Monday, April 23, 2012

Brother Dave

As the travel man lately, I had the chance to have dinner with my brother David and his wife, Dudley in Northern Virginia last week.  I believe that I have and will always be David’s annoying little brother.  Being 18 months younger than him, but a year behind him in school I felt I was always in his shadow.   I spent my formative years making sure that we were never confused as the same person, much to dismay of our parents.

 We did have a good visit, trading stories about work and family.   We are lucky to see each other once a year, so we seized the luck.  He will be heading to Afghanistan this summer as a senior military adviser to the Afghan army, so I feel double blessed to have had this chance.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bent Wheel

As a planner and a rule follower, I always leave in plenty of time to make it to the airport for a trip.   Last Thursday on my way to DFW to fly to Phoenix, I got up 4:00 am to get ready to make it for my 7:25 am flight.

Just before I left the house at 5:00 am, I used my handy dandy phone app to check myself in for the flight.  I had plenty of time, not checking anything and had my digital boarding pass.    I was even pleased how clear traffic was as I was headed north on TX-360.

Then out of nowhere, something big, metal and blue looking was in front of me covering the whole lane.  I had no choice but to drive over it. The Chevy Aveo is not known for its high clearance.   I blew my left front tire and I headed to the shoulder of the road.   This put a kink in my orderly plans to get to the airport.

As I proceeded to change my tire on a busy highway, in the morning, in the dark, I looked around and saw that I was not alone.  I wager there were at least a dozen cars all pulling over, in the process of changing a tire, or about to as I could hear cars running over whatever I ran over.

Two nice Arlington Officers visited with me to make sure I was all right and that I had what I needed.  By the time I pulled back on to TX-360, the outside lanes of traffic were shut down by APD to give all the unfortunate motorist space to change their flats.

This whole operation cost me about a half an hour.   I parked, caught the shuttle to my terminal only to discover a long line at security with less than hour for my flight.   Oddly, for me anyway, I was not panicked. 
A nice TSA agent informed me that I could head to another checkpoint, made it through, walked to my gate as they were calling my group to board.

I probably would not have made it I left a half an hour later, because I would have been caught in the backup of all those cars.

Planning worked, but I do need a new wheel

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Order of the Arrow Callout

This past weekend, we had the Order of the Arrow Call out. The purpose of a Call-Out is to officially recognize each elected Scout as a candidate for membership in the Order of the Arrow. The Call Out is a form of public recognition used to communicate the honor of being selected for membership into our Order to members, non-members, and the public. Its dignity impress all with the high ideals and standards of the Order of the Arrow. It serves to intensify a Scout's desire to become a member

What makes it especially neat is that boys from the Troop are active in the Order of the Arrow and get to call out boys that have been elected from their own troop.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bike Snobbery

Last week I was commuting home on my 30-year-old steel mountain bike with my panniers and came across a fellow rider.  He was riding an entry level Carbon Fiber Trek road bike.

I rolled up to him at a stop light and said hello.  It always pleases me to engage a fellow cyclist. I was very disappointed that he did not respond, maybe because he was wearing headphones (which, in my option, is very unsafe thing to do on road), but most likely he was looking down at me as a roadie snob.  I apparently was not worth his time.

When we rolled from the light, I was shocked to find him riding my wheel.   Although I was not good enough to acknowledge as a fellow cyclist, I was apparently worth using as a draft. 

I was left with two cycling choices. 
  1. Sit up and let him go around me.
  2. Ride him off my wheel.

Insanely, I went with ride him off my wheel.   I ramped up my 30-pound bike and plowed into the headwind.   My heart rate climbed and the dude just stayed on my wheel.   When we started a climb, I figure I was about to fail and was going to come around me.    He did not, because he apparently was hurting and remained glued to my wheel.  I dug deep, maxed my effort, and did not look back.

When I came to a stop sign at the top of the hill, I looked back expecting to see him.  With a schadenfreude feeling, I saw him struggling to climb against the head wind, about a quarter mile behind me.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blow Out

I had such a different post in mind than the one I am writing.

The measuring stick ride in southeast Tarrant County is the Thursday night ride out at Joe Pool Lake.  It is known throughout the metoplex as one of the toughest rides.  Ironically, I started the ride back in the mid 1990s as an 18+ mph ride.  Now the lead group is finishing the 32-mile course in excess of 23 mph.

The start of the ride is next to the lake and is flat.  It is usually into a head wind.  There is no warm up and it ramps up right from the start.   About five miles in, we start a three-mile climb that at one point is an 11% grade.  When I am in good shape, I end up in the chase group.  There were brief moments in my early 30s that I actually made it with the lead group up the hill, only to be dropped at the  next climb that comes in about 10 miles.   I have never made it with the lead group at the finish since the ride became a hammer fest in the late 1990s.

My fitness level has really improved and I came to last Thursday’s ride with high hopes.  I am now one of the older men in the group, most of riders is in their late 20s or early 30s.    My goal was to keep my heart rate in check, ride in the draft and survive the first climb, and then see where it goes.

About 30 of us started out.  I was with the group at the start of the climb.  I kept my cadence and after the first pitch, I was surprised to find myself leading the group up the final part of the climb.  I knew it was not going to last and expected at any moment the 130-pound climbers to come whipping around me.  When the attack came, I dug as deep as I could to stay with them.  My heart rate came close to max.  (I think my max at this time is 185 and I was at 180)

A group of five riders separated as we finished the climb and three of us started a chase.   One of the riders in the chase got quickly dropped and it was just my buddy Brent and I to close the gap.   I rested behind Brent and watched my heart rate dropped down to 160.  Brent was beginning to struggle and I told him, “Let’s go get’em”  and came around to lead the chase.   I could see the group up the road within reach.  We were dancing around 28 mph as I closed the gap.

Brent and I had just bridged to the group and I was looking for a place to hide to recover as we had 20 miles left in the ride.  As we made a right hand turn, my rear tire blew with a load “BLAM”.  I remained upright, but the lead group was gone.   As I pulled over to fix my flat, all my friends in the chase checked to make sure I had everything.  I told them to go finish the ride.

As I put in a new tube, I shooed  away a nice couple in a pickup truck that stopped to made sure I was all right.  The young man noted that someone stopped for him before, so he was just returning the favor.   As pickup drove away, I released my CO2 cartridge to fill my tire and “BLAM” it goes again.

Now the day has gone from bad to worse.  I am prepared to fix one flat, but two, not so much.  As I watched the nice couple drive away, I looked down at my bike with all sorts of frustration.

Apparently, a couple in a Honda Element could tell I was at my wits end and offered me a ride back to my car.    I graciously accepted the good Samaritan offer from my new friends, Rich and Kathy Drake.   I was again rescued by the kindness of strangers, but I must also note, these were parents of an Eagle Scout and the owners of general contracting company in Dallas.  So to all my Dallas friends, put Contractor Services Unlimited Inc on your call list.

I hope that sometime in the future I will get to post how I stayed with the lead group.  I bought new tires as a start.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


April 3, 2012 was an exciting time in DFW.   I was at University of Texas at Arlington watching one of coworkers defend his doctoral dissertation when the tornado hit Arlington.  I give him much credit on pushing through as sirens, public address warnings and the building safety warden interrupt his presentation to warn us of a tornado in the area.

My droid had already lit up with text messages from Carol, family, coworkers and friends about the tornado.   I looked around the room and everyone but the PhD committee and my coworker were fiddling with their phones being warned of the impending doom.

As this blog post can attest, my family was blessed and we were spared any damage.   The above picture shows the tornado skipping over our home in DWG.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Making Nana Proud

I have successfully made it to Mass every week during lent so far, with Easter services being the final step.  This included stumbling into the rosary before Mass at St. Johns in Bridgeport, TX.   I do not think I have said the rosary since my confirmation classes in eighth grade.  

The other adventure has been the changes in the responses in the new Roman Missal.   I had my folks gather old Catholic Updates to explain the logic behind the biggest change to Mass since Vatican II.  I am not getting into the theology of the change, but the fact that my rote learning over the years proved to be useless in Mass.    Ironically, it has required me to pay attention and follow along in the Missal.  I believe it has actually made my reintroduction to the church more meaningful.

This past Palm Sunday, I placed my palm on the crucifix that hung in my Polish grandmother’s bedroom.  When my Mom asked if I wanted anything that that belonged to Nana when she passed away, I requested this crucifix.    It has and will always serve as a constant reminder of my roots.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Austin Cycling Culture

Unlike many business travelers, I bring my bike instead of golf clubs.   A couple of weeks ago I had business in Austin.  I got out for two different rides.   Austin is a great place to ride.  The motorist respects bike routes, bike lanes and you.   It is fantastic.

The fact that they have a blessing of the bikes is an indication of a different culture.   One of my rides I found a University of Texas racer that was kind enough to take me out to the hills.  The college boy did see if the old man could keep up with him.  Once he realized that he was not going to drop me on the hills, he eased up a tad and we had a wonderful chat about riding in Austin.

My goal was about 30 miles and he was headed out for more, so he gave me directions back to downtown.  He told me to turn here, here, and here.  I apparently turned there, there and there.   So I got extraordinarily lost.  Because of my many years of scout training and the fact  I could see downtown Austin; I was not panicked.   I just started following clearly marked bike routes and bike lanes until I returned to my hotel.   All during this ride, I never had an issue with a driver.   In fact, on one hill, I actually go encouragement as I struggled up a very steep hill.

It may not always be like this, but I enjoyed.