Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Aiding and Abetting...Getting Good At This

I've been guilty of this in the past...and have done it again.  I've aided and abetted long-distance activities:  Riding and Running.

In 2012 I "abetted' a friend to run his first half marathon, the Tulsa Route 66 Half Marathon.  Then in June 2013 I "abetted" another friend to run his first half marathon, the Mayor's Half Marathon in Anchorage Alaska.  I cannot think of anything more rewarding than seeing a friend succeed in doing something difficult, something only a tiny percentage of the general population will ever achieve.

Going back further, I've been guilty of aiding and abetting some motorcycle riders in completing their first Saddle Sore 1000 (1000 miles in less than 24 hours).  The MTF has hosted several of these over the years, and I helped with one that started and ended on the north side of Houston and another one that started and ended in Fort Worth.  I organized another one for the MTF a couple of years later, starting on the south side of Houston near my house.  I planned and rode the route beforehand and then "manned" the start and finish and saw a few more riders earn their first IBA certificate and membership into the IBA organization. 

All this to say that I do indeed have a history of "aiding and abetting" folks who have a desire to put some long miles on rubber - tires and running shoes.

Late this past summer a woman I'd friended on Facebook but had never met in person expressed interest in the IBA when she learned of the party to be held in Dallas in early November.  Our connection is her relationship with folks that I'm friends with through the Motorcycle Tourers Forum. 

The only way to get into that IBA party was either to already be an IBA member or to gain membership by doing at minimum a SaddleSore 1000 to get there.  The wimpy way to attend was to go as the guest of an IBA member, but to me this was totally unacceptable.  Why attend and be an "outsider?"  So much better to attend as a member.

So I put that out there to her...do a SS1000 to Texas.  And if she didn't want to do it alone, I'd ride one too, meeting at the halfway point between her house and mine and finish it near my house.  In order to get it certified and to receive her certificate at the party, the ride needed to be completed by October 25.  She could stay the week with me, then ride up to Dallas the following weekend to attend the IBA party and receive her certificate of completion and membership bling.

Well, this discussion went back and forth for a month or so, and we finally agreed to a plan that would work for her, for her need to be back to work that week and to take care of her mom.  It was a complicated plan, but the complication didn't affect me too much so I was good with it.

Looking ahead to the agreed-upon day to do this ride "apart together," I planned a route for me and a route for her and sent the files to her so that she could review them and then enter them into her GPS.   Since I knew that my experience doing these IBA rides meant I could probably keep a higher average overall speed, I suggested that she send me a text when she got her start receipt and then text me each time she stopped.  This would allow me to gauge her arrival time at the meet-up point, a gas station in Slidell LA.  It was the half-way point for both of us at approximately 540 miles.

We had an agreed-to plan, now we just had to wait for Friday morning to get here.  I packed my bike the night before with sandwiches, snacks, bottled water, and a simple overnight bag just in case my new friend had to abort the ride for some reason.  My next door neighbor came over and signed my starting odometer witness form.  Then I set my alarm for 4:00 AM Friday morning and went to bed early.

Friday morning I was up, dressed and had breakfast, then I moved my bike out into the driveway to get ready for a quick getaway once I received my friend's text message that she had started her ride.  She had indicated to me that she was going to try to get started sometime between 4:30 AM and 5:00 AM.  She was starting in Bowling Green, KY where she lives. 

Well, as I stood in my kitchen in full riding gear and ready to go, 4:30 AM came and went, then 4:45 AM, then 5:00 AM, and still no text message from her.  5:15 AM came and went and I began to worry that she'd forgotten to text me.  I turned my computer on and logged into the Spotwalla.com website to look at her SPOT tracker page.  It was blank...it had no tracking messages.  So I knew she'd not left yet. 

Then at around 5:30 AM I got a text from her saying she was trying to call me.  A few minutes later my cell phone rang and it was her.  Her bike wouldn't start and she was very distraught.  My opinion was that her battery was dying and the sub-freezing temp that morning was the last straw for her battery.  A couple of other riding friends concurred with this on a Facebook post. 

Ultimately she managed to get a bit of a charge to the battery using a trickle-charger and got the bike over to the shop where they confirmed the dying battery and installed a new one.  But by now it was nearly noon, too late to salvage the plans for the day. 

I proposed we do the ride on Monday or Tuesday of the following week, but we didn't confirm anything and late Friday evening I got word that she was going to try again on Saturday morning. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to do my IBA ride, not having enough time to get a new start witness at such a late hour. I encouraged her to go for it and that I would be watching and encouraging from the sidelines and then ride out to join her for the last 200+ miles of the route and get home safely to my house.

So that was the plan.  It was still very cold the next morning for her departure - 27 degrees - so I knew it was going to be a tough several hours for her until the sun got high in the sky and she got further south where the temps would be more moderate.  Throughout the day I watched her SPOT tracks and recalculated her travel pace using Microsoft Streets & Trips mapping software.  I also had the weather.com webpage open and was checking weather at her location throughout the day.  I sent her encouraging text messages that I knew she'd read at each of her gas stops.

I knew where her gas stops would be, so once she made the gas stop in Duson LA, I could calculate her arrival time at the next gas stop in Hankamer TX.  I got on my bike and headed toward Hankamer when I knew she was about 1.5 hours away. 

Considering the difficulty I was having in approximating her arrival time using the SPOT tracks, which have erratic delays and some missed track points, I managed to get to the gas station in Hankamer just a few minutes ahead of her.  I didn't want her to arrive and not see my bike.  I knew that could be very demotivating for her.

The other thing I was doing while "armchairing" her ride was keeping my eye on the Houston TranStar traffic webpage.  There was a potential troublesome hotspot on the route just west of Houston.  The original route took us west of Houston to Sealy then turning around and heading back to the finish gas station south of Houston near my house.  Construction to build the flyover ramps from I-10 to the Grand Parkway had the east and west bound lanes of I-10 closed completely.  TranStar was showing 55-60 minute delays in both directions.  Not good.  So in the last hour before getting on the bike to head over to Hankamer, I tinkered with her route to divert it in another direction to avoid this huge delay. 

Trying to send us south toward Lake Jackson didn't give us quite enough miles.  So I decided on a route that would take us to 610 East Loop heading north and then west to I-45, then north on I-45 to League Line Road north of Conroe.  We'd need to get a receipt at the junction of 610 and 45 to prove her route, since an alternate, faster route up 146 would have truncated the route enough to not have enough miles.  In the end, I knew this was the best route.  It had one huge advantage over the original route out to Sealy, and that was the fact that it would be along a very well-lit freeway within an urban area and with other traffic.  My friend told me she had problems driving at night.  The roads in Houston are so well-lit that it's not unusual to see drivers who have forgotten to turn their cars' headlights on.
Meeting up at a gas station in Hankamer TX

Just minutes after I arrived at the Shell station in Hankamer I could see a motorcycle coming down the exit ramp and then into the gas station.  It was my friend!   Needless to say, she was happy to see me.  I was a little concerned about what to expect...was she going to be "wasted?"  Would she be able to continue?  Once she was off the bike it was obvious that she was very wound-up and hyper and I assured her that we had time for her to grab something to eat and to gather her wits before the last leg...just a little over 200 miles.

While she ate, I made the modifications to the route in her GPS.  Once she was ready to go, we got back onto I-10 and continued west toward Houston and 610.  We stopped at a gas station on the feeder road of I-45 just north of 610 so that she could get a receipt to mark the corner of the route.  It was an adventure, since this is not the best side of town and the gas station had locked doors and bullet-proof glass and she had to buy a bottle of water through a security window. 

But we got it done and then got back onto I-45 north to the Chevron station at League Line Road north of Conroe.  I stop at this gas station every time I take a trip out of town when my route takes me up I-45.  It's large, clean, has an attached McDonald's and has good receipts, i.e. includes all the correct information to document an IBA ride:  correct address, time, date.

Turnaround point in Conroe

Turnaround point in Conroe

Now all we needed to do was turn around and head south on I-45 through downtown Houston, onto 59 to 288 and then just a few more miles to the finish gas station near my house.

Houston is one of those cities that never sleeps.  No matter what time it is, day or night, traffic is always heavy.  This night was no different.  It's heavy but it moves right along, unlike rush hour traffic.  So once we were within the Beltway on the north side, it became hard for me to see my friend in my rearview mirrors.  The frequent lane changes of the cars around us meant she was no longer able to stay directly behind me.  But I knew she had the final gas station in her GPS and that it would route her to the finish even if she lost me in the traffic.

But even though we lost occasional visual contact with each other, once I got south of Houston downtown and into lighter traffic, she was able to find me and fall in behind me.

Getting finish receipt in Pearland

Soon we were exiting 288, turning right at the light, and then pulling into the Buc-ee's gas station.  Her SS1000 is done!  She did it!  We both filled up our tanks, she got her finish receipt to document her stop time and we then headed the short distance to my house. 

I had champagne chilled and waiting, and some fresh fruit - pineapple, strawberries, cantaloupe - and some cold cuts and cheese to have a near-midnight celebratory snack.  I'm not sure it had fully sunk in for my friend that she had successfully completed her first IBA ride!  She was exhausted and cranky and definitely not in the mood to celebrate, lashing out at me on a variety of imagined shortcomings on my part. I urged her to go take a relaxing shower, hoping it would defuse things a bit. But I was exhausted myself, and went to bed.

We were both up early the next morning so that I could drive her to the airport for her flight home.  Her bike would stay with me in my garage until she flies back to Houston on Thursday afternoon and we then go to Dallas on Friday for the IBA party get-together.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Running the Monster Mile +12.1

Saturday morning I ran the Monster Mash Half Marathon.   

I woke up early - too early - to a dark, cold, overcast morning.  A quick check of the weather showed 47 degrees and cloudy for the 7:00 AM start of the race.  My decision was made...I would wear a long-sleeve running shirt, and was glad I'd packed one. 

The day before, on my way back from lunch at a really great little cafĂ©, Countrie Eatery, I drove over to the Dover Speedway to get a photo of Miles the Monster.  Pretty cool guy!!


So on race day morning I walked from my hotel to the base of the Miles statue and milled about with the other runners.  Out here in the open, it was chilly and the garish spotlights had turned Miles into an ominous specter looming over and dwarfing all of the runners clustered around his base.

The start line was inside the Speedway and at exactly 6:50 AM we were all herded into the speedway park and onto the race track.  This was pretty damned cool!!  The track is a mile long, hence its name, The Monster Mile.  A person just can't appreciate how steeply banked a race track is until he's standing right on it.  Wow!

Soon we were turned loose onto the track to run our first mile of the race.  We all ran pretty much single-file around the track, staying on the level portion as much as possible.  Many runners had their cameras and cellphones out taking photos, and many others clambered up to the top of the banked track to take photos and to have their photos taken.  I overheard one runner say, "Just getting to run on this track was worth the $80 race entry fee."

First mile of the race inside Dover Speedway - the Monster Mile!

Under the bright lights inside the Speedway!



By the time we'd completed that first mile inside the race track and got off the grounds of the Speedway, we'd run 2 miles.  Then it was off toward downtown Dover and around the state capitol building.   This was really cool!  It was one of the rare times when I wished I had a camera with me.  Delaware was our nation's first state and there's a lot of history here in this town.  We ran past the old, original state house first, a beautiful brick building with classic colonial lines, including the massive chimneys on each end of the building.  I love that style architecture.  Then we turned a corner and began our running tour of the current state house.

The route took us around the Delaware State House.  Very cool!

Once we circumnavigated the state house, we headed away from downtown and out into the countryside.  There was pretty much nothing out here but soybean fields.  But the roads were beautiful, the route scenic, and there was no traffic.    We were pretty much out there in the middle of nowhere for several miles.  But as promised, they had water/sports drink stations about every 1.5 or 2 miles and there was no need to have porta-potties out there...there were plenty of places along the side of the road to duck into the bushes to answer nature's call. 

Monster Mash Half Marathon route - data from my GPS watch

At mile 11 the route finally turned toward the finish line back at the speedway.  I was pretty much used up by this point and was no longer running, but I did try to keep a good walking pace - sub-15 minute mile pace.  In the last mile, the route rounded a bend and then we could see the speedway ahead of us.  Up a bridge over US 1, down the other side of the bridge, and then onto the Speedway grounds. 

Earlier in the week a friend who's also a runner told me she was coming for our lunch get-together after the race, but that she might jump in on the race as a bandit to run with me.  I never did see her along the race route, so assumed she decided sleeping in was the better idea.  But a few minutes after I crossed the finish line, there she was!  We hugged and then waited around to hear them announce the overall and age-group winners. 

First place in my age group!!
photo, courtesy Kirsten Talken-Spaulding
As they started the announcements, I realized that the age groups were in 10-year increments, not the usual 5-year increments, and I thought there was no chance I'd place in my age group.   But we hung around anyway, and sure enough....they got to the female, 60-69 age group and unbelievably, I heard the announcer say, "In first place, from Pearland, TX..."  I couldn't believe my ears!! 

Early in the race I fell in step with another woman and we ran quite a ways together and chatted.  I began to edge ahead of her and then lost sight of her in the second half.  Then, there she was!  She came up to the announcer to claim her second-place age-group award, coming in just a few minutes behind me, and we hugged and congratulated each other!  That was a sweet moment!   As I started back toward my hotel, she offered me a ride.  That was even sweeter!



A friend who lives in the Annapolis area called a lunch get-together at the really great BBQ restaurant, Where Pigs Fly.  It was only a mile from the hotel, which was great, since it gave me plenty of time to clean up and check out.  We had a great turn-out of folk, some coming a pretty good distance.  Many surrounding states were represented:  NY, NJ, PA, MD, VA.

Showing off the bling at the lunch get-together
photo, courtesy Dave Greenberg


The food was excellent!  I had pulled pork, sweet potato fries, and 'fried' apples (more like apple pie filling).  Our table ordered an onion ring loaf which is a huge wad of sliced onions packed into a loaf-shaped bundle and then deep-fried.  It was actually the perfect accompaniment to the pulled pork.

We all said our goodbyes and I headed toward the Baltimore Airport and the Hilton Garden Inn for my last night of the trip.  I checked in, moved my bags into the room, and then got back into the car and drove to Ellicott City to meet a friend for a fund-raiser event called "Paw Crawl" to benefit a local animal shelter.  Ellicott City historic district was very quaint and judging from all of the cars that were clogging the very narrow main street, very popular.  With friend Nancy's directions, though, I easily found the parking lot behind Ellicott Mills Brewing Company and, with perfect timing, she pulled in right next to me.  She and her dog Louis took me on a walking tour up to the top of the hill where the courthouse commands a great view of the town and the river below.   

Ellicott City, originally named Ellicott Mills, is an old historic mill town, and the mills still stand today, either as repurposed buildings or doing similar work.  Nancy told me that there was once a large flour mill here.
Nancy and her pet, Louis

We had a brew at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, as other participants of the Paw Crawl began arriving and milling about.  I had an interesting seasonal brew that was supposed to have pumpkin and spices undertones.  While I couldn't pick up any of the pumpkin undertones, the fact that the bartender dipped the rim of the glass into a mix of sugar, cinnamon and allspice, certainly made the beer interesting and enjoyable.  The group began to move on to the next pub, but Nancy and I had both had enough.  Besides, her faithful dog Louis was waiting out in the parking lot in her car. 

I headed back to the hotel, a very easy and short drive from Ellicott City, and I quit for the night...it had been a very long day!  Tomorrow morning I'll fly back home to Houston.

The race bling:

What the map looks like now:


Next up:  a needed month long break from running until Norfolk and Charlotte in November.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ocean City MD and Seagulls

With nowhere to go and nothing to do until next Saturday's race in Dover DE, I decided to park myself for a few days in Ocean City MD.  It was a totally random selection and had no rhyme or reason except I've never been to Ocean City before.

It was very windy when I arrived here on Sunday, and felt colder than the actual 55 degrees.  The view off my balcony is spectacular, but windy.  I'm on the 6th floor which seems to be about the level at which the seagulls pick up the wind currents.  They float and soar right at my eye level, their heads turning this way and that as they scan the beach front below them.  Pretty cool!!

View from my balcony at Hilton Oceanfront Suites

My room is a nice two-room suite with a full kitchen and a nice balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Part of me wanted to get out and explore the beach, the boardwalk, the touristy sections, but a bigger part of me was very tired.  After going back out to pick up a few groceries at the Super Walmart, the couch and the big flatscreen TV in the living room grabbed me and held me hostage for the rest of the day.  Room service for dinner - Scottish salmon, couscous, green beans - and my afternoon/evening of slothfulness was complete.

Monday was more of the same slothfulness, except for going downstairs to have lunch at the restaurant - a yummy bowl of mussels - and then a cappuccino to take back to my room.

Tuesday showed promise of slightly warmer, less windy weather, so I decided to walk the four blocks south to the northern terminus of the boardwalk at 28th Street, and then walked the boardwalk to 6th street and then cut over to the post office at 5th and Philadelphia Ave.  I had a passel of cards to mail - one of them a birthday card which will arrive late.  That task complete, I began the long walk back to the hotel, hoping I'd pass someplace that was open for lunch.
Ocean City Boardwalk - pretty much deserted

Nearly everything along the boardwalk was closed for the season.  Finally, 4 or 5 blocks from the hotel, I found a little crab-shack kind of place - PGN Crab House - that was open and had an oyster sandwich.  Fried oysters between two slices of fresh white bread.  Odd combo that actually works!

It was a good brisk 3.8 mile walk and my body appreciated the exercise after a couple of days off from running. 
Tuesday morning walk on the boardwalk

Back at the hotel, cappuccino in hand, I returned to my room and resumed my vegetative state.
I did some routing and rerouting of my drive up to Dover later in the week and decided to stay on US 1 through Rehoboth, which will be more scenic than the inland route.  Maybe a little slower due to traffic but actually a few miles shorter. 

Wednesday morning and I was truly bored.  There's a Tanger Outlet Mall here in Ocean City but I noticed from their website that there's a much larger one in Rehoboth.  I might stop along the way to Dover and do some shopping.  My boredom won out and I decided to drive to the nearby Tanger Outlet Mall.  There's an Eddie Bauer outlet store there that might be worth checking out. 

I got my "steamed crabs fix" afterward at Marina Deck Restaurant. 

Tomorrow:  Pack up and head north up US 1 toward Rehoboth and then on to Dover DE for the Monster Mash half marathon on Saturday.  I think I'll stop at the post office and mail a box of dirty clothes home.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Running in Charm City - Baltimore

Next up on my race calendar is The Baltimore Running Festival.  I considered driving to get there but talked myself out of it and bought an airplane ticket instead.  Fewer days away from home and fewer miles put on the SUV odometer is a desirable thing. 

So Thursday morning I was headed to the airport by 5:15 AM for a 7:30 AM flight.  This being the start of a long holiday weekend I expected long lines at the TSA checkpoint, but this is really ridiculous.  I had a long line for my last flight (to Pittsburgh) as well.  Good thing I got an early start, because by the time I got to the gate, I had less than 30 minutes to spare.  Note to self:  consider getting TSA pre-check clearance.

Anyway, the flight departed on-time, I had a good breakfast in first-class, and we arrived a little early.  I had a pre-paid reservation on the airport shuttle and the van swooped up to the curb just minutes after I arrived and whisked me on my way to my hotel in downtown Baltimore.  It all went like clockwork!

The weather in Baltimore had changed radically since I'd checked it earlier in the week.  I had to do some last minute repacking as a result.  Warmer temps and sunshine had given way to nor'easter winds and rain, as the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen swept up the east coast.  It was raining pretty heavily when I arrived at the hotel.

Thoughts of getting out to do some sightseeing that afternoon were pretty much dashed, but I did walk a few blocks up the street to the historic Lexington Market for a late lunch and to buy some fresh fruit to have in the room.  It was a pretty neat food market, very reminiscent of other indoor food markets I've visited in other old historic cities such as Boston or London.  I browsed the stalls a bit before picking up a hand of bananas and then some fried chicken for lunch.  Standing at one of the stand-up tables nearby, I ate my chicken while watching the foot traffic come and go.

My view from the stand-up eating area.

Beautiful fresh produce

Meats, sausage, cheeses

Huge selection of fresh fish


Logo shirt and fridge magnet
Then it was back out into the rain for the walk back toward the hotel and on to the convention center to pick up my race packet.  It was a good-sized fitness expo with lots of race logo-wear and other goodies.  Even though we get an event race shirt as part of our registrations, I just can't resist buying more race-related logo-wear as souvenirs.  I looked for a nice fleece - a favorite item for me - but didn't care for the only two colors available in women's sizes: bright pink or bright lavender.  I passed them by in favor of a nice UnderArmour long-sleeve shirt with a subtle race logo on the back and also a refrigerator magnet.  I've accumulated quite a nice collection of these.  They're small and easy to pack!  . 

Friday was equally as dreary and rainy in Baltimore...not much opportunity to do some sightseeing, so I stayed close to the hotel.  I really wanted to walk down to the harbor area but that just wasn't going to happen.  Fortunately I've been to Baltimore on business trips and have seen the harbor area already. 

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

Saturday morning - race day!!  Baltimore marathon/half marathon event has a different race start than others I've participated in.  The marathon will start at 8:00 AM, and the half marathon at 9:45 AM.  Odd, but I can certainly understand their objectives in doing this.  It will bring the finishers across the finish line within a much smaller time-window.   Another part of this odd format is that the full marathon route joins up with the half marathon at mile 16 (for full marathoners) and mile 3 for half marathoners.  We all run the last 10 miles together to the finish line. 


somewhere around mile 8, just finishing the lake loop

The weather cooperated very nicely on race day morning.  Originally forecasted to rain, the wet stuff held off all morning:

Race day morning forecast

The support along the route was fantastic!  Better than many races I've participated in.  The route took us east and then north and we traversed through a number of different sections of the city giving us a sense of the variety this city has to offer.  It was a very pleasant route with good variety.  Miles and miles of Baltimore row-house neighborhoods and plenty of folks, families, kids outside and cheering us on!  The best was the lady on her front porch drumming away on a child's drum kit and sounded pretty darned good, too!

Race route - data from my Garmin watch

As we headed back south toward downtown and the finish line, a deejay was playing the song, "Good Morning, Baltimore!" from the musical, Hairspray, which was absolutely perfect!  I got goose-bumps running up my back and across my scalp when I heard it!  It was just so cool!

Crossing the finish line


Finisher's Medal
The last couple of miles were pretty much a slight downhill into town, which made it very easy to keep on running right to the finish line!  Good race and a good finish time for me. 

The race organizers changed up the finish line from past years - I wouldn't know what it was like, having never run this race before, but I was far from alone in my negative feedback, based on comments on their Facebook page.  They elongated the finish chute on the far side of the finish line, apparently to help with congestion, but most of us felt it was too long, too spread out, not enough volunteers and very disorganized because of all that space.  But the good news is that I finished, had a good time, and it didn't start to rain until right after I crossed the finish line and grabbed my space blanket to keep me warm and (mostly) dry. 

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

Friends Deb and Suz picked me up at the hotel a couple of hours later and took me to a local diner called The Sip & Bite.  It was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives in April, 2012, and the crab cakes and spinach pie got the nod from Guy Fieri. 

So of course I had what their menu called the "DDD Special."  A crab cake, slice of spinach pie, and two sides.  OMG, so yummy!  The crabcake was huge, lightly pan-fried with huge chunks of crab and just a tiny bit of filler, only enough to hold it all together.  The spinach pie had a wonderful flavor, with a light flaky filo layer on top.  Perfect washed down with a mug of light beer! 

So then we see the waitress deliver a dessert to the folks in the next booth.  Should we?  Absolutely!  The three of us split an enormous slice of baklava cheese cake.  We were groaning by the time we polished it off!

Just as we were finished up, friends Brian and Donna showed up.  Deb and Suz needed to get home so I stayed with Brian and Donna chatting with them while they ordered and then ate their dinners.  They drove me back to the hotel, but not before giving me a wonderful driving tour of some of the beautiful and historic neighborhoods near the harbor, including historic harbor areas like Canton with the beautifully restored rowhouses and O'Donnell Square, and  Fells Point with its cobblestone streets and wonderfully repurposed warehouses and buildings.

Later that evening, back at the lobby bar, I struck up a conversation with a couple of ladies who were in town to attend a Nerium convention.  Over the last few days I'd had brief elevator chats with several women in town for this meeting,.  It's a skin care product, sold through a pyramid marketing structure.  Some ladies were more aggressive than others in making sure I knew about their company, their product, and their recruitment.  Not for me, but interesting how avid these women seemed to be about this product.

State #28 is now added to my 50 States map:



The next few days will be spent in Ocean City, MD...

View from balcony

...and then I'll move north to Dover to run the Monster Mash Marathon/Half Marathon with friend Alan who will be coming in from Indiana.

 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Gone Dancing!

Good friend Steve has been raving about his social life, now that he's moved to the Austin area.  As well he should!  He's connected with some Meet-up groups in the area and is having the time of his life. 

With very little cajoling, he talked me into coming to his place so that he could take me dancing at one of his favorite venues:  Steiner Ranch.  Steiner Ranch Steak House sits high up on a bluff overlooking Lake Travis so that we'll be able to catch a beautiful sunset.   Even better, his favorite band, Skyrocket! will be playing there Thursday night.   I've heard him speak so favorably of the place and of the band that I just couldn't resist his invitation. 

So on Thursday morning I packed an overnight bag, jumped in the SUV, and headed for the Austin area.  I didn't come empty-handed...I brought some of my homemade chicken noodle soup, some hummus, and some quinoa tortilla chips to share with him for lunch. 

As we pulled up the steep, curvy drive to Steiner Ranch that evening, the place, I could see that the place was impressively imposing, sitting high up on the top of the hill.  Decks hung out over the bluff, promising fantastic views of the sunset over Lake Travis. 

Steve, capturing the sunset with some female admirers


We arrived just as the band did, and it didn't take them long to get set up...just long enough for us to order a couple of hors d'oeuvres to share and some drinks.  Some very tasty beef tip kebabs and sesame-coated pan-seared ahi tuna, sliced thin and served over a bed of mixed greens.
The band, Skyrocket!, getting set up

Once the band started up, that was it.  Friend Steve dragged me out onto the dance floor for the first dance.  And the second dance.  And soon the floor was mobbed and it didn't matter any more.  No one was dancing with anyone in particular...just having a great time dancing to some incredibly fantastic music from Skyrocket!

(photo from Steve)

Eight years old, and already showing some "moves!"

Skyrocket! band with some fantastic vocals


Steve showing some 'tude with that hat!