Thursday, March 30, 2017

A full month at home!

No kidding: It's been an entire month since I returned from Germany on the last day of February. It was winter then, well, kinda, and now we've already experienced our first summer days with the thermometer hitting 93 F about 10 days ago. The first day of spring has come and gone, and Lubbock is greening up. It's a good time to be home.
Home-cooked meals for most of the month!
Of course, "home" doesn't exactly mean that: Since returning I have left town on two road trips, both of them cycling related. The first one came just 48 hours after making landfall. I received an e-mail from Bonnie, our USA Cycling representative for Texas, asking me whether I'd be available for the La Primavera road race just outside of Austin, that very weekend. Somebody from her officials' crew had had to bail out at the last minute. And so I fired up the Beemer, dropped the roof, and drove more than 750 miles to work a race that I had always been too scared to participate in thanks to the numerous high-speed descents and the ubiquitous deer at Lago Vista that routinely take out a racer or two. After two days of officiating I was back in Lubbock, in time to receive the new memory foam mattress that I had splurged on and had ordered from Christelli. Adieu, waterbed! You were a faithful companion for many years, but your time had come.
The new bed unfurls itself
The new look of my bedroom
Two weekends later I was back in the car, this time to chief the high school mountain bike event in Troy. Originally this race had been scheduled for the weekend before but had to be postponed thanks to torrential rains in that part of Texas. Since Troy is just a few miles north of Temple I got a chance to stay with Martha and Alan, and so the weekend took on a second purpose and meaning. The race came off without too many problems, and the drive was as beautiful as can be expected during this time of the year as the bluebonnets and other wildflowers were out in full force in central Texas.
Panoramic shot of the Sacket family's beautiful spread in Troy
All this left me with ample time to reclaim my house as well as try to regain some sort of fitness. Almost daily riding, cleaning out the thatch in the front flowerbed (if one can call it that), ripping out some old vines in the backyard, cooking decent meals (and sharing some wine with my neighbor Janet), and having dinners with various friends kept me fairly busy. The main focus of the past few weeks, however, has been getting ready for my upcoming trip to Argentina, which will commence less than a week from now. Getting my Ritchey ready for what will be a bike-packing trip has been a fun challenge. At this point I have packed all the gear that I will take along on my three-week adventure, and on today's schedule is dismantling the bike and somehow fitting it in its travel case. This will be more challenging than usual since I am using different wheels for this trip (more spokes = stouter = more difficult to pack) as well as two small luggage racks. We'll see how that comes along.
One of this month's highlights: Dinner at my place with the Everetts
This upcoming weekend I was supposed to head to Dinosaur State Park for the fourth high school race of the season, but just yesterday I learned that it has been postponed for two weeks, again because of heavy rain in the past few days. Dang, I'll have to miss that one, but that will give me more time to get the house in ship-shape before I leave.
Riding on Lubbock roads is not always a pleasure
I hope that I'll be able to write occasional updates from Argentina. Since I will not be traveling with my laptop but only a Kindle and a folding keyboard, things may be a little more challenging. So, stay tuned!


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Back to Alpine landscapes

I can't tire of flying into Switzerland
It seems as if I spend more time in Europe these days than back in Lubbock. And there may be some truth to it, but the reason is simply that some of my travel plans were all screwed up because of that clavicle break back in September, and trips to Europe suddenly came in three-week intervals, or so. Well, no complaints here.
Old Geneva shop ...
... and modern World Cycling Center in Aigle
My latest trip was a freebie, and those are always good. In the middle of the February I had to attend a seminar in Switzerland to seek re-accreditation as a Doping Control Officer, and the CADF (Cycling Anti Doping Foundation) footed the bill for my flight to Geneva and my hotels and meals while on business in Switzerland. Thankfully the cost for a flight directly back from Geneva to the US would have been a few francs more expensive than a flight back from Munich, and I was given the green light to book an open-jaw flight. All I needed to pay for was my own transportation from Geneva to Munich. I was quite lucky to find a 76-euro flight on Iberia that generated miles on top of the ridiculous fare (especially nice since I first had to fly backward from Geneva to Madrid and then back to Munich--re-qualifying for top-elite status with American is becoming harder and harder).
Pay less going back-assward: GVA-MAD-MUC. 79 bucks--go figure.
I had arrived one day earlier than needed in Geneva since I had to burn a hotel certificate before its expiration date and because I never really have had a chance to get to know Geneva. I had a nice room in the Intercontinental, sleeping a few floors lower than Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and Henry Kissinger had during their visits. Oh well, we can't get upgrades every day to the Presidential Suite. The hotel came with a free public transportation pass, and I made good use of it in the 24 hours that I spent in Geneva before taking the train to Bex, close to Aigle, where I and about 35 other DCOs from all over the world were put up for the weekend seminar. It sure was nice to see old friends, people I knew from former classes and also from the Olympics. The seminar was extremely interesting and informative, the best one I have ever attended.
Give Freising some sunshine and temps above 45 F, and folks will sit outdoors!
After this official part was done it was time for quality time with Sabine. Of he two weeks until my eventual departure for the US we spent almost one in our favorite winter destination, Koessen in Austria. Every year since we started our relationship we have managed to squeeze in a few days in this sleepy Tirolean town, and every year we have been quite lucky in regard to both accommodations as well as snow conditions. While Germany was green, a solid layer of snow greeted us after the barely two-hour long drive from Freising. This time around we stayed a little way outside of town, in a nice Pension (owned by Familie Dax) with direct access to the cross-country trails. It doesn't get much ore convenient than that.
Landhaus Familie Dax, our domicile for four nights. First floor, on the right.
Upon arrival it was sunny and as picturesque as any postcard. the snow softened up quite considerably in the afternoons, with temperatures well above freezing, but that was OK with me since that meant that my skis were slower and the risk of crashing and hurting yet another body part was greatly reduced. As a matter of fact, in four days of XC ski action I sat down in the snow only once, most definitely a new record. On the third day it was overcast and then started to first snow, then rain, but we went out nevertheless. Exercise is exercise, right? And on the fourth day, the sun popped back out and we headed out for a long trek that ended up at our traditional spot, the Cafe Annelise.
Some days are sunny ...
... some are overcast and foggy ...
... and some are just plain wet!
After checking out on the fifth day we went for long snowshoe hike in splendid conditions. I have to confess that I prefer snowshoeing to XC skiing in some ways. For one, they are more secure and don't slide as much! Downhills are a piece of cake, something that I can't say about skis (but then, I never claimed to be a skier). The other thing is, on snowshoes one has a tendency to look around more and notice the beautiful landscape even more intensely than while trying to concentrate on a well-executed stride. Anyhow, we walked for about five miles and ended up at one of the many mountain huts that serve food and beverage. Man, nothing beats sitting outside in the sun, in 55-degree temperatures and eat a good schnitzel and wash it down with a half liter of beer.

Snowshoeing above Koessen on a perfect day
The kids all brought their toboggans to the hut for a fast descent toward the Walchsee
How do you spell "happy" and "content"?
Since we had so much fun on our trip we decided to extend our stay in Austria by a night. i had made a last-minute points-and-cash reservation at the Innsbruck Hilton, a nice property where we had on several occasions before. This time we hit the jackpot: We were upgraded to a large two-bedroom suite on the top floor, with a fancy bathroom and various amenities in the form of a few free drinks at the bar and snacks and a bottle of wine from the hotel pantry. Needless to say: We never left the hotel that evening but rather soaked in our big bathtub.
Shitty view of Innsbruck (south, toward the Brenner) from our crappy room. LOL.
All good things come to an end, and the next day we had to finally drive back to Germany. We detoured a little more and had a first look at the Leutasch area (the winter vacation spot of choice for our friends Tom and Regine) which, like Koessen, is also blessed with predictably good snow conditions and an extensive XC ski trail network. The topography is a bit different, and Sabine seems to prefer the mountains around Koessen, but who is to say that we can't go to both places in one winter? Our final stop-over was Mittenwald, a picturesque town just across the border on the German side. How do they manage to make everything look like a Sound of Music soundstage?
Downtown Mittenwald
Sabine had to eventually go back to work, and I spent my time doing a few minor chores around the house and cooking the occasional meal. We had friends over, and we had a nice dinner in Munich when I picked up Sabine from work one evening (after having having seen my old friend Inge who lives in Munich). Over the final (mardi gras) weekend we were able to go on a few beautiful bike rides since the weather cooperated fully, and then it was already Fat Tuesday and the day of my departure had come. That's how quickly time flies. Late at night on February 28 I was finally back home in Lubbock.
Gravel grinding on one of our rides
My beloved hops are not growing just yet
The proper way to announce your recent wedding
I had thought that I would spend the next ten days in town, but less than 48 hours after my return i received an e-mail asking whether I'd be available to work a road race in the Austin area on Saturday and Sunday. So, Friday I fired up the Beemer and drove 375 miles to Lago Vista for the annual La Primavera. It's now Saturday evening, and the first day's racing is done. (It rained cats and dogs but fortunately nobody crashed.) Since I have a roommate and there's no table or chair in our rather iffy "resort" here on Lake Travis I will have to wait another 24 hours until I can add pictures to this blog entry tomorrow night when I will stop for the night in Sweetwater. And then I will finally publish blog entry number 268. So long!
My roomie, Bill, making last-minute adjustments to the FinishLynx camera


PS: I just had to add a few pics from our days in Koessen.