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!!