Monday, July 16, 2012

From sea to shining sea

Almost two weeks have gone by since the last post, and this one is being written while I am looking upon the tarmac of the San Francisco airport. The past five days I have been out here, on the West Coast, while it was New York just a fortnight ago. And believe it or not: On Wednesday I will be back on the east side of the country when I arrive in North Carolina for Gravity Nationals.
Heading across the Golden Gate bridge toward the wine country

My second trip to California this year took me for the sixth (and most likely last time) to the Vineman 70.3 in Napa Valley. Even after WTC unceremoniously and in mysterious ways severed its relationship with me, Race Director Russ Pugh went to bat for me so that I would be his Head Referee for 2012. Some people understand professionalism and display loyalty, even in light of corporate politics. So I went back to the race that Judy and I always considered our favorite, simply because of the high quality of the staff, the volunteers, and the capable USAT officials with whom I had the privilege to work over the years. Who knows, maybe Russ is able to get me back next year, but I doubt it. Regardless, I did my usual very thorough job, and we had a clean race with essentially no problems from the officiating side. Some of the USAT officials were obviously distraught when I told them that this most likely would be by last Vineman. Sad indeed.
The Penalty Tent right after the bike dismount line—my office on Sunday

I have good friends in that part of the world, and I had a nice quaff with Mr. Pepperhead himself, old Kai. He used to be my moto driver until he gave up scooters, making it possible to cozy up to Pete, who used to be Judy's driver. Pete and I rode together last year, and for this year we also planned some extra curricular activities that included Pliny the Elder at Russian River Brewing on two occasions. Pete is an extraordinary man (as is Kai), with a wide range of interests and a natural curiosity that both come in handy at his second-life job as a caddy. 
Kai holding court at Whole Foods' amazing taproom ...

... and Pete holding my Piaget Beer Gauge next to a perfectly poured Pliny the Elder

No trip to the Santa Rosa area would be complete without a  visit to Armstrong Redwood Preserve (just a few miles from the triathlon's swim start in Guerneville). As close followers of Judy's and my blog have learned over the years, this place held a certain magic for Judy. The little woman loved those giant trees, and who would not be awed in the presence of 1,400-year-old living beings? And so I took a little time off to go for a quiet and thoughtful early morning hike through the land of the giants. I am sure Judy was smiling, somewhere.
Trees that appear almost transparent in the morning light

In the Land of Magic
I spent time inspecting the course, made sure the quality of some of the local breweries hadn't suffered since my last visit, and even went for a very enjoyable wine tasting at Kendall Jackson. The bautiful countryside out here and the perfect weather whenver I have visited simply amaze me.
Johnson's Beach, on the Russian River, where the race starts with the swim

Dry Creek in the wine country
After a very long race day yesterday I drove down to Hayward on the east side of the bay and spent the night in a Hampton. This morning I braved what turned out to be not-so-horrible traffic and drove the remaining 25 miles to the airport. And now I have about 48 hours to return home, wash my clothes, tune up Luke's bike, see the chiropractor, do some putty work filling nail holes to help out in my house remodel project, get packed for a 10-day trip, have dinner with Liz, and fly out on Wednesday at noon for the USA Cycling National Gravity Championships in Banner Elk, NC. Shouldn't be too tough, eh? just another day in the traveling man's life.


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