Sunday, September 16, 2007

2007 LaJolla and Lawrence Welk Resort

Friday September 7, 2007: We finally made it! After six months of waiting, our week vacation in Southern California was here, and coincidentally the timing worked out great as the first weekend away was the La Jolla Rough Water Swim … a one and three mile swim in the La Jolla harbor. I had swum the one mile distance a couple years ago and had a ball. Julie has swum there seven or eight times.

The first several days of our vacation was meeting up with friends for evening social time and the big race on Sunday the 9th … the balance of the trip was taking in sights like Catalina Island, Temecula, Wine Country, and even golfing as a couple for the first time in 15 years!

We have a time share unit that we had only used once before on a trip to Spain but this year we wanted to stay closer to home. We both love California so we chose to look into trading our time share for a unit within driving distance in Southern California. Fran found a unit for trade September 7-14 located in between San Diego and Los Angeles in a city called Escondido at the Lawrence Welk Resort putting us within easy driving distance of both cities. Interestingly, there are not a lot of time share resorts in Southern California for trade so even though we started looking in March … six months ahead of time … many locations were booked. The resort is on 700 acres purchased by LW back in 1963 for $150,000 when there was nothing near it … I’ll venture a guess each acre is now worth a million! There are four sections, or neighborhoods, to the resort each built at different times over the last 30 years. Each section has a pool and some form of community center and the main “shopping district” near the lobby has a pizza hut, convenience store, a 380 seat theater, a restaurant, and a store for buying gifts. There is also an 18 hole regulation golf course as well as a 18 hole short course … for golfers in training.

Fran and I traveled from Phoenix on I10 / I15 directly to the Welk Resort … a total of about 380 miles. We left about mid-morning … I even managed to get a swim workout in at SAC and by 5PM we were within sight of the resort. Simon and Wendy had already arrived in La Jolla and were on the beach when they called us to ask about dinner. After checking in we met them in downtown Delmar at a very nice Italian restaurant at the central plaza. It was so nice to spend time with Simon and Wendy as we have known each other now for close to eight years when our kids were attending SAC age group swimming. We always have a lot to ctach up on.

Saturday September 8: I slept for nine hours … what a treat … although I think I was more tired than if I had slept my normal 6-7 hours! After a slow morning Fran and I went to La Jolla to meet up with our daughter Julie at the cove. I love swimming there … both in the protected cove as well as on the seaward side where some decent waves come breaking in. I got in about 800 yards of swimming by myself in the outer cove and then 30 minutes in the waves with Julie.

Fran and I took our time around La Jolla enjoying the small eateries that line the streets both before and after the playtime swimming. Coming down the day before the race is quite helpful for me as I rarely do ocean swimming and getting used to the seaweed, the huge number of fish constantly around you and the ocean swells gets some of the anxiety out of the way … although I must say looking the 1.5 miles across the harbor and knowing that I would be going out and back the next day did leave quite a few butterflies in my stomach.

Sunday September 9: The La Jolla Rough Water swim is actually composed of multiple events comprising youth short distances, Age Group, Masters, and a “Gatorman” distance … a three mile swim across the bay and back to the cove. The Age Group and Masters events are a competitive one mile that are sent off in waves of about 500-700 people at a time. Arizona Sun Devil Masters / SAC had about 15 swimmers in these events. The Gatorman is the premier event as the 3 mile open water US championship and attracted about 550 other swimmers this year including several swimmers from SAC (Winston, Patty Gray, Julie, and me) and an olympic hopeful or two.

I received some ribbing about this afterwards but I actually count my strokes … I’ve done this for as long as I can remember when swimming long distances. It helps me keep my mind off of how long I’m actually out there. I made the turn on the north side of the harbor in 1,100 full strokes and I felt pretty good … the swells were running about four feet and the water was a little choppy but not too bad. The return leg though was harder … it took over 1,300 full strokes to get back! I’m not sure why … my sighting was good so I kept a steady heading but the swells seemed a little higher and the water a little more choppy … and there were a few times where I felt I was swimming strong but not making any headway as the water pushed and tugged on me. I finally finished after an hour and 37 minutes … not exactly one of the speed folks out there that day but a time good enough for the ultimate objective … a Gatorman tee shirt … a very prized tee shirt that only swimmers who make the cut off time of 1:45 are eligible! Some photos to look for show Fran, Julie and I as well as other photos with various swimmer friends from my Masters swim team.

Monday September 10: The highlight of the day was having dinner with Mike and Sue at “Su Casa” in La Jolla. Mike and Sue went there 30 years ago on the honeymoon. We spent 2-3 hours just sharing stories about our families and teenagers while enjoying dinner, fresh made at the table guacamole and a few margaritas. Mike has a swimming background very similar to me in that he was not a swimmer prior to joining Masters Swimming. I was a runner, Mike was a bike rider and sore bodies led both of us to the pool and building ourselves up to the point where we could even attempt an open water ocean swim.

Tuesday September 11: Fran and I had a bad experience at golf about 15 years ago … Fran thought it was a social thing … I thought it was a competitive thing … we ended up walking off the course and thinking we would never play together again. But the LWR offers some free golf clinics and on Tuesdays it is learning how to swing a club … not how to hit a ball … but the process of how to swing a club through a ball. The instructor was very good and both Fran and I learned quite a few tips … to the point where Fran even suggested playing golf together later in the week. I think she was feeling a little competitive ...

After the golf clinic we went to the Wineries of Temecula Valley. After an outdoor lunch at Baily’s in Old Town Temecula we went down the main road where most of the 20 or so Temecula wineries are located and decided to go to one called VR La Cereza. It was actually quite pleasant there. We tasted a few different wines and ended up buying one called “Tempranillo” bottled in 2005 and meaning … “they loved to dance”.

As we returned from the winery tour I was thinking of the outdoor grills provided by the resort and how I would like to cook a couple steaks one evening. As we pulled into the parking lot I had this thought in my head … and got to wondering if there were cooking utensils either in the room or under the grills. As I got out of the car and headed towards our condo I decided to make a beeline for one of the grills and even noticed a tong on top of the wood surface next to the grill … before I thought about it further I went right over to the grill, noticed it was hot and proceeded opened it … only to hear a high pitched whiney “that’s my chicken”! Fran had her hand over her mouth as I turned to look at a big Grizzly Adams type of guy who was trying to get to me before I could get to his chicken. Talk about acting before thinking … I quickly apologized profusely and kept apologizing and walking with Fran back to our room where we got a big chuckle out of the “Chicken Incident” and the fact the Grizzly Adams was our loud next door neighbor.

That evening we attended “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. Modern Mille is a new play presented at the Welk Resort Theater featuring a large Broadway quality cast. It is about a young woman from Kansas intent on achieving fortune and fame in NYC during the early 1920s. She eventually achieves the fortune part but only after several perilous plights involving failed relationships and saving young women from being kidnapped and sent to Shanghai for the sex trade. It was a nice play to watch starting at 8PM and finishing around 10:45PM … but we felt bad for the cast as the audience gave a polite applause and then went home to bed. But Fran and I were thinking that if you perform the late evening show at the LW Resort don’t expect much of an enthusiastic response for an audience up past their bed time J

Wednesday September 12: Without a lot of planning we decided to go to Catalina Island today … turns out there are several pickup points for the Catalina Shuttle and we left from Dana Point, a very nice area filled with restaurants and shops supporting the wealthy yacht owners of Southern California. A very beautiful place! It was a quick 90 minute trip to Catalina and Fran and I spent about five hours visiting the city of Avalon. Lunch at the Beach House, buying a few shirts at various shops and after a short trolley ride we went on a walking tour of the Wrigley Memorial arboretum. Wrigley Jr owned the island about 100 years ago and bequeathed about 80% of the island as a permanent conservation site. Some photos to look for are from lunch at the Avalon Beach House, the “Dragon Tree” at the Wrigley arboretum, and the streets filled with electric carts. Avalon is only about two miles on a side … so cars are pretty much wasted here … and expensive!

Thursday September 13: Fran and I returned to the golf clinic and learned some basics for chipping this morning. Pretty much the same as for full contact swinging … finding your line, bend at the hips, arms hang straight down, interlaced grip, square feet & shoulders & hips but then pull your feet out at an angle but keep your shoulders parallel to the line to the hole. Whew ... I wanted to write it all down! Seems like a lot when you just want to hit the ball! Then put weight on forward foot and leading arm extended forming a little “y” with arms. Three position back swing (low, medium, high) and the position of the feet prevent the arms from too much of a back swing. No movement of the wrists … it’s all arm movement … from position 1, 2 or 3 depending how far the ball needs to be hit. Club selection is based on loft needed and distance of desired roll.

After lunch at Panera Bread company we played 18 holes of executive golf at the Oak Ridge course at Welk. Most of the holes were 80-90 yards long although a few were a whopping 125 yards. There is a longer course called Fountains but we are a long ways away from being able to use that course. Fran had a number of good shots including a 20 foot putt. It helped that we were almost the only one's on the course so no rushing and we took our time every hole. We played "best ball" and and per hole scores were capped at 5 ... so we got to celebrate the holes where we were successful and by definition we had no unsuccessful holes! It was a nice time together and we got to thinking about when and where we could play next!

That evening I made dinner … OK, not that hard … a couple steaks, store bought salad, and the bottle of “Tempranillo” I had bought on Tuesday but it was nice to cook on the outdoor grills provided by the resort ... and while I was cooking ... I kept looking over my shoulder for Grizzly Adams as I kept reliving the Chicken Incident ....

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bike Ride to the Towers

Today was not supposed to be a ride to the "Towers" ... a well known turn around point for cyclists at the entrance to Bartlett Lake reservoir. I was intending on waking up early and driving down to South Mountain where today is "Silent Sunday" a no motor vehicles day that lets cyclists and hikers take over the park without the fear of getting run over by someone too intent on getting through the park fast than watching out for others. Ouch ... That sounded cycnical ... but you should see some of those drivers ... scary.

Anyway, Chester went in my room last night and peed on my rug and my comforter at about 3AM. I'm not sure why ... sometimes I think He does not like me and took advantage of me at a weak moment. So here it is 3AM and all of a sudden the room went from smelling nice to smelling not so nice and I had to overcome the urge to not through my dog out the window ... because I don't need an animal abuse charge. So I left Chester to sleep and cleaned up the mess and decided to sleep in. But, instead of driving to the south end of Phoenix I woke up at a reasonable hour and rode my bike north to the Towers. It's about a 39 mile ride round trip ... much faster on the way back because from my house the ride to the Towers seems all up hill.

I've attached a few photos showing view from the turn around point. 12 more miles to get down to Bartlett Lake from that point ... that extra 24 miles of hills turns an enjoyable 39 mile jaunt into 63 mile ride of agony. But the views are spectacular! In the photos you will see "4-Peaks" near Roosevelt dam, Weavers Needle behind the Superstition Mountains, and "Tom Thumb" a granite precipice atop McDowell Mountains. I've even included a picture of the Carefree Town Sundial. All for now.

Monday, July 23, 2007

OK ... I've Had Enough Rain

OK ... so it seems like it hasn't rained for about six months ... hello, this is the desert! But this past month it has been pretty hot ... about 20+ days where the high was over 110 degrees ... and wasn't even really a dry heat. We have been looking forward to the rain so much and it finally hit us today. The past week spot thundershowers hit various parts of the Phoenix valley but none came near our house. We got a few "blow & go" storms ... big swirls of dust and wind to make us go inside but no rain. Today we got our first good rainstorm and right after the "Monsoon" season officially began. When the humidity gets above 55 percent for three consecutive days is the official beginning of our summer storm season. We can expect about another four weeks of stormy weather not knowing from day to day whether it is our neighborhood that will get hit with a thunderstorm or the worst thing a "Haboo"!

The Haboo is a pretty amazing sight. It does not happen too often but about once every 2-3 years a wall of dust and dirt rises up to a mile in the sky and it can stretch for 10-20 miles across and it looks like a wall moving across the valley. If you have seen the movie "The Mummy" you saw a Haboo there swallowing the plane. It's like that here as well when the Haboo moves through your area it envelopes everything and leaves a dusty dirty place behind. It does not seem to be really damaging ... unless you are caught on the highway ... it's just a big blow & go ... but it is one of the amazing sights you will ever see!

I've attached a few photos of our backyard after the storm today looking over the back fence at the golf course and then one of Fran grilling dinner. All for now.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Some China Stories: Beijing in April 2004

My experience in China in April of 2004 was actually quite limited ... 3 days in Beijing and 3 days in Shanghai and virtually all my communication was with Honeywell China based personnel but I did have several interesting and sometimes funny experiences that I have not written down so if you will bear with me I'll put some memories to paper ...

I had one young sales manager who was basically assigned to me for the week by the local Honeywell management. He was there to help me with local language issues and to make sure I got to where I needed to go. Not in a micro manage sense but the big things ... like get to the right hotel, make sure I could find the local office, and to help with office translation as I was often speaking to 10-20 people at a time most who had limited English language ability. He was also there to report back to his boss if people were paying attention to me ... and I'm sure whether I was conveying useful information to the local Chinese sales teams. I got the sense that he felt it was a big deal for him to be assigned to support an American. First in Beijing and then in Shanghai my 'assistant' and I got to speak more freely and he was able to open up and tell me what a big deal this was for him ... to be able to travel between Beijing and Shanghai. He had to have special permission to travel between political jurisdictions ... it seemed this type of travel was forbidden otherwise. And this was just for travel ... let alone wanting to move to another area within the country. He smiled wistfully when we spoke of the freedom of travel between states in the USA or between countries in the European Union. I did not realize how tightly the Chinese controlled movement but with 1.3B people it is far easier to have order when you inhibit movement.

This story brings back memories of when Fran and I were tutoring English as a second language back in South Bend, Indiana in 1990 and I had a young female student who's husband was studying for his PhD in computer science ... she had her masters in computer science. We spent a year together and she picked up English quite nicely. She asked so many questions for things that we often take for granted ... how do we number highways? ... what are zip codes? ... what are area codes? ... how many types of political jurisdictions do we have (county, town, city, state, country, etc)? But the point of the story is that they had to leave their 3 year old baby at home for three years while they came to the US to study. It was to guarantee their return to China. Things changed dramatically during the 1990s as they were able to be reunited with their child and subsequently moved to Chicago ... we still get Christmas cards from them.

In Beijing I had a day to myself and I signed up for a tour of the Great Wall. It was AWESOME! $50 for an eight hour tour ... including lunch. I had a delightful young lady as the tour guide and she spoke excellent English. There were about eight of us on the tour ... our first stop was unscheduled ... the "Official" Chinese Jade Manufacturing Company. We walked into a little store front and the guides inside showed us about four extremely hard working Chinese workers dutifully shaving and sanding and polishing Jade jewelry and ornaments ... showing us every step of the process ... giving me the impression that it took these four workers about an eight hour shift to produce but a few pieces for sale to the public. After about 30 minutes of that we rounded the corner and it opened up into a giant room filled floor to ceiling with unbelievable amounts of Jade ornaments, statues, and artwork. It was incredible! They must have had an army of workers out back ... cause it wasn't those four workers in front who did this! I bought a very nice warrior horse representing one of the four types of horses favored by an ancient warrior emperor.

Now on to the Great Wall! Well ... almost, we got half way there when we stopped at the "Official" Chinese Porcelain Bowl Manufacturing Company. Same deal as the jade place ... four workers up front taking sheet copper, using a wooden mallet to pound the metal into a bowl shape around a mandrel, then 1,000 little hits making the copper conform to the mandrel, followed by 12 coats of porcelain each with a separate kiln firing, and then final finishing and painting. It made me exhausted thinking that these four workers could maybe turn out four bowls a day from their one furnace ... then we turned the corner ... you got it ... a huge room ... a warehouse filled floor to ceiling with the most gorgeous pottery you have ever seen. Little bowls, big bowls, ornate bowls, plain bowls. I bought a beautiful porcelain bowl that sits with my jade horse in our living room. Lunch was on the second floor of the building. A five course affair of delicious food.

Now on to the Great Wall! Well ... almost, we were almost there and we stopped at a location where many of the emperors from the last 3,000 years were buried. Incredible buildings and sights. The most impressive building was held up by tree trunks a 1,000 years old! These trunks were well over 60 feet high and 10-12 feet in diameter and straight as an arrow. The architect of the building specified these trees as the only way that this great building could be built. One small engineering challenge ... the trees only grew in southern China ... over a 1,000 miles away. But like many things in China's history, when the emperor wanted something he gathered enough people and made them do it. There were about 20 of these huge tree pillars each the height of a five story building and they had to be carried, pushed, and floated for over 1,000 miles ... it must have been an incredible sight!

Now on to the Great Wall! Yes, we finally made it. The wall ... its pretty big. If it was hard to picture moving those 20 trees 1,000 miles now I'm looking at a stone wall several thousand miles long 20-30 feet thick and 30-80 feet high and built over 1,000 years ago. But the invasions by the Mongols must have provided plenty of incentive to build the wall so over a period of a few hundred years and with the blood and sweat of over 1,000,000 slave laborers the wall was built. I was able to climb over about a 1 mile stretch of the wall as it traversed steep hills and ravines ... it basically follows the nape of the earth. Sometimes the climb is so steep it took my breath away! At one point I was stopped by a large crowd and they one by one gave me their babies to hold so they could take pictures of me holding their children and with my arms around them. The line was five deep at one point. They loved it. Not sure why but I'm sure they didn't get to see many foreigners and I had a good time sharing a smile and a laugh with them.
After the Great Wall! After climbing around the big wall I thought our tour guide would bring us back to the hotel ... but there was one more stop. The official Chinese herbal medicine center. Seriously, we were brought to a "hospital" with multiple buildings in a compound. It was actually quite pretty and had multiple pictures of "eminent" doctors who had discovered various treatments to benefit the citizens of China. We were asked to choose between viewing the displays and pictures among the halls or to have an opportunity to talk with one of the eminent doctors. Naturally I wanted to meet one of the doctors ... we were led to a small room with little tiny wooden chairs where we waited for about 20 minutes and a nurse who spoke english entered. She asked for a volunteer from among the 10 or so in the room and when no one stepped foreward I raised my hand and became the doctors first "patient". I went to the front of the room and was introduced to the doctor who had a long robe and a long white beard and sat down across from him. He held my hand looking at my palm and asked me if I was feeling any back pain ... well after travelling across the world, visiting the jade and porcelain factories, climbing across the great wall and then spending about 20 minutes on a smal wooden bench I had to admit my back was feeling a little sore. Long story short ... he offered to send to America a special blend of herbs guaranteed to remove impurities and cleanse my kidneys and solve my back pain ... for $50 per month ... and they take Visa. I politely declined and after a short while ended back up at my hotel with some great memories. To this day ... I wonder if the eminent doctor really had something that would make my back feel better ... :-)

That's all for now. Hope you enjoyed the stories. It was fun writing them down.

Next installment ... Shanghai!

Some China Stories:

July 2007: Turns out I'm heading back to China on August 3rd for a week stay in a city called "Tianjin" just outside of Beijing.

I was in Beijing and Shanghai for about one week and in India for a week several years ago. Pretty interesting ... between the two countries China (1.3B people) and India (1.0B people) they contain about 38% of the world's 6B population. U.S. is the third largest at about 0.3B population and represents about 5% of the world's population. Contrast that with the respective gross national product (a measure of wealth) of the countries; U.S. at about $13Trillion, China at $2.3Trillion and India at about $0.8Trillion. So with 5% of the world's population we have over four times the wealth of China and India combined and they collectively have almost eight times our population.

I've also spent some time in Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Australia and I think it is fair to say ... with the exception of Australia, Korea, Japan, and Singapore, the Asian countries have a long way to go to meet what we or the Europeans would consider acceptable levels of water quality, available electricity, roads, schooling for their children, adequate housing, etc. It is absolutely staggering to see the levels of poverty that exist in these countries and yet in the midst of the poverty is a fast rising middle class and an even faster super rich class driving the globalization of their major industries.

It is quite exciting to watch these giant countries find their way forward as their populations become more educated and their standards of living increase. Contrast that with many of the European countries and Japan where populations are shrinking and populations are aging rapidly. It is no wonder that the U.S. is reaching out to China and India so strongly as when we look 20 years from now the countries that will be replacing our European partners in terms of population are currently the source of much of the world's angst ... Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Iran ... and they will increase rapidly to represent 20% of the global population, they are all impoverished and they are all being radicalized. In 20 years we will be down to about 4.3% of global population.

A very interesting and very disturbing phenomenon that is very apparent when overseas looking at the U.S. is the fact that for all the good we do globally and the tremendous influence that we have on virtually every country in the world ... and with all our wealth and education and military strength we spend very little time and effort trying to truly understand other nations ... at least not nearly at the level they try to understand us. My goodness ... a good example of this is the fact that we have over 20% of our population in the southern U.S. is of Hispanic origin and we can't even be bothered to learn Spanish in our schools or study their cultures.

I am absolutely fascinated by this topic as well as global energy ... but that is a whole different story that gets pushed off the national discussion ... to talk about Paris Hilton.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lake Tahoe June 7-10

Another great trip with my friends from RxRunning! We took two teams to Lake tahoe again this year and had a wonderful weekend. The weather was perfect and after 11 hours of running the 72 miles around the lake our two seven person relay teams were exhausted but came within 10 minutes of each other at the finish!

Fran and I used this for the second year in a row to escape the Phoenix heat and travel to Reno for an evening of rest and then to travel up to Tahoe the following day. We stayed at our usual hotel in South Lake Tahoe and went out for dinner both evenings with our larger group. Saturday night after the race was absolutely beautiful as we had dinner late into the evening on the shore of Lake Tahoe.

Next year ... three teams! This is too much fun!

Dinner Celebration for Fran at Methode Bistro

To celebrate Fran's first week at her new place of employment we went to "Methode Bistro" south of the Scottsdale / Lincoln intersection. What a great place!

I had purchased a $50 dining coupon from for $25 a couple weeks ago and it seemed like a perfect time to use it. Fran had just changed jobs and was so pleased to be hired by what so far looks like a very nice place to work and with good long term prospects. They acquire land and develop it for residential use. They treat her wonderfully and it is only a short trip from our house.

The dinner itself was great. Everything about it ... the bread, wine, appetizer, and main course of Sea Bass for Fran and Prime Rib for me. I would highly recommend this restaurant ... but it is expensive. The Mediterranean Cuisine for two is easily $100 sharing an appetizer and each having a glass of wine ... but the food is so good and the atmosphere casual but I thought elegant.

Here is a link to directions:

And a Review:

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tupelo Visitors May 26-28

Fran and I hosted four high school girls from Tupelo Mississippi this weekend. They were part of a 40 person church youth choir visiting Arizona and Nevada. They sang for us at church on Sunday and they were awesome to listen to and to watch their youthful energy. Marion, Lizzie, Mary Morgan & Caitlin only spent two nights with us but they were such a treat to talk to and to learn a little bit about life in their town of Tupelo.

We have lived in Phoenix now for eight years so we have lost a little of our memory of when we lived in small towns like Hendersonville (population 10,000 ... on a good day), Utica (population 60,000 ... and shrinking) , South Bend (60,000 ... and also shrinking), or Bellbrook (5,000). Being in a Phoenix metropolitan area of 4M people brings a certain numbness to many things that go on in a big city and memories fade about the simple life afforded in small towns.

Tupelo is known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley and currently stands at a population of about 37,000 people. Talking with the girls brought back a lot of the small town memories that we experienced when our kids were younger and grew up in an environment very rich in simple pleasures. We have lived in six towns/cities before Phoenix and yet never had a fence between us and our neighbors, the schools were close by, there was time to spend with friends, and one time when my hub caps were taken ... the police came to my house to take the report ... it even made the paper the next day :-)

Marion, Lizzie, Mary Morgan & Caitlin reminded me of those times when they spoke one evening about the "trouble" they used to get into when they were younger ... one had "two" timeouts during pre-school ... another got caught eating chocolate toppings off a birthday cake at school and had to sit in detention with her girl friend.

So girls ... thanks for staying with us and I hope we see you again!

"Miss Fran" and "Mr Dave"

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Europe Trip to Bracknell and Prague - March 2007

I went to Europe for a week during March with my boss and several of my peers. Our group is responsible for global activities so we needed to meet up with our European co-workers to develop plans for this year and next. Hopefully, we'll do something like this for Asia in the near future. We ended up working most daylight hours but did have a few opportunities to get out and see a few sights. We did not wander far in Bracknell except for a local shopping district and a nice dinner with local co-workers and did not have time to get into London, but Prague we were able to get out a few times.

Old Town Prague is spectacular! It dates back centuries and the King's Castle actually goes back to the year 900. We had a very nice dinner one evening overlooking the river cutting through downtown, visted the King's castle and adjoining cathedral, and one morning I was able to find my way via local tram to the largest pool in the Czech Republic to do some swimming. It was not easy finding my way there ... I actually tried one day and almost made it but got lost and had to return to the hotel but the next day armed with better information I made it in time and had a nice swim workout. I've attached a few photos of Prague including the hotel I stayed at (Paris Hotel - very nice), the hotel across the street (Grand Hotel Bohemia) and the Podoli pool complex. This is definitely a place worth visiting again!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Julie's First Marathon: The "Lost Dutchman" Feb 18, 2007

Julie ran her first marathon today! What a beautiful day. Slight overcast and early morning temperatures of 40 degrees warming up to about 65 by noon.

When she mentioned it a few weeks ago I was surprised. She has really been ramping up her running this past few months and did very well in the PF Chang 1/2 marathon in January but I knew her legs were hurting. She was so uncomfortable that it did not occur to me that she would want to do the marathon but she did and I was very happy to go with her as her support crew ... and while I was there I ended up running a 10K. It is quite an impressive event that the city of Apache Junction puts on every year. A full and half marathon, a 10K, an 8K and a 2 mile run. Lots of music and food as well. All in a beautiful park nestled against the scenic Superstition mountains.

Julie got up at 3AM and I got up at 3:30AM to be able to make it to the marathon start. I dropped Julie off at the buses and they brought her six miles into the desert where they had 30 camp fires waiting to let the runners warm up while they were stretching prior to the race start. So Julie started at 7AM while I went and raced the 10K starting at 8AM. After my race I picked up my camera and went to mile 23 ... an absolutely brutal mile marker in any marathon but they had an especially nasty hill right at mile 23 that runner after runner who went by me struggled mightly to get up.

I ended taking a handful of pictures that are attached. They don't do the place justice in terms of stark beauty but two of my favority mountains in the area are "Superstition Mountain" that I have climbed a few times and one shows "4 Peaks" in the distance. I've been near to the 4 Peaks but not climbed them yet. They go up to 8,000 feet and overlook the biggest reservoir in central Arizona "Roosevelt Lake" put in by "Teddy" Roosevelt over a century ago.
The Superstition Mountain area has quite a bit of legend associated with it going back 150+ years where prospectors found gold, were killed, but the gold was rediscovered decades later only to have the miner take the secret to his grave. People still go looking for the old mines and / or hiding places for the gold.

Friday, February 02, 2007

26 mile PF Chang Marathon Jan 14, 2007

29 degrees at start time in downtown Phoenix!

What a way to start the day at 7AM in downtown Phoenix! Julie and I were entered in the PF Chang 1/2 marathon and full marathon races. Fortunately it was clear skies and no wind.

I think there were about 10,000 people entered in the marathon and about 26,000 entered in the 1/2 marathon ... quite a few folks. Julie ran well and finished in 1:56 and I did pretty good as well running the full distance in a little under 3:32.

The 3:32 time was actually good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2008 as a 50 year old ... so I felt pretty good about that. I ended up taking a pretty good fall at the 19 mile mark running through old town scottsdale zig zagging back and forth through 90 degree turns. One particular 90 degree bend went from black top to cobblestone and I don't know whether I slipt or tripped but I went down flat on my face. Fortunately, it was cobbelstone and instead of road rash I ended up skidding on my stomach and race number and the tucking and rolling as other runners went by me. As I was tucking and rolling the crowd (yes it was packed intersection) that was previously cheering went silent as they watched me fall and then gasped as I rolled. As I was rolling I was thinking boy that is a pretty cool sound effect ... but then all I could think about was getting up and running again.

I was so proud of Julie. She has run a few of these 1/2 marathons now and runs a pretty aggressive race. There are a few trails near our house and she has been steadily increasing the distances ... and she seems to really enjoy the running and is looking very graceful as she runs. Go Julie!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Glendale Glitters at BCS Block Party

OK ... it's the first time Glendale has hosted a block party of this size since the move from Tempe but they did a pretty good job of moving the crowd and providing an entertaining evening for a large crowd of Ohio , Florida and local fans of their respective college football teams.

The "Glendale Glitters" theme with many glowing hot air balloons, 1.5M lights, and many shops provided the setting. The Ohio State and Florida State marching bands provided the main entertainment.
Fran and I started out at Glendale Community College and took the free shuttle to downtown. Not too bad ... a 30 minute wait in the GCC parking lot and a 15 minute bus ride to get there. On the way back we lucked out and avoided the whole return line when a bus that was returning people to the GCC parking lot got out of sequence, overshot the pick up point by 100 yards and stopped right in front of us as we were on our way to go stand in line. We felt bad for all the people who had patiently waited in line but .... it sure did feel good to sit in the bus without waiting for an hour

Round trip it was about four hours from our house. We had a good two hours in the downtown area, enough to see the marching bands, take a walk around the balloons and light show, and have a couple burgers at a local restaurant. One thing we could not figure out was why there were so few places to eat. There were 10's of thousands of people in the downtown area for hours and only a few places serving food or drink.