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Monday, October 24, 2016

Why So Fancy?

It can be fun to find unusual things at Home Depot.  Just last week (early October) they were setting up their Christmas Decorations.  I should have taken a picture, but I think I did the same thing last year and do not suppose anyone would find this odd.  Plus, I don’t want to be seen taking random pictures in retail stores.  That’s creepy.

Even without a photo, I must have done something wrong because I kept getting strange looks.  I worried my pants might be unzipped or I was wearing a funny hat.  Every so often employee would come up to me and in a slow deliberate tone ask me if I needed help.  A little bit like I was a lost 8 year old.

What gives people?

After my weird shopping experience (light bulbs) I headed over to Luna Grill for lunch.  I love that place.

After I ordered, the cashier looked me in the eye and said “Why so fancy?”

Um, what was she referring to?  I froze then looked to the ground self-consciously and noticed I was wearing a tie.  You know, the ones from old-time movies.  Back when people knew what a suit and tie were.  Back when white collar meant, dress shirt, which meant, suit, which mean necktie.

I looked back up and told her that I worked for a living unlike the rest of the bums in the place.  Ok, no I didn’t.  Instead, I mumbled about meeting with clients and wanting to make sure they knew they were important.  So I dressed up.  She, in turn, gave me a blank stare and handed me my change (yes, I still pay in cash because I am a geezer).

A strange bit of paranoia seeped across me.  It seemed as though everyone in the restaurant was looking at me with bewilderment and anger.  Dead blank facial expressions that seem to say…Who is this strange man?  What country is he from?  What is that red stripped fabric noose doing around his neck?

Call me old fashioned, but I still enjoy putting on a suit and tie.  I’m a rare beast however.  Even the bankers and politicians in town have lost the tie during the summer months.  What is this world coming to?  

Not ten years ago I could go into a store and be mistaken for the general manager.  Now I’m mistaken for a wacko.  Ok, I might just be nuts, but it has zero to do with wearing a tie.  Crazy people have NEVER worn ties.

So, what will you find unusual at Home Depot in early October?  Me.  Wearing a tie and hearing over the loud speaker, “Step right up, folks, step right up.  Come see the man who has mysteriously traveled through time.  You won’t believe your eyes!”

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Going Home

When friends are going through a difficult time, we hurt.  One of my old buddies sent me the following text message a few weeks back.

“Please say a prayer for my Mum - sad to report that she has terminal cancer and only has 3-6 months!! I’m going home to spend quality time with her and to say goodbye.”

Going home.  Somehow the words bring to mind joyful holidays from the past.  Long overdue gatherings with family.  Or returning home after a semester away at school.  I can’t think of a time when the words carried such a complex range of emotions.  My immediate reaction was deep sadness.  When trying to put myself in his shoes, it was just unbearable.  How exactly does one go about saying goodbye when you know this goodbye is, well, the last one?

I found it hard imagine the thoughts going through my friend's mind on the long overseas flight as he rehearsed their meeting.  What should I say?  I need to be strong.  How much is she suffering?  How can I best be there for her?

Yet, when you get past the initial emotions things begin to look a bit different.  There will still be great joy in the simple reunion of mother and son.  The circumstances are downright awful, but the plan to “spend quality time with her” will be filled with sweet moments of tenderness and probably a decent bit of laughter.  If nothing else it will be filled with unrivaled love.

Reports from the trip to see Mum were upbeat.  He is “so glad” he went.  

Their time together made the goodbye for the last time come too soon.  Isn’t it always too soon?  When we part ways with family and friends, we assume a next time.  When someone dies suddenly we think about the last time and how we didn’t know it would be the last time.  And if we did, what might we have done or said?

By knowing this would be it, they got to say the things they might normally have assumed could be said later.  No doubt my friend gave the comforting message of eternal life through Jesus.  We can be confident of  salvation, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.  A lady from church who recently passed told her family that she was not afraid to die, but she just love them too much to let go.  I found that to be profound.

The hardest part for me is being reminded that I one day will be doing the same.  Saying goodbye for a final time or failing to say something I thought I had plenty of time to say.  So today I pray for the opportunity and courage to say the things I would feel compelled to say at a last time moment.  That I would be bold and let my family and friends know how much I love them.  Because it might just be me getting the call heavenward and I want them to know before I have to let go.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Upgrade

Telling you that I had not been looking at new (and used) bikes for a year or more is flat out untrue.  From the moment I discovered that I enjoyed cycling, I was looking for another bike.  Heck, maybe even before I bought my first bike I wanted a cool bike.  You know, one of those sexy triathlon bikes you see them riding at Kona.  Those are way cool.

A triathlon bike might sound to an outsider like what I needed anyway.  I do triathlon.  I should ride a triathlon bike.  Not true and not what I bought.  Please remember that I am only a short course triathlete at the moment.  Sprint races with bike rides of 12-15 miles do not justify a special bike.  Even Olympic distances with twice as many cycling miles renders a tri-bike as overkill.  Do you see them at these races?  Plenty of them.  But unless the course has a lot of long straight sections, it just doesn’t make much difference.

This is why I bought another road bike.  Until I graduate to Olympic distances with an eye on 70.3, I’m sticking with a road bike and keeping the dollars in my pocket.  Not to worry.  Just as I found a way to justify the new road bike, I will find a way to justify a second bike and it will be a triathlon bike.

After doing some research, I decided on a budget and a list of “must have” features.  If I could not find a bike that met the criteria, I would not buy a bike.  At one point I identified another Fuji, the Gran Fondo, that was a fit.  That was soon replaced with a Ridley Fenix that I loved.  It even had Di2 shifters (think digital) which was another notch up the ladder than I had dreamed.  Riddled with uncertainty, I decided to give it a few days to be completely confident in the purchase.  Those days cost me the bike.  I guess there was just one of this model left in the United States and now someone else owns it.

This disappointment led to more than a month of disinterest.  I didn’t want to settle for just any bike.
With the newfound justification conveyed in the previous post, I went shopping again.  I took a broader approach and found that well-known US manufacturer TREK made a bike that on paper sounded exactly like what I needed.  The TREK Domane was in the endurance category.  Like my Fuji, this simply means you don’t lean so far forward in an aggressive position.  It increases air resistance, but is easier on the lower back.  The Domane also has several unique design features that reduce impact and body vibration on rough roads.  Couple that design with a carbon fiber frame and you’ve got one of the least bone jarring rides around.

Bone jarring it turns out seems to be my biggest energy zap.  After the Tour de Italia 50-mile ride I was sore all over for days.  I’m sorry, but there is no chance I’d be able to log 65 miles in a 70.3 race with enough left in the tank to run a half marathon.  I needed a bike to minimized the impact rough roads seems to have on this 48 year old body.

Fortunately, my LBS (local bike shop) had several Domanes with different features.  The Domane 4.5 was in the lower-middle to middle price point and as my wife likes to say “it was on sale.”

So I purchased the TREK Domane 4.5 Disc.  It did not have the digital shifters I dreamed of, but did have disc brakes.  Newer technology on the breaking side of things and some say the wave of the future.  The jury is deliberation on that bold claim.  The bike’s components are several steps up in quality.  Everything from seat to wheels is better quality that on my Fuji.  And lighter.  The key features that made the switch worthwhile are:

Carbon Fiber vs. Aluminum Frame
Shimano Ultegra vs. Shimano 105 Shifters

The shifters just make this bike feel top end.  The 105’s were fine, but the precision and ease of these new ones is amazing.  Heck, the whole bike just feels and sounds solid.  Like an extension of my body.

Will this bike make me faster?  Not noticeably so after the first 150 miles, but a two hour effort last Saturday was very enjoyable.  That’s what I’m after anyway.  Something I enjoy riding and calls my name when the skies are clear.

So, I write these boring posts about my bikes because it somehow helps me justify what I’m doing.  It’s my money, I can do what I want…as long as my wife approves.

Ride in Peace, Rest in Grace