Friday, November 29, 2013

November 22

"Where were you on that day?"

This newspaper was among my late husband's papers when he died

It's a question that was asked throughout the media, this being the 50th anniversary year of President Kennedy's assassination.  This topic was far from my mind until November 22nd approached this year. As I began to see the biopics and editorials and essays on this topic, they brought back a flood of memories that I'd filed away, never thinking I'd ever resurrect them.

Where was I??  I was 15 years old and living the naïve and sheltered life that all 15 year olds lived at that time.  We were insulated from the cruel adult truths that surely existed back then but were hidden under the sugar-coating of innocent sit-coms and throttled back by the news coverage that was limited to newspapers, radio and brief nightly news segments.  If there was violence, it was relegated to anonymity by lack of instant, global news access.  And by our parents who tirelessly shielded us from the adult world for as long as they could.  Scarred from the Great Depression and a World War, they wanted our lives to be better, more perfect.

I remember well the Sunday morning we were coming home from church and were rear-ended at a red light by an elderly man.  It was the most exciting brush with adult truths that had ever happened to me up to that point.  Turns out the elderly gentleman was even more titillating fact, one that I chalked up to an improbable chance happenstance.  And my insular life went on.

Beyond that one tiny glimpse into what the adult world might possibly look like, our lives were lived in a bubble of Eisenhower-era simplicity, of post-World War II conservatism.  Sure...we had bomb drills and earthquake drills at school and toured bomb shelter mock-ups at home shows, shelters that were euphemistically referred to as "storm shelters."   But that was all so remote to our lives, some sort of superstitious ritual, like throwing salt over our left shoulders, practiced to keep away the evil demons of somewhere else, somewhere beyond our own safe world. 

It was a time when the Milky Way was clearly visible, when prime-time television included such idyllic family life programs as The Ed Sullivan Show, Lawrence Welk, Father Knows Best, I Love Lucy.    Women wore gloves and hats and men wore suits and ties at restaurants and when traveling.  Cars and houses were left unlocked and parents didn't keep their children on a 'short leash.'  "Just be home by dark," they'd say.

As children, we vaguely knew about the cold war, and I can conjure seeing flickering black-and-white images of Khrushchev and Castro if I try really hard.   But to us Eisenhower-era children, they lived a world away.  It had no effect on life as we knew it in our insulated childhood.  Even though we were living in Florida at the time, I only vaguely recall limited detail about the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I remember my dad being gone for a couple of days, participating in some "military show."  I now know the nature of that "show"...much different than what my innocent pre-teen mind imagined. 

When John Kennedy was elected president I was old enough to notice.  To notice how youthful and handsome he was compared to the previous presidents who seemed to me to be ancient old men.  The fact that he had children much younger than me or my sisters, made him seem even more youthful to me.  I remember how much I admired his wife Jacqueline, admired her fashion sense and how beautiful she was.  My own burgeoning interest in fashion was fueled even further as I pored over photos of Jackie in issues of Life and Look and Newsweek and Time magazines.  I might have been a young pre-teen, but not so young that I didn't notice how much the country as a whole admired and respected Kennedy as our President.  

We lived in one of the most repressively segregated areas of the South, but I was born and had lived in California for most of my life prior to moving to this area, and segregation was entirely foreign to me.  Shortly after we arrived, my mom took us to Gayfers department store to buy some summer clothes.  We were ill-prepared for the heat and humidity of the Florida panhandle.  Even though I was 11 years old at the time, I remember as if it happened yesterday.  As we headed for the escalator, I was distracted by a bank of two drinking fountains.  They were labeled "white" and "colored."  Well I just had to try that colored water.  Imagine my disappointment when it came out clear and colorless.  

I didn't understand this at first.  It took me several months, but I did eventually figure it out.  The "No Colored" signs in the doorways of some stores and restaurants, the separate waiting areas for "colored" at bus stations, the separate schools and churches for "colored students" eventually sunk in.

So in my youthful naiveté I was unable to grasp the historic importance of Kennedy's push to enforce the Civil Rights Act in the South.  I was neither for or against it simply because I didn't understand it in the first place. Didn't understand why colored people had their own churches and schools, their own drinking fountains.  Why they weren't allowed into a restaurant or store.  I remember the news coverage of the stand-off with Governor Wallace on the campus of University of Alabama.    But even Alabama, just a few miles north of where we were living, seemed far, far away to my pre-teenaged mind. 


On November 22, 1963 I was 15 years old.  I was engrossed in all things relating to young teenaged girls:  That new group, The Beatles.  Getting my learner's permit.  Bass Weejun loafers.  Make-up.  A blossoming sense of style and fashion. 

It was homecoming week at high school.  The pep rallies, the booster ribbons, the posters all over the school campus announcing the game and homecoming dance afterward.  I had my homecoming outfit, a gold-colored wool skirt suit, very Jackie-esque, and brown mock turtleneck sweater to wear underneath.  Brown gloves. 

The homecoming parade was that day.  We were all let out of school at
12:00 noon and the parade was staging in the high school parking lot, getting ready for a 12:30 PM kick-off.  I don't know why I wasn't in the parade this year, since in past years I was always on one of the floats, dressed in my cat outfit - black leotard, black tights, cat ears - representing our school mascot, the black panther.  But for whatever reason, I was a spectator this particular year.

My mom dropped my little sister off at the high school so that she could join her twirling group and then mom and I drove less than a mile away and parked our car in a bank parking lot on the parade route.  We got out of the car and waited for the parade to come by.

I remember what happened next as clearly as if it just happened yesterday.

The front of the parade passed by and then as a float passed by, we could hear kids and adults on the float hollering to the spectators.  At first we couldn't make out what they were saying.  Then it struck, sharp as a knife:  "The President has been shot!"

We were stunned.  Surely they're mistaken.  But adults associated with the parade, those driving the vehicles that were towing the floats confirmed it.  They had heard the news on their radios. 

Soon the news rippled across the town and throughout the parade route.  Those marching in the parade drifted to the curb; parade vehicles sped toward the finish point in the center of town.  My mom and I jumped in the car and headed toward the finish to find my little sister. 

It was bedlam.  It's a small town and to have the entire parade converge into the courthouse square all at once created a huge traffic jam. 

Would there still be a game that night?   Would the homecoming dance go on as planned?  Well this is deep into high school football territory so the game was definitely still on.  It was determined that the dance would still go on as well.  Even among us high school students the mood was somber.

The World was stunned.  Certainly here in the U.S., nothing had ever happened like this in our lifetimes.  Violence - or violence that we knew about - was unknown to us.  It seemed improbable that this could ever have been a random act, performed by a single person.  This didn't happen in America.  Assassinations of other public figures had never happened in our life time.  Assassinations of other public figures would be several years in the future.  Random shootings from bell towers and at schools and theaters were decades in the future.

Because of this, and because of the temperature of World politics at the time, America feared it was the start of a larger attack.  Even in my youth I could sense the tension.  I didn't have the perspective back then, but I can now see that we were relatively fresh off the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Relations with the Soviet Union were not good.   Escalating activities in Vietnam were beginning to divide the country.   Here at home, inter-racial relations were simmering.  There were a number of possible world and domestic enemies that could claim responsibility for this.  This truly set the mood of the country as we watched the aftermath of this assassination unfold.


We were all glued to the television for the next few days as coverage continued non-stop.  And we all held our breaths and waited for the other shoe to drop.  Would there be more attacks to follow?

For the first time ever, the television brought extensive news coverage, live and direct, right into Americans' living rooms.  This had never happened before.  Ever.  We saw live reporting on the scene.  We saw taped coverage of activities that had happened earlier that day.  We saw footage of the shooting and, later, we saw footage of Oswald's death.   We saw the funeral procession live as it happened.  It set a precedent for news coverage and was, in fact, the birth of news coverage as we know it today.

It was Reality TV before there was such a thing.  Up until that day, there were no dedicated news networks.  Only the regional and national news that aired at dinner time and then again before TV stations signed off for the night, usually at midnight or earlier, the screen reverting to a waving American flag and then to a test pattern and then to "snow."

As a 15 year old witnessing all of this, I felt that my world had suddenly changed.  It jarred my sense of security and safety.  At the time, I remember hoping that it was a once-in-a-million-years event.  That surely nothing as heinous would happen again in my lifetime.   Time would soon show me that I was indeed very naïve at the age of 15.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I Must Be Crazy! Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon

Back in January, when I began planning for my 2013 races and as the calendar quickly filled up with bookings and travel plans, I wasn't sure I could do it all.  Looking at it, scrolling through the months on my Google Calendar, it did seem like an awful lot of "stuff" crammed into those little boxes, the brightly color-coded entries dancing across the screen in a confetti-like riot.  I concluded that I must be crazy!

18 months' worth of half marathon medals
But here we are, in the second half of November, year nearly over, and with the last scheduled race of 2013 now behind me.  I'm thinking to myself:  Wow!  I actually did it!  I ran every single race that I set out to do and completed all of the travel that was needed to get me to those races. 

Let's see....that's 17 half marathons in 11 months.  That works out to be 221 miles, run along the streets of our nation's cities and towns.  Add to this, all of the training miles run in between the races.  And then there's another 14,000 miles in the car and over 11,000 miles by airplane. 

The last race of the year was in Charlotte, NC.  It wasn't until this race that the enormity of what I'd accomplished this year finally hit me.  I had been so busy taking it one race at a time, keeping my head down and working my way through the calendar of scheduled races, that I hadn't taken the time to look up and see the fruits of all of this work.  17 Half Marathons in 11 Months!


Last Thursday I was in Charlotte NC after spending a relaxing few days at Marriott's OceanWatch resort in Myrtle Beach.  It was just a half-day's drive to get to Charlotte, so I had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast before checking out and getting on the road.  I checked into the Hyatt House right downtown and within easy walking distance of both the fitness expo at the Sheraton and the start line for the race at Tryon and 1st Streets. 

Living area in my suite
Living area and kitchen in my suite
The Hyatt House was stunning!  I would absolutely stay here again if I ever come back to this city.  I got an unbelievably good rate for the room and when I got off the elevator on the 7th floor, I thought there might be a mistake.  there were conference rooms and the fitness center and a large central seating area.  It didn't look like a floor with ordinary rooms.  There was also a beautiful outdoor pool tucked in next to the building in a little alcove between the hotel towers that rose above it.

And when I opened the door to my room....oh my!!  this was a serious upgrade from what I'd booked.  For $109 a night I had a large suite with enormous living area, kitchen, bedroom, and outdoor patio. 

It was clearly designed to be a hospitality suite, with that outdoor patio and its proximity to the meeting rooms.  It was deliciously luxurious and comfortable and very quiet.  No hall traffic; no doors slamming.
private patio balcony off my suite


Friday I walked over to the Sheraton to pick up my race packet and to browse the vendors.  It was a good-sized fitness expo with a great selection of race logo wear.  I talked myself out of buying a long-sleeve shirt, as cute as it was, convincing myself that I would rarely wear it given how short our winters are here in south Texas.  Lots of other vendors to browse and chat with, and a few races represented, so I chatted with the folks working the booths for a bit.  Then it was off to find some lunch - a Quiznos sandwich - and back to the room for the afternoon to get off my feet. 

Several months ago, when I was having a post-race lunch with a big group of friends at Farm Boys BBQ near Columbia, SC, one of the group who lives near Charlotte mentioned that he'd like to host a BBQ at his house after I run the Charlotte Thunder Road marathon in November.  I didn't forget his offer, knowing that his reputation reaches far and wide for good smoked pork and his secret vinegar-based sauce.  He regularly hauls his big smoker to various church and other organization cook-outs.

So as the Charlotte race drew near, we firmed up the plan and he got the word out to our group of friends.  A few days before the race he sent me an email, offering to pick me up and take me for a pasta feed the night before the race.  I had a better idea:  come into town and we'll have dinner at Villa Francesca, a great little Italian restaurant within walking distance of my hotel.  He spread the word and before long there were six of us enjoying some really great food!  It was the perfect way to spend the evening before race day.

And before I knew was 5:00 AM race day morning!! 

The race organizers were offering a 30 minute earlier start for folks who weren't sure they could complete the course in the allotted time.  Normally I won't register for a race that has a less than 3.5 hour time limit.  But this race is so popular and so well-done, I couldn't resist.  I was a little concerned about my time, though, given the hilliness of this course and the fact that I'd just be coming off another half marathon 6 days earlier.  But I felt I could just squeak in under the course time limit.  Then, much to my delight, they added the 30 minute extension a couple of months ago. 

It was an easy, stress-free start.  About 200 folks were lined up for the early start for both the full and the half marathons and the announcer sent us off with a "one, two, GO!"  And then we were off running.  The rest of the pack - all 4,000 or so - would start 30 minutes later with the lead pack catching up with us in just 3 or 4 miles.

The course was beautiful if hilly, taking us south out of downtown and through the oldest and richest neighborhoods.  Beautiful mansions, manicured and landscaped lawns, large mature trees lining the streets.  Nearly every mile was spent in these beautiful neighborhoods.   Some of the corners were lined with cheering spectators, and a few live bands were scattered along the course, stationing themselves in the occasional short commercial sections of the course.

Data from my Garmin GPS watch

Somewhere along the course near mile 6.5

Crossing the finish line

The finish line experience was one of the best!  Excellent layout of the chute and Publix put on an excellent post-race spread of fresh fruit, bagels, fruit cups, assortment of snack bars, Gatorade, chips and other salty snacks, and the much-coveted chocolate milk.  And a great little fabric "nosh bag" to hold it all.  Well done, Publix!!

The medal:

Now on to that down-home BBQ at Mike's house!  I showered, dressed and checked out of the hotel and headed toward the food.  He had a great turn-out.  Folks came from as far away as central PA to the north, central TN to the west, and southern GA to the south!  His pork butt is every bit as good as I'd heard it was.  I love the thin vinegar-based sauce too.  Reminded me of the vinegar-based mop sauce recipe my late husband used whenever he had meat on the smoker.  I still make that recipe today when I smoke brisket or ribs. 

Some great food and a great visit with good friends and then I got on the road toward home.


What the map looks like now:

Now to rest up for a couple of months.  Next race is Las Cruces NM in late January, but lots happening before then.  Thanksgiving.  Taking the family to Disneyworld.  Christmas.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm Such A Slouch!

Seriously.  I'm here at a beautiful resort right on the ocean in Myrtle Beach and I've been a total bum...  although I did find the Starbucks on the property and have given them a fair bit of my money. 

Sunset from the upper fire pit level overlooking pool and ocean

The resort is gorgeous!  The time-share villas are beautiful.  Mine is a corner unit, two bedrooms (one of them a very spacious master suite), two baths, huge living area, full kitchen, gorgeous view off the balcony.  I sat out there one afternoon enjoying a cappuccino and the view.  But generally it's been too cold to sit out there with my morning coffee.

Looking through the stacks of papers they always give their guests at these timeshares, I found several brochures for shows at the various venues in town.  One was close by and recommended by Sharon, the woman in Marketing who had called me at home prior to my trip and again once I got settled into my unit.  She mentioned there were several Christmas shows just starting their seasonal runs and that they were well-worth taking in while I was in town. 

Tuesday morning I got online for the Carolina Opry and bought a ticket for the Tuesday 1:00 PM matinee.    Before the show I drove a few more miles north up US 17 to Walmart.  I wanted to buy more bananas and Cheerios, and picked up some fresh blackberries and a package of granola bars, too.  They make good road food.  There was a Wendy's next to Walmart, so what the heck!  I went ahead and had a chicken sandwich on a pretzel bun.  Pretty tasty! 

Carolina Opry lobby
This was most definitely the "senior citizen" matinee at Carolina Opry!  I was probably one of the youngest in the audience.  A small tour van full of senior citizens was at the Wendy's and I followed that same tour van into the Opry parking lot. 

The Opry house is gorgeous and was beautifully decorated for the holidays.  I loved that it was less than 2 miles from the resort and how easy the parking was.  I paid only a few more dollars for the platinum seating, and was in the 4th row, center section, seat 3.  But I don't think there was a bad seat anywhere in the house. 

Carolina Opry
What a show!  It covered every facet of holiday song, from gospel to familiar holiday songs such as Jingle Bells.  A few interesting and wonderful new twists to some old familiar favorites and with a few humorous skits mixed in.  The best part for me, though, was the costumes and gowns.  Every time a female cast member left the stage, she came back on in a totally new and stunning gown. 

The quartet of male tap dancers/cloggers (a la Stomp!) were fantatic!  The female dance troupe (a la Rockets) were not quite as stellar as the tap dancers, but still entertaining.  

Overall a very entertaining show and great way to spend the afternoon!

On my first evening here at the resort I ate at the restaurant at the Marriott Hotel on property.  The food was plentiful and I brought half of it, along with half of the bottle of wine, back to my villa to have for dinner the next night.  This proved to be an excellent plan, so I did it again on Tuesday evening after the Christmas performance.  Now I have leftovers for dinner Wednesday night.  Between the leftovers, and the sandwiches and Starbucks at the Marketplace café in the villas section of the resort, there is no need to purchase groceries for meals. 

Just one more day and night here at this great resort and then I hit the road for Charlotte NC and the Thunder Road Marathon/Half Marathon.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Norfolk Freedom Half Marathon - Running the City

It was a cold start, yet I knew it would warm up.  Even so, I was still second-guessing my decision to leave the running gloves in my hotel room.  My hands legs hurt.  It felt much colder than 45 degrees.   

They started the wheelchairs first, then the marathon runners, and then us half-marathon runners.  I could understand the wheelchair start, but starting the marathoners 5 minutes before the half-marathoners really made no sense to me.  But there it is.

My Garmin GPS tracks

It was a very pleasant route, mostly flat except for the railroad underpasses and the bridges over the Lafayette River on the northbound leg up Hampton Blvd and on the southbound leg down Granby.   It was through a neighborhood that I was somewhat familiar with.  My son and family lived on Oak Grove and when I'd visit them I'd often go out for runs in the early mornings.  Once we turned off Little Creek and started south on Granby, the route passed us within a block of my son's house.  It's a lovely neighborhood! 

My hands began to warm up after a couple of miles and by mile 5 or 6 I worried that my long-sleeve "Proud Navy Mom" shirt would be too warm.  But it was still cool in the shady sections of the route. 

This is the third year that this race has been produced. I looked back through the past two years' results to get a gauge of how big the race is and how I might do in my age/gender group.  It was hard to tell.  Previous two runnings of this race there were enough women in my age/gender that I didn't feel I had a chance for an age/gender award.  But I remained optimistic.

When we lined up for the start of the race, the field seemed very small, much smaller than previous years would suggest.   I still had folks around me throughout most of the race, could still see one or two runners ahead of me, even as we made the last turn downtown toward the finish line but there was no question that the field had thinned out considerably in the last 3 or 4 miles.  But I remained optimistic that I might place in my age group.

As I neared the finish line, a woman came running up from behind and overtook me.  I remembered seeing her throughout the race.  We leapfrogged a couple of times and always stayed within sight of each other.  At one point I saw her standing in line waiting to use a porta-potty.  A real time sink.  But a couple of miles later she slowly passed me again.  She was running slowly but in no way did her gait indicate that she had any kind of injury. 

So when she passed me in those last couple of hundred yards, running with a very noticeable limp, I was scratching my head.  At no time during the race did she ever run at this fast a pace.  The limp became more and more exaggerated and her pace started to slow down as she got closer and closer to the finish line.  What the hell?? If you're injured, STOP RUNNING and slow to a WALK! 

I was thinking to myself, "What is she trying to prove?"  If this were the Olympics and a gold medal were at stake, I could see this.  But this was in a very small race, at the back of the pack and, judging from her age, no age-group podium finish was at stake here.  I was also thinking to myself, "She looked perfectly fine throughout this entire race.  So when exactly did she start limping?"

As she crossed the finish line mats, she threw herself down onto her knees in a quite dramatic fashion, and then rolled over onto her back and began writhing and grimacing in pain.  It was the most dramatic acting I've ever seen.  I wanted to call out, "Give her an Academy Award with that medal." but thought better of it.  Up to that point the announcer was calling out the names of each person as they crossed the finish line, saying encouraging words about each one.  I was rather looking forward to running across the finish mat, hearing my name called and where I was from, maybe even noticing the shirt I had on, the Proud Navy Mom shirt.

But of course all attention was turned to this woman who was writhing on the ground.  The announcer was calling for Medical, and telling the skimpy crowd of onlookers to give her some applause.  This went on for several minutes as I accepted my medal, wandered out of the chute and went in search of some food and water.

I spotted the table with the finishers' awards so headed over there, expecting the awards ceremony to begin momentarily.  The website said 9:30 AM and it was a few minutes past 9:30 at this point.  I sat and waited, eating a banana and chatting with a couple who sat next to me.  It was their third time doing this race.  They are walkers yet put in a very decent finisher time for walkers.  At 10:30, there still was no indication that the ceremony would start anytime soon and I was getting uncomfortably chilled.  I needed to get back to the hotel to get cleaned up and checked out. 

Reluctantly I started walking toward the hotel, but stopped at the Starbucks and bought a cappuccino before heading for my room.  I could see the park from my hotel room, could see all the awards still sitting on the table, could see the runners sitting and standing around still waiting.  I wasn't sure if I'd placed in my age group and didn't want to stay around to find out, having a pretty long drive ahead of me to Myrtle Beach SC.

I checked their website later last night and learned that I'd come in 1st place in my age group!!  That's two 1st place age group finishes in the last two races!!

My finisher's medal:

What my map looks like.  There's a certain visual satisfaction to coloring in the state of Virginia as compared to coloring in, say, Delaware or Maryland!

Now to spend a few days relaxing at Marriott's OceanWatch resort in Myrtle Beach SC before running Charlotte Thunder Road Half Marathon next weekend.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Norfolk Freedom Half Marathon - Getting There

Getting to Norfolk is a mind-numbing drive from Houston.  Thankfully, I planned a layover in Mandeville to see my son and wife, and the grandkids.  The perfect way to create a little bright spot on an otherwise long and boring car trip.

Getting to my son's house before 2:30 PM allowed my daughter-in-law to pick my grandson up from school and take him to his piano lesson without having to wake up my granddaughter from her nap.  I got to stay with Mimi, feed her a snack when she woke up, and then play with her for two delicious hours before others arrived home.

Tacos for dinner!   Trevor opened his belated birthday present from me after dinner - a Lego set - and I read a couple of books to Mimi.  Once the kids were in bed, we adults could talk about our plans to take the kids to Disneyworld.

Then the next morning it was back on the road for the long drive to Norfolk for my next race.  Almost 600 miles to Greenville SC for the night, then another 400 miles or more to downtown Norfolk.  I have never been so glad to be turning that SUV over to valet parking! 

I stopped at the Starbucks across the street from the hotel and then walked over to the park to get my race packet.  I expected more of an Expo, since that's what the race organizers called it - A Fitness Expo - but there was very little there.  Just tables where the race packets were given out, and a couple of small canopies on the other side of the open space, one for Navy Federal and the other for USAA.  Disappointing and good thing I didn't forget to pack something, as there was no opportunity to buy it here.

As I stood chatting with the Navy Federal folks, I noticed the jumbo screen on the front of the Naval Museum, which was showing images of Navy fighter jets landing and taking off.  It was promoting their latest 3-D movie being shown in the Nauticus Museum.  So I made the decision to visit that museum the next day.

A beautiful barque was berthed near the park and as I walked back to the hotel, I admired her graceful lines.  She looked to be flying a Norwegian flag so when I returned to my room later, I searched for information on her on the internet.  She's the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, here from Norway on a training excursion for Norwegian midshipmen.

The Nauticus Museum was on my mind the next morning.    It's a beautiful building sitting on a point of land where the Elizabeth River forks.  I paid my admission and took the self-guided tour through the exhibits on the second floor then walked across the gangway to tour the USS Wisconsin.  It was warmer in the sunshine on her deck.  She's a monstrously large Iowa-class battleship, highly decorated and now proudly berthed permanently at this museum. 

Afterward, I stopped again at Starbucks and then walked down to a Subway sandwich shop and picked up a foot-long sandwich - half for lunch now, half for dinner later - and then returned to my room to drink my cappuccino, eat my ham/turkey sub, and watch college football for the rest of the day. 

That evening I laid out everything I'd need for the race the next morning, got my Garmin watch plugged in to the charger, and hoped it wouldn't be too cold in the morning.

Tomorrow morning:  Norfolk Freedom Half Marathon

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Heading to Dallas and the IBA Party

Earlier this week I helped a friend earn her first Saddle Sore 1000 certificate and then got her on a plane to fly home to Bowling Green, KY.  A few days later my newly-iron-butted friend flew back to Houston on Thursday and I took her out for some Texas brisket as promised.   We went to the Big Horn BBQ near my house which proved to be a huge success all around.  The food was great and they had a live singer who, as it turned out, lives in my neighborhood.  He was very good and very entertaining.  It was a very pleasant evening.

The next morning we were supposed to ride together over to The Big Thicket National Preserve so that my friend could get a national park stamp (she's currently doing the IBA National Park Tour) and then on up to Dallas, but for multiple reasons I decided not to ride with her.  I wanted to leave a little later in the morning and head straight for Dallas and probably do it in the SUV, not on the bike.  So I made some suggested modifications to her route on her GPS and then sent her on her way about 8:30 AM Friday morning.  I got onto the road myself around 10:30 AM in the SUV. 

Along the way, when I was less than an hour away from the hotel in Irving, near Dallas, my cellphone rang.  It was a little confusing at first, but ultimately it was someone calling on my friend's cellphone - a stranger - to tell me that my friend had had a minor accident in Madisonville, two hours south of where I was at.  I had to drive a few miles to get to an exit where I could get off the road and call her back to get the full story.  If she was injured and in the hospital, or if the bike were damaged beyond repair, I would turn around and drive back to Madisonville to deal with it.

When I could get her back on the phone I was able to get more information.  She had dumped the bike while trying to execute a sharp right turn off an exit ramp to get to the Buc-ee's gas station in Madisonville.  She was a little banged up but refused transport to a hospital to be checked out.  She wasn't sure if her bike was rideable or if it would even start.  I told her to check it over, see if it would start and then call me back.  About 15 minutes later she called to say the bike started, was missing the right-side rearview mirror and had some damage to the windshield, but she was going to try to continue on to Irving. 

When we got off the phone I got onto the web and searched Madisonville for a Kawasaki dealer.  I then called and left her a message suggesting she take the bike to the dealer's, gave her the address, and that she have them look the bike over and do whatever was needed to make it roadworthy.  I also suggested she get a motel room for the night, put ice on her injured knee and then come on up to Dallas the next day after she'd had a chance to calm down and rest.  But I could only leave that message and a follow-up text message, since I couldn't get her to answer the phone.

I continued on to the hotel, getting there around 3:30 PM.  I hooked up with some friends and joined them for a beer in the lobby area and checked my phone messages to see if she'd called or texted me back.  No messages so I tried calling her again.  Still no answer. 

Close to 6:00 PM she walked - or rather, limped - into the lobby looking absolutely spent and a little worse for wear.  But she made it.


Sunrise in Irving TX
The IBA ride certificates were handed out on Saturday evening before the banquet:

Friend getting her first IBA certificate from Mike Kneebone