Wednesday, November 22, 2017

OG - One Year Later...A Member of the Family

It's been one year since Orange Guy chose to live with me. What a wonderful blessing he has been! I get emotional whenever I think about this.

18 months ago he showed up on my doorstep, thin and dirty, infested with tapeworms and ear mites. Every morning, there he was, sitting outside my sliding glass door, looking so sweet and vulnerable. Read the original Orange Cat story here.

Then, six months after he appeared at my back door, I decided to change our fates forever. So twelve months ago this month I opened my door and let him move in with me. It's apparently what he wanted, so who am I, a hopeless cat lover, to turn him away?
Read the first 6-month update here.

How OG looked when he first showed up in March, 2016.

Now, one year after agreeing to let him adopt me, he has become such a part of my life and my household that it's hard to imagine life without him. He's an old cat, estimated to be about 14 years old (same age as my Nyla) but he has a few good years left; let me make those years happy for him.

Enjoying the early evening on the deck with me.

Such a sweet face. And that tongue! 

He's adjusted quite well to our routine, and as of today has become much more of an indoor cat, quite happy to snooze the day away in a soft chair or in a sunny corner of the house.

Found OG here, on the desk chair in my office. Weird!

Nyla and OG sharing the bed with me.

Enjoying the wonderful evening air, post-Harvey hurricane.

For the past six months or so, he's graduated from being enclosed in the laundry room at night to sleeping in bed with me all night. This is a huge change for him. He no longer roams the house yowling in the middle of the night, which is why I was enclosing him in the laundry room. Now he sleeps pressed hard up against me all night long. At some point in the night he gets up, uses the litter, gets a snack or sip of water, but quietly slips back into bed with me. Such a wonderful and welcome change!

I'm a kitty sandwich!

Ever since OG moved in with me, he's had a runny nose. But more recently the thin mucus became thicker and he'd experience a series of rapid sneezes, blowing 'snot rockets' around the house.  This worsened to the point that it was interfering with his ability to breathe - like having a bad head cold. So I took him to the vet's, got his shots up-to-date and some antibiotics and antihistamine for the mucus discharge.

OG has his own humidifier. Trying to help with his stuffy nose.

Over the course of the next few weeks the mucus seemed to clear up a bit but then the mucus discharge started showing streaks of blood, or even frank blood. So back to the vet's and this time a closer examination. The vet determined that he most likely had abscessed teeth that were infected and affecting his sinuses, so surgery was schedule for a week later, with a round of antibiotics for the week leading up to that surgery.

Poor stoned kitty! Glassy-eyed and groggy on drugs!

The surgery went well, he had all teeth in his right jaw extracted, including the right upper incisor. Poor little guy! I picked him up that afternoon and got him home. He was so groggy! He was also hungry and I'd anticipated this, setting a saucer of Delectables Bisque into the fridge to chill before getting him home.  I felt that lapping chilled bisque might feel good on his sore mouth. He was so groggy and the nerve block on his right jaw (think having novocaine at the dentist) was still in effect, so it took him a few moments to get his tongue to work correctly, but eventually he got it going and lapped up the entire saucerful.

The next morning, post-op. Nyla sleeping with him in bed.

My sweet little OG slept with me that night and the next morning I woke to find Nyla curled up next to him, something she'd never done before. Cats just know! Of course this was short-lived and within the day, their relationship returned to its normal aloof status.

I am so thankful this wonderful, sweet, loving cat has chosen to share the rest of his life with me.

Feeling comfortable and right at home!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Savannah Race Day

The day is here! The day I've been anticipating for the past two years. Savannah Race Day!

It was going to great weather, although the race directors anticipated warmer weather later in the day for the full marathon runners, so pushed the start time up to 7:20 AM from 7:30 AM. I wasn't sure just how much a difference those 10 minutes were going to make, but it didn't really affect me.

As for all Rock 'n' Roll race events, I was in one of the last corrals and was therefore in no hurry to get dressed and out the door of the hotel. I had just under 3/4 mile to walk to get to the start line, so left the hotel at 7:10 to get to race venue in time to slip into my assigned corral and not have too long a wait for our corral to be released across the start line.

It was still dark when I arrived at the race start but the sky was just starting to get light as we headed out down Bay Street west toward West Savannah for the first few miles. I love races that have enough turns and direction changes to keep it interesting and in this regard, Savannah did not disappoint!  There were plenty of spectators out along the streets as we ran through this older, run-down city ward. The area may have been a little down at the heel, but the residents were out there in force cheering us on. Some had brought boom boxes out and plugged them in, and were playing good, up-beat music for us.
Race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

The best part of the race route was when we returned to the city center area and zig-zagged up and down the main west-east streets, running past all of the beautiful squares of the city. At one point we ran past the very old and historic - and large - Colonial Park Cemetery, established in 1750 and where many of the crypts were above ground (to prevent them from floating to the surface in a flood) and most of the tombstones were hugely oversized.

The last few miles were out east of the city for a bit, then making a big eyelet turn through a residential area and back into downtown and the finish line.

near finish, under photo crane

the home stretch

This race route was just spectacular in all ways! Scenic! Great on-course spectator support! Excellent aid station enthusiasm and support, and plenty of them, nicely spaced every mile. The finish area was in beautiful Forsythe Park.

I collected my finisher medal, walked through the finisher chute, grabbing a chocolate milk and a cereal bar along the way. As I exited the chute, I had two thoughts: Starbucks and Food Trucks! I wavered a bit trying to make up my mind about the Starbucks but it meant walking two blocks in the opposite direction of my ultimate hotel destination, so ruled that out. Then I thought about getting some food truck food, but the lines were long and although it all smelled wonderful, I'm usually not very hungry after finishing a race.


So bailing out on both post-race options, I headed in the direction of my hotel on Liberty Street, walking diagonally through Forsythe Park and admiring the lovely and iconic fountain as I circled it to get to the continued path on the other side. When people think of Savannah, they think of this fountain.
Photo courtesy Savanah Historic Society

Even the walk back to my hotel was breathtakingly beautiful! These were mostly old residential streets with large southern mansions and giant oak trees. It was really gorgeous and I wished I had my smartphone with me since I knew I wouldn't get back later for photos.

As I neared the hotel, I passed that really great little coffee cafe, the Savannah Coffee Roasters, that had been getting a bit of my business the last couple of days. I stopped in and bought myself a cappuccino to take back to my room.

I had lots of food in my room to snack on, as I sipped my coffee and rested for a bit. Later that afternoon, after doing some Google research for a place to eat, I headed outside, thinking I'd just go to the little brew pub across the street, but then thought to ask the two car valets who happened to be standing there if they could recommend the Crystal Beer Parlor. They both enthusiastically said yes, and one of them added that their shrimp and grits dish was his favorite. So decision made! It looked like a fun little place tucked in among the 'hood and just a couple of easy blocks away.

Oh, yes! As I entered the establishment, my thoughts were, "This is going to be perfect!" They had a very deep menu of local beers and a wonderfully southern menu of entrees. But I was here for the shrimp and grits. And I'm here to say that it was delicious and totally hit the spot after running a half marathon that morning.

The best shrimp and grits!

A really great, if a bit short, trip to Savannah! I did tons of walking, ran a half marathon, ate some good food and had some good local beer. Now time to pack up and get ready for my Uber ride back to the airport for my flight home.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Savannah - Finally!

All the times I've visited the Southeast - even lived in Georgia for a year - and I'd never made it to Savannah for a visit. Well, I was determined to change this once and for all.

There's a very large race event in Savannah every October. So late in 2015, I made my plans, registered for the race, booked my hotel room and was very much looking forward to doing this 2016 race. Unfortunately, the best laid plans don't always work out the way we want them to. While the rewards for planning so far ahead - lowest race registration fees, better choice of hotel rooms before price gouging begins - often pay off, this time they didn't. It turned out that our Fall 2016 play performances were going to fall on that very same weekend as the race and they needed me to work the sound and lights booth.

I was looking forward to the trip, but I also wanted to be a part of our CountryPlace Players production. So with tremendous sadness, I cancelled my hotel room and made peace with the fact that I wasn't going to Savannah in 2016. But 2017 was going to be different. I wasn't going to let anything get in the way. So when the early bird registration opened for this Savannah race in November 2016, I was on it! I registered, made my hotel reservation again, and blocked out that weekend on my October 2017 calendar. This was going to happen, no matter what!

We were in rehearsals for this year's fall play but the performance weekend was planned around my trip to Savannah! It would be the next weekend. I booked my flight so that I missed only one rehearsal and would be back in town Sunday night, in time for rehearsals the whole week leading up to performance weekend.

So at noontime on Thursday, I drove to the airport to catch my 1:30 PM flight to Savannah. It all went like clockwork and I was in Savannah by late afternoon. An Uber ride to the hotel, checked in, I walked a block to a nice little cafe to get a sandwich to bring back to my room for dinner.

Friday morning I was up very early, dressed and making the walk toward the Savannah River to catch the little ferry across to the convention center for the race expo and packet pickup. Such a unique way to get to a race expo! On the way I stopped at a Starbucks that was right on my walk route to pick up a cappuccino. There was just a small little group of fellow runners waiting for the ferry to take us across. The expo opened at 9:30 AM and this would get us there just as they open.

On the ferry, headed to the convention center
There were no crowds at all and I walked right up to the counter, got my race packet, then entered the expo area where I browsed a bit, collected my beer wristband from a really handsome police officer, then headed to the exit and to the ferry to return to the city.

Race expo at Savannah Convention Center

As I walked up from the banks of the river, I passed a really interesting warren of "bunkers" built into the bluff overlooking the river. They sit along East Upper Factors Walk (click the link to read about this) an old historic cobbled way behind the historic buildings along the river, and were once the site of river commerce: brokers, exchanges, warehouses.

My route back to the hotel passed through a number of iconic historic squares in Savannah. These were laid out by the early city planners and are evenly spaced every 3 or 4 blocks. Originally, the planners allowed for a balanced mix of residential and commercial blocks, with these pretty squares providing green space and systematic order.

Johnson Square and Nathanael Greene monument:

Nathanael Greene Monument in Johnson Square

Reynolds Square with statue of John Wesley, founder of Methodist Church:

Statue of John Wesley in Reynolds Square

Wright Square with statue of James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia:

Statue of James Oglethorpe in Wright Square

Every inch of this historic section of Savannah is manicured and landscaped, green and shaded, streets lined with ancient, mature Live Oak trees dripping with the Deep South trademark: Spanish Moss.
A very old brick house. Photo doesn't do it justice!

I eventually made my way back to the hotel, where I could drop off my race packet and then head out in search of lunch. In my research of the city, I saw a city market a few blocks from the hotel and decided to walk there and find a place for lunch. I was expecting something similar to other "city markets" I've experienced in my travels to the east coast, but this was a small two-block section of store fronts, not an open air or covered market, and no fresh produce or other similar goods. But I did find a good place for lunch with shaded outdoor seating.

There was an historic cookie shop here at the City Market as well, and I stopped inside and browsed a bit then bought a packet of molasses cookies to nibble on as I continued my city stroll.

Cookies in hand, I continued to stroll along Congress Street, passing the Paula Deen restaurant and shop along the way. I'm not a fan of her or her cooking, but worth a photo since she is an "institution" in Savannah.

I found myself heading back toward the string of parks that are tucked in between Congress and Bryan Streets, back toward Bull Street. I stopped again at the Starbucks here on Bull and then paused afterward to admire the oldest continuously operating theater in the U.S., the Savannah Theatre, which opened in 1818.

I debated whether to head back down toward the river to stroll along River Street and browse the shops in those historic old buildings, but talked myself out of it as I reminded myself that those shops are all tourist traps with nothing of interest to me. How much more interesting it would be if it had been preserved as a "reenactment" district with shops as they would have appeared 150 years ago. Ah, well...

Instead, I returned back to the hotel to get ready for our 5:30 dinner meet-up. A few of us were meeting at Corleone's for dinner. Unfortunately they don't make reservations and they were packed, with a 90 minute wait for a table. So we all parted ways, I walked back to the little cafe near my hotel and got dinner to go, and brought it back to my room. I ate, laid out my things for the race the next morning, and then watched a little TV before calling it quits for the day.

Tomorrow: Race Day!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Bucket List Item Fulfilled - Detroit Race Day

Race day morning! I woke up before my alarm, and then ate my breakfast of Cheerios and banana while checking the weather, emails, and browsing Facebook. My plan was to leave my room just before 7:00 AM for the short walk to the start line. The race started at 7:00 but I was in the very last corral, Corral N, and knew there'd be a long wait. I had time to to duck into a portapotty (no lines!) before squeezing into my corral by 7:10 AM for the wait.

It was still dark when our corral finally crossed the start line just a little after 7:20 AM. As we neared the mile 1 marker, we could just make out the giant Ambassador Bridge ahead of us, its lights glistening in the lightening sky. Oh, wow!! It really did look enormous! Our race route wound under the bridge and then around in a spiral as the ramp began to steepen. Here there were a large number of border patrol officers standing in a line across our running lanes and mingling amidst the stream of runners checking for bibs and looking for possible disallowed runners as they periodically checked sheets of paper in their hands.

Our race route. Data from my Garmin GPS watch.

They had the two right lanes open to us runners and had barricaded one of the two lanes in the opposite direction, leaving just one lane open for cars. As a result of this, the line of cars waiting to cross the bridge stretched back the entire length of the bridge ramp as they waited for the pilot vehicle to return from the other direction. We runners were almost off the bridge at the other end when the pilot vehicle finally returned, bringing those waiting cars with them.

There were numerous race volunteers cheering us on along the bridge span and near the bottom in Canada. A race announcer was chatting non-stop as we came down the bridge toward the toll booths, and he was absolutely hilarious, warning us of the "horrors" of the tunnel ahead of us. There was a huge bank of portapotties just after we passed through the bank of toll booths so I took advantage of that.

The elephants - mom and two babies - in Windsor Sculpture Park, along
the Detroit River in Windsor ON. Photos come from Windsor Sculpture Park
website. link here -----> City of Windsor
From here, we followed along the base of the bridge until we got to the river edge, then ran about 1.5 miles along the river on the Windsor, ON side. There were a good number of spectators in Windsor, cheering us on. The views along Riverside Drive were beautiful! All gorgeous landscaped park with lots of statues and artwork, and a really great view of the Detroit skyline across the river. At one point along the river, there was a gorgeous life-size statue of an elephant with two infant elephants following her. The comment made by that announcer suddenly made sense! He told us to watch out for elephants in the tunnel! Fun!

It seemed like no time at all before we were turning right, away from the river, and I knew we were headed for the entrance to the Windsor Tunnel. As we passed through the empty customs booth lanes, several agents were standing there cheering us on and telling us to have fun in the tunnel.

I must admit it was a lot of fun running through that tunnel. Others who had done this race before complained about it being hot and smelly, but that definitely was not the case at all. First of all, traffic was halted so there were no vehicles passing through. We had the tunnel all to ourselves. It was very well ventilated as I discovered quickly. I ran along the left wall, near the curb and I could feel large volume of cool fresh air coming out of the vents that were down near the curbs on either side of the tunnel.
photo courtesy of running friend Patty

I wish I was carrying my smartphone because at the mid point, there were Canadian and American flags on the wall to mark the national border. I "borrowed" a running friend's photo of this to share at my blog.

We popped out of the tunnel on the Detroit side at mile 8. Now just 5 more miles to go! The route took us back toward the bridge in order to go through Corktown, but my thought at seeing that bridge looming ahead of us was, "Oh dear Lord, don't let this be an episode of Groundhog Day!"

Photo from Google Maps

Through Corktown on 18th Street, we passed a really neat old fire station with a granite plaque dating it to 1897. Then we turned right onto Bagley and back into the downtown area. Just a couple more miles to go and I'd be done! Lots of spectators as we passed through town and then I was turning right onto Fort Street and just a few blocks away from the finish line!

Finisher medal

I collected my finisher medal, my bag full of snacks and treats (I love it when races do this!) and then worked my way out of the finisher chute and found my way down toward  Congress Street and then Jefferson Ave toward my hotel.

Done! And a bucket list item checked off! I snacked on some of the items in my race bag then got cleaned up and headed for Renaissance Center to have a late lunch at Granite City Food & Brewery. This really hit the spot! I had lunch off their special Oktoberfest menu....a plate of sausage trio, sauerkraut, and German red cabbage, washed down with a special Oktoberfest pint of beer.

That done, I headed to the Starbucks nearby, got myself another of those maple pecan lattes, and then headed back to my hotel, fully satiated and on my way to getting fully caffeinated. As I passed through the hotel lobby, I grabbed a bottle of beer at the lobby bar to bring up to my room for later. But of course, by 7:00 PM or so, I was hungry again, so I went downstairs and had a light dinner of chicken fingers and fries in the lobby bistro area. And a beer.

I was still experiencing that post-race afterglow that I get when I've done a particularly special race. It can be special because it was hard (Rome marathon), or because it was a gorgeous route (Vancouver) or because it was unique (this Detroit race). Now I could start gathering my things up and getting them packed, hoping I had enough room for two new long-sleeve running shirts (the race shirt and the nice logo shirt I bought at the expo).

Tomorrow I'll check out of the hotel, take an Uber to the airport and then be home well before dinner. Next trip will be to Las Cruces to run Day of the Dead Half Marathon and attend our annual 50 States running club banquet. I'll receive my 100 Half Marathons Award at that banquet.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Bucket List Item Fulfilled - Detroit Day 2

Cheerios, coffee and a banana in my room, but what I really wanted was a Starbucks! So I reluctantly got showered and dressed and walked the sky bridge to Renaissance Center to get my first Starbucks of the trip.
Horace Dodge fountain in Hart Plaza, overlooked the
Detroit River and Windsor Canada beyond.

The day was overcast but with comfortable temps as I headed out on foot to visit some of the sites in this immediate downtown area of Detroit. Hart Plaza is right next to Renaissance Center so I took a stroll through this very large riverfront park, stopping along the way to look at some of the artwork and historic markers in the park. The unusual Horace Dodge fountain sits right in the middle of the park, sort of an anchor to the wheel-and-spoke design of the park. There's a large outdoor amphitheater in the park and this large monument dedicated to Michigan Labor Legacy.

Rather cool monument. Viewed head on, it frames the plaza below.

In the middle of the median on Jefferson Ave, facing Hart Plaza and the river, is this odd monument to Joe Lewis.

Joe Lewis Memorial Monument
In continued walking on Jefferson Ave, toward Cobo Center, and came to the Spirit of Detroit monument in front of the Municipal Building. What's interesting is that none of the monuments in this area of downtown are old. They all seem to date from the second half of the 20th century.

Spirit of Detroit

There doesn't seem to much "old" remaining in downtown. But I did find this very nice block of gorgeous and lovingly preserved old commercial buildings tucked in among the much newer glass and concrete buildings on Woodward Ave. One can almost imagine there might have been a milliner shop or barber or shoe shop in these store fronts.

I continued on Woodward toward the beautiful art deco Guardian Building, what was at one time the tallest skyscraper in Detroit and a real gem! It breaks my heart though to see that someone thought it would be a good idea to punch a hole in her side to connect her to a modern skyscraper with a sky bridge.

The Guardian Building
I entered through the main door on Congress Street and was immediately treated to an over-the-top art deco foyer and lobby with pristine and colorful art deco artwork on the walls, the ceilings, the lettering and numbering. Wow!!!

Entrance plaque - love the art deco font

Vaulted ceiling in foyer

View from inside front door, looking across lobby toward the stairs
to the main hall

Main hall of the building
Well, look! There's a Starbucks right across the street! Imagine that! This time I got a small maple pecan latte to sip as I continued my stroll through downtown.

Another runner in our group made plans to meet up at a restaurant in Greektown and was going to text me with the actual location once she got there. I never got that text and it was now past 1:00 PM so I walked over there, cruised Monroe St, which is the main street of Greektown, looking for a good potential lunch place and settled on New Parthenon restaurant. It wasn't crowded, had a simple menu which included Gyro sandwiches, so I settled into my booth and placed my order.

Soon after, I received a text saying they were on their way, going to the pizza place that happened to be right next door. Good. I could join them after I finished. Just as I was paying my check, I received another text saying they were still at the expo, having run into some other members of our club, and wouldn't be coming. Oh well, glad I didn't wait for them before eating!

Heading back to the hotel, I got a good view of the Renaissance Center and noticed she was lit up in pink and had a pink breast cancer ribbon displayed on the digital screen. Very cool!

Renaissance Center, with pink neon lights across the
top of the towers and a breast cancer ribbon on the display
I walked back across the sky bridge to the Renaissance Center and went down to the food court where I'd learned there was a Subway sandwich shop. This always ends up being my perfect go-to dinner the night before a race. So I ordered a sandwich, some chips and a cookie and brought it all back to my room. Passing through the lobby, I picked up a bottle of beer, too. My dinner that night! And I still had those baklava squares waiting for me, too!

Just as I was stowing my food and beer, I received a text from another fellow runner, one who'd come to Houston last year to do the Austin marathon with me. I knew he was coming and had been watching his Facebook posts all day, as he made his way through airports to get to Detroit. His text said that he was heading into town from the airport. We exchanged texts to confirm he was going straight to the expo and that I might just walk on over there and meet up with him. After all, I still wanted that cute running top that I looked at but didn't buy yesterday!

Running friend Jim.
And then more runners we know showed up! So glad I walked back over to the expo. I was feeling a little miffed at the other group that blew off lunch earlier today.

I laid out all of my things for race day morning, then settled onto the comfy sofa with my sandwich and my beer and watched college football on TV.

Tomorrow: Race Day! I was excited to finally be doing this race!!