at the Hilton and their cupcakes are still great!