28 March, 2009

A Quick Visit to Texas

Here they are in the backseat...

Visited my folks in Texas today. Woke up at 3 am, woke up Maricel, took Ruby (per previous blog, we were relinquishing her to my awesome folks) and off we go the day after a huge spring storm closed many school districts in our state.

We leave so early, I had to take a nap or run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. That's not going to happen, got some precious cargo today kids. So we crash out in Pueblo.

My biggest concern was this high mountain pass called Raton pass which is named after the border town of NM. This is notoriously nasty after any snow storm. Deservedly today was no exception. I'm surprised they didn't shut it down. People were slip sliding all the place. I would've taken a picture of it but I needed both hands on the wheel to stay on the ice covering the pass. It was crazy. I kept in 4wd and went at chill speed. Needless to say some people didn't and they found themselves either off in a ditch or high curbed in the median. Crazy tykes.

Our usual route is to take NM highway 64/87 through the Mt Capulin volcano stretch of prime ranch land(s) towards Clayton, NM. As were making good time a State Patroler said this stretch of highway is closed to 2-3" of ice blanketing a good part of the highway and will plan to reopen around noon. we get there around 8:30 a.m. I was thinking, this is some bullshit after risking life and limb going up Raton and waking up early this morning to sit for four-ish hours? I don't think so Dudly Dooright. I call my father in-law Bob for a detour. He says continue south on I-25 to a town called Springer, NM. NM dept. of transportation didn't list this as closed to due weather but it said it had icy patches; and he continued if you stay on this it'll dump you onto Clayton, NM and onto Texas where their roads were open.

Sho nuff it worked but I didn't go very fast because it was pretty icy. A route that takes normally 2H took about 3 going a max of 55 mph. Oh well, it did get me to Clatyon and onto Texas. Speaking of which, this part of Texas is considered to be the panhandle. The part where Texas gets the brunt of the cold fronts. Took some interesting pictures here. Cows on the highway...

...slush and ice covering the highway...

...and some abandoned vehicles.

Nutty. I'm grateful that my brother in-law Scotty helped me do the brakes a week before the trip. I was foolish for neglecting my brakes for that long...

There was a rest stop outside Quanah, TX with some interesting signage...

...needless to say Maricel didn't want to play. Go figure.

When I finally arrive it's absolutely great seeing my folks. My Dad was in the hospital for surgery and seeing him in the hospital was great. It made the nerve-wracking drive feel like a Sunday drive. He was in such great spirits and recovering so well, I was just grateful for modern technology. It was late when we got in Saturday so we were pretty wiped out after seeing him and Maricel and I crashed.

Sunday, my Dad was released after the CAT scan revealed nothing. Before that though we visited him in the morning with some Starbucks and I put some new tunes on his iPod as he-we-waited for the Dr.'s decision to release him. Sunday dinner was great! We had some take-out from a Vietnamese restaurant and drank some tasty Belgium beer called St. Bernardus.

Nothing like eating a nice dinner and drinking quality beer with the family! It's like icing on the cake really. Here Maricel and I were hanging out with my folks talking as if we were all living under the same roof as if my Dad never had surgery. Nothing like getting reacquainted with your folks face-to-face. Yeah the phone's great but nothing substitutes conversations over a sit down dinner. Since we were technically on vacation I told Maricel that I wouldn't bust her chops too bad if she wanted to stay up late, watch those silly cartoons, and that the junk food ban would be temporarily lifted as well. My Mom was exponentially gracious when we were there. I can't repeat enough how grateful I was just being there and seeing my Dad recover so well and just hanging out with both my parents was almost surreal. I help my folks running some some errands and help my Dad's computer be less cluttered with junk files (it runs soooo slow). He bought an external HD and I put his pictures (he has a digital SLR and each picture's like 4 megabytes) and other files that occupy major bits of memory on it. It seems to run quicker. I also brought my external HD and I put all the songs from my iTunes library onto his library that I thought he and Mom would like (Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams Sr., Stravinsky...etc.).

The flipside to all this was leaving Ruby behind the next day. It was difficult to drive away seeing a dog we raised as an altricial puppy, dependent on us for its well-being and it's disposition now as a large, adult, gentle soul (except towards Addie). I tried not to cry in front of her but as we got further down the alley Maricel and I lost it quietly for a rather long time. Earlier that day my Mom bought her a teddy-dog and I put Ruby's original collar and her dog tag on the teddy-dog. On the way out of town, whenever the teddy-dog was moved her dog-tag clinked. Every time it clinked we thought Ruby was in the back seat of my truck like old times. I called my folks after we get a hotel room and Dad's out back with Ruby to make her go potty before sleep. He said whenever a car went by in the alley Ruby gets excited thinking it's me and Maricel returning to get her. AAAhhhhhh! That of course gently breaks my heart hearing that. Ruby now gets a family that's devoted to one dog--her--and retired as well so that she doesn't go for long blocks of time with absentee owners (like us). My Dad loves her and Ruby I know, over time, will grow to love my Mom and Dad back. I just wonder if she feels betrayed by us not coming back to get her. We feel awful about that and we'll never forget her. I talk about Ruby to see if it would be therapeutic to talk about it but instead Maricel asks me to talk about something else. I can respect that. The car gets quiet for a while because I don't believe in small talk and our minds are just in disbelief of Ruby's situation.

As a coping mechanism, since we're so in tuned with the dog tag clink and it gets our minds thinking of Ruby again, I come up with this: everytime we hear the clink, it's because Ruby and Maricel and me are all thinking of each other at the same time. We like this. It makes us feel better rather than sad.

It was a very emotional, grateful, humbling, and appreciative 2.5 days being with my folks and travelling and hanging out with my eldest daughter. What a weekend...

I need to start racing my bike again weather permitting to get my mind distracted. It's been snowing like a muthuh up here every weekend.

Wednesday, Melissa and I are hanging it out with my brother Neil in San Diego. That'll be cool.

23 March, 2009

An Ode For My Dear Ruby

well kids, 'tis with a heavy heart i write this blog. we're going to visit my folks this saturday-that's not the sad part-to relinquish our beloved ruby to them. what brought this about is ruby's alpha-ness. whenever she smells the faintest hint of our other dog-addie-being vulnerable she attacks her. not the-i'm-going-to-annoy you-and-chomp-on-your-ears but going for the throat kill. unfortunately professional training help hasn't helped this and she did it again in front of the kids. not cool. other than this fatalistic flaw, she's a good pet, here's why:
we got her as an 11 week-old. she sat on melissa's lap on her ride home to her new house. she slept in a recycling bin in my daughter's room. as ruby got older she became another sister to my daughter maricel. maricel dressed her up in all manner of clothes, used ruby as a makeshift throw-pillow and wherever maricel would sleep, ruby would curl up and sleep next to her.

faithful and nary a complaint from ruby. well heeled on single walks. obeys to vocal and whistle commands. took all manner of abuse from the children. cat-friendly and loved humans. wish she could've loved her other dog companion. happy, happy dog. had the happy tail from hell whenever she saw a family member or extended family member.

we've cried many tears coming to a decision to which dog to take to mom and dad's. my folks said that even though addie has the medical issues they'd take her because they didn't want to break ruby and maricel up. for instance, when my folks went vacationing with us to lake tahoe, they noticed how inseparable these two were. so needless to say, the hardest part was telling maricel of our decision. oooh-weeeee did we bawl! i mean openly weeping sitting on top of maricel's little girly twin bed (and that was just me!!). damn. the first thing she said is we need to start taking pictures of her. maricel started picking assorted toys on her bed where ruby would contact just to see if she could still smell ruby on them. that was really important to her, ruby's scent on her bed and the other stuffed animals that sit there. maricel also told me she's going to miss the way ruby hogs the bed when they sleep and that she's going to miss her sleeping companion. she also said she's going to miss the way ruby sits down in front of her and brings her huuuge forepaw up to her shoulder for ruby's daily chest petting. ruby is by far the mellowest and easiest to transition because of her easy going ways. addie has some medical issues and it wouldn't be fair to my mom and dad to saddle them with this. also addie kinda goofs on cats and my folks have cats so that wouldn't be good. we also rescued addie from a shelter so to abandon her twice would be ethically savage.

i told maricel i'll have her pick a huge teddy-dog (ruby's about a 100 pounds) of the same golden color of ruby with a picture of those two in an embrace on her collar. i also told her i'll buy ruby a new collar so that she can save the old one that's on her now (so she can rub it against her face and smell ruby's scent). i again said we can send her treats during christmas and go visit her during the summer. we'll call her and ask lolo (that's filipino for grandfather) to put ruby on speaker-phone.

the other option is to give her up to a pound where we'd never know her fate. i'm extremely grateful my parents can do this (they're dog lovers too and currently dog-less); but nonetheless particularly and singularly sad.

the thing that's going to be the hardest pill to swallow (and most likely bring me to tears again) is the mental image i have of her when we leave to go back to colorado. that is: of her quietly and obediently sitting alertly, with those huuuuge, big, brown, sad-eyes in the foyer just inside the front door of my parent's house, faithfully waiting and listening for any sound of us coming to get her to become part of our family again after a brief moment of separation; or her constantly searching around corners to see where we are--waiting for that pat on her head that says, everything is as it was before, little ruby...

...but it's not; and that's why i'm--we're--going to miss you immeasurably my little ruby...

14 March, 2009

A $15 non-Brazilian, Butt-Waxing. What A Deal!

ah yeah freakadelics!!!!! just returned from the first race of the season: a 1-2-3 criterium. here's the cliffnotes® version:
-i lasted 6 or so laps with the leaders.
-got lapped at minute 25 (out of an hour race); and summarily got pulled.
-thought i was going to have a cardiac arrest. damn!!!
-and lastly: picked up a cough breathing like a cold-air intake...
it was so amazingly fun though. even though it was a dismal display of force on my part; the endorphins are slowly releasing.
it was fast! i haven't gone that fast in forever! it was painful. i love racing the 1-2s because the cornering is like buttuh. no worries at all about people not being able to hold a line or to corner at speed for that matter. the last left hander before the climb was about a beeeeyatch though. here's the cycling dad version...

let me describe the course. think of a rectangular parallelogram, with the top edge shifted a wee bit left of the bottom edge on the same plane. now imagine tilting the top edge towards you, tilting on the mid-line. that's the course. think of the the top, left interior angle as "a". going counter clockwise starting from "a", the next angle is "b" and so forth. the start line was between points "a" and "d". going from "a" to "b" was a screamer. the speed picked up on the blasting downhill to round "c" was technical because it was tighter than a 90° corner; and you had to scrub some speed before rocketing off again up the big-ring climb to "d". i had no problems with bike handling because it was the A group. just had problems cardiovascularly. i knew i was in trouble when i couldn't recover on the downhill. it's all intervals at this point of the season. oh yeah, and my new bike handled like a charm. nothing but confidence in her first race with me. was running some pretty serious chain deflection too: big ring + large cog = no skipping. lovely.

kenny and i hung with the 20 or so leaders for at least 6 laps then mr. redline crept into my cardiovascular system and wreaked havoc on my plans of successfully pack finishing. once a sizable gap formed between our group and them--especially no longer in their draft--the second group literally leading the chase was kenny and i. i say that because nobody else would pull. incidentally another sizable group fell off behind us before we lost contact with the leaders.

so it was like that until we got pulled (from being lapped). when the official whistled and gave us the international hand signal(s) for "you're done" kenny said out loud "thank-you!" and some spectators laughed (as we breathed a sigh of relief); but before that, kenny and i traded pulls like banshees. it felt great! i also notice things when people are in my paceline. i notice kenny pedals slightly larger gears than me (i'm at higher rpms) when big-ring, sprint climbing. okay, back to racing. nobody else would come around us-even the subaru guys in our chase group. even with that, nobody (kenny and me) yelled to take a pull, there were no crazy gesticulations, just racers in the second group (apparently the only group) trying to survive and keeping the technique silky-smooth to save energy. when the leaders did pass us, i had a nutty notion to hop back in (that's illegal by the way), but i was so far gone and they were rolling at a blistering pace, the thought of entertaining that left as quickly as it came.

i felt pretty good about my (lack of) fitness for only getting in six hour weeks (if that!). it was nice too publicly showing (even though we got lapped) how kenny and i could chase (even though in vain) in such a way that other racers couldn't stay in our draft. dang they must be even more hurtin' than my lackadaisical training ways.
this endeavor revealed two things to me: one, i still like bike racing and it reinforced my commitment to race bikes; and two, i am inspired to drop some pounds to get my fat-a$$ over a hill like a mean bid-ness. yeah people were getting dropped but those people shouldn't have been me.

yeah. i'ma do it again next week. this fitness'll be great for my cross-country mountain biking efforts too. wait, do i hear an endorphin knockin'? i believe i do, come on in suckah...

01 March, 2009

A Weekend of Riding

well i finally hung with the lead group in the old denver spoke training ride. as usual the cold never burns off til about eleven o'clock so i'm bundled with the jacket even this time! man it was cold, busted out the balaclava mask (apparently the terrorists first choice when it comes to fashion statements), neoprene booties/gloves, but forgot my ipod-oh well. i can't wear arm warmers under the jacket because it gets too hot.
anyhoo the ride takes off ten o'clock sharp and we're rolling down the road. a guy in front of me has so-so pack skills. he does one of the peloton no-nos in which he's brake happy, causing me to brake and i'm sure down the line they're squeezing the lever pretty hard. even going out they pick up the speed. my goal here is to not pull-at least not yet-but to survive til the climb up to arrowhead golf course.
i make it further than the last two previous attempts (on the climb) but i pop ugly with that effort. i was about to give up when a second group (last time i was it) passed me with some numbers. so i close up to them, get my second wind and make it to the top where the leaders are waiting. they don't wait too long and it's off they go again. i remembered this time i'm sticking with them because they like to attack on the downhill. i play it safe by knowing where the sidewinds are this time so i'm behind somebody rather than blocking for some unknown rider. it's nutty, with the sidewinds nobody wants to start a second echelon, they'd rather string it out and gutter the field. strong but exceptionally unsavvy pack riders.
as we enter the park we're doing all manner of yellow line violations. if i were a motorist i'd be pissed at these yahoos. i also remember the sprint finishes are pretty dangerous too. too dicey to invite a crash on a training ride. nobody sticks to their line and it's a beehive sprint to the imaginary finish line inside the park. not wanting any of this crashfest peek-a-boo--nothing like crashing in the spring and healing 'til april--i raise my hand like i have a mechanical, notifying the pack i'm fixing to go slow so do the reverse parting of the red sea for me please. once i'm lanternerouged, i glue up to the back and motorpace-safely might i add-to the end of the ride. yea! i finally finished a group ride with the leaders. there were about 40 of us this morning.
i get up early to make oatmeal and my son comes down from upstairs and we have lovely time together-just the boys. i take off, nine o'clock from morrison and it's FREEZING! i hate it when the forecast says 50°F but that's probably at three pm. it's nine o'clock and it's miserably cold. oh well. off i go to meet the boys at starbucks. kenny being the class act, orders a french press for us but i forgot the bean they used. it was exceptional. so exceptional it made my heart get all jittery with a wee bit of gastro-intestinal distress (at least i had some turbocharging in the hills) to boot. when i make french press coffee the taste is coarse but the tannins are present. this batch was smooth and the tannins were floating away at the top refracting colors if you angled your stare just the right way. deee-lishus. it's still freaking cold when we leave the starbucks...
we climb up deer creek. on the way up some subaru guys pass us-nice guys. kenny and i wait for christopher at the high grade turn off; that's where the subaru guys are waiting too. so off we go and we're just tagging along with the subaru guys. after a while the pace picks up and people are slowly dropping off. i finally pop with about a 1/5th of a mile left; kenny was climbing like a fiend. at the top we regroup but i had to cut the ride early. kenny and christopher popped over parmalee gulch, climbed towards kittridge and descended back into morrison. i just busted a righty-tighty on 285 and exited morrison where i parked my truck.

great ride.

my legs hurt and my post ride ritual of tea and cereal's commencing. jamming to some radiohead's hail to the thief and contemplating cleaning the house. wouldn't you've guessed it? it finally warmed up...