Sunday, September 30, 2007


Countless other families have done this throughout our country's history. But when it happens to your family it is just astonishing. When your child leaves home and goes through basic training in the military, the first time you see them in weeks catches you off guard. It has hard to prepare for the emotions. They march by with a serious, disciplined look. They are sharp, polished, and refined. They do not glance to the side. They do not smile or smirk. They are all about business.

You want to talk with them and be close by, but their task is not yet complete. The ceremony is sobering and a sense of pride permeates the air. Parents are proud of their children and the recruits are proud of what they've accomplished together during a tough period of training.

After receiving her award for having the highest average score for Seamanship, Lisa marched right in front of me. It was nothing short of fascinating.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bikeless in Virginia

Still here, still bikeless. There are so many trips like this which a folding bike would be so handy.

As tomorrow's presentation draws near, the preparations have finally reached the point of taking away some panic. Instead of room service, there has been a little more time to walk around to sample other food sources.

Presenting, the Sunday morning breakfast walk...

First stop, coffee shop. While reading, munching, and sipping, these little fellers came hopping along to take advantage of crumbs left behind by a prior patron.

This guy seemed to stay up top by himself scouting things from above. He was either the supervisor of this feathered clean-up crew or he wasn't very hungry.

While sitting there in the quiet early morning, there was a persistent northeast breeze. After summer's heat it was refreshing to body and soul. It pushed its way through the dense leaves of trees. Its ebb and flow gave a kind of rushing sound like waves on a beach. I guess it is a sound that God figured even people who don't live along the coast would enjoy. It was less rhythmic, but just as continuous. Some breezes would be a simple short puff, almost not noticed, and others were strong, tossing leaves into the air, and momentarily stopping the conversation of coffee shop customers.

The next stop was the Crystal City Water Garden. I wonder what this flowering paradise will look like in a couple of months.

The rushing sound in this place was not the breeze, but the result of a long wall of water falling 12 feet into a pool.

Standing in just the right spot, it was the very moment of sunrise all over again.

Further along, the Mt. Vernon hike/bike trail was discovered. Looks worth investigating...

It's amazing how much value some communities place on something like this. Look at the investment in this kind of infrastructure. This tunnel allows hiker and cyclists to cross under a railroad. The tunnel is well lighted, well drained and the pathway is even stripped at both ends.

There are a lot of places like this in the Washington D.C. vicinity. No wonder why there are many more bike commuters here.

On the way back to the hotel, it was apparent that urban areas do not need to be inhospitable. This is, after all, a very densely populated area. However, it appears to have also benefited from some advance planning and ongoing community care.

Despite being so far from home and in a densely populated urban area, there certainly are worse places to take a stroll to breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

More from a walk in Virginia tired of sitting in the hotel room staring at a computer on a beautiful Saturday afternoon...decided to take a walk and go get ice cream.

I was going to take a picture of the ice cream, but I had to step back so far away to get it all in the photo, I was afraid someone would come by, think it was abandoned, and take it.

From Our Nation's Capital

Well, sort of.

Actually, this post is from Arlington, Virginia and within walking distance of Reagan National Airport. Travel and attempts to keep up with work demands have prevented more frequent blog updates. This one rambles as a few spare minutes allow only a brief update. Today's entry focuses on a few photos.

First, this one is actually a left-over from the Austin trip. It just didn't seem to fit in with the story line for that entry. However, it kept whispering to me that it deserved to be seen. Since the whispers were starting to be tiring, here it is.

It is simply a photo taken out of the hotel window (11th floor), looking north, during a rainy afternoon. The famous rowdy 6th Street is in the foreground, being not so rowdy during the daytime...during the rain.

The next one was taken today on a walk from the hotel to get some lunch. Just what I need, a reminder that I'm 1381 miles (or 3 days of work) away from the bike.

Finally, on that same walk to lunch, a certain plant grabbed my attention. In a certain park area there was a shaded walkway. The shade was provided by dense leafy vegetation. Upon further inspection, it was apparent that the vegetation was some type of vine that was trained up some columns and on a support frame. The vines were growing up the column from the outside of the circular walkway only, but spread out to provide a complete refreshing shade for park visitors.

Well then, enough frivolity. It's time to get back to work.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Austin, Texas

Unlike the trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the bike came to Austin. Sometimes things do come together. Since this trip to attend a conference didn't involve teaching, the evenings were relatively free for recreation. The hotel is located downtown, not far from Town Lake.

It is easy to cruise the jog/bike path along the lake west toward the hilly parts of town. If you aren't in too much of a hurry and don't mind meandering around runners, it is a pleasant trip.

Once you reach the western limits of the trail, you get on the road and continue west and north into the hills. Although the route along Town Lake is very flat with only small rollers, the last mile or so up on Mt. Bonnell turn into quite a challenge. Using Google Earth to help estimate things, it appears that you climb 212 feet in the last third of a mile for an average slope of over 11%. Some streches are steeper than that.

The following two photos are on the way back down. The first one from near the top and the second one about mid-way down. They don't look so tough in the photo, do they? Yeah, well...try pedaling up on a bike.

After the big climb, spinning easy around the other side of the lake back to the hotel was simply delightful. As the dark clouds started to roll in from the north, I spotted Stevie Ray Vaughn standing by the lake with his guitar...

...and then had to pick up the pace slightly as the rain drops started to fall. When things really come together, you can roll the bike in, turn around, look through the glass door from the inside, and watch the storm hit...smug as anything.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Denton Loop

After coming to a new location, the bike is first used to explore nearby surroundings. Between the various tasks of getting settled, the 3-mile loop was found. It is a nice short route and perfect for taking a short break. However, after awhile getting settled transitions into hunger for longer routes.

The idea is to string together a few of the roads explored in short out-and-back trips and create larger loops. Today was an example of stringing together a few backroads into a nice single 40-mile loop. It's a nice round number and can be done with minimal fitness...just ask me. The upper left corner is the homestead. The lower right corner is the Denton County Courthouse square.

Now that I've got this one in the books. I think its time to explore toward the east. It would be great to have a loop that takes in Ray Roberts Lake...

For Keith

A few days ago, my buddy, Keith, and I were having a conversation about restoring older cars and trucks. This is a topic of great interest to a sort of spectator sport kind of way. Given the right circumstances, I said, I might be interested in working on an old pickup. I went on to say that I have great appreciation for the design styles (in general, not automobiles specifically) of the 1940's, but really liked the look of the early 50's Chevys. Keith countered with his opinion that the 50's trucks were too round and his preference is actually the 1940's trucks with a more pointy nose. Perhaps, he is on to something.

Today's ride was a backroads excursion into Denton. The objective was to ride to the square and see what was shakin'. It seems there is often something interesting going on down there. Today it was a car show. Actually, there were restored and/or customized cars, trucks, and motorcycles. It was a perfectly entertaining rest stop as they had the roads closed off to car traffic, but walkers and bicycles were allowed in the square to take in the sounds and sights of a bunch motor enthusiasts. Noodling along, with an eye out for pickups, I rolled right up to this beauty.

There were many other nice vehicles to oogle, but this one was probably my favorite. Even with all the fancy paint, exotic customizations, and shiny chrome gleaming in the sun, this simple and functional 1948 Ford struck a chord. I'm not saying, necessarily, that it's better than a 1951 Chevy, but really now...who couldn't love this face?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tractors Are Handy

There were universal recommendations to get a tractor. It seemed that all family and friends were amused at the very prospect of city-boy owning one. "You'll have a good time with it," they said. "It will be very useful," they said. "You'll be amazed at how many things it will help you do," they said. Even so, there was some reluctance to spend the money and add more complexity and machinery I can't maintain myself. There was already too many vehicles around that can't be keep running at tip-top condition. But the grass was tall, the purchase was made, and the tractor was delivered.

Yesterday, Janet broke a finger.

As a result, she has been needing just a little extra help with things. One of those things is caring for the monsters. One monster, in particular, needs to be walked to burn off the extra energy he normally uses to irritate the rest of us. Yeah, I'll be glad to take him for a walk, heh, heh, heh.

Today the tractor was handy. They were right. One can just keep finding good things to do with a tractor. Today it was a dog walker.

It allowed us to cover a fair amount of distance, over rough ground, in great ease. From here to way back there.

Well, it was easy for one of us.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Barn Hunt

The suggested objective of the Labor Day ride was to find and photograph old barns. There are a number of interesting looking barns in the Sanger vicinity and the decoration scheme for the new house apparently includes placing an arrangement of barn photos on the wall. So today's effort was what we call a barn hunt. The photo above was what we call unanticipated beauty.

The first barn found was a old timber barn with a corrugated metal roof that had a nice rust pattern. It was set low and off the road a short distance in some high grass. It looked quite at-home as if it were comfortably nested in place. This might be a pretty good prospect.

The second barn was one previously spotted from the interstate. Today's ride afforded the opportunity to check it out up close. With its opening clear through, the side window, trees, and fencing, it did not disappoint. This might be another pretty good prospect.

The third prospect was coincidentally located at the turnaround point. At the stop for a water fill-up and a quick snack, I couldn't help notice this specimen. It is perhaps the most interesting of them all. It has character, numerous features and details the others do not and seems to still be in active use. That seems to add a certain charm as well. I'm not sure if this one is going to make the final cut, but there is no question that it takes the "most unique" prize of the day.

It was a great morning adventure on new roads and routes. The number of lightly traveled roads in this area continues to amaze.