Saturday, February 15, 2014

I've never met a stranger–it's just friends I don't know yet

The world from 45,000 feet—or just a bit of water at Reveille Peak
Isn't that a beautiful line? Well, my roommate for tonight, Tim G., who is the race mechanic at the Iris Stagner Memorial Stage Race in Mineral Wells, just uttered it: "I've never met a stranger–it's just friends I don't know yet."
One of the many, many time trial starts today–Joe Morgan is the Starter
Just a bit more than a week after returning to the US and Texas I find myself in this small place, just a few miles west of Fort Worth. I am part of a 10 person crew of USAC officials, working one of the early-season races in Texas. I don't get to work very many road races, but this is one of them. Today, I was the Assistant Chief Referee for the time trial, and tomorrow I will follow the men's Cat. 3/4 and 50/60+ fields.
With Kim Jennings (l) and Michelle Montaya of Bicycles Outback Racing
A week ago, I was in the Marble Falls area, at Reveille Peak Ranch, for the first of the Texas high school races. Angela came along to volunteer at her first bike race ever, and she enjoyed it. This weekend I am on my own, and thus Tim is my roommate. That's the way it works in sanctioned racing.
Six miles and a week ago at Reveille Peak
A week and two days. That's how long it's been since I returned from Germany. Valentine's Day has come and gone, together with a quiet meal; I have been in touch with Europe; life is normalizing.
Full-out sprint in one of the men's circuit races
Next weekend, there will be another high school race, at Rocky Hill, close to Smithville and Bastrop and Austin. Then immediately afterward I will be in Costa Rica for a week. Everything is a whirlwind, but I am trying to keep it all under control and in perspective.
Valentine's Atlantic sockeye salmon and Chilean sea bass
A big thank you to all the wonderful people in my life—everyone who is supportive and the ones who silently share. I know I'm not easy, and my life isn't either, but at least I try.
No sign from the mesquite that winter is close to being done–despite temps in the 70s
Until the next update,


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Once again in the City of Light

La Tour Eiffel, still elegant after 100 years

As always, the blog is limping a little behind in the time/space continuum. These initial words are being written during a British Airways flight from Munich to London, and I am just now beginning my account of Paris. During my layovers at Heathrow and DFW (altogether six hours, if the flights are executed according to schedule) I hope to upload the text and pics so that the blog is updated by the time I get back to Lubbock late tonight. (As it turned out, the update posted while I was still in LHR.)
Huge pre-Valentine's chocolate concoctions in a chocolatier's window
My trip, coming so shortly on the heels of my visit to Ecuador, was of a similar nature as what Judy and I used to do on an almost-annual basis: a quick sojourn in the City of Light during a time of year when tourists tend to shun the city. Altogether I was in Paris for only four nights. Sabine had arranged for an apartment in the 11th arrondissement through the house-sharing site Airbnb, after she had stayed together with her son in the same general neighborhood last year. The two of us met up at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, flying in from our respective domiciles.
View from our Airbnb apartment, which even had a tiny balcony
Having traveled to Paris many times before and knowing the city well, we didn’t see the need to go to every tourist attraction—I’ll keep that for the time I’ll show Wes and Susan around the French capital, or somebody else. Having the apartment (instead of staying in a more sterile hotel) gave us the feeling of being immersed; we overlooked a beautiful small park in a typical Paris ‘hood, with the bakery just 2 minutes away for fresh croissants in the morning. We explored the vicinity on foot, and after a day we used Paris’ fabulous bike share program, the Vélib’, to go farther afield. Vélib’ stations are located every few hundred meters so that one can use the bikes to get around the entire city even though individual rental times are limited to only 30 minutes without any surcharge to the daily 1.70 euro fee. With a metro ride costing exactly the same, using the Vélib’ for our transportation quickly added up to our money saved for wine and food (neither one of which is even close to being affordable).
One of the largest Vélib' stations that we saw—most have only between 25 to 40 bikes
To use the Vélib' you MUST have a credit card with a smartchip (that little gold-colored thing)
What did we do? Picnic and watch the speed-chess players in the Jardin du Luxembourg; visit Notre Dame during the Candlemass service; explore the new citizen-friendly garden-scapes along the Seine; eat at a typical Parisian restaurant, the Café de l’Industrie; gaze at the wonderful fruit, meat, and seafood displays in so many different markets; and look at the Eiffel Tower during its big restoration project. In general, we tried to take to Paris a bit more like locals than as tourists, even though we saw touristy things—you just can't help it! Since we hit Paris on “Free Sunday” (on the first Sunday of every month all museums feature free entry) we also revisited the Musée d’Orsay and had a first look at the interesting ethnographic museum on the Quai Branly, the Musée Branly.  
Speed chess in the Jardin du Luxembourg

The ham and salami from this tiny place were simply out of this world

Parisians love fresh flowers

The Rue Mouffetard has one specialty food shop after the other
Oysters, oysters, and more oysters—and all different
We also had time to talk. Some of you may have wondered about some of the dynamics and aspects of a more-than-fairly close relationship over 5,500+ miles that has been ongoing for quite a while, and so had we. The blog is a relatively open and public forum, so suffice it to say that in the future there will be fewer entries that show Sabine and me in exciting places. We have decided that a solid friendship and the occasional visit or maybe even  trip together will serve us better than trying to maintain something much closer, something that we both felt was not sustainable. When Sabine dropped me off at the Munich airport this morning, we parted as the same good friends that we have been for almost 40 years, but not as the same couple as that of the past three. We both are optimistic about our respective futures, wherever they may lead, and we are glad that we still consider each other very close friends.
Three views of Notre Dame de Paris: from the back ...
... inside, during Candlemass services ...
... and with a Bateau Mouche and the Seine
So, in some very significant way this trip to Paris was not what we had necessarily expected, but thus is life. On Monday, we took an Air France flight to Munich, from where I had scheduled my return to the US this morning. On Tuesday, despite foggy, freezing conditions, we went for a really, well, uncomfortable 31-mile bike ride, which would have been befitting for any of the Belgian “hard-man” bike riders who go out in conditions like this for not just two hours at a time but six or even eight—but they also aspire to win Paris – Roubaix come March, which I don't. Quite likely, we killed almost half a bottle of rum in the hot tea that we drank afterward. On Wednesday—OMG, just yesterday!—I visited my old friend Inge who has been living by herself for the past year-and-a-half ever since her husband, Wolfgang, died in 2012. The last time we had seen each other was during a meeting in one of Munich's beer gardens, when Wolfgang was still alive—a summer blog photo featuring giant beers and pretzels is still floating around the cybersphere.
The old clock of the Orsay train station
A bit of golden porn on top of the July Column in the middle of the Place de la Bastille
The Musée d'Orsay is housed in a retired train station
So, that has been the winter Europe campaign. The weeks and months to come will see changes as well as constants. The high school racing season is about to start this weekend, and in a month's time I will have returned from another trip to Central America. I invite you to stop back by once in a while, just to satisfy your own curiosity and but also cater to my desire to share so many aspects of my life with others.
Vieux Paris still exists—can you see and hear Jean Valjean and Cosette?
Le Café de l'Industrie—old-fashioned yet hip
Bonne nuit, Paris....
À bientôt,