Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bluebonnets, Butterflies, and Beauty

Two weeks have passed since the last blog entry, and—supposedly—spring is upon us. March 21 has passed, yet two nights ago (March 22) I watched the USA-CRC FIFA World Cup qualifying game being played in blizzard conditions in Denver. The front hit us today, on Sunday, when the second of the Texas High Scool Mountain Bike League races was about to begin. Thank goodness, no snow, just a hard wind from the north and a brrrrr temperature.

But yesterday I had a chance to walk the beautiful course at Reveille Peak Ranch, close to Burnet in the Hill Country, and in 85-degree temperatures I witnessed the budding of spring. Here's a sampling, without comments—because you should know what a Bluebonnet looks like:
So, the mesquite (that's that thorny thing!) is finally greening up. That means, as you well know, that the last freeze is past and spring is here. Mind you, in the South Plains, where I live, you won't find anything green on the all-knowing mesquite trees just yet. (I should add, as a disclaimer, that Old Man Mark, hubby to my sis-in-law's Candi's sister Ann—yeah, you go figure what that makes us: drinking buddies?—claims that pecan trees are even more reliable predictors of freezes than mesquite.) Regardless, you get an idea of how beautiful my 6-mile course inspection was yesterday.

Today's race, which happened to be the second race in the second year of the TX High School League's existence, attracted a record-breaking 101 racers from all over Tejas, and it was truly a memorable day. The fact that I was able to pose with—hold on, so I get this straight— Mrs. Texas United America, the lovely Leilani Kohles, was icing on the cake. Well, at least it made a heck of a blog photo op, n'est ce pas?
Windy, cold, and ...
... close-up: Posing with Mrs. Texas United America, the luvely Leilani Kohles
And thus it was, my weekend. It was great staying last night with Mark and Ann on Oatmeal Creek—thanks, guys. Inspecting and working a new venue is always tremendous fun. And interfacing with Vance, Brandi, Paul, Erin, Chad, Adam, Michael, and all those other decent people in the League is a total treat. And now, once again, I'm in what I like to call my "home office" in the Hilton Garden Inn in Abilene.
A Stromboli, good nourishment thanks to Joe's Pizza here in Abilene, and a bottle of CH Lot #99.


PS: This was our staff this weekend; we took the group photo at the conclusion of the race, and somebody posted it on Facebook. I include it here as a memento for myself.
Brandi McMurry, Chris Spencer, Paul Erin Garcia, Kelly Priebel Cleveland, Josh Lewis, Vance McMurry, Paul Gerhardt, Katherine Williams, Chad andWendy Bobbitt, Jürgen Heise, Jay Williams and Michael Johnson at Reveille Peak Ranch.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Quite the travel day—or: From a Continental Championship to high school racing

Goodness me: This was a new experience today. As you know, I quite often board an airplane and cover some serious distance, but then I settle down and stay put for a day or two. Not so today: My alarm ding-dinged at 3:55 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time), and by 4:15 a.m. I was on the way to Tampa International. I was confirmed (and upgraded) on the noon flight to DFW and back to Lubbock, but for reasons you will soon understand I chose to arrive at the aeropuerto in the wee hours to stand-by for the 6:00 a.m. flight. Make the long story short: The plan panned out in that I not only got a seat on both the TPA-DFW and DFW-LBB flights but was upgraded on the first and had my usual 12A exit row seat on the latter—and made it to Lubbock a few minutes after 10 a.m.
From the West Coast of Florida ...
WTF, you would obviously ask? Or at least, Why the Hell? Easy: Thanks to a number of circumstances (including a major brainfart of mine) I am the chief referee for a TX High School Mountain Bike League race Sunday morning (yes, about 9 hours from now, including the annual spring-forward/fall-backward routine that will once again hit us tonight) here in South Texas, in Smithville to be exact, east of Austin. Dude, not even 24 hours ago I was frantically doing paperwork for the BMX Continental Championships in Oldsmar, Florida!
... to the Heart of Texas, in 24 hours.
Overlaps, unfortunately, do happen when it comes to races. In this case the margin of error was very slim, but not so narrow that I would have given up either one of the two. Just imagine: One day you work for the UCI, the next for the blossoming TX HS League. Both are challenging, both are exciting, and both are part of this broad spectrum that cycling encompasses—today it's grassroots, tomorrow it's Pros at the highest level on the continent. I approach them both with the same sincerity and care, and neither one is more important than the other as the Pros wouldn't exist without the beginners, and the beginners wouldn't have anything to look up to if it weren't for the Pros.
BMX chicks at the Continental Championship seeding runs, charging ....
And so I decided I would try to work them both, and the gamble paid off. It was a bit odd arriving in Lubbock and picking up the Miata, which was already packed for the HS race, but then driving to the house to drop off my carry-on (I traveled light to  Florida), make a sandwich, and hit the road again. In and out. Just like that, yet focused all the time: In my mind I had laid out the plan of what additional stuff I needed, such as the Welli-boots since now there is some major rain in the forecast. Sometimes I feel as if I lived in a movie—not a Clooney or Ocean XX franchise kinda thing, just one about a bike race official who is serious about his stuff.
... and hopping
437 miles later (yes, I know that numbers are supposed to be spelled out when they start a sentence, but for clarity's sake and because this was an actual measurement I decided to flout the rules [while you're into educating yourself, check out the difference between that one and flaunt—you don't want to be the one to screw it up in public!]), I am in La Grange, TX, home of the infamous Chicken House where Judy and I once spent a night among prostitutes' memorabilia. This time I'm in a safe Hampton.
The South Plains surrounding Lubbock during today's dust storm—NOT!!!
The drive was long and arduous, and I had to pull over once to take a 20-minute nap. I miss Judy as a travel partner. We'd sometimes trade off in 30-minute intervals, after races. Now I have to stay awake all by myself, and when I can't, well, there is always a place to pull off. But now I am safe and sound in my hotel room, and I am looking forward to tomorrow's race: Those gangly high-schoolers will be ready to roll for the first race of their second season, and I am excited about seeing not only them but also all those volunteers and other cool people who make this happen. In a way it's very similar to BMX, which is extremely family oriented and puts fun and companionship ahead of egos and ultimate performance. Two states, two days, two competley different competitions, but it's all about the same thing, and I am glad I'm part of it. It's one official, too.
The top three TX HS teams, after race #1, in ascending order: A&M (l), Laredo (r), and Lake Travis (c)
And I will also be glad to finally be back home on Monday!