Sunday, July 31, 2011

Is it November, Yet??

I am so excited! A new-to-me designed, organized, and staged just for women! And a late fall half-marathon, at that, in St. Petersburg FL. Road trip!! Can you tell I'm excited?

Now, I have nothing against men who run, but I'm thinking a race by women just for women is a really cool thing. Being a short person (my son calls me 'midget mom'), I've lined up in the crush of the starting line at other races, fending off the elbows of men who are pressed in on all sides. So, lining up at the start with my running "sisters" will definitely be a pleasant experience! The enthusiastic gals staffing the WHM booth at a Fitness Expo in May assured me of this. Then there's that really gorgeous finisher's medal!

Flash back to a year ago. I was looking for an end-of-year race event in a different city, one that would be fun to visit, not only as a runner, but as a tourist, too. Good weather would be important that time of year, naturally. So would a runner-friendly way of saying a course that isn't too hilly. And a loop course would be nice, a loop that is scenic. Oh, and hotels within walking distance of the start and finish. Some really nice race swag. Am I asking for too much? Yeah, it does sound like I'm being kinda picky. But, what's this? My internet search uncovered the Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, FL. Now, how perfect is this?! Other events and budget constraints nudged it off my calendar for 2010, but I sure did file that WHM race information away, promising myself I'd take another look at it for 2011. When registration opened for this year's event, I was there, online, signing up.

So here it is, early August, and the WHM in St. Petersburg FL is just three and a half months away. That sounds like eons of time to train and get ready, but I have learned the hard way how time can slip away in a heartbeat. I really dislike that feeling when I realize there's a race looming and my long run mileage isn't even close to sufficient. Maybe there are more stressful things in life (broken air conditioners or burst water pipes come to mind) but not feeling like I'm ready on race day morning - at the moment I'm standing on the start line - is going to "peg" mighty high on my stress-o-meter.

In self-defense, therefore, I've taken the proverbial "bull by the horns" this summer and am trying to stick to a schedule. As dreadfully hot as it's been, I'm rewarding myself with little gold stars (well, maybe a little bit of extra chocolate, too) for getting out there and running in the mornings. My runs may not be elegant and my pace may be agonizingly slow but, by golly, I'm (more or less) getting it done.


How did I ever get into this madness called running in the first place? I call it madness because, well, some of my non-running friends really do think I'm mad. But that's another story. So, here's how it happened... Ten years ago a good friend gently pushed me into a spectator role at the marathon here in town. He was running in it and thought I'd enjoy cheering him on. Actually, I think he enjoyed the "one woman cheering section" as much as I did being there for him. In all seriousness, though, it was an eye-opener for me. Not being a runner at all - not even the occasional jogger - I watched in amazement as runners of all sizes, shapes, and ages ran past me, having the times of their lives. Many were using the event as a fund raiser for their favorite charity, others were running in memory of loved ones. Well, I had recently lost my husband to cancer and saw this as my new raison d'ĂȘtre.

After the race was over, when my friend and I re-connected, I sought his help in getting started on what has become the journey of a lifetime for me. He was my mentor and trainer. From being a total non-runner, I ever-so-slowly gained stamina and experience, entering some local 5K races, then a 10K race, then enrolling in a marathon-training program in our city. I had no idea what I was doing; I just followed the "program" and took my friend's advice. I kept putting one foot in front of the other until one day I realized, "Hey, I'm a runner!" When enrollment opened for the next year's marathon, I signed up and, at the same time, signed up with one of the charities to raise money for cancer research.

One year later, after that fateful Sunday morning standing on the sidelines, I was running in my first marathon along that very same street where I stood the year before. I couldn't believe I was actually there, doing this, doing what seemed improbable to me 12 months earlier. I raised a few hundred dollars that first year, but vowed to triple that amount next time. Now it's 10 years later and I confess that the "feel good" part of raising money to fight cancer is trumped only by the euphoria of crossing that finish line!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Had Heard Rumors, but.....

Now it's confirmed!!

Pretty Red Motorcycles

I brought my FZ6 in to the dealer's this week for an oil change and to have the brakes flushed.  I thought I'd had that done last fall but a quick review of my maintenance log showed otherwise.  Yikes!  Bad girl!  A little overdue (like a year overdue) but better late than never.  The oil change was a little early, but I like to think months, not miles on this bike, since she doesn't get ridden as much as the BMW. 

I got to the dealer's at around 9:30 a.m., Kindle, snack food, some sandals in a tote bag, and was prepared to wait while they did the work.  This dealer is so good to me!  I've purchased 5 motorcycles from the Yamaha dealership that was ultimately acquired by this dealership, and some of the staff came with the acquisition.  So the service manager knows me well, as does the service writer.  The Yamaha technician never fails to come find me and chat a bit whenever he sees my bike show up in the shop, even if he's not been assigned to work on it. 

The nice thing about spending time at a dealership this size, and with this much inventory, is that there's plenty to do.  Early morning on a weekday, the sales floor staff are eager to chat and to encourage me to sit on the bikes.  This day was no different.  They had a black FZ8 on the showroom and the staff were more than anxious for me to sit on it, since I rode an FZ6.  They even offered to get it prepped for me to take a test ride.  I knew that would be my wallet.

The dealership recently acquired the Ducati dealership nearby and will be moving their motorcycle business across the highway to that facility, which is larger and newer and more suited to the mix of brands they now carry.  This now-defunct Ducati dealership had taken on BMW's a while back, but they weren't servicing them reliably, so BMW's were included in the acquisition of the Ducati dealership.  The ATV/watersports business will stay here at this location.  The move is supposed to happen Sun/Mon. 

This will be exciting for me, since I'll now have a BMW service department close to home once more, and I'll be dealing with a service department I trust and like.  Keeping a BMW dealership on this side of town has been a rocky business.   The Yamaha dealer had them for a number of years, and that's where I bought my first BMW.  When they gave up the brand  few years ago, we no longer had service available close by.  Then a  new BMW shop opened just up the road - it was a satellite store to a dealership in the Woodlands.  It wasn't long before that dealership went out of business.  This left us BMW riders with two choices for authorized service:  Wild West BMW in Katy TX, an hour away; or Gulf Coast BMW, closer at 20 minutes away but with a questionable service department.

So, as I sat there eating my granola bar and browsing through their assortment of motorcycle magazines, I had a nice lineup of Ducati's sitting before me on the showroom floor:  A Monster 696, a Diavel and a Diavel Carbon, and a Multistrada 1200 S Touring.  All in shiny, luscious arrest-me red.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let the Mileage "Bump-Ups" Begin

I woke with a start, peering over to the clock with bleary eyes, realizing it was a few minutes before 6:00 AM.  Not good.   I needed to get a long run in today and getting on the road after 6 AM this time of year is self-abuse.  5 AM would be more like it. It's already 79 degrees out and will quickly get hotter the minute that sun is up over the horizon.

Today I've scheduled a 7.5 mile run.  That's a 1.5 mile bump from last week's longest run.  So now the relentlessly escalating distances will begin in earnest.    I scrambled out of bed and, rooting around in the dark,  pulled out some running shorts, a jog bra, and a pair of socks that I hope are at least a matching pair.  Shoes laced, running watch strapped on, I grabbed a piece of gum and my hat and headed out the door.  Then I turned around and headed back inside to drink a glass of water.  Almost forgot to do that!  I will sweat that out and then some in this morning's heat.

Today there's no cloud cover, just the promise of clear blue skies and the sun was just starting to make it over the horizon and lighten the skies as I finished the first mile.  The next couple of miles went by with little effort, but the sun was now letting her presence be known. 

Our town recently completed the McHard Road Extension over to Cullen St, which gives me a really excellent addition to my several mapped-out running routes and I've been taking advantage of it almost from day one.  This is a long straight stretch of road, about 1.2 miles long, and with the traffic light at the Cullen intersection visible way off in the distance.  It's like a beacon for me, that light.  As it grows steadily larger in front of me, I know I'm making progress. 

For the first time ever, since they opened this extension road and since I've been running on the sidewalk next to it, I saw another runner, a woman, coming the other way.  We passed each other, acknowledged each other and then, just as quickly, we were back in our own individual solitudes.  I assumed that she was heading back toward home, in the same neighborhood as mine, but when I turned around at Cullen and started to head back the other way, I saw that she was now coming toward me from the other direction.  More fodder for the idle and desperate mind: I wondered where she lived, how far she was running, was she training for a race, and other queries as we closed the gap and passed each other once again.

That diversion now over with, and with very little to take my mind off  how miserable I was starting to feel, I began to fade in the heat and humidity.  I was faced with an uphill stretch and walked a bit to recover some before getting to that section.  What keeps me going in this?  Why am I such a glutton for punishment?  I have absolutely no idea!  It would be so easy at this point on my route to just head straight to the house, 1/2 mile away.  I wrestled with my conscience for a bit, or until I reached the point on the route where I could either go straight home or turn right to finish the last 2 miles.   Will power!  Must.  Not.  Quit! 

The very nice community center for our neighborhood sits right there, right where I must turn to continue my run.  I rationalized that a stop there for water, bathroom, a little A/C would be preferable to quitting.  In fact, it didn't take much to feel revived and refreshed and, after a brief respite, I headed back out the door and continued my run. 

My legs churned along for another mile, on a particularly brutal and shadeless stretch of road, temperatures now easily into the 80's, before the road took a bend to the left and I was then running in some shade.  What a difference a little shade can make.  But I could tell that I was max'ing out my "load limit" for running in this heat and humidity.

With less than a mile remaining, the road became a sun-scorched torture chamber as I slogged along, slower and slower, and eventually my pace dropped to a walk.  "Okay," I said to myself, "You can walk for a little bit, but only to that next corner.  Then you will break into a run, again."  I could live with that deal.  So for the last 1/2 mile, I coaxed myself along with mini-goals.  "To the next lampost."  "To the next cul-de-sac."  When was the last time I felt this miserable?  I couldn't even remember.  Seven miles is not that fact it's not been that long since I did my last half marathon.  When was that....early May?  But this is what high heat and humidity can do to an otherwise seasoned runner. 

A little amnesia goes a long way for a runner.  An hour later, cooled down, rehydrated, and eating breakfast, I'm reflecting on this and thinking, "It couldn't really have been that bad, could it?"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What is that smell??

Have I mentioned how hot it is here in Houston?  I mean....have I complained enough about the 80-degree early morning temperatures, the still air with absolutely no breath of a breeze, the humidity that assails the body and prevents sweat from evaporating?  Well, if not, then let me whine a little more about it.  But I realize we're not alone in this.  Vast regions of the rest of the country are suffering as well.  And I suppose we're not suffering nearly as much, since this is "business as usual" for us here on the Gulf Coast and everything here in Houston is air-conditioned to the point of goose bumps.  I think I've read somewhere that Houston has more "tonnage" of air conditioning than anywhere else in the country. 

But here's the story.   Friday morning I awoke nice and early and got out just at dawn for a run.  I'd done a long run on Wednesday, so this run didn't need to be so long, just a 4 or 5 mile recovery run.  I've tossed modesty out the window in this heat and taken to just wearing shorts and jog bra - no shirt or tank top.  When I returned from the run my jog bra was completely soaked with sweat as were the running shorts.

I followed my usual routine after my run, had breakfast, checked my emails, read the newspaper on-line, then headed to the bathroom to get cleaned up and dressed, tossing my running clothes into the hamper enroute to the shower.   And I didn't give it another thought.  Just went about the rest of my day, running errands, watching the Tour de France, doing a little housework.  

Fast forward two days and it's now Sunday morning.  I awoke a little later this morning so, knowing I wanted to get a run in, I rushed about getting my running clothes on and out the door.  But what's that smell?  It was a vague smell and I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was and where it was coming from.  But a couple of hours later, when I headed back into the bathroom to shower and get dressed, my nose was assaulted by that odor.  It seemed much stronger than a couple of hours earlier...or mabye it was because I was now awake and alert.  It was a musty, moldy smell and it sure was strong. 

Many thoughts passed through my mind as to its source.  Could it be a leak somewhere?  Was it coming from the attic?  But a few steps into the walk-in closet where the hamper is, and I immediately knew where that smell was coming from.  Oh, yeah...remember those soggy, sweaty, wet running clothes from Friday?  The ones I thoughtlessly tossed into the clothes hamper??

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Time to Get Serious!

Where has the time gone??  I took a peek at the calendar and realized - shoot! - my next half marathon, the Capital City River Run - is just two short months away.  Ack!!

After running the Flying Pig Marathon on May 1, I 've been taking it easy...sort of...and putting in just maintenance miles.  No runs longer than 5 or 6 miles, no week with more than 13 or 14 total miles.  And, gasp!  Even a week or two with no running at all!   So...down to the business of getting those progressively longer runs in, systematically accumulating more miles, testing myself in this simply awful heat of south Texas.

I'm looking forward to the Capital City River Run.  The event runs on paved trails right downtown in Lansing.  I may bring a camera with me and be a running tourist!  I'm treating the race as if it were just another long run and don't expect to post a PR.  My goal is to just have fun!

The next race on my calendar is the Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, FL.  I wrote about this a few months back, Houston Marathon Lottery, when I was looking for an alternate race in case I didn't make the Houston Marathon Lottery for the 2011 race.  But I was selected for Houston, and filed the information about that St. Petersburg race into my memory.

A month ago, when the lottery opened again for the 2012 Houston Marathon, I resurrected this memory of the St. Petersburg event.  I didn't make the lottery so went ahead and registered for this Women's Half in mid-November and made my room reservation at the Hampton Inn.  National Running Day  So now I have two half marathons coming up:  Capital City River Run in mid-September and Women's Half in mid-November. 

Time to get serious.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

For the Hard of Hearing...Better Coping Skills

  Partial hearing loss can become a wedge in a relationship.  I can say from personal experience, as a long-time friend began to lose his hearing, that spending any time with a person whose hearing loss is enough to require hearing aids can be trying at times.  Having to repeat everything two or three times; dealing with mis-communications when the other person doesn't hear key information; becoming the "interpreter" when interacting with restaurant, hotel, and shop staff.

It seems to me that hearing aids are what I'll call "uni-directional." If I'm not facing the hearing-impaired person directly, much of what I say will be lost, even with that person's hearing aids turned on. People who have begun to lose their hearing underestimate the amount of information they've been gaining by watching a person's face, their eyes, their mouth, when they talk

As anyone who wears them knows, hearing aids are not a perfect solution, and will not restore hearing to what it was when a person was younger.  But assuming that just sticking them in your ears and turning them on is enough, is going to lead to frustration for everyone who tries to interact with you.  It's going to take more than that to live among the hearing folks in peace and harmony.  There were things that my friend could have done to better cope and adapt and, from my observations and from witnessing his difficulties, I began to formulate a list.

So here are my suggestions for adaptive skills and behavior modifications to all those who are reading this and are hearing-impaired and at some level of denial about it:
  • Be Pro-Active.   The over-arching theme for the rest of these suggestions is to take charge of your hearing disability.  Don't sit back and wait for others to adapt to your hearing loss.  Don't assume that they know what those adaptations are or to what degree your hearing loss hinders your ability to interact.  Don't get mad at them when they don't understand or don't change.  Take the steps needed to make those adaptations yourself.
  • Don't try to hold a conversation while walking side-by-side.  Have the other(s) stop walking and turn to face you when talking.  Otherwise, hold your thoughts until you can get to a place where this is possible. 
  • Become an "active listener."  When someone says something to you, don't sit in silence...acknowledge it.  A simple "yes" or "okay" or similar response assures the other person that you heard what they said.  It's frustrating to the other person to say something to you and not know if you heard it or not.   If they ask you, "Did you hear me?"  don't get mad at them.  They wouldn't ask if there wasn't a past history of you not hearing them.
  • Talk less, listen more.  You may actually find that you can hear others better and follow what they're saying better, if you're not doing most of the talking. 
  • Admit when you've not heard something, and ask that it be repeated.  This is prevalent for folks who are just starting to experience some hearing loss.  Don't smile, nod your head, or agree, unless you know what you're agreeing to.  But also, don't just say "what?' or "huh?"  This is what lazy listeners say, not just the hearing-impaired.  We're less likely to repeat what we said.
  • When you ask to have something repeated and the other person dismisses what they said as unimportant, believe them, and just let it go.  If it was important to you, they'll repeat it.   Think about it...much of what you and I say all day is simply running commentary, talking to ourselves.   Spending time with a hearing-impaired person requires frequent-enough repeated comments without adding all of the running dribble, as well.  
  • Turn your head and face a person when they approach you.  For example, if a waiter approaches your table, turn your head and look up at their face so that you can hear them.  It's human nature to face the person seated with you at the table and to not look at the waiter, but I've witnessed much miscommunication in this scenario.   This holds true for all situations in business and in public.
  • Position yourself so that you can hear the other person.  Choose your seat carefully at a table in a restaurant.  Move to directly in front of the maitre d' or store clerk.  Lean in toward the other person, if necessary. 
  • Don't be timid about admitting your handicap in public.  If it helps you gain a better experience or enjoy what you want to do, who cares?   Ask for a better seat at a theater or restaurant if you can't hear well.  Tell others when you are in an environment that makes it hard for you to hear and tell them what they need to do to make it easier for you to hear them. 
  • Wear your hearing aids.  Both of them, if you wear two aids.  Don't fake it.  Don't take a "day off."  Don't assume you won't need them.  Don't turn them off or remove them because the noise level is too high for you.  Yes, the world has become a very noisy place.  Those of us who do not have hearing loss deal with it every day.  You have lived in a muffled, muted world without your hearing aids and, by comparison, sounds may be harsh or sharp to you with the hearing aids on.  But when you don't wear your aids, your friends or companions must now deal with the noise level and the fact that you cannot hear them talk to you.  Shouting at you is not an option.
  • Don't yell; don't whisper.  Learn to modulate your voice, even asking your companions to help you do this until you get it right.  Hearing aids may magnify your own voice, causing you to speak too softly; or the hearing aids may mask your own voice, causing you to shout.  Get it figured out.
  • Have your hearing checked regularly and the aids calibrated routinely.  Hearing loss is progressive and can plateau for a while, then change suddenly.  If you notice that you're having problems in situations that weren't problematic before, chances are good that it's time for a re-evaluation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Uneasy Truce

It's been one week since Cimmie flew to Houston to "spend the summer with grandma."  As posted previously, the initial merger of two cats into one household was rocky at best.  Even though the two cats have not come whisker to whisker, the resident cat immediately knew there was an interloper in her territory.  Much hissing and much angst dominated the first few days.

So how is it going now?   After much trial and error, I settled on the following arrangements. 

Cimmie is sequestered in the guest bedroom at the front of the house.  She has all of the plush appointments a house cat could get used to:  Queen-sized bed with luxurious, fluffy down comforter, piles of plump pillows, and plenty of lolling room, both on top and underneath; wide, low windowsill to catch a few sun rays and watch the wrens and sparrows flit into the shrubbery; padded bench upon which she can sit and see over those shrubs to the driveway and street; a scratching mat and fleece-lined cat bed; a walk-in closet that she is free to explore any time she wants.  She has fresh food and water every day, and a kitty litter tray that's scooped daily.

Every morning, once I start the coffee maker, I go in to the guest room, lie on the bed, and snuggle with Cimmie for 10 or 15 minutes.  I go back in for a longer visit with her at noon, just before I eat my lunch.  In the evening, I pay her one more visit, check on her food and water, and climb into the guest bed and give her some quality hands-on petting.

Cimmie has been a real trooper and seems to have resigned herself to these small, but comfortable living quarters.  I have to remind myself every day that they're much better and more comfortable than what she'd have if she were in a boarding kennel.

Nyla has free run of the house, all but the guest room.  Her routine has settled into mornings in my lap during breakfast, days on top of the kitchen cabinets, evenings in the living room at my feet if I'm watching TV, and  nights in bed with me.

She will occasionally get spooked.  If I approach her too fast, or come around a corner and catch her off-guard, or am carrying something large like a laundry basket, she'll crouch and hiss and me.  I'll give her a wide berth when that happens.  But she's gradually relaxing more and spending more time on the living floor in postures of unthreatened repose, such as lying on her back with all legs splayed out.  But she won't use the litter tray that always lives in the laundry room.  She's taken to always using the one I'd placed in the master bedroom walk-in closet.  And she'll only eat and drink from the dishes in the master bathroom, not her usual ones in the breakfast room.  Although she did nibble and drink a bit this morning from those bowls...a first since Cimmie arrived.

Nyla definitely knows there's a threat here in the house.  I don't know if she realizes it's another cat.  But she's apparently gaining more confidence in the division of household space that keeps them separated.  I just have to maintain this status quo for another month, get past that week in August when they'll be home alone under the same roof, if not in the same space, and hope we all survive until my son and his family come near the end of August to visit and then reclaim their cat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Cats

The Players:

Nyla - adopted from the Humane Society when she was about 4 months old, Nyla has enjoyed a home completely to herself.  No dogs, no other cats, no kids.  She also spent her days alone in the house while I was working and had me all to herself in the evenings.  Now that I'm retired, she has me all day unless I'm traveling.  When I'm on the road, she's home alone with plenty of food and water dispensed from water bottle/dish set-up and has one or two kitty litters, depending on the length of the trip.  Other than the occasional look-in by a neighbor, Nyla is pretty self-sufficient and used to taking care of herself in my absence.  When I return, she's very glad to see me and spends inordinate amounts of time in my lap or pressed up against me in bed at night.  The operative words here are:  Only Pet, Quiet House.

Cimmie - the consummate chaotic household cat, Cimmie is used to moves, relocations, babies, toddlers, kids, lots of company and people in the house.  She's been transported cross-country twice by car, flown to Hawaii in the passenger compartment, and flown to Houston as cargo.  She seems to take all this in stride and accepts any willing lap or chin scratch from most anyone.  The operative words here are:  Well-socialized, Accustomed to Change.


The Background:
My son and his family are in the midst of relocating to their new duty station in Mississippi.  As part of this, they have disassembled their household in Hawaii and Christina and the kids have flown to CA to visit with friends and family for the summer, while Jeremy stays behind in Hawaii to finish his tour before the relocation.  Their cat Cimmie has been flown to Houston to spend the summer with me.  All will regroup at my house in late August enroute to their new home in LA before Jeremy starts his new position at Stennis.

In preparation for this house guest, I had closed off the front bedroom so that Nyla could get used to not having access to this room.  I cleaned it thoroughly, vacuuming and washing to remove cat hair and, hopefully, cat scent in anticipation of using this room for Cimmie.  I bought a new litter tray and bowls, had everything set and ready for her, and then loaded some clean towels, a trash bag, and a cat carrier with fresh bedding into the car and headed for the airport Thursday morning to retrieve Cimmie from the Pet Cargo facility at Continental Airlines.

I have to say that this is a very well-run service!  When I arrived, there were several cages on large dollies in the cool, airconditioned lobby of the Air Cargo building.  Off to one side is the Pet Transport counter and I headed there with paperwork in hand to claim Cimmie.  The very nice man behind the counter checked the flight and found thatit had arrived about 20 minutes late, which would have been about 10 minutes prior to my getting to the counter.  He got on the walkie talkie and within seconds confirmed that someone at the other end had Cimmie in their possession and would have her at the counter within a few minutes.  In the meantime, I peeked into the cages to find some very calm and comfortable dogs, a couple of cute, squealing little piglets and some flat plastic boxes that the counter man said contained sugar gliders.  Animals are brought here between flights to stay cool, while waiting for their connecting flights.  We chatted a bit, and he said that most of their animal transport business is from breeders.  The piglets, for example.  I could read on their tags that they were coming from the same person but going to two different destinations.    He showed me a bulletin board covered with photos of unique or adorable animals that they've handled in the past.  Cool!!

The Story:
Cimmie in her carrier arrived, I signed for her, then brought her out to my car and got the car started and A/C turned on.  Then I opened her cage and let her get out, stretch her legs in the car for a few minutes before I picked her up and held her, hugged her, and gave her kisses and scratches.  She immediately started to purr.  I'm glad I brought the smaller cat carrier with fresh bedding as she'd soiled the towel in her transport carrier.  She willingly stepped into the new carrier on the front seat of the car, I buckled it in, and then headed for home. 

Now, before I left the house, I gave my cat Nyla lots of attention - hugs and kisses and scratches - as I knew that she'd probably go into a snit once Cimmie came into the house.  Little did I know just how big and bad this snit would be.  When Jeremy and family passed through here three years ago, Nyla retreated into the master bedroom closet but did not react defensively, just stayed hidden until they were gone, several days later.

This time was different.  And in hindsight I know the mistakes I made. 

I brought Cimmie into the guest room, spent a few minutes with her to make sure she was okay and knew where the litter, food and water were, then brought the carrier out to the garage.  I removed the soiled bedding from the transport carrier and then stowed that carrier as well.

When I returned into the house, I made a beeline to the bedroom to wash my hands and arms and change clothes so that my cat wouldn't catch a whiff of the strange cat.  Too late!!  I came upon my cat Nyla just as I was going from the bedroom the bathroom.  She froze!!  Then she hissed!!  Then she screeched and ran out of the room leaving a trail of pee and poop behind her on the carpet.

Well, crap!!  I should have enclosed her in the closet/bathroom before I went to the airport to avoid this unexpected encounter before I'd had a chance to de-scent myself.   Well, too late.

I washed, changed clothes and then went in search of Nyla.  She was beyond crazy!!  What then ensued was beyond anything anyone could ever imagine!  Nyla was a wild cat!  Screeching, hissing, growling and piddling and pooping!  I desperately wanted to herd her into the master bathroom/closet - her normal retreat when she's spooked - but I couldn't get her to go in that direction.  After all, that's where she had her first encounter with me when I smelled like strange cat, so she was absolutely not going there!  For a while she hid on top of the kitchen cabinets but eventually left that perch in search of somewhere else.  That "somewhere else"  was the guest bathroom.  When I entered that room she panicked and left a good-sized puddle or urine - thankfully in the bathtub - as she bolted past me, screeching and hissing, and down the hall.  Unfortunately she left a trail of piddle behind her the entire length of the hallway.

Her next panic perch was the dining room table.  She was desperate, but so was I.  I really wanted her in the master bath/closet area where I knew she'd feel safe, but she was having none of it.  She eventually bolted from that location, again leaving a large urine puddle that trailed along the table, onto the upholstered dining room chair and onto the carpet and again screeching and hissing like a banshee.  This was going nowhere!!

Her next destination was the office, where she disappeared under the desk, on a shelf of the hutch.  She stayed there for a while, hissing and growling, pooping and peeing, before she frantically ran out of the room and into the living room.  Finally!!  She headed into the master bedroom!  I followed her and closed the door behind me.  We're almost there!  But not before she piddled on the nightstand and across the bed as she headed for the bathroom.    Thank you, Cat!

She's now on her favorite hidey-hole shelf in the closet, a bank of shelves tucked behind the open door.   Now if she'll just calm down!   I left her alone for a couple of hours, then brought her litter, food and water into the bathroom and tried to check on her.  More shrieking and growling and hissing and, of course, more poop and pee.  But this time it was on the old towel that has been her favorite "alone" space on that shelf for years.  Well, she'll just have to live with that discomfort until she'll let me change out that towel. day one of Cimmie's visit was a fiasco for me and stressful for Nyla, but at least Cimmie seems okay with all this, tucked safely in the guest room and apparently taking all of this in stride.  When I checked on her, she was comfortably ensconced on the windowsill taking a little nap.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning up the mess that Nyla had made.  I have a small Hoover steam cleaner so that got some extensive use as I shampoo'd the pee'd-on carpet in the master bedroom, the dining room, the hallway.  One of the pillow shams on my bed got urine on it, so into the washing machine along with the small rug in the guest bathroom.  Cleaned the urine out of the guest bathroom tub and washed the urine off the tile floor.  Washed down the nightstand, the dining room table, the shelf in the office with Windex then with furniture polish.  I had reupholstered the seats of the dining room chairs so knew how to disassemble the soiled chair.  I removed the cover and the foam pad and soaked them in cold water with Febreeze Tide, then laid them outside in the sun to dry. 


Day 2:
I left the bathroom door open to the bedroom overnight and when I awoke in the morning, Nyla was in bed with me, but as soon as I awoke and rose to go to the bathroom, she panicked, hissed and growled and bolted for the closet.  Okay...she apparently is associating me with the strange cat.  Well, I guess that's right, since I'm the one who brought that cat into the house. 

I checked on Cimmie, who is doing just fine with all of this nonsense, and then turned my attention to Nyla.  I really don't want to keep her confined to the closet/bathroom but may have to if she can't live in the open house without panicking and peeing everywhere. 

I had breakfast before heading into the bathroom for a shower.  I left the bathroom door open to see if Nyla would wander out into the rest of the house.  She did, but promptly headed for the kitchen cabinets where she hissed and growled at me everytime I passed through the room.  I was concerned, too, because there was no evidence that she's eating or drinking, or using the litter.  I need to get her confined and calm so that she'll get back into her routine.  So another chase through the house, more pee, more hissing, but she did go back into her closet space.  Here she stayed, the door to the bathroom kept closed.

I let Cimmie out of her room and gave her free range of the house for the day.  She explored, sniffed, and settled into my lap at one point while I watched TV. 

At the end of the day, I closed her back up into the guest room, checked on Nyla - still hissing, still growling, still not eating or drinking or using the litter.


Day 3:
Cimmie was very glad to see me when I checked on her and I even suggested to her that I might sleep in her room a night or two to give her some companionship. 

I headed out for a long run, then had breakfast, letting Cimmie join me in the house for the morning.  I was determined, however, to have a break-through with Nyla today.  She's still not eating or drinking water and I'm getting very concerned. 

So afer showering and putting on clean clothes (with no Cimmie scent), I started to work on gaining Nyla's trust.  I went into the closet frequently and sat on the floor at a distance that Nyla was comfortable with and talked to her.  I moved her food, water, and litter into the closet, putting them near her perch.  I stayed for 10-15 minutes then went about my day, returning to her every hour and spending this time with her.  If I got too close to her, she'd hiss and growl. 

Then I had an idea.  In the winter, I pull on a fleece over my PJ's to keep me warm while I eat breakfast. Nyla loves this fleece!!  She'll climb into my lap, tuck her head under my arm, and have a major kneading session into the jacket.  Consequently, this jacket is covered with her scent, her fur, her saliva and it rarely gets washed.  So I put this jacket on, pulled my hands up into the sleeves, and then slowly reached toward her, talking to her calmy and sweetly.  She hissed and growled at first, but gradually relaxed enough to let me touch her with the sleeves.  I continued this for a long while, until my legs were falling asleep from the awkward position. 

Then I had another idea.  There is a stack of two boxes next to that shelf, containing photos and photo albums.  Moving slowly and cautiously,  I put a towel across the top of that stack and then placed her food and water bowls up there.  These are within reach of Nyla, without her having to leave her hidey spot.  She immediately went for the food.  I knew she had to be very hungry at this point!

Her mood change was magical!!  She slowly and carefully stepped down from the box and came near me.  I let her approach me, let her rub against me, and then she started to purr.  I didn't pet her at first, just let her rub against me, check me out.   Occasionally, she'd get spooked for no reason, hiss a little, and return to her shelf.  But her need for human touch and companionship would overcome her and she'd return to the floor next to me. 

I stayed there with her for more than 2 hours, being careful not to spook her or make eye contact with her, which seemed to scare her.  Eventually I was able to move around a bit, and started to do some rearranging of her little hidey hole.  I cleared out a pile of stuff from beneath the shelves and put her food and water there.  I put a plastic bag and then a towel under the kitty litter.  I changed the soiled towel on her shelf with a fresh one and put a towel onto the top of the boxes to expand her living space.  She drank a lot of water and ate more food.

Then I left her alone, closing the bathroom door behind me, but returning to check on her periodically for the rest of the day and evening.  She would still get easily spooked and would alternately hiss and growl at me, and then approach me for petting.   That evening I moved into the bedroom to watch TV, in hopes that Nyla would come out into the bedroom to join me, but she was drawing the line at the bathroom door.

Lights off, bedroom door closed, but bathroom door open, I hoped that Nyla would assume her usual place at the foot of my bed sometime during the night.


Day 4:
Surprise!  Nyla is in bed with me this morning and is not spooked upon seeing me in daylight, letting me pet her, letting me rise from the bed without her panicking.  I showered and she sat outside the shower door as she always does, she joined me for breakfast this morning, as always, and is now lolling around in her usual favorite places in the house.  She occasionally walks through the house, her nose in the air sniffing the air;  she senses there's something a little different, but she's not getting spooked by it.  She even checked out the door to the guest bedroom, giving it a serious going over with her nose, but it didn't set off a panic.  Whew! 

Hopefully we can keep this status quo for the next month or so.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Getting Home from Wisconsin the Fastest Way

Wisconsin is a great place to visit, but I'm ready to be home... now!  I miss my cat and, in addition to that, I have a few things to take care of, including preparing for the arrival of my son's cat Cimmie.  Cimmie is flying in to Houston from Honolulu to spend the summer with Grandma Smith.  LOL!  She's coming to stay with me while my son and his family suffer the throes of relocation to their next duty station. 

I was on the road by 6:11 AM Sunday morning, departing the hotel in Chippewa Falls WI and heading west on I-94 toward St. Paul.  Microsoft S&T says this is the fastest way.  It was cool and very pleasant all across WI and into Minnesota.  I picked up I-35E and headed south. 

Just south of the Twin Cities area, I started to see many, many beautifully restored antique cars heading the other way on I-35.  all the way down to Des Moines, I continued to see them.  When I stopped for gas south of Des Moines, a fellow in a beautiful white vintage Chevy pulled up to the pump next to me, so I asked him where all these cars were going.  He said there was an event in Des Moine Thurs-Saturday, maybe close to 4,000 vintage cars in attendance, but now everyone was heading home.  I saw everything from Model T's and A's to late 50's/early 60's vintage cars, all in fine shape, all in good enough running condition to be blasting along an interstate.  Cool!!

Into Iowa, then into Kansas and I started to run into rain.  And thunderstorms.  South of Kansas City they were getting scary, the lightning bolts striking the ground regularly and the winds blowing the rain horizontal at times. I got off the interstate in Belton and looked for a likely place to lay up for a while.  I found a Burger King next to a Comfort Inn and decided I'd get a late lunch and see if things calmed down a bit.  Eventually I went ahead and checked into the Comfort Inn. 

I was prepared to stop here, even though it was quite early, 3:30 PM or so.  I knew, from previous research, that all of the hotels in the Joplin MO area are completely full, no doubt from all of the recovery crews working the post-tornado repairs and I was faced with getting past Joplin and into OK before being able to find a room.    But by 6:00 PM the sun was out so I checked out (actually I simply left the keys in the room and left) and got back on the road. 

But a couple of hours later I was running into more rain and more lightning.  It was getting very wild with some gnarly-looking blackness and lots of lightning bolts ahead of me so I decided to call it quits at around 9:45 PM in Lamar MO.  The exit had two motels:  A Super 8 and a mom & pop motel.  I took a chance on the Super 8 and boy, did I luck out!!  It was a sparkling clean, modern and very upscale Super 8!  The manager was on duty, she welcomed me, proudly pointed out their display case with numerous seems they're the #1 Super 8 in the country.  She put me into a beautiful suite for $80 and let me keep my motorcycle parked right where it was, under the canopy near the front door.  With a freshly baked brownie in hand, I went to my room, crawled into bed, and sunk back against the pillows, grateful this hotel had a room available at all.   Enough is enough...640 miles, half of that in strong rains.  I guess I should just quit for the night.

The next morning I enjoyed a really great breakfast - well above the standard for many of the more upscale chain hotels - and then was back on the road before 8:00 AM.  I knew it would be a long hot slog home.   And it was.  I took 71 south to I-44 west to US 69 south.   It was a little slow going until I got south of I-40, but then US 69 opens up and becomes limited access 4-lane and I could make good time all the way to Dallas, stopping only once in Atoka for gas and to buy a Gatorade.

By the time I was passing through Dallas I was really feeling the heat.  I stopped in Corsicana for gas and to buy another Gatorade.  The drink really seemed to help, its effects lasting for a couple of hours.  I needed to stop again at a rest area on I-45 south of Huntsville to finish off the Gatorade and so desperately wanted to find a cool shady place or an A/C building but I was so close to home!!

At 5:30 PM I was pulling into my garage, a most welcome site!!  First order of business was a tall glass of ice water, then I peeled off the riding gear and started to unpack the bike.   It was a long day...645 miles in 100+ degree heat! 

I'm home!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Aerostich in Duluth

I don't wear Aerostich riding gear, since I'm very happy with the combo of Olympia and FirstGear jacket and pants for myself, but I know many others who love their Aerostich Darien or Roadcrafter riding suits and consider a pilgrimage to their factory to be required riding.

Being so close to Duluth, it made sense to make a day ride up there to visit their home factory, take the tour, and meet the staff.  Friend Bronce rode over to our hotel and met us in the parking lot in time for our 8:00 AM departure.  Friend Mike has never been shy about showing his disdain for those who use GPS units for navigation.  He proudly waved his "analog GPS" at us, this GPS consisting of a sheet of paper upon which he'd written turn-by-turn directions to Aerostich in Duluth.    Since he was so proud of this, Bronce and I (both users of Garmin Zumo's) declared him the ride leader this day.

We were no more than 100 feet out of the hotel parking lot and Mike was already on the wrong route to get us over to US 53.  I had to prompt him from the "wing" position through several turns to get us out of town and onto the highway.  Once up on 53, Mike very quickly left us behind as his throttle hand was a bit more exuberant than ours.  We let him go ahead and kept our speed at about 5-over the speed limit.  Good thing, too, since Bronce and I spotted a state trooper sitting up on an overpass, aiming laser at us as we passed below.  Mike dodged a bullet on that one. 

It was a bit chilly and my vents were all open, so I pulled into a rest area to zip up, then we continued on toward Duluth.  I was surprised at the vegetation along this route.  It seemed almost stunted in places.  The evergreens were tall, but skinny with skimpy needles.  In some places it looked to be all clear-cut with scrubby, scruffy second-growth.  But then in other sections it was heavy and lush, the spruce and other evergreens a feast for these mesquite-weary eyes.

As we neared Duluth we crested a hill and there, before us, lay Lake Superior.  It was a terrific view!!  We had this view all the way into the town of Superior, where I stopped at a very busy gas station, thinking to fill up and use the bathroom.  I cruised the pumps area but seeing every pump full with lines waiting, I pulled over to the side to park, as I needed to use the restroom.  Bronce thought I'd seen the sign for cheese curds next door, but I completely missed that!  I'll deal with that craving later!

Back onto the highway, we were just a few miles from downtown Duluth.  Ron had gone ahead to Duluth the day before and reported to Mike earlier that highway construction had the exits "all torn up."  I questioned what he meant by that, but Mike gave no useful reply.  To me, it makes a difference.  Are they torn up but open, or are they closed, requiring a detour?  Well, we'd soon find out.

As we crossed the big bridge and entered the city of Duluth, we saw signs indicating that the exit to I-35S/53N was closed.  Bronce was in the lead and my GPS very quickly provided a re-route once I bypassed the exit onto I-35S/53N.  Bronce's GPS obviously provided the same detour and I followed along...that is, until he missed the fork to the right onto Superior Street just blocks away from Aerostich.  No sense both of us being lost, so I stayed right onto Superior and two blocks later turned onto 18th Ave.  Ron was already there, sitting on the bench outside, talking on his cellphone.

 I did a U-turn on the little side street in order to be pointed in the right direction and then backed in against the curb.   Ron noticed I was alone and asked me what happened?  Well...Mike with his analog GPS has not yet arrived, even though he had a pretty good head start on us given his heavy throttle hand and our two stops enroute.  Bronce arrived and parked just moments later.  About 20 minutes passed when here came Mike, from a totally irrational direction - coming downhill from the north of Superior Street.  I so much wanted to say something to him like, "So how's that analog GPS working out for you?" 

The guys browsed, Bronce took care of some business regarding his relatively new Darien jacket, and I sat in a really cool and comfortable camp chair while waiting.   Bronce, on the motorcycle test-bed, getting his sleeve length checked:

Bronce talked to one of the gals about giving us a tour and we were about ready to start when Ron and Mike said they wanted to join us.  We waited for them to finish their purchases then headed out on a quick but very interesting tour.  Aerostich occupies a really neat old warehouse building, which used to be a candy factory.  It's three stories tall plus a basement, and they're obviously using its layout to full advantage.  On the third floor is where all fabric cutting takes place.  Large bolts of fabric - shell material and ballistic fabric - hung from racks at the end of the cutting tables.  Many WIP (works in progress) are bundled with their respective job tickets in cubby holes along one side of the tables.  Patterns hung from clips and large bins filled with zipper pulls, buckles, hooks and other hardware lined the back side of the cubby hole cabinets.

On the second floor were rows and rows of sewing machines and WIP, bundled with all required hardware (zippers, velcro, etc), were piled up in cubby holes in shelving along two walls.  Partially complete suits, jackets, pants hung from poles along one wall.

The first floor is occupied by the finished goods inspection, where ladies were doing close QC of seams, zippers, taping, and were attaching the finished product tags.  In this same area were several cubicles where women take phone orders and of course the shipping area is here, as well.  In a half-basement area the electrical garments are stored.  And that was it!  Tour was complete and we all had a really good inside view of the entire process from order to completed product to shipment out the door. 

The store itself is very small...only a very small area with some Roadcrafter full suits and a couple of racks with markdowns, the same items that are listed in the periodic emails I receive:  Returns, slight imperfections, etc.

From here, Ron and Mike are heading northeast to ride around the north shore of Lake Superior, and Bronce and I headed back toward Chippewa Falls, stopping for lunch at McDonald's in Superior and gas and then back onto US 53 southbound.

In Chippewa Falls, I stopped again for gas before heading for the hotel and Bronce followed me into the station to say goodbye.  He would be packing up and getting onto the road later that evening and I had opted not to return to the rally site, but to get back to the hotel and start packing for my early departure the next morning. 

It was a good trip up to Duluth and even though I don't wear Aerostich riding gear, I still enjoyed seeing their home.

Tomorrow:  On the road toward home, I'll be doing those 1285 miles in two days.

Friday, July 1, 2011

BMW RA Rally Days!

We arrived at our delightful little hotel Wednesday and just chilled for the rest of the afternoon.  Thursday morning Mike was up early and on his way over to the rally grounds to meet up with Ron and get registered.  Good for them!  After three early morning wake-ups, I was pretty sure I wanted to sleep in a bit and take it easy. 

One thing about long trips taken by motorcycle...I am usually desperate for some exercise by the third or fourth day of being confined to a riding position.  My plan for the day, therefore, was to walk into the cute little downtown area of Chippewa Falls in search of a cappuccino and some breakfast and then maybe continue my walk to the rally grounds at the county fairgrounds.    A quick look at Google Maps showed the perfect walking route through tree-lined residential areas to the bridge that crosses the river into the town.  It was an easy mile walk and I was rewarded for my efforts when I found Lucy's Delicatessen right on the main street in town:   Lucy's Delicatessen.   It was bustling with local customers.  I bought a small pastry and a mocha caramel cappuccino to go then continued my stroll up the main street toward the fairgrounds on the north side of town, a total of 3.5 miles. 

I needed to walk to the ice rink where registration for the rally was being held.  I'd already pre-registered but still needed to pick up my wristband and get my rally program book.  I then called Mike on his cell phone and found him and Ron in the vendor area.  I also ran into a fellow MTF member, Ray Williams at the Schuberth booth.  We chatted a bit, getting caught up on his travels to the IBR checkpoint in Buffalo.  I met up with some other folks I know...Karol, Deb, others from my active volunteering at the MOA rallies.

We wandered around a bit and when it was nearing lunchtime I suggested we meet at Lucy's Deli for lunch.  They were convinced!  They gave me a head start walking, and they rode down and met me there.  None of us were disappointed!  Great authentic-style deli sandwiches!  

Mike has an old digital camera, one that I sold him a few years ago when I purchased a newer, smaller, and more capable Canon Elf.  Back at the hotel, he pulled the camera out and realized that the batteries, though recently charged, were not holding that charge.  The camera is old as are the batteries and I convinced him that it wasn't worth spending money to buy new batteries when for just a little more money he could have a new camera.  We walked over to the Walgreen's but he didn't like the selection, so I put on my riding gear and climbed onto the back of his Concours to ride down to Eau Claire to the Sams Club.  He found a very nice Sony digital camera, small and compact like my Canon.

It was close to dinner time so we rode on over to the rally site where we met up with Ron and had the baked chicken dinner and I tried one of the Leinenkugel beers:  The Summer Shandy, a great citrus-y light beer.

Then we found the ice cream stand, manned by the Kiwanis Club and we treated ourselves to a cool dessert!

Friday morning Mike and I hopped on our bikes and headed north up 124 to Route 78 into Cornell.  We overheard some others the evening before talking about taking this was supposed to be scenic and pleasant.  I checked the route on S&T and discovered it was very short, maybe 30 miles one way.    At first, Route 78 seemed to just run through some rural dairy land, but in a few miles it snugged up along the river and we started to see glimpses of the water through the trees and homes.  It was a pleasant road, just not spectacular.  Soon it turned over a bridge and into the town of Cornell.  We rode through the tiny little downtown area then headed back south along 78.  On the way up I spotted a turnout and so, on the way back to Chippewa Falls, I turned into that turnout and we took a photo break.  It gave us a pretty view of the river.

On the way back into town, Mike chose to head back to the hotel, and I rode on over to the rally grounds to meet up with friend Bronce, who'd arrived that morning.  I had purchased an inexpensive folding chair at Walgreen's the day before and had it strapped to the back of my bike.  I had shorts on under my riding pants and had my sandals in the sidecase.  I was prepared to spend the entire day off the bike with Bronce at the rally grounds, seated in the shade and just visiting. 

I spotted those giant bratwurst sandwiches being sold by the Lion's Club, so that was the first order of business!  Bratwurst with sauerkraut on a bun.  Yum!!   This would be a good day to catch some of the seminars so Bronce and I walked over to the red barn to hear Nate Kern's talk.  About a dozen of us sat in the hot barn for over 1/2 hour waiting for him but he was a no-show!  The next seminar was at 3:00 PM, about packing lightly, and Bronce wanted to attend.  It was well-attended.  When we walked into the barn prior to the start of this seminar, I spotted a fellow Houston BMW rider, Dave!  That was a nice surprise!

I was ready for Friday night Fish Fry!!  Mike, Ron, and Dave attended a 4:30 seminar, Bronce and I headed over to the beer tent.  On the way over from the camping area, we stopped to check out Dave's new-to-him trailer, which he pulls behind his BMW K1200LT.  At 5:00 PM we were first in line for the buffet.    The fried fish was great!  And of course I needed to finish it off with an ice cream and Bronce treated.  

The next day we will be riding up to Duluth to the Aerostich factory store so I said goodbye to Bronce, with plans for him to meet us at the AmericInn for an 8:00 AM departure Saturday morning.  I pulled my riding pants on over my shorts, put on my boots and jacket, then helmeted and gloved, I headed back to the motel.