Monday, September 29, 2008

5K - Part Two

I got up Saturday morning and we got ready to head to my second 5k. This one is for the Paducah BBQ on the River and it put on by United Way. The three of us headed down there, got registered and loosened up to run.

My goal was to get under 27:00. I made sure I didn't hang at the back like at my first run. I got closer to the front. The gun sounded and we were off. I managed to keep a good pace and hit the first mile at 7:45. I grabbed a cup of water and again managed to get it in my nose. I didn't try again.

I actually tried listening to music this time and I think it helped. The fact that the course was flat and the temperature was in the low 60's helped too.

As I got to the last 400m, I see Josh on the sidewalk (already done of course). He yells to me to let me know I am almost done and can get under 26:00!. I rounded the block and could see the clock still showing in the 25's so I tried to turn it on. I saw my lovely wife standing there as well so I was able to finish it out. I made it in 25:42! I was thrilled.

Josh finished at 19:46 (his best time ever) and Jonathan 21:05. Josh got a plaque for finishing first in his age group (15-19 males) and Jonathan got one for second. Josh finished 15th overall (out of 375) and Jonathan 34th. I even made it in 126th.

Josh was so happy it made Donna and I feel great. With me running a PR as well, it was a wonderful race and morning.

If you're going to San Francisco - Getaway Day

My trip home was pretty uneventful, so I'll talk a bit about the hotel and airports.

Hilton Garden Inns are OK, but I am not sure what their Niche is in the Hilton chain. Hampton Inns are the entry level, Homewood Suites are the long stay, and Hilton the higher end. They also have Embassy Suites, Doubletee and Hilton Garden Inn. The HGI has a small restaurant and bar in it but it's not open all day long that I can tell. They have a breakfast buffet plus they'll cook you an omelet or eggs like you want them (like Embassy Suites). The buffet is a bit expensive (8.95 to 9.95) to me. I've never tried other meals there and would never go near the bar. I guess the closest hotel in type would be a Courtyard by Marriott.

I have discovered a new problem with flights in general. Now that most airlines charge for all checked luggage, people carry on more than ever. On every flight I was on (except those leaving and arriving at Barkley), the overhead bins were crammed full. The flight attendants spend a lot of time and effort cramming everything carried in into the bins.

Paducah's airport is very easy to get into and get through security since it's smaller. They have free wireless internet. It's only 10 minutes from my house too. What I don't like is there is only one carrier (Northwest) with three 30 or so passenger flights a day to Memphis. Departures are at 6:30, noon and 4:50. Arrivals are at 10:50, 4, and 8:30. American used to go from there to St Louis, but dropped out a couple of years ago.

Depending on where you are going, it can be hard to get flights unless you make them way in advance or with multiple connections. I occasionally have driven down to Nashville to fly when the options are really bad at Barkley. I hope when the Delta merger goes through, we'll get more options.

The Memphis airport is OK too. All of it is behind one security point which is nice (more on that in a bit). They are a bit limited on restaurants (in my opinion) although they have opened a few more places (notably a Popeye's and a few more Starbucks).

The San Francisco airport is spread out. You have to ride a railway to get to your garages and rental car area and back again when departing. They do have a BART line right to the airport so its conceivable (depending on where you stay) that you could do without a car when there.

On the way back I had to go American from San Francisco to LA (LAX). LAX has separate security points for their terminals. I arrived on American so I had to hike about 10 minutes to another terminal. Their signage doesn't do a good job of explaining that. Fortunately, there are numerous employees all over the place with notebooks of maps who seemed eager to help people find their way. I had a 1.5 hour layover and needed the bulk of that to go through security there (per several of my fellow travelers in line, the security there is always slow). I had enough time to grab a sandwich, chips, water and a brownie which cost almost 17.00!

The rest of my trip went fine (I grabbed Popeyes at Memphis) and caught the last flight home. Donna and Jonathan were waiting for me which was very nice and make me feel important and missed. They took me home and I went to sleep comfortably in my own bed.

If you're going to San Francisco - Day 4

I got up and went for a run on the Bay Area trail which was a few blocks from my hotel. This is a walking/running/biking trail that goes all the way up and down the San Francisco Bay. I went my customary distance and even got to see the sun rise.

I then went ahead into San Francisco on the BART. I had decided I wanted to ride a cable car. Per what I've read, they are one of only two moving National Monuments in the world. There are three lines in San Francisco, so I took the one that would deposit me closest to the place where my training was.

I struck out for the end of the line to maximize the time I rode. I walked up hills for what seemed like forever. I finally gave up and got on. It turned out I had been walking up Nob Hill.

I paid my 5.00 (for a one way ride) and was told I could sit inside or ride on the running board on the outside and hang on. I opted for the latter. It was a somewhat neat ride but I am not sure it was worth 5.00. You are very close to cars and you really have to make sure you don't fall off.

I went to class and we finished up the last day. I took the BART to Market Street. I went into the Ghiradelli chocolate shop (they give free samples). I also went into the Virgin Records store. I hopped back on and went to my car and the hotel.

I drove up to eat at Houlihan's then filled up the car. I went back to the room to watch the season debut of The Office. I packed up and went to bed.

If you're going to San Francisco - Day 3

I managed to sleep a bit later. I headed on in to the city. I ate at McDonalds (my old standby) and attended a full day of class. We ran late and I didn't get back to my hotel til after 6. I hustled out so I could get to Wednesday night services at the Airport church of Christ. After I finally located it, I went to grab what I thought would be a quick meal at KFC. It took FOREVER to get my food. I wolfed it down and headed down the block to services.

Everyone was great. There were several visitors there that had Kentucky ties (two were from Paintsville ). Then I saw Jennifer Davis. She is living there now and is the daughter of my friend Larry Davis (he's the one who told me about this congregation) whose mother Elizabeth attends Central with us. It was really good to see her. I'd taught her in Bible class and she had taught my sons when they were little. She said it made her feel really old to find out they were now a freshman in college and a senior in high school. One of the ministers there had been baptized by my friend Ronnie Whittemore (who preached at Heath when we were there).

It's always cheers me up to find a congregation of loving and friendly people when I am out of town. I'm usually pretty homesick by this point and it is a big help. It's also good to know there are always fellow Christians wherever you are. I know if I had an issue that I could have called people there and they would have been glad to help. I am not very good at being hospitable and welcoming and this helps encourage me to do a better job of that.

I stayed for quite a while then went back to my room and went to bed for the night.

If you're going to San Francisco - Day 2

I got up at 4:30am and couldn't go back to sleep. It was 6:30am back home so I would presume that's the reason. I discovered my ancient laptop would no longer recognize the pcmcia card I had for wireless Internet access so I had to use the hotel business center. I worked a bit and read and then headed to the San Bruno BART station.

BART is the Bay Area Rapid Transit. I had ridden the Metra in Chicago and this is similar. A big difference is how you are ticketed. In Chicago, you buy a ticket and a conductor checks it when you are on the train. On BART, you buy a ticket which you load up with the amount you want. The ticket has a magnetized strip (you are warned to keep it away from cell phones and magnets). You insert your ticket into a slot and it pops out the top and you are admitted to the station. You actually get charged when you leave. If you don't have enough on your ticket to cover it, there are "Add-a-fare" machines to add more to your ticket so you can exit.

The ride was fine. No one bothers you. Most everyone sleeps, reads, or listens to some sort of MP3 device. I got out at the Embarcadero station and located the building where my class was. One thing I discovered was there were coffee shops all over the place. There were TEN Starbucks within a quarter mile of where my training would be. I ended up going to a place called Specialities where I got juice and a large chocolate roll (I never eat quite as healthily as I should on these trips :-)).

I went to class. There was a gentleman from London there. He was quite knowledgable and interesting to chat with. The teacher was good as well. We went right up to 5 (started at 9). I walked to a local Office Depot to get a USB based Wireless network connector then got on the BART at the closet station (Montgomery) and headed back. There were actually BART police on this train just keeping an eye on things. I grabbed the car and went back to the hotel. I was tired of course so I got Chili's to go. I got Baby Back ribs and noticed they hadn't put the Awesome Blossom back on the menu. I rested in the room for the rest of the night. I was so tired I didn't even stay up to watch the season premiere of Law & Order SVU.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

If you're going to San Francisco - Day 1

I flew out of Paducah early Monday morning. I got to Memphis and then San Francisco without a hitch. Given that I've had delays in the past several trips that was a blessing.

Once I got there, I got my rental car and headed for downtown San Francisco. Amazingly, I made it just fine. I headed for the Golden Gate Bridge. You can walk across the bridge so I thought I'd give it a try..

It's longer than it looks. It is a 3.4 mile round trip. I made it no problem. You can see Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco skyline.

Then I headed for Pier 39 to see the sea lions. I never dreamed how many were there.

I never dreamed about the smell though... It was to say "pungent".

There was a guy doing magic tricks there. He did a good job juggling fiery sticks. Unfortunately, he managed to throw one on top of his stage and he had to go fetch it.

Finally, I went to see Monster Park (home of the San Francisco 49ers). I couldn't get close pictures though. The security guard wouldn't let me in to take a single picture. When was in San Diego, the guard very graciously let me in to take photos. Not so here...

That was a full day. I checked into my hotel (the Hilton Garden Inn). I went to Benihanas for dinner (good as usual) and came back and went to bed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I left my heart.... in Ballard County

Monday September 15th was the 24th anniversary of a day that set my life (happily) on a drastic change.

I was a fledging programmer at what was called Martin Marietta then (now USEC) and living in an apartment in Forest Hills. I had gone over to my buddy Jeff Lawrence's trailer (known to this area as Dr. Jeff on WKYQ). He asked if I had plans for the next evening. I said no thinking we were going to have one of our regular marathon Trivial Pursuit matches. He says "Well, you've got a date". I was aghast. "I've set you up with someone I work with at Trader's Mart" (Trader's Mart is a long defunct want-ad kind of paper). He told me I had to go because I wouldn't be allowed to hang out at his place the next night so I reluctantly agreed.

The next day, I went with my friends Keith "Corky" Johnson and Jim Hill to Massac State Park. I sat on the bank of the Ohio River looking and thinking "What kind of idiot goes out with a girl he's never seen before?".

The hour approached and I headed out to meet her at Trader's Mart in my 1983 Trans-Am. All I knew is her name was Donna Woods and she'd be in a black Olds Cutlass.

I got there and the car was there. I watched the door open with apprehension. Out stepped the most beautiful brown haired brown-eyed girl I'd ever seen. I almost couldn't speak. I finally said "I'm Stuart, do you want to see my driver's license to prove it?". She actually laughed at my bad joke.

She wanted to go to McDonalds and eat so we did. She had a quarter pounder with cheese and I had a Big Mac. I saw some guys I knew and I think they were in shock when they saw me out with this beautiful girl.

She wanted to see Grandview USA at the Paducah Drive-In. I was glad to go there since I worked there for years each summer until I started working full-time at Martin Marietta. My boss (who recently passed away) Richard Phillips was at the ticket booth. I guess he was so shocked to see with such a pretty date that he let us in free. He also told me to go to the concession stand and get free drinks and popcorn. Donna told me later how impressed she was when I brought out drinks and a large brown bag full of buttered popcorn.

The whole date cost 5.00 (including gasoline). She even shared my frugality beliefs! I was enthralled...

The night went great and she even agreed to see me again.

The next morning as I was getting ready to go to church, my phone rang. The caller introduced himself as the "Ballard County Sheriff" and he needed to talk to me about an incident last night. The girl I had gone out with was from Ballard County. My main experiences with Ballard County were to go to the "Game Preserve" (as my Uncle James called it) to camp with my family and a visit to the "Green Palace" (which was really really Green) to watch Lone Oak play in a district basketball tournament. I remember all the kids there blew duck calls the whole game. Anyway, I thought "Oh man, she didn't make it home and now I am the last one to see her and the main suspect". It turned out that they had picked up a couple of guys I know as they came off the Wickliffe bridge and they wanted me to vouch for their idenities.

For reasons I'll never understand, she kept going out with me. We've been married 22 years. She still laughs at my bad jokes. I've worked at "Martin Marietta" for almost 25 years. We drove that black Olds Cutlass til it wouldn't run any more. I've lived in Ballard County for 16 years now. I still order a Big Mac when I go to McDonalds. And I couldn't be happier....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Giants look good...

This summer when we found out the Giants would be playing in St. Louis, we decided we'd go. They are Jonathan's favorite team and this would be closest they'd be this season. We drove up Saturday night. We braved the elements on Sunday (see the previous post) and headed to the game. There was a huge backup on I-55 North. I finally ended up going the wrong way on a merge ramp to get off. I used my Blackberry 8800's GPS to get around the jam and we got there about 10 minutes late. It was 7-0 Giants when we got there. The Rams kicked two long field goals and Giants matched them for a 13-6 halftime score.

The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter (with the Ram's scoring on an acrobatic end zone catch by Tory Holt) to make it 20-13 heading into the 4th quarter.

The Giants ground out a long touchdown drive to take a 27-13 lead. On the next drive, the Giants came up with a game clinching play. Justin Tuck grabbed an interception and ran it back all the way to make it 34-13 and empty the stadium

The Giants tacked on another touchdown for the 41-14 final.

The Giants fans all gathered behind their bench for the last couple of minutes. They were all shouting and cheering and of course Jonathan had to join in the fun.

It was a very enjoyable experience. I did learn that I should check traffic next time before we leave.

The Giants play at Arrowhead next year and we are already making plans to go!

The action shots were taken by Tom Gehrke (my fellow USEC employee and suffering Rams fan).

I don't like Ike...

Sunday morning the latter vestiges of Hurricane Ike swung through our area. Jonathan and I were in Arnold MO preparing to see the Rams-Giants game. When I got up, it was raining so hard I couldn't see across the street. It let up in time for us to go to Arnold church of Christ. Their number was down because of flash flooding and downed trees and limbs. We headed to the game afterwards and by the time we got there, it was sunny.

Donna called me during the game to tell me the power was out at church and they could only have a short service. She said everything was fine at home when she left but when she got back, there were trees down and power out. Somehow we dodged the power outages. My in-laws were not so fortunate. Plus, a large tree fell across the road and into the yard of where Donna's great-great-grandmother used to live. Josh filmed a clip for the daily news at his school.

There was a state of emergency in Ballard County all day Sunday. We stopped at Jackson church of Christ on the way home. They told us they had to worship without power Sunday morning, but all was well when we arrived.

We got to Wickliffe about 8:00pm and I was greeted with a sight I'd never seen before. I've crossed the Cairo bridge at all hours coming home from ballgames. But, this was the first time I arrived when the western part of Wickliffe was totally dark. There are three convenience stores plus a KDOT station there and they are always lit up. It was quite eerie. We got home fine though.

What we had of course can't even compare to what happened in the Galveston area. We should continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers as they recover from the effects of Hurricane Ike.

Monday, September 8, 2008

All alone in first!

I had to post this

NFC West Team W L T Pct
Arizona Cardinals 1 0 0 1.000
San Francisco 49ers 0 1 0 .000
Seattle Seahawks 0 1 0 .000
St. Louis Rams 0 1 0

That's right, Arizona is in sole possession of first place in the NFC West!

This may be the only week all year that happens, so I am basking in the glow of that while it lasts!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy...

After a stirring come from behind win over the Brewers on Wednesday, the Cardinals were hoping to reel off a streak to win the wild card. Unfortunately, they started the wrong kind of streak and got swept in Houston. They are 6.5 games out of the Wild Card race. It's not looking too hopeful. Of course, if you had told me at the start of the year that Wainwright would miss a couple of months and Carpenter, Mulder, and Clement would not supply a single win between them, I would have thought the Cardinals would be fighting to stay out of last place..

My feeling is they really need to play a lot of their young players to see what to do for next year. They have a lot of decisions to make over the winter. Do we try to resign Lohse, Looper, or Springer? I assume we don't try to do anything with Mulder or Isringhausen. Does Rasmus come up to play next year? Will Duncan ever play again? What do we do with this glut of outfielders? Can we find a middle infielder with a little bit of pop in his bat?

On the very bright side, Kentucky won much more handily than I would have ever thought over Louisville at Papa John's. I actually felt bad for local Tilghman product Hunter Cantwell. Between being pressured all day, his receivers dropped a lot of throws. Kentucky's offense didn't do much better. Their defense scored two touchdowns plus set up ten more points.

Such is the life of a sports fan :-)