Saturday, June 30, 2012

Busy (Hot) Day.....

I try not to gripe about the hot weather. I figure it comes with living in the South, and I reserve all my bitching rights for the wintertime.

This, however, goes beyond hot. It was 97 here in Jacksonville today, 104 (officially) at home. Temperatures aren't supposed to cool down below 93 at least for the next 5 days. Katydid and I are supposed to "run" in the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th, along with 60,000 of our closest friends. We'll probably walk the whole thing (6.2 miles), and it starts before 8:00 AM (our wave may be a little bit after that), but still the heat is a huge concern.

Today was my last day with my daughter, so we tried to cram as much activity into the day as we could.

  • At 7:00 AM, I went to ride the bike trail again, and boy am I glad I got it done early.
  • We showered and went for breakfast. We had planned to go to the Metro Diner, but it was late by the time we got ready, and we were both starving. I don't often ride my bike 15 miles before breakfast. In fact, I don't do a whole lot of anything before breakfast.
  • We shopped a little bit but didn't buy much.
  • Lunch was a peanut butter and banana crepe (with whipped cream) at the Arts Market. (What does one have for dessert after a lunch like that? What a dilemma.)
  • Sweet Girl needed some hair products, which only took three trips around the block to find a parking space in a cute little section of downtown. Then we walked up and down the street in the near-hundred degree heat because it seemed a good thing to do at the time.
  • We stopped at the Red Box to get a couple of DVDs. Neither of them were things I would have chosen - Sherlock Holmes and The Artist - but they were both bearable. To be honest, I fell asleep a little bit during Sherlock Holmes. 
  • We watched some of the U.S. Olympic Trials for men's gymnastics (not my favorite at all) and I followed baseball on my laptop while I played two different people in Words with Friends on my iPad and crocheted. And texted back and forth with Hubby and the Warrior Princess.
  • Dinner was at Zaxby's (if they aren't in your part of the country yet, you're in for a treat if they ever get there). I had a grilled chicken salad with a southwest flavor, but I can't remember its exact name. It was very good.
  • We bought groceries for Sweet Girl and came home to watch the second movie. Now we're watching the Olympic Trials in swimming. Being an Olympic swimmer was my heart's desire when I was about 10 years old, but I had no idea the steps that were required. Apparently just having grown up in  a trailer park that had a swimming pool wasn't enough.
Now it's bedtime, and Sweet Girl is in the kitchen about to cook/bake something that will probably be worth staying up for. Then it's back on the road tomorrow morning for the six-hour trip home.

It has been a terrific weekend visiting with Sweet Girl and not having any deadlines or events to attend.

Friday, June 29, 2012

She Gave Up...

Ahem, this post has been taken over by me, the aforementioned daughter, Sweet Girl. It has been a long and hot day, this my 28th birthday. She could not come up with anything to write, so here I am, and here I go. It is way past her bedtime, and we need beauty sleep. Especially since she once again wants to go and ride on that new bike trail she just discover, and get eaten alive by mosquitoes in the process. It is Metro Diner time, as well as RAM (Riverside Arts Market) time tomorrow. We shall see how everything goes, but I do believe that this will be all before my mouth runs away with me, or my fingers more the less. Dizzy has decided that it is time to go to bed, and so we must all listen. She is a demanding dog, and the moment someone gets up, then that's it, EVERYONE must get up. Happy trails. TTFN


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail.......

Back to cycling, at least for tonight.

As the end of the month approached, and Jezebel was STILL in the shop being repaired (and I'm grateful that the very expensive repair is covered under her warranty, really I am), I found myself obsessing about the number of cycling miles I still needed to make my June goal of 600 miles.

Boy, bet you didn't see THAT one coming, did you? Me? Obsessing about something?

I was down in the dumps yesterday when I called the bike shop and the handsome/helpful/persuasive/knowledgeable Stan informed me that it would be another day or two. Apparently the manufacturer sent a replacement shifter cable for my bike, but it was for the wrong side. (Who knew they were different?)

I grumpily loaded my el cheapo mountain bike in the car, and I looked online to see if I could find a park similar to ours somewhere near Sweet Girl's house.

Oh, sorry, I left that part out. I needed my bike to get out of the shop before I left this morning to come to see Sweet Girl for her birthday tomorrow.

My apologies...I'm a little tired.

I was hoping I could find a park with some trails that I could ride around and around in circles just to build up my miles. I'm not comfortable riding that bike out on the roads, especially roads I'm not familiar with in a  busy town.

To make a long story even LONGER, I found something much better. Only about 5 miles from Sweet Girl's house is a rails-to-trails bike path very similar to our Silver Comet Trail in Georgia. It is only 14.5 miles in length (compared to 30-something for the SCT), but it is an excellent trail. The miles are marked, the trail is paved, and there were enough people on it that I felt safe even being out there by myself. I didn't leave until 6:00, so it was a little after 8:00 when I got finished. Naturally I did the entire length of the path. When I got back I had 29 miles, and as a card-carrying member of the round numbers club, I rode back out a half mile so I could get my total of 30 miles.

The map isn't much to look at it, but I feel compelled to post it here anyway. Call it validation or proof or something.

I promise I rode out AND back. When the start and finish are on top of each other, it's hard to tell.

Now I only have a little over 12 miles to ride to complete my June goal. I'm hoping to go back to the trail Saturday morning and get those miles in. But I'm going armed with insect repellant. I stopped to answer my cell phone, and I was swarmed with mosquitoes. Some of those suckers had landing gear.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Two Awesome Women....

Tonight, instead of talking about my own cycling (since I CAN'T because Jezebel is STILL in the shop and don't think I'm not bitter about THAT) or crochet projects or skydiving or the major purchase that is in the works AGAIN or my new arrival that will come tomorrow but I'll be gone or students from my past or how typically male my usually perfect husband can be, I'd like to ask you to read something other than my blog.

I know, right?

I'd like to invite you to start following two awesome women as they ride their bicycles ACROSS the country and THEN down the East Coast, ending back at home in Georgia.

I know both of these women, not terribly well, but I've ridden with both of them. I have been to the home of one of them, because she was a participant in my dissertation study. (Am I allowed to say that now, since it's 8 years since the publication of my dissertation?)

Their journey began in Oregon. They will ride to Bar Harbor, Maine, and then follow a route down through the eastern states.

They aren't just riding their bicycles across the country. They are riding self-supported, which means they are carrying all their gear with them. Tents, cooking paraphernalia, clothes (summer AND winter gear), food, everything. I don't mean they are wilderness camping. They have stayed in a couple of parks with electricity, laundry facilities and hot water, and they've spent at least one night in a motel with real beds and a microwave. Oh, and they both ride recumbent bikes, something I find awe-inspiring all by itself.

I've never done a self-supported bike tour of any length, although Rozmo keeps trying to get me to commit to a baby one, just an overnight out-and-back trip. I think I could get used to carrying my own gear, whether I used panniers or pulled a trailer.

It's the five months of being away from home and Hubby that would get to me. I'm not a homebody, and I love traveling. But as long as I have someone at home who MIGHT miss me, I'm not likely to undertake such a humongous feat.

Please jump over and read some of their diary entries about their trip so far. Leave them an encouraging message if you're so inclined.

Carol's Diary

Barbara's Diary

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Skydiving Days (Part 4)....

These aren't really chronological, but more thematic in nature. But if you'd like to catch up, you can read the previous parts here:

My Skydiving Days (Part 1)
My Skydiving Days (Part 2)
My Skydiving Days (Part 3)

Tonight's theme is the unpleasant one of injuries.

I was lucky in my (brief in numbers but protracted in years) skydiving career. As I mentioned at the end of Part 3, I once heard a jumpmaster say that particular drop zone had never experienced a serious injury. He then went on to say the only serious injury was death.

I probably had a LOT more opportunities for injury than the typical skydiver, because I had no idea most of the time what I was doing. When I was jumping round canopies, one time I had a near in-tree landing. I landed in the yard of a woman's house, and I was RIGHT OFF THE END OF THE RUNWAY. I mean, I could SEE the airport, but I couldn't get there. I could just imagine myself dangling in the tree, but I was lucky enough to make it all the way to the ground. The canopy, however, was stuck in the tree. And there were strict rules that forbade me from unhooking my harness, which I would have loved to do so I could slink off into the woods. Instead I had to stand there, tethered to a pine tree while the woman who owned the house leaned out her window, saying, "Ya landed in a tree, didn't cha?" while I waited for personnel from the drop zone to arrive and free me. As if that weren't embarrassing enough, when I got back to the shed I had to take the rig down to the head honcho, who was teaching PLFs to a new crop of students, and explain that I'd had a close encounter of the pine tree kind.

Another time I could have been injured (or worse) was the time I couldn't find east (more on that story in another episode). The last communication I had with the instructor on the ground told me to "find a spot to land." When I looked down, all I could see were power lines and pine trees. Good grief. I was still jumping a round canopy, so steering away from the hazards was not an option. I had to float with the wind and hope I got over both obstacles. The odds of doing so were not good. I know for a fact I wasn't breathing. I was getting ready to "get skinny" if I had to go between the power lines (it's only dangerous if you touch two of them, but I didn't want to put THAT to the test), and at that point the trees were the lesser of the two evils. The gods were smiling on me that day, though, because I drifted well over the power lines, not even draping my canopy over them, and I found a teeny tiny little patch of a clearing among all the pine trees. I was across the road from the shed. Seriously, I could have thrown a rock and hit it. Sigh.

After I started jumping square canopies, I developed a TERRIBLE habit of lifting my feet up when I pulled down on the brake lines. (Without getting too technical, because I'd be terrible at being technical, the best way to land a square canopy is to basically stall the canopy right as you touch the ground. That's what the brake lines do, pretty much collapse the canopy.) I think I was pulling my feet up in an attempt to get more leverage into my pull, because it seemed my arms weren't long enough. Once at a tiny drop zone where the owners later caused me significant embarrassment by using my camera to take pictures of their own penises, the landing area was hard-packed Georgia red clay. I came in for my typical not-following-the-rules landing, lifting my feet and legs up, and I landed on my knee first. There was a small rut gouged out of the hard-packed clay where my knee struck it. I didn't break anything (gods were smiling on me again), but my knee was a technicolor mess for several days. And I still didn't know how to correct my landing.

And I continued to have enough trial-and-error experiences that I should have learned a lot. You know you've had a bad parachute landing when you head back to the packing shed and EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. you pass along the way asks, "Are you okay?" As approaches go, it was a good one. I was on target to land on the drop zone (instead of a different zip code), possibly in the "peas" (pea gravel in a some-foot diameter circle that was the targeted landing spot for the really good skydivers). Heck, I was just proud not to have a 15-minute hike in front of me. I saw the ground approaching, flared my canopy (too high - again), raised up my feet and legs (again), and bounced on my tailbone. What happens when you stall a canopy too high is that you're not close enough to the ground to land. At least not properly. And you're TOO close to the ground to allow the canopy to re-inflate. Thus the bounce. It hurt pretty badly then. But that ain't NOTHING compared to how it felt in the next two weeks. Oh, and I was doing my student teaching at that time. With a toddler to take care of. I mentioned to someone that I thought about going to the doctor to have it checked, at least to have them x-ray my tailbone. Then someone said to me, "Bragger, they don't x-ray for that kind of injury. They check it.... using other means." Since I was pretty sure they couldn't do anything about it anyway, I just toughed it out. And it WAS tough, but I had no one to blame but my own stupidity.

Someone finally fixed that problem for me. Some random experienced skydiver suggested that when I unstowed the brake lines under canopy, I should take an extra wrap of the cords around my hand. That meant I didn't have as far to pull them to get a full stall, I didn't have to lift my feet and legs up in an effort to get the extra pull I needed, and I didn't have to spend a couple of weeks walking like I'd just given birth to a drill sergeant. It worked like a charm. (Further evidence that a lot of our "training" was random and arbitrary."

One final "injury" of sorts before I bore you to death. Ultimately I got to the point where I was allowed (nay, encouraged) to pack my own chute, especially necessary if I wanted to jump again the same day. It's not actually as complicated as you might think, the whole rig being held together by rubber bands and velcro. I'm not even kidding. There were a lot of steps to the process, though, and the only way I can learn is by DOING something. I can watch it a jillion times, but until I do something hands-on like that, the process remains a mystery. And I have to do it a number of times before it becomes intuitive. I performed a jump right after packing my own rig one day, and most of the jump went off flawlessly. Good freefall, good opening. WHAM!!! It felt like I had run full tilt into a tractor trailer. The canopy was good, I landed uneventfully, and the purple bruises where the four straps had been around my thighs and upper arms wouldn't show up until the next day. When my jumpmaster landed, he asked how my jump went, and I mentioned the hard opening.

"It happens sometimes," he said. "Next time try rolling the nose just a tad more."

Roll the nose. That means rolling the front edge of the canopy under just a little bit before packing it into the bag. The purpose is to slow the opening down ONLY FRACTIONALLY, YOU UNDERSTAND, preventing sudden, hard, bruise-inducing canopy openings.

Roll the nose. So THAT was the step I left out.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Abduction by Mark Gimenez.....

Image from
This is the second book by Mark Gimenez I've read, and the second one I've downloaded from the library's ebooks. I'm getting pretty good at this (cheaper) method of reading books.

(I still don't understand how that works. I go to my library's site, it sends me to Amazon, which sends me the book, and says I have two weeks to read it, but it doesn't go away from my iPad. And why are there a limited number of copies of ebooks available anyway, if they are digital?)

This book is about the abduction (duh) of a pretty young girl whose mother is a high-powered Dallas attorney and father is the next Bill Gates-type technogeek. HIS father is ex-Army Green Beret from the Vietnam days, and the plot gets pretty complicated with everyone connected to everyone else involved in this story.

I liked the plot okay, especially since everything worked out the way it was supposed to. Even the falseness of the "happily ever after" ending didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. Much.

There was a lot of foul language, which I suppose should be expected from ex-military types and high-powered attorney types, but it still gets my hackles up just a bit. (Is that the correct expression?) I think foul language has its place, but it can be overdone. I don't think it was a case of laziness in this book, as I've accused other authors of, and I would probably say some of the same words in the same situation. But maybe not so many times in the same sentence.

My main gripe with the book was that the characters were overcooked. The bitchy mother, attorney at law, was a bitch through-and-through. She not only belittled her husband and physically attacked him, she beat the crap out of the man they arrested for abducting her daughter. I mean she did some damage. (Side note: That man was NOT the man who had abducted her daughter, and he committed suicide in jail, and that bothered me a great deal. So many everything did NOT turn out like it was supposed to.) She had very few redeeming qualities until the very end of the book. It was hard to pull for her even then because she had been so 100% not likable through the rest of the story.

The father technogeek was a technogeek through and through. He flashed back to days of his youth when he was repeatedly beaten up by bullies at school and on military bases, and the flashbacks were all the same. He was videotaping his daughter's soccer game when she was abducted, and when law enforcement officials were scrutinizing the video for evidence, the father was heard talking on his cell phone to ... someone ... his broker maybe? ... about his company going public and becoming a billionaire and even refers to himself as a "geek." Isn't the first rule of geeks that they don't KNOW they're geeks? Of course he snaps out of his geekiness right when he's supposed to, and he becomes a manly man overnight. Forgives his wife, she forgives him, they live happily ever after.

The bad FBI people are thoroughly bad, the good FBI people are thoroughly good, even when they know they might lose their jobs. The former Green Beret manages to overcome his nightmares about the Vietnam War and his failures there in his quest to save his granddaughter. Oh, and he kicks his alcoholism too. And reunites with HIS wife.

Even Gracie, the little girl, is just too cute. She's athletic and smart as a whip and loyal to a fault, and there's nothing not to like about her. How many REAL ten-year-olds can you say that about? Hmmmm? I'm not trying to be mean, but she just wasn't real. Cute and lovable, but not very real.

One more thing: I think the author tried to step out of his true voice every now and then and interject some humor into his writing. Grisham can get away with that, and this guy probably could too, if he chose his moments. Here is an excerpt, taken from a high-drama moment when the kidnappers are being surrounded and it's do-or-die time for the heroes:

"The suspect was crouched behind an old truck and loading a goddamned grenade launcher! On the ground beside him was an MP-5 fully automatic machine gun! And FBI Special Agent Pete O'Brien was betting that truck didn't have an up-to-date vehicle registration on file with the Idaho DMV!"

See what I mean? And the exclamation points...excuse me?

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. I hope I haven't ruined the ending for anyone who had entertained thoughts about reading this book.

I will probably read another Gimenez book, but I'm going to take a break for a while. Read something with less drama

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Blogger By Any Other (Last) Name.....

With apologies to Billy Shakespeare. And (almost daily now) thanks to my blog pal DJan for giving me the idea for this topic.

I don't know who is responsible for the archaic tradition of women changing their last names, but I wish it had never gotten started. (I guess we are better off in some ways: Now Sally Jones gets to be Sally Smith, where she used to be Mrs. Sammy Smith and she lost both her first AND her last names.)

I liked my maiden name, Williams. I didn't much like being the last one who got called for anything in school, even behind Ronnie Wilkes, but I liked the name. I appreciated having ONE name that I didn't have to spell. When I got married the first time, though, I was so young (21) and stupid (duh) that I loved the novelty of changing my last name. (Told you I was stupid.) I must have thought it was so cool to change my social security card, driver's license, every credit card, bank account, stationery, everything. At least we didn't have email addresses to change back then.

So I became Brock. At least I moved to the beginning of the alphabet, but I was way past the point of having papers returned at that point.

When I married the second time, I should have returned to Williams and never looked back. (I should have skipped the second marriage altogether, but then I might not have met Hubby, so...)

My name became Tiller then. When I went through a bad spell of killing animals on my way to school (I cried for days over the dog, the deer did $2000 worth of damage to my van and ran off LAUGHING, and I swear that chicken committed suicide in front of my car), my high school students started calling me Killer Tiller. I kind of liked that, because most students who heard it didn't know about my animal killing habits and instead thought I was a killer of a teacher. Whatever works.

By the time Hubby and I married, I had come to the conclusion that changing one's name to match her spouse is a chauvinistic institution and I wished I could return to my maiden name. I was afraid, though, that Hubby would be insulted. If I had taken the last names of my other two husbands, why wouldn't I take his? At that point I think it might have been enough to cause some friction between us. If it happened now, I don't think he would care at all. But it's kind of late now to go back.

Katydid's divorce became final recently (after a six-year separation), and she returned to our maiden name. it made me a tiny bit jealous. Her first husband was also a Williams, so it was a LONG time before she ever had to change her last name anyway. Just to add to the confusion, our mother's first name is Carol, and our step-father's last name was Carroll. She still has to explain that one, and spell both names to boot.

My brother says he doesn't understand the fascination with our last name; I get the feeling he would change HIS name if he could.

Like several of the people who commented on DJan's post, I kept my maiden name as my middle name. At least I didn't have to give it up altogether.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Crocheted Placemats....

This is my latest completed crochet project, cotton placemats. They are for next year's NashBash, so don't accuse ME of waiting until the last minute. Ha ha.

I made a set of four placemats for this year's NashBash, and they were so ugly I was embarrassed to take a picture and post it. I made them in earthy colors, and they were supposed to have fringe on them. I couldn't bear the thought of putting enough time into them to put a whole fringe, though, so I stuck a tassel at each of the four corners and pretended not to know who made them when they came up for auction.

I was happier with these. I like the fact that they are round, so if the stitches are slightly off, the shape isn't affected. It could also be that I like these colors better. I haven't decided if it's two sets of four or one set of eight.

I said this would be my last crochet project for a while, because I want to go back to my cathedral window quilt. I would like to have the bold goal of finishing my quilt before this time next year, but to be honest I can't remember how long it takes me to complete a small square/large square/strip. And I've never been retired before, so I don't know how much MORE progress I'll make when I have more time to devote to it. I think the last time I worked on my quilt, I was teaching full-time AND teaching part-time online.


I have a friend who has two boys and a grandson and has always wanted a girl. She is due to be blessed with a granddaughter in August, which is also when her birthday is, so I'm making her a pink baby afghan like the one I made for Lukey Luke. (No, his name isn't really Lukey Luke, but that's what I call him.) My goal for the pink baby afghan is to have it finished before Hubby and I go to Wisconsin at the end of July. That is VERY doable, especially if I have a few more days like today when I do almost nothing productive EXCEPT crochet.

(I did go for a 3-mile hike in the park, but I waited until 2:00 when it was about a thousand degrees, so when I got back all I could do was sit in the air conditioning and recover. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - Mountain Biking......

It's not really fair to call mountain biking a "favorite" of mine, except for the fact that it occurs on a bicycle.

I was forced to take to the trails today because my beloved Jezebel (my road bike) is still in the shop. I didn't want to have a "zero week" on my cycling log, and I had 66 more miles to make my June mileage goal, and I just missed the feeling of cycling after almost a week off the bike.

The state park right across from where we live has some awesome mountain biking trails. They are well-maintained, constantly being redeveloped and upgraded, and they have something for everyone who loves mountain biking: roots, rocks, death-defying downhills and kick-butt uphills, hairpin turns (that just MIGHT throw you into the lake if you don't negotiate them properly, not that such a thing would EVER happen to me a couple of years ago), and some narrow passages between trees that you would swear your handlebars wouldn't go between.

Rozmo and I planned to ride the whole network of trails a couple of years ago. I looked at the maps online and found there were 12 miles of trails (there are more than that now). I remember thinking to myself, "We usually ride 50 or 60 miles. Maybe we can just ride the whole trail network TWICE to get our miles."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

It was all I could do to finish the whole thing the FIRST time, and we didn't even ATTEMPT something called the Monster Mile. Mountain biking is just that different from road biking. I spent part of my ride today thinking of the ways they are different, and while I had an excellent outline prepared in my mind, I'm sure I will leave something out due to the fact that I didn't stop my bike and write the ideas down at the time.


Obviously the bike is different.

This is my mountain bike, which I also refer to sometimes as my "el cheapo" bike. Because I don't do a LOT of mountain biking, I didn't want to sink a lot of money into it. I'd rather save those dollars to buy MORE black spandex shorts for my road bike that look like all the other pairs of black spandex shorts I already have.

I bought this bike at one of the big box sports-themed stores for about $59. (Contrast that to Jezebel, for whom I had to add on a couple of digits, and neither of them was a "1".) It serves its purposes, which are infrequent mountain biking expeditions and riding around campsites when Hubby and I go camping in the RV. The seat is wider, the handlebars are flatter, the tires are wider and knobbier. Something you can't see, especially from this angle, is that there are 3 chain rings (we used to call them "sprockets), which adds some gears I don't have on my road bike. The lower gears come in handy for climbing those steep hills on the mountain bike trails.

I'm not sure if this comes under "equipment" or "clothing," but that thing on my back is called a Camelbak (that's the brand name, but just like Kleenex, it has come to refer to any similar device). My mountain bike doesn't have water bottle cages on it (although there is a place for one), so the only way to carry liquids for rehydrating is on my back. I fill mine with ice and then top it off with water, and the water stays cool for most (if not all) of the ride. It feels a little heavy putting it on at first, but I think it's just because I'm AWARE of the weight because I'm wearing it. I would be carrying the same weight in liquid if I had water bottles, they just wouldn't be on my BODY. If you're not familiar with a Camelbak, it has a tube and a bite valve that is easy to pick up and drink whatever amount of water you need at any given moment. 

I don't typically use a Camelbak, but mountain biking requires it. I also use one when we ride the Silver Comet Trail because there are such long stretches with no access to water. I have also learned to use it when I map long, winding routes in Mississippi that appear to avoid whatever stores might be in the area. 

I don't have a mirror on my mountain bike, because they aren't typically needed. If a bike is behind me on the trail, either I hear it way before it gets to me, or it's irrelevant because there's no place to pass anyway. The only time I missed my mirror was the short half-mile on the road between our subdivision and the entrance to the park. You'd be surprised how many times I looked where my mirror would have been if I had been on my road bike. And in just half a mile! I had to turn right onto a BUSY state highway and then an immediate left into the park entrance, and I kind of freaked out about not having a mirror. So I pulled into a driveway on the right and waited until traffic was clear in both directions.

(I apologize for these shots. Hubby wasn't home, so the best I could do was set the timer on my camera and then try to guess where I should stand in the 10-second interval I had before the shutter snapped.)


I COULD wear the same clothing on my mountain bike that I do on my road bike, but I wore shorts and shirt that were slightly different. I wanted to try out my cool new "canyon" shorts, which are two pieces. The inner piece resembles traditional spandex cycling shorts, with a padded chamois. The outer shell is more like running shorts, complete with POCKETS. I was excited to have pockets on my shorts today. It's the little things that make me happy.

I also chose to wear a t-shirt, albeit a technical or "wicking" t-shirt that I got on a bike ride. We usually wear cycling jerseys that not only wick moisture but also cut down on drag, but I didn't think a jersey was necessary on the trails. Speed isn't really the issue, and if something slowed me down, it wasn't going to be a shirt.

You may not be able to tell, but I was also able to wear regular sneakers instead of cycling shoes. My road bike has "clipless" pedals, into which a cleated shoe snaps and keeps the feet connected to the pedals. Many people also have clipless pedals on their mountain bikes, and I am in awe of those people.

I almost left the gloves off, but I'm glad I put them on at the last minute. They not only pad the hands, they are also helpful for wiping sweat and keeping the hands dry so they don't slip off the handlebars.


I discovered a couple of things about riding itself that were different from road biking. As a cyclist, I am constantly focusing ahead, as far down the road as I can see, to watch for obstacles, cars, bad patches of pavement, or intersections. (I think this has made me a better motorcyclist, and even a better driver.) Riding the trails requires constant vigilance also, but the focus is on what is RIGHT IN FRONT of you. For one thing, the trail isn't visible for more than a few feet. And the obstacles, while they may be smaller, are more numerous: roots, rocks, ruts. I also had watch carefully for hikers/walkers in the park today, because I was riding the same paths Hubby and I usually walk. I didn't want to get on the designated mountain bike trails because they are tough, and there are very few bail-out options. There weren't many hikers out today, so it wasn't a problem. I did wonder one thing, though: There are signs saying bikers should yield to hikers, and I try to do that just to be courteous. But if I come upon a hiker from behind, how can I yield to her? (I guess her better question might be how I could come up from behind her and not scare the crap out of her.)

The difference in pedals also made a slight difference in riding technique, though I wouldn't have been aware of it until today. When I'm climbing a steep hill on my road bike, because my feet are clipped into the pedals, I can pull UP with the opposite foot while I push DOWN with the other. It isn't a strenuous pull, and I wasn't even aware I was doing it. I only noticed I was trying to do that because naturally when I tried to pull UP, my foot lifted OFF the pedal. Not much of a help there.

I'm not sure this goes under the "riding" category, but because I was in the state park, a lot of my ride was in nice shade. (Is that redundant when the temperature is 91 degrees?) It was very peaceful, with twittering birds and the distant drone of an airplane the only sounds I heard at times. I could also twist and wind as much as I wanted to, without worrying about getting miles and miles from home. There was a little bit of a psychological letdown when I ended my ride, because usually when I get back to the parking lot from a walk, I'm finished. On my mountain bike, I still had approximately a mile left - uphill - to ride back home. Not that big a deal.

I'm certainly not SORRY I had to go mountain biking, although those 12 miles today felt like about 50 on the road bike. It won't ever replace road cycling as my favorite outdoors activity, but I guess it'll do as a substitute.

It beats housework any day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Skydiving Days (Part 3).....

Some of my skydiving memories appear in my mind as individual slides from a carousel that someone has dropped and carelessly reassembled. (Does anyone out there even REMEMBER slide carousels?)

I know these things happened, and I can picture where some of them occurred. I just can't always put them in a correct time sequence, and sometimes I can't put them at the correct drop zone.

It would help if I could find my logbook and read some of my jumpmasters' comments (painful though some of them may be). I know I didn't throw it away, heaven forbid, but I couldn't find it last time I went looking for it.

After my first experience with freefall, the sequence was to complete a certain number of "good" jumps at each stage (3 jumps? 5? I can't remember) - 5-second delays, 10-second delays, 15-second delays, etc. My first piece of equipment was my own helmet and goggles, and boy was I proud of them.

Later (much later), I was fitted for a custom-made jumpsuit. I lost custody of that when I (hurriedly) moved out of my ex's house, but I wasn't using it anymore anyway. I loved my jumpsuit. It was mostly blue, with red and yellow accents. (Love those primary colors.) I was embarrassed at having such ... intimate ... parts measured in relation to other parts, but it was a necessary evil if I wanted my own jumpsuit. The same day I was measured for it was the near-disaster that occurred when I couldn't find my ripcord. I was so upset after that occurred that the guy who had fitted me for the jumpsuit (Banks? that name just jumped into my head, and I have no idea whether it's the correct one or not) told me he would hold off on placing the order for a day or two. By the time I got home I had calmed down enough to know I didn't want to stop skydiving, at least not on such a sour note, so I told him to go ahead and place the order.

I wish I had a picture of that jumpsuit. I loved it so much. It was blousy (the style at that time) and had these cool handles for other people to grab during relative work in freefall (more on that later), and it was mine. The first time I wore it was my first-ever stand-up landing under a square canopy. I'm sure THAT'S no coincidence. I wasn't about to risk tearing a hole in the knee of my new jumpsuit. I was also somewhat near the landing zone. Go me!

All this time I was jumping borrowed (or, more accurately, rented) equipment from whatever drop zone I was using at the time. Finally a drop zone opened only about 20 minutes from my house, and I had the opportunity to buy a used rig from a guy who was selling it for his sister. I don't remember if she was giving up skydiving or upgrading her equipment, and I don't think I ever SAW the rig. But for $500 it could be mine, and it just so happened that my ex had won $500 playing the lottery that week and was in a benevolent mood. For once.

So I took the five Benjamins in my hot little hand and made my way to the drop zone, hoping the guy would be there. He was there, all right, and he said he would gladly hold the money until I could get the rest of it.

Do what?

Apparently I had misunderstood, and the total cost of the rig was $800. In those miserable days getting another $300 was something akin to getting water from a rock. But I told him to hold it and I vowed to get the rest even if I had to sell returnable soft drink bottles at the convenience store. Oh wait...we don't have that anymore.

To make a long story even longer, life intervened, and I stopped skydiving before I ever went back for the rig. Got a divorce, moved on, didn't look back. I'm sure the guy would have returned the money, because he seemed like a nice sort, but I never went back for it. Why? I don't know. Perhaps some inner childish spiteful person figured it was the ex's money and enjoyed the fact that it was wasted. But the reasonable person inside (she doesn't show up very often) knew I could have used that money, particularly in the post-divorce days. Oh well. Sometimes when someone mentions wasting money, I say, "Well somewhere I own five-eights of a parachute rig." They don't usually ask me to explain. They just hustle their children away rather quickly.

I didn't mean for this to become a post about equipment, but I'll stop there for tonight. In future posts I'll try to remember to write about my mother helping me pack my parachute, crying when I couldn't pack a rig that was a beeyotch to close, my thirteenth jump that went terribly wrong because I got hung up on the number thirteen, some of Sweet Girl's exploits and comments related to skydiving, the plane crash at a drop zone that was not an accident, having trouble finding east, and my (admittedly minor) injuries related to skydiving.

In the words of one jumpmaster, "The only serious injury is death."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Canada by Richard Ford.....

My apologies, but I interrupt my look back into my skydiving days with a review (sort of) of the most recent book I've read.

Image from

I don't remember what made me want to read this book. Possibly I saw it mentioned in some magazine or the other, but I wouldn't have read a complete review of it. (It's against my personal philosophy to read a review before I read a book. And I hesitate to read a review after I've read a book, because too often I find myself thinking, "Hmph. Didn't get that out of it AT ALL." And I don't need additional reminders that I'm not as smart as I think I am.)

Whatever compelled me to read this book, though, it was important enough that I was willing to PAY for the digital version of it as opposed to A) checking it out of a virtual library; or B) waiting until the price came down. In fact, I PRE-ordered it and then forgot about it until I saw a charge on my credit card statement that I didn't understand. Sigh.

This book is the story of a 15-year-old boy, Dell Parsons, and his twin sister, Berner (isn't THAT a cool name?) whose parents rob a North Dakota bank. Not only do they rob the bank, they do it in a very inexpert manner, getting caught immediately and throwing their children's future lives into chaos and uncertainty. The story is mostly about Dell and how he copes after his parents are imprisoned and his sister runs away.

One of the things I like about this book is the way Ford drops an important piece of information rather unexpectedly at a time when it doesn't fit. For example, he has Dell, the narrator, mention rather offhandedly and informally that his mother committed suicide in prison, but it is pages and pages and pages (or clicks and clicks and clicks) later that it is mentioned again. These tidbits aren't exactly spoilers; I guess in an odd way they have the opposite effect, to make you want to keep reading.

I couldn't quite put my finger on how I would characterize Ford's writing throughout most of the book. His sentence structure and word choice were challenging but not frustrating. Here are a couple of examples. Keep in mind, I chose these not for the meaning they impart, but for the structure.

There is much to learn here from the game of chess, whose individual engagements are all part of one long engagement seeking a condition not of adversity or conflict or defeat or even victory, but of the harmony underlying all.

I learned that things made only of words and thoughts can become physical acts.

It finally occurred to me when I was almost finished with the book that the style (at least to me) is very similar to Faulkner. Except that Ford didn't create sentences that went on for pages and pages on end, thank you very much for that. His descriptions are thorough - very, very, very, very thorough. Similar to one of my favorite writers, Anne Rivers Siddons, Ford has a knack for making a story's setting become almost one of the characters.

I haven't read anything else by Ford, but apparently he has written a series of novels including The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day - the first novel to win the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award (SURPRISE!!) - and The Lay of the Land. I may try to read that series, but I need to give it some time first. My brain is tired.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Skydiving Days (Part 2).....

**I have no idea how many parts this will be. I may not post them all consecutively either. Just in case you care.**

You can read Part 1 here, if you just wandered by and don't know how you landed on Part 2.

I don't remember making a conscious decision to go back to the drop zone after my first jump. I'm sure I wanted to get it right, but I also didn't just want it to be something I had DONE.

It wasn't convenient for me to go skydiving. As I mentioned in Part 1, it was a drive of about two hours. And my car didn't have air conditioning. It also wasn't cheap, and I was a poor college student. But I went any Saturday I could afford it and had the time to go, and sometimes if I were particularly flush I might turn around and drive back down there on Sunday.

I don't know why it never occurred to me to buy a tent and just camp out at the drop zone. I'm sure other people did it. I was single and had no pets or other obligations, and it would have been cheaper than driving back and forth. It may even have saved enough money for an additional jump. Maybe I thought camping was something you only did in the woods. Who knows.

I mentioned in last night's post that I wish I had had DJan as a skydiving instructor. It may not be fair to characterize the people who taught me skydiving as bad instructors. I also wasn't a very good student. I didn't ask questions (mainly because I didn't know WHAT to ask), but I did sit and absorb. There is a LOT of sitting-around time at a drop zone. Waiting for your turn to load. Waiting for your jumpmaster to come back from HIS jump and sign off on your logbook. Waiting for there to be a full load of students. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I listened (eavesdropped?) a lot, but I didn't have any way to know how useful the information I was absorbing was.

I'm not sure how it worked at other drop zones, but the manner in which students were assigned jumpmasters (who became informal "instructors," the only kind we had after that first one-day class) seemed to be random. I think some of those guys (and they were ALL guys) just agreed to be a jumpmaster because it meant either a free or reduced jump for them.

I remember my first freefall jump (besides the ones immediately following static-line jumps, where you pulled the ripcord immediately). It was supposed to be a 5-second delay, and I understood how to count one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand. But I didn't know WHEN I was supposed to do that. Our jump sequence was Arch, Look (at the ripcord), Reach, Pull. Now it seems intuitive to realize the 5-second delay would take place in the Arch step, where you arched your back to achieve stability in freefall, but I wasn't very intuitive. And skydiving wasn't an intuitive activity. No one ever told me when the 5-second delay was supposed take place, and there we were in the shed, waiting to load the plane. I finally took the reins and asked a guy who was along on the load with us, but he was NOT the one who was my jumpmaster. Was I wrong to ask the wrong person? Probably. But the guy who WAS my jumpmaster was a little scary to me, and I found the other guy more approachable. Maybe it shouldn't matter who answered the question. I got my answer, I completed the jump (successfully, I assume), and I went on to jump many more times. The imparting and receiving of knowledge and instruction, however, was haphazard at best.

I never felt part of the group at that drop zone, and part of that may be my fault too. I felt like a rookie ALWAYS, and I think I had a little bit of the "impostor syndrome." I was afraid if I spoke up or asked questions, I would reveal myself for a fraud who didn't belong there. So I sat quietly apart, but in retrospect that may have looked like arrogance at worst, aloofness at best.

I did learn the most useful piece of information related to skydiving during this period. We were sitting around eating and drinking (no alcohol allowed until every last plane was tied down, and they were NOT joking about that), and a student asked one of the experienced guys, "How long before I stop being scared?" My ears perked up because I had wondered that too. Every single time they opened the door of that airplane, my heart hammered and my mouth went dry.

The guy answered, "The day you can jump out of a perfectly good airplane and not be scared, you need to hang up your rig and do something else."

That made me feel so much better.

To be continued.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Skydiving Days (Part 1)......

I have written a couple of blog posts about my days as a (sort of) skydiver. One was here, an occasion that might have ended my skydiving career earlier if I had had any sense. Or, on the other hand, been less lucky.

This post, by the way, was inspired by my blog pal DJan, who wrote this past Sunday about her days as a skydiving instructor. I never made it far enough to become an instructor, and something tells me I would have been a better skydiver if I had had instructors like DJan.

I think I was enthralled with the idea of jumping out of airplanes as soon as I knew what airplanes were. Maybe sooner. I remember playing on the swings at the playground and being disappointed they didn't go higher. I wanted to jump out of the swings, but I didn't want it to hurt. (It usually did.) Skydiving was one of those things that I didn't realize common folk like me might have access to.

One day when I was in college, I ran into a guy with whom I went to high school. We were both in Mrs. Marshall's 4th period math class. Apropos of absolutely nothing, this is my fondest memory of Greg: The headline in the newspaper was proclaiming that costs associated with building a certain dam in eastern Georgia had exceeded expectations. For several days, Greg kept looking at that headline and shaking his head, muttering, "Dam costs go up." Even Mrs. Marshall eventually got tired of it, and she was pretty patient.

Okay, back to the point. See why this will probably be Part 1?

Greg told me he had gone skydiving at this little place about two hours from our hometown. He left a note on my car one day with a drawing of a parachute on it, and we might have gone to the drop zone together if A) he had picked the right apartment; and B) if it hadn't taken me two weeks to figure out what the drawing was.

Greg and I couldn't make our schedules work out, so I made plans to go alone. I know, right? And keep in mind, this is in the days before the internet. I had to find out the name of the place, call them on the actual TELEPHONE, get some fairly vague directions, and then figure out how to get there. Good thing I was pretty handy with a map.

I went through the training program (many people were shocked that it only took one day) without knowing anyone else there. I had a tense moment or two at the beginning, which I wrote about in this early blog post. We jumped military-style round canopies in those days, and we had to learn how to do PLF's - parachute landing falls. We jumped off a little platform over and over and over again, practicing how to land on the balls of our feet, roll to the sides of our calves and the upper thigh on one side, then roll to that shoulder and over backward if necessary. Our jumps at the beginning were static-line jumps, just like you see in the old war movies (except we were sitting down), with a line from the parachute attached to a ring in the floor of the plane. There was no question of pulling the ripcord or not pulling it; when you ran out of line, that baby was coming open. Students had to have 5 good static-line jumps (I had to do 6) before they were allowed to jump and pull their own ripcords.

The little Cessna 182's we jumped out of had no seats. There was room for four skydivers and their gear and one jumpmaster. I don't remember what position I was in my first time, but I wasn't first. I had lots of time on the way to altitude to think about what I was doing. Lots and lots and lots of time. I remember the name of my first jumpmaster - Hugh Aul. (I thought it was funny because it sounded like "You All" and even he commented as such.)

When it was my turn, Hugh let me know we were at altitude and flying on the approach line. Then he told the pilot to cut the engine (they didn't really "cut" it, but slowed it down tremendously), and he opened the door. His next command was for me to sit in the door. I had to put one foot on the step and leave the other one danging. When he said "Go!" I was supposed to put my weight on the step, reach out for the wing strut and hang there for just a second, then release and allow gravity and the static line to take over. I remember sitting in the door and thinking to myself, "What in the world have I gotten myself into?" When Hugh said "Go!" the first time, I froze. He clapped me on the shoulder then and said "GO!" again. I would like to emphasize here that he did NOT push me out. I don't think any of the jumpmasters there would have pushed any student out.

My exit was fairly weak (that's why I had to do 6 jumps before being cleared for freefall), but it wasn't long before I saw that glorious round canopy over my head. I did remember the steering toggles (although they didn't really steer, they just turned the canopy into or with the wind), and I looked down and spotted the arrow on the drop zone. This particular drop zone didn't have radios at that time, so the only way they could communicate with student jumpers was a huge wooden arrow they would spin around to indicate which way we should turn our canopies. It was an inexact science, but most of us found our way near the landing zone if not on it. I don't even remember where I landed that first jump. I do remember it was nearing sundown, and the view from above was stunning.

I was gathering up my canopy when another girl from my class (there weren't many of us) came back from her landing. Someone nearby asked her how it was.

"Oh man, it was beautiful! Gorgeous! Breathtaking! I can't believe how cool that was!" the words just spilled out of her one on top of another.

The person asked her, "Are you going to jump again?"

"HELL NO!" she replied.

I did jump again. I had a total of 66 jumps spread out over a period of about 14 years, with a couple of long breaks in between.

When people find out I used to be a skydiver, sometimes they ask why I quit. My answer is always, "Because I wasn't very good at it."

To be continued...

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I was reluctant to use Facebook for a long time. I'm still not one of those people who post every single move they make ("Having a sandwich..." "Watching a movie..." "Cleaning the refrigerator), but I am interacting more and more with friends.

We could argue the pros and cons of social networking all day long, and I'm not sure I would have a fiercely strong opinion one way or the other. Just like anything else related to technology (perhaps anything related to ANYTHING), social networks have their uses. And just like anything else, people will misuse/abuse/confuse it according to their own needs/wants.

That's not what I'm here for.

The whole idea of "accepting" or "ignoring" friend requests causes me a little discomfort. It's hard for me to "friend" someone just because we happened to go to high school together. If we never shared a joke or studied together or marched in the band or had a class together, I'm not sure we have a whole lot to talk about on Facebook. But I feel mean ignoring requests. I realize the person doesn't get something from Facebook that says, "Oh, by the way, Bragger doesn't WANT to be your FB friend," but it still feels ... I don't know ... middle schoolish. Like when mean girls gang up together and decide someone else isn't worthy to be in the group. After a while I guess the person who made the request realizes you never responded, and sometimes he or she might make the request again.

There was one person I absolutely refused to "friend" on FB. She is the ex-wife of my niece's husband, and why she kept requesting to be my friend I'll never know. We have absolutely nothing in common other than this tenuous second-marriage link (oh, and she wanted me to sing at her wedding but that's another story), so why would we want to communicate on FB? She and my niece get along fine ... now ... but they had a very rocky beginning when my niece and her husband (and the FB person's EX-husband) got married, and some very mean things were said. If my niece wants to be nice to her for the children's sake, that's all well and good, and I admire her for it. But I don't have to be her friend.

I've "unfriended" a couple of people lately, and while I felt my actions were completely justified, it still felt wrong. Sort of like those notes in the fourth grade when you wrote and told someone you didn't like him or her anymore. Just mean.

One unfriending was a former student. I like the girl okay, and it's not that her posts were offensive in any way, there were just so darn many OF them. Every time I opened Facebook, there would be a string of something like 10 different posts from this same girl. Sometimes they were poetry (not very good) that she had written, sometimes they were song lyrics (other people's), sometimes they were just random thoughts. If I remember correctly, random thoughts were about the best this girl could do. I didn't want her posts trashing up my page, so I unfriended her. Is that justifiable?

I unfriended another former student because his language was offensive and his posts revealed details about his life I'm better off not knowing. Is it wrong of me to choose not to know some things? I unfriended another one because she wrote entirely in slang, and the English teacher in me just can't handle that. I will occasionally throw an "ain't" out there, but to write constantly in slang is borderline criminal. Or stupid. Or both.

I also unfriended a guy with whom I graduated from high school because he insisted on posting his personal political views. It's okay with me if he wants to share his views with the world, but I keep mine to myself. And if I don't want to read his, does that make me a bad person?

I guess it would hurt my feelings if some of my FB "friends" suddenly unfriended me, and if I realized it, I would want to know why. But I probably wouldn't ask. I would just stew about it and feel icky.

Maybe "unsocial networking" would be a better term for these relationships.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Mojo Was Hiding One County Over.....

What a difference a day makes. Today's ride was awesome in every way a ride can be awesome.

I wasn't sure how I would feel this morning after yesterday's episode of punkness (I just made that word up). I was also suspicious of my back tire, since air doesn't typically just LEAK out of a tire and pumping it up shouldn't have been enough to "fix" the problem. It was a little low this morning, so I pumped it up again, but I didn't think I had enough time to get it changed, so I just took off on my bike with the tire in question.

I realize that is completely illogical.

Today's ride was one county over from where we live, so it wasn't QUITE as painful when they said they wanted us rolling by 7:10 AM. (That turned out to be a lie anyway. We did a lot of standing around, even after we were staged at the start line.) I would have expected the terrain to be similar to what I encounter on my rides around home, so I was prepared for some hills.

I was pleasantly surprised. There were no major hills, but mostly rolling "bumps" instead. I averaged 18 mph to the first rest stop (where we didn't stop), and I averaged 16 mph over the entire ride. Thirteen yesterday, 16 today. I don't get it. But I'll take it.

The only complaint I have to offer is that there were no porta-potties at either Rest Stop #3 or #4. The lady at #3 said we weren't supposed to go inside the church, but I saw people going in and out, presumably to use the restroom. Because she had told us we weren't supposed to, though, I didn't go in. I'm not sure why I follow SOME rules SOME of the time. Rest Stop #4 didn't have any restrooms either, and the building wasn't open, so Rozmo and I decided we would find a spot on the side of the road. We never did, though, and we made it all the way to the end without experiencing any discomfort.

My shifter broke about 6 miles from the end of the ride, so I couldn't change gears. Naturally I was in my HARDEST gear, and it didn't take much of a hill to make me appreciate those other gears that I couldn't use. I had to stand up and grind it out, but I made it to the end. After a wonderful post-ride meal (in an air-conditioned building, thank you ride organizers), I really wanted to come straight home. But I did the grown-up thing (?) and took my bike to the shop. I didn't even care that I was still wearing cycling shorts and didn't have a hat to put on my helmet-haired head. I put on the event t-shirt from today's ride and marched in that bike store like I looked normal. Perhaps to them I did, in which case I feel very sorry for them.

It was a beautiful day weather-wise, warm but not brutally so. The route was very rural and scenic, and it even went by the house where my father lived when he died. I didn't stop to take a picture because presumably the woman to whom he was married when he died (I refuse to call her my step-mother. We usually refer to her as Charlotte the Harlot.) still lives there, and I didn't want her to swoop down the driveway on her broom. Sorry.

I'm especially glad that my cycling mojo wasn't gone forever. I just hope it hangs around long enough for my bike to come home from the shop. I miss it already.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Don't Know Where My Mojo Went....

My cycling mojo, that is. I'm sure I had it last week, even in all the hills and the rain and the long days of riding. I must have misplaced it sometime this week, when my cycling was curtailed early in the week due to rainy weather and late in the week due to pure laziness.

I finally got back on the bike today, and it wasn't one of my better riding days. It wasn't TRAGIC or DISASTROUS by any means, but parts of it weren't fun. When I first left home, my rear tire was flat. Of course it was the rear; that one is a beeyotch to change. I decided to pump it up and see if it held (thank goodness, it did) because I really, really didn't want to change it myself. And I would have had to change it, because I'm signed up for a 64-miler tomorrow.

I rode familiar roads, some of which we traveled on BRAG last week. I came to the top of one booger of a hilly road (but not a killer), and I stopped to rest. Everything started to go black around the edges, and I thought I was going to pass out. I needed to sit down, but there was nothing nearby, and I was already standing among some very pissed-off ants. I had ridden 8.35 miles. I thought there was no way I could get back on that bike, and I didn't have any options for rescue. Hubby was playing golf, Sullen Teenager is babysitting, mother-in-law is incapacitated, Warrior Princess was at work. I drank some G2 and rested a while, and it got better. But I still didn't feel 100%.

I'm pretty sure it was a blood sugar issue. I haven't had one of those spells on the bike in a couple of years, but I think it's related to eating. I had my normal breakfast of yogurt and granola, but I didn't eat enough protein to hold my blood sugar. Plus it was almost 11:00 AM by the time I left, so I probably should have eaten again before I left.

I stopped again at a little church that has become one of my favorite resting spots, with a bench in the shade and a water spigot if I need it. I was feeling better, so I added more mileage and eventually stopped at a store where I had another bottle of G2 and a granola bar. I made it through the rest of the ride with no further incidents, but my average speed absolutely SUCKED. I usually manage to average above 14 mph around home, but today my average was 13.2. I try not to obsess about those things, but I have to have SOME kind of tool by which to gauge and compare rides.

When I got home (it was going to be 39.8 miles, so of course I turned around and did an extra loop to round up to 40), I was wiped out. I feel like someone has beat me with a stick. And I still have that 64-miler looming tomorrow, a local ride with terrain similar to today's.

I think a good night's sleep (and a better breakfast) will make a world of difference. If not, I'm not above settling for fewer miles tomorrow.

I think.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Color of Law by Mark Gimenez.....

Image from
This book was my first attempt to download an electronic book from my local library. It actually comes from Amazon, but I had to put in my library card i.d., and I have no idea how all that works. I thought I had not followed the instructions correctly, and I got frustrated with the whole process, but then I noticed the book showed up on my iPad. I know, right? I got an email a couple of days ago warning me that my online book was about to "expire," and I'm curious how THAT works as well. Will it just disappear off my iPad? Will someone leave a wreath? I guess I'll find out.

This was a legal novel (duh, Bragger) set in Dallas. It was very much like John Grisham's novels, with a less-than-powerful lawyer taking on the big guys. The main character, A. Scott Fenney, is a ladder-climbing corporate lawyer who finds himself unexpectedly (and unpredictably and probably unreasonably) appointed to defend a black prostitute accused of murdering the son of a U.S. Senator. A former SMU star running back, Fenney approaches law the same way he attacked football games, with the goal of winning no matter what the means.

I found one spelling error (the same one appeared twice, actually), and that always affects my opinion of a book. The word "discretely" was used when it should have been "discreetly," and I was surprised because most of the time that error occurs just opposite. The word "discretely" is so seldom used that I was surprised to see it used instead of the correct word.

Grammar snobbery aside, this book was thoroughly enjoyable to read. I don't want to spoil the ending, so I won't. I thought the characters were well developed, the plot was carried out effectively without either confusing or patronizing the reader, and the legal scene was described in a way that exposed its foibles and downright corruption, but it didn't leave me with a feeling of complete and utter hopelessness (as so many legal-type novels often do).

The most enjoyable part of the whole book to me was the relationship between the lawyer Fenney and his daughter, Boo. Apropos of absolutely nothing, Fenney was described in the book as having blond hair, and I just can't make him blond in my mind.

I don't think I've ever used the word "foible" in a blog post before. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fears Allayed......

When I decided to retire, I understood that my retirement pay would be 60% of the average of my highest two years of teaching. I could do the math pretty easily, but I also knew there would be some deductions NOT taken out anymore (professional membership dues, Teachers' Retirement) and some ADDITIONAL deductions (health insurance). I wasn't sure what the net amount would look like, and if there's anything I don't like, it's uncertainty.

I also knew my retirement check would go up slightly after the first month or so, however long it takes to figure out my final sick leave days. I officially retired with something like 29.556 years, but my accrued sick days make up more than the fraction needed to bring it up to the required 30 years. But they can't figure that out AHEAD of time, because I might do something sneaky and get sick for the last two months of the school year, so they have to wait until the year is over.

To make a long story short, I got online today to check on my retirement, and it said the first check would be in the mail this Friday. And it's more than I thought it would be. A lot more.


I wasn't ready to start pounding the pavement looking for a job or anything, I just wanted a clear(er) picture of how much I would have to tighten my belt. I'm relieved to know that it won't require much tightening at all. At least until September, when I start having to pay for insurance for both me and Hubby.

Plus I will start getting retirement checks this month but still be paid the rest of my regular teaching salary through the end of August.

I certainly won't be rich, but so far I don't have to scratch any bike rides off the list. At least not the local ones. The ride in Hawai'i and the one in France may have to wait a while.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Photos.......

Here are some more photos, this time from our family reunion this past weekend. I'm not really being too lazy to write.


I'm not.

I do, after all, have to write the captions.

My great-nephew, Wyatt. This is the baby who weighed 10 lbs 2 ounces at birth. He is an incredibly good-tempered baby, and I'm not just saying that because he's related to me.

My cousin Chris, who lives next door to the marsh house I want to buy. He also organized last year's reunion and this year's, and he did a darn fine job of it. He's modeling the NashBash t-shirt for this year; the mannequin (?) in the background shows what the back looks like.

The picture doesn't do this justice. This piece of "driftwood" hangs over the television in Chris's house. He and his partner found it while they were out exploring the marsh one day, and they had to have it. They had to use three levels of scaffolding to hang the thing, and it weighs somewhere between 200-300 pounds.

I may have posted this exact same shot last year. This is the abandoned rail trestle about 2 miles from Palm Key. We put our kayaks in here and paddled around for a little while.

My nephew Paul (all 6'8" or 6'9" of him) and his daughter Rylie. She couldn't stop talking about her kayaking expedition.

What a cool father-daughter thing to do.

My sweet girl and my granddog Daisy. Daisy was NOT all about the kayaking.

Loading the kayaks and canoes back onto the truck for the short trip back home. These cousins took off kayaking from where we held the reunion, but the tide went out and there was no way for them to get back.

Cousins, Rylie and Alycia.

I took a gazillion pictures of the sunrise over Palm Key, and this one was the best shot. I'm a pitiful photographer. I need lessons. Now.

The group we refer to fondly as The Elders. Sisters Jo, Mary (Jane), Carol (my mom), Patti, and Rosie. Uncle Danny (they FINALLY got a boy) is in the back.

The whole fam damily. At least the ones who attended this year's NashBash.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I wrote VERY briefly last Thursday about the fact that Katydid found a snake in my car as we were loading it for the weekend trip.

In retrospect, I don't think it was ever IN the car. I have a running board, and I think when Katydid opened the back door, it crawled up onto the inside of the door. Then it crawled up onto the inside of the front door. Then it crawled up into the engine compartment, and we couldn't find it after that.

It was a black snake with some gray markings, and I know, I know, I know, everyone tells me that black snakes are "good" snakes and they do a lot of good. They don't, however, do my blood pressure much good. I just can't wrap my head around the fact that they may be "good." In my world, the only "good" snake is a dead snake.

Hubby was fairly late coming home from his weekend golf trip, and it was POURING rain when he got home. He rushed in the door, and I thought he was yelling (sort of) due to the rain.

"Have you looked on the porch?" he asked.

Ironically, when Hubby drove up, I was in the process of looking for my camera. I later found it in the car. If I had gone to the car BEFORE Hubby got home and had seen this bad boy on the porch when I came back, I would STILL be standing out there. In the rain.

This isn't a very good shot. I wanted to get a shot of his head, but he was moving on. You can tell he is a fairly large (at least long) snake. I can't swear it's the same fella who was in (on) my car last Thursday, but I would like to believe it is the same one. Mainly because I don't want to think we are overrun with snakes. I asked Hubby to kill this one, not really wanting him to but thinking that was what I was supposed to say, and Hubby refused because it is a "good" snake. (It's also because Hubby is just as afraid of snakes as I am, but don't tell him I said that.)

And then we have this guy.

This is Chico's "baby." You may remember that Chico is Katydid's dog, a chihuahua. I think this baby is bigger than Chico is.

The baby went missing at the end of BRAG, and Katydid couldn't find it anywhere in the RV. It wasn't a high priority, so she said she would buy him a new one later.

I found it wrapped in the sheets when I was taking them OUT of the washer and putting them into the dryer. But I only saw part of the baby and had a paralyzing fear that it was a snake or some other sort of critter in the washing machine.

It may be a while before my pulse returns to normal. A girl can only take so much wildlife in one week.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Some BRAG Pictures.....

Because I was using a connect card to access the internet on BRAG last week, it got wonky when it came to uploading pictures. I'll upload some now with captions. It would be better if they were with the descriptions of each day's ride, but oh well...

The sun rises on our little RV village on the first day of the ride. That second RV was occupied with a bunch of guys with Roll Tide and Alabama flags everywhere, but since they helped fix my refrigerator/propane problem, I turned a blind eye.

We didn't really NEED the sign for "Start." But the orange directional arrows (at the bottom) are a tremendous help on each day's route. Someone goes out at the end of the day and puts out the signs for the next day.

One of the many, many monuments in Chickamauga National Battlefield. Our course wound around and around this park, but it was well worth it.

There were a bunch of these in the battlefield park. Humans apparently don't bother them too much.

Another monument

I must have a bajillion of these rest stop photos. I don't know any of the people in the photo, but I feel compelled to take at least one of these every year.

This photo is a little blurry, but I thought it was humorous enough to circle back and snap it while I was riding. Not many things can make me circle back. Dropping my computer/water bottle/chapstick, seeing humorous signs, seeing what Rozmo is taking a photo of are some of the few.

I'm not sure where this was, but I thought it picturesque enough to stop and snap it for posterity.

Chico in his playpen (or cell, however you want to look at it). He is a very good traveling dog.

Kelley Girl. Also a teacher and a dog lover. She also has chickens in her yard. She lives in Metro Atlanta. I know, right?

Children dancing at the street party in Dalton.

Grown-ups dancing at the street party in Dalton. Fred wanted me to dance with him, but he said it would have to be a slow one. (So what's he doing with Debi, huh?) I conveniently went and bought a frozen yogurt just in case a slow song came on.

A shy critter at one of our rest stops. He ran as soon as I took his picture. Funny how he's the same color as everything around him.

While I was on the route, I almost circled back to get a photo of this ... dam? ... And felt foolish when I realized our rest stop was right beside it.

Some Kodak moments aren't as inspiring when I'm not on the bike. Sometimes I can't remember why I stopped to take the photo. Maybe just to stop.

I've ridden in several BRAGs with  Doug. He teaches music therapy at one of the colleges. We only know each other through BRAG, yet we feel comfortable enough with each other to share a chapstick. And take photos like this one.

I've seen this "castle" many times over the years because it's on the way to Frogger Blogger's house. This is an actual residence, complete with a swimming pool "moat" around it. I was going for a regal wave in this pose, but it came off looking kind of ... stupid.

Rozmo is VERY cold-natured, but she also refuses to put anyone out. On the night we went to Frogger Blogger's house for dinner (and Frogger Blogger is very HOT-natured), she asked for two paper towels. Frogger is much too polite to ask why Rozmo needed them, but when we discovered she had wrapped her feet in them, we about rolled on the ground with laughter.

I declined the opportunity to have my picture made with my Century Bandana right after I completed it. One year I told the ride director, "To heck with need to be handing out hairbrushes to people who ride 100 miles."

My proof that I rode 100 miles. Make that 103.84 miles.

Riding across Buford Dam.

Another water shot. Sigh.

Miles is our BRAG photographer. He has been taking pictures of me for 21 years, and occasionally I like to get a photo of him. He was (obviously) in a silly mood on this day.

Miles says he made a ton of money in the 70's getting girls to pose like this. I didn't ask him to elaborate.
I also have some pictures of the weekend with the family, lovingly known as NashBash. I will save those for tomorrow night, and as a bonus I will include some wildlife photos that give me the heeby-jeebies.

Or however you spell that.