Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vineman, Lake Tahoe, Reno—a week of fun!

I know, I know: This update is long overdue. But what do you do when the FUN factor is so immense that it cuts into the time to write a proper update? Dude, I did not even find the time to write my post-race report for the Ironman 70.3 Vineman until yesterday when I sat on the plane from Reno to DFW. 

Vineman now lies a week in the past, and I can only send my biggest accolades to race director Russ Pugh and his staff for putting on such an outstanding event, year after year. After last year's 20th anniversary edition one would have thought that he couldn't top things, but he did with a fully carpeted transition area for the 50+ Pro racers and a finish line set-up that rivaled the world's biggest races. My buddy Wes, a.k.a. Keebler, had taken my advice and traveled with the entire clan to Santa Rosa to participate in this year's race, and neither he nor Susan, the kids, Amy or Tracy, or Jack and Cindy were disappointed. They all had a great time, and Keebler shaved almost half an hour off his previous half-Ironman PR.
The finish area of the 2011 Ironman 70.3 Vineman
On Monday, the Keebler-clan, Jenny, and I met up to all visit Armstrong Redwood Preserve, just outside of Guerneville, where the race had started on Sunday morning with the swim in the Russian River. As I have mentioned on occasion, this small copse of giant redwoods was one of Judy's very, very favorite places, even before we knew that her chemo cocktail was derived from trees closely related to the redwoods. On our first trip to Vineman we had camped in Armstrong, and she could not get over the majesty of these living beings. Every year we paid a visit to her 1,400-year-old friends, and she'd hug them and lie on her back to look at their gently swaying tops. I wanted to share this forest with Wes, Susan, and especially the kids, and at the same time I wanted to leave a bit of Judy among the trees. Dispersing some of her ashes turned out to be a happy moment.
Anna, Susan, and Alli in Judy's favorite place
My friends and family
Before we left the area, all of us went down the road to visit the Korbel Champagne Cellars just outside of Guerneville. (We also went to Stumptown Brewery, a place where Judy and I had had a beer or two ourselves, but a little run-in with the waitress made for a less-than-positive visit for at least Wes and Susan.) At Korbel we were lucky enough to catch a guided tour led by the head historian, and we all learned a load before tasting (and eventually buying) some fine bubbly.
Jenny with pre-champagne product at Korbel
That afternoon, Jenny and I drove from the Russian River Valley to Lake Tahoe. The last few miles, from Placerville on when the road starts to climb into the sierra, was simply spectacular. Highway 50 winds up and up, alongside the beautiful American River, one turn after the other. I had soooo much fun driving the Z4, putting it into manual and occasionally hitting the little "sport" button that adds another three dozen horses. Oh my, that car is a dream! And so is the view of the lake once HWY 50 tops out high above South Lake Tahoe, our destination for the next two nights.
Lake Tahoe seen from Eagle Falls
We stayed with Jenny's friends Holly and Dennis, and during our time in the area we visited various lakes and waterfalls before embarking on a ride in their boat that gave us a completely different perspective of this gem. The weather was perfect, the temperature was perfect, the scenery was perfect, and it's easy to forget how hard the winters are out here. Also, I have no idea how people can afford the $5-million homes that dot the shore line, nor do I care: It was simply too mesmerizing to be in such a beautiful spot. Here's a sampling of the rough life:

Jenny and Holly on one of our hikes
Shabby hovel on Lake Tahoe

A different view of the lake
Women drivers...

Sun-tanning, sushi, and a visit to The Brewery at Lake Tahoe rounded out our strenuous activities. Thanks, Holly and Dennis, for opening your home!

In the remaining three days back in Reno before my departure for hot Texas Jenny and I went on several bike rides. Good thing that I had brought the Ritchey along since I clocked a little more than 100 miles in those three days. We visited the charming Washoe valley with its protected wetlands, and after a hearty breakfast at The Squeeze in Truckee we rode the bikes along the river over to Tahoe City (on the north shore) and continued to marvel at the scenery. If you check the brew-pub section to the right, you'll see that the area doesn't lack in watering holes, and I made the best of it.
The Ritchey enjoyed the rides as much as I did

One evening, Jenny's friends Russ and Margo came over to the house and I had a chance to totally screw up a totally perfect piece of wild sockeye salmon. Alas, I didn't, and despite working with an unfamiliar grill I was able to turn out a fine example of culinary art. Still, I hate being put under pressure like that. So I repeated the next night with another fillet and a different recipe!
Russ, Jenny, and Margo about to be sample the sockeye
Smoked sockeye
So, in a nutshell, this was my trip out west. Those 10 or 12 days or whatever flew by since we did so many different things, saw so many different sights, and, yes, sampled so many different beers. I had thought that I would have almost three weeks to decompress at home, but a few days ago the UCI assigned me to Crankworx, the well-known downhill event in Winter Park, Colorado, next weekend. So, today's ride with the lads will have to suffice for the next couple of weeks, and I won't be able to sweat myself into shape the way I had hoped for in torridly hot Lubbock. I hope to write the next update from the cool Rockies in a few days. And if you think my life is rough, you're damn right, but somebody seems to have to live it!


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