Big honking road trip to New Mexico

WE started the drive at 6 pm. Heading toward St. Louis from the Chicago area naturally brought us onto the Route formerly known as US 66. Even though Rt. 66 has been decommissioned for more than 30 years it has a more robust following than any other road in the United States. Even Europeans come to drive it, and they like trains.

You need guidebooks or an App or both in order to figure out what the sights are, and how to reach them, and where you can still drive  . . . (pause to cue Heavenly Music) . . . ORIGINAL PAVEMENT! But we didn’t really do anything special except read through a guidebook while driving. In Dwight IL we neglected to buy Route 66 memorabilia, although I already own a t-shirt with logo. This is because I drove Route 66 in 2014, all by myself, so I had the shirt in my bag. If you drive the entire way (which: I highly recommend, but only if the idea has enough appeal in and of itself that no explanation is required, as there really is NO logical explanation why someone would want to drive across the country on a road that DOESN’T exist when most people don’t even want to drive that far on roads that DO exist), then you end up in California. Santa Monica to be exact, somewhat near the iconic Santa Monica Pier, which ironically does not provide public parking, so that when you actually get there, you’ll probably have to just keep driving around looking for parking. They say that 66 is the quintessential American road, so maybe that makes sense in some weird and twisted California way.

We spent a night in St. Louis, left again bright and early, and drove 1000 miles more the next day to Albuquerque. (Nobody likes to write much about Albaqwirky because it is so difficult to spell, so I’ll just say that we found a decent campus restaurant that is open to all hours of the night before limping to that night’s motel.)

The next day was bright and early again as we made our way to Stage 1 of the cycling road race Tour of the Gila. We headed straight for the finish which was projected around 12- 1 pm, and we made it just in time to be told that the access road was now closed to all vehicles. We would have to walk up.

Fine.

We parked and grabbed water bottles and started trudging up the same road that the cyclists would be riding up. We walked about 45 minutes almost straight up at 6,500 ft elevation, but could not afford the luxury of feeling sorry for ourselves– after all, the racers would be riding over 100 miles to get there.

Got to a vantage point to watch the peloton climbing up and then out of sight, caught sight of our son a bit back of the field and cheered him on. After a brief hug of hello, he continued riding up toward the finish, about 2 more km, and we were lucky to catch a ride back down to the car.

Welcome to New Mexico.

Retired, with “Air Quotes”

When I stopped working the occasion was celebrated with five different retirement parties. Those were just the ones to which I was invited.

I didn’t get the gold watch, but somewhere along the line I received air-quotes. Whenever I mention being “Retired” I’m required to raise both hands and wiggle two fingers to indicate that I’m not “really” retired. At first, I didn’t want to tell anyone that I “retired,” but just “changed jobs.” Because it was true– I had picked up a magazine gig and was producing several articles a month. The printed page had become my friend.

But it was hard to call it a “Job,” because I had no co-workers and I’d never once met an editor that I worked with. I was an “Independent Contractor” and received my assignments by email. Paper checks came in the mail. It was a bit like being a secret agent– no one knew I was on assignment unless I told them. To the ordinary observer it just looked like I was driving around. Unless I was careful I could spend more on gas than I was taking in. That’s not a job, it’s a form of insanity.

Of course, there are other forms of compensation than the monetary. Being an independent contractor meant I had no ordinary fringe benefits like insurance or pension contributions, but there were intangibles. Lots of them, things like freedom and self-expression. I could say whatever I wanted, as long as my editor okayed it.

Then I changed “jobs” again. Now I am into “property redevelopment” with my son. Most people refer to it as “Flipping.” But I prefer to call it “real estate stuff.” We are working on a 3-BR house in the suburbs, and it’ll be on the market “soon.” This is satisfying work, because i get to use real tools like wrecking bars, paint rollers, and a chop saw. And I get to wear a “respirator” whenever I want. But no checks come in the mail until the house sells. So it mostly feels like a job when I plop down on the couch at the end of the day.

What does “Retired” really mean anyway? I’m still thinking about that.

A Crit full of TNT

Wile E. Coyote or Daffy Duck, makes no difference. Any cartoon character knows that if there’s a big keg of gunpowder or TNT — you just light the fuse. And wait.

Click at your own risk: https://goo.gl/images/fJKjIO

Pro cyclists line up, the starter’s horn sounds, and the fuse is lit. It’s only a matter of time.

Cyclists racing repeated laps around a fixed course (usually closed-off streets), are racing a crit. Lots of crit races are stand-alone events, but most US stage races also include one stage that’s a crit. Race fans like them. You see everybody every time they come around, and they come around fast. If you snag a vantage point near the finish line you’ll get to see a high-speed sprint with the possibility of dramatic endings like photo-close finishes or a crash in the last turn. Crit courses have barricades erected, and sign-posts get stacked with hay bales.

There’s a clock, a lap counter, and a line on the pavement. A bike race is won when the tip of the lead wheel crosses the finish line. So it’s not the racer himself, head or chest or  hands, but the front of the tire. Giving the handlebars a sudden lunge at just the right moment can be the difference between first and second place. In a pro race it can mean several thousand dollars.

Bike races are actually team events, so the lead rider at the finish line is trying to win for both him (or her) self, and also for the team. Winners share out prize money with teammies who helped. The pic above shows three teammates helping each other by staying close and reducing wind drag. Riders in the front work  harder,  those behind save energy. It’s a matter of wind resistance. Speeds average 26 – 28 mph. There are some strategies employed and a lot comes down to who’s stronger at the end, but part comes down to positioning. That’s a prime reason for crashes: jockeying for position on the final lap or two. The final 100 meters of sprint will reach 40 mph.

If your son is one of the racers you cheer him in, hoping for the best, worrying a bit,  wondering what’s next. You wonder when the dynamite explodes.

How does life DO this?

Last Sunday my spouse and I were walking together on a trail in Wisconsin when she tripped and fell. Being experienced hikers and walkers who enjoy exploring even into remote areas including backpack trails, mountain hiking and the like, of course we know that we should carry a First-Aid kit. Or at least a Band-Aid.

We had Kleenex, one of those little pocket tissue packs. When she fell she caught herself with her hands on bare rock, came down on her knees, stood up and dusted herself off and saw blood beginning to ooze. Her left hand had a nasty bit of a gash just at the base of the thumb. She sat down and collected herself, got out a tissue to cover the cut, put some pressure on it to slow the bleeding, and elevated her hand so it was higher than her heart. She didn’t really have the wind knocked out of her, but the reality of our situation started sinking in: we had a couple miles to go even to get back to our lunch stop (enjoyable burger and salad place) and no way to get off of the trail except by walking on. She asked me if I had anything with me. Like a Band-Aid? Or some Neosporin? A first-aid kit with gauze bandages and adhesive tape? Some of those little butterfly things that close a cut? ANYTHING? I had a mini-size pocket knife multitool. And a plastic cup of cold water. Oh, and she had a plastic restaurant take-out filled with leftover salad and half of a cheeseburger.

This trail– the one we like best & walk as often as we can– goes around a lake. It’s known as “the shore path,” because you are almost always in sight of the water. People like it because it is scenic and lovely and not too difficult. You hardly ever worry about a crash landing. That day we had seen a few other hikers out, but strangely it seemed Moms With Nursing Infants in Chest Carrier Day. So we were on our own. I began looking around on the ground for anything that might help us, like a piece of tape. Or string. A clean water bottle. Anything to boost the spirits would come in handy.

I saw a plastic Ziplock back on the trail maybe 8 feet from where she was seated, picked it up, and inside was a brand-new clean roll of sticky material and a sheet of instructions. It was somebody’s kit for sail repair, conveniently dropped right where we needed it. For no apparent reason but that she had a cut that needed bandaging.

We used the sticky sail stuff to create a makeshift bandage out of the Kleenex. I even cut it with the multitool knife! Sipped some water, gathered our belongings and she stood up holding her left hand in her right and keeping the hand elevated. She was able to walk the next mile & then we stopped at a summer camp place that had an open building with chairs and a bathroom accessible, so she could sit and wait. There was even a lady at the desk who offered help and real first-aid equipment. My spouse declined, because the sail repair stuff had been doing a great job of holding her thumb from falling off. So I went on, got the car, drove back and picked her up.

Then we went home and made some tea. She washed off her hand and really looked at it. We went to the Emergency Room. She got stitches. And purple elastic stuff wrapped around to keep the pressure on. It worked almost as well as sail-repair.

Here is the question: how does life DO that? Figure out what you need to move ahead and then drop it into your lap at the exact moment, and then act like nothing happened?IMG_0115

Bonfire: The best of the best of the best

Here is a compilation in video of ALL of the winners of the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, in year order. (It’s from Feb. 2017 and ends with the nominees as the winner had not yet been named.)

The scene caught in freezeframe is from La La Land (2016) with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Linus Sandgren for La la Land won the award for Best Cinematography at this year’s Academy Awards.

The link below takes you to the original article on thefilmstage.com It includes a list of all the winners in chronological order:

https://thefilmstage.com/news/witness-the-evolution-of-cinematography-with-compilation-of-oscar-winners/

Once a race dad . . .

The photo above is a pro cycling road race nearing the finish line, everybody digging hard in the final sprint. I’m rooting for the guy in orange over on the right.

Stage 2 of Joe Martin Stage Race, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA April 1, 2017. Winning time 4:23:29 over a distance of 115 miles.

PAPER

ONE LIFE

In the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s there is a nice scene where Holly (Audrey Hepburn) and Paul (George Peppard) visit the New York Public Library. She’s never been, whereas he is a writer and you can tell he knows his way around. They pull a wooden drawer, take it to the front desk, and wait patiently for a book to appear: Nine Lives by Paul Varjac. His book.

It impresses Holly that his book really is there, and Paul starts to inscribe the title page, then gets reprimanded by the stereotypical librarian (Elvia Allman), so they leave to continue their exploration of NYC and taking turns “doing things they’ve never done before.” Of course, they’re falling in love, though she’s refusing to admit it. He can’t think of anything else.

LIVE BIGGER

In the Truman Capote short story (well, short-ish) that scene does not appear. In fact, Paul does not really appear– he’s a nameless narrator remembering his earliest days in NYC and the most unforgettable person from those days, the gorgeous but elusive country-girl-making-it-in-the-big-city– Holly, who could have stayed in Hollywood but instead just kept the name while she morphed her life into something based on the fact that men were willing to spend money in order to spend time with her. Draw your own conclusions.

Doing things we’ve never done before: it’s a nice metaphor for Really Living. Don’t get caught in the rut, repeating the same day over and over (different movie– thank yous to Harold Ramis & Bill Murray), but make each day count for something! Live your life!

But don’t turn into Holly. Find your adventures. Say “Yes” to taking that chance. Be the best version of You. But if you come home to an apartment devoid of furniture, your only companion a cat you’ve refused to name, maybe you’re overdoing it. Even if you do look like Audrey Hepburn.

THIS BLOG

This blog is about getting the most out of life. Be more, do more, learn more, live more.

In a boat there is an edge you can feel underneath you. A power boat, a sailboat, a canoe or kayak. The forces around it are playing on it– the wind pushes, the current flows, the tide subtly buoys you along in some direction you can barely feel. And you have a wheel or a tiller or a paddle– it’s in your hand but it’s subtle too, and you keep the boat riding that edge that means you are sort of heading mostly where you want to go and sort of responding to the totality of unseen forces.

This blog is about keeping your life on that edge.

Rock

Welcome to the personal blog of writer SG Young. My blog has three features:

ROCK posts deal with things I’m doing. Real life. Things that happen.

PAPER posts are the things I’m thinking about, like fitness or kryptonite.

BONFIRE is the imagination.

Rock. Paper. Bonfire. Every day is different.

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