Sunday, October 30, 2011

I may have been too early

I am notoriously early for everything. To me, showing up on time is showing up late. I show up early for interviews, appointments and dates. I have been known to show up so early for functions I have to sit in my car for 15-20 minutes before I "arrive" at a more reasonable time.

I had one friend who had parties at his house, and I was always the first one to arrive. To keep from being the first to arrive every single time I purposely showed up for one of his parties an hour late, and I was still there first.

I had another friend who always showed up at the theater so late we would miss the first few minutes of a movie, so I started telling him a start time 30 minutes before the actual start time to ensure that he would actually show up on time. And even then he still showed up late sometimes.

But there was one time I may have been too early.

Back in 2000 my 1 year old car was due for registration. The state inspection wasn't due for another month, but I wanted them both to occur at the same time in future years, so I took my car in for inspection a month early.

When I pulled into the service center and told the employee I was there for my state inspection I was fully expecting to get some grief. So, with a somewhat snotty attitude I added, "And yes, I know I'm a month early."

The employee looked at my sticker and said, "Sir, you're a year early." (Apparently, the inspection for brand new cars is good for two years instead of the usual one.)

Perhaps I should have waited in my car to arrive at a more reasonable time.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Much more than first place

At the beginning of the year I set a goal for myself to complete two 100 mile rides. I completed the first one in August. (See Are we there yet?) The past weekend I completed the second. And through some luck and skill, but mostly luck, I was the first 100 mile rider to finish.

The Texas Mamma Jamma ride is a recreational bike ride in the Austin area which began in 2009. The ride raises funds for central Texans coping with breast cancer. It's new, so it's a small ride, but since its inception it has raised over $1,000,000!

The 100 mile ride started at 7:30, led by a group of 13 riders (including me), who rode most of the first 10 miles together. As riders would bunch up I would periodically pass groups of people, trying to see how close to the lead I could get. I made it as high as sixth.

Six of the riders were much, much stronger, and around mile 15 a significant gap formed between them and the remaining pack. Over the next few miles the gap steadily increased. At this point I was in 10th. At the rest stop at mile 20, three riders ahead of me took a break, leaving me in seventh and by myself.

At mile 33, the first six riders hit the rest stop, which I skipped, putting me in first. The first six passed me back at mile 45 with relative ease, putting me back in seventh. I hit my first rest stop at mile 51, arriving just as the first six were leaving. I refilled my water, ate a power bar or two (or three), drank some fluids and got back on the road

The first six had a significant lead, and since they were excellent riders I was content to finish seventh and continued to ride at a comfortable pace. However, I had some luck on my side. When I left I came to an intersection at mile 56. One of the volunteers was hammering a "direction" sign pointing right. He said that someone had switched it to point left (not sure if it was unintentional or malicious), and he had just noticed it as he was driving by.

Of course, this meant the first six riders had gone off course. The volunteer had to get in his truck and chase them down to get them back on track. This also meant that I was now in first place again. I continued riding at a comfortable pace, and despite leg cramps at mile 65 I made to to mile 84 before I took my next break.

After a quick stop I was back on the road, finishing the 94 mile ride in under 7 hours total time, including breaks. My ride time was 6:08, slightly longer than the 102 mile ride in August, but this ride was by far the hilliest I'd ever ridden.So how did those six riders do? I estimate they rode an extra 25-30 miles due to the bad sign, but they still finished only 20 minutes after I did.

However, places weren't the reason for the ride. Fighting breast cancer was. Several of the riders were breast cancer survivors or were riding in honor of someone who was. I rode in honor of my friend Kristi, breast cancer survivor and all-around warrior. She is someone I've known for more than 25 years, and it was an honor and a privilege to ride for her.

That honor beats first place any day.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Don't stop believin'!

At the end of September I went to Dallas for my niece's fourth birthday and to take Kristi to see Night Ranger, Foreigner and Journey in concert for her slightly-older-than-fourth birthday that happened the month before. On this trip I learned several things:

  1. My niece is now aware enough to realize that her birthday is ALL about her.
  2. The sound engineer for Foreigner is incredible.
  3. Taco Bueno restaurants are surprisingly easy to break into.

Upon arriving at my brother's house, the door was opened by my niece announcing, "Uncle Don! It's my birthday!" It would not be the last time she mentioned that.

After lunch and cake she opened her gifts. She loved my unicorn pillow, almost as much as I loved the magnetic tiles her mommy and daddy got her. But after several hours I learned to hate the musical card she got.

After Kristi arrived, she and I headed to the concert. We both grew up during the time when the bands we were seeing were popular, and although Foreigner and Journey don't have the original singers we were looking forward to singing along. We got in the gates about 90 minutes before the concert started, so we looked at concert t-shirts (unimpressive and overpriced) and spent a fortune at the concession stand. We then took our blanket and claimed a spot in lawn seating.

Night Ranger opened with a short set, playing most of the crowd favorites. Most importantly, they closed with Sister Christian, which is my favorite song of all time. Yes, really. Foreigner played a long set, playing all of their hits from the 70's and 80's. They were, by far, the best sounding band I had ever heard live. It almost sounded like you were listening to a CD.

And finally, Journey hit the stage. Now, I have a couple of complaints about their concert. First, the sound mix wasn't nearly as good as Foreigner's. The music was a little distorted, and it made it hard to hear the lyrics sometimes. And second, they played way too many instrumental interludes between songs.

But, I did enjoy their concert more simply because I like more of their songs, and I enjoyed singing along with all the ones I recognized. The people around me probably didn't enjoy my singing as much, but I didn't care. They played all of my favorites, closing with an encore of Don't Stop Believin' and Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'.

The drive back to my brother's was an adventure. It took 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot, and even more delays driving through construction, but we finally found a late-night fast food place a little after midnight, Taco Bueno.

Since neither of us were familiar with their menu, I suggested ordering inside and taking it back to my brother's. When we got to the door, the sign said only the drive-thru was open that late. However, I pulled on the door a couple of times, and it popped open. You could see the deadbolt sticking out, but the door opened anyway. Because we had just broken into a Taco Bueno, I thought it might be a good idea to decide what we wanted inside, and then order from the drive-thru. So we read the menu for 5-10 minutes and finally decided. During that time, none of the employees even knew we were there. I wonder if they even realized the doors were open.

After we ordered, we took our food back to my brother's and had an indoor picnic before crashing. It was an exhausting day, but I look forward to our next concert adventure.

Next time, we might try to break into a McDonald's.