Monday, April 27, 2015

Another Race, Another Medal...or Two

The next race on my calendar was the Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Round Rock TX on April 26.  I registered for this race several months ago with the intent of doing it with someone else.  Over the ensuing months it became clear that he was not going to do this race with me; I knew I'd be doing it alone, so was unsure whether to keep my plans.  I certainly didn't need the state of TX for my 50 states quest. Add to this the fact that I have two very important races coming up in the next two weeks....state numbers 48 and 49.  So saving my energy and my legs for those upcoming races was important.

But my recent renege of the Tallahassee race in February was still bothering me.  I'm not a quitter. When I say I'll do something, I do it.  So I made up my mind.  I would run this race.  Drive up to Round Rock Saturday afternoon, get my race packet, continue on to the Holiday Inn where I had booked a room using rewards points, and just do it.

Race day morning I was awake at 5:30 AM and then out the door of the hotel at 6:15 AM.  It was a short and easy drive to Old Settlers Park and Dell Diamond where the start/finish line and the pre-race festivities were waiting for all of us runners.  There was plenty of free parking and nice breakfast snacks in the VIP tent.  I've learned that the $25 for access to VIP parking, the VIP area, and the VIP portapotty with no line is well worth that small expense.

It was warm and muggy, with overcast skies and threat of rain later in the day.  Much of the course followed a tortuous route through Old Settler's Park, doing loops, zig zags, and back and forth legs through parking lots.  Not the best route for much of it - very tedious doing the parking lot loops - but for a small section on a beautiful path through the woods.

Race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch.  A very tortuous and confusing race route.

The rain held off until about mile 9, when its arrival was announced by lightning and claps of thunder overhead.  Fortunately the lightning was short-lived, but the rain stayed with us to the finish line.



Done and out of the rain

Finisher medal around my neck and my Legacy Runner medal for running this race in its first year last year and again this year in my possession, I waited a bit in hopes they'd start the awards ceremony soon.  I was pretty sure I'd at least placed in my age group.  I chatted with a couple of past season's Biggest Loser stars in the VIP area but then made the decision to leave, get in the car and drive the 3 hours to get home.  It wasn't worth waiting another hour for a paper certificate.

Biggest Loser Round Rock finisher medal and Legacy Finisher medal

Another one done.  Oh, and I came in first in my age group. Now on to the more meaningful ones....Brookings SD next weekend and Fargo ND the following weekend.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Chapter Closes

It was born out of the need to fill my life with something different after my husband died.  That's how motorcycling came into my life.  First came running.  I started running six months after my husband's death and then, one year later, ran my first full marathon in January 2002.  Eight months after running that marathon I took the MSF Rider's Edge riding course and got my motorcycle endorsement.  That was in August, 2002.

Me, barely able to touch the ground, on a Buell Blast in rider school

My first bike - Yamaha Virago

A string of motorcycles then came and went in my riding life.  First a little Yamaha Virago.  It took me a month after getting my motorcycle endorsement to get the courage up to go buy that bike.  I even had to have a friend ride it home for me.  I put 80 miles on the odometer just riding it around my gated neighborhood before I screwed up the courage to take it outside the gates and down the road a half mile to the gas station.  I had no idea what kind of gas mileage this bike got, so felt that surely I needed to put gas in the tank.  It took one gallon.  80 mpg on this little Virago.  I rode this little Yamaha for 3 months, gaining the needed road skills that a motorcycle class just can't provide.

Yamaha V-Star 650 Custom - Violetta

Then I traded the Virago in for a V-Star 650 Custom, getting all of my money back on that Virago since they had an immediate buyer for it. The V-Star 650 was probably the bike I should have gotten in the first place, instead of the little Virago.  But I was intimidated by its size.  Looking back, it really wasn't that much bigger than the Virago but it had a wide, cruiser-style gas tank which made it look huge to me.

V-Star 1100 Silverado - Candy

Six months later, with some more riding experience behind me, I realized the shortcomings of that 650 V-Star Custom and sold it to a gal in San Antonio.  I then got a V-Star 1100 Silverado, a quite capable and comfortable bike for longer trips.  I rode that bike by myself to Pensacola Beach FL on Father's Day weekend, to visit the Navy flight museum.  I rode up and down the barrier island, from Ft. Pickens in one direction, down to Navarre Beach in the other direction, then across the bridge to visit my old high school and the house we lived in when we lived in Milton FL.  This first overnight trip by myself was liberating.

On the beach in Pensacola

Overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park

I rode that V-Star Silverado through Rocky Mountain National Park, across several Colorado passes, down to Buena Vista, over to Gunnison.  The next summer I rode it up to New Hampshire to attend Bike Week at Weir's Beach, through heavy rains every day on the way up to New Hampshire.  I rode it from New Hampshire down through Norfolk Va and over to the Outer Banks.  It was here that I started my first of five different IBA National Park Tours.

Crawford Notch, New Hampshire

But that trip to NH whetted my appetite for bigger and better and longer trips.  The limited gas range of this carburated bike hindered my ability to make good time on the interstates.  It seemed that I was always looking for the next exit with a decent gas station.

2004 BMW R1150R - Red Baron

When I returned from the NH trip, I immediately sold the bike to a Yamaha dealership and bought a brand new BMW R1150R.  This beautiful and highly capable motorcycle took me a total of 100,000 miles, chasing after several Iron Butt Association endurance rides and riding through nearly every state in the U.S.:  Several Saddle Sore 1000's (more than 1000 miles in less than 24 hours), a Bun Burner Gold (more than 1500 miles in less than 24 hours) IBA National Park Tours, AMA Grand Tours, and BMW rallies all over the country.
Going to Ft. Spokane,WA to get the National Park stamp for IBA NPT Silver

At the same time that this 2004 BMW lived in my garage, a really pretty H-D 883 Custom in pearl white resided there as well, and I took her on some shorter trips, including to AR, west Texas, and LA, and on plenty of day rides.

2004 H-D Sportster 883 Custom

In late 2006 I sold that 883 Custom to a girlfriend who had just gotten her motorcycle license and bought myself an absolutely gorgeous 2007 Yamaha FZ6.  Now I had two red beauties parked in my garage, one for the really long hauls, one for shorter trips and day rides whenever I needed the thrill that only the power of an in-line four, 100 hp sport bike can provide.

2007 Yamaha FZ6

When the BMW R1150R mileage reached 100,000 miles, I knew she'd start needing some major maintenance so in August 2008 I sold her and ordered a 2009 R1200R from the BMW factory in Germany.  It took four months for her to arrive stateside, so in the meantime my FZ6 became my primary ride.  During those four months I really bonded with her and began to fully appreciate just how comfortable she was for me, especially after I decked her out with Givi side cases and top case, a custom Bill Mayer seat, and added a powerlet outlet for my heated jacket liner.

At Vicksburg National Park

In the Fall I took that FZ6 to Indiana for our MTF annual Founders Feast, doing an IBA Saddle Sore 1000 (over 1000 miles in less than 24 hours) to get there.  She didn't disappoint me, and was more than capable and very comfortable.  She saw lots of travel in those four months, gathering AMA Grand Tour points and IBA National Park Tour stamps, and attending a number of lunch gatherings around the country.

New BMW 2009 R1200R

I'd bonded so strongly with my FZ6 that when the new BMW arrived at the dealer's, I hated it immediately.  That first ride home from the dealership was miserable.  Even with slight pull back risers and a custom Bill Mayer saddle, I never could get that new BMW as comfortable as my old BMW, and definitely couldn't get it as comfortable as my FZ6.

That BMW did some significant traveling, though, going to BMW rallies in Redmond OR, Chippewa Falls WI, Johnson City TN, and Sedalia MO; attending MTF events all over the country; and earning a number of IBA ride certificates including a SS2000 and a National Park Tour Silver.  But in almost 70,000 miles, we just never bonded.

Riding the R1200R in the Ozarks

The FZ6 earned herself a Bun Burner Gold on the way to the Iron Butt Association bi-annual meet in Denver and, by doing so, sealed her top position in my garage.  So when I realized that I just wasn't riding the BMW that much anymore, I sold her on consignment through the BMW dealership in spring of 2013.

Now I was down to one motorcycle....my beloved FZ6.   But at the same time I sold my BMW, my destination half marathon trips began to really take control of my time and my budget.  Now, time and money previously spent taking motorcycle trips all over the country was being spent traveling around the country to run in half marathons.

In ten years, I'd ridden a quarter of a million miles on my motorcycles.  In the subsequent three years, I'd ridden barely two thousand miles.

Timeless styling

My heart hurt every time I walked out to the garage and saw that pretty FZ6 just sitting there, unridden.  Once in a while I'd get out of bed, gear up, and take her for a ride - just to burn some gas and keep the battery charged.  I'd get it done before I'd even showered and dressed or had breakfast.  I knew that if I waited, it wouldn't happen.  Before long, this became a dreaded chore.  As much as I loved that bike, I was having a hard time giving her the attention she deserved.

So....a couple of weeks ago I drove over to the Yamaha dealership and talked to the Service Manager.  He knew that bike well.  He was there when I bought that bike new and his shop had done all of the service on the bike.  I asked him to talk to the Buyer or General Manager about buying it from me.  It was perfect condition and was diligently serviced.

Is this goodbye?  At the dealership

And then, this past week, I rode her over there and turned her over with title to the dealership.  That was it.  It was a very sad day for me.  I really loved that motorcycle; she was the absolute perfect bike for me.  She would run all day, giving me over 200 miles on a tank of gas.  Plenty of power at the throttle - 100 hp - accelerating quickly and smoothly and easily with just a slight twist of the throttle, yet the most well-mannered bike I've ever owned, requiring absolutely no clutch feathering at speeds below 5 mph.  She was a dream to ride in stop-and-go traffic.

Ahh....I'm going to miss that pretty girl.   Not sure I'm going to miss riding, though.  We'll see.  Let me finish my 50 States Half Marathon quest, let me run the races that have popped up on my calendar over the next 12 months,  Then we'll see....

So long, pretty girl.  I'm really going to miss you...



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Portsmouth Recovery

It's been years - decades - since I was last in the little city of Portsmouth, NH.  It's the fourth largest "city" in the state of NH but, at a population of 20,000, it's really just a large town.  Or at least by Texas standards, anyway.   It's where I plan to spend the last two days of my trip to NH, exploring this historic little city and seeing how much it has changed since I was last there.

After the race in Newmarket on Sunday, I had a relaxing evening enjoying a Subway sandwich and a Smuttynose beer.  I was tired and more than ready to put my feet up and recover in front of the TV in my hotel room.
Historic Durham 

Monday morning I walked into the center of Durham and found the Breaking New Grounds coffee shop, enjoying the gorgeous weather and the pretty little town center.  University of New Hampshire occupies much of the real estate in town and the coffee shop had its share of students enjoying a coffee, their noses buried in their laptops.

I dallied as long as possible, knowing I had just a short drive to Portsmouth. But despite lingering in Durham as long as possible, I still showed up at the lovely and well-located Hilton Garden Inn before noon.  The hotel wasn't full and I was able to get checked in and get my things stowed in my room before venturing back out into the really pretty and historic Portsmouth waterfront district.

My long time friend from my U. Mass Lowell teaching days was coming to Portsmouth to join me for lunch the next day, so I had some scouting to do....a place with seafood and with a view of the water.  I'd done a little preliminary research using Google and thought I'd have success on Bow Street or Market Street.  And sure enough....River House, right on the harbor, with an outside heated deck off the back giving fabulous views of the water and the bridge that goes across the Piscataqua River to Maine.  Perfect!

I had their seasonal special:  bowl of New England clam chowder and a lobster roll.  It was heaven!  the lobster roll was overflowing with huge chunks of lobster and no mayonnaise to ruin the sweet delicate flavor of the lobster.  No question, this was where I was bringing my friend the next day!

After lunch I poked around in the little shops that line Market Street and surrounding streets in the Riverfront district.  A Starbucks sounded her siren call and, cappuccino in hand, I continued walking and enjoying the old historic buildings for a while longer before returning to the hotel.  I was still a little spent from the race the previous day, the hills in particular really taking a lot out of my legs and feet.  My knitting and my coffee drink in the comfortable easy chair and ottoman in my room were just what I needed for the rest of the afternoon.

Blue Mermaid Island Grill

An interesting restaurant right across the street from the hotel had caught my eye in my earlier research.  It wasn't on the water so I'd ruled it out as a place to bring my friend, but it was the perfect place for dinner.  A huge and interesting menu made my selection difficult but in the end I went with the grilled scallops, basted with a light glaze infused with a hint of blueberries.  Oh My!  So delicious!  I tried a local craft beer, one of many to choose from, all of them with intriguing names and descriptions.  Portsmouth is home to many craft breweries, continuing its long history of brewing, going back to the mid-1600's.

North Church in Portsmouth

The next morning I lazed around in the room for a while then got cleaned up and dressed and walked back over to the Starbucks for a morning wake-up drink.  It was the warmest day so far, and the sun was glorious, chasing away the last remnants of the overnight chill.  I sat on a bench in Market Square and enjoyed my coffee and the beautiful North Church.  The wonderfully restored historic brick warehouses along Market Street gleamed in the morning sun.  I'd fallen into such a reverie that I'd nearly lost track of time.

I hurried back to the hotel and just as I reached my room, my cell phone rang and it was my friend Dotty, here to share the day and lunch with me.  Back in October I had a wonderful visit with her and her husband when I was in Lowell to run a half marathon.  They had me to their house for a delicious dinner of steak kabobs cooked on the grill, and we spent hours talking and catching up on all that has passed through our lives in the last 20 years.

Our lunch in Portsmouth was no different.  I so enjoy Dotty's company!  We had lunch and lingered for hours afterward, chatting about our sons, about our travels, about the joys of being retired.  It was as if I'd never moved away.  Our conversation came so easily, as we remembered anecdotes and stories from our shared friendship so many years ago.  If we'd stayed any longer, the waitstaff would have felt compelled to bring us dinner menus.  We talked about some possibilities for some upcoming travels together and I promised to get her some information about a couple of my upcoming trips to the West, into a couple of regions that she's always wanted to visit.   We hugged and said our goodbyes and I wished this day could go on forever.

I walked back down to Starbucks for another coffee - just one more - and then returned to the hotel to start gathering my things and packing for my departure flight the next morning.

It's been a very good trip.  I checked off state #47 in my 50 States Half Marathon quest.  I had a delightful day spent with my long time high school friend Linda.  I met a new running friend and shared lunch with her and the race with her the next day.  I spent my last couple of days in the gorgeously restored historic town of Portsmouth and reconnected with my good friend Dotty.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

State #47 Now Safely In The Books

I was so in doubt about this Newmarket NH race actually taking place that I went ahead and registered for another NH race to be held in October in Hampton. You know, just in case. Yep...the weather was being so uncooperative that I worried there'd be too much snow on the tiny little country roads that comprised the race route and they'd have to cancel.  Oh ye of little faith!  Three or four days of above freezing temperatures and rain made a huge dent in all of that snow!

Having a cappuccino at Crackskull Books & Coffee

So here I am.  In Newmarket on Saturday morning before race day, sipping a very good cappuccino in an adorable little book store and coffee shop in an antique building along the little main street of town.  A running friend I know through the Half Fanatics had connected me to a friend of hers who lives in Newmarket.  Her name is Sandy and she hadn't planned to run this race, having done it several times before.  But when we exchanged emails, she decided to go ahead and register and we made plans to meet for lunch the day before the race and get our race packets.

Pretty Congregational church in Newmarket

I finished my cappuccino and walked down to our pre-designated meeting spot in front of the post office.  Then we shared an enjoyable lunch at a very cool restaurant/pub in another of the many antique buildings along the main street.  Afterward, we walked across the street to the revitalized mill buildings where we picked up our race packets then said our goodbyes until race day morning, with plans to meet at the start line and at least start together.  We each felt that the other might be faster, but I had my suspicions that she was going to be the faster of the two of us.

Revitalized mills in Newmarket

Back to my hotel room, another sub sandwich for dinner, and I settled in with my knitting in front of a marathon of Godfather movies on AMC.

Race day morning, I didn't have far to drive plus the race didn't start until 11 AM.  But still, I wanted to get there early to get a parking spot in the municipal lot next to the start line. I didn't want the stress of hunting for a parking spot or having to walk from the high school, or worse, having to park at the industrial park and take the shuttle. I just didn't have a feel for how big this race really is or how difficult the parking situation might be.  So I left the hotel at 8:45 AM and got to Newmarket at 9:00 AM.  I managed to snag one of the last parking spots in the little municipal lot.  Hooray!

With such a great parking spot, I could leave my things in the car and walk down to that cute little book store coffee shop and get myself a cappuccino to bring back and enjoy while sitting in my car reading my Kindle.  I was all set.  Cappuccino.  Book.  Portapotties within 30 feet of the car.  What more could I want or need?

Sandy texted me at 10:30 AM to say she was there.  Hanging out at the start line, talking with another runner, we were soon treated to a lovely voice filling the air with the national anthem.   And then we were off running.  It became clear immediately that Sandy was indeed faster than me.  I told her not to wait, to go on and I'd see her at the finish.

The route was quite rural!  After two miles of zig-zagging through little residential streets in town, it headed out of the downtown area onto Dame Rd which, at mile 3, turned into a hilly dirt road.  With snow banks along the edges.  But it was beautiful out here and the miles seemed to pass by quickly.  At mile 6 the route rejoined a paved road - but was still quite hilly - and I at least felt like I was now heading in the direction back toward the finish line.

Somewhere along mile eleven I had the irresistable urge to dig my hands into the snowbank that lined the side of the road.  It was cold and granular, filled with bits of sand, and with the consistency of shaved ice.  I grabbed a handful and squeezed it in the palm of my hand as I moved along, until it melted away.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd held snow in my hands.  It brought me back a few years.

All along the route I was greeted by name by the race marshals and volunteers who were congratulating me on running my 47th state and cheering me on.  No question that Sandy had been spreading the word as she ran ahead of me.  And she knew everyone on the crew, being from this town and active in the local running community.  It was kind of fun but also a little embarrassing to get all of this attention. But secretly I was enjoying the enthusiasm which really did keep me going.

The race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

Finally a right turn, then a quick left turn, up a steep hill and then another left turn and I was back on the main street of downtown and heading downhill to the finish line.  Sandy waited for me and we celebrated by heading for the tavern where we had lunch the day before.  We shared an appetizer and I collected my free Smuttynose beer, while we recapped the race together and toasted my completing my 47th state.

Finisher!  State #47 is done!

It's done!  And now I only have three more states...three more states!!

My 50 States map with NH colored in
I guess I can go ahead and cancel those October Hampton race plans now.  ;-)

Tomorrow a relaxing drive and couple of days in Portsmouth before heading home.




Monday, April 13, 2015

Living The New Hampshire Life

Just four more states to go in my 50 States 50 Half Marathons quest!  I'm getting a mix of butterflies of excitement and premonitions of anticlimax at the prospect of finishing this journey.  Yes, it has consumed much of my time and a huge chunk of my money, but Man!  What a journey it's been!

This journey had me up at 4:00 AM and on the road to Bush Intercontinental Airport at 5:30 AM so that I could catch my 8:00 AM flight via Newark NJ to Manchester NH.  I flew out of Houston on Thursday morning and arrived in Manchester late that afternoon, into a cold dreary rain.  But that's New England weather for you.  Nowhere else in the country does the expression, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes" apply more accurately than in New England.

Because my jacket was safely tucked away in my suitcase and because I wasn't thinking straight, I had a cold wet walk from the terminal to the parking garage to get my rental car.  But once in the car, GPS turned on, heater turned on to full blast, I hit the road toward Epping and the Super Walmart to stock up on some food supplies before continuing to my very nice room at the Holiday Inn Express in Durham.  That evening I had my choice of two sub shops for dinner.

Friday morning I made the easy hour's drive to Concord where I met my high school best friend Linda.  I arrived a little early, so I continued up the hill to the center of the small city where the gold-domed state house sits proudly overlooking the hills of Concord.  I drove around the block getting all views and admiring the other government buildings squatting solidly in its shadows, their native granite exteriors declaring their official status on the hill. I left my car at a park-and-ride and then hopped in her car and we headed to Newport NH for lunch and to see a most unusual and fun display at the library art center in town.

The weather continued dreary, and as we reached higher elevations and greater snow cover, it began to get very foggy.  Though I knew this road fairly well and knew the scenery was gorgeous, we were denied this pleasure because of the poor visibility.

Soon we were in the center of Newport NH, parking in the little parking lot of the library arts center, here to see, of all things, the Peeps Diorama displays.   Totally bizarre, totally fun, and amazingly creative and original! Here are just a few of the many.

Fun Peeps diorama



This is The Breakfast Club...so cute!



My favorite of all of them

My favorite of all of them...so much detail, right down to the little signs and outfits

We spent some time peering into these tiny little dioramas, me taking dozens of close up photos and getting high on the fragrance of marshmallow decadence.

When we were done, we drove the short distance to have lunch at a very good Irish pub in town.  It was a fun and relaxing way to spend the day with a long-time friend from way back!

Before returning to Concord, we took a slight out of the way route to go through New London NH.  I could tell it's a very scenic and historic town but unfortunately the fog obliterated any views.  "And over here on the left is the beautiful college campus.  Over here on right is Mt. Sunapee."  Well, if only we could see them!

A great day!  Thank you, Linda!

Tomorrow: Drive into Newmarket to explore the town where the race will be, have lunch with a new running friend, and get our race packets...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Resolution: Use Pot Responsibly in 2015

Crock pots, soup pots....that's what I mean.  I've always been a "pot" chef, producing whole meals in the crock pot or in a stock pot on the stove since the early 1970's.  Especially because I was a full-time working mom.  Meat loafs, stuffed peppers, chili, chicken, pot roast, pork roast, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, beans of all kinds.

Now more than ever I find that using a Crockpot regularly keeps my fridge and freezer stocked with instant one- and two-serving meals.  I make big batches of soup or beans and freeze in Glad freezer containers, which hold 2 one-cup servings each.


Here are my "potted" offerings so far this year:

New Year's black eyed peas with ham.

Pot roast with carrots and onion.  

Beef barley soup. using leftover crockpot pot roast

After my latest Crockpot pot roast, I decided I needed a larger Crockpot


Chicken noodle soup, using leftover grocery store rotisserie chicken breast meat

Split pea soup, a staple in my house.

Another pot roast, this one larger and in my new, larger Crockpot

The house always smells wonderful when there's something simmering on the stove or in the Crockpot!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Serving Up Sound Effects

Over the years of living here in this wonderful over-55 community, I've been involved in our actors group, the CP Players.  My involvement has included acting on stage, being a prompter, serving on the play committee, and working the sound booth.  The group puts on three productions a year...the genres include mysteries, comedies, melodramas, musicals.

Way back when I first got involved, the "sound booth" consisted of a folding table set up behind a screen on the floor at the foot of the stage.  Primitive hardly describes the set-up.   A buzzer was nailed to a small wooden block to serve duty whenever a doorbell was called for.  Two wooden boards were connected at one end with a cord; this was our "crack of thunder."  A tape deck and a CD player were stacked one on top of the other and tapes and discs were queued up to the right song or the right sound effect.  Like I said, it was very primitive.  It also limited the acting club's repertoire significantly.

When the Carriage House suffered significant roof damage from Hurricane Ike in 2008, the interior of the hall was completely renovated and a small but very nice sound booth was built at the back of the room.
I donated this Dell Inspiron 1420 computer to the club. 

We did the musical South Pacific, and that experience convinced me that I needed to help the club join the 21st century.  So in 2009 I donated a Dell 14" Inspiron 1420 laptop running Windows XP to the club.   And that's how I backed into this role as sound effects guru.

With this new laptop, the club now had the ability to manage the sound effects electronically and this ability increased the club's potential range of productions tremendously.  The woman who had been in charge of sound effects for many years was not computer savvy and was a little intimidated initially.  I went over to her house and worked with her a bit on how to use it in this capacity, but she never really felt comfortable with it.

When she passed away rather suddenly in 2010, I stepped in and took over.  This gave me a chance to finally show just how powerful the computer could be in managing sound effects.  The ability to find just the right effects and then edit, splice, and otherwise modify them to fit the needs of the play quickly "earned my keep."

If I wasn't available for a particular play performance weekend, I would get the sound effects done and uploaded to the computer and set up for someone else to use in the booth.   But in the early days of getting the club's sound booth computerized, the sound booth staff would sometimes revert back to using the tape deck and CD players because they just didn't feel comfortable using the computer.

Dress rehearsal for Losing Patients

The production that truly converted the last of the "hold outs" was a clever and original play called Black and White TV, staged in early 2013.  One of our really creative members wrote the script and cast the players.  It was an assemblage of various skits from the black and white TV era, including  The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Beverly Hillbillies, and a few others.  He'd even written classic commercial skits to appear in between the TV show skits, including See The USA (Chevrolet), Alkaseltzer, Timex Watch, Texaco, just to name a few of many.  It was unbelievably clever and the club did a great job putting the show on.

View from sound booth.  Dress rehearsal for "Losing Patients"
Only 6 sound effects needed for this play, one of my easier plays to work.

In all, it was a total of 34 sound effects, everything from TV show and commercial theme songs, to horn honks,  baby cries, a ticking watch.  My challenge was sourcing all of these, especially the old theme songs from the TV shows and commercials.  But some serious time spent doing research on the internet turned up legally downloadable files (some free, most for less than $1 per file, some Youtube files that I could strip sound from video) for everything I needed.  And then I spent massive amounts of time converting them all to WMA files, editing them, splicing some together where necessary, and adjusting and leveling the volumes before renaming them in sequence as they occur in the play and loading them into a soundboard program I'd found.

It was a massive undertaking, both on stage and in the sound/lights booth.  There were so many actors dashing on and off stage that the fellow managing the microphone sound board was busier than an airport traffic controller.  It was a huge success!  Sitting in the back of the auditorium, in the sound booth, I could hear the comments of the exiting audience and all of them were enthusiastic and very positive.

Our latest production was similar to Black and White TV.  Written by another of our creative members, it was a re-creation of The Carol Burnett Show.   It was an assemblage of several Carol Burnett skits with guest performer acts inserted in between.  It was brilliant!  Nearly every Carol Burnett skit exists as a Youtube video on the internet.  Our director had painstakingly transcribed the dialog for the skits she wanted to use and had a casting call for both the actors and for the guest performers.  She herself took the role of the MC, dressed as Carol Burnett.

View from sound booth.  Dress rehearsal for The Carol Burnett Show

It was also the most sound effects I'd ever had to assemble to-date....a total of 44 sound effects to source, convert, edit, splice, rename and upload into the soundboard software program.  But I wouldn't do it if I didn't absolutely love doing it!!

The staging, the sets, the acting, the costumes and wigs for The Carol Burnett Show were by far the best effort we've ever done to-date.  And it was so perfectly cast!  The exiting audience were raving about it!

Sound, microphones and lights!!  In the booth with one of the other booth workers

These productions could not have been done without use of a computer.  We have 3 or 4 members who alternate as directors of our productions.  As they've seen what the computer can do for them, they've become more creative....it's opened up a whole lot of possibilities that didn't exist before.  Some have been more creative than others in terms of taking full advantage of the capabilities, but it has definitely changed the quality of the productions for the better.