Sunday, February 27, 2011

Panama Bound! CYA in 3 weeks

Dear Mark

The family and I are headed out on vacation to Panama. I can't wait. Tomorrow will be a long day of travel, but the pay off will be that warm wet feeling I get when 85 degrees and 90% humidity slaps me in the face when I step off the air plane. I'm so sick of being cold. Sunshine and warmth is what I'm looking forward to.

Last year in May we took a family trip to Hawaii. I was so excited to go to Hawaii. I mean who would not be excited, right? I was thinking of just sitting on a beach, getting some sun, taking a dip in the water... ahhh relaxation. With a 2.5 year old it just wasn't that way. Now, don't get me wrong we had a good time and it was fun. But the relaxing part of the vacation never really materialized. The routine of the 2.5 year old was one part I admit. However, the biggest part was the notion (crazy in hindsight to the point of embarrassment) that I would really have time to myself. Again, disclaimer it was not through any fault of Lavi or really Jack. It was mostly me. I just didn't visualize the trip being about the daily routine. It was vacation, not... real-life? Isn't vacation a break from that?

This time things will be different for a few reasons. First, we are going to Panama and we'll have family to rely on for things, more than just help with Jack but food, getting around, etc. Second, Jack is a year older and more able himself. I expect him to do better, still be a 3.5 year old but better. Last though is that my mindset is much different. I don't have illusions of sitting in a hammock drinking Cerveza Panama all day and night. Nor do I have the hope of long naps and soaking up the rays at the beach. No, my hope and drive for the day is to get up and find things to do with Jack and Lavi. What new adventures can we show him? What can we introduce him to? What about Panama can I discover again through his eyes. I think that is the biggest change. I'm really ready for a "family vacation" together. I simply can't wait.

I know there will be issues, he's 3.5 and, lets face it I'm me with my own issues right. But I think there is so much to do that we can just have fun each day being on vacation. Already this weekend I've been on vacation 2 days. We've talked about it a lot and what it means to be on vacation. We're all just having a good relaxing time already.

I'm ready for a break though, I tell ya. A break from work and from this weather. Did I mention that already? I think I may have.

Tomorrow is a long flight to Houston and then a connection to Panama City. Then the car ride to Chorrera. We'll be there in less than 24 hours, but traveling is never a quick 24 hours.

I'll talk to you in 3 weeks. Be sure to call Mom & Dad lots. With out us around in town you just know they will worry about something. I'm probably asking for trouble but I set up a new computer for our father today and now I'm leaving town. Here's hoping it does go awry.

Okay, off to put Jack to bed. We have to wake up so early for our flight I'm sure I'll still be able to taste the toothpaste from the night time routine.

Cheers
Jeff

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Karma Reflections

Dear Mark

It is pretty amazing when you encounter an individual in life that makes an impact on you. Parents, family, and friends aside, I'm talking about those who you have brief interactions with but still leave their impression upon you. Individuals that you find yourself telling stories about and using as a role model. Individuals that you might not really think would leave a lasting impression on you. For me, teachers fall into this category for me.

You and I can share the names of grade school, high school and camp counselor teachers that fall into this category. I can think of one teacher I enjoyed a great deal as an undergraduate but who wasn't a role model like others.

Recently one of my absolute favorite Professors from UW Business School passed away, yet another individual who lost the battle with cancer. Karma Hadjimichalakis was my Professor for Macro Economics for the course work to complete my MBA. Macro Economics in itself can be dry and a bit boring, but Professor Karma (as I called her) was a great instructor. I think I learned more in that class than I ever hoped for. I still have a good grasp of the material. I really enjoyed the class and that is saying a lot when you consider that I was completely drowning in the course work. I felt I was so over my head that I was pretty depressed. Luckily for me I had a very good French classmate that kept my spirits up and helped me with the math.

Professor Karma also was very positive. When I talked to her 1:1 she was very reassuring and her explanations were very helpful. I looked forward to her classes. I even attended a few seminars from her post degree.

One of her classic responses to any question was "It depends" and then she would proceed to explain the affects of the actions on the economy and all would become clear. She used that line so much that we started answering each other with "it depends" when discussing things.

The UW Community has lost a great teacher. I hope that she is recognized as a role model for others professors. I'll always be very glad that she was one of my professors.

Here is a nice summary of her career to read.

Cheers
Jeff

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cyclocross Vid. Awesome

Dear Mark

If you hate Hipster Fixie Bike Riders as much as I do, then you'll love this.

Jeff

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Year 4500

Yo Bro,

Just an item of insanity courtesy of our friends (in some cases literally) over at Microsoft. While setting up a TASK in OUTLOOK I saw the option for recurrence of tasks and clicked it. I can have weekly reviews until the year 4500!!!

*sigh*

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Problem: Cold. Solution: Panama

Dear Mark

I've just about had it. I mean I'm getting really fed up and need a change. I'm not talking about the amount of tattoos in the NBA (although that pisses me off too), or how rude cars can be to bicycles, or your lack of posts. No I'm talking about winter. I mean when do we get a rest? When will it warm up? When will I stop rusting and start sunburning?

Now, I'm sure our "wimpy NW winter" will cause you to write prose and verse about the ragnarok that is the NE Winter season. Yes, you have had more feet of snow this year than the past 20 put together in Seattle. Yes, you all have your streets cleared before the coffee is done brewing in the morning. But around here, I'm getting sick of it.

It might be that it has been cold and wet a lot. The cold seems to persist. It gets in the way. Jack and I want to go ride our bikes soon. All this cold weather is getting in the way of my training plan for the 2035 Tour de France champion (just follow TdF_Dadna to know that). I mean the Tour is not won in July right? You have to train for it. He's losing time every day it is cold.

I think another reason the cold is getting to me is that Lavi reminds me about it… daily… hourly on some days. She's a tough cookie but winters do test her resolve, and I might say her unconditional love of a certain NW native. I actually think that in some parts of Panama it is illegal to wear as many layers of clothing that she has to each day in the winter. I give her credit though, she gets dressed up and heads out with Jack and me any chance she gets. She's cute in the winter, but don't push it (I'm told).

No, I think the real reason is that I have visit to Panama coming soon. The thought of some warm weather (excellent food and relaxation as well) is making me anxious. Oh yeah, did I mention that?

I surprised Lavi with the chance to take the family to Panama on our 15 year anniversary. 15 years ago we honeymooned in Panama and now we are taking Jack with us. I'm really excited. Two and a half weeks and a chance to warm up. I've been checking the weather on my iPhone daily. Look at this screenshot, taken tonight at 7:54pm. The weather in Panama at the same time (11:54pm) is 77 degrees.

I've been to Panama many times now, I'm quite lucky. I still find it funny that they only have two seasons, dry and wet. It's quirky that in Panama the sun sets and rises within 30 minutes of the same time all year long. I am so looking forward to the trip. To be warm, to relax, to eat my weight in ceviche (hopefully Lavi's Mom's but I'll take store bought too).

Yep, I think good old Panama has the solution for my cold problem. I'm getting on a plane with my family soon and heading south. It seems to work for the birds and who am I to argue with them.

Cheers
Jeff

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Rider's Evolution or de-evolution?

Dear Mark

Recently our trusty old Nissan Xterra needed some work. I took it to a new place for service that was in Seattle near the stadiums. They called Saturday to say the work was finished, that I could pick it up by 6pm and that in order to afford it I'd probably have to sell a kidney or some other part of my body. Jack was napping (thankfully) so I decided to hope on my bike and ride down to the service center to pick up the car while Lavi stayed home.

The very effort to get ready for the ride, riding down there and driving home threw me into a reflective mood about my evolution as a cyclist. It may be because I'm currently reading "Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling" by Bike Snob NYC himself. It may be that I'm getting older (gray hair acknowledged, just don’t ask where). It may be that I realized (after realizing the older part already mentioned) that I've been doing this a long time. Whatever the reason I was in a reflective mood.

What I wore on my bike ride won't impress anyone. In fact it will likely cause me ridicule, but nothing more than I’m use to. I pulled on my favorite leg warmers (Hincapie Sports, awesome, get some), 2 pairs of wool socks (I ride in the NW right?), a pair of cycling knickers/tights, a thermal shirt with a zip up neck, a jersey, arm warmers, a rain jacket (with Bicycle Alliance logo), full finger gloves, a thin skull cap hat, helmet and glasses. All in all I looked like a reject from an Australian exploitation film that dealt with the apocalypse where cars, punk rockers and the hunt for gas was primal.

It was not too long ago that my entire outfit would have matched and marked me as a "serious" roadie. Even more recently I would have pulled on a wool sweater, some jeans, rolled up my pant leg, put Jack in the trailer or on the bike kid seat and ridden off. Even longer ago (and this is hard for me to admit) I would have proudly pulled on some hiking boots, cut-offs and a flannel and headed out. The grunge/NW cycling crossover fashion never really took off, but I tried. I've run the gambit of all cycling types practically. I have never been a hipster and never will though. Nor have I ever looked the lone wolf cyclist just for the record. Dressing for the ride was actually tougher than it sounds, even though putting on that many layers is quite challenging while maintaining pride. I’ve not been commuting and riding as much. Riding is just not practical with daycare pickup in the cold weather. It was hard for me to settle on the right stuff. Things have changed indeed.

I headed out on my Salsa Commuting Bike to ride the 12 miles to the service station. Even the bike I chose to ride was interesting to me, and yes I have choices when I ride. I always say you need one more than the number you own in bikes (n + 1 = need). The Salsa is one of my favorite bikes. It has lights and fenders and a rack. It's ready for anything the NW decides to throw at it. I wanted to ride the super light and fast Davidson bike of course, but that never sees the rain is my rule. Recently I've been pulling Jack's burley solo trailer and riding my Kona Hei Hei converted mtb with an extracycle on it, which has a bike seat on it for Jack. My choice in bikes has certainly changed over the years. As the before mentioned marked Roadie, I never would be caught on anything weighing over 22 pounds (discounting my own butt and gut of course) because, well if I have to explain it then don’t worry. It was that I only had 1 bike (gasp!). I used to be teased by my cycling friends. Eventually I graduated to road bike and a mountain bike. From there the slope was slippery and I admit I enjoy it. I now have 5 bikes. One is my super light weight totally awesome Davidson ti frame bike. One is my awesome Salsa Casserole commuter bike. One is my trusty Kona Kapu road bike. I rode across the US with that I’ll never part with it. One a Ridley Time Trial bike that I can’t seem to sell. I think it is destined to live on my indoor trainer. Talk about overkill. Last is my Kona Hei Hei mountain bike which now sports an xtracycle kit for Jack to sit on. Things have changed indeed.

I rode along the Ballard Bridge to Myrtle Edwards Park and down the waterfront to the Stadiums. This is a route I use to ride all the time to work actually in 1997-1998. I miss it. The park is so scenic to ride through. It was in this park that I had my worse crash in 2004. I slipped on a wet day and separated my shoulder. It was a very slight separation. This was evidence by the fact that I actually rode my bike home from there, where upon I was rendered unable to remove my jersey with out help from my brother-in-law. The waterfront would be more fun to ride along if the lights were not so damn ill timed that you had to stop every 20 feet. Still through it all and down to the stadium where I took the new overpass over the train tracks and to the service station.

Not so long ago my minimum ride was 50 miles. I would not even go out for something smaller. My time to warm up for a ride took 15-20 miles. My ego wanted to do 100 every time I threw my leg over the frame, and he usually was not nice about it either. I would wear a heart rate monitor, collect data, analyze my training and plan my next ride. I rode to work every day bar none, no matter the weather condition. In January of 2011 I rode twice, and that was 2x more than January 2010.

As I turned the pedals over on my ride I remembered how a ride like this in 1994 was a "big" ride for Jason and me. It would take all day. Now look at us. He's training for Canada Ironman and I am a Big Rider, having traversed our great country by bicycle in 2003. I use to commute 17 miles one way to work, now I can run to work its so close at 5 miles. Things change indeed.

The drive home in the Xterra had me thinking about racing and mountain biking. I liked nothing better than getting out on the trails with friends and getting dirty. How I loved it. I would pack the Xterra and head out. As I drove home I remembered some of my best times on the trail. Getting lost every time at Bonney Lake, getting delirious on Noble Knob, hitting some epic downhill at Crystal with Joey, and completing my first mtb race with Dirtworld.com. Heck, even you came out on the trails a few times, although that was pre-Xterra days. I remember donuts in a blue Subaru. Today I have a child seat and stroller in the car, along with snacks and other items in our emergency kit (no skittles). I don’t even have my bike rack on the Xterra any longer. That is telling. More telling is that I converted that much loved Kona Hei Hei into a bike to pull Jack along. While I have no end of joy in riding with Jack, the bike does give me the finger now and then when it reminds that it is a high-premium mtb race bike. Things changed indeed.

In 2002 I raced Cyclocross for the first time. It was a lot of fun and I ended up taking 3rd in the race series for Beginners. More importantly I won the last race of the year. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. I recall that dream when I run these days. It pushes me. I'm so proud of winning that race. There is hardly a greater feeling than riding your bike with your hands in the air across the finish line first. As that day becomes more distant the effect on me is the same, but the reality of repeating becomes even more distant.

All of these thoughts went by during my ride and drive home. I began to wonder what kind of cyclist I am today. I know my roots of cycling, what type I've been and what I am becoming as a father. I wonder if it is evolution of de-evolution that I'm in the midst of. It a sport where you build and build to be better and stronger, it would seem that I hit a pinnacle when I threw my hands in the air to celebrate that win or when I reached Washington D.C. on my ride across the US. I could conclude that I've since started to devolve into a simpler rider. That I’m going back to where I was when I started out.

But I throw those notions away. Champions of sport do not become less when they retire of if they don't win. Sure maybe Jordan lost some street cred with the comeback with the Wizards, but in Cycling champions continue to be great. Lance is still great even though he only finished 3rd in the Tour during his comeback. Eddie Meryx lost his last Tour de France as well. I know I'm comparing myself to great cyclists here, but my point is that I believe I'm still growing as a cyclist. I'm getting wiser and cagier for sure. I may have lost some of my top end sprint but I'm still a strong rider. I mean how many other individuals will pull their kid (50 pounds + with trailer) up a 10% grade. I conclude that I’m still evolving as a cyclist.

My riding style may change. My bikes might change, still need one more I think. My outfits will change, although lycra will undoubtedly rule supreme. I may not even ride as often as I have in the past. My destinations, distances and need for speed will most surely change too. Yet, just because I’m not winning the races or besting the competition, I’m still riding. That is the point I think. Through all the change, the ups and downs in time commitments and fitness and changing of bikes I still always rode.

I’m going to keep riding and I’m going to keep enjoying it.

On your left,

Jeff