2018 Texas/New Mexico Trip Journal

Thursday, 8/30 – Headed out of town at 6:10 AM, taking I-40 to I-85. Encountered some traffic near Charlotte and Atlanta but nothing too bad. Most of it was because of construction. Got close to 18 mpg on the first tank of fuel. Around 7:00 PM, found a Comfort Inn near Jackson, MS. Ate at Ruby Tuesday near the hotel. We managed to fit all five bikes in the hotel room.

Friday – Got on the road at 8:00 after a kinda lame breakfast at the hotel. While driving through Jackson, the ABS light and two other warning lights lit up on Vanna’s instrument cluster. There was no real detrimental effect, except lack of cruise control. Probably a loose sensor. Laura read the manual and googled more info on it. Results seemed to support the loose sensor theory. Mpg seemed to drop a bit on the subsequent tank of fuel…bad diesel? Not sure. Ate at Cracker Barrel then rolled into Richardson around 4:00. Pete and Kim were not home yet, so we went to the store to get some sides for a cookout. Kimberly and Ellie arrived home and then Pete a little after 6:00. Ate grilled chicken, tater salad, etc., then watched Battle Bots. Later, Pete and I went to Spec’s to get some booze.

Saturday – Left P&K’s at 7:10 to fetch Adam in Lakewood. Took I-30 to Fort Worth to drop Laura off at Oma’s. Hit the road proper at 8:30, going through Weatherford to 920 to 1885 to 281 north. Got to Wichita Falls and El Norteno’s at 10:45…a bit early, but they were open. Food was awesome, as usual. Once back on the road, the overhead speaker panel fell, but luckily was halted by the sun visor panel. If that panel had not been there, Pete and Adam may have been knocked out. The amps would no longer work as a result, so we had no tunes. I set about trying to troubleshoot the issue but could not get power back. Adam suggested the amps were not grounded properly. Sure enough, the two screws that were holding up one side of the panel were also completing a circuit for the ground. When they sheared off, the circuit was broken. We stopped and got some cheap tools and I devised a temporary fix, then we were back in business and ready to boogie with tunes once more. We took 86 west from Estelline, then the usual route once in New Mexico. Like last year, we listened to ZZ Top’s Tejas on the stretch from Clines Corners to Eldorado. Arrived a little after 7:00 and ate Wendell’s excellent chicken tikka masala. Slept okay in the Sprinter.

Sunday – Ate some cereal and rode Galisteo Basin Preserve trails (from the Thumb trailhead this time) while Wendell, Pete, and Adam hiked. Laura and I got about 12 miles in, completing a large loop which included most of the trails. Picked up Elizabeth at the tiny Santa Fe airport, then drove straight to Lamy for a small festival with music and burgers. Met Terry, Sandy, and Sandy’s cousin Anna, who was about Elizabeth’s age. Got Elizabeth checked into her airbnb, then ate pizza at Chez Moya (Mom & Wendell’s). Terry et al showed up as well. Later, we played Wise and Otherwise. Mom led most of the round, then I made my move and finished strong for the win. But it really was not at all calculated; I just got a little lucky. Slept a little better in Vanna, but still battling a nagging cough.

Monday – Awoke and made bacon, eggs, and toast for the entire crew. Got bikes prepped and headed to La Tierra with Laura, Wendell, Pete, and Elizabeth. Elizabeth rode around the gravel lot, but seemed uneasy on the Pivot. Wendell, in the meantime, was having drivetrain problems on the Highball. We made some adjustments to no effect, then realized the cassette was worn while the chain and chainring were brand new. Not good. No amount of adjusting was going to fix that. Wendell decided to pedal easy up and down the road and would forgo the trails. Elizabeth joined him after deciding that the risk to her ACL was too great. I felt bad for them, and frustrated at the bike mechanic who failed to properly assess the wear on the cassette. While on the ride, I decided I would endeavor to find a new cassette while in Santa Fe. Pete rode strong on the Norco, while I pushed the S-Works single speed. The “Hustle and Flow” section was not as fun on SS rigid, however. We rode for about an hour and a half. Back home, we ate leftover pizza while Elizabeth ran errands and found a Planet Fitness to get a in a short workout. Sandy came over later and we all pitched in to help Mom shoot a video. It was an artistic short inspired by The Greeting by Bill Viola. It starred Sandy, Laura, and Elizabeth. Mom wanted to explore the array of emotions resulting from an awkward gift exchange, using slow-motion to fully capture the expressions on each actor. It came out really well. Later, Pete set up recording hardware for me to complete the solo on Don’t Want It. I noodled around until I found the solo I wanted, then punched record. It was not to be, however, due to technical difficulties with Garageband. Pete fiddled with the program awhile, then decided to give it a rest until he could figure it out by way of instructional videos. For supper, we ate Adam’s stew that had been…umm…stewing all day. Started a round of Beyond Balderdash with only four participants, but soon quit when we realized the real answers could be easily guessed. Later we watched Monsters, which Elizabeth had not seen.

Tuesday – Got up and rode the Dale Ball Trails while the rest relaxed at home. I rode the long stretch between 14 and 13 without dabbing, which was a first for me. Met the others at REI, then found a food truck and ate delicious BBQ tacos. Called local bike shops about a cassette and finally found one at New Mexico Bike and Sport on Cordova. However, I later discovered I did not bring the necessary tools (chain whip and splined cassette tool) to remove the old cassette. Grrrr. Hung out awhile, then recruited the other men to help fix the broken speaker panel in Vanna. Pete and I went to the local True Value in Eldorado and got some beefy screws to replace the busted ones. The repair proved to be a major sonofabitch, but we prevailed. Later, Sandy and Terry returned and Mom made another slo-mo short about a weird marriage proposal at a party. Mom seemed pleased with the result, which needed about 10 takes to get right. We ate leftover stew and Indian food, then listened to tunes on Spotify before crashing.

Wednesday – Laura and I returned to La Tierra trails in the morning and got in over 12 miles. Rode nearly everything, then returned to New Mexico Bike and Sport to purchase some tools for the cassette. The others hiked some trails in the ski basin, then we all rendezvous’d at the same food truck parking lot as the previous day. This time, there was a Mediterranean truck called Yummy Town. Some of us ate from that while others ate from the BBQ Taco truck. Got home and I finished assembling the speaker shelf (attaching wires mostly, as all the hard work had already been done). I replaced the worn cassette on the SC and gave it a quick test ride. Much better. Went to Meow Wolf with Laura, Elizabeth, and Adam. Trippy. Later, the entire crew ate dinner at Pecos Trail Inn. Short on atmosphere, but the food was top-notch. Pete went back to the bnb to crash early, as he had not been sleeping well. The rest of us watched Get Out, which Adam, Wendell, Mom, and Oma had not seen.

Thursday – Laura, Wendell, and I rode from the house to GBP trails via the railroad trail. We ended up riding all the way to 285, and thereby overshooting the connector trail. After consulting Google maps, we backtracked until we found the trailhead which led to the signed network of trails. We rode much of what we rode earlier, with Wendell handling the SC nicely. On the way back we took pics of the railroad trestle from Breaking Bad. Ate sandwiches for lunch, then geared up for a round of disc golf with Pete, Adam, and Elizabeth. Clouds stirred overhead, which cooled things off as we played. Pete won by a few strokes as usual, but we all had a great time. Filmed one more video with Mom directing once more. Ate gourmet burgers, cob corn, baked potatoes, and sautéed mushrooms. Played more music then watched First Reformed starring Ethan Hawke.

Friday – after an emotional goodbye and farewell photos, Pete, Adam, and I hit the road at 8:10. It was a mellow trip, but with lots of music. Took I-40 to Amarillo where we stopped for a good Tex-Mex lunch, then 287 to Wichita Falls and 281 south, then back through Weatherford. Pete and Adam did most of the driving. Rained off and on most of the trip, then came a downpour once we got out of Weatherford. Picked up Laura, then dropped Adam off. Got to Pete’s at 9:15 PM, where Kim’s taco salad awaited us. Played with Ellie and watched some Simpsons, then went to bed.

Saturday – Left about 7:40, taking I-30 to Little Rock to pick up I-40. Did not want to take the southern route and experience the horrible roads of Shreveport, LA. The northern route is much more scenic anyway. Found a Cracker Barrel for lunch and then drove until after 8:00 PM. Stopped in Cookeville, TN at a La Quinta. Ate dinner across the street at a place called Gondola Pizza. I had veggie lasagna and Laura had a gyro. Watched the last half of Napolean Dynamite, then bedded down.

Sunday – Back on the road by 7:15 after a hotel breakfast. Driving was easy, and the ABS light never came back on. Ate lunch at the same Zaxby’s as I did when first driving the Sprinter from Florida/Brevard back in May. Got home at 4:12 PM. 3,773 miles.

Race Report: 6 Hours of Lake Crabtree (SES #4)

I was convinced this race would be canceled at the eleventh hour; it was raining hard on Friday night and the Saturday forecast looked grim. But I was prepared nonetheless and needed to act as if it were still going to happen. Turned out the race was still on, and the day’s forecast had lightened up a little, but I was wondering what kind of condition the trail would be in. I showed up at my customary stupid-early time, with Abby arriving a few minutes later. We got an ideal spot for pitting, so we assembled the rapid shelter and unloaded all the gear. Abby mounted up for an early reconnaissance mission to evaluate the trails and returned shortly with a bike that was only slightly muddy. That was a good sign.

Shortly thereafter, Jess Winebrenner and her duo partner arrived and made camp next to us, as Hal and Corey did the same on the opposite side. After we got all set up, I took the single speed out to see for myself what the trails looked like. There were a couple of slick spots on the lake trail and some shallow standing water in one of the turns, but nothing too bad or dangerous looking. However, it was enough to make me think the first lap might be a bit sketchy, but it would no doubt improve as the race wore on. Besides, Abby would be doing the first lap…so…not my problem, right?

I rolled back to our pit area and saw that others were arriving more quickly now, although it was not going to be a huge turnout. About this time, I noticed the Cycling Spoken Here van had pulled up and I wondered what kind of team they would have in the race. There were six duo co-ed teams and Abby had the lowdown on some of the personnel, pointing out the competition we needed to worry about and those who would not pose a threat. As with many of the races, the reputedly fastest team would be out of reach for Abby and me, so the real battle would be for second or third.

I then got some protein and berries in my tummy as Abby warmed up on the Santa Cruz. Our bike strategy for this event was to have me on the S-Works and Abby on the gears. Crabtree has zero technical challenges, so it was really just a matter of being comfortable with pedaling fast and handling the bike at high speeds, and Abby seemed more at home on the Highball. But I convinced Abby to take the first lap since gears would be key in getting a decent spot going into the woods. The turnout was low enough that the organizers decided to start the first lap at the boat dock, where the riders would wind their way through the parking lot before taking a hairpin turn onto the trail section.

I fiddled around and missed most of the pre-race announcements, but Abby had her head in the ballgame and was gathered with the others for the meeting and then the mass start. The racers were off at about 10:02 AM and Abby entered the woods mid-pack and looking strong in her new Jigawatt skin suit. I noted the time and assumed she’d be back in roughly 35 – 40 minutes, so I had time to use the bathroom about three more times due to all the coffee I’d consumed since waking up. That’s always the way it goes: drink coffee and get hydrated at the same time, then end up in the men’s room all morning.

After about 30 minutes I made my way to the transition area next to the hairpin turn to chat with other duo riders who were also awaiting their partners. One of those riders was Steve from CSH, who informed me that he and a shop employee were racing as a co-ed duo as well. Okay, I thought, these guys could be contenders for second place, so keep an eye on ‘em. At 31 minutes after the start, the fast riders started blowing through the transition zone, some of whom were duo and some solo racers. Hal was in the group of quick finishers, as he rode up next to me to give me a trail report. He told me the trail was pretty sketchy and he nearly crashed several times. This came as no surprise, as Hal is extremenly fast. One of the worst sections, he said, was after the second right-of-way crossing, where there’s a short bridge followed by a tricky root between two trees. I knew exactly what he was talking about and mused to myself that the famous diagonal root was bad enough in dry conditions, especially if you don’t scrub enough speed. I thanked Hal as he rolled away to rest between laps.

I began squinting hard at the next wave of emerging riders, hoping Abby would appear and I could be on my way. But before Abby showed, Steve’s racing partner (I forget her name) arrived first, and Steve took off. I would have to work hard to catch him in order to keep it close. Abby popped out of the woods about 40 seconds later and I jetted away, but not before I heard Abby say “I crashed!” I was alarmed, but realized that she’d made good time despite her wreck. Immediately, memories of Lake Norman welled up and I was grateful that Abby was at least able to finish the lap. I was confident her friends at the neighboring tent would help fix her up while I was out on my lap, but I’d need to be ready to double up on laps if necessary.

I set a good clip for my first lap, but conditions did not allow for full-on braap, so I remained careful and tried to look well ahead for any nastiness that might put me on my ass. The course was still relatively crowded and I needed to manuever judiciously to pick off slower racers. I then spotted Steve on his trademark pink Trek; he was perhaps 20 seconds ahead of me and I was gaining slowly but steadily. I finally overtook him on the “Sled Ride Climb” section of loop 1. He said a few friendly words of encouragement as I passed, and he managed to keep me in sight for the rest of the lap. I guess all he needed was for someone to set a pace for him, because if I pushed a little harder, he was still right there, the same distance behind me. As I approached the short bridge section that Hal had warned me about, I noticed the trail leading up to the bridge was quite rutted, and I wondered if it was perhaps the site of a few spills.

As I neared the finish, Steve still on my tail, I made a wrong turn and ended up costing us 22 seconds. Stupid mistake on a trail that I knew very well. Frustrating, but not devastating I’d hoped. When I made it back to the transition zone, I saw that Abby was ready to go and looking fresh, an indication that her crash was not race-ending. Once back at our camp, I checked my phone to see if there were any messages. Sure enough, Abby had more details on her crash and her condition (indeed it was her who had gone down near the bridge with the ruts and other signs of crashing), and as I’d hoped, she had received ample first aid from her friends encamped next to us. Thanks, friends! I then proceeded to stretch and refuel with protein and fruit while chatting with other competitors about their race progress.

Before long it was time to await my turn again. I swallowed a couple of shot blocks and headed to the handoff point where Steve was waiting once again. He soon started on his second lap since his partner had managed to gap us a little more during Abby’s lap. Apparently, she was fast, despite pushing plus-sized tires and a rigid fork. But as Steve sped away I yelled, “I’m going to try and catch you!” I never did catch him on that lap, but curiously, I passed the female half of one of the Storm Endurance duo teams…twice. I think she must have made a wrong turn near the flowy “ETD” section, thereby cutting off about 1.5 miles of trail. I was not going to make a big deal of it, but that’s only because they were not a threat to Team Velocibraaptors (Abby and me). Otherwise, accident or not, that’s cheating. As I neared the home stretch and the “fingers” section (I don’t know the actual loop number), I was pleased to see one of the OCCP guys encouraging riders by blaring out show tunes on his radio as riders passed him. He is known for doing this at cyclocross races and the occasional endurance event like this one.

After turning in my fastest lap, Abby was off once more and I continued my stretch-eat-socialize ritual. I deliberately did not check the standings, as is often my wont, but Jess told me that we were vying for third place. I felt good about that, and was resigned to the prospect of finishing behind the Cycling Spoken Here team. Not too bad; at least we should have a spot on the podium, sporting our new Jigawatt skin suits and looking pro. Jess also mentioned that Abby may be open to doubling up on laps and evolving our strategy to give her more rest, because of her leg injury. That did not sound like a bad idea.

When Abby got back and I took off for my third lap, something was not right with the bike. I rounded the first banked turn and felt the telltale signs of a low tire. I jumped off and gave it the pinch test, only to find that it was almost flat. This happened only about 30 yards from our site, so I bushwacked up to the tent to announce my predicament. Abby was heads-up and yelled that she’d take another lap, then rocketed away as if she had not just finished one. Great, it’s the injured party who must take the first double. I felt bad, but I knew Abby, at her exquisite fitness level, was completely equal to the task, as she whisked away with her customary youthful aplomb. Thank goodness, I thought, then set about putting more Stan’s into my tire and airing it up with a CO2 cartridge. Sean Murphy lent a hand with the task, and I have no doubt that we looked like a fine-tuned NASCAR pit crew, as we had that fucker squared away in less than two minutes. Thanks, Sean.

Now I had to get in the mindset of completing back-to-back laps, so I downed lots of fluids and refilled both water bottles in preparation. I also swallowed some Sport Legs pills in an effort to stave off any forthcoming leg cramps, something that dogs me on especially humid race days. When Abby returned and I took off for my double, I tried to pace myself a bit more intelligently than I would if it were a single lap. That did not last long. I pedaled with the same urgency as before, and found that two-thirds of the way into the first lap, there was a problem beginning to develop. Head sweat started its slow, inexorable journey into my left eye, and I found that I could do nothing about it. My gloves were useless for wiping sweat since they were themselves saturated with perspiration. I was forced to try and squint the sweat away, but that worked about as expected, which was almost not at all. I was reduced to riding one-eyed while laboring to squeeze away the sweat-blindness in the other eye. This has happened before, and I find that it usually passes. Luckily, it did pass by the time I started my second lap, as I found a bit more vigor at the prospect of two functioning eyes. But halfway into my second lap, I was beset with the same problem, and this time in both eyes! I was determined not to stop as I set about switching between eyes, one open and one shut while I worked to squint away the sweat. This must have looked comical, and I was nearing despair. Then I hit upon an idea: stop briefly and squirt some water into my eyes for some relief, although I had nothing to wipe away the water. As I relaxed my pedaling to make an emergency pit stop, I was attacked by some particularly vicious leg cramps. The pills did not work! Dammit! I then realized that I needed all the remaining water for beating back those cramps, and I would have to tough it out with the sweat blindness. So I motored on, repeating the cyclopian eye switch and struggling to maintain a decent speed. It then dawned on me that if I slowed too much, we may slip out of third place contention, so keep pedaling. At one point, I shouldered a tree when I transitioned from one eye to the other and almost fell. I must have been a sight. Suck it up, Matt. After all, Abby crashed rather badly and happily doubled up on laps with no complaints (as far as I know).

At last I heard the OCCP dude with the bullhorn radio, and I knew the lap was almost finished. The song was the Gilligan’s Island theme, and I somehow managed a grin through the extremity of my half-blinded demeanor. By the time I made it to the fingers, he’d queued up “Baby Got Back,” and I could not help but roll in at long last to our pit area with a renewed spirit. Also, my laps were done.

I dismounted and headed for a chair, not so much sitting as falling into it, but not before irrigating my poor eyes with about a gallon of water. Then I wearily checked webscorer.com to see how we were doing. It appeared we were solidly in third place after battling from the fourth place position. That’s cool. We’ll take that. Laura showed up about that time and I briefed her on all that had happened. After chatting with her for about 20 minutes I tried to get up and stretch, and that’s when the cramps came rushing back with a vengeance. Laura poured cool water down my throat as I slowly stretched away the demons of lactic acid buildup, and I was soon good to walk around a little. Note to self: do not sit stationary for too long after turning in double laps.

I had finished my last lap at 3:12, which was plenty of time for Abby to get back before the unforgiving 4:00 cutoff time. I calculated that she would return at about 3:50, so Laura and I walked a short way into the woods and I got my iPhone ready to snap a photo of her to preserve the memory. Like clockwork, there she was. I bade her smile as I took her picture, and indeed she grinned widely. It was a great finish, and I felt satisfied with third place. But Abby was still smiling broadly, almost giddy in fact. She knew something I didn’t. Then I saw why: behind her came the female racer from the Cycling Spoken Here duo, which meant that Abby must have passed her, which meant…

Yes, with hard work and an on-the-fly strategy, we fought back from fourth to second place by a mere 31.9 seconds. Steve was nearby as well, nonplussed as he witnessed the unfolding drama and its implications. That’s the way things go sometimes, and Steve knows full well what can happen in a race, as he is an experienced veteran in all things bicycle. Theirs is a strong team and will no doubt be back to compete again, so we must stay on our toes. But Abby pulled it out and she deserves much of the credit; she saw the CSH racer, she gained on her, she put her in her sights, and she made her move like a pro. Okay, it’s just Lake Crabtree Mountain Bike Trail, a moderately easy trail hosting a race in a regional endurance series, in the eastern part of the United States, in a somewhat niche sport. But damn, that felt good.


Thoughts on Alien: Covenant

I did not enjoy this movie very much. I don’t appreciate what Ridley Scott has done with Prometheus and now Alien: Covenant. Here’s why:

While the plot of Alien and its sequel Aliens begs for an interesting back story, I believe the one crafted by Scott and his crew of writers is overly contrived. As movie making technology improves in the form of better CGI and other special effects, I’m sure that the impulse to make full use of these wonders is overpowering. And indeed, the effects are impressive, but it seems to me they also feed unnecessarily into the story line. Just think of the simplicity of 1979′s Alien: a ragtag crew of space truckers happens upon a distress signal and one of the crewmembers is infected with a malevolent parasite. As the movie unfolds, we find that there are other sinister forces at work. Mother, the ship’s computer, and the behemoth corporation she represents, soon reveals that the signal was actually a warning to stay the hell away. The only directive is to preserve the alien specimen, at the expense of the crew if necessary. But before poor Kane is beset with the facehugger, we are treated to the magnificence of the derelict spacecraft’s brooding interior. Not one of the subsequent films adequately recaptures the power of that scene: walls that are ribbed with an integrated latticework of otherworldly secretions, a spooky haze floating above a floor that promises treachery, leathery eggs whose amniotic fluid drips upward, and just the sheer immensity of the cathedral-like space itself. And then there’s the space-jockey. What mighty race of beings could fall victim to a creature that destroys its victims from the inside? I have always wondered if the giant figure was reclining at the helm of the craft or on an operating table in a sick bay ward when he met his gruesome demise. When I saw this film for the first time as a 16-year old, I was completely creeped out by the scenes in the alien ship, and their effects have not been duplicated since. And when the crew lowered Kane into the hole, I thought why? why go any further? get the hell out! My sentiments would be echoed moments later by the character Lambert.

Seven years later, Aliens was released, and James Cameron moved the plot along with convincing simplicity. He came very close to recapturing the dark and haunting vibe of Alien. The point is, however, that the story was not needlessly complex. Aliens revisited the theme of corporate and political evil by manipulating a terraforming family into unwittingly hosting the alien embryos, and the film plods forward from there. But in my opinion, these two movies did not deserve the treatment they got with the prequels Prometheus and Covenant. In those films, I believe too much is made of the android story line. Admittedly, the theme of artificial intelligence and machine learning, along with its many moral implications, is an intriguing one, but it struck me as clumsy and unnecessary.  Many would disagree, since Ash’s collusion with Mother in Alien was integral to the plot. However, I prefer to interpret that alliance as a sort of one-off that was the result of increasing entropy in Ash’s programming.

The beauty of Alien-Aliens lies in their simplicity: an insidious and devilishly resilient creature needs hosts to survive and procreate. Any warm-blooded host will do, so keep your distance. In this sense, the alien is like any other living being; pass along your genes at any cost. Survive. A more interesting back story, I think, would have examined the evolution of such creatures, but that probably does not have mass cinematic appeal. Seems there was a rumor at some point that one of the prequels was not going to have any human dialog, and would merely provide exposition for the creatures’ beginnings and the need that drove them into the beyond in search of hosts.

Now that would have been cool.

Texas-New Mexico 2016

I don’t have a day-by-day chronicle of the vacation this year, so here’s a bulleted summary:


  • Our A/C went out a few days before we were scheduled to leave, so we had to deal with the whole affair while away. We got Ahmet to watch Spencer and be at the house while the new unit was installed
  • We left at about 9:30 Saturday morning, 7/16. The trip was mostly uneventful except for a major downpour while navigating downtown Atlanta traffic
  • Ate lunch at a Cracker Barrel somewhere and bedded down for the night in Gulfport, Mississippi
  • Arrived at Chris and Elizabeth’s in San Antonio around 5:30 PM
  • Laura and I went mountain biking twice with Elizabeth. Sunday was at MacAllister Park where E had a great time and did well for her first true singletrack ride. The next day was not as enjoyable for her, as her ass was sore
  • We watched movies and ate out. I got stung by a bee on our first night there
  • Headed to Fort Worth early Wednesday morning. Pete called me and said he had strep throat, but that it would not affect the trip to SF
  • Laura and I rode the trails at Sansom Park in FW. Very hot. We got news that the A/C was finished and was cooling nicely back home
  • I left Laura in FW and drove to P&K’s on Thursday
  • Pete, Adam, and I left for Santa Fe early Friday morning. We ate at El Norteno in Wichita Falls. It was a hole in the wall joint, and therefore very good
  • Got to SF around 8:20 and mom had dinner ready. Laura, Oma, and Benita were already there
  • Rode the fantastic La Tierra trails Saturday morning
  • Rode the Dale Ball trails on Sunday. Ate somewhere nice, most likely. Got news that my uncle Arvis “Stu” Stewart passed away
  • Hiked with Pete and Wendell early Monday morning
  • Rode La Tierra again and ate at Raaga Tuesday night, our last night
  • On Wednesday, headed east to Amarillo to drop Adam off for Stu’s service the next day. Saw Holly and ate Mexican for the umpteenth time
  • Drove into Dallas with Pete after leaving Adam
  • Ate a home cooked meal. Played with Ellie
  • Pete had to work on Friday, so I got a new rear tire and grips for the SS, and got my oil changed
  • Ate sushi for dinner, followed by frozen yogurt. Yumz
  • Headed east on Friday morning. Made it to Duluth, GA for the night
  • Got home on Saturday at 2:30


Christmas Diary

Elizabeth and Chris were scheduled to arrive around 2:00 PM on Monday before Christmas, but flight delays put it much later. When they finally got to our house, they scarfed up my chili which I had prepared a couple of days prior. I think the chili may have been a bit too spicy for Elizabeth. Mom and Wendell were to arrive late on Christmas Eve, but the airlines had other plans. They missed their connecting flight at DFW due to gate SNAFUs, which is typical at that airport. They ended up spending the night in Dallas and arrived at RDU the next morning. Laura, Benita, and I worked furiously to prepare a Christmas feast of Honeybaked ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and a pretty good dressing concoction that Benita put together using Stovetop Stuffing as a base. Later, we opened gifts. I got the things I had put on my Amazon list as well as a quad copter from mom and Wendell, which was a pleasant surprise. Wish lists are a good thing, but they remove the element of creative gifting. Friday morning I broke out the copter (to hell with reading the directions) from the back deck and let ‘er rip. I flew it up over the roof of the house and into the front yard, whereupon I contemplated the effective range of the remote control. It lost signal with the copter just as it was hovering over the tallest tree in our lot, and became stuck fast in the uppermost branches. No amount of tweaking from the remote was able to dislodge it, and the battery soon died. Great. It was about three stories from the ground, so we set about trying to free it by winging golf discs at it, hoping for the best. Not once did we come very close to the copter, and even if we had, I’m not sure what we were expecting to happen. I must have assumed the disc would arrive at the vicinity of the copter, then ask it politely to climb aboard and ride it gently down to terra firma. After repeated throws from beneath the tree failed, Elizabeth and I got on the roof of the house to get a better vantage point. Those attempts also failed, so we brainstormed other ideas. Wendell and I went to Home Depot in hopes of inspiration from the vast wonderland of building products therein. We seized upon the idea of a small plastic canister which could be filled with hardware and tethered to masonry line. When we got home, we set about filling the canister with a few nuts and bolts, then went outside to test our theory. We recruited Chris, who has a decent throwing arm, to launch the missile toward the branches near the drone, in hopes of then using the twine to shake the tree vigorously enough to free the imprisoned toy. This did not work. The string was not heavy enough to withstand the tugs to shake the branches, so it broke. We heaved it into the tree once more to try again, but then it too got stuck. Back to the drawing board, but now it was getting late and we were losing daylight. We would assail the conundrum tomorrow, tomorrow being Saturday. Chris, Wendell, and I went to Home Depot (and then Lowe’s) and managed to find some 10 foot garden stakes which could be coupled together with PVC. We got enough for about 42 feet, which we assumed at the time would be plenty. After only 15 minutes of prepping the rods, we were ready. Gary from across the street came to observe. Once we strung the pieces together, we found that we were a full 20 feet short. Curses! Undismayed, I climbed the tree, found a secure position a third of the way up, and had Chris and Wendell feed me the garden stake/PVC contraption length by length. When all connected, the rods were unwieldy and difficult to maneuver, swaying to and fro like a drunkard. I then endeavored to cradle it in the crooks of strategically located branches in order to attain some measure of stability. After several tries, I found the right crook, and had a straight-on shot at the drone. With this arrangement, I was able to extricate the forlorn copter from its arboreal gulag, and down it plunged, unsullied and whole. We played with it some, keeping it far from the clutches of the gnarled behemoth in the front yard. Anyway, we ate some more meals, went out a few times, went on some runs, watched movies, and played Cards Against Humanity over the next few days. I felt it was a good visit, and as usual, I was sad to see my family leave. I hope to see them all again for St, Patrick’s Day in Dallas soon.

Tennessee-Texas-New Mexico Road Trip 2014

Friday 7/18: Left work at 11:45 am to hit the road to Nashville. Rained off and on starting in Asheville, all the way to Ted and Linda’s. Arrived around 7:30, had a beer, then went to Chili’s and ate/drank at the bar. Food was good. Went back to T&L’s to play DJ for the rest of the night. Got drunk but had a blast.

Saturday: Drove the rest of the trip with a hangover. Got to Pete’s around 5:30. Ate at Casa Cha Cha with P, K, and Ellie. Watched an episode of the Sopranos with P&K.

Sunday: Got up and ate breakfast at Hubbard’s with P, K, and the Macharts, then drove to San Antonio, but not in time for lunch with E&C. Checked out their crib until they arrived around 3PM, then went to tour the Riverwalk downtown with C’s mom and niece who is preggars. Saw “Wish I Was Here” which was kinda sucky. Watched a few choice episodes of Family Guy and Louie with E&C, while grubbing on pizza.

Monday: Met E&C’s friend Carlos, whom we floated on the Guadalupe with after lunch. My iPhone got waterlogged and would not power on, so I put it in a baggie of rice when we got done with the river. Ate some excellent BBQ with Carlos.

Tuesday: Got up early and headed back to big D, via 287. Played cat and mouse with an Audi S4 part of the way. Made good time. Got to Pete’s office around 12:15 and waited for him to go to lunch. Ate at Buzzbrew’s, which was very good. Fretted about my iPhone and tried several things to get it to power on, to no effect. Dreaded having to get a new one; did not think my Applecare would cover water damage. Watched another Sopranos.

Wednesday: Met E at Cafe Brazil for brunch, then we both went to the Apple store to see what could be done about my phone. Crowded, so had to make an appointment for 3PM. Drove E back to get her car. Met with the Apple “genius” who informed me that my Applecare+ would mostly cover the damaged phone, and I only owed $49. Yay! Set up the B&W/Adcom system in P&K’s living room. Later, P came home and made a yummy pasta dish while we jammed to the new sound system and drank B&C’s. Later, P and I started “Cabin in the Woods” but did not finish it.

Thursday: Met E again for brunch, then I went to Erwin Park to ride the MTB trails. Snapped a pic of the spot where I crashed a year ago. Oh, and it was very hot, but had a good ride. Visited with E again at Olive Garden; met the rest of her crew. P made burgers for supper.

Friday: Hit the road to SF around 9:30. Took 287 to Wichita Falls where we ate at El Chico’s. Then got on 70 west and made good time while jamming to fine tunes. Traded driving duties. Missed a turn somewhere in NM, but was not a big deal. Got to M&W’s just after dark. Unbeknownst to all, Koji snagged a pair of gloves from my bike bag and devoured them. We visited awhile then went to bed.

Saturday: Picked Laura up from their place in town, then went MTBing at the La Tierra trails…not bad. Met 3 women who told us about some cool whoops there, so we rode them twice. Hung out with Benita in the railyard district, visiting a few galleries. Later we tried to decide what to do for dinner, then P discovered a glove that Koji barfed up. The mood soured when we could not locate the glove’s mate. We all knew what this meant.

Sunday: Mom really not feeling well. L and I rode the Dale Ball trails off of Hyde Park road. Very nice trail system. W took Koji to the vet to make him puke. It worked, so catastrophe averted. Later, picked up B and drove round SF looking for a parking spot, then gave up. Ate at Tune-Up later with P, K, B, L and Oma.

Monday: Took a run with P in the morning. Ran along the river bed, which was still wet from storms the previous evening. Watched most of “Snowpiercer” with W and P, then picked up the women to take to airport (Oma) and ABQ (Benita). Came home and ate W’s excellent chicken tiki marsala. Watched “Enough Said” with M, W, P, and L. I then watched the remainder of Snowpiercer and sipped B&Cs.

Tuesday: Got up and rode the Winsor trail with Laura. Poor signage made for a less than stellar ride, but quite a workout: tough climbing and fast descents. Finished around 12:30. Mom feeling better and doing her group therapy and blood work. Ate a sandwich. Lazed around the house until we ate at Osteria Italian restaurant near the square in SF. Scrumptious. Watched “Please Give” then crashed.

Wednesday: Took L to the SF airport around 9AM, then came back and started packing up. Ate with M&W at Tree House in DeVargas mall. I had enchiladas, which were really tasty. P and I got on the road at about 1:15 and made good time to Lubbock, despite losing an hour. Got to G&D’s around 7:45, just in time for a supper of Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, and brownies afterward. We watched an episode of True Detective, but I fell asleep in the middle of it.

Thursday: Took a 4-mile run with P at about 8:30. Ran past M&W’s former house on Clinton. I wanted to sob. After showering, we went with G to meet Dylan at his new apartment, then to lunch at Garcia’s (awesome), then to look at some artwork for an upcoming group exhibit that D is participating in. I bought one of his pieces. P and I headed back to Dallas via 84/20 and got in before 7PM, then watched an episode of Sopranos.

Friday: Slept in a little, even though P and I had intended to run. Too wet to ride, so I pondered packing up and getting on the road back to NC. Had lunch with Adam at Saigon Block, then got under way at 1:00. Arrived in Nashville at 11:40 and had some wine with T&L and listened to their new audio system

Saturday: Had breakfast at Vitile’s with T&L, then got on the road at about 9:45. Trip seemed loooong. Got home at 7:05. Laura had dinner ready.